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Afghanistan

Executive Summary

Afghanistan is an Islamic republic with a directly elected president, a bicameral legislative branch, and a judicial branch. Based on the electoral calendar specified in the constitution, parliamentary elections were to have taken place in 2015; however, these elections were not held by year’s end.

Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the security forces, although security forces occasionally acted independently.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings by security forces; disappearances, torture; arbitrary arrest; detention, including of women accused of so-called moral crimes; and sexual abuse of children by security force members. Additional problems included violence against journalists, criminalization of defamation; pervasive government corruption; and lack of accountability and investigation in cases of violence against women. Discrimination against persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities and discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation persisted with little accountability.

Widespread disregard for the rule of law and official impunity for those who committed human rights abuses were serious problems. The government did not consistently or effectively prosecute abuses by officials, including security forces.

There were major attacks on civilians by armed insurgent groups and targeted assassinations by armed insurgent groups of persons affiliated with the government. The Taliban and other insurgents continued to kill security force personnel and civilians using indiscriminate tactics such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide attacks, and rocket attacks, and to commit disappearances and torture. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) attributed 67 percent of civilian casualties (1,141 deaths and 3,574 injured) to nonstate actors. The Taliban used children as suicide bombers, soldiers, and weapons carriers. Other antigovernment elements threatened, robbed, kidnapped, and attacked government workers, foreigners, medical and nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers, and other civilians.

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

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

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. From January 1 to June 30, UNAMA reported an overall increase in civilian deaths over the same period for 2016, from 1,637 to 1,662. The number of civilians killed by progovernment forces, however, decreased from 396 to 327. The number of civilian casualties decreased from 5,267 to 5,243.

According to UNAMA, in January Afghan National Police (ANP) in Nesh district, Kandahar Province, beat three young men to death because police believed they were supporters of antigovernment forces. There were numerous allegations of deaths resulting from torture, particularly in Kandahar Province. Although the government investigated and prosecuted some cases of extrajudicial killing, an overall lack of accountability for security force abuses remained a problem.

There were numerous reports of politically motivated killings or injuries by the Taliban, ISIS-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), and other insurgent groups. UNAMA reported 1,141 civilian deaths due to antigovernment and terrorist forces in the first six months of the year. These groups caused 67 percent of total civilian casualties, a 12 percent increase from 2016. On May 31, antigovernment forces injured more than 500 civilians and killed an additional 150 in a vehicle-borne IED attack against civilians during rush hour on a busy street in Kabul.

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were numerous reports that government officials, security forces, detention center authorities, and police committed abuses.

NGOs reported security forces continued to use excessive force, including torturing and beating civilians. On April 22, the government approved a new Anti-Torture Law, which expands the previous prohibition on torture contained in the original penal code. The new law, however, applies only to torture committed in the context of the criminal justice system and does not clearly extend to torture committed by military or other security forces.

UNAMA, in its April 24 Report on the Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees, cited multiple reports of torture and other abuse committed by security forces, most frequently after the initial arrest, during interrogation, and with the purpose of eliciting confessions. The UNAMA report noted a high concentration of torture and abuse by police in Kandahar Province. Of the 469 National Directorate for Security (NDS), ANP, and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) detainees interviewed, 39 percent reported torture or other abuse. Types of abuse included severe beatings, electric shocks, prolonged suspension by the arms, suffocation, wrenching of testicles, burns by cigarette lighters, sleep deprivation, sexual assault, and threats of execution.

In November 2016, First Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum allegedly kidnapped Uzbek tribal elder and political rival Ahmad Ishchi. Before detaining Ishchi, Dostum let his bodyguards brutally beat him. After several days in detention, Ishchi alleged he was beaten, tortured, and raped by Dostum and his men. On August 14, Balkh Governor Atta Mohammed Noor allegedly attempted to arrest his political rival Asif Mohmand. The ensuing shootout resulted in three deaths and 13 persons injured. There were reports that Atta and his sons then detained and beat Mohmand and bit off a piece of his ear. The Attorney General’s Office opened investigations into both of the cases. As of September 16, there was no progress on either case, and both Dostum and Atta remained free. Dostum was no longer in the country, and he had not been allowed to exercise his duties as first vice president pending resolution of the legal charges against him.

There were numerous reports of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment by the Taliban and other antigovernment groups. In March the Taliban in northern Badakhshan Province stoned a woman to death for suspected “zina” (extramarital sex). There were other reports of the Taliban cutting off the hands and feet of suspected criminals.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were difficult due to overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and limited access to medical services. The General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Centers (GDPDC), part of the Ministry of Interior, has responsibility for all civilian-run prisons (for both men and women) and civilian detention centers, including the large national prison complex at Pul-e Charkhi. The Ministry of Justice’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Directorate is responsible for all juvenile rehabilitation centers. The NDS operates short-term detention facilities at the provincial and district levels, usually collocated with their headquarters facilities. The Ministry of Defense runs the Afghan National Detention Facilities at Parwan. There were reports of private prisons run by members of the ANDSF and used for abuse of detainees.

Physical Conditions: Media and other sources continued to report inadequacies in food and water and poor sanitation facilities in prisons. Some observers, however, found food and water to be sufficient at GDPDC prisons. Nevertheless, the GDPDC’s nationwide program to feed prisoners faced a severely limited budget, and many prisoners relied on family members to provide food supplements and other necessary items.

Authorities generally lacked the facilities to separate pretrial and convicted inmates or to separate juveniles according to the seriousness of the charges against them. There were reports the Parwan detention facility held 145 children for security-related offenses separate from the general population. Local prisons and detention centers did not always have separate facilities for female prisoners.

Overcrowding in prisons continued to be a serious, widespread problem. Based on standards recommended by the ICRC, 28 of 34 provincial prisons for men were severely overcrowded. The country’s largest prison, Pul-e Charkhi, held 11,527 prisoners, detainees, and children of incarcerated mothers as of June, which was more than double the number it was designed to hold. UNAMA found no reports of torture within the Ministry of Interior prison system. In April, 500 prisoners at Pul-e Charkhi carried out a multiday hunger strike to protest the administration of their court cases and insufficient food and medical care at the prison.

Access to food, potable water, sanitation, heating, ventilation, lighting, and medical care in prisons varied throughout the country and was generally inadequate. In November the local NGO Integrity Watch Afghanistan reported that Wardak Prison had no guaranteed source of clean drinking water and that prisoners in Pol-e Charkhi, Baghlan, and Wardak had limited access to food, with prisoners’ families also providing food to make up the gap.

Administration: The law provides prisoners with the right to leave prison for up to 20 days for family visits. Most prisons did not implement this provision, and the law is unclear in its application to different classes of prisoners.

There were reports of abuse and mistreatment by prison officials. On August 20, Takhar prison guards and police allegedly used clubs to beat 15 female inmates during a protest where approximately 60 women protested their continued imprisonment, despite promises of amnesty made by the government. The Attorney General’s Office investigated the allegations and recommended criminal charges against three guards for the alleged beating.

Independent Monitoring: The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), UNAMA, and the ICRC monitored the NDS, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Defense detention facilities. NATO Mission Resolute Support monitored the NDS, ANP, and Defense Ministry facilities. Security constraints and obstruction by authorities occasionally prevented visits to some places of detention. UNAMA and the AIHRC reported difficulty accessing NDS places of detention when they arrived unannounced. The AIHRC reported NDS officials usually required the AIHRC to submit a formal letter requesting access at least one to two days in advance of a visit. NDS officials continued to prohibit AIHRC and UNAMA monitors from bringing cameras, mobile phones, recording devices, or computers into NDS facilities, thereby preventing AIHRC monitors from properly documenting physical evidence of abuse, such as bruises, scars, and other injuries. The NDS assigned a colonel to monitor human rights conditions in its facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but both remained serious problems. Authorities detained many citizens without respecting essential procedural protections. According to NGOs, law enforcement officers continued to detain citizens arbitrarily without clear legal authority or due process. Local law enforcement officials reportedly detained persons illegally on charges not provided for in the penal code. In some cases authorities wrongfully imprisoned women because they deemed it unsafe for the women to return home or because women’s shelters were not available to provide protection in the provinces or districts at issue (see section 6, Women). The law provides a defendant the right to object to his or her pretrial detention and receive a court hearing on the matter, but authorities generally did not observe this requirement.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Three ministries have responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order in the country: the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense, and the NDS. The ANP, under the Interior Ministry, has primary responsibility for internal order and for the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a community-based self-defense force. The Afghan National Army, under the Ministry of Defense, is responsible for external security, but its primary activity is fighting the insurgency internally. The NDS functions as an intelligence agency and has responsibility for investigating criminal cases concerning national security. The investigative branch of the NDS operated a facility in Kabul, where it held national security prisoners awaiting trial until their cases went to prosecution. Some areas were outside of government control, and antigovernment forces, including the Taliban, oversaw their own justice and security systems.

There were reports of impunity and lack of accountability by security forces throughout the year. According to observers, ALP and ANP personnel were largely unaware of their responsibilities and defendants’ rights under the law. Accountability of NDS, ANP, and ALP officials for torture and abuse was weak, not transparent, and rarely enforced. Independent judicial or external oversight of the NDS, ANP, and ALP in the investigation and prosecution of crimes or misconduct, including torture and abuse, was limited or nonexistent.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

UNAMA, the AIHRC, and other observers reported arbitrary and prolonged detention frequently occurred throughout the country. Authorities often did not inform detainees of the charges against them.

The law provides for access to legal counsel and the use of warrants, and it limits how long authorities may hold detainees without charge. Police have the right to detain a suspect for 72 hours to complete a preliminary investigation. If police decide to pursue a case, they transfer the file to the Attorney General’s Office. With court approval, the investigating prosecutor may continue to detain a suspect while continuing the investigation, with the length of continued detention depending on the severity of the offense. The investigating prosecutor may detain a suspect for a maximum of 10 additional days for a petty crime, 27 days for a misdemeanor, and 75 days for a felony. The prosecutor must file an indictment or release the suspect within those deadlines; there can be no further extension of the investigatory period if the defendant is already in detention. Prosecutors often ignored these limits. Incommunicado imprisonment remained a problem, and prompt access to a lawyer was rare. Prisoners generally were able to receive family visits.

The criminal procedure code provides for release on bail. Authorities at times continued to detain defendants who had been acquitted by the courts on the grounds that defendants who were released pending the prosecution’s appeal often disappeared. In other cases authorities did not rearrest defendants they released pending the outcome of an appeal, even after the appellate court convicted them in absentia.

According to international monitors, prosecutors filed indictments in cases transferred to them by police, even where there was a reasonable belief no crime occurred.

According to the juvenile code, the arrest of a child “should be a matter of last resort and should last for the shortest possible period.” Reports indicated children in juvenile rehabilitation centers across the country lacked access to adequate food, health care, and education. Detained children frequently did not receive the presumption of innocence, the right to know the charges against them, access to defense lawyers, and protection from self-incrimination. The law provides for the creation of special juvenile police, prosecution offices, and courts. Due to limited resources, special juvenile courts functioned in only six provinces (Kabul, Herat, Balkh, Kandahar, Nangarhar, and Kunduz). Elsewhere, children’s cases went to ordinary courts. The law mandates authorities handle children’s cases confidentially.

Some children in the criminal justice system were victims rather than perpetrators of crime. In the absence of sufficient shelters for boys, authorities detained abused boys and placed them in juvenile rehabilitation centers because they could not return to their families and shelter elsewhere was unavailable.

Police and legal officials often charged women with intent to commit zina to justify their arrest and incarceration for social offenses, such as running away from home, rejecting a spouse chosen by her family, fleeing domestic violence or rape, or eloping. The constitution provides that in cases not explicitly covered by the provisions of the constitution or other laws, courts may, in accordance with Hanafi jurisprudence (a school of Islamic law) and within the limits set by the constitution, rule in a manner that best attains justice in the case. Although observers stated this provision was widely understood to apply only to civil cases, many judges and prosecutors applied this provision to criminal matters. Observers reported officials used this article to charge women and men with “immorality” or “running away from home,” neither of which is a crime. Police often detained women for zina at the request of family members.

Authorities imprisoned some women for reporting crimes perpetrated against them and detained some as proxies for a husband or male relative convicted of a crime on the assumption the suspect would turn himself in to free the family member.

Authorities placed some women in protective custody to prevent violence by family members. They also employed protective custody (including placement in a detention center) for women who had experienced domestic violence, if no shelters were available to protect them from further abuse. The Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) presidential decree–commonly referred to as the EVAW law–obliges police to arrest persons who abuse women. Implementation and awareness of the EVAW law was limited, however.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrest and detention remained a problem in most provinces. Observers reported some prosecutors and police detained individuals without charge for actions that were not crimes under the law, in part because the judicial system was inadequate to process detainees in a timely fashion. Observers continued to report those detained for moral crimes were almost exclusively women.

Pretrial Detention: The law provides a defendant the right to object to his or her pretrial detention and receive a court hearing on the matter. Nevertheless, lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. Many detainees did not benefit from the provisions of the criminal procedure code because of a lack of resources, limited numbers of defense attorneys, unskilled legal practitioners, and corruption. The law provides that, if there is no completed investigation or filed indictment within the code’s 10-, 27-, or 75-day deadlines, the defendant must be released. Many detainees, however, were held beyond those periods, despite the lack of an indictment.

Amnesty: In September 2016 the government concluded a peace accord with the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) group, which granted its leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, amnesty for past war crimes and human rights abuses. In May, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned to Kabul for the first time in 20 years. The deal also included the release of HIG political detainees.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

Continuing internal conflict resulted in civilian deaths, abductions, prisoner abuse, property damage, displacement of residents, and other abuses. The security situation remained a problem due to insurgent attacks. Terrorist groups caused the vast majority of civilian deaths.

Killings: During the first half of the year, UNAMA counted 1,662 civilian deaths due to conflict, an increase of 2 percent from the first half of 2016. UNAMA noted an increase of women and child deaths due to more indiscriminate IED attacks by antigovernment forces in urban centers, including the country’s capital of Kabul. UNAMA attributed 67 percent of civilian casualties to antigovernment forces, including the Taliban and ISIS, and 18 percent to progovernment forces. The AIHRC, in its annual report of civilian casualties, reported 2,823 civilians killed from March 2016 to March 2017. On August 5, ISIS-K and the Taliban attacked a Shia village in Sayyad district of Sar-e-Pul Province and killed more than 40 civilians. UNAMA noted the majority of civilian casualties resulted from deliberate attacks by antigovernment forces against civilians.

UNAMA documented an increase in attacks by antigovernment forces against religious leaders from only two incidents in 2016 to 11 in the first six months of 2017. On August 1, ISIS-K bombed a Shia mosque in Herat, killing 29 civilians, and on August 25, suicide attackers stormed a Shia mosque in Kabul during Friday Prayer, killing at least 20 individuals and injuring dozens.

The increase in complex suicide attacks was evidenced by repeated attacks in Kabul. On January 10, a Taliban suicide attack in Kabul killed more than 30 individuals and injured some 70 others, as twin blasts hit a crowded area of the city during the afternoon rush hour. On May 31, a truck bomb exploded, killing 150 and injuring 500 outside the German embassy in Kabul. While no group claimed responsibility, protesters took to the streets on June 2, accusing government officials of cooperating with terrorists. Police shot and killed five protesters, including Salem Izidyar, the eldest son of Deputy Speaker of the Senate Alam Izidyar. At Izidyar’s funeral three suicide bombers struck on foot, killing at least a dozen persons.

Antigovernment elements continued to attack religious leaders who they concluded spoke against the insurgency or the Taliban. On September 9, Taliban gunmen on motorcycles in the Kohestan district of Kapisa Province killed Mawlawi Gul Mohammad Hanifyar, head of the Kapisa Ulema Council. The Kapisa police chief reported the arrest of five suspects in the case. According to UNAMA’s statistics, this was the 12th targeted assassination of a religious leader by the Taliban or other antigovernment forces during the year, more than double the number in 2016.

Antigovernment elements also continued to target government officials and entities throughout the country. On January 10, an explosion killed 12 individuals, including Kandahar’s deputy governor, Abdul Ali Shamsi, and Afghan diplomat, Yama Quraishi, at a guesthouse on Kandahar governor Humayun Azizi’s compound. Injured in the attack were 14 individuals, including United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Afghanistan, Mohammed Abdullah al-Kaabi, who later died from his injuries.

Abductions: UNAMA documented 131 cases of conflict-related abductions and 467 abducted civilians in the first six months of the year, a decrease from more than 1,100 abducted civilians in the same period in 2016. On or around August 31, the Taliban abducted three government employees in western Herat Province, where reports noted an increase in abductions for ransom. The bodies of the three were found 20 days later.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: According to some reports, in February a group of Uzbek elders from Takhar Province alleged abuses of the local population by local commander and former parliamentarian Piram Qul. They claimed that in addition to having killed popular Takhar Provincial Council member Ainuddin Rustaqi in April 2016, Piram Qul’s men killed four local police officers during the year and continued to torture detainees and jail residents in extrajudicial prisons. They complained that Piram Qul received government support for his leadership of a “people’s uprising group”–a progovernment militia.

Antigovernment elements continued to punish civilians. In February, Taliban members killed four civilians at a wedding party in the Sar Hakwza district of Paktika Province, accusing them of cooperating with government officials.

Antigovernment groups regularly targeted civilian noncombatants and used indiscriminate IEDs to kill and maim civilians. Land mines, unexploded ordnance, and explosive remnants of war (ERW) continued to cause deaths and injuries. The ANP reported that unexploded ordnance (UXO) killed 140 individuals per month. Media regularly reported cases of children killed and injured after finding UXO. The Ministry of Education and NGOs continued to conduct educational programs and mine awareness campaigns throughout the country. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration provided mine risk education for refugee and undocumented returnees.

Between January 1 and June 30, child casualties from ERW increased by 12 percent compared with the same period in 2016, accounting for 81 percent of all civilian casualties caused by ERW in 2017. ERW caused 296 child casualties (81 deaths and 215 injured), making it the second-leading cause of child casualties in the first half of the year. In the same period, UNAMA documented 192 incidents of ERW detonation resulting in 365 civilian casualties (93 deaths and 272 injured), a 17 percent increase compared with the first half of 2015.

Child Soldiers: There were reports the ANDSF, particularly the ANP and ALP, and progovernment militias recruited children. The AIHRC reported that government security forces in Kandahar Province used child recruits. UNAMA documented the recruitment and use of 14 boys by security forces from January to June. The government continued to work towards the expansion of Child Protection Units to all 34 provinces. As of August there were 21 active units.

Under a government action plan, the ANP took steps that included training staff on age-assessment procedures, launching an awareness campaign on underage recruitment, investigating alleged cases of underage recruitment, and establishing centers in some provincial recruitment centers to document cases of attempted child enlistment. Recruits underwent an identity check, including an affidavit from at least two community elders that the recruit was at least 18 years old and eligible to join the ANDSF. The Ministries of Interior and Defense also issued directives meant to prevent the recruitment and sexual abuse of children by the ANDSF. Media reported in some cases ANDSF units used children as personal servants, support staff, or for sexual purposes.

According to AIHRC, the Taliban in Kandahar used children for front-line fighting and setting IEDs. The Ministry of Interior reported arresting 166 children for involvement in attacks against the government, with the largest contingent (28) recruited by ISIS-K in Nangarhar Province. UNAMA also documented the recruitment of 15 boys by antigovernment elements (11 by ISIS-K, three by the Taliban, and one by an unidentified armed group). In some cases the Taliban and other antigovernment elements used children as suicide bombers, human shields, and IED emplacers, particularly in southern provinces. Media, NGOs, and UN agencies reported the Taliban tricked children, promised them money, used false religious pretexts, or forced them to become suicide bombers.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuse: The security environment continued to have a negative effect on the ability of humanitarian organizations to operate freely in many parts of the country. Insurgents deliberately targeted government employees and aid workers. Violence and instability hampered development, relief, and reconstruction efforts. NGOs reported insurgents, powerful local individuals, and militia leaders demanded bribes to allow groups to bring relief supplies into the country and distribute them. Antigovernment elements increased their targeting of hospitals and aid workers compared with 2016. According to media reports, since the start of the year, 15 aid workers were killed and as many injured. During the first six months of 2017, UNAMA documented 32 incidents targeting health-care facilities and health-care workers, resulting in 58 civilian casualties (27 deaths and 31 injured) compared with 67 incidents during the same period in 2016 that caused 11 civilian casualties (five deaths and six injured). On March 8, ISIS-K attacked a military hospital in Kabul, killing 26 patients and hospital staff.

In the south and east, the Taliban and other antigovernment elements frequently forced local residents to provide food and shelter for their fighters. The Taliban also continued to attack schools, radio stations, and government offices. From June to August, armed groups forced dozens of health facilities to close temporarily in Laghman Province, north of Kabul, and in the western provinces of Farah and Badghis in an attempt to coerce nongovernmental organizations to improve service delivery for their combatants.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The EVAW law criminalizes 22 acts of violence against women, including rape, battery, or beating; forced marriage; humiliation; intimidation; and deprivation of inheritance. The law provides for a sentence of 16 to 20 years’ imprisonment for rape. If the act results in the death of the victim, the law provides for a death sentence for the perpetrator. The law provides for imprisonment of up to seven years for the “violation of chastity of a woman…that does not result in adultery (such as sexual touching).” Under the law rape does not include spousal rape. Authorities did not always fully enforce the EVAW law.

Prosecutors and judges in remote provinces were frequently unaware of the EVAW law or received pressure to release defendants due to familial loyalties, threat of harm, or bribes, or because some religious leaders declared the law un-Islamic. Female victims faced stringent societal reprisal, ranging from imprisonment to extrajudicial killing. Interpretations of sharia also impeded successful prosecution of rape cases.

Forced virginity testing remained legal, and police, prosecutors, and judges continued to order virginity tests in cases of “moral crimes” such as zina. Women who sought assistance in cases of rape were often subject to virginity tests. The new penal code, signed into law by presidential decree on March 4 and scheduled to take effect in February 2018, contains language criminalizing virginity tests performed without the consent of the woman and a court order.

The penal code criminalizes assault, and courts convicted domestic abusers under this provision, as well as under the beating provision in the law. According to NGO reports, hundreds of thousands of women continued to suffer abuse at the hands of their husbands, fathers, brothers, in-laws, armed individuals, parallel legal systems, and institutions of state, such as the police and justice systems.

The justice system’s response to domestic violence was limited, in part due to low reporting, sympathy toward perpetrators, and bribery, family, or tribal pressure.

Space at the 29 women’s protection centers across the country was sometimes insufficient, particularly in major urban centers, and shelters remained concentrated in the western, northern, and central regions of the country. Most women did not seek legal assistance for domestic or sexual abuse because they did not know their rights or because they feared prosecution or being sent back to their family or the perpetrator.

Women in need of protection often ended up in prison, either because their community lacked a protection center or based on the local interpretation of “running away” as a moral crime. Adultery, fornication, and kidnapping are criminal offenses. Running away is not a crime under the law, and both the Supreme Court and the Attorney General’s Office issued directives to this effect, but some local authorities continued to detain women and girls for running away from home or “attempted zina.” The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, as well as nongovernmental entities, sometimes arranged marriages for women who could not return to their families.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law criminalizes forced, underage, and “baad” marriages (the practice of settling disputes in which the culprit’s family trades a girl to the victim’s family) and interference with a woman’s right to choose her spouse.

Under the penal code, if a man convicted of honor killing sees his wife or other close relation in the act of committing adultery and immediately kills or injures one or both parties to defend his honor, he cannot receive a prison sentence of more than two years. On March 7, the Taliban convicted and stoned to death a woman accused of adultery in Badakhshan Province.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes harassment and persecution ofwomen. Women who walked outside alone or who worked outside the home often experienced harassment, including groping and being followed. Women with public roles occasionally received threats directed at them or their families.

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

Discrimination: Women who reported cases of abuse or who sought legal redress for other matters reported they experienced discrimination within the judicial system. Some observers, including female judges, asserted that discrimination was a result of faulty implementation of law. Limited access to money and other resources to pay fines (or bribes) and the social requirement for women to have a male guardian affected women’s access to and participation in the justice system.

Prosecutors in some provinces continued to be reluctant to use the EVAW law, and judges would sometimes replace those charges with others based on the penal code.

The law provides for equal work without discrimination, but there are no provisions for equal pay for equal work. The law criminalizes interference with a woman’s right to work. Women faced discrimination in access to employment and terms of occupationOverall, 22 percent of civil servants and 5 percent of security forces were female, including 3,000 female police and 1,400 female soldiers.

Children

Birth Registration: A citizen father transmits citizenship to his child. Birth in the country or to a citizen mother alone does not transfer citizenship. Adoption is not legally recognized. For more information, see data.unicef.org .

Education: Education is mandatory up to the lower secondary level (six years for primary school and three years for lower secondary), and the law provides for free education up to and including the college level. Many children, however, did not attend school.

Key obstacles to girls’ education included poverty, early and forced marriage, insecurity, lack of family support, lack of female teachers, and a lack of nearby schools. An October 2017 Human Rights Watch report observed that the government provided fewer schools for girls than boys and that the lack of basic provisions in many schools for security, privacy, and hygiene, including boundary walls, toilets, and water, also disproportionately affected girls.

Violent attacks on schoolchildren, particularly girls, also hindered access to education, particularly in areas controlled by the Taliban. The Taliban and other extremists threatened and attacked school officials, teachers, and students, particularly girls, and burned both boys’ and girls’ schools. There were press reports of sexual abuse perpetrated by teachers and school officials, particularly against boys. The government claimed families rarely pressed charges due to shame and doubt that the judicial system would respond.

Child Abuse: Police reportedly beat and sexually abused children. NGOs reported a predominantly punitive and retributive approach to juvenile justice throughout the country. Although it is against the law, corporal punishment in schools, rehabilitation centers, and other public institutions remained common.

There were reports that some members of the security forces, including members of the Afghan security forces, and progovernment groups sexually abused and exploited young girls and boys. On January 22, in Paktika Province, Afghan National Border Police reportedly sexually abused a 13-year-old boy at their check-post before shooting him. According to UNAMA, the perpetrators were serving six-year prison sentences for murder after being investigated and prosecuted by the Afghan National Police prosecution unit. There were multiple reports of “bacha bazi,” a practice in which men exploit boys for social and sexual entertainment. On March 20, a Tajik police commander in Faryab Province reportedly killed the son of another police commander, an Uzbek, for hosting a bacha bazi party with Tajik boys.

The government took steps to discourage the abuse of boys and to prosecute or punish those involved. On February 22, President Ghani signed a Law to Combat Crimes of Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants, which includes legal provisions criminalizing behaviors associated with the sexual exploitation of children. The law criminalizes the various acts associated with bacha bazi, including not only sexual exploitation of a minor, but also forced dancing, and prescribes punishments ranging from eight to 12 years.

Early and Forced Marriage: Despite a law setting the legal minimum age for marriage at 16 for girls (15 with the consent of a parent or guardian and the court) and 18 for boys, international and local observers continued to report widespread early marriage. Under the EVAW law, those who arrange forced or underage marriages are subject to imprisonment for not less than two years, but implementation of the law was limited. During the year the government launched a five-year National Action Plan to Eliminate Early and Child Marriage.

By law a marriage contract requires verification that the bride is 16 years of age (or 15 with the permission of her parents or a court), but only a small fraction of the population had birth certificates.

There were reports from Badakhshan Province that Taliban militants bought young women to sell into forced marriage. The UN Development Program Legal Aid Grant Facility reported women increasingly petitioned for divorce.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Although pornography is a crime, child pornography is not specified in the law. Exploitation of children for sexual purposes, often associated with bacha bazi, was widespread, although some aspects of this practice are separate crimes under the penal code.

Child Soldiers: In February 2016 the Law on Prohibition of Children’s Recruitment in the Military became effective. There were reports the ANDSF and progovernment militias recruited and used children in a limited number of cases, and the Taliban and other antigovernment elements recruited children for military purposes (see section 1.g.). Media reported that local progovernment commanders recruited children under 16 years of age. The Taliban and other antigovernment groups regularly recruited and trained children to conduct attacks.

Displaced Children: Returnee families and their children overwhelmed border areas, specifically Herat and Jalalabad. Although the government banned street begging in 2008, NGOs and government offices reported large numbers of children begging and living in the streets of major cities.

Institutionalized Children: Living conditions for children in orphanages were poor. NGOs reported up to 80 percent of children between ages four and 18 years in the orphanages were not orphans but came from families that could not provide food, shelter, or schooling. Children in orphanages reported mental, physical, and sexual abuse and occasionally were victims of trafficking. They did not have regular access to running water, heating in winter, indoor plumbing, health services, recreational facilities, or education. Security forces kept child detainees in juvenile detention centers run by the Ministry of Justice, except for a group of children arrested for national security violations who stayed at the detention facility in Parwan. NGOs reported these children were kept separate from the general population but still were at risk of radicalization.

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

Anti-Semitism

There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination against citizens and requires the state to assist persons with disabilities and to protect their rights, including the rights to health care and financial protection. The constitution also requires the state to adopt measures to reintegrate and provide for the active participation in society of persons with disabilities. The Law on the Rights and Benefits of Disabled Persons provides for equal rights to, and the active participation of, such persons in society.

Disability rights activists reported that corruption prevented some persons with disabilities from receiving benefits. There were reports that government officials redirected scholarship funds for persons with disabilities to friends or family through fraud and identity theft. NGOs and government officials also reported that associations of persons with disabilities attempted to intimidate ministry employees in an effort to secure benefits such as apartments.

Lack of security remained a challenge for disability programs. Insecurity in remote areas, where a disproportionate number of persons with disabilities lived, precluded delivery of assistance in some cases. The majority of buildings remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities, prohibiting many from benefitting from education, health care, and other services.

Persons with disabilities faced barriers such as limited access to educational opportunities, inability to access government buildings, lack of economic opportunities, and social exclusion.

In the Meshrano Jirga, authorities reserved two of the presidentially appointed seats for persons with disabilities. Per law, 3 percent of all government positions are reserved for persons with disabilities, but government officials admitted the law was not enforced.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic tensions between various groups continued to result in conflict and killings. Societal discrimination against Shia Hazaras continued along class, race, and religious lines in the form of extortion of money through illegal taxation, forced recruitment and forced labor, physical abuse, and detention. According to NGOs, the government frequently assigned Hazara ANP officers to symbolic positions with little authority within the Ministry of Interior. NGOs also reported Hazara ANDSF officers were more likely than non-Hazara officers to be posted to insecure areas of the country. During the year there was a marked rise in violence, principally carried out by ISIS-K, against the Hazara community. In August ISIS-K attacked Shia Hazara mosques in Herat and then Kabul, killing more than 100 persons. There were six major attacks on Shia mosques or Shia communities during the first half of the year, all attributed to ISIS-K.

Sikhs and Hindus faced discrimination, reporting unequal access to government jobs and harassment in school, as well as verbal and physical abuse in public places. According to the Sikh and Hindu Council of Afghanistan, there were approximately 900 members of the Sikh and Hindu community in the country.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct, and there were reports of harassment and violence by society and police. The law does not prohibit discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Homosexuality was widely seen as taboo and indecent. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community did not have access to certain health services and could be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation. Organizations devoted to protecting the freedom of LGBTI persons remained underground because they could not legally register with the government. Members of the LGBTI community reported they continued to face discrimination, assault, rape, and arrest by security forces and society at large.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no confirmed reports of discrimination or violence against persons with HIV/AIDS, but there was reportedly serious societal stigma against persons with AIDS.

Bangladesh

Executive Summary

According to its constitution, Bangladesh is a secular, democratic people’s republic. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League (AL) party that she led assumed power in 2009. The 2014 parliamentary elections that resulted in the prime minister and AL’s re-election were characterized by domestic and international observers as falling short of international standards.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary or unlawful detentions, and forced disappearances by government security forces; restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of speech, press, and the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); a lack of freedom to participate in the political process; corruption; violence and discrimination based on gender, religious affiliation, caste, tribe, including indigenous persons, and sexual orientation and gender identity also persisted and, in part, due to a lack of accountability. Trafficking in persons remained a serious problem; as did restrictions on worker’s rights and the worst forms of child labor.

There were reports of widespread impunity for security force abuses. The government took limited measures to investigate and prosecute cases of abuse and killing by security forces. Public distrust of police and security services deterred many from approaching government forces for assistance or to report criminal incidents.

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 constitution provides for the rights to life and personal liberty. There were numerous reports, however, that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

Suspicious deaths occurred during raids, arrests, and other law enforcement operations. Security forces frequently claimed they took a suspect in custody to a crime scene or hideout late at night to recover weapons or identify conspirators and that the suspect was killed when his conspirators shot at police. The government usually described these deaths as “crossfire killings,” “gunfights,” or “encounter killings,” terms used to characterize exchanges of gunfire between the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) or other police units and criminal gangs. The media also sometimes used these terms to describe legitimate uses of police force. Human rights organizations and media outlets claimed many of these “crossfire” incidents actually constituted extrajudicial killings. In some cases human rights organizations claimed law enforcement units detained, interrogated, and tortured suspects, brought them back to the scene of the original arrest, executed them, and ascribed the death to lawful self-defense in response to violent attacks. A domestic human rights organization, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), reported that security forces killed 162 individuals in “crossfire.” Another domestic human rights organization, Odhikar, reported that security forces killed 118 individuals extrajudicially in the first 10 months of the year.

On May 12, RAB forces allegedly shot and killed Rakibul Hasan Bappi and Lalon Molla in Goalanda Upazila, Rajbari District. According to RAB, the men died during a gunfight that occurred during a RAB raid of a meeting of the Purba Banglar Communist Party, a banned organization. Family members of the suspects claimed law enforcement arrested and detained the individuals months prior to the alleged May 12 incident. The circumstances of the encounter remained disputed.

ASK stated that law enforcement personnel killed up to 53 detainees in custody during the year, while Odhikar reported that security forces killed six detainees in the first six months of the year.

The family of Mazharul Islam, a community leader who protested against the government, alleged RAB tortured him to death after his arrest in Naogaon District. On September 8, Islam’s family said that RAB arrested Islam at a tea stall at Singarhat Bazar and later detained him in his home, where RAB members allegedly tortured him. RAB members then took him to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital, where he died on September 9. The hospital reported injuries to multiple areas of Islam’s body, according to press reports. On September 18, Islam’s wife, Shamima Akhtar Swapna, filed a murder case accusing the company commander of RAB-5 at Joypurhat, the Kanshopara Union Parishad chairman, and other local residents of torturing and killing her husband. Police were unable to provide all case documents for the original October 18 court date, so a new court date of January 15, 2018, was set. Swapna and a witness in the case stated they had received threats from unknown cell phone numbers for their roles in the case.

Competition among factions and members of the ruling party for local offices provoked violent clashes between supporters of rival Awami League candidates that resulted in killings. ASK reported political violence resulted in 44 deaths and 3,506 injuries in the first nine months of the year.

In August a violent Awami League intraparty clash took place between supporters of Rajnagar Union leaders in a power struggle before approaching general elections. The confrontation injured 56 individuals, and a Jubo League youth official died from a gunshot wound.

Terrorists committed killings in three separate terror incidents in March, all of which were claimed by ISIS. On March 17, a suspected suicide bomber infiltrated a RAB barracks and killed one person. On March 24, a suicide bomber killed two individuals at a police checkpoint near Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. On March 25, eight individuals were killed and more than 40 injured in two blasts during a raid on a suspected ISIS safe house in Sylhet.

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, local and international human rights organizations and the media reported security forces, including RAB, intelligence services, and police, employed torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Security forces reportedly used torture to gather information from alleged militants and members of political opposition parties. Security forces reportedly used threats, beatings, kneecappings, and electric shock, and they sometimes committed rapes and other sexual abuses. During the year Odhikar reported security forces tortured approximately 12 persons to death.

The law contains provisions allowing a magistrate to place a suspect in interrogative custody, known as remand, during which questioning of the suspect can take place without a lawyer present. Human rights organizations alleged that many instances of torture occurred during remand as a means of obtaining information from the suspect.

As of October 20, the United Nations reported that it received two allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against Bangladeshi peacekeepers during the year. Alleged victims said Bangladeshi police officers deployed with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti sexually assaulted children and demanded transactional sex. As of November investigations of both allegations were pending.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions remained harsh and at times life threatening due to overcrowding, inadequate facilities, and a lack of proper sanitation. ASK stated these conditions contributed to custodial deaths, which it claimed totaled 53 in the year.

Physical Conditions: According to the Department of Prisons, 76,025 prisoners occupied a system designed to hold 36,614 inmates. Authorities often incarcerated pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners.

Due to overcrowding, prisoners slept in shifts and did not have adequate toilet facilities. According to a 2016 report by the German Agency for International Cooperation, the prisons did not meet minimum standards for adequate light, air, decency, and privacy. In 2016 human rights organizations and the media stated some prisoners did not receive medical care or water, although prison authorities maintained that each prisoner had access to water. Water available in prisons was comparable with water available in the rest of the country, which was frequently not potable.

Conditions in prisons, and often within the same prison complex, varied widely. Authorities lodged some prisoners in areas subject to high temperatures, poor ventilation, and overcrowding. The law allows individuals whom prison officials designated as “VIPs” to access “Division A” prison facilities with improved living conditions and food, more frequent family visitation rights, and the provision of a poorer prisoner to serve as an aide in their cell.

While the law requires holding juveniles separately from adults, authorities incarcerated many juveniles with adults. Children were sometimes imprisoned (occasionally with their mothers) despite laws and court decisions prohibiting the imprisonment of minors.

Authorities routinely held female prisoners separately from men. Although the law prohibits women in “safe custody” (usually victims of rape, trafficking, and domestic violence) from being housed with criminals, officials did not always provide separate facilities. Authorities must issue permission for these women to leave this “safe custody.”

Although Dhaka’s central jail had facilities for those with mental disabilities, not all detention facilities did, nor are they required to by law. Judges may reduce punishments for persons with disabilities on humanitarian grounds. Jailors also may make special arrangements, for example, by transferring inmates with disabilities to a prison hospital.

Administration: Prisons had no ombudsmen to whom prisoners could submit complaints. Prison authorities indicated they were constrained by significant staff shortages. The scope for retraining and rehabilitation programs was extremely limited.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but the Special Powers Act of 1974 permits authorities to arrest and detain an individual without an order from a magistrate or a warrant if authorities perceive the individual may constitute a threat to security and public order. The act was widely cited by law enforcement in justifying their arrests. The constitution provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, but the government did not generally observe these requirements. Media, civil society, and human rights organizations accused the government of conducting enforced disappearances not only against suspected militants, but also against civil society and opposition party members. Authorities sometimes held detainees without divulging their whereabouts or circumstances to family or legal counsel, or without acknowledging having arrested them in the first place.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Bangladesh Police, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs, have a mandate to maintain internal security and law and order. Numerous units of the Bangladesh Police operate under competing mandates. The most significant among such units are the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit (CTTCU), the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)–a mostly counterterrorism-focused Special Mission Unit–and the Detective Branch.

The military, which reports directly to the prime minister (who also holds the title of minister of defense), is responsible for external security. The military may also be “activated” as a backup force with a variety of domestic security responsibilities when required to aid civilian authorities. This includes responding to instances of terrorism.

The Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and National Security Intelligence (NSI) are the two primary intelligence agencies with overlapping responsibilities and capabilities. Both are responsible for domestic as well as foreign affairs and report directly to the prime minister in her capacity as minister of defense. Media reports asserted that the DGFI and, to a lesser degree, the NSI engaged in politically motivated violations of human rights. This included violations against suspected terrorists, members of opposition parties, civil society, and others.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the military and other security forces. While the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption within the security forces, these mechanisms were not regularly employed. The government continued to take steps to improve police professionalism, discipline, training, and responsiveness and to reduce corruption. Police basic training continued to incorporate instruction on the appropriate use of force as part of efforts to implement community-based policing.

According to police policy, all significant uses of force by police, including actions that resulted in serious physical injury or death, trigger an automatic internal investigation, usually by a professional standards unit that reports directly to the Inspector General of Police. The government neither released statistics on total killings by security personnel nor took comprehensive measures to investigate cases, despite previous statements by high-ranking officials that the government would show “zero tolerance” and fully investigate all alleged extrajudicial killings by security forces that occurred in 2016. In 2016 human rights groups expressed skepticism over the independence of the professional standards units conducting these assessments. In the few known instances in which the government brought charges, those found guilty generally received only administrative punishment.

Security forces continued to commit abuses with impunity. Plaintiffs were reluctant to accuse police in criminal cases due to lengthy trial procedures and fear of retribution. Reluctance to bring charges against police also perpetuated a climate of impunity. Officers loyal to the ruling party occupied many of the key positions in the law enforcement agencies.

The government continued support of the Internal Enquiry Cell within the RAB that investigates cases of human rights abuses. RAB did not widely publish its findings and did not otherwise announce significant actions against officers accused of human rights abuses.

Security forces failed to prevent societal violence (see section 6).

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution requires that arrests and detentions be authorized by a warrant or occur as a result of observation of a crime in progress, but the Special Powers Act of 1974 grants broad exceptions to these protections.

Under the constitution detainees must be brought before a judicial officer to face charges within 24 hours, but this did not regularly occur. The government or a district magistrate may order a person detained for 30 days to prevent the commission of an act that could threaten national security; however, authorities sometimes held detainees for longer periods with impunity.

There is a functioning bail system, but police routinely did so with impunity, despite a May 2016 directive from the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division prohibiting rearrest of persons when they are released on bail in new cases without producing them in court.

Authorities generally permitted defense lawyers to meet with their clients only after formal charges were filed in the courts, which in some cases occurred weeks or months after the initial arrest. Detainees are legally entitled to counsel even if they cannot afford to pay for it, but the country lacked sufficient funds to provide for this entitlement.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrests occurred, often in conjunction with political demonstrations or as part of security force responses to terrorist activity, and the government held persons in detention without specific charges, sometimes in an attempt to collect information about other suspects. The expansiveness of the 1974 Special Powers Act grants a legal justification to arrests that would often otherwise be considered arbitrary, since it removes the requirement that arrests be based on crimes that have previously occurred. Unlike in the past year, when police engaged in a mass arrest campaign, reportedly arresting 14,000 individuals including a purported 2,000 opposition-party activists, during the year police made periodic arrests of opposition activists on various charges.

Pretrial Detention: Arbitrary and lengthy pretrial detention continued due to bureaucratic inefficiencies, limited resources, lax enforcement of pretrial rules, and corruption. In some cases the length of pretrial detention equaled or exceeded the sentence for the alleged crime.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: A magistrate must inform a detainee of the grounds for detention within 15 days. Regulations require an advisory board, appointed by the government and composed of two individuals who could be appointed to the High Court and a “senior officer in service to the republic,” to examine a detainee’s case after four months. Detainees have the right to appeal.

Vacancies hampered the ability to challenge lawfulness of detention. On September 23, the Daily Star newspaper reported delays in recruitment of judges, which were hampering judicial proceedings and leading to a substantial case backlog, rendered 397 positions of lower court judges, including 51 district judges, vacant. More than 2.7 million cases were pending with the lower courts and 400,000 cases were pending with the High Court Division of the Supreme Court.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape of a female by a male and physical spousal abuse, but the law excludes marital rape if the female is above 13. Rape can be punished by life imprisonment or the death penalty.

There were reports of sexual violence with impunity. On April 2, female police constable Halima Begum of Gouripur Police Station in Mymensingh committed suicide after her alleged rape by Sub-Inspector (SI) Mizanul Islam of the same police station. Halima’s diary, which included an entry about her rape by SI Islam, contained also a written complaint to the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Gouripur Police Station against SI Islam regarding the rape, which the OC did not accept when she submitted it. After Halima’s suicide, police arrested SI Islam.

According to human rights monitors, many victims did not report rapes due to lack of access to legal services, social stigma, or fear of further harassment and the legal requirement to furnish witnesses.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Some NGOs reported violence against women related to disputes over dowries. During the year ASK documented 221 women who were victims of dowry-related violence.

A Supreme Court Appellate Division ruling allows the use of “fatwas” (religious edicts) only to settle religious matters; fatwas may not be invoked to justify punishment, nor may they supersede secular law. Islamic tradition dictates that only those religious scholars with expertise in Islamic law may declare a fatwa. Despite these restrictions, village religious leaders sometimes made such declarations. The declarations resulted in extrajudicial punishments, often against women, for perceived moral transgressions.

Incidents of vigilantism against women occurred, sometimes led by religious leaders enforcing fatwas. The incidents included whipping, beating, and other forms of physical violence.

Assailants threw acid in the faces of victims–usually women–leaving them disfigured and often blind. Acid attacks were often related to a woman’s refusal to accept a marriage proposal or were related to land disputes.

The law seeks to control the availability of acid and reduce acid-related violence directed toward women, but lack of awareness of the law and poor enforcement limited its effect. The Commerce Ministry restricted acid sales to buyers registered with relevant trade organizations.

Sexual Harassment: Although sexual harassment is prohibited by a 2009 High Court guideline, a June 2016 Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) document noted that harassment remained a problem and monitoring and enforcement of the guidelines were poor, which sometimes prevented girls from attending school or work.

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

Discrimination: The constitution declares all citizens equal before the law with entitlement to equal protection of the law. It also explicitly recognizes the equal rights of women to those of men “in all spheres of the state and of public life.” Nevertheless, women do not enjoy the same legal status and rights as men in family, property, and inheritance law. Under traditional Islamic inheritance law, daughters inherit only half of what sons do. Under Hindu inheritance law, a widow’s rights to her deceased husband’s property are limited to her lifetime and revert to the male heirs upon her death.

Children

Birth Registration: Individuals are born citizens if their parents were Bangladeshi citizens, if the nationality of the parents is unknown and the child is born in Bangladeshi territory, or if their fathers or grandfathers were born in the territories that are now part of the country. If a person qualifies for citizenship through ancestry, the father or grandfather must have been a permanent resident of these territories in or after 1971. Birth registration is required to obtain a national identity card or passport. For more information, see http://www.data.unicef.org .

Education: Education is free and compulsory through eighth grade by law, and the government offered subsidies to parents to keep girls in class through 10th grade. Despite free classes, teacher fees, books, and uniforms remained prohibitively costly for many families, and the government distributed hundreds of millions of free textbooks to increase access to education. Enrollments in primary schools showed gender parity, but completion rates fell in secondary school, with more girls than boys completing that level. Early and forced marriage was a factor in girls’ attrition from secondary school.

Child Abuse: Many forms of child abuse, including sexual abuse, physical and humiliating punishment, child abandonment, kidnapping, and trafficking, continued to be serious and widespread problems. Children were vulnerable to abuse in all settings: home, community, school, residential institutions, and the workplace. In October 2016 the government, with support from UNICEF, launched “Child Helpline–1098,” a free telephone service designed to help children facing violence, abuse, and exploitation.

Despite advances, including establishing a monitoring agency in the Ministry of Home Affairs, trafficking of children and inadequate care and protection for survivors of trafficking continued to be problems. Child labor and abuse at the workplace remained problems in certain industries, mostly in the informal sector, and child domestic workers were vulnerable to all forms of abuse at their informal workplaces.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18 for women and 21 for men. On February 27, parliament passed the Child Marriage Restraint Act, which includes a provision for marriages of women and men at any age in “special circumstances.” The government ignored the recommendations and concerns raised by child rights organizations, human rights organizations, and development partners concerning this act. On April 10, the High Court ruled that the government should explain why the provision allowing the marriage of a minor should not be declared illegal in response to a writ petition filed by BNWLA. BNWLA’s petition argued that the Muslim Family Law describes marriage as a “contract” and a minor could not be a party to a contract.

In an effort to reduce early and forced marriages, the government offered stipends for girls’ school expenses beyond the compulsory fifth-grade level. The government and NGOs conducted workshops and public events to teach parents the importance of their daughters waiting until age 18 before marrying

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penalty for sexual exploitation of children is 10 years’ to life imprisonment. Child pornography and the selling or distributing of such material is prohibited.

Displaced Children: See section 2.d.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was no Jewish community in the country, but politicians and imams reportedly used anti-Semitic statements to gain support from their constituencies. In one high-profile case, ruling party politicians leveraged anti-Semitic sentiment for political gain by accusing an opposition leader of colluding with Israeli intelligence services. A high-profile grand imam was also known for issuing fatwas and publishing text on Zionist conspiracies to garner support for the AL-led government.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law provides for equal treatment and freedom from discrimination for persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions.

Although the law requires physical structures be made accessible to those with disabilities, the government did not implement the law effectively. A report prepared by several NGOs in 2016 highlighted negligence in areas such as accessibility in physical structures, access to justice, rights of women with disabilities, freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse, the right to education and health and a decent work place, the right to employment, and political rights and representation.

The law requires persons with disabilities to register for identity cards to track their enrollment in educational institutions and access to jobs. This registration allows them to be included in voter lists, to cast votes, and to participate in elections. It states that no person, organization, authority, or corporation shall discriminate against persons with disabilities and allows for fines) or three years’ imprisonment for giving unequal treatment for school, work, or inheritance based on disability, although implementation of the law was uneven. The law also created a 27-member National Coordination Committee charged with coordinating relevant activities among all government organizations and private bodies to fulfill the objectives of the law. Implementation of the law was slow, delaying the formation and functioning of Disability Rights and Protection Committees required by the legislation.

According to the NGO Action against Disability, 90 percent of children with disabilities did not attend public school. The government trained teachers about inclusive education and recruited disability specialists at the district level. The government also allocated stipends for students with disabilities.

The law affords persons with disabilities the same access to information rights as nondisabled persons, but family and community dynamics often influenced whether these rights were exercised.

The law identifies persons with disabilities as a priority group for government-sponsored legal services. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Department of Social Services, and National Foundation for the Development of the Disabled are the government agencies responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

Government facilities for treating persons with mental disabilities were inadequate. The Ministry of Health established child development centers in all public medical colleges to assess neurological disabilities. Several private initiatives existed for medical and vocational rehabilitation as well as for employment of persons with disabilities. National and international NGOs provided services and advocated for persons with disabilities. The government established 103 disability information and service centers in all 64 districts, where local authorities provided free rehabilitation services and assistive devices. The government also promoted autism research and awareness.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Violent attacks against religious minority communities continued, apparently motivated by transnational violent extremism as well as economic and political reasons. For example, on November 11, media reports indicated that approximately 30 Hindu houses were vandalized and burned in Rangpur by local Muslims in response to a rumored Facebook post demeaning Islam.

NGOs reported that national origin, racial, and ethnic minorities faced discrimination. For example, some Dalits (lowest-caste Hindus) had restricted access to land, adequate housing, education, and employment.

Indigenous People

The CHT indigenous community experienced widespread discrimination and abuse despite nationwide government quotas for participation of indigenous CHT residents in the civil service and higher education. These conditions also persisted despite provisions for local governance in the 1997 CHT Peace Accord, which had not been implemented. Indigenous persons from the CHT were unable to participate effectively in decisions affecting their lands due to disagreements regarding the structure and policies of the land commission.

The central government retained authority over land use. The land commission, designed to investigate and return all illegally acquired land, did not resolve any disputes during the year.

Indigenous communities in areas other than the CHT reported the loss of land to Bengali Muslims, and indigenous peoples’ advocacy groups reported continued land encroachment by Rohingya settlers from Burma. The government continued construction projects on land traditionally owned by indigenous communities in the Moulvibazar and Modhupur forest areas.

On February 7, the High Court ordered the government to relieve Ashraful Islam, superintendent of police of Gaibandha District, of his duties for failure to cooperate with a judicial inquiry into the November 2016 arson attacks on the Santal tribe in Gobindaganj Upazila. A police probe identified two law enforcement officers as responsible for setting fire to Santal homes. Leaders among the Santal, a mostly Christian indigenous group that numbers approximately 500,000, alleged that many other police personnel were involved in the clash over land ownership with the workers of a sugar mill. The Santal community blamed several local Awami League leaders for the attack on the Santal village.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal under the law. LGBTI groups reported police used the law as a pretext to bully LGBTI individuals, as well as those considered effeminate regardless of their sexual orientation, and to limit registration of LGBTI organizations. Some groups also reported harassment under a suspicious behavior provision of the police code. The transgender population has long been a marginalized, but recognized, part of society, but it faced continued high levels of fear, harassment, and law enforcement contact in the wake of violent extremist attacks against vulnerable communities.

Members of LGBTI communities received threatening messages via telephone, text, and social media, and some were harassed by police.

In May, RAB forces raided the Chayaneer Community Center in Keranigan during a dinner organized by the LGBTI community from that area. According to witnesses, 28 individuals were arrested of the 120 persons present at the time of the raid. The witnesses also stated RAB separated the diners into small groups and beat them before identifying individuals for arrest. During the raid RAB announced to the media the raid was conducted based on suspicion of homosexual activity and allowed the media to photograph some of the arrested individuals. RAB later announced the attendees were not engaged in “illegal sexual activities” at the time of the raid and were instead arrested for possession of narcotics–specifically “yaba” (a combination of methamphetamine and caffeine) and cannabis. The court system remanded four of the individuals. Of the remaining 24 individuals, 12 were detained for further questioning and 12 were sent directly to jail.

Following these events and continued harassment, many members of LGBTI communities, including the leadership of key support organizations, continued to reduce their activities and sought refuge both inside and outside of the country. This resulted in severely weakened advocacy and support networks for LGBTI persons. Organizations specifically assisting lesbians continued to be rare. Strong social stigma based on sexual orientation was common and prevented open discussion of the subject.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Social stigma against HIV and AIDS and against higher-risk populations could be a barrier for accessing health services, especially for the transgender community and men who have sex with men.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Vigilante killings occurred. Local human rights organizations acknowledged the number of reported cases probably represented only a small fraction of the actual incidents. Illegal fatwas and village arbitration, which a prominent local NGO defined as rulings given by community leaders rather than religious scholars, also occurred. According to Odhikar, 21 individuals suffered from vigilante killing from January through June, primarily by public lynching.

Burundi

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 nearly all 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. Some armed elements within the CNDD-FDD’s youth group, the Imbonerakure, committed human rights violations at the instruction or direction of some senior officials in the SNR, police, army, and the President’s Office, but also at times operated independently of any identifiable oversight. Imbonerakure members abducted or detained individuals, despite having no legal powers of arrest; beat, extorted, tortured, and killed persons with impunity; and often handed individuals over to the SNR or police, indicating that authorities knew of and failed to punish their conduct. Individuals perceived to be members of the political opposition were specifically targeted. Police abuse was widespread and carried out with impunity.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings; disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, including rape of both male and female detainees; arbitrary arrest and politicized detention; prolonged pretrial detention; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; a highly politicized judicial system that lacked independence from the executive branch; government infringement on the freedoms of speech, press and other media, peaceful assembly, and association; restrictions on freedom of movement; government corruption; restrictions on domestic and international human rights and civil society organizations; lack of prosecutions and accountability in cases of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls; violence against persons with albinism; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct; and inadequately enforced labor rights.

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.

Overt violence between the government and armed opposition groups was limited in comparison to 2015 and early 2016. Armed opposition groups committed acts of violence including attempted assassinations and ambushes of government officials, security forces, and ruling party members. There were at least 75 grenade attacks as of December, some of which killed civilians; some were linked to political violence, while others appeared to result from criminal activity or private vendettas.

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 or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, often against perceived supporters of the political opposition or those who exercised their lawful rights. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented more than 400 cases of arbitrary or unlawful killings in 2015. The banned but still operating nongovernmental organization (NGO) Ligue Iteka documented 338 killings by the end of October. The 2017 UN Commission of Inquiry (UN COI), which was denied access to the country by the government but conducted interviews with more than 500 witnesses, reported that unlawful or arbitrary killings by government security services continued and reported allegations of security forces executing detained individuals and leaving their bodies in the Rusizi River, often after having weighed them down with stones. Many of the bodies were decapitated, were found with hands tied behind their backs, and showed signs of extreme torture and mutilation. NGOs reported numerous cases of extrajudicial killings committed by police, the SNR, and military personnel, sometimes with involvement of local government officials. Local and international organizations also charged that members of the Imbonerakure were responsible for some unlawful killings, including summary executions.

There were press and government reports of attempted killings targeting government officials, security force personnel, and individuals associated with the CNDD-FDD. In November 2016 Presidential Communications Advisor Willy Nyamitwe was shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by an unknown assailant; his bodyguard was killed. On January 1, Minister of the Environment, Land Management, and Urban Planning Emmanuel Niyonkuru was shot and killed in front of his residence; four suspects were detained as of October. On August 15, the motorcade of the governor of Bubanza province came under attack; there were no fatalities. There were also reports of extrajudicial killings of members of the security forces by members of the police and army, including General Kararuza, who was killed by police and army personnel in April 2016.

As of December there were at least 75 grenade attacks throughout the country, of which 26 occurred in Bujumbura. It was often difficult to identify perpetrators and motives behind the attacks. While some attacks specifically targeted police and other members of the security services with apparent political motives, others were likely motivated by personal or business vendettas. Responsibility for attacks was often unclear, as in the case of a July 9 grenade explosion at a crowded bar in Kayanza province that killed eight persons and wounded more than 50. It remained unclear whether this was an intentional attack or an accident involving one or more grenades or other incendiary devices. A police investigation was conducted but no conclusive details were released.

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 numerous reports government officials employed these practices. NGOs reported cases of torture committed by security services or members of the Imbonerakure; as of October, Ligue Iteka alleged 236 such cases. According to IRRI some asylum seekers testified they had fled the country after suffering gang rape and other sexual violence, torture, and illegal detention by members of the security forces. The UN COI cited members of the SNR, Imbonerakure, police, and to a lesser extent the Burundian National Defense Forces (BNDF) as perpetrators of torture. The UN COI documented allegations of practices employed by security forces since 2015, including beating detainees with electric wires, belts, batons, firearm stocks, and other implements; pouring boiling liquid on detainees; inserting long needles or injecting unidentified substances into victims’ bodies; placing victims beside human remains; forcing victims to eat feces; cutting detainees with knives; removing fingernails; and threatening to kill victims; among others. The report also documented allegations of security services employing sexual- and gender-based violence against detainees.

Sexual violence remained pervasive and was often used as a means of torture to obtain information or confessions from detainees. Rape was also committed while police officers or members of the Imbonerakure arrested a victim’s spouse or relative accused of belonging to an opposition party. On April 8, following the inauguration of a CNDD-FDD party office in the eastern province of Ruyigi, an estimated 200 persons, including Imbonerakure, chanted a song urging the impregnation of female opposition members so that more Imbonerakure would be born, which was widely interpreted as threatening rape. On September 29, Amnesty International (AI) published a report based on June 2016 and July 2017 interviews with 129 refugees in Uganda and Tanzania, some who had recently arrived, regarding the reasons for their flight from Burundi. One woman told Amnesty International that she was raped by two Imbonerakure members in her home in the presence of her two children.

Representatives of the wing of the National Liberation Forces (FNL) political party associated with National Assembly Vice President Agathon Rwasa alleged that security service members tortured detained members of the party.

The country contributed peacekeepers to the African Union Mission in Somalia since 2008 and to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) since 2014. As of October there were almost 800 Burundian personnel serving in MINUSCA. The United Nations received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) against two members of the Burundian military contingent serving with MINUSCA during the year. The allegation of the solicitation of transactional sex was pending investigation as of November. Burundian authorities were also investigating certain remaining SEA allegations against MINUSCA peacekeepers from Burundi referred to them by the United Nations in 2016 and 2015. Other allegations made during 2016 were found to be unsubstantiated.

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. According to its September 29 report, AI interviewed 16 Burundian refugees who alleged that they had been tortured or mistreated by members of the security services, including through physical blows and sexual and gender-based violence. Prisons did not meet the standards established by the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules).

Physical Conditions: The Office of Penitentiary Affairs reported that, as of October, there were 10,093 inmates, including 5,580 pretrial detainees, in 11 prisons, the majority of which were built before 1965 to accommodate 4,194 inmates. Of the 10,093 inmates, 492 were women and 107 were juveniles. As of October authorities held 96 juveniles (most but not all of whom had been convicted; others were awaiting trial) in two juvenile rehabilitation facilities that opened in 2015; they were allowed to participate in recreational activities and received psychosocial support and preparation for eventual return to their families and communities. In addition there were 95 children living with their incarcerated mothers. The most crowded prisons were Muramvya (30 miles from Bujumbura), where the inmate population was at 539 percent of capacity and Mpimba (in Bujumbura) which was at 428 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. 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, or lighting. Prisons and detention centers did not have special facilities for persons with disabilities.

According to government officials and international human rights observers, many prisoners suffered from intestinal illnesses and malaria (which were also epidemic among the country’s general population). An unknown number died from disease. Each inmate received approximately 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 and NGOs reported prison guards used live ammunition to restore order following a demonstration at Rumonge prison on August 3, reportedly wounding several prisoners. There were allegations authorities delayed access to medical treatment for wounded prisoners. During the incident the security detail of the prison director shot and wounded Adrien Kadende, a former military officer detained since September 2016. Prison management reportedly denied his referral to a civilian hospital, instead transferring him to the health unit of Mpimba prison, where he received medical treatment.

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. Twenty-one of the 28 were sentenced to life imprisonment, six were sentenced to 30-year terms, and one was acquitted; the Court of Cassation of the Supreme Court upheld the sentences in December 2016. Independent human rights observers noted the cells did not have windows or toilet facilities. Conditions of detention for these political prisoners remained the same as of October.

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.

Independent Monitoring: The UN COI during the year documented the existence of numerous secret, unofficial detention facilities, including one located in the headquarters of the SNR. No independent monitors were able to visit these secret facilities. The September 2016 UN Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) report concluded there were “reasonable grounds to believe” security forces and Imbonerakure had established 13 places of detention that were denied or unacknowledged by the prosecutor general, according to 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.

The government permitted visits requested by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the CNIDH. Monitors visited known, official prisons, communal jails, and SNR detention centers regularly. Monitoring groups had complete and unhindered access to those prisoners held in known detention facilities. Since the government’s October 2016 decision to suspend official cooperation with the local OHCHR office, the OHCHR was not allowed to conduct prison visits.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not observe these prohibitions. The law provides for a fine of 10,000 Burundian francs ($5.65) and imprisonment of 15 days to one year for any member of the security forces implicated in arbitrary arrest. Human rights groups reported numerous arbitrary arrests and detentions, including some involving the participation of Imbonerakure members. The UN COI described an ongoing trend of arbitrary arrests and detentions during the period of its mandate, starting in 2015, but did not provide statistics. As of October 31, Ligue Iteka documented 2,153 cases it deemed to be arbitrary arrests, but was not able to document the subsequent disposition of all cases. Although regulations obligated government officials to notify family members of an arrest and allow communication, there were documented cases where families of arrested individuals did not receive timely notification or were not allowed contact.

Among other reasons for arbitrary arrests or detentions, 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. Police routinely detained adults and children for begging, which was not a crime. A draft law to revise the Penal Code that would include the criminalization of begging was approved by the Council of Ministers during the year and was under consideration by the National Assembly and Senate.

As of October there were reportedly 15 cases of children detained for “participation in armed groups, participation in an insurrectional movement, or illegal possession of arms,” all receiving legal assistance through civil society organizations. This was a decrease from 2016, when there were more than 150 such cases. Some of those detained were subsequently convicted and sentenced. Those convicted were placed in government-run rehabilitation centers in Ruyigi and Rumonge provinces for children in conflict with the law and received psychosocial support, recreational activities, and preparation for eventual return to their families and communities.

NGOs reported numerous cases of individuals arrested without due process and accused of being part of or intending to join the armed opposition. Members of the FNL associated with National Assembly Vice President Agathon Rwasa alleged that security services arrested party members in retaliation for their political activism and membership in the party. Authorities charged some of those identified with the FNL with threats to state security, participation in rebellion, or illegal possession of firearms.

In April, six representatives of university students were arrested while protesting against the reduction of scholarships provided by the government. They were charged with undermining state security and promoting insurrection. As of November, three remained in detention while undergoing trial; the other three had been released.

On July 13, Germain Rukuki, a former employee of the banned NGO Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture-Burundi, was arrested by SNR officials and subsequently transferred to Ngozi Prison. Rukuki was accused of acts against state security and rebellion; international and local human rights organizations criticized the nature of his detention and the charges against him as politically motivated. On November 21, Nestor Nibitanga, a human rights monitor and former representative of the Burundian Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detainees (APRODH) was arrested in Gitega and accused of acts against state security.

SOS-Torture Burundi continued to report instances in which persons arrested allegedly had to pay bribes to be released. The amount demanded typically ranged from 5,280 to 52,800 Burundian francs ($3 to $30). The September 29 AI report recounted instances wherein persons arrested by security forces or detained by members of the Imbonerakure were subjected to extortion and asked to pay between 200,000 and two million Burundian francs (between $115 and $1,150). The October COI report stated that members of the SNR, police, judiciary, and Imbonerakure often demanded large sums of money for the release of detainees or for their transfer to official prisons.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

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, who have no arrest authority, were involved in or responsible for numerous detentions and abductions, according to the OHCHR. According to an August report by IRRI, the Imbonerakure regularly took over the role of state security agents. The UN COI report stated that since 2015 the security forces, including police, SNR, and defense forces, have been the principal perpetrators of human rights violations, including when they acted jointly with nonstate actors such as the Imbonerakure. Impunity for these crimes was widespread.

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. The International Crisis Group reported in April that the disproportionate retirement of older (ex-FAB) Tutsi officers in the military risked shifting this balance in favor of the Hutu. In 2016 the government replaced the 50/50 quota for army recruits to a 40 (Tutsi) /60 (Hutu) quota.

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

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 or responsible for summary executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, acts of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and sexual violence. The UN COI stated that the Anti-Riot Brigade and the Protection of Institutions unit were particularly implicated in grave violations of human rights since 2015. The government rarely investigated and prosecuted these cases, which resulted in widespread police impunity and politicization.

A report by the Senate published in August stated authorities had dismissed 38 police officers while incarcerating and prosecuting 59 others for “grave breaches.” In its response to the UN COI report, the government admitted that “certain elements of the security forces have overstepped the framework of their competencies.” The government stated they had been held accountable by the justice system but provided no supporting documentation.

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. Human rights organizations and the UN COI alleged the committees allowed the Imbonerakure a strong role in local policing, which permitted the ruling party to harass and intimidate opposition members and those perceived to favor the opposition on the local level. Government officials and a spokesperson for the CNDD-FDD confirmed that Imbonerakure members participated in mixed security committees. The mixed security committees remained controversial because lines of authority increasingly blurred between Imbonerakure members and police. Imbonerakure members reportedly detained individuals for political or personal reasons. According to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), Imbonerakure members set up unofficial roadblocks in many provinces, sometimes detaining and beating passersby and extorting money or stealing their possessions.

Independent observers generally regarded the BNDF as professional and politically neutral. The UN COI, however, reported that military personnel were implicated in summary executions, arbitrary arrests, and torture. Among the units involved in grave violations of human rights, the commission identified the Special Brigade for the Protection of Institutions, the Combat Engineer Battalion (Camp Muzinda), and the Support Battalion of the First Military Region (Camp Muha) in Bujumbura. The commission and other organizations reported that major decisions, including those that have given rise to gross violations of human rights, were allegedly made through parallel chains of command reporting to senior government and ruling party leadership.

The SNR’s mandate is to provide both external and internal security. It often investigated certain opposition political party leaders and their supporters. Many citizens perceived the SNR as heavily politicized and responsive to the CNDD-FDD. The UN COI and NGOs asserted SNR officials committed acts of torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary arrest and detention.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

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. The CNIDH identified some cases of prisoners held in detention without a preliminary hearing or in excess of the statutory limits for preventive detention. A UN human rights team that visited SNR facilities in Bujumbura in April 2016 reported that 25 of the 67 detainees they saw had been kept in custody beyond the prescribed maximum. Due to suspension of the OHCHR’s memorandum of understanding, it was unable to collect data during the year.

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 solitary confinement 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 to have access to medical care and legal assistance. The SNR denied lawyers access to detainees held at its headquarters in Bujumbura. The ICRC continued to have access to official prisons and detention centers. Several credible organizations, however, reported that the SNR, National Police, senior officials of the government, and other security organizations maintained clandestine holding cells to which no independent monitors, including the ICRC, were granted access. The September report of the UN COI documented cases of torture and mistreatment that occurred in unofficial detention centers where national and international observers had no access.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law provides for a fine of 10,000 Burundian francs ($6) and imprisonment of 15 days to one year for security force members found guilty of arbitrary arrest. There was no evidence that this law has ever been applied. NGOs reported numerous instances of alleged arbitrary arrests wherein no underlying offense in law existed; Ligue Iteka alleged 1,922 such cases as of September. Comprehensive data was not available on the subsequent handling of the cases; 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 August 31, according to the director of prison administration, 55 percent of inmates in prisons and detention centers were pretrial detainees. The average time in pretrial detention was approximately 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 own 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: On January 3, a presidential decree announced an amnesty of prisoners who were serving sentences of less than five years and halving the sentences of others. As of October at least 2,576 prisoners were released and 592 prisoners saw their sentences reduced. Some, including members of opposition political parties, were reported to have been subsequently rearrested. Most of those prisoners were considered to be political prisoners. 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 or external security of the state, voluntary homicide, being a mercenary, cannibalism, and all other crimes committed in association with organized gangs. As of October a total of 1,706 prisoners were found ineligible for a presidential pardon.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, with penalties of up to 30 years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits domestic abuse of a spouse, with punishment ranging from fines to three to five years’ imprisonment. The government did not enforce the law uniformly, and rape and other domestic and sexual violence continued to be serious problems. On April 8, following the inauguration of a CNDD-FDD party office in the eastern province of Ruyigi, an estimated 200 persons, including Imbonerakure, chanted a song urging impregnation of female opposition members so that more Imbonerakure would be born, which was widely interpreted as threatening rape.

In September 2016 the government adopted a law that provides for the creation of a special gender-based crimes court, makes gender-based violence crimes unpardonable, and provides stricter punishment for police officers and judges who conceal violent crimes against women and girls. As of October the special court had not been created, and no police or judges had been prosecuted under the new law.

The Unit for the Protection of Minors and Morals in the Burundian National Police is responsible for investigating cases of sexual violence and rape, as well as those involving the trafficking of girls and women. The government, with financial support from international NGOs and the United Nations, continued civic awareness training throughout the country on domestic and gender-based violence and on the role of police assistance. Those trained included police, local administrators, and grassroots community organizers. The government-operated Humura Center in Gitega provided a full range of services, including legal, medical, and psychosocial services, to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. As of early December, the center had received 197 cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

Reports by Amnesty International and the IRRI stated that some female refugees had fled Burundi after surviving SGBV, including violence perpetrated by authorities.

Credible observers stated many women were reluctant to report rape, in part due to fear of reprisal.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, including the use of threats of physical violence or psychological pressure to obtain sexual favors. Punishment for sexual harassment may range from a fine to a prison sentence of one month to two years. The sentence for sexual harassment doubles if the victim is younger than 18. The government did not actively enforce the law. There were reports of sexual harassment but no data on its frequency or extent.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for equal status for women and men, including under family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Women continued to face legal, economic, and societal discrimination, including with regard to inheritance and marital property laws.

By law women must receive the same pay as men for the same work, but they did not (see section 7.d.). Some employers suspended the salaries of women on maternity leave, and others refused medical coverage to married female employees.

In May, President Nkurunziza signed into law new regulations requiring unmarried couples to legalize their relationships through church or state registrations.

Children

Birth Registration: The constitution states that citizenship derives from the parents. The government registers, without charge, the births of all children if registered within a few days of birth and an unregistered child may not have access to some public services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Education is tuition-free, compulsory, and universal through the secondary level, but students are responsible for paying for books and uniforms. Throughout the country provincial officials charged parents fees for schooling.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits violence against or abuse of children, with punishment ranging from fines to three to five years’ imprisonment, but child abuse was a widespread problem. The penalty for rape of a minor is 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment.

The traditional practice of removing a newborn child’s uvula (the flesh that hangs down at the rear of the mouth) continued to cause numerous infections and deaths of infants.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 for girls and 21 for boys. Forced marriages are illegal and were rare, although they reportedly occurred in southern, more heavily Muslim, areas. The Ministry of Interior continued an effort to convince imams not to officiate over illegal marriages. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. The penalty for commercial sexual exploitation of children is five to 10 years in prison and a fine of between 20,000 and 50,000 Burundian francs ($11 and $28). The law punishes child pornography by fines and three to five years in prison. There were no prosecutions during the year.

Women and girls were smuggled to other countries in Africa and the Middle East, sometimes using falsified documents, putting them at high risk of exploitation.

Displaced Children: Thousands of children lived on the streets throughout the country, some of them HIV/AIDS orphans. The government provided street children with minimal educational support and relied on NGOs for basic services, such as medical care and economic support. Independent Observers reported that children living on the streets faced brutality and theft by police and judged that police were more violent toward them during the 2015 political unrest than previously. A government campaign to “clean the streets” by ending vagrancy and unlicensed commerce, begun in 2016, resulted in the detention of hundreds of persons living or working on the streets. The campaign continued during the year and intensified as the government established a goal of having no children or adults living on the streets by the end of the year. The Council of Ministers approved a roadmap for ending vagrancy that would require the return of detained children and adults to their commune of origin; as of October this provision was not implemented.

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

Anti-Semitism

No estimate was available on the size of the Jewish community. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but the government did not promote or protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Although persons with disabilities are eligible for free health care through social programs targeting vulnerable groups, authorities did not widely publicize or provide benefits. Employers often required job applicants to present a health certificate from the Ministry of Public Health stating they did not have a contagious disease and were fit to work, a practice that sometimes resulted in discrimination against persons with disabilities.

No legislation mandates access to buildings, information, or government services for persons with disabilities. The government supported a center for physical therapy in Gitega and a center for social and professional inclusion in Ngozi for persons with physical disabilities.

Indigenous People

The Twa, the original hunter-gatherer inhabitants of the country, numbered an estimated 80,000, or approximately 1 percent of the population, according to the OHCHR. They generally remained economically, politically, and socially marginalized. By law local administrations must provide free schoolbooks and health care for all Twa children. Local administrations largely fulfilled these requirements. The constitution provides for three appointed seats for Twa in each of the houses of parliament, and Twa parliamentarians (including one woman) took their seats in August 2015.

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

Since 2009 Burundi has criminalized consensual same-sex conduct. Article 567 of the penal code penalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations by adults with up to two years in prison. There were no reports of prosecution for same-sex sexual acts during the year. There were cases, however, of harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and demands for bribes by police officers and members of the Imbonerakure targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Criminals sometimes murdered persons with albinism, particularly children, for their body parts to be used for ritual purposes. Most perpetrators were reportedly citizens of other countries who came to kill and then departed the country with the body parts, impeding government efforts to arrest them. According to the Albino Women’s Hope Association chairperson, society did not accept persons with albinism, and they were often unemployed and isolated. Women with albinism often were “chased out by their families because they are considered as evil beings.”

Cameroon

Executive Summary

Cameroon is a republic dominated by a strong presidency. The country has a multiparty system of government, but the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) has remained in power since its creation in 1985. In practice, the president retains the power to control legislation. In 2011 citizens re-elected CPDM leader Paul Biya president, a position he has held since 1982, in a flawed election marked by irregularities, but observers did not believe these had a significant impact on the outcome. In April 2013 the country conducted the first Senate elections in its history that were peaceful and considered generally free and fair. In September 2013 simultaneous legislative and municipal elections were held, and most observers considered them free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained a degree of control over security forces, including police and gendarmerie.

The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary and unlawful killings through excessive use of force by security forces; disappearances by security forces and Boko Haram; torture and abuse by security forces including in military and unofficial detention facilities; prolonged arbitrary detentions including of suspected Boko Haram supporters and individuals in the Anglophone regions; harsh and life threatening prison conditions; violations of freedoms of expression and assembly; periodic government restrictions on access to the internet; trafficking in persons; criminalization and arrest of individuals engaged in consensual same-sex sexual conduct; and violations of workers’ rights.

Although the government took some steps to punish and prosecute officials who committed abuses in the security forces and in the public service, it did not often make public actual sanctions, and offenders often continued acting 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 several reports security force officials committed arbitrary and unlawful killings through excessive use of force in the execution of official duties. Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group reported that defense and security forces used excessive and disproportionate force to disperse demonstrations in the country’s Anglophone regions, killing at least 40 individuals between September 28 and October 2 alone. On November 17, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the government to conduct an impartial and independent investigation into the allegations of human rights violations committed during and after the October incidents but as of December no investigations into these allegations were underway.

In the Far North region, security forces also were reported responsible for holding incommunicado, torturing, and in at least 10 cases killing suspected Boko Haram and Islamic State (ISIS)-West Africa supporters in detention facilities run by the military and intelligence services, including the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) and the General Directorate of External Research (DGRE). Civil society organizations and media sources generally blamed members of the three primary security forces–the BIR, the Motorized Infantry Battalion, and the gendarmerie–for the deaths. Per Amnesty International, no security force officials responsible for human rights violations documented in their reporting on the Far North region had been held to account as of November.

The terrorist organization Boko Haram as well as ISIS-West Africa continued killing civilians, including members of vigilance committees, and members of defense and security forces in the Far North region. According to Amnesty International, Boko Haram conducted at least 120 attacks between July 2016 and June 2017, including 23 suicide bombings, resulting in the deaths of more than 150 civilians.

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were reports that security force members tortured, beat, harassed, or otherwise abused citizens. According to credible NGOs, members of the BIR, DGRE, and other security officials, including police and gendarmes, tortured persons inside and outside detention facilities.

Amnesty International reported in July on the cases of 101 individuals whom security forces allegedly tortured between March 2013 and March 2017 in detention facilities run by the BIR and the DGRE. While most of the cases documented involved persons arrested in 2014 and 2015 and tortured between 2014 and 2016, Amnesty International asserted that the practice continued into 2017. It stated that torture took place at 20 sites, including four military bases, two intelligence centers, a private residence, and a school. Specific sites named in the report included the BIR bases in Salak, Kousseri, and Kolofata, in the Far North region, and the DGRE facilities in Yaounde. Amnesty International said victims of torture described at least 24 different methods used to beat, break, and humiliate them, usually with the aim of forcing confessions or gaining information but also to punish, terrify, and intimidate. Most commonly, detainees were beaten with various objects, including electric cables, machetes, and wooden sticks; forced into stress positions and suspended from poles in ways that caused extreme pain to joints and muscles; and subjected to simulated drowning. A significant number of those arrested, according to the report, believed they had been targeted in part due to their Kanuri ethnicity. As of November no known investigations into these allegations had begun.

Press reporting from November 2016 indicated police and gendarmes in Buea, Southwest region, removed students, some of whom had recently been involved in protests at the local university, from their hostels, forced them to roll over in mud, and beat them with batons. According to reports, students were crammed onto military trucks and taken to undisclosed locations, where some were held for months. Some female students were allegedly raped.

Rape and sexual abuse were reported in several instances. The International Crisis Group reported that security forces were responsible for sexual abuse during their response to unrest in the Anglophone regions in September and October. International humanitarian organizations reported that members of the security forces stopped female refugees who travelled without national identity cards and sexually exploited them in exchange for letting the women pass through security checkpoints.

The United Nations reported that as of October it had received four allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against Cameroonian peacekeepers. One allegation of an exploitative relationship, one allegation of transactional sex, and two allegations of the rape of a child were made against military personnel serving with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic. As of October 26, all investigations were pending. In two cases the United Nations suspended payments to the accused personnel; in the other two, interim actions were pending the identification of the personnel involved.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions remained harsh and potentially life threatening due to gross overcrowding, inadequate food and medical care, physical abuse, and poor sanitary conditions.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding remained pervasive in most prisons, especially in major urban centers. Officials held prisoners in dilapidated, colonial-era prisons, where the number of inmates was as much as four to five times the intended capacity. Prisons generally had separate wards for men, women, and children, but authorities often held detainees in pretrial detention and convicted prisoners together. In many prisons, toilet areas were common pits with multiple holes. In some cases, women benefitted from better living conditions, including improved toilet facilities and less crowded living quarters. Authorities claimed to hold sick persons separately from the general prison population, but this was often not the case.

The central prison in Maroua, Far North region, built in the 1930s and with an intended capacity of 350, held an estimated 1,600 inmates as of June. The central prison in Garoua, North region, with an intended capacity of 500, held nearly 2,000 inmates as of June 30. The central prison in Ngaoundere, Adamawa region, was designed for 500 inmates yet hosted 1,286 detainees as of July, over half of whom had not been convicted of any crime. As of July the principal prison in Edea, Littoral region, which had an intended capacity of 100, held 402 inmates, most of whom slept on the floor. The Kondengui central prison in Yaounde held approximately 4,000 inmates as of June, but its intended capacity was 1,500. The central prison in Buea, Southwest region, built to host 300 inmates, held 1,175 inmates as of July.

Amnesty International recorded testimonies by suspected Boko Haram affiliates who were held at different times and in various detention facilities from 2014 to March 2017. Poor detention conditions included extreme overcrowding, inadequate and insufficient food and water, little or no access to sanitation, denial of medical assistance, and lack of access to fresh air or sunlight.

As in 2016, physical abuse by prison guards and prisoner-on-prisoner violence were also problems. According to media outlets and NGOs, on March 12-13, inmates of Garoua Central Prison launched a protest that developed into a mutiny. The prisoners were reportedly protesting life-threatening overcrowding. Prisoners denounced lack of potable water and other inhuman conditions. Some detainees besieged the main prison courtyard and refused to return to their cells because of excessive heat and poor ventilation. The protest allegedly became violent when security force members attempted to return the prisoners to their cells forcibly. Three inmates died, according to official sources, and more than 40 were injured.

Disease and illness were widespread. Malnutrition, tuberculosis, bronchitis, malaria, hepatitis, scabies, and numerous other untreated conditions, including infections, parasites, dehydration, and diarrhea, were rampant. The number of deaths associated with detention conditions or actions of staff members or other authorities was unknown. Observers indicated there had been 26 cases of tuberculosis in the central prison in Garoua, North region, since January. Amnesty International estimated that dozens of detainees died in both BIR and DGRE-run detention facilities between late 2013 and May 2017 because of torture and other mistreatment.

Corruption among prison personnel was reportedly widespread. Visitors were forced to bribe wardens to access inmates. Some visitors reported paying 2,000 CFA francs ($3.73)–the minimum daily wage is roughly CFA francs 570 ($1.06). Prisoners bribed wardens for special favors or treatment, including temporary freedom, cell phones, beds, and transfers to less crowded areas of the prisons. Due to inability to pay fines, some prisoners remained imprisoned after completing their sentences or receiving court orders of release.

As in the previous year, Amnesty International reported cases of persons held in unofficial detention sites, including BIR and/or DGRE-run facilities and other detention centers run by the security forces. As of mid-March the number of persons held in Salak (Maroua, Far North region) and DGRE Lac (Yaounde, Center region) was at least 20 in each facility, based on estimates by Amnesty International. Local news sources reported that authorities had released 18 presumed Boko Haram members on August 10 after holding them for more than 10 months in Salak. Some sources stated that a number of Salak prisoners had been transferred to the central prison in Maroua.

Administration: Independent authorities often investigated credible allegations of life-threatening conditions. Visitors needed formal authorization from the state counsel; without authorization, they had to bribe prison staff to communicate with inmates. In addition, visits to Boko Haram suspects were highly restricted. Some detainees were held far from their families, reducing the possibility of visits.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted international humanitarian organizations access to prisoners in official prisons. For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross had access to five prisons, including Maroua and Kousseri in the Far North region, Garoua in the North, Bertoua in the East, and Kondengui principal prison in Yaounde, Center region. Observers did not have access to prisoners held in unofficial military detention facilities. The National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms (NCHRF) and NGOs, including the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Archdiocese, made infrequent unannounced prison visits. In July authorities denied a request by a joint delegation of foreign experts to visit the Yaounde Kondengui principal and central prisons. As of September, authorities had not approved an August 11 request by the NCHRF to visit detention facilities at the Secretariat of State for Defense (SED), DGRE, and National Surveillance Directorate.

Authorities allowed NGOs to conduct formal education and other literacy programs in prisons. At the principal prison in Edea, Littoral region, NGO Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture sponsored a Literacy and Social Reintegration Center that provided primary and lower secondary education to inmates. Human IS Right, a Buea-based civil society organization, in partnership with Operation Total Impact, continued their formal education and reformation education program in principal prisons of Buea and Kumba, Southwest region.

Improvements: An international humanitarian organization reported that health conditions, especially malnutrition, had improved in the prisons it worked in since it started collaborating more closely with government. It also stated it had agreements with some hospitals and took care of some medical bills of prisoners who required outside medical attention.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court. The law states that, except in the case of an individual discovered in the act of committing a felony or misdemeanor, the officials making the arrest shall disclose their identity and inform the person arrested of the reason. The law also provides that persons arrested on a warrant shall be brought immediately before the examining magistrate or the president of the trial court who issued the warrant, and that the accused persons shall be given reasonable access to contact their family, obtain legal advice, and arrange for their defense. On several occasions the government did not respect these provisions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police, DGRE, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, and, to a lesser extent, Presidential Guard, are responsible for internal security. The Ministry of Defense–which includes the gendarmerie, army, and the army’s military security unit–reports to an office of the Presidency, resulting in strong presidential control of security forces. The army is responsible for external security; the national police and gendarmerie have primary responsibility for law enforcement. The gendarmerie alone has responsibility in rural areas. The national police–which includes the public security force, judicial police, territorial security forces, and frontier police–report to the General Delegation of National Security (DGSN), which is under the direct authority of the Presidency.

The government took some steps to hold police accountable for abuses of power. Police remained ineffective, poorly trained, and corrupt. Impunity continued to be a problem.

Civilian authorities maintained some control over the police and gendarmerie, and the government had some mechanisms in place to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The DGSN and gendarmerie investigated reports of abuse and forwarded cases to the courts. Lesser sanctions were handled internally. The DGSN, Ministry of Defense, and Ministry of Justice claimed members of security forces were sanctioned during the year for committing abuses, but few details were known about investigations or any subsequent accountability.

The National Gendarmerie and the army have special offices to investigate abuse. The secretary of state for defense and the minister-delegate at the Presidency are in charge of prosecuting abusers. The minister-delegate of defense refers cases involving aggravated theft, criminal complicity, murder, and other major offenses to the military courts for trial.

As of November, the Military Court had not issued a decision in the prosecution of gendarme officer Lazare Leroy Dang Mbah, who was placed on pretrial detention following his involvement in the death of Moupen Moussa in March 2016 at an SED detention facility. Mbah detained and beat Moussa for failing to produce his national identity card. In the criminal procedure, the accused pleaded guilty of the charges listed against him. In addition the trial for Colonel Charles Ze Onguene, former commander of the Far North Gendarmerie Legion, continued before the Military Court in Yaounde. Colonel Ze was charged in connection with a cordon-and-search operation carried out in the villages of Magdeme and Double, Far North region, in 2014, during which more than 200 men and boys were arbitrarily arrested and taken to the gendarmerie in Maroua. At least 25 of them died in custody the same night, according to official sources.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires police to obtain a warrant before making an arrest, except when a person is caught in the act of committing a crime, but police often did not respect this requirement. The law provides that detainees be brought promptly before a magistrate, although this often did not occur. Police may legally detain a person in connection with a common crime for up to 48 hours, renewable once. This period may, with the written approval of the state counsel, be exceptionally extended twice before charges are brought. Nevertheless, police and gendarmes reportedly often exceeded these detention periods. The law also permits detention without charge for renewable periods of 15 days by administrative authorities such as governors and civilian government officials serving in territorial command. The law provides for access to legal counsel and family members, although police frequently denied detainees access to both. The law prohibits incommunicado detention, but it occurred, especially in connection with the fight against Boko Haram. The law permits bail, allows citizens the right to appeal, and provides the right to sue for unlawful arrest, but these rights were seldom respected.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police, gendarmes, BIR officials, and government authorities reportedly continued to arrest and detain persons arbitrarily, often holding them for prolonged periods without charge or trial and at times incommunicado. “Friday arrests,” a practice whereby individuals arrested on a Friday typically remained in detention until at least Monday unless they paid a bribe, continued albeit to a limited extent. There were several reports police or gendarmes arrested persons without warrants on circumstantial evidence alone, often following instructions from influential persons to settle personal scores. There were also reports police or gendarmes arbitrarily arrested persons during neighborhood sweeps for criminals and stolen goods or arrested persons lacking national identification cards, especially in connection with the Anglophone crisis and the fight against Boko Haram.

There were several reports the government arbitrarily arrested and detained innocent citizens. Between November 2016 and July 2017, authorities arrested dozens of Anglophone activists and bystanders for no apparent reason. Police arrested some persons without informing them of the charges. In some instances the government did not inform family members where relatives were taken. On August 31 and September 1, the government released 55 Anglophone detainees. Others, up to 69 by some estimates, remained in detention as of September 30. In some cases, journalists covering events in the Anglophone regions were arrested and held for long periods of time without being notified of the charges against them.

On January 21, unidentified individuals in civilian clothing arrested Ayah Paul Abine, advocate general at the Supreme Court. The men took Ayah from his private home to the SED, where they held him without charge. In March, Ayah’s lawyers filed an application for immediate release with the Mfoundi High Court in Yaounde. On March 16, Ayah learned the charges against him. Lawyers believed Ayah’s detention was arbitrary because it happened over a weekend, he did not learn about the charges until several weeks later, and the arrest was in violation of the provisions of the criminal procedure code applicable to magistrates. On August 30, President Biya ordered the discontinuance of proceedings pending before the Military Court against Ayah, Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla, Fontem Aforteka’a Neba, and 52 others arrested in relation to the Anglophone crisis.

Amnesty International’s July report indicated that arbitrary arrests and detentions continued on a large scale in the Far North region, and even the basic legal safeguards concerning arrest and detention were rarely respected. According to the report, individuals were arrested arbitrarily and held in secret detention for several weeks or even months.

Pretrial Detention: The law provides for a maximum of 18 months’ detention before trial, but many detainees waited for years to appear in court. No comprehensive statistics were available on pretrial detainees. As of July, the central prison in Ngaoundere, Adamawa region, hosted 1,286 inmates, 735 of whom were pretrial detainees and appellants. Some pretrial detainees had been awaiting trial for more than two years. An international humanitarian organization claimed some alleged terrorists in detention had been in prison for so long that they no longer knew the addresses of their relatives. The increase in pretrial prison populations was due in large part to mass arrests of Anglophone activists and persons accused of supporting Boko Haram; staff shortages; lengthy legal procedures; lost files; administrative and judicial bottlenecks, including procedural trial delays; and corruption.

As of November, Oben Maxwell, an activist, remained in pretrial detention in the central prison in Buea, Southwest region. He was arrested in 2014 for holding an illegal meeting. The Military Court initially handled the case, but it was then assigned to the Court of First Instance in Buea with no progress. On October 30, the Military Court in Yaounde sentenced Abdoulaye Harissou, a public notary, to three years’ imprisonment for nondenunciation. Having already served his sentence, he was released on November 12. The court sentenced another defendant in the case, Aboubakar Sidiki, president of opposition party Patriotic Movement of the Cameroonian Salvation, to 25 years. He appealed the court decision. Harissou and Sidiki were accused of hostility against the homeland and illegal possession of weapons of war and had been in pretrial detention since their arrests in August 2014.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women and provides penalties of between five and 10 years’ imprisonment for convicted rapists. Police and courts, however, rarely investigated or prosecuted rape cases, especially since victims often did not report them. The law does not address spousal rape.

The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, although assault is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment and fines.

The DGSN, in partnership with UN Women, also carried out activities to combat rape and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV). From January 30 to March 31, the two organizations trained 250 police officers in the Far North region on the protection of rights of women and children vis-a-vis national and international legal frameworks. Following the training, four special units referred to as “gender desks” were established in four divisions where Boko Haram was active: Diamare, Mayo-Tsanaga, Mayo-Sava, and Logone and Chari. The units were intended to serve as counseling centers for victims of GBV.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law protects the physical and bodily integrity of persons, and the 2016 penal code prohibits genital mutilation of all persons. Whoever mutilates the genitals of a person is subject to imprisonment from 10 to 20 years, and imprisonment for life if the offender habitually carries out this practice, does so for commercial purposes, or if the practice causes death. FMG/C remained a problem, but its prevalence remained low. As in the previous year, children were reportedly subjected to FGM/C in isolated areas of the Far North, East, and Southwest regions and in the Choa and Ejagham tribes, although the practice continued to decrease. For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Widows were sometimes forcibly married to one of the deceased husband’s relatives to secure continued use of property left by the husband, including the marital home. To protect women, including widows, better, the government included provisions in the 2016 penal code addressing the eviction of one spouse from the marital home by any person other than the other spouse.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. The penal code provides for imprisonment from six months to one year and fines from 100,000 to one million CFA francs ($187-$1,865) for whoever takes advantage of the authority conferred on them by their position to harass another using orders, threats, constraints, or pressure to obtain sexual favors. The penalty is imprisonment for one to three years if the victim is a minor and from three to five years if the offender is in charge of the education of the victim. Despite these legal provisions, sexual harassment was widespread.

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

Discrimination: The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men; however, in law women did not enjoy the same rights and privileges as men. Although local government officials including mayors claimed women had access to land in their constituencies, the overall sociocultural practice of denying women the right to own land, especially through inheritance, was prevalent in most regions.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from parents, and it is the parents’ responsibility to register births. Because many children were not born in formal health facilities and many parents were unable to reach local government offices, many births were unregistered. (For data, see the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.

Education: The law provides for tuition-free compulsory primary education but does not set an age limit. Children were generally expected to complete primary education at age 12. Secondary school students had to pay tuition and other fees in addition to buying uniforms and books. This rendered education unaffordable for many children.

Teachers and students from the Northwest and Southwest regions boycotted classes as part of broader Anglophone protests during the year. In the Far North region, the 2016-17 academic year was largely lost for many children due to the fight against Boko Haram. Stand Up For Cameroon, a Cameroon People’s Party platform for political leaders, civil society activists, and engaged citizens, stated in August that the Boko Haram conflict had made approximately 114,000 school-aged children IDPs.

Child Abuse: Boko Haram continued to abduct children and, according to reports, used 83 children, including 55 girls, as “suicide bombers” between January 1 and July 31. News reports also cited cases of child rape and the kidnapping of children for ransom. (For additional data, see the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.)

Security force abuse of children was also a problem. In March a gendarme in Boumba and Ngoko Division, East region, raped a 10-year-old girl after breaking into her home. The child’s parents filed complaints with the gendarmerie brigade commander, the company commander, and the DO, but the officials allegedly took no immediate action. On March 27, the prosecutor at the local military court allegedly transferred the case to the gendarmerie commander in Bertoua, East region, for preliminary investigations. The suspect and a person considered to be his facilitator were arrested and detained at the Bertoua Central Prison pending the preliminary investigation. On September 19, the government commissioner at the Bertoua Military Court reportedly ordered their release, and as of November no information was publicly available on the reason for the release. Since then, the suspect reportedly threatened the victim’s family with reprisal.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. The law punishes anyone who compels another to marry with imprisonment for five to 10 years, and with fines of 25,000 CFA francs ($47) to 1,000,000 CFA francs ($1,865). When victims are minors, punishment may not be less than a two-year prison sentence, regardless of mitigating circumstances. The court may also take away custody from parents who give away their underage children in marriage. Despite these legal provisions, some families reportedly tried to marry their girls before age 18. (For data, see the UNICEF website.)

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, as well as practices related to child pornography. A conviction, however, requires proof of the use of a threat, fraud, deception, force, or other forms of coercion. Penalties include imprisonment of 10 to 20 years and a fine of 100,000 to 10 million CFA francs ($187-$18,656). The law does not specifically provide a minimum age for consensual sex. Children under age 18 were exploited in prostitution, especially by restaurant and bar promoters, although no statistics were available.

Child Soldiers: The government did not recruit or use child soldiers, but Boko Haram continued to utilize child soldiers, including girls, in their attacks on civilian and military targets. There were also limited reports that some vigilance committees in the Far North region incorporated children in their ranks to combat Boko Haram. For example, Child Soldiers International reported that vigilance committees in Amchide, Fotokol, Kolofata and Maroua used children. The NGO further stated the children were mostly between the ages of 15 and 17 and accounted for 10 percent of vigilance committee membership. UN agencies and NGOs operating in the region could not confirm these numbers.

Displaced Children: The International Organization for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix Round 11 estimated that 67 percent of IDPs and refugees were children. Many children lived on the streets of major urban centers, although their number apparently declined as a result of stringent security measures against Boko Haram and the amended penal code that criminalizes vagrancy.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community was very small, and there were no known reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law does not specifically address discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but the constitution explicitly forbids all forms of discrimination, providing that “everyone has equal rights and obligations.” Secondary public education is tuition free for persons with disabilities and children born of parents with disabilities, and initial vocational training, medical treatment, and employment must be provided “when possible,” and public assistance “when needed.”

The majority of children with disabilities attended schools. The curriculum of the Government Teacher Training College in Buea, Southwest region, was modified to include training in inclusive education skills for teaching the deaf, blind, and developmentally disabled, among others. The government aimed to introduce inclusive education nationwide.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The population consists of an estimated 286 ethnic groups. Members of the president’s Beti/Bulu ethnic group from the South region held key positions and were disproportionately represented in the government, state-owned businesses, security forces, and CPDM.

Indigenous People

An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Baka, including Bakola and Bagyeli, resided primarily in (and were the earliest known inhabitants of) the forested areas of the South and East regions. The government did not effectively protect the civil or political rights of either group. Other groups often treated the Baka as inferior and sometimes subjected them to unfair and exploitative labor practices. There were credible reports the Mbororos, itinerant pastoralists living mostly in the North, East, Adamawa, and Northwest regions, were subject to harassment, sometimes with the complicity of administrative or judicial authorities.

The government continued long-standing efforts to provide birth certificates and national identity cards to Baka. Most Baka did not have these documents, and efforts to reach them were impeded by the difficulty in accessing their homes deep in the forest.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal and punishable by a prison sentence of six months to five years and a fine ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs ($37-$373).

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights organizations such as the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), Humanity First Cameroon, Alternatives Cameroun, National Observatory of the Rights of LGBTI Persons and Their Defenders, and others reported several arrests of LGBTI persons. LGBTI individuals received anonymous threats by telephone, text message, and email, including of “corrective” rape, but authorities did not investigate allegations of harassment. Police were generally unresponsive to requests to increase protection for lawyers who received threats because they represented LGBTI persons. Both police and civilians reportedly continued to extort money from presumed LGBTI individuals by threatening to expose them.

Humanity First Cameroon and Alternatives Cameroun claimed in their joint 2017 annual report that eight LGBTI persons remained imprisoned for homosexuality in the Kondengui central prison in Yaounde. The two NGOs also documented 578 other cases of human rights abuses related to homosexuality, including 27 arbitrary arrests.

On August 11, police summoned CAMFAIDS’ leadership to the DGSN for “promotion of homosexual practices.” On August 16, police interrogated four members of CAMFAIDS. While some questions concerned the legal status of the advocacy group and its funding sources, police also requested a list of its members and a list of similar organizations.

Some LGBTI persons had difficulty accessing birth registration and other identification documents. Officials at identification units refused to issue identification cards for persons whose physical characteristics were not consistent with their birth certificate.

In 2016 Johns Hopkins University, Metabiota Cameroon, and Care USA, in collaboration with the National AIDS Coordinating Council, conducted an Integrated Biological and Behavioral Survey on gay men, using a sample of 1,323 men. The preliminary report released in March showed inter alia that 14.7 percent were arrested for being homosexual. (For more information, see jhu.pure.elsevier.com) .

Human rights and health organizations continued to advocate for the LGBTI community by defending LGBTI individuals under prosecution, promoting HIV/AIDS initiatives, and working to change laws prohibiting consensual same-sex activity. Organizations undertaking these activities faced obstacles securing official registration, as well as, limited or non-existent responses from police when they experienced harassment.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons afflicted with HIV or AIDS often suffered social discrimination and were isolated from their families and society due to social stigma and lack of education about the disease.

Unlike previous years, there were no credible reports of specific cases of discrimination in employment.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Several cases of vigilante action and other attacks were reported during the year.

Several arson attacks were also recorded, involving the destruction of both public and private property. On March 30, unidentified individuals set fire to the Old Market in Limbe, Southwest region. The fire lasted about four hours and destroyed at least fifty shops.

The law provides for sentences of between two and 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of between 5,000 and 100,000 CFA francs ($9-$187) for witchcraft. There were no reported arrests or trials for alleged witchcraft reported during the year.

China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)

Executive Summary

READ SECTION: China (below) | Tibet | Hong Kong | Macau

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the paramount authority. CCP members hold almost all top government and security apparatus positions. Ultimate authority rests with the CCP Central Committee’s 25-member Political Bureau (Politburo) and its seven-member Standing Committee. Xi Jinping continued to hold the three most powerful positions as CCP general secretary, state president, and chairman of the Central Military Commission. At the 19th Communist Party Congress in October, the CCP reaffirmed Xi as the leader of China and the CCP for another five years.

Civilian authorities maintained control of the military and internal security forces.

The most significant human rights issues for which the government was responsible included: arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life and executions without due process; extralegal measures such as forced disappearances, including extraterritorial ones; torture and coerced confessions of prisoners; arbitrary detention, including strict house arrest and administrative detention, and illegal detentions at unofficial holding facilities known as “black jails”; significant restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement (for travel within the country and overseas), including detention and harassment of journalists, lawyers, writers, bloggers, dissidents, petitioners, and others as well as their family members; censorship and tight control of public discourse on the internet, in print, and in other media; refoulement of asylum seekers to North Korea; the inability of citizens to choose their government; corruption; severe repression of organizations and individuals involved in human rights advocacy, as well as in public interest and ethnic minority issues; a coercive birth-limitation policy that in some cases included sterilization or abortions; trafficking in persons; and severe restrictions on labor rights, including a ban on workers organizing or joining unions of their own choosing. Official repression of the freedoms of speech, religion, movement, association, and assembly of Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and other Tibetan areas and of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) worsened and were more severe than in other areas of the country. In the XUAR officials imposed new regulations, increased severely repressive security measures, and subjected individuals engaged in peaceful expression of political and religious views to arbitrary arrest, detention harassment, and expedited judicial procedures without due process in the name of combatting terrorism and extremism.

Authorities prosecuted a number of abuses of power through the court system, particularly with regard to corruption, but in most cases the CCP first investigated and punished officials using opaque internal party disciplinary procedures. The CCP continued to dominate the judiciary and controlled the appointment of all judges and in certain cases directly dictated the court’s ruling. Authorities harassed, detained, and arrested citizens who promoted independent efforts to combat abuses of power.

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. In many instances few or no details were available.

On July 13, political prisoner and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer while in police custody in a Shenyang hospital. At the time of his death, Liu was serving a multiyear prison sentence after a court convicted him in 2009 of “inciting subversion of state power” for his role in drafting the “Charter 08” manifesto calling for political reforms.

Government officials said doctors diagnosed Liu Xiaobo with terminal liver cancer in late May following a routine physical examination. Prison medical checks had shown Liu had liver problems as early as 2010. While the government stated it had provided Liu with regular check-ups, international human rights groups maintained that by denying Liu early treatment and delaying delivery of advanced medical care, the government bore responsibility for his death.

Liu was granted “medical parole” and transferred to a hospital in Shenyang for cancer treatment in June. Foreign governments, international NGOs, and domestic activists called on the government to allow Liu Xiaobo to go overseas for medical treatment. The government refused that request but instead granted two foreign medical experts permission to travel to Shenyang to see Liu Xiaobo in person and “consult” on the case. Upon examining him, the physicians said their institutions could provide care that could prolong his life and ease his suffering. The government refused the offers. Liu died one week later. Liu’s widow, poet Liu Xia, remained under extralegal house arrest even after his death.

A number of violent incidents in the XUAR resulted in multiple deaths. For example, state media reported on January 8 that Hotan public security authorities shot and killed three members of an alleged terrorist group who had offered resistance, without providing details. There had been accusations in previous years of arbitrary killings that were reported as clashes with “terrorists” or “separatists,” but tightened restrictions on news media and other sources of information from Xinjiang, together with the government’s increasingly tight security posture there, made reports difficult to verify (see also the Tibet annex for incidents of abuse.)

On June 4, Akmet, an ethnic Kazakh imam from the Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture in the XUAR, died in police custody under mysterious circumstances. There were reports police rushed his funeral and forbade clergy from being present. Afterwards, police detained more than 100 persons who posted about the case online.

Although legal reforms in recent years decreased the use of the death penalty and improved the review process, authorities executed some defendants in criminal proceedings following convictions that lacked due process and adequate channels for appeal.

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

The law prohibits the physical abuse and mistreatment of detainees and forbids prison guards from coercing confessions, insulting prisoners’ dignity, and beating or encouraging others to beat prisoners. Amendments to the criminal procedure law exclude evidence, including coerced confessions obtained through illegal means, in certain categories of criminal cases. Enforcement of these legal protections continued to be lax.

Numerous former prisoners and detainees reported they were beaten, subjected to electric shock, forced to sit on stools for hours on end, hung by the wrists, deprived of sleep, force fed, forced to take medication against their will, and otherwise subjected to physical and psychological abuse. Although prison authorities abused ordinary prisoners, they reportedly singled out political and religious dissidents for particularly harsh treatment.

There were multiple reports that lawyers, law associates, and activists detained in the “709” crackdown suffered various forms of torture, abuse, or degrading treatment. The lawyers of detained blogger Wu Gan reported that authorities had severely tortured Wu because he refused to cooperate. When authorities released attorney Li Chunfu in January, he was suffering from a mental breakdown and diagnosed with schizophrenia, a condition he had never before experienced. Rights lawyer Xie Yang said in a series of statements he released in January that he was repeatedly tied up and beaten during his lengthy detention in Changsha. He said he “confessed” in his subsequent televised trial only after he was “brainwashed” as a result of the extensive torture he experienced.

In response to these reports, the government accused lawyer Jiang Tianyong of fabricating the torture accounts in coordination with the families of detained lawyers. Jiang’s family said his own cooperation with authorities during his trial broadcast online in August was a result of torture he himself had experienced while in custody.

In January, Swedish citizen Peter Dahlin shared with the Guardian his first-hand account of the torture he experienced during his 23-day detention in early 2016. Dahlin claimed he was blindfolded, deprived of sleep, questioned for hours, and not allowed to exercise. He also said he was connected to a lie detection machine during lengthy interrogations.

In June the government released new regulations on excluding illegally obtained evidence in criminal cases, banning confessions by torture and ending “forced self-incrimination.” The document, issued jointly by the Supreme Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate (prosecutor’s office), Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of State Security, and Ministry of Justice, stated it is “illegal for police or prosecutors to extort confessions through torture, threats or cheating.”

Members of the minority Uighur ethnic group reported systematic torture and other degrading treatment by law enforcement officers and the penal system (see section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities). Practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement reported systematic torture more often than other groups.

The law states that psychiatric treatment and hospitalization should be “on a voluntary basis,” but it has loopholes that allow authorities and family members to commit persons to psychiatric facilities against their will and fails to provide meaningful legal protections for persons sent to psychiatric facilities. The law does not provide for the right to a lawyer and restricts a person’s right to communicate with those outside the psychiatric institutions.

According to the Legal Daily (a state-owned newspaper covering legal affairs), the Ministry of Public Security directly administered 23 high-security psychiatric hospitals for the criminally insane. While many of those committed to mental-health facilities had been convicted of murder and other violent crimes, there were also reports of activists and petitioners involuntarily subjected to psychiatric treatment for political reasons. Public security officials may commit individuals to psychiatric facilities and force treatment for “conditions” that have no basis in psychiatry. In April authorities reportedly sent Cai Yinglan to the Ezhou Special Care Hospital in Hubei after local officials accused her of “damaging society through petitioning.” She had been petitioning for payment of unpaid farming subsidies.

In January 2015 the government officially ended the long-standing practice of involuntarily harvesting the organs of executed prisoners for use in transplants. In February former health minister Huang Jiefu publicly announced that the government now had “zero tolerance” for the practice. According to government data, more than 13,000 voluntary transplants and organ donations occurred in 2016. While long criticized for the practice of using prisoner organs, many international medical professionals and credible news organizations, such as the Washington Post, began to note the government’s progress. Some Falun Gong-affiliated organizations continued to question the voluntary nature of the system, the accuracy of official statistics, and official claims about the source of organs. During the year the government further expanded its system for voluntary organ donations.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in penal institutions for both political prisoners and criminal offenders were generally harsh and often degrading.

Physical Conditions: Authorities regularly held prisoners and detainees in overcrowded conditions with poor sanitation. Food often was inadequate and of poor quality, and many detainees relied on supplemental food, medicines, and warm clothing provided by relatives. Prisoners often reported sleeping on the floor because there were no beds or bedding. In many cases provisions for sanitation, ventilation, heating, lighting, and access to potable water were inadequate.

Adequate, timely medical care for prisoners remained a serious problem, despite official assurances that prisoners have the right to prompt medical treatment. Prison authorities withheld medical treatment from political prisoners.

When women’s rights activist Su Changlan was released from prison in October, she was in critical condition, requiring urgent medical care, according to Amnesty International. Her health had deteriorated over the course of her prison term. According to Radio Free Asia, Su had a heart condition and hyperthyroidism. Multiple human rights groups reported that authorities repeatedly denied her medical treatment and reportedly refused her husband’s requests to seek outside medical treatment (see section 2.a.).

Political prisoners were sometimes held with the general prison population and reported being beaten by other prisoners at the instigation of guards. Some reported being held in the same cells as death row inmates. Authorities did not allow some dissidents supplemental food, medicine, and warm clothing from relatives.

Conditions in administrative detention facilities were similar to those in prisons. Beating deaths occurred in administrative detention facilities. Detainees reported beatings, sexual assaults, lack of proper food, and limited or no access to medical care.

Administration: Authorities used alternatives to incarceration for both violent and nonviolent offenders. According to the State Council’s 2016 White Paper on Legal Rights, 2.7 million individuals participated in community correction, with an estimated 689,000 individuals in the program as of September 2016. The same source reported an annual increase of 51,000 individuals in community correction programs.

The law states that letters from a prisoner to higher authorities of the prison or to the judicial organs shall be free from examination; it was unclear to what extent the law was implemented. While authorities occasionally investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions, the results were not documented in a publicly accessible manner. Many prisoners and detainees did not have reasonable access to visitors and could not engage in religious practices.

Independent Monitoring: Information about prisons and various other types of administrative and extralegal detention facilities was considered a state secret, and the government typically did not permit independent monitoring.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Arbitrary arrest and detention remained serious problems. The law grants public security officers broad administrative detention powers and the ability to detain individuals for extended periods without formal arrest or criminal charges. Throughout the year lawyers, human rights activists, journalists, religious leaders, and former political prisoners and their family members continued to be targeted for arbitrary detention or arrest.

The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally did not observe this requirement.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The main domestic security agencies include the Ministry of State Security, the Ministry of Public Security, and the People’s Armed Police. The People’s Liberation Army is primarily responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. Local jurisdictions also frequently used civilian municipal security forces, known as “urban management” officials, to enforce administrative measures. Oversight of these forces was localized and ad hoc. By law officials can be criminally prosecuted for abuses of power, but such cases were rarely pursued.

The Ministry of Public Security coordinates the civilian police force, which is organized into specialized agencies and local, county, and provincial jurisdictions. Procuratorate oversight of the public security forces was limited. Corruption at every level was widespread. Public security and urban management officials engaged in extrajudicial detention, extortion, and assault.

Regulations state that officers in prisons face dismissal if found to have beaten, applied corporal punishment to, or abused inmates, or to have instigated such acts, but there were no reports these regulations were enforced.

In the absence of reliable data, it was difficult to ascertain the full extent of impunity for the domestic security apparatus, but anecdotal accounts of abuse were common on social media and sometimes appeared in state media reports as well. Authorities often announced investigations following cases of reported killings by police. It remained unclear, however, whether these investigations resulted in findings of police malfeasance or disciplinary action.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Criminal detention beyond 37 days requires approval of a formal arrest by the procuratorate, but in cases pertaining to “national security, terrorism, and major bribery,” the law permits up to six months of incommunicado detention without formal arrest. After formally arresting a suspect, public security authorities are authorized to detain a suspect for up to an additional seven months while the case is investigated.

After the completion of an investigation, the procuratorate can detain a suspect an additional 45 days while determining whether to file criminal charges. If charges are filed, authorities can detain a suspect for an additional 45 days before beginning judicial proceedings. Public security sometimes detained persons beyond the period allowed by law, and pretrial detention periods of a year or longer were common.

The law stipulates that detainees be allowed to meet with defense counsel before criminal charges are filed. The criminal procedure law requires a court to provide a lawyer to a defendant who has not already retained one, who has various disabilities or is a minor, or who faces a life sentence or the death penalty. This law applies whether or not the defendant is indigent. Courts may also provide lawyers to other criminal defendants who cannot afford them, although courts often did not do so. Lawyers reported difficulties meeting their clients in detention centers, especially in cases considered politically sensitive.

Criminal defendants are entitled to apply for bail (also translated as “a guarantor pending trial”) while awaiting trial, but the system did not appear to operate effectively, and authorities released few suspects on bail.

The law requires notification of family members within 24 hours of detention, but authorities often held individuals without providing such notification for significantly longer periods, especially in politically sensitive cases. In some cases notification did not occur. Under a sweeping exception, officials are not required to provide notification if doing so would “hinder the investigation” of a case. The revised criminal procedure law limits this exception to cases involving state security or terrorism, but public security officials have broad discretion to interpret what is “state security.”

The law allows for residential surveillance rather than detention in a formal facility under certain circumstances. With the approval of the next-higher-level authorities, officials may place a suspect under “residential surveillance” at a designated place of residence (i.e., a place other than the suspect’s home) for up to six months when they suspect crimes of endangering state security, terrorism, or serious bribery and believe that surveillance at the suspect’s home would impede the investigation. Human rights organizations and detainees themselves reported that this practice left detainees at a high risk for torture. Authorities may also prevent defense lawyers from meeting with suspects in these categories of cases.

Authorities used administrative detention to intimidate political and religious activists and to prevent public demonstrations. Forms of administrative detention included compulsory drug rehabilitation treatment (for drug users), “custody and training” (for minor criminal offenders), and “legal education” centers for political and religious activists, particularly Falun Gong practitioners. The maximum stay in compulsory drug rehabilitation centers is two years, including what was generally a six-month stay in a detoxification center.

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities detained or arrested persons on allegations of revealing state secrets, subversion, and other crimes as a means to suppress political dissent and public advocacy. These charges–including what constitutes a state secret–remained ill defined, and any piece of information could be retroactively designated a state secret. Authorities also used the vaguely worded charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” broadly against many civil rights activists. It remained unclear what this term means. Authorities also detained citizens and foreigners under broad and ambiguous state secret laws for, among other actions, disclosing information on criminal trials, meetings, commercial activity, and government activity. Authorities sometimes retroactively labeled a particular action as a violation of state secret laws. A counterespionage law grants authorities the power to require individuals and organizations to cease any activities deemed a threat to national security. Failure to comply could result in seizure of property and assets.

There were multiple reports that authorities arrested or detained lawyers, petitioners, and other rights activists for lengthy periods, only to have the charges later dismissed for lack of evidence. Many activists were subjected to extralegal house arrest, denied travel rights, or administratively detained in different types of facilities, including “black jails.” In some cases public security officials put pressure on schools not to allow the children of prominent political detainees to enroll. Conditions faced by those under house arrest varied but sometimes included isolation in their homes under guard by security agents. Security officials were frequently stationed inside the homes. Authorities placed many citizens under house arrest during sensitive times, such as during the visits of senior foreign government officials or preceding the 19th Party Congress, annual plenary sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, and sensitive anniversaries in Tibetan areas and the XUAR. Security agents took some of those not placed under house arrest to remote areas on so-called forced vacations. Authorities reportedly sent Liu Xiaobo’s widow, Liu Xia, and her brother to Yunnan on a “forced vacation” after Liu Xiaobo’s funeral.

Individuals who staged events to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre were themselves targeted. In May and June, police detained at least two dozen individuals who held various ceremonies, attended protests, or assisted others who did so. Some, such as Li Xiaoling, were charged with crimes, while others were released from detention after several weeks.

Despite being released from prison in 2011, activist Hu Jia remained under extrajudicial house arrest.

Pretrial Detention: Pretrial detention could last longer than one year. Defendants in “sensitive cases” reported being subjected to prolonged pretrial detention. Many of the “709” detainees were held in pretrial detention for more than a year without access to their families or their lawyers. Statistics were impossible to obtain, but lengthy pretrial detentions were especially common in cases of political prisoners.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women is illegal, and carries a sentence of three years in prison to death. The law does not safeguard same-sex couples or victims of marital rape. In 2015 a separate law on sexual assault was broadened to include male victims, but it has a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Of the reported cases, most allegations of rape were closed through private settlement rather than prosecution. Some persons convicted of rape were executed.

Domestic violence remained a significant problem. The government took a significant step to protect women from domestic abuse through the passage of the Family Violence Law, which took effect in March 2016. NGOs stated that because of the law, more women were willing to report domestic violence incidents to police. Nevertheless, implementation and enforcement of the law remained inconsistent. In February the Washington Post reported that elements of the law, including those related to court protective orders, were not being implemented correctly.

Some scholars said that even under the new law, victims were still encouraged to attempt to resolve domestic violence through mediation. Societal sentiment that domestic violence was a personal, private matter contributed to underreporting and inaction by authorities when women faced violence at home. One government study of divorce records publicized during the year indicated that only 9.5 percent of victims made police reports.

The government supported shelters for victims of domestic violence, and some courts provided protections to victims, including through court protective orders prohibiting a perpetrator of domestic violence from coming near a victim. Nonetheless, official assistance did not always reach victims, and public security forces often ignored domestic violence. Legal aid institutions working to provide counseling and defense to victims of domestic violence were often pressured to suspend public activities and cease all forms of policy advocacy, an area that was reserved only for government-sponsored organizations.

According to women’s rights activists, a recurring problem in the prosecution of domestic violence cases was a failure by authorities to collect evidence–including photographs, hospital records, police records, or children’s testimony. Witnesses seldom testified in court.

Courts’ recognition of domestic violence improved, making spousal abuse a mitigating factor in crimes committed in self-defense.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment against women; however, there is no clear definition of sexual harassment under the law. Offenders are subject to a penalty of up to 15 days in detention, according to the Beijing Public Security Bureau. It remained difficult for victims to file a sexual harassment complaint and for judges to reach a ruling on such cases. Many women remained unwilling to report incidents of sexual harassment, believing that the justice system was ineffectual, according to official media. Several prominent media reports of sexual harassment went viral on social media, helping to raise awareness of the problem, particularly in the workplace.

The Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests empowers victims to file a sexual harassment complaint with their employer, authorities, or both. Employers who failed to take effective measures to prevent sexual harassment could be fined.

Some women’s NGOs that sought to increase public awareness of sexual harassment reported harassment by public security and faced challenges executing their programs. In May police searched the houses of feminists suspected of printing clothing with antisexual harassment slogans. In September 2016 women’s rights activist Shan Lihua was found guilty by the Gangzha District People’s Court in Nantong, Jiangsu Province, of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” The indictment specifically cited Shan’s activism on a rape case in Hainan Province as evidence, according to media reports.

Coercion in Population Control: There were reports of coerced abortions and sterilizations, though government statistics on the percentage of abortions that were coerced during the year was not available. The CCP restricts the rights of parents to choose the number of children they have and utilizes family planning units from the provincial to the village level to enforce population limits and distributions. A two-child policy was officially implemented as of January 2016. The Population and Family Planning Law permits married couples to have two children and allows couples to apply for permission to have a third child if they meet conditions stipulated in local and provincial regulations. State media claimed the number of coerced abortions had declined in recent years in the wake of loosened regulations, including the implementation of the two-child policy. Citizens are subject to hefty fines for violating the law, while couples who have only one child receive a certificate entitling them to collect a monthly incentive payment and other benefits that vary by province–from approximately six to 12 yuan (one to two dollars) per month up to 3,000 yuan ($450) for farmers and herders in poor areas. Couples in some provinces are required to seek approval and register before a child is conceived.

Under the law and in practice, there are financial and administrative penalties for births that exceed birth limits or otherwise violate regulations. The National Health and Family Planning Commission announced it would continue to impose fines, called “social compensation fees,” for policy violations. The law, as implemented, requires each woman with an unauthorized pregnancy to abort or pay the social compensation fee, which can reach 10 times a person’s annual disposable income. The exact amount of the fee varied widely from province to province. Those with financial means often paid the fee so that their children born in violation of the birth restrictions would have access to a wide array of government-provided social services and rights. Some parents avoided the fee by hiding children born in violation of the law with friends or relatives. In localities with large populations of migrant workers, officials specifically targeted migrant women to ensure that they did not exceed birth limitations. Minorities in some provinces, however, were entitled to higher limits on their family size.

The law maintains that “citizens have an obligation to practice birth planning in accordance with the law” and also states that “couples of child-bearing age shall voluntarily choose birth planning contraceptive and birth control measures to prevent and reduce unwanted pregnancies.” After the transition to a two-child limit, the available mix of contraceptives shifted from mainly permanent methods like tubal ligation or IUDs toward other reversible methods.

Single women are entitled to reproductive rights, and their children are entitled to the same rights as those born to married parents, according to both the Civil Law and Marriage Law. Since the national family planning law mentions only the rights of married couples, local implementation was inconsistent, and unmarried persons must pay for contraception. Children born to single mothers or unmarried couples are considered “outside of the policy” and subject to the social compensation fee and the denial of legal documents, such as birth documents and the “hukou” residence permit. Single women can avoid those penalties by marrying within 60 days of the baby’s birth.

As in prior years, population control policy continued to rely on social pressure, education, propaganda, and economic penalties, as well as on measures such as mandatory pregnancy examinations and, less frequently, coerced abortions and sterilizations. Officials at all levels could receive rewards or penalties based on whether or not they met the population targets set by their administrative region. With the higher birth limit, and since most persons wanted to have no more than two children, it was easier to achieve population targets, and the pressure on local officials was considerably less than before. Those found to have a pregnancy in violation of the law or those who helped another to evade state controls could face punitive measures, such as onerous fines or job loss.

Regulations requiring women who violate the family planning policy to terminate their pregnancies still exist and were enforced in some provinces, such as Hubei, Hunan, and Liaoning. Other provinces, such as Guizhou, Jiangxi, Qinghai, and Yunnan, maintained provisions that require “remedial measures,” an official euphemism for abortion, to deal with pregnancies that violate the policy.

The law mandates that family planning bureaus administer pregnancy tests to married women of childbearing age and provide them with basic knowledge of family planning and prenatal services. Under the law schools are required to provide adolescent and sexual health education at an appropriate level, but in practice information is quite limited. Some provinces fined women who did not undergo periodic state-mandated pregnancy tests.

Family planning officials face criminal charges and administrative sanction if they are found to violate citizens’ human or property rights, abuse their power, accept bribes, misappropriate or embezzle family planning funds, or falsely report family planning statistics in the enforcement of birth limitation policy. Forced abortion is not specifically listed as a prohibited activity. The law also prohibits health-care providers from providing illegal surgeries, ultrasounds to determine the sex of the fetus that are not medically necessary, sex-selective abortions, fake medical identification, and fake birth certificates. By law citizens may submit formal complaints about officials who exceed their authority in implementing birth-planning policy, and complaints are to be investigated and dealt with in a timely manner.

Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The constitution states “women enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life.” The law provides for equality in ownership of property, inheritance rights, access to education, and equal pay for equal work. However, women reported that discrimination, unfair dismissal, demotion, and wage discrepancies were significant problems.

On average, women earned 35 percent less than men who did similar work. This wage gap was greater in rural areas. Women also continued to be underrepresented in leadership positions, despite their high rate of participation in the labor force.

Authorities often did not enforce laws protecting the rights of women; according to legal experts, it was difficult to litigate sex discrimination suits because of vague legal definitions. Some observers noted that the agencies tasked with protecting women’s rights tended to focus on maternity-related benefits and wrongful termination during maternity leave rather than on sex discrimination, violence against women, and sexual harassment; others pointed to the active role played by the All China Women’s Federation (ACWF) in passing the new domestic violence legislation.

Women’s rights advocates indicated that in rural areas women often forfeited land and property rights to their husbands in divorce proceedings. Rural contract law and laws protecting women’s rights stipulate that women enjoy equal rights in cases of land management, but experts asserted this was rarely the case due to the complexity of the law and difficulties in its implementation.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the sex ratio at birth was 113 males to 100 females in 2016. Sex identification and sex-selective abortion are prohibited, but the practices continued because of the traditional preference for male children and the birth-limitation policy.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from parents. Parents must register their children in compliance with the national household registration system within one month of birth. Unregistered children could not access public services, including education.

Education: Although the law provides for nine years of compulsory education for children, many children did not attend school for the required period in economically disadvantaged rural areas, and some never attended. Public schools were not allowed to charge tuition, but many schools continued to charge miscellaneous fees because they received insufficient local and central government funding. Such fees and other school-related expenses made it difficult for poorer families and some migrant workers to send their children to school. The gap in education quality for rural and urban youth remained extensive, with many children of migrant workers attending unlicensed and poorly equipped schools.

Child Abuse: The physical abuse of children is ground for criminal prosecution. The Domestic Violence Law also protected children. Sexual abuse of minors, particularly of rural children, was a significant problem. In 2016 the Economistreported that millions of children suffered from sexual abuse. The government increasingly encouraged state media to report on the problem and allowed NGOs to combat child sexual abuse. Pilot programs were underway in three major provinces to develop and implement child protection laws and protocols for protection and treatment, including mandatory reporting.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 22 for men and 20 for women. Child marriage was not known to be a problem.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 14. Persons who forced girls under the age of 14 into prostitution could be sentenced to 10 years to life in prison in addition to a fine or confiscation of property. In especially serious cases, violators could receive a life sentence or death sentence, in addition to having their property confiscated. Those who visited girls forced into prostitution under age 14 were subject to five years or more in prison in addition to paying a fine.

Pornography of any kind, including child pornography, is illegal. Under the criminal code, those producing, reproducing, publishing, selling, or disseminating obscene materials with the purpose of making a profit could be sentenced to up to three years in prison or put under criminal detention or surveillance in addition to paying a fine. Offenders in serious cases could receive prison sentences of three to 10 years in addition to paying a fine.

The law provides that persons broadcasting or showing obscene materials to minors under the age of 18 are to be “severely punished.”

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The law forbids infanticide and it was unknown if the practice continued. Parents of children with disabilities frequently left infants at hospitals, primarily because of the cost of medical care. Gender-biased abortions and the abandonment and neglect of baby girls were believed to be in decline, but continued to be a problem in some circumstances due to the traditional preference for sons and the birth-limitation policy.

Displaced Children: The number of street children was unknown (estimates as high as 1.5 million), but governmental efforts to identify and provide care for these children greatly intensified. In 2013 the ACWF estimated that more than 61 million children under the age of 17 were left behind by their migrant-worker parents in rural areas. The most recent government census found approximately nine million rural children who were left behind by both parents who migrated to urban areas for work.

Institutionalized Children: The law forbids the mistreatment or abandonment of children. According to some sources, by the end of 2015, the country had 502,000 orphans, of which 92,000 were up for adoption. The vast majority of children in orphanages were girls, many of whom were abandoned. Boys in orphanages usually had disabilities or were in poor health. The government denied that children in orphanages were mistreated or refused medical care but acknowledged that the system often was unable to provide adequately for some children, particularly those with serious medical problems. Adopted children were counted under the birth-limitation regulations in most locations. As a result couples who adopted abandoned infant girls were sometimes barred from having additional children. The law allowed children who are rescued to be made available for adoption within one year if their family is not identified.

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

Anti-Semitism

The government does not recognize Judaism as an ethnicity or religion. According to information from the Jewish Virtual Library, the country’s Jewish population was 2,600 in 2016. In September 2016 the New York Times reported that members of the Kaifeng Jewish community in Henan Province came under pressure from authorities. Approximately 1,000 Kaifeng citizens claimed Jewish ancestry. Media reports stated that authorities forced the only Jewish learning center in the community to shut down, blocked the community’s ritual bath, and barred foreign tour groups from visiting.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law protects the rights of persons with disabilities and prohibits discrimination, but in many instances conditions for such persons lagged behind legal requirements and the government failed to provide persons with disabilities access to programs intended to assist them. The Ministry of Civil Affairs and the China Disabled Persons Federation (CDPF), a government-organized civil association, are the main entities responsible for persons with disabilities.

According to the law, persons with disabilities “are entitled to enjoyment of equal rights as other citizens in political, economic, cultural, and social fields, in family life, and in other aspects.” Discrimination against, insult of, and infringement upon persons with disabilities is prohibited. The law prohibits discrimination against minors with disabilities and codifies a variety of judicial protections for juveniles.

The Ministry of Education reported there were more than 2,000 separate education schools for children with disabilities, but NGOs reported that only 2 percent of the 20 million children with disabilities had access to education that met their needs.

Individuals with disabilities faced difficulties accessing higher education. The law permits universities to exclude candidates with disabilities who would otherwise be qualified. A regulation mandates accommodations for students with disabilities when taking the national university entrance exam.

In May the government revised the 20-year-old law covering access to education for persons with disabilities. The revisions reaffirmed a commitment to ensure education for children with disabilities, broadened vocational education for persons with disabilities, and aimed to prevent discrimination in school admissions. The updated law encourages schools to accept more students, and places the responsibility to expand school access at the county level, calling on local governments to prioritize establishing special education resources in mainstream schools.

Some observers said the law was aspirational and vague, but still an improvement over prior regulations. Others noted that parents too often were forced to resort to bribing school officials to have their child with a disability accepted into mainstream schools.

Nearly 100,000 organizations existed, mostly in urban areas, to serve those with disabilities and protect their legal rights. The government, at times in conjunction with NGOs, sponsored programs to integrate persons with disabilities into society.

Misdiagnosis, inadequate medical care, stigmatization, and abandonment remained common problems. Parents who chose to keep children with disabilities at home generally faced difficulty finding adequate medical care, day care, and education for their children. According to the government, many persons with disabilities lacked adequate rehabilitation services.

Unemployment among adults with disabilities, in part due to discrimination, remained a serious problem. The law requires local governments to offer incentives to enterprises that hire persons with disabilities. Regulations in some parts of the country also require employers to pay into a national fund for persons with disabilities when employees with disabilities do not make up a statutory minimum percentage of the total workforce.

Standards adopted for making roads and buildings accessible to persons with disabilities are subject to the Law on the Handicapped, which calls for their “gradual” implementation; compliance was limited.

The law forbids the marriage of persons with certain mental disabilities, such as schizophrenia. If doctors find a couple is at risk of transmitting congenital disabilities to their children, the couple may marry only if they agree to use birth control or undergo sterilization. In some instances officials continued to require couples to abort pregnancies when doctors discovered possible disabilities during prenatal examinations. The law stipulates that local governments must employ such practices to raise the percentage of births of children without disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Government policy called for members of recognized minorities to receive preferential treatment in birth planning, university admission, access to loans, and employment. A government white paper about development in Xinjiang published in June asserted that cultural and religious rights were provided for, including the use of minority languages and the protection of cultural heritage and religious practice. The substance and implementation of ethnic minority policies nonetheless remained poor, and discrimination against minorities remained widespread. Xi Jinping directed the Communist state to “sinicize” the country’s ethnic and religious minorities: ethnically based restrictions on movement curtailed the ability of ethnic Uighurs to travel freely or obtain travel documents; authorities in Xinjiang increased surveillance and the presence of armed police; and new legislation restricted cultural and religious practices.

Minority groups in border and other regions had less access to education than their Han Chinese counterparts, faced job discrimination in favor of Han Chinese migrants, and earned incomes well below those in other parts of the country. Some claims cited the banning of minority language education, including the Uighur language in the XUAR, as signs of progress in the provision of basic education for some ethnic groups involved. Government development programs and job provisions disrupted traditional living patterns of minority groups and in some cases included the forced relocation of persons and the forced settlement of nomads. Han Chinese benefited disproportionately from government programs and economic growth in minority areas. As part of its emphasis on building a “harmonious society” and maintaining social stability, the government downplayed racism and institutional discrimination against minorities, which remained the source of deep resentment in the XUAR, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the TAR, and other Tibetan areas.

The government’s policy to encourage Han Chinese migration into minority areas significantly increased the population of Han in the XUAR. Han Chinese officials continued to hold the majority of the most powerful CCP and many government positions in minority autonomous regions, particularly the XUAR. The rapid influx of Han Chinese into the XUAR in recent decades has provoked Uighur resentment.

According to a 2015 government census, 9.5 million, or 40 percent, of the XUAR’s official residents were Han Chinese. Uighur, Hui, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other ethnic minorities constituted 14.1 million XUAR residents, or 60 percent of the total population. Official statistics understated the Han Chinese population because they did not count the more than 2.7 million Han residents on paramilitary compounds (bingtuan) and those who were long-term “temporary workers,” an increase of 1.2 percent over the previous year, according to a 2015 government of Xinjiang report. As the government continued to promote Han migration into the XUAR and filled local jobs with domestic migrant labor, local officials coerced young Uighur men and women to participate in a government-sponsored labor transfer program to cities outside the XUAR, according to overseas human rights organizations.

The law states that “schools (classes and grades) and other institutions of education where most of the students come from minority nationalities shall, whenever possible, use textbooks in their own languages and use their languages as the medium of instruction.” Despite provisions to ensure cultural and linguistic rights, in June state media reported that the Department of Education in Hotan, a Uighur-majority prefecture, issued a directive requiring full instruction in Mandarin beginning in preschool and banning the use of Uighur in all educational activities and management. Similar measures were implemented throughout the XUAR, according to international media. There were reports private Uighur-language schools were shut by authorities without any transparent investigation under the pretense that they promoted radical ideologies.

Officials in the XUAR intensified efforts to crack down on the government-designated “three evil forces” of religious extremism, ethnic separatism, and violent terrorism, including a concentrated re-education campaign to combat what it deemed to be separatism. XUAR Communist Party secretary Chen Quanguo, former Communist leader in the TAR, replicated in the XUAR policies similar to those credited with reducing opposition to CCP rule in Tibet, increasing the security budget by more than 300 percent and advertising more than 90,800 security-related jobs. Authorities cited the 2016 XUAR guidelines for the implementation of the national Counterterrorism Law and a “people’s war on terrorism” in its increased surveillance efforts and enhanced restrictions on movement and ethnic and religious practices.

In April the XUAR government also implemented new “Deradicalization Regulations,” codifying efforts to “contain and eradicate extremism,” according to Xinhua. The broad definition of extremism resulted in the disappearance, jailing, or forced attendance at re-education classes of tens of thousands of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, according to international media. This included many of those ordered to return to China from studying abroad. The regulations prohibit “abnormal” beards, the wearing of veils in public places, and the refusal to watch state television, among other behaviors. The regulations banned the use of some Islamic names when naming children and set punishments for the teaching of religion to children. Authorities also conducted daily house-to-house checks to distribute a list of banned books to local residents in Karamay City while confiscating the actual books, overseas Uighur media reported in May. In March, Radio Free Asia reported that Uighurs in Hotan were required to turn in to authorities “unsanctioned” religious publications, items with the Islamic star and crescent logo, and religious attire, such as burkas. Authorities searched Uighur homes and punished those still in possession of items on a list of “illegal items,” according to the report. Banned items include any Quran published before 2012.

Some security raids, arbitrary detentions, and judicial punishments, ostensibly directed at individuals or organizations suspected of promoting the “three evil forces,” appeared to target groups or individuals peacefully seeking to express their political or religious views. Detention and punishment extended to expression on the internet and social media, including the browsing, downloading, and transmitting of banned content. Authorities arrested a woman in May for posting Quranic verses to a chat site; local officials confirmed it was illegal to post to the internet anything from the Quran or mentioning Allah. Officials continued to use the threat of violence as justification for extreme security measures directed at the local population, journalists, and visiting foreigners. According to Xinhua news, officials used surveillance and facial recognition software, biodata collection, and big data technology to create a database of Uighurs in Xinjiang for the purpose of conducting “social-instability forecasting, prevention, and containment.” Security forces frequently staged large-scale parades involving thousands of armed police in cities across the XUAR, according to state media.

Uighurs and other religious minorities continued to be sentenced to long prison terms and in some cases executed without due process on charges of separatism and endangering state security. The government constructed new prisons in Xinjiang in order to alleviate the overcapacity of existing facilities, according to credible sources. Hundreds of police recruits were hired to staff the new prisons, according to government reports. Economist Ilham Tohti remained in prison, where he was serving a life sentence after his conviction on separatism-related charges in 2014.

The law criminalizes discussion of “separatism” on the internet and prohibits use of the internet in any way that undermines national unity. It further bans inciting ethnic separatism or “harming social stability” and requires internet service providers and network operators to set up monitoring systems to detect, report, and delete religious content or to strengthen existing systems and report violations of the law. Authorities reportedly searched cell phones at checkpoints and during random inspections of Uighur households, and those in possession of alleged terrorist material, including digital pictures of the East Turkistan flag, could be arrested and charged with crimes.

Authorities increased surveillance and the collection of personal information as part of overall security measures in the XUAR. The government enhanced efforts to build archives of voiceprint information, facial recognition, fingerprints, blood samples, and DNA samples, according to Xinhua news and overseas media. Monitoring of social media and the internet increased, and officials described their use of “big data” to forecast, prevent, and contain social instability in Xinjiang. In July, Xinjiang residents were ordered to install on mobile phones a surveillance application to report the viewing of “terrorist information” and prevent them from accessing it, according to the Hong Kong Free Press. The application monitors “illegal religious” activity and “harmful information,” according to authorities.

Huang Shike, a Hui Muslim living in Xinjiang, was sentenced to two years in prison for discussing Islam on the social media platform Wechat.

Ethnic Kazakh Chinese were also targeted, RFA and other international media reported in August. In August, Kazakh students were arrested in Xinjiang for wearing Islamic clothing and praying at a university. Kazakhs were also prevented from moving freely between China and neighboring Kazakhstan, and some were detained when returning to China.

The government pressured foreign countries to repatriate or deny visas to Uighurs who had left the country, and repatriated Uighurs faced the risk of imprisonment and mistreatment upon return. Some Uighurs who were forcibly repatriated disappeared after arrival. Family members of Uighurs studying overseas were also put under pressure to convince students to return to China, and returning students were detained or forced to attend re-education camps, according to overseas media. In July, Egyptian authorities detained scores of Chinese Uighur students to be interrogated by Chinese security personnel, and some of them were repatriated against their will, according to Uighur activists outside of China. In August state media reported that Hebibulla Tohti, a member of the Chinese Islamic Association, was arrested upon his return from studying at Egypt’s al-Azhar University. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for unauthorized preaching, attending a conference in Saudi Arabia in 2015, giving speeches on the importance of Uighur culture, and failing to endorse the government’s policies in the Uighur region.

Freedom of assembly was severely limited during the year in the XUAR. For information about abuse of religious freedom in Xinjiang, see the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

For specific information on Tibet, see the Tibet Annex.

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

No laws criminalize private consensual same-sex activities between adults. Due to societal discrimination and pressure to conform to family expectations, however, most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons refrained from publicly discussing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Individuals and organizations working on LGBTI issues continued to report discrimination and harassment from authorities similar to that experienced by other organizations that accept funding from overseas.

Despite reports of domestic violence among LGBTI couples, the regulations on domestic violence and the Family Violence Law do not include same-sex partnerships, giving LGBTI victims of domestic violence less legal recourse than heterosexual victims.

A court in Henan Province in July ruled that a mental hospital in Zhumadian City owed a gay man named Wu 5000 yuan ($735) in compensation over being forced against his will in 2015 into “conversion therapy.” Hospital employees forced Wu to take medicine and injections for 19 days after diagnosing him with a “sexual preference disorder.”

NGOs working on LGBTI issues reported that although public advocacy work became more difficult for them in light of the Foreign NGO Management Law and the Domestic Charity Law, they made some progress in advocating for LGBTI rights through specific antidiscrimination cases. In July a court ruled in favor of a transgender man in his suit against his former employer for wrongful termination.

Xi’an police detained nine members of the gay advocacy group Speak Out hours before the conference it was hosting was slated to start.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Discrimination against persons with HIV remained a problem, impacting individuals’ employment, educational, and housing opportunities and impeding access to health care. The law allows employers and schools to bar persons with infectious diseases and does not afford specific protections based on HIV status. During the year state media outlets reported instances of persons with HIV/AIDS who were barred from housing, education, or employment due to their HIV status.

In June a Guangzhou court ruled against a food inspection laboratory for violating the contract of an employee upon learning he was HIV positive by sending him home “to rest” indefinitely. While he was still paid his full salary, he sued, asserting it was not lawful for his employer to prevent him from working. After he sued, his contract expired and was not renewed. The court ruled that the employee did not consent to this change in his contract, making it a violation of the Employment Contract Law. They also ruled that his employer had to allow him to return to work.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

The law prohibits discrimination against persons carrying infectious diseases and allows such persons to work as civil servants. The law does not address some common types of discrimination in employment, including discrimination based on height, physical appearance, or ethnic identity.

Despite provisions in the law, discrimination against hepatitis B carriers (including 20 million chronic carriers) remained widespread in many areas, and local governments sometimes tried to suppress their activities.

Despite a 2010 nationwide rule banning mandatory hepatitis B virus tests in job and school admissions applications, many companies continued to use hepatitis B testing as part of their preemployment screening.

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

Executive Summary

READ SECTION: CHINA | TIBET | HONG KONG (below) | MACAU

Hong Kong is a special administrative region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong and the SAR’s charter, the Basic Law of the SAR (also known as the Basic Law), specify that the SAR enjoys a high degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework except in matters of defense and foreign affairs. In March the 1,194-member Chief Executive Election Committee, dominated by proestablishment electors, selected Carrie Lam to be the SAR’s chief executive. In September 2016 Hong Kong residents elected the 70 representatives who comprise the SAR’s Legislative Council (LegCo). Voters directly elected 40 representatives, while limited-franchise constituencies that generally supported the government in Beijing elected the remaining 30.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: the central PRC government’s encroachment on the SAR’s autonomy, and government actions that had a chilling effect on political protest and the exercise of free speech (e.g., prosecutions against protesters, lawsuits to disqualify opposition lawmakers, and statements by central and SAR government officials); and trafficking in persons.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish 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.

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

The law prohibits such practices, but there were isolated reports of degrading treatment in prisons. There were also some reports police used excessive force.

There were no reports of death in custody due to excessive police force.

In February a court sentenced seven police officers to two years in prison for assaulting Ken Tsang, a prodemocracy activist, in 2014. The officers were suspended from duty. All were later released on bail, pending their appeals. Video footage taken during 2014 protests showed plainclothes police officers abusing Tsang. Prosecutors separately charged Tsang with assaulting and obstructing police officers, and in May 2016 Tsang was found guilty of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest and was sentenced to five weeks in prison.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were some isolated reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.

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

Administration: The government investigated allegations of problematic conditions and documented the results in a publicly accessible manner. There was an external Office of the Ombudsman. Several activists and former inmates claimed prisoners suffered abuses. For example, prodemocracy activist Joshua Wong publicly claimed that prisoners were forced to squat naked while answering questions and that five prison staff members pressured him to retract complaints while he was in juvenile detention. Activists urged the government to establish an independent prisoner complaint mechanism in order to protect inmates from retaliation for complaints.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted media outlets, legislators, and human rights groups to conduct prison visits. Justices of the peace visited prisons and may make suggestions and comments on matters, such as the physical environment of facilities, overcrowding, staff improvement, training and recreational programs and activities, and other matters affecting the welfare of inmates.

Improvements: In January the partial redevelopment of Tai Lam Center for Women added space for 128 women inmates, alleviating the overcrowding problem for women in high-security prisons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Hong Kong Police Force maintains internal security and reports to the SAR’s Security Bureau. The People’s Liberation Army is responsible for external security. The Immigration Department controls the entry of persons into and out of the SAR as well as the documentation of local residents. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police force, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption.

Multiple sources reported that mainland operatives in the SAR monitored some prodemocracy movement figures, political activists, lawyers, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and academics who expressed criticism of the central government’s policies. Media also reported that police intimidated, arrested, and assaulted activists and protesters during President Xi Jinping’s July visit to the SAR. During the visit, some activists said they were assaulted by pro-Beijing groups. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

Members of focus groups expressed concern that the chief executive appointed all Independent Police Complaints Committee members, according to a South China Morning Post report. Activists previously noted the committee’s lack of power to conduct independent investigations limited its oversight capacity.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police generally apprehended suspects openly with warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by a duly authorized official. Arrested persons must be charged within 48 hours or released, and the government respected this right. Interviews of suspects are required to be videotaped. The law provides accused persons with the right to a prompt judicial determination, and authorities effectively respected this right.

Detainees were generally informed promptly of charges against them. There was a functioning bail system, and authorities allowed detainees access to a lawyer of their choice. Suspects were not detained incommunicado or held under house arrest.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. Activists expressed concerns that rape was underreported, especially within the ethnic minority community, and that conviction rates were low, according to a South China Morning Post report.

The law does not directly criminalize domestic violence, but the government regarded domestic violence against women as a serious concern and took measures to prevent and prosecute offenses. The law allows survivors to seek a three-month injunction, extendable to six months, against an abuser. Abusers may be liable for criminal charges, depending on what acts constituted the domestic violence. The government effectively enforced the law regarding domestic crimes and prosecuted violators.

The law covers abuse between married couples, heterosexual and homosexual cohabitants, former spouses or cohabitants, and immediate and extended family members. It protects victims younger than 18, allowing them to apply for an injunction in their own right, with the assistance of an adult guardian, against abuse by their parents, siblings, and specified immediate and extended family members. The law also empowers the court to require that the abuser attend an antiviolence program. In cases in which the abuser caused bodily harm, the court may attach an arrest warrant to an existing injunction and extend both injunctions and arrest warrants to two years.

The government maintained programs that provided intervention, counseling, and assistance to domestic violence victims and abusers.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status, and pregnancy. The law applies to both men and women, and police generally enforced the law effectively, though the EOC reported it saw signs that sexual harassment was underreported in the social services sector.

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

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men. The SAR’s sexual discrimination ordinance prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex or pregnancy status, and the law authorizes the EOC to work towards the elimination of discrimination and harassment as well as to promote equal opportunity for men and women. While the government generally enforced these laws, women faced discrimination in employment, salary, welfare, inheritance, and promotion.

Children

Birth Registration: All Chinese nationals born in the SAR, on the mainland, or abroad to parents, of whom at least one is a PRC national and Hong Kong permanent resident, acquire both PRC citizenship and Hong Kong permanent residence, the latter allowing the right of abode in the SAR. Children born in the SAR to non-Chinese parents, at least one of whom is a Hong Kong permanent resident, acquire SAR permanent residence and qualify to apply for naturalization as PRC citizens. Registration of all such statuses was routine.

Child Abuse: The law mandates protection for victims of child abuse (battery, assault, neglect, abandonment, and sexual exploitation), and the government enforced the law. The law allows for the prosecution of certain sexual offenses, including against minors, committed outside the territory of the SAR.

The government provided parent-education programs through its maternal and child health centers, public education programs, clinical psychologists for its clinical psychology units, and social workers for its family and child protective services units. Police maintained a child abuse investigation unit and, in collaboration with the Social Welfare Department, ran a child witness support program.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 16; parents’ written consent is required for marriage before the age of 21.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: There were reports girls younger than 18 from some countries in Asia were subjected to sex trafficking in the SAR.

The legal age of consensual sex is 16. Under the law, a person having “unlawful sexual intercourse” with a victim younger than 16 is subject to five years’ imprisonment, while having unlawful sexual intercourse with a victim younger than 13 carries a sentence of life imprisonment.

The law makes it an offense to possess, produce, copy, import, or export pornography involving a child younger than 18 or to publish or cause to be published any advertisement that conveys or is likely to be understood as conveying the message that a person has published, publishes, or intends to publish any child pornography. Authorities generally enforced the law. The penalty for creation, publication, or advertisement of child pornography is eight years’ imprisonment, while possession carries a penalty of five years’ imprisonment.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered 5,000 to 6,000 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities and the government generally enforced these provisions. The government generally implemented laws and programs to provide persons with disabilities access to buildings, information, and communications, although there were reports of some restrictions.

The law on disabilities states that children with separate educational needs must have equal opportunity in accessing education. Some human rights groups reported that the SAR’s disability law was too limited and its implementation did not promote equal opportunities. Activists said that ethnic minority students with disabilities had a particularly high dropout rate. There were occasional media reports about alleged abuses in educational, correctional, and mental health facilities.

The Social Welfare Department provided training and vocational rehabilitation services to assist persons with disabilities, offered subsidized resident-care services for persons considered unable to live independently, offered places for preschool services to children with disabilities, and provided community support services for persons with mental disabilities, their families, and other local residents.

The law calls for improved building access and sanctions against those who discriminate. Access to public buildings (including public schools) and transportation remained a serious problem for persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although ethnic Chinese made up 94 percent of the population, the SAR is a multi-ethnic society with persons from a number of ethnic groups recognized as permanent residents with full rights under the law. The law prohibits discrimination, and the EOC oversees implementation and enforcement of the law. The EOC maintained a hotline for inquiries and complaints concerning racial discrimination. Although the government took steps to reduce discrimination, there were frequent reports of discrimination against ethnic minorities.

The government has a policy to integrate non-Chinese students into SAR schools. Nonetheless, the EOC reported it continued to receive complaints from ethnic minority parents who found it difficult to enroll their children in kindergarten because school information and admissions interviews at some schools were provided only in Cantonese. Students who did not learn Chinese had significant difficulty entering university and the labor market, according to government and NGO reports.

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

No laws criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. While the SAR has laws that ban discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, disability, and family status, no law prohibits companies or individuals from discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. There are also no laws that specifically aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the LGBTI community.

In April a court ruled that a gay civil servant’s husband, whom he had married in a foreign country, was entitled to the same benefits as a heterosexual spouse. In May the government appealed that decision, and the appeal was pending.

LGBTI professionals are permitted to bring foreign partners to the SAR only on a “prolonged visitor visa.” Successful applicants, however, cannot work, obtain an identification card, or qualify for permanent residency.

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

Executive Summary

READ SECTION: ChinaTibet | Hong Kong | Macau (below)


Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and has a high degree of autonomy, except in defense and foreign affairs, under the SAR’s constitution (the Basic Law). In September residents directly elected 14 of the 33 representatives who comprise the SAR’s Legislative Assembly. In accordance with the Basic Law, limited franchise functional constituencies elected 12 representatives, and the chief executive nominated the remaining seven. A 400-member Election Committee re-elected Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-On to a five-year term in 2014.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues reported during the year included: constraints on press and academic freedom; limits on citizens’ ability to change their government; and trafficking in persons.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish 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.

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

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

Administration: The law allows prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of alleged deficiencies, and judges and prosecutors made monthly visits to prisons to hear prisoner complaints.

Independent Monitoring: According to the government, no independent human rights observers requested or made any visit to the prison in the SAR.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements. Activists expressed concern that the SAR government abused prosecutorial procedures to target political dissidents, while police said they charged those they arrested with violations of the law.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Public Security Police (general law enforcement) and the Judiciary Police (criminal investigations), and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish official abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Authorities detained persons with warrants issued by a duly authorized official based on sufficient evidence. Detainees had access to a lawyer of their choice or, if indigent, to one provided by the government. Detainees had prompt access to family members. Police must present persons in custody to an examining judge within 48 hours of detention. Authorities informed detainees promptly of charges against them. The examining judge, who conducts a pretrial inquiry in criminal cases, has wide powers to collect evidence, order or dismiss indictments, and determine whether to release detained persons. Investigations by the prosecuting attorney should end with charges or dismissal within eight months, or six months when the defendant is in detention. The pretrial inquiry stage must conclude within four months, or two months if the defendant is detained. By law the maximum limits for pretrial detention range from six months to three years, depending on the charges and progress of the judicial process; there were no reported cases of lengthy pretrial detentions. There is a functioning bail system; however, judges have often refused bail in cases where sentences could exceed three years. Complaints of police mistreatment may be made to the Commission for Disciplinary Control of the Security Forces and Services of the Macao SAR, the Commission Against Corruption, or the Office of the Secretary for Security. The government has also established a website for receiving named or anonymous complaints about irregular police activity or behavior. There were no reports of deaths in police custody.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, but same-sex couples were not covered by the domestic violence law. The government effectively enforced these laws. The domestic violence law stipulates that a judge may order urgent coercive measures imposed upon the defendant individually or cumulatively, and the application of these measures does not preclude the possibility of prosecuting the perpetrators for criminal responsibilities as stipulated in the criminal code.

The government made referrals for victims to receive medical treatment, and medical social workers counseled victims and informed them of social welfare services. The government funded NGOs to provide victim support services, including medical services, family counseling, and housing, until their complaints were resolved. The government also supported two 24-hour hotlines, one for counseling and the other for reporting domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: In June the Legislative Assembly passed a sex crime bill that amended the Penal Code to make sexual harassment a crime. Under the new law, police may take action against a suspect if the victim files a criminal complaint and a convicted offender may be sentenced to a maximum of one year in prison.

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

Discrimination: Equal opportunity legislation mandates that women receive equal pay for equal work. The law prohibits discrimination in hiring practices based on gender or physical ability and allows for civil suits. Penalties exist for employers who violate these guidelines. Gender differences in occupation existed, with women concentrated in lower-paid sectors and lower-level jobs. However, per government statistics, between 2011 and 2016, the wage gap between men and women dropped from 2,500 patacas ($312) in 2011 to 1,700 patacas ($212) in 2016.

Children

Birth Registration: According to the Basic Law, children of Chinese national residents of the SAR who were born inside or outside the SAR and children born to non-Chinese national permanent residents inside the SAR are regarded as permanent residents. There is no differentiation between these categories in terms of access to registration of birth. Most births were registered immediately.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age of marriage is 16 years; however, children between 16 and 18 years who wish to marry must obtain approval from their parents or guardians.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law specifically provides for criminal punishment for sexual abuse of children and students, statutory rape, and procurement involving minors. The criminal code sets 14 years as the age of sexual consent. In June the Legislative Assembly outlawed procurement for prostitution of a person younger than 18 years. The law also prohibits child pornography.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population was extremely small. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, and the government generally enforced these provisions. The law mandates access to buildings, public facilities, information, and communications for persons with disabilities. The government enforced the law effectively and has a plan running through 2025 to improve services and access for persons with disabilities. The Social Welfare Bureau was primarily responsible for coordinating and funding public assistance programs to persons with disabilities. There was a governmental commission to rehabilitate persons with disabilities, with part of the commission’s scope of work addressing employment.

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

There are no laws criminalizing sexual orientation or same-sex sexual contact and no prohibition against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) persons forming organizations or associations. There were no reports of violence against persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The law prohibits discrimination in employment on the grounds of sexual orientation.

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

Executive Summary

READ SECTION: CHINA | TIBET (below) | HONG KONGMACAU

The United States recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan autonomous prefectures (TAPs) and counties in Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan, and Gansu Provinces to be a part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central Committee oversees Tibet policies. As in other predominantly minority areas of the PRC, ethnic Chinese CCP members held the overwhelming majority of top party, government, police, and military positions in the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Ultimate authority rests with the 25-member Political Bureau (Politburo) of the CCP Central Committee and its seven-member Standing Committee in Beijing, neither of which has any Tibetan members.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: disappearances; torture by government authorities; arbitrary detentions, including political prisoners; and government curtailment of the freedoms of speech, religion, association, assembly, and movement.

The presence of the paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) and other security forces remained at high levels in many communities on the Tibetan Plateau, particularly in the TAR and certain parts of Tibetan areas in Sichuan Province. Repression was severe throughout the year but increased in the periods before and during politically and religiously sensitive anniversaries and events. Authorities detained individuals in Tibetan areas after they reportedly protested against government or business actions or expressed their support for the Dalai Lama. The government strictly controlled information about, and access to, the TAR and some key Tibetan areas outside the TAR. The Chinese government harassed or detained Tibetans as punishment for speaking to foreigners, attempting to provide information to persons abroad, or communicating information regarding protests or other expressions of discontent through cell phones, email, or the internet, and placed restrictions on their freedom of movement.

Disciplinary procedures were opaque, and there was no publicly available information to indicate that senior officials punished security personnel or other authorities for behavior defined under PRC laws and regulations as abuses of power and authority.

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. There were no reports that officials investigated or punished those responsible for such killings that had previously taken place.

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

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

On January 25, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that in December 2016, police detained Khedrup, a Tibetan doctor from Machu (in Chinese: Maqu) county of Gannan TAP in Gansu Province. Police suspected that he sent photos and video clips of Tibetan Tashi Rabten’s self-immolation to international media. The report noted that police interrogated, tortured, beat, and applied other forms of mistreatment to Khedrup during his detention, which lasted more than one month.

On March 22, TibetanReview.net reported that public security officials and local police severely beat and tortured approximately 10 relatives of Tibetan farmer Pema Gyaltsen (or Pegyal) of Nyagrong (Chinese: Xinlong) county, Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) TAP, Sichuan Province after they inquired about Pegyal’s conditions following his self-immolation on March 18. After beating them, police forced these relatives to stand the entire night, resulting in acute pain in their legs and spinal cords. Authorities released them only when officials of their townships provided letters vouching for their future good conduct.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

There were reports of recently released prisoners permanently disabled or in extremely poor health because of the harsh treatment they endured in prison (see Political Prisoners and Detainees subsection below). Former prisoners reported being isolated in small cells for months at a time and deprived of sleep, sunlight, and adequate food. According to individuals who completed their prison terms during the year, prisoners rarely received medical care except in cases of serious illness. There were many cases of detained and imprisoned persons being denied visitors. According to local contacts, authorities detained Thewo Kunchok Nyima, a well-known monk scholar of Drepung Monastery, in 2008 for acting as the “ring leader” and the main instigator of protests in Lhasa. Kunchok Nyima has reportedly been serving a 20-year sentence, but the government has not granted his family permission to visit him in prison. His whereabouts remained unknown.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Arbitrary arrest and detention was a problem. Public security agencies are required by law to notify the relatives or employer of a detained person within 24 hours of their detention, but they often failed to do so when Tibetans and others were detained for political reasons. With a detention warrant, public security officers may legally detain persons throughout the PRC for up to 37 days without formally arresting or charging them. Following the 37-day period, public security officers must either formally arrest or release the detainee. Security officials frequently violated these requirements. It was unclear how many Tibetan detainees the authorities held under forms of detention not subject to judicial review.

According to the India-based Tibet Post International, in January Chinese security officers in Serta County, Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) TAP of Sichuan Province arrested Sonam Tashi, a Tibetan man in his twenties, after he publicly advocated for freedom in Tibet and called for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet. Tashi’s whereabouts and health conditions remained unknown following his arrest.

On March 21, Phayul.com reported that Dukpe, a Tibetan mother of two from Ngaba’s Raru Township, was arrested for shouting slogans such as “Long live the Dalai Lama” and “Freedom in Tibet.” Her whereabouts and health conditions remained unknown.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: There was no confirmed information on the incidence of rape or domestic violence.

Coercion in Population Control: Population and birth planning policies permitted Tibetans and members of some other minority groups to have more children than Han Chinese. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: There were no formal restrictions on women’s participation in the political system, and women held many lower-level government positions. Nevertheless they were underrepresented at the provincial and prefectural levels of government.

Children

Many rural Tibetan areas have implemented China’s nationwide “centralized education” policy, which forced the closure of many village and monastic schools and the transfer of students, including elementary school students, to boarding schools in towns and cities. Reports indicated many of the boarding schools did not adequately care for and supervise their younger students. This policy also resulted in diminished acquisition of the Tibetan language and culture by removing Tibetan children from their homes and communities where the Tibetan language is used.

According to observers, by November the government had replaced the European founders and assumed management control of the Lhasa-based Braille without Borders preparatory school for blind students and its associated vocational farm. Observers speculated the change was part of China’s wider effort to crackdown on foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Trafficking in Persons

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

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although the 2010 TAR census figures showed that Tibetans made up 90.5 percent of the TAR’s permanently registered population, official figures did not include a large number of long-, medium-, and short-term ethnic Chinese migrants, such as cadres, skilled and unskilled laborers, military and paramilitary troops, and their respective dependents. Tibetans continued to make up nearly 98 percent of those registered as permanent residents in rural areas, according to official census figures.

Migrants to the TAR and other parts of the Tibetan Plateau were overwhelmingly concentrated in urban areas. Government policies to subsidize economic development often benefited ethnic Chinese migrants more than Tibetans. In many predominantly Tibetan cities across the Tibetan Plateau, ethnic Chinese or Hui migrants owned and managed most of the small businesses, restaurants, and retail shops.

Observers continued to express concern that development projects and other central government policies disproportionately benefited non-Tibetans and resulted in a considerable influx of Han Chinese and Hui persons into the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Many major infrastructure projects across the Tibetan Plateau were engineered and implemented by large state-owned enterprises based in other provinces, and they were managed and staffed by professionals and low-wage temporary migrant workers from other provinces rather than by local residents.

Economic and social exclusion was a major source of discontent among a varied cross section of Tibetans. Some Tibetans continued to report discrimination in employment. Some Tibetans reported it was more difficult for Tibetans than ethnic Chinese to obtain permits and loans to open businesses, and that many Chinese, especially retired soldiers, were given incentives to move to Tibet. Restrictions on both local NGOs that received foreign funding and international NGOs that provided assistance to Tibetan communities increased during the year, resulting in a decrease of beneficial NGO programs in the TAR and other Tibetan areas.

The government continued its campaign to resettle Tibetan nomads into urban areas and newly created communities in rural areas across the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Improving housing conditions, health care, and education for Tibet’s poorest persons were among the stated goals of resettlement, although there was a pattern of settling herders near townships and roads and away from monasteries, which were the traditional providers of community and social services. A requirement that herders bear a substantial part of the resettlement costs often forced resettled families into debt.

Although a 2015 media report noted that Tibetans and other minority ethnic groups made up 70 percent of government employees in the TAR, the top CCP position of TAR party secretary continued to be held by a Han Chinese, and the corresponding positions in the vast majority of all TAR counties were also held by Han Chinese. Within the TAR, Han Chinese also continued to hold a disproportionate number of the top security, military, financial, economic, legal, judicial, and educational positions. Han Chinese were party secretaries in eight of the nine TAPs, which are located in Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan Provinces. One TAP in Qinghai Province had a Tibetan party secretary. Authorities strictly prohibited Tibetans holding government and CCP positions from openly worshipping at monasteries or otherwise publicly practicing their religion.

Government propaganda against alleged Tibetan “pro-independence forces” contributed to Chinese societal discrimination against ordinary Tibetans. Many Tibetan monks and nuns chose to wear nonreligious clothing to avoid harassment when traveling outside their monasteries and throughout China. Some Tibetans reported that taxi drivers throughout China refused to stop for them and hotels refused to provide rooms.

Colombia

Executive Summary

Colombia is a constitutional, multiparty republic. In 2014 voters elected Juan Manuel Santos president in elections that observers considered free and fair.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial and unlawful killings; reports of torture and arbitrary detention; corruption; rape and abuse of women and children by illegal armed groups; forced abortion carried out by illegal armed groups; and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons. Violence against and forced displacement of Afro-Colombian and indigenous persons persisted, as did illegal child labor and killings and other violence against trade unionists.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses, including judges, mayors, and other local authorities.

The government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), formerly the country’s largest guerrilla insurgency group, continued to implement the November 2016 peace accord. The agreement provides for the creation of a Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition, including the establishment of a Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP, or JEP in Spanish) designed to investigate and ensure accountability for serious conflict-related crimes. The FARC completed its disarmament on August 15, and former members reincorporated as a political party on September 1. The government and a smaller guerrilla force, the National Liberation Army (ELN), announced on September 4 a temporary, bilateral ceasefire (the first-ever such agreement during the 50-year conflict with the ELN), which began on October 1 while peace talks continued. There were reports the ELN violated the agreement during the year. The ELN perpetrated armed attacks across the country for much of the year, mostly prior to the temporary ceasefire. In September the government received an offer from the Gulf Clan (formerly known as Clan Usuga or Los Urabenos), the country’s largest criminal organization, to demobilize through a surrender (“sometimiento”) process, or submission to justice. Illegal armed groups and drug trafficking gangs continued to operate, with approximately 2,900 members nationwide. Illegal armed groups, as well as narcotics traffickers, were significant perpetrators of human rights abuses and violent crimes and committed acts of extrajudicial and unlawful killings, political killings, extortion, kidnapping, torture, human trafficking, bombings and use of landmines, restriction on freedom of movement, recruitment and use of child soldiers, and intimidation of journalists, women, 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 reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, and related investigations and prosecutions proceeded slowly (see section 1.g.).

For example, on October 5, at least seven persons, including two members of the Awa indigenous people, were killed and another 20 injured in the southwestern municipality of Tumaco, Narino Department, during a protest against government coca eradication operations, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Some eyewitnesses alleged that members of the antinarcotics police force fired their weapons into the crowd, while others alleged FARC dissidents first attacked the protesters and authorities, and that the security forces acted in self-defense. On October 10, the Minister of Defense announced the government would transfer 102 police officers out of Tumaco in an effort to restore public trust. Media reported the government suspended four police officers. The president ordered a prompt and thorough investigation. The vice president traveled to the region to oversee the investigation and the government response to community concerns. The IACHR urged authorities to investigate the events thoroughly and “to ensure the safety and integrity of the campesino, indigenous, and Afro-descendant communities.”

Nongovernmental monitors reported a decrease in extrajudicial killings and an overall reduction in violence. According to the National Police, between January 1 and October 25, there were 9,380 homicides and 69 terrorist attacks, compared with 9,850 homicides and 138 terrorist attacks over the same period in 2016, a decrease they attributed to the implementation of the peace accord between the government and the FARC (see section 1.g.).

From January 1 through July, the Attorney General’s Office registered three new cases of alleged aggravated homicides by state agents. During the same period, authorities formally accused 19 members of the security forces and arrested three for aggravated homicide or homicide of a civilian, 16 of them for crimes that occurred prior to 2016. The Attorney General’s Office registered the arrest of eight members of the security forces in connection with homicides.

There were developments in efforts to hold officials accountable in false positive extrajudicial killings, in which thousands of civilians were killed and falsely presented as guerrilla combatants in the late 1990s to late 2000s. As of March 15, the Attorney General’s Office reported 455 open investigations, 836 cases in the prosecution phase, and 238 cases in the sentencing phase related to false positive killings. The Attorney General’s Office reported that from 2008 through 2016, it had reached convictions in 1,414 false positive cases, with defendants ranging up to the rank of colonel.

On April 3, Lieutenant Colonel Gabriel Rincon Amado and 20 soldiers under his command were convicted for their role in “false positive” killings in Soacha in 2008 and received sentences ranging from 38 to 52 years in prison.

The Attorney General’s Office reported that as of June, there were open investigations against 18 retired and active duty generals related to false positive killings, although no new investigations were opened in 2016 or 2017. The Attorney General’s Office reported investigations against two other generals were closed in 2016 and 2017.

The Attorney General’s Office reported that the case against retired general William Henry Torres Escalante involving false positive killings was transferred to the special investigations unit in 2016, after a court upheld his indictment. Torres Escalante was granted conditional liberty on August 4 under the transitional justice mechanism of the peace accord. According to media reports, in December the Superior Court of Yopal revoked Torres Escalante’s conditional liberty and ordered that he be rearrested. The court held that conditional liberty could only be granted once the Special Jurisdiction for Peace was operational. Media reported that retired general Mario Montoya Uribe was scheduled to appear before a judge to face charges related to false positive killings in 2016, but the hearing was postponed. The Attorney General’s Office reported the investigation of Montoya Uribe was in the preliminary investigation and inquiry phase as of June.

On November 14, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a public statement alleging five army officers recommended for promotion were “credibly linked” to false positive killings. HRW stated two of the five officers in question–Brigadier General Francisco Javier Cruz Ricci, the then commander of the army’s Sixth Division, and Colonel Miguel Eduardo David Bastidas–were under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office for alleged involvement in false positive cases. According to HRW, General Cruz Ricci was under investigation for the killing of two civilians in July 2004, when he commanded the Ninth Special Energy and Roads Plans Battalion of the 27th Brigade. HRW’s statement further alleged that Juan Pablo Rodriguez Barragan, former commander of the armed forces, was under investigation for false positive extrajudicial killings allegedly committed under his command.

Subsequently, media reported David Bastidas’ name was removed from the promotion list after prosecutors sought his arrest in connection with the false positive extrajudicial killings of Uber Esneider Giraldo, Disney Villegas, and 30 other persons, as well as other crimes allegedly committed when he was second-in-command of the Fourth Artillery Battalion “Jorge Eduardo Sanchez.” The Senate voted to approve the remaining promotions on December 5.

On September 13, an International Criminal Court (ICC) delegation, including Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, visited Bogota in the context of the ICC’s preliminary examination of the situation in Colombia. According to a public statement, the delegation sought to obtain information concerning the status of national proceedings related to false positive killings, as well as information about aspects of the future SJP, sexual and gender-based crimes, and forced displacement.

On April 18, the then commander of the army General Alberto Jose Mejia Ferrero honored Sergeant Carlos Mora, a whistleblower in the false positives scandal. Mejia urged the army’s leaders to hold themselves and their units to the highest standards of transparency and to respect human rights and international humanitarian law. In December the president elevated General Mejia to serve as armed forces commander, replacing Juan Pablo Rodriguez Barragan, who retired.

Human rights organizations, victims, and government investigators accused some members of government security forces of collaborating with or tolerating the activities of organized criminal gangs, which included some former paramilitary members.

Investigations of past killings proceeded, albeit slowly. The Attorney General’s Office reported that through July, it obtained three new convictions of security force members in cases involving homicide of a “protected person” (i.e., civilians and others accorded such status under international humanitarian law), four new convictions in cases involving aggravated homicide, and 11 new convictions in cases involving “simple homicide” committed by security force members. Of these sentences, 15 corresponded to cases that took place before 2017.

Illegal armed groups, including the ELN and narcotics traffickers, were significant perpetrators of violent crimes and committed unlawful killings (see section 1.g.).

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported 73 social leaders were killed between January and December 20. For example, on June 7, Bernardo Cuero Bravo, a prominent human rights activist and Afro-Colombian community leader, was shot and killed in his home in Villa Esperanza, Atlantico. Bravo worked as an attorney for the National Association of Displaced Afrodescendants (AFRODES). The president addressed the attacks on social leaders at the one-year anniversary of the peace accord saying, “Every murder, every attack, every threat hurts us,” and pledging to “protect [social] leaders and to capture those responsible.”

The IACHR held a public hearing at the request of the government on “Investigation of Attacks on Human Rights Defenders in Colombia” during its 161st Period of Sessions in March. Civil society organizations that participated urged the government to investigate and address the root causes of violence against social and ethnic leaders. The deputy attorney general provided updates on progress in cases of human rights defenders killed in 2016 and 2017, stating that, of 74 individuals that had been linked to the killings, 58 persons had been arrested, four had been sentenced, and six were on trial. According to the Attorney General’s Office, of 118 cases in 2016 and 2017, 59 showed procedural advances. The Attorney General’s Office Special Investigation Unit provided for in the peace accord was established. The focus of the unit was on investigating and prosecuting criminal organizations and their support networks.

On November 30, the Minister of Defense attributed the delay in investigating and prosecuting killings of social leaders to difficulty in determining motive and delays in reaching the remote crime scenes. He announced a rapid response mechanism that he stated would ensure a combined security force/Attorney General’s Office response within two hours to any attack on a social leader, anywhere in the country.

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

Although the law prohibits such practices, under articles 137 and 178 of the criminal code, there were reports government officials committed abuses. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Center for Research and Education of the Populace (CINEP) reported that through June 30, security forces were allegedly involved in 17 cases of torture, four committed by the National Prison Institute (INPEC) and 13 by the National Police. Members of the military and police accused of torture generally were tried in civilian rather than military courts.

Between January 1 and July 31, the Attorney General’s Office charged five members of the police force with torture; all the cases occurred prior to 2017. During the same period, the Attorney General’s Office reported four convictions of members of the security forces and one conviction of a member of an illegal armed group in a case of torture.

CINEP reported criminal bands were responsible for five documented cases of torture through June 30. In 11 other documented cases, CINEP was not able to identify the party responsible for the abuses.

According to NGOs monitoring prison conditions, there were numerous allegations of sexual and physical violence committed by guards and other inmates.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

With the exception of new facilities, prisons and detention centers were overcrowded, lacked adequate sanitation, and provided poor health care and other basic services. Poor training of officials remained a problem throughout the prison system.

Physical Conditions: INPEC, which operated the national prisons and oversaw the jails, estimated there were 115,950 persons incarcerated in 136 prisons across the country, of whom 19,167 were in pretrial detention. Overcrowding existed in men’s as well as in women’s prisons. INPEC cited several prisons in Cali, Santa Marta, Valledupar, Itagui, and Apartado that were more than 200 percent overcrowded. INPEC reported 48 percent of federal prisons were overcrowded.

The law prohibits holding pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners, although this sometimes occurred. The Superior Judiciary Council stated the maximum time that a person may remain in judicial detention facilities is three days. The same rules apply to jails located inside police stations. These regulations were often violated.

The practice of preventive detention, in combination with inefficiencies in the judicial system, continued to exacerbate overcrowding. In July the government began to implement new procedures that provide for the immediate release of some pretrial detainees, including many accused of serious crimes such as aggravated robbery and sexual assault.

The Inspector General’s Office continued to investigate allegations that some prison guards routinely used excessive force and treated inmates brutally. No further information was available at year’s end regarding the status of the 54 investigations opened in 2016.

Many prisoners continued to face difficulties receiving adequate medical care. Nutrition and water quality were deficient and contributed to the overall poor health of many inmates. Inmates claimed authorities routinely rationed water in many facilities.

INPEC’s physical structures were in generally poor repair. The Inspector General’s Office noted some facilities had poor ventilation and overtaxed sanitary systems. Prisoners in some high-altitude facilities complained of inadequate blankets and clothing, while prisoners in tropical facilities complained that overcrowding and insufficient ventilation contributed to high temperatures in prison cells. Some prisoners slept on floors without mattresses, while others shared cots in overcrowded cells.

Administration: Prisoners generally could submit complaints to judicial authorities, request investigations of inhuman conditions, and request that third parties from local NGOs or government entities, such as the Ombudsman’s Office, represent them in legal matters and aid them in seeking an investigation of prison conditions. Authorities investigated prisoner complaints of inhuman conditions, including complaints of prison guards soliciting bribes from inmates, but some prisoners asserted the investigations were slow and the results were not accessible to the public.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by local and international human rights groups. INPEC required a three-day notice before granting consular access. Some NGOs complained that authorities, without adequate explanation, denied them access to visit prisoners.

Improvements: During the year the Attorney General’s Office assigned 27 additional prosecutors to units aimed at preventing noncriminal cases from entering the criminal justice system, including prisons, thereby freeing up both prosecutors and judges to focus on genuine criminal cases.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention; however, there were allegations that authorities detained citizens arbitrarily. CINEP reported 45 cases of arbitrary detention committed by state security forces through June 30.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Colombian National Police (CNP) is responsible for internal law enforcement and is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense. The Migration Directorate, part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is the immigration authority. The CNP shares law enforcement investigatory duties with the Technical Investigation Body. In addition to its responsibility to defend the country against external threats, the army shares limited responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country. For example, military units sometimes provided logistical support and security for criminal investigators to collect evidence in high-conflict or remote areas. The government continued to expand education and training of the armed forces in human rights and international humanitarian law.

Some NGOs complained that military investigators, not members of the Attorney General’s Office, were sometimes the first responders in cases of deaths resulting from actions of security forces and might make decisions about possible foul play. By law the Attorney General’s Office is the main entity responsible for investigating allegations of human rights abuses committed by security forces. The government made improvements in investigating and trying abuses, but claims of impunity for security force members continued. This was due in some cases to obstruction of justice, opacity in the process by which cases are investigated and prosecuted in the military justice system, and a lack of resources for investigations. Inadequate protection of witnesses and investigators, delay tactics by defense attorneys, the judiciary’s failure to exert appropriate controls over dockets and case progress, and inadequate coordination among government entities that sometimes allowed statutes of limitations to expire–resulting in a defendant’s release from jail before trial–were also significant obstacles.

The military functions under both the old inquisitorial and a newer accusatory system. The military had not trained its criminal justice actors to operate under the accusatory system, which they were to begin to implement during the year. The military also had not developed an interinstitutional strategy for recruiting, hiring, or training investigators, crime scene technicians, or forensic specialists, which is required under the accusatory system. As such the military justice system did not exercise criminal investigative authority; all new criminal investigations duties are conducted by judicial police investigators from the CNP and Corps of Technical Investigators.

The Attorney General’s Office reported open investigations into 18 retired and active duty generals for alleged involvement in false positive extrajudicial killings (see section 1.a.).

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Authorities must bring detained persons before a judge within 36 hours to determine the validity of the detention, bring formal charges within 30 days, and start a trial within 90 days of the initial detention. Public defenders contracted by the Office of the Ombudsman assisted indigent defendants. Detainees received prompt access to legal counsel and family members as provided for by law. Authorities generally respected these rights.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, this requirement was not always respected. NGOs characterized some arrests as arbitrary detention: arrests allegedly based on tips from informants about persons linked to guerrilla activities, detentions by members of the security forces without a judicial order, detentions based on administrative authority, detentions during military operations or at roadblocks, large-scale detentions, and detentions of persons while they were “exercising their fundamental rights.”

Pretrial Detention: The judicial process moved slowly, and the civilian judicial system suffered from a significant backlog of cases, which led to large numbers of pretrial detainees. The failure of many local military commanders and jail supervisors to keep mandatory detention records or follow notification procedures made accounting for all detainees difficult. INPEC estimated that 19,167 prisoners, or 17 percent of the country’s prison inmates, were being held in pretrial detention. In some cases detainees were released without a trial because they had already served more than one-third of the maximum sentence for their charges.

Civil society groups complained that authorities subjected some community leaders to extended pretrial detention.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Although prohibited by law, rape, including spousal rape, remained a serious problem. The law provides for sentences ranging from eight to 30 years’ imprisonment for violent sexual assault. For acts of spousal sexual violence, the law mandates prison sentences of six months to two years. By law femicide is punishable with penalties of 21 to 50 years in prison, longer than the minimum sentence of 13 years for homicide.

Violence against women, and impunity for perpetrators, continued to be a problem. Members of illegal armed groups, including former paramilitary members, and guerrillas also continued to rape and abuse women and children sexually.

The government continued to employ the Elite Sexual Assault Investigative Unit interagency unit in Bogota, which was dedicated to the investigation of sexual assault cases. Through the end of July, the Attorney General’s Office opened 14,249 investigations for sexual abuses.

The law requires the government to provide victims of domestic violence immediate protection from further physical or psychological abuse.

The Ministry of Defense continued implementing its protocol for managing cases of sexual violence and harassment involving members of the military.

The law augments both jail time and fines if a crime causes “transitory or permanent physical disfigurement,” such as acid attacks.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, but isolated incidents were reported in several indigenous communities.

Sexual Harassment: The law provides measures to deter and punish harassment in the workplace, such as sexual harassment, verbal abuse or derision, aggression, and discrimination, which carries a penalty of one to three years’ imprisonment. Nonetheless, NGOs reported sexual harassment remained a pervasive and underreported problem.

Coercion in Population Control: Coerced abortion was not permitted under the law, although the government reported illegal armed groups carried out forced abortions. Forced surgical sterilization of children with cognitive and psychosocial disabilities in certain cases is legal.

Through July 31, the Attorney General’s Office reported it opened 400 investigations related to cases of forced abortion, 13 of which had occurred during the year. A two-year Attorney General’s Office investigation that concluded in 2016 documented 214 cases of girls who were subjected to rape, forced sterilization, forced abortion, and other forms of sexual violence by the FARC. In January, Spain extradited a Colombian man–Hector Albeidis Arboleda, known as “the Nurse”–who was accused of performing up to 500 forced abortions for the FARC between 1998 and 2003. According to media reports, Arboleda was to be tried on various charges, including torture, homicide, attempted homicide, and forced abortion.

Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Although women have the same legal rights as men, serious discrimination against women persisted. The Office of the Advisor for the Equality of Women has primary responsibility for combating discrimination against women, but advocacy groups reported that the office remained seriously underfunded. The government continued its national public policy for gender equity.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory. Most births were registered immediately. If a birth is not registered within one month, parents may be fined and denied public services.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was a serious problem. The ICBF reported 6,157 cases of sexual abuse against children in the first seven months of the year.

Early and Forced Marriage: Marriage is legal at age 18. Boys older than 14 and girls older than 12 may marry with the consent of their parents.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual exploitation of children remained a problem. Sexual exploitation of a minor or facilitating the sexual exploitation of a minor carries a penalty of 14 to 25 years in prison, with aggravated penalties for perpetrators who are family members of the victim and for cases of sexual tourism, forced marriage, or sexual exploitation by illegal armed groups. The law prohibits pornography using children under age 18 and stipulates a penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine. The minimum age for consensual sex is 14. The penalty for sexual activity with a child under 14 ranges from nine to 13 years in prison. According to the ICBF, in 2016 through July, there were 206 reported cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Since 2009 the NGO Renacer Foundation certified 300 tourism-related businesses as committed to the fight against the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. In cooperation with the government, Renacer trained 20,823 employees of these businesses in how to identify and fight sexual exploitation.

Displaced Children: The NGO Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement estimated in 2016 that 31 percent of persons registered as displaced since 1985 were minors at the time they were displaced (see also section 2.d.).

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community, which had an estimated 5,000 members, continued to report instances of anti-Israeli rhetoric connected to events in the Middle East, accompanied by anti-Semitic graffiti near synagogues, as well as demonstrations in front of the Israeli embassy that were sometimes accompanied by anti-Semitic comments on social media. In particular, the Colombian Confederation of Jewish Communities expressed concern over the presence of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Colombia, which aggressively promotes the boycott of Israeli products, culture, and travel and does not actively counter the conflation of anti-Israeli policies with anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities but not sensory or intellectual disabilities. No law mandates access to information and telecommunications for persons with disabilities. A 2015 law punishes those who arbitrarily restrict the full exercise of the rights of persons with disabilities or harass persons with disabilities.

The Office of the Presidential Advisor for Human Rights under the High Counselor for Post-Conflict, Public Security, and Human Rights, along with the Human Rights Directorate at the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. According to Somos Defensores (We Are Defenders) and other NGOs, these laws were seldom enforced.

Although children with disabilities attended school at all levels, advocates noted the vast majority of teachers and schools were neither trained nor equipped to educate children with disabilities successfully. Advocacy groups also stated children with disabilities entered the education system later than children without disabilities and dropped out at higher rates. Persons with disabilities were unemployed at a much higher rate than the general population.

Forced surgical sterilization of children with cognitive and psychosocial disabilities in certain cases is legal.

In 2013 the State Council ordered all public offices to make facilities accessible to persons with disabilities and asked public officials to include requirements for accessibility when granting licenses for construction and occupancy. The State Council also asked every municipality to enforce rules that would make all public offices accessible to persons with disabilities “in a short amount of time.”

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

According to the most recent (2005) national census, approximately 4.5 million persons, or 10 percent of the country’s population, described themselves as being of African descent. A 2011 UN report estimated Afro-Colombians made up 15 to 20 percent of the population, while human rights groups and Afro-Colombian organizations estimated the proportion to be 20 to 25 percent.

Afro-Colombians are entitled to all constitutional rights and protections, but they faced significant economic and social discrimination. According to a 2016 UN report, 32 percent of the country’s population lived below the poverty line, but in Choco, the department with the highest percentage of Afro-Colombian residents, 79 percent of residents lived below the poverty line.

In 2010 the government approved a policy to promote equal opportunity for black, Afro-Colombian, Palenquera, and Raizal populations. (Palenquera populations inhabit some parts of the Caribbean coast, Raizal populations live in the San Andres archipelago, and Blacks and Afro-Colombians are Colombians of African descent who self-identify slightly differently based on their unique linguistic and cultural heritages.) The Ministry of Interior continued to provide technical advice and funding for social projects presented by Afro-Colombian communities.

The National Autonomous Congress of Afro-Colombian Community Councils and Ethnic Organizations for Blacks, Afro-Colombians, Raizales, and Palenqueras, consisting of 108 representatives, continued to meet with government representatives on problems that affected their communities.

Indigenous People

The constitution and law give special recognition to the fundamental rights of indigenous persons, who make up approximately 3.4 percent of the population (1,392,623 indigenous), and require the government to consult beforehand with indigenous groups regarding governmental actions that could affect them.

The law accords indigenous groups perpetual rights to their ancestral lands, but indigenous groups, neighboring landowners, and the government often disputed the demarcation of those lands. Traditional indigenous groups operated 710 reservations, accounting for approximately 28 percent of the country’s territory. Illegal armed groups often violently contested indigenous land ownership and recruited indigenous children to join their ranks.

The law provides for special criminal and civil jurisdictions within indigenous territories based on traditional community laws. Legal proceedings in these jurisdictions were subject to manipulation and often rendered punishments more lenient than those imposed by regular civilian courts.

Some indigenous groups continued to assert that they were not able to participate adequately in decisions affecting their lands. The constitution provides for this “prior consultation” mechanism for indigenous communities, but it does not require the government to obtain the consent of those communities in all cases.

The government stated that for security reasons it could not provide advance notice of most military operations, especially when in pursuit of enemy combatants, and added that it consulted with indigenous leaders when possible before entering land held by the communities.

Despite special legal protections and government assistance programs, indigenous persons continued to suffer discrimination and often lived on the margins of society. They belonged to the country’s poorest population and had the highest age-specific mortality rates. As of the end of July, the Attorney General’s Office reported there were 17 active investigations of military members and members of the CNP accused of violating the rights, culture, or customs of indigenous groups.

Killings of members and leaders of indigenous groups remained a problem. Through September 1, the NGO National Indigenous Organization of Colombia reported 30 indigenous persons were killed. For example, on October 24, the ELN shot and killed indigenous governor Aulio Isarama Forastero in Choco.

Despite precautionary measures ordered by the IACHR, ethnic Wayuu children continued to die of malnutrition. NGOs and civil society leaders reported during the year that members of the Wayuu community received threats and were targeted by gunmen.

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

There was no official discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care. A 2015 Constitutional Court decision required that the Ministry of Education modify its educational materials to address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in schools. In May a proposed constitutional referendum to prevent same-sex couples from adopting failed in a congressional committee vote.

Transgender individuals cited barriers to public services when health-care providers or police officers refused to accept their government-issued identification. Some transgender individuals stated it was difficult to change the gender designation on national identity documents and that transgender individuals whose identity cards listed them as male were still required to show proof they had performed mandatory military service or obtained the necessary waivers from that service. NGOs claimed discrimination and violence in prisons against persons due to their sexual orientation and gender identity remained a problem.

Despite government measures to increase the rights and protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, there were reports of societal abuse and discrimination, as well as sexual assault. NGOs claimed transgender individuals, particularly transgender men, were often sexually assaulted in so-called corrective rape. The Constitutional Court pronounced in 2016 that transgender persons faced discrimination and social rejection within the LGBTI community and recommended measures to increase respect for transgender identities in the classrooms.

As of July 31, the Attorney General’s Office was investigating at least eight alleged homicides of LGBTI individuals that had occurred since January 1. Seven of the cases were in the investigation stage, and one was in the trial stage.

The NGO Colombia Diversa also reported three cases, involving four victims, of police abuse of persons due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, with the majority of complaints coming from transgender individuals. According to NGOs working on LGBTI problems, these attacks occurred frequently, but victims did not pursue cases due to fear of retaliation. NGOs also reported several cases of threats against human rights defenders working on LGBTI issues, as well as a high level of impunity for crimes against members of the LGBTI community. Such organizations partially attributed impunity levels to the failure of the Attorney General’s Office to distinguish and effectively pursue crimes against the LGBTI community.

The manual of administrative procedures for blood banks issued by the Ministry of Health states that, to protect the recipient of a transfusion from HIV/AIDS, the ministry excludes those donors who had “male homosexual relations in the past 15 years.” In 2012 the Constitutional Court ordered the ministry to remove selection criteria based on the sexual orientation of donors, but the regulation reportedly was not changed as of September.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no confirmed reports of societal violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. In the most recent demographic and health survey (2010), the government reported the responses of 85 percent of those surveyed indicated discriminatory attitudes towards persons with HIV/AIDS, reflecting low levels of social acceptance throughout the country.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Executive Summary

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a nominally centralized constitutional republic. Voters popularly elect the president and the lower house of parliament (National Assembly). Under the constitution the president’s second and final term in office expired in December 2016. The government, however, failed to organize elections in 2016 in accordance with constitutional deadlines and the president remained in office. In December 2016 the government and opposition parties agreed to a power-sharing arrangement that paved the way for elections in 2017, the release of political prisoners, and an end to politically motivated prosecutions. The government failed to implement the agreement as written, however, and elections had not occurred by year’s end. On November 5, the national electoral commission announced that elections would be held in December 2018. The country’s most recent presidential and National Assembly elections, which many local and international observers characterized as lacking in credibility and seriously flawed, were held in 2011. All national-level democratically elected officials, including the president and both houses of parliament, have overstayed their elected mandates.

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

Armed conflict in the east and Kasai regions exacerbated an already precarious human rights situation.

The most significant human rights issues included: unlawful killings; disappearances and abductions; torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and rape; life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention facilities; arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention; denial of fair public trial; arbitrary interference with privacy, family, and home; restrictions on freedoms of speech and the press, assembly, and association; abuse of internally displaced persons (IDPs); inability of citizens to change their government through democratic means; harassment of civil society, opposition, and religious leaders; corruption and a lack of transparency at all levels of government; violence and stigmatization against women, children, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, indigenous persons, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, and persons with albinism, with little government action to investigate, prosecute, or hold perpetrators accountable; trafficking in persons, including forced labor, including by children; and violations of worker rights.

Authorities often took no steps to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, and impunity for human rights abuses was a problem.

Government security forces, as well as rebel and militia groups (RMGs) continued to commit abuses, primarily in the east and the central Kasai region. These abuses included unlawful killings, disappearances, torture, destruction of government and private property, and SGBV. RMGs also recruited, abducted, and retained child soldiers and compelled forced labor. The government took military action against some RMGs but had limited ability to investigate abuses and bring the accused to trial (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

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

State security forces (SSF) committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in operations against RMGs in the east and in the Kasai region (see section 1.g.). According to the UN Joint Office of Human Rights (UNJHRO), security forces were responsible for 1,176 extrajudicial killings during the year across the country. Many of these extrajudicial killings occurred in the Kasais, where the SSF fought Kamuina Nsapu and other antigovernment militias. In December, UNJHRO reported that at least 170 women were victims of extrajudicial killings nationwide from January to October.

In February video footage of the SSF massacring unarmed civilians, including women and children, in the village of Mwanza Lomba in East Kasai Oriental circulated on social media. The massacre reportedly occurred in December 2016 during an engagement between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and Kamuina Nsapu. Another video, which also appeared on social media at the same time, showed government officials insulting and beating a mortally injured girl in what appeared to be a government office in Kananga (see section 1.d.). On March 14-15, the SSF killed at least 100 individuals, including women and children, in Kananga, according to reporting by the Catholic Church. From March 28-30 in Kananga, the SSF reportedly killed hundreds more civilians during what the SSF described as cordon and search operations for Kamuina Nsapu members. According to eyewitnesses, the Catholic Church, and UN personnel, civilians executed by the SSF included children as young as six months old, some of whom were shot in their beds.

In June the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) confirmed that 251 persons, including 62 children, of whom three were under the age of eight, were victims of extrajudicial and targeted killings from March 12 to June 19 in Kamonia territory of Kasai Province. The OHCHR reported that “local security forces and other officials actively fomented, fueled, and occasionally led, attacks on the basis of ethnicity.” According to the OHCHR, “survivors have spoken of hearing the screams of people being burned alive, of seeing loved ones chased and cut down, of themselves fleeing in terror.” The OHCHR also reported that the SSF and local authorities supported and allegedly armed a militia, the Bana Mura, responsible for killing civilians in Kasai. According to the OHCHR, “FARDC soldiers were seen leading groups of Bana Mura militia during attacks on villages.” In April and May, the Bana Mura reportedly attacked ethnic Luba and Lulua, “beheading, mutilating, and shooting victims; in some cases burning them alive in their homes.” The OHCHR determined that, in one attack on April 24, in the village of Cinq, “90 patients, colleagues and people who had sought refuge in a health center were killed, including patients who could not escape when the surgical ward was set on fire.” The OHCHR reported seeing “children as young as two whose limbs had been chopped off; many babies had machete wounds and severe burns. One two-month-old baby seen…had been hit by two bullets four hours after birth; the mother was also injured. At least two pregnant women were sliced open and their foetuses mutilated.”

In June the country’s Council of Catholic Bishops (CENCO) estimated that at least 3,383 civilians were killed in the Kasai region from October 2016 to June 19 by both the SSF and RMGs. This included as many as 500 persons allegedly killed by the SSF and RMGs in Dibula in December 2016, 150 allegedly killed by RMGs in Mbawu-Milambu in January, 100 allegedly killed by the SSF in Tshimbulu in February, 400 allegedly killed by the SSF in Kananga in March, 800 allegedly killed by the SSF in Mwene-Ditu in March, 100 allegedly killed by the SSF in Tshisuku in May, and 130 allegedly killed by the SSF in Maswika in May.

On September 15, the SSF shot and killed 36 Burundian refugees and asylum seekers in Kamanyola outside of Bukavu in eastern DRC.

In December the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) reported that at least 80 persons were killed by FARDC’s 2103 Regiment from November 29 to December 1 in Kabeya Lumbu and Mbawu, which are 15 miles and 27 miles north of Tshikapa, respectively. The killings reportedly took place during a military operation against a Kamuina Nsapu-affiliated militia group. Six FARDC personnel were also reportedly killed.

On December 7, Human Rights Watch and the Congo Research Group published a report stating that at least 526 civilians were killed in North and South Kivu provinces from June to November. The reported stated that the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), other RMGs, and government proxy RMGs were responsible for some of these killings.

RMGs committed arbitrary and unlawful killings throughout the year (see section 1.g.). Kamuina Nsapu militants recruited and used children as soldiers and human shields and targeted SSF, members of the government, and others. In June the OHCHR stated it had documented serious abuses committed by the Kamuina Nsapu militia and accused the Kamuina Nsapu of carrying out targeted killings, including against “members of the armed forces, police, public officials, and civilians perceived to cooperate with them, as well as alleged sorcerers. Witnesses indicated that the Kamuina Nsapu militia comprises many children, some as young as seven, many of them under the influence of drugs.” In March Kamuina Nsapu killed, beheaded, and dismembered the wife of a local mayor in Luebo. Kamuina Nsapu killed three employees of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) in Kasai Central Province, including a CENI official who was killed and beheaded on April 3 and the director of the territorial CENI office killed in May. In April the same RMG killed three officials from the Ministry of Education who had travelled to Kasai to administer student examinations. The government stated that the Kamuina Nsapu also beheaded 39 police officers on the road between Tshikapa and Kanaga in March, but provided no names of those allegedly killed.

On August 7, another RMG, the Bundu dia Kongo militia, killed as many as eight SSF members during attacks in Kinshasa. According to the United Nations, the SSF response resulted in the deaths of at least 40 persons.

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

The law criminalizes torture, but there were credible reports that the SSF continued to torture civilians, particularly detainees and prisoners. In July the DRC National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) stated, “Most people arrested by security forces on suspicion of belonging to [Kamuina Nsapu] claim they were victims of serious torture. Following this treatment, some lost their lives or became mentally ill.” The CNDH also noted that suspected militants brought to military camp Bobozo in Kananga were “subjected to torture and treatment of a rare cruelty.” In February government officials were filmed beating a mortally injured girl in what appeared to be a government building in Kananga. On December 31, police were filmed beating peaceful and in some cases sedentary protesters with sticks in the towns of Beni and Kasindi.

As of October 24, the United Nations reported that it had received 15 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against military, police, and civilian personnel deployed with MONUSCO during the year. Nine of these cases involved allegations of transactional sex; four involved allegations of an exploitative relationship; one involved the sexual assault of a child; and one involved the alleged rape of a child. As of October 24, all investigations were pending.

The United Nations reported that it received one allegation during the year of sexual exploitation and abuse against DRC peacekeepers serving outside the DRC. The allegation of transactional sex, alleged to have taken place at an unspecified time in 2014-15, was made against a DRC military officer deployed with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). As of October 24, an investigation was pending.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in most prisons throughout the country remained harsh and life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. Even harsher conditions prevailed in small detention centers run by the National Intelligence Agency (ANR), Republican Guard (RG), or other security forces, which often detained prisoners for lengthy pretrial periods without access to family or legal counsel. Some civil society activists arrested in Kinshasa were reportedly held in an underground cell operated by the RG at a military camp.

Physical Conditions: Serious threats to life and health were widespread and included violence (particularly rape); food shortages; and inadequate potable water, sanitation, ventilation, temperature control, lighting, and medical care. Because inmates had inadequate supplies of food and little access to water, many relied exclusively on relatives, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and church groups to bring them sustenance. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited an unknown number of prisoners. In July a prison director in Tshikapa reported that eight prisoners had died of malnutrition in three weeks, citing food shortages. Also in July part of the central prison in Goma caught fire, reportedly due to electrical problems. Authorities generally confined men and women in separate areas but often held juveniles with adults. In August the provincial office of the CNDH successfully advocated for 10 minors detained in Mbuji Mayi to be separated from adults in the prison. Authorities rarely separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners. Central prison facilities were severely overcrowded, with an estimated occupancy rate of 200 percent of capacity; they also had little ventilation or light, subjecting detainees to extreme heat. For example, Makala Central Prison in Kinshasa, which was constructed in 1958 to house 1,500 prisoners, held as many as 8,500 inmates during the year, although as many as 4,000 of these escaped during a mass prison break on May 17. The United Nations reported 100 individuals died in detention between January and June, mostly from starvation or illness; 45 of these deaths occurred in Kongo Central Province.

Most prisons were understaffed, undersupplied, and poorly maintained, often allowing escapes. From January to June 30, the United Nations documented at least 5,528 prisoner escapes.

Authorities often arbitrarily beat or tortured detainees. For example, the United Nations reported that one 14-year-old boy arrested by the FARDC for association with the Kamuina Nsapu militia was tortured by soldiers who hacked off his thumb and cut him at least 22 times over his body with a machete. Government officials were also filmed beating a mortally injured girl in what appeared to be a government building in Kananga (see section 1.a.).

RMGs detained civilians, often for ransom, but little information was available concerning detention conditions (see section 1.g.).

Administration: Some prison directors could only estimate the numbers of detainees in their facilities. Authorities denied access to visitors for some inmates and often did not permit inmates to contact or submit complaints to judicial authorities. Directors and staff generally ran prisons for profit, selling sleeping arrangements to the highest bidders and requiring payment for family visits.

Independent Monitoring: The government regularly allowed the ICRC, MONUSCO, and NGOs access to official detention facilities maintained by the Ministry of Interior but consistently denied access to facilities run by the ANR and the RG.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, but both the SSF and RMGs routinely arrested or detained persons arbitrarily (see section 1.e.).

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Congolese National Police (PNC) operates under the Ministry of Interior and has primary responsibility for law enforcement and public order. The PNC includes the Rapid Intervention Police and the Integrated Police Unit. The ANR, overseen by the presidency, is responsible for internal and external intelligence. The FARDC and the military intelligence service operate under the control of the Ministry of Defense and are primarily responsible for external security, but also fulfill an internal security role. The presidency oversees the RG, and the minister of interior oversees the Directorate General for Migration, which, together with the PNC, are responsible for border control. Military magistrates are responsible for the investigation and prosecution of all crimes allegedly committed by SSF members, whether or not committed in the line of duty. Civilians can be tried in military tribunals if charged with offenses involving firearms. The military justice system often succumbed to political and command interference, and security arrangements for magistrates in areas affected by conflict were inadequate. Justice mechanisms were particularly ineffective for addressing misconduct by mid- and high-ranking officials due to a requirement the judge of a military court must outrank the defendant.

Elements of the SSF were undisciplined and corrupt. PNC and FARDC units regularly engaged in illegal taxation and extortion of civilians. They set up checkpoints to collect “taxes,” often stealing food and money and arresting individuals who could not pay bribes. The FARDC suffered from weak leadership, poor operational planning, low administrative and logistical capacity, lack of training, and questionable loyalty of some of its soldiers, particularly in the east. In August, two FARDC soldiers in Ituri, including a regiment commander, were arrested and brought before a military court in Kisangani for selling their weapons to South Sudanese rebels. On January 5 and 8 in Lubumbashi, Upper Katanga Province, PNC officers shot and injured two men and one agent of the CENI in an altercation related to PNC officers charging a 1,000 Congolese francs ($0.63) entrance fee to voter registration centers.

Although the military justice system convicted some SSF agents of human rights abuses, impunity remained a serious problem. For example, the government’s inquiry into September and December 2016 opposition protests failed to attribute responsibility for dozens of extrajudicial killings and disappearances perpetrated by the SSF, and no SSF members were prosecuted or held accountable by year’s end. The government maintained joint human rights committees with MONUSCO and used available international resources, such as the UN-implemented technical and logistical support program for military prosecutors as well as international NGO-supported mobile hearings.

Military courts convicted some SSF agents of human rights abuses. The United Nations reported that the government convicted at least 77 FARDC soldiers and 28 PNC officers for crimes constituting human rights violations from January to June. On July 6, a military court in Mbuji Mayi, East Kasai Province, convicted eight FARDC soldiers for their roles in a December 2016 massacre of civilians in Mwanza Lomba in the province. The soldiers received sentences ranging from 12 months to life in prison. Video footage of the massacre circulated in February and showed FARDC executing civilians, including women and children. In May military prosecutors arrested and started legal proceedings against four police officers accused taking a bribe to facilitate the escape of an individual suspected of involvement in the March 12 killings of UN experts Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan. The four police officers were charged, and the trial continued at year’s end. A fifth police officer implicated in the case remained at large.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

By law arrests for offenses punishable by more than six months’ imprisonment require warrants. Detainees must appear before a magistrate within 48 hours. Authorities must inform those arrested of their rights and the reason(s) for their arrest, and they may not arrest a family member in lieu of the suspected individual. Authorities must allow arrested individuals to contact their families and consult with attorneys. Security officials, however, routinely violated all of these requirements.

While the law provides for a bail system, it generally did not function. Detainees who were unable to pay were rarely able to access legal counsel. Authorities often held suspects incommunicado, including in facilities run by the ANR, military intelligence, and the RG, and refused to acknowledge these detentions.

Prison officials often held individuals longer than their sentences due to disorganization, inadequate records, judicial inefficiency, or corruption. Prisoners unable to pay their fines remained indefinitely in prison (see section 1.e.).

In 2014 the PNC issued a decree reforming arrest and detention procedures. The decree requires the PNC to verify facts before arresting individuals, separate men from women, and ensure the detention centers are sanitary. Authorities did not consistently implement the decree.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security personnel arrested and detained numerous perceived opponents and critics of the government, occasionally under the pretext of state security, and often denied them due process, such as access to an attorney (see sections 1.a., 2.a., and 5). Throughout the year security forces regularly held protestors and civil society activists incommunicado and without charge for extended periods. For example, on June 15, state agents arrested opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) Youth League president David Mukeba in Kisangani for raising concerns about the country’s voter registration process. The ANR allegedly held Mukeba incommunicado until August 31, when he was released.

On July 31, the SSF arbitrarily arrested at least 131 civil society activists and civilians following nationwide protests. While most were released within two days, five individuals who attempted to deliver a letter to the local CENI office in Lubumbashi were prosecuted. In August a court convicted four of the activists for disturbing the peace and sentenced them to eight months in prison. In November a court convicted the fifth activist, Timothee Mbuya, of provocation and incitation of disobedience and sentenced him to 12 months in prison. The United Nations reported that the SSF arbitrarily arrested 32 persons in Lubumbashi on October 22 in connection with the visit of opposition politician Felix Tshisekedi and released them on October 24.

The SSF arrested as many as 74 persons across the country for planning or participating in November 15 protests. Among those arrested and later released was Binja Yalala, a 15-year-old girl on the island of Idjwi in Lake Kivu. According to MONUSCO, the SSF arbitrarily arrested 213 persons during protests on November 30. Most of those arrested were subsequently released.

On December 31, police arrested as many as 180 persons for participating in peaceful protests organized by the Catholic Church in support of the December 2016 agreement and credible elections. Most of these were subsequently released. Several civil society activists who were arrested on December 30, including Carbone Beni, remained in ANR detention facilities at year’s end. Other civil society activists arrested in late December were imprisoned in Kindu, Kananga, and Kisangani.

In December, UNJHRO reported that at least 528 women were victims of arbitrary arrest during the year.

Police sometimes arbitrarily arrested and detained persons without filing charges to extort money from family members or because administrative systems were not well established.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention, ranging from months to years, remained a problem. NGOs estimated that at least three quarters to four-fifths of the prison population was in pretrial detention. Judicial inefficiency, administrative obstacles, corruption, financial constraints, and staff shortages also caused trial delays.

Local NGOs reported in August that several individuals arrested during or following protests in 2016 were being held incommunicado and without charge at Makala Central Prison in Kinshasa.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention; however, few were able to obtain prompt release and compensation.

Amnesty: Following the defeat of the March 23 Movement (M23) in 2013, the National Assembly enacted a law in 2014 that provides amnesty for acts of insurgency, acts of war, and political offenses. Many individuals who should have benefited from the amnesty, however, reportedly remained in custody at year’s end in contravention of both the 2014 law and the December 2016 agreement between the government and opposition parties.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

Both local and foreign-influenced conflicts continued in parts of the East, particularly in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri, Upper Uele, Lower Uele, Kongo Central, and provinces in the Kasai region. Foreign RMGs, such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU), the National Forces of Liberation (FNL), and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), as well as indigenous RMGs such as different Mai Mai (local militia) groups, Kamuina Nsapu, and Bundu Dia Kongo, continued to battle government forces and one another and to attack civilian populations.

There were reports the government provided support to the ADF, at least two local militias fighting the FDLR, and three militia groups in the Kasai region. In June the UN high commissioner for human rights stated he was “appalled” by reports that government authorities had created and armed a local militia called Bana Mura to fight Kamuina Nsapu militants in the Kasai region. According to the UN high commissioner, the Bana Mura targeted civilians of the Luba and Lulua ethnic groups for extrajudicial killing, and on April 24, killed dozens of men, women, and children of those communities with firearms or machetes, or burnt them to death. The high commissioner stated that hundreds of Bana Mura assailants also allegedly attacked the health center in the village of Cinq and killed approximately 90 patients, medical personnel, and others.

By impeding humanitarian aid and development assistance in some areas, the fighting in the east exacerbated an already severe humanitarian crisis. There were credible reports that local authorities also impeded humanitarian assistance in Tanganyika Province, where thousands of persons have been displaced by violence between the Twa and Luba communities.

There were credible reports that the SSF and RMGs perpetrated serious human rights abuses during internal conflicts. These RMGs included the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo, the ADF, the FDLR, the Forces of the Patriotic Resistance of Ituri (FRPI), the LRA, various ethnic Hutu factions of Nyatura, the Nduma Defense of Congo, Raia Mutomboki, Kamuina Nsapu, Bana Mura, ethnic Tshokwe and Pende militias, several Burundian antigovernment militias, and the following Mai Mai groups: Mazembe, Charles Shetani, and William Yakutumba, among others. Bakata Katanga leader Gedeon Kyungu Mutunga, who in 2009 was convicted in a national court for crimes against humanity but escaped from prison in 2011, surrendered to the government in October 2016 and remained under a form of government-supported house arrest as of year’s end instead of being returned to prison. The government took no steps to hold him accountable.

The United Nations reported that the Kamuina Nsapu militia, based in the central Kasai region, carried out targeted killings of members of the military, police, public officials, and civilians perceived to cooperate with them (see section 1.a.). Kamuina Nsapu militants also allegedly targeted institutions of the Catholic Church for its perceived support of the government through its mediation of the December 2016 agreement. Due to the proliferation of militia groups using the “Kamuina Nsapu” name, however, it was difficult to determine which Kamuina Nsapu groups were responsible for certain attacks.

Kamuina Nsapu militias also committed serious human rights abuses against children (see section 6).

In October the ADF clashed with the FARDC and MONUSCO near Beni in the East, killing several FARDC and three MONUSCO troops and executing as many as 25 civilians. On December 7, an RMG attacked and killed 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers outside Beni.

The government took military action against several major RMGs, including establishing a new operational zone in the Kasai region to fight Kamuina Nsapu militias. Operational cooperation between MONUSCO and the government continued in the East but not in the Kasai region, where FARDC troops were accused of serious human rights abuses. MONUSCO and the FARDC cooperated against the FDLR, the ADF, and the FRPI during the year. Nduma Defense of Congo leader Ntabo Ntaberi Cheka, charged with crimes related to the 2010 Walikale rapes, surrendered to MONUSCO forces on July 25 and was transferred to government custody August 5.

There was widespread killing, rape, and displacement of civilians by ethnic militias in Tanganyika Province in clashes between ethnic Luba and ethnic Twa communities. The United Nations reported at least 58 persons were killed between January and June. During the same period, the United Nations documented rapes of at least 57 women, five children, and nine men committed by Twa militias. On February 5, Luba elements attacked the majority Twa village of Monde in Tanganyika Province, shooting and killing at least 30 persons and injuring 50 others. In 2015, 10 Twa and 27 Lubas were charged with crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. On September 30, a Lubumbashi appeal court convicted four of these individuals, sentencing them to 15 years’ imprisonment and the payment of $10,000 in reparation fees for the victims. The others were acquitted.

On March 31, the UN Security Council extended MONUSCO’s mandate for 12 months and renewed the intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups. The mandate prioritized protection of civilians and support to the implementation of the December 2016 agreement, and cut the troop ceiling by 3,600 military personnel. As of August 31, MONUSCO consisted of approximately 17,900 peacekeepers, military observers, and police.

Killings: In the Kasai region, CENCO reported that at least 3,383 civilians were killed from October 2016 to June by the SSF and RMG. According to reports by UN agencies and NGOs, the SSF summarily executed or otherwise killed 591 persons, including more than 200 children, from January to June. The United Nations confirmed the existence of as many as 89 mass graves in the Kasai region, where government and Kamuina Nsapu forces were blamed for widespread extrajudicial killings. According to the United Nations, the SSF prevented MONUSCO personnel from accessing some mass grave sites, including a suspected mass grave site located on the grounds of the FARDC officers training school in Kananga.

Abductions: UN agencies and NGOs reported that RMGs abducted individuals, generally to serve as porters or guides or to demand ransom. In August members of the LRA kidnapped at least 40 persons approximately 60 miles from Dungu in Haut Ulele Province. LRA militants robbed them of their belongings and took them into the forest. Two CENI controllers were among the group, and LRA militants reportedly stole information the agents were carrying from 18 enrollment centers as well as a satellite phone and money.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: UN agencies and NGOs reported the SSF arrested, illegally detained, raped, and tortured civilians. UN officials reported that the SSF “pre-emptively executed” children, including some as young as six months of age, in Kananga on March 28-30, allegedly to “prevent” them from joining the Kamuina Nsapu militia. The United Nations reported that in April FARDC soldiers arrested at least 30 individuals, including young boys, who were taken to Kamako village, where they were presented to the public as members of the RMG Kamuina Nsapu. Witness accounts indicated that some of the detainees were executed after digging their graves, while others were executed and dumped in a village well. According to media reports, members of the FARDC raped as many as 25 women in Makobola, 14 miles south of Uvira, in late September and mid-October after the withdrawal of a Mai Mai group that had been operating in the area.

RMGs committed abuses in rural areas of North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga Orientale, and the Kasai provinces, including killing, raping, and torturing civilians. On June 4, FRPI combatants attacked the town of Mandje in Ituri Province, beating at least three men, raping at least five women, and setting at least 12 homes on fire. FRPI militants reportedly vandalized a government building and looted houses and shops. In certain areas in the east, RMGs looted, extorted, illegally taxed, and kidnapped civilians, often for ransom. For example, in the territory of Lubero, NDC combatants imposed taxes on populations under their control and used violence to enforce payment.

RMG members raped men, women, and minors as part of the violence among and between them and the FARDC. Statistics on rape, including rape of males, were not available.

Child Soldiers: From January through June, the MONUSCO Child Protection Section reported at least 868 children were separated from RMGs and that nearly 37 percent of these were under 15 years of age when recruited, which could constitute a war crime. This represented a 40 percent increase in overall recruitment and a 13 percent increase in children under 15 compared to the same period in 2016. UNICEF assisted the children through a number of NGOs. These children were separated from various RMGs known generally as Mai Mai groups (151), Nyatura (149), Kamuina Nsapu (97), the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda-Forces Combattantes Abacunguzi (FDLR-FOCA) (94), Raia Mutomboki (86), Nduma Defense of Congo /Renove/Guidon (45), FDLR-Rassemblement Uni pour la Democratie (FDLR-RUD) (29), the FDLR (29), the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (20), Front Populaire pour la Democratie (FPD)/Shetani (15), and other groups. Most of the children were separated in North Kivu (73 percent), followed by the Kasai region (12 percent), Ituri (7 percent), and South Kivu (5 percent). Eight children were separated from government forces, although these children were not recruited into government forces. Of those eight cases, five children were separated from a rogue FARDC commander in Ituri and three were separated from a single police officer in the national police.

According to the United Nations, children made up approximately 50-70 percent of Kamuina Nsapu militia ranks, including those used as fighters and human shields. In July the special representative to the secretary general reported thousands of children were estimated to be associated with Kamuina Nsapu; only 375 had been separated to date. There were credible reports that Kamuina Nsapu leaders slashed children across their stomachs to see if they would survive and how the wound would heal as part of an initiation ritual prior to being deployed as human shields or child soldiers. Some children reportedly died as a result of this initiation process.

The SSF continued to arrest and detain children for their association with armed groups. The United Nations secured the release of 474 children from Kananga prison in Kasai Central Province where they were held on allegations of association with Kamuina Nsapu militias. Some children reported having been held for weeks at other remote facilities before being transferred to Kananga.

A presidential advisor on sexual violence and child recruitment, appointed in 2014, raised awareness of the problems of sexual violence throughout the country and encouraged efforts to remove child soldiers from the SSF and provide services to victims. There were no reports of recruitment of child soldiers by the FARDC during the year, but there was evidence of FARDC support to armed groups that recruited and used children in hostilities. The government cooperated with international organizations to eliminate recruitment and remove children from the SSF and RMGs.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Fighting between the FARDC and RMGs continued to displace populations and limit humanitarian access, particularly in the Kasai provinces; Rutshuru, Walikale, Lubero, Beni, and Nyiragongo territories in North Kivu Province; South Kivu Province; and Tanganyika Province.

In North Kivu, South Kivu, East Kasai, and Upper Katanga provinces, RMGs and FARDC soldiers continued to illegally tax, exploit, and trade natural resources for revenue and power. Clandestine trade in minerals and other natural resources facilitated the purchase of weapons and reduced government revenues. The natural resources most exploited were gold, cassiterite (tin ore), coltan (tantalum ore), and wolframite (tungsten ore) but also included wildlife products, timber, charcoal, and fish.

According to media and civil society, the LRA trafficked in elephant ivory from Garamba National Park to finance its operations, likely by smuggling ivory through the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the disputed Kafia Kingi region controlled by Sudan, to link with illicit networks transferring these goods to China.

The illegal trade in minerals was both a symptom and a cause of weak governance. It financed the SSF and RMGs, and sometimes generated revenue for traditional authorities and local and provincial governments. With enhanced government regulation encouraged by global advocacy efforts and donor support, the mining of cassiterite, coltan, and wolframite resulted in a small but increasing amount of legal conflict-free export from North and South Kivu, Upper Katanga, and Maniema provinces. The SSF and RMGs continued to control, extort, and threaten remote mining areas in North Kivu, South Kivu, East Kasai, and Upper Katanga provinces but had much less influence in Maniema Province.

The law prohibits the FARDC and RMGs from engaging in mineral trade, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Criminal involvement by FARDC units and RMGs included protection rackets, extortion, and theft. There were unsubstantiated reports government officials were involved in illegal gold mining.

The UN group of experts (UNGOE) reported that several RMGs and elements of the FARDC profited from illegal trade and exploitation in the minerals sector (see section 7.b.). The UNGOE also reported that smuggling of minerals continued in the east and from there to Uganda and the United Arab Emirates.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law on sexual violence criminalizes rape, but the offense was not always reported by victims and the law was not always enforced. Rape was common. The legal definition of rape does not include spousal rape. It also prohibits extrajudicial settlements (for example, a customary fine paid by the perpetrator to the family of the victim) and forced marriage, allows victims of sexual violence to waive appearance in court, and permits closed hearings to protect confidentiality. The minimum penalty prescribed for rape is a prison sentence of five years, and courts regularly imposed such a sentence in rape convictions.

According to media, members of the FARDC raped as many as 25 women in Makobola, 14 miles south of Uvira, in late September and mid-October after the withdrawal of a Mai Mai group that had been operating in the area.

In December, UNJHRO reported that at least 170 women were victims of extrajudicial killings, at least 420 women were victims of SGBV, and at least 528 women were victims of arbitrary arrest during the year. UNJHRO stated that perpetrators were primarily police for arbitrary arrest and the FARDC with regard to extrajudicial killings and SGBV. UNJHRO stated that RMGs, including the FPRI and Twa militias, also targeted women during the year. Implementation, including promulgation of the text of the amended family code adopted in June 2016, had not begun by year’s end.

The SSF, RMGs, and civilians perpetrated widespread sexual violence (see section 1.g.). During the year the United Nations documented 267 adult victims and 171 child victims, including two boys, of sexual violence in conflict. Crimes of sexual violence were sometimes committed as a tactic of war to punish civilians for having perceived allegiances to rival parties or groups. The crimes occurred largely in the conflict zones in North Kivu Province and in the Kasai region, but also throughout the country. The 2013-14 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) found that more than one in four women nationwide (27 percent) had experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives, up from 22 percent in 2007.

Some prosecutions occurred for rape and other types of sexual violence. In June 2016 at least 57 persons, including a provincial member of parliament, were arrested in connection with a local militia allegedly responsible for a surge in sexual violence against children in Kavumu, South Kivu Province. Many individuals were subsequently released, although 14 persons, including the parliamentarian, were ultimately charged in military court with crimes against humanity, rape, murder, assault, and participation in an insurrectional movement. On December 13, a provincial military court convicted parliamentarian Frederic Batumike and 10 others associated with Batumike’s RMG to life in prison for murder and crimes against humanity for the rape of 37 girls ranging in age from 18 months to 12 years.

Most survivors of rape did not pursue formal legal action due to insufficient resources, lack of confidence in the justice system, fear of subjecting themselves to humiliation and/or reprisal, or family pressure.

The law does not provide any specific penalty for domestic violence despite its prevalence. Although the law considers assault a crime, police rarely intervened in perceived domestic disputes. There were no reports of judicial authorities taking action in cases of domestic or spousal abuse.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law describes FGM/C as a form of sexual violence, provides a sentence of two to five years in prison, and levies fines of up to 200,000 Congolese francs ($125); in case of death due to FGM/C, the sentence is life imprisonment.

For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: UNICEF and MONUSCO attributed some abuses of children, including mutilation of children and use of children in combat in the Kasais, to harmful traditional and religious practices. The United Nations reported that Kamuina Nsapu militias often put children, particularly young girls, on the front lines of battle, believing they have powers that could protect them as well as other fighters. For example, it reported Kamuina Nsapu militias often believed young girls could trap bullets fired at them and fling them back at attackers. The Kamuina Nsapu also reportedly slashed children’s stomachs as part of an initiation ritual to see if they would survive and how the wound would heal.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment occurred throughout the country. Legislation passed in 2006 prohibits sexual harassment with a minimum sentence of one year, but there was little or no effective enforcement of the law.

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

Discrimination: The constitution prohibits discrimination based on gender, but the law does not provide women the same rights as men. A 2015 women’s parity law provides women a number of protections. It permits women to participate in economic domains without approval of male relatives, provides for maternity care, disallows inequities linked to dowries, and specifies fines and other sanctions for those who discriminate or engage in gender-based abuse. Women, however, experienced economic discrimination.

According to UNICEF, many widows were unable to inherit their late husbands’ property because the law states that in event of a death in which there is no will, the husband’s children, including those born out of wedlock (provided that they were officially recognized by the father), rather than the widow, have precedence with regard to inheritance. Courts may sentence women found guilty of adultery to up to one year in prison, while adultery by men is punishable only if judged to have “an injurious quality.”

Children

Birth Registration: The law provides for the acquisition of citizenship through birth within the country or from either parent being of an ethnic group documented as having been located in the country in 1960. The government registered 25 percent of children born in some form of medical facility. Lack of registration rarely affected access to government services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The constitution provides for tuition-free and compulsory primary education. It was not, however, compulsory or tuition free, and the government inconsistently provided it across the provinces. Public schools generally expected parents to contribute to teachers’ salaries. These expenses, combined with the potential loss of income from their children’s labor while they attended class, rendered many parents unable or unwilling to enroll their children.

Primary and secondary school attendance rates for girls were lower than for boys due to financial, cultural, or security reasons, including early marriage and pregnancy for girls. Additionally, children in school were not particularly safe. Teachers subjected one in four children to corporal punishment and pressured one in five girls to exchange sexual favors for high grades.

Many of the schools in the east were dilapidated and closed due to chronic insecurity. The government used other schools as housing for IDPs. Parents in some areas kept their children from attending school due to fear of RMG forcible recruitment of child soldiers.

Schools were sometimes targeted in attacks, particularly by Kamuina Nsapu militants in the Kasai region. From August 2016 to June, UNICEF documented more than 404 attacks on schools in the Kasai region, including more than 300 by RMGs that sometimes targeted schools as symbols of the government and as sources of child recruitment.

Child Abuse: Although the law prohibits all forms of child abuse, it regularly occurred.

The constitution prohibits parental abandonment of children accused of sorcery. Nevertheless, parents or other care providers sometimes abandoned or abused such children, frequently invoking “witchcraft” as a rationale. The law provides for the imprisonment of parents and other adults convicted of accusing children of witchcraft. Authorities did not implement the law.

Many churches conducted exorcisms of children accused of witchcraft. These exorcisms involved isolation, beating and whipping, starvation, and forced ingestion of purgatives. According to UNICEF some communities branded children with disabilities or speech impediments as witches. This practice sometimes resulted in parents’ abandoning their children.

Many children suffered abuse from militia groups that recruited children and believed they possessed magic powers. The United Nations reported that Kamuina Nsapu militants forced children to undergo a “baptism” ritual of a deep knife cut to the stomach. Those children who did not die of these wounds were reportedly recruited to the militia and used as combatants, often put on the front lines as “fetish keepers” due to their supposed powers. These practices resulted in the deaths of many children during the Kasai conflict.

Early and Forced Marriage: While the law prohibits marriage of boys and girls under the age of 18, many marriages of underage children took place. Bridewealth (dowry) payment made by a groom or his family to the relatives of the bride to ratify a marriage greatly contributed to underage marriage, as parents forcibly married daughters to collect bridewealth or to finance bridewealth for a son.

The constitution criminalizes forced marriage. Courts may sentence parents convicted of forcing a child to marry to up to 12 years’ hard labor and a fine of 92,500 Congolese francs ($58). The penalty doubles when the child is under 15. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consensual sex is 18 for both males and females, and the law prohibits prostitution by anyone under 18. The penal code prohibits child pornography, with imprisonment of 10 to 20 years for those convicted. During the year UNICEF assisted 4,627 victims of sexual exploitation, including 1,671 children, of whom 228 reported being victims of sexual violence by armed men. According to a 2010 World Bank report, 26 percent of children living on the streets were girls, of whom 70 percent were victims of rape and 90 percent were victims of child sex trafficking. There were also reports that child soldiers, particularly girls, faced sexual exploitation (see section 1.g.).

There was an increase in sexual violence against children and infants in Kavumu, South Kivu Province, during 2016 (see section 6). While targeted sexual violence against children decreased during the year in the region following arrests and charges against some militia members responsible, many of the survivors continued to face stigmatization from their communities.

Child Soldiers: Armed groups recruited boys and girls (see section 1.g.).

Displaced Children: According to the 2007 Rapid Assessment, Analysis, and Action Planning Report, the most recent data available, there were an estimated 8.2 million orphans and other vulnerable children in the country. Of these, 91 percent received no external support of any kind and only 3 percent received medical support. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 children lived on the streets, with the highest concentration in Kinshasa. The families of many of these children forced them out of their homes, accusing them of witchcraft and bringing misfortune to their families.

Since 2016 the conflict in the Kasais displaced more than 1.4 million persons, including many children who were kidnapped by militia members or otherwise separated from their families. The government was not equipped to deal with such large numbers of homeless children. The SSF abused and arbitrarily arrested street children.

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

Anti-Semitism

The country had a very small Jewish population, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and provides specific government protection for them. The constitution states all persons should have access to national education. The law states that private, public, and semipublic companies may not discriminate against qualified candidates based on disabilities. The government did not enforce these provisions effectively, and persons with disabilities often found it difficult to obtain employment, education, and government services.

The law does not mandate access to government buildings or services for persons with disabilities. While persons with disabilities may attend public primary and secondary schools and have access to higher education, no special provisions are required of educational facilities to accommodate their specific needs. Consequently, 90 percent of adults with disabilities do not achieve basic literacy. The Ministry of Education increased its special education outreach efforts but estimated it was educating fewer than 6,000 children with disabilities.

Disability groups reported extensive social stigmatization, including children with disabilities being expelled from their homes and accused of witchcraft. Families sometimes concealed their children with disabilities from officials to avoid being required to send them to school.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic Twa persons frequently faced severe societal discrimination and had little protection from government officials (see section 1.g.).

There were reports of societal discrimination and violence against foreign minority groups. For example, protesters attacked businesses owned by ethnic Chinese during the January protests.

Indigenous People

Estimates of the country’s indigenous population (Twa, Baka, Mbuti, Aka, and others believed to be the country’s original inhabitants) varied greatly, from 250,000 to two million. Societal discrimination against these groups was widespread, and the government did not effectively protect their civil and political rights. Most indigenous persons took no part in the political process, and many lived in remote areas. Fighting in the east between RMGs and the SSF, expansion by farmers, and increased trading and excavation activities caused displacement of some indigenous populations.

While the law stipulates that indigenous populations receive 10 percent of the profits gained from use of their land, this provision was not enforced. In some areas, surrounding tribes kidnapped and forced indigenous persons into slavery, sometimes resulting in ethnic conflict (see section 1.g.). Indigenous populations also reported high instances of rape by members of outside groups, which contributed to HIV/AIDS infections and other health complications.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal, and conviction is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 to one million Comorian francs ($113 to $2,250). Authorities reported no arrests or prosecutions for same-sex sexual activity during the year. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons generally did not publicly reveal their sexual orientation due to societal pressure. There were no local LGBTI organizations.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination based on HIV status, but social stigma continued.

The 2013-14 DHS captured a proxy indicator measuring the level of tolerance of respondents towards an HIV-positive person (either family member, businessperson, or teacher) and the necessity of hiding the HIV-positive status of a family member. A total of 72 percent of respondents said they were ready to take care of an HIV-positive parent, but only 47 expressed willingness to purchase produce from a HIV-positive seller. A total of 49 percent of respondents would accept having an HIV-positive teacher teach their children, and 26 percent said it would not be necessary to hide the HIV status of a family member. The study estimated a global tolerance level towards HIV-positive persons at 4 percent in women and 12 percent in men.

According to the survey, the adult HIV prevalence rate was 1.2 percent, and according to UNAIDS, an estimated 560,798 persons of all ages in the country had HIV in 2015.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Discrimination against persons with albinism was widespread and limited their ability to marry and to obtain employment, health care, and education. Families and communities frequently ostracized persons with albinism. There were also reports of spontaneous mobs responding to crimes and perceived attacks.

Longstanding ethnic tensions also fueled some community violence. Small-scale conflicts in the Rutshuru and Lubero territories of North Kivu conflict exacerbated longstanding tensions between Hutu, on the one hand, and the Kobo, Nyanga, and Nande ethnic communities, on the other hand. On January 9, the Nande-affiliated Mai Mai Mazembe RMG attacked the town of Kibirizi, decapitating one Hutu, burning one woman to death, and burning 16 homes. In April intercommunity tensions between Tshokwe and Pende (accused of being affiliated with the Congolese security forces) and Luba and Lulua communities (accused of being Kamuina Nsapu militia sympathizers) turned violent, particularly in Kamonia territory, Kasai Province. From April 13 to 25, Tshokwe youths armed with rifles and machetes killed at least 38 persons, including eight women and eight children, mainly of Lulua ethnicity, in several parts of the territory.

Dominican Republic

Executive Summary

The Dominican Republic is a representative constitutional democracy. In May 2016 Danilo Medina of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) was re-elected president for a second four-year term. Impartial outside observers assessed the elections were generally free and orderly despite failures in the introduction of an electronic voting system.

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

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings by security forces; torture; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; arbitrary interference with privacy; criminal libel for individual journalists; impunity for corruption; police violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals; and child labor, sometimes as a result of human trafficking.

The government took some steps to punish officials who committed human rights abuses, but there were widespread reports of official impunity and corruption, especially concerning officials of senior rank.

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. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported more than 180 extrajudicial killings by police forces through early December.

In November the National Police arrested Fernando de los Santos, nicknamed “The Rope,” a former police lieutenant who had been wanted since 2011 for killing at least 35 persons while working as a police officer. Some of those killed were believed to be criminals wanted by the police, while others were killings for hire committed on behalf of drug traffickers, according to news accounts.

In July, Blas Peralta, a former transportation union president, was convicted of killing a man during the 2016 presidential campaign and sentenced to 30 years in prison. As of November his appeal was pending.

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

Although the law prohibits torture, beating, and physical abuse of detainees and prisoners, there were reports that security force members, primarily police, carried out such practices.

The NHRC reported that police used various forms of physical and mental abuse to obtain confessions from detained suspects. According to the NHRC, methods used to extract confessions included covering detainees’ heads with plastic bags, hitting them with broom handles, forcing them to remain standing overnight, and hitting them in the ears with gloved fists or hard furniture foam so as not to leave marks.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions ranged from compliance with international standards in “model” prisons or correctional rehabilitation centers (CRCs) to harsh and life threatening in “traditional” prisons. Threats to life and health included communicable diseases, poor sanitation, poor access to health-care services, a lack of well-trained prison guards, and prisoner-on-prisoner violence, all of which were exacerbated in the severely overcrowded traditional prisons.

Physical Conditions: Gross overcrowding was a problem in traditional prisons. The Directorate of Prisons reported that as of June there were approximately 17,750 prisoners in traditional prisons and 8,960 in CRCs, a ratio that remained constant for the past several years because traditional prisons had not been phased out. La Victoria, the oldest traditional prison, held nearly 9,000 inmates, although it was designed for a maximum capacity of 2,011. The inmate population at all 19 traditional prisons exceeded capacity, while only two of 22 CRCs were over capacity. Both male and female inmates were held in La Romana Prison but in separate areas.

Police and military inmates received preferential treatment, as did those in traditional prisons with the financial means to rent preferential bed space and purchase other necessities.

According to the Directorate of Prisons, military and police personnel guarded traditional prisons, while a trained civilian guard corps provided security at CRCs. Reports of mistreatment and violence in traditional prisons were common, as were reports of harassment, extortion, and inappropriate searches of prison visitors. Some traditional prisons remained effectively outside the control of authorities, and there were reports of drug and arms trafficking, prostitution, and sexual abuse within prisons. Wardens at traditional prisons often controlled only the perimeter, while inmates ruled the inside with their own rules and system of justice. Although the law mandates separation of prisoners according to severity of offense, authorities did not have the capability to do so.

In traditional prisons health and sanitary conditions were generally poor. Prisoners often slept on the floor because there were no beds available. Prison officials did not separate sick inmates. Delays in receiving medical attention were common in both the traditional prisons and CRCs. All prisons had infirmaries, but most infirmaries did not meet the needs of the prison population. In most cases inmates had to purchase their own medications or rely on family members or other outside associates to deliver their medications. Most reported deaths were due to illnesses.

According to the Directorate of Prisons, all prisons provided HIV/AIDS treatment, but the NHRC stated that none of the traditional prisons was properly equipped to provide such treatment. In CRCs some prisoners with mental disabilities received treatment, including therapy, for their conditions. In traditional prisons the government did not provide services to prisoners with mental disabilities. Neither CRCs nor traditional prisons provided access for inmates with disabilities.

In October the Constitutional Tribunal declared the condition of some jails were a “gross and flagrant” violation of the constitution and ordered the Attorney General’s Office to take steps to improve them within 180 days or face a fine of approximately 21,450 pesos ($450) per day.

Administration: Prisoners could submit complaints regarding their treatment verbally or in writing to the human rights committees and most often did so through family members, lawyers, or human rights defenders. Public defenders provided legal services to prisoners and in some cases assisted with certain complaints. The NHRC director served as a prisoner advocate.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits and monitoring by independently funded and operated nongovernmental organization (NGO) observers and media. The NHRC, National Office of Public Defense, Attorney General’s Office, and CRC prison administration together created human rights committees in each CRC that were authorized to conduct surprise visits.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits detention without a warrant unless authorities apprehend a suspect during the commission of a criminal act or in other special circumstances but permits detention without charge for up to 48 hours. The constitution provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her detention in court, and the government generally observed this requirement. Arbitrary arrest and detention were problems, and there were numerous reports of individuals held and later released with little or no explanation for the detention. NGOs reported that many detainees were taken into custody at the scene of a crime or during drug raids. In many instances authorities fingerprinted, questioned, and then released those detainees.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Interior and Police oversees the National Police, Tourist Police, and Metro Police. The Ministry of Armed Forces directs the military, Airport Security Authority and Civil Aviation, Port Security Authority, and Border Security Corps. The National Department of Intelligence and the National Drug Control Directorate, which have personnel from both police and armed forces, report directly to the president.

The Internal Affairs Unit investigates charges of gross misconduct by members of the National Police. These cases involved physical or verbal aggression, threats, improper use of a firearm, muggings, and theft. Authorities fired or prosecuted police officers found to have acted outside of established police procedures.

Training for military and the National Drug Control Directorate enlisted personnel and officers and the National Police included instruction on human rights. The Ministry of the Armed Forces provided human rights training or orientation to officers of various ranks as well as to civilians during the year. The Border Security Corps conducted mandatory human rights training at its training facilities for border officers. The Graduate School of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Rights trained civilians and armed forces personnel. The school also had programs in which members of the armed forces and civilians from the Supreme Court, congress, district attorney offices, government ministries, National Police, and Central Electoral Board participated.

In October the National Police announced that officers and recruits applying to join the police force who were suspected of corruption would be required to take polygraph tests.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution provides that an accused person may be detained for up to 48 hours without a warrant before being presented to judicial authorities. The law also permits police to apprehend without an arrest warrant any person caught in the act of committing a crime or reasonably linked to a crime, such as in cases involving hot pursuit or escaped prisoners. Police sometimes detained suspects for investigation or interrogation longer than 48 hours. Police often detained all suspects and witnesses to a crime. Successful habeas corpus hearings reduced abuses of the law significantly. There was a functioning bail system and a system of house arrest.

The law requires provision of counsel to indigent defendants, although staffing levels were inadequate to meet demand. The National Office of Public Defense (NOPD) represented 80 percent of the criminal cases brought before the courts, covering 28 of 34 judicial districts. Many detainees and prisoners who could not afford private counsel did not have prompt access to a lawyer. Prosecutors and judges handled interrogations of juveniles, which the law prohibits by or in the presence of police.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police made sporadic sweeps or roundups in low-income, high-crime communities during which they arrested and detained individuals without warrants. During these operations police arrested large numbers of residents and seized personal property allegedly used in criminal activity. The Attorney General’s Office reported a decrease in arbitrary arrests connected to mass arrests at the scene of a crime due to training conducted in concert with human rights NGOs.

Pretrial Detention: Many suspects endured long pretrial detention. Under the criminal procedures code, a judge may order detention to be between three and 18 months. According to the Directorate of Prisons, as of November, 63 percent of inmates were in pretrial custody. The average pretrial detention time was three months, but there were reports of cases of pretrial detention lasting up to three years. Time served in pretrial detention counted toward completing a sentence.

The failure of prison authorities to produce detainees for court hearings caused some trial postponements. Many inmates had their court dates postponed because of a lack of transportation from prison to court or because their lawyer, codefendants, interpreters, or witnesses did not appear. Despite additional protections for defendants in the criminal procedures code, in some cases authorities held inmates beyond the legally mandated deadlines even when there were no formal charges against them.

Protracted Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: There were isolated cases of asylum seekers detained due to a lack of documentation (see sections 2.d. and 6).

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and other forms of violence against women, such as incest and sexual aggression. The sentences for conviction of rape range from 10 to 15 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 to 200,000 pesos ($2,100 to $4,200).

Rape was a serious and pervasive problem. Despite government efforts, violence against women was pervasive. The Attorney General’s Office oversees the specialized Violence Prevention and Attention Unit, which had 19 offices in the country’s 32 provinces. The Attorney General’s Office instructed its officers not to settle cases of violence against women and to continue judicial processes, even in cases in which victims withdrew charges. District attorneys provided assistance and protection to victims of violence by referring them to appropriate institutions for legal, medical, and psychological counseling.

The Ministry of Women actively promoted equality and the prevention of violence against women through implementing education and awareness programs and the provision of training to other ministries and offices. It also operated shelters and provided counseling services, though NGOs argued these efforts were inadequate.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in the workplace is a misdemeanor, and conviction carries a sentence of one year in prison and a fine equal to the sum of three to six months of salary. Union leaders reported that the law was not enforced and that sexual harassment remained a problem.

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

Discrimination: Although the law provides women and men the same legal rights, women did not enjoy social and economic status or opportunity equal to that of men.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship comes with birth in the country, except to children born to diplomats, to those who are “in transit,” or to parents who are illegally in the country (see section 2.d.). A child born abroad to a Dominican mother or father may also acquire citizenship. A child not registered at birth remains undocumented until parents file a late declaration of birth.

Education: The constitution stipulates free, compulsory public education through age 18, however, not all children attended. A birth certificate is required to register for high school, which discouraged some children from attending or completing school, particularly children of Haitian descent. Children who lacked documentation also were restricted from attending secondary school (past the eighth grade) and faced problems accessing other public services.

Child Abuse: Abuse of children, including physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, was a serious problem. For additional information, see Appendix C.

The law contains provisions concerning child abuse, including physical and emotional mistreatment, sexual exploitation, and child labor. The law provides for sentences of two to five years’ incarceration and a fine of three to five times the monthly minimum wage for persons convicted of abuse of a minor. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage with parental consent is 16 for boys and 15 for girls. Marriage, particularly of women, before age 18 was common. According to a 2014 UNICEF survey, 10 percent of girls were married by age 15 and 37 percent by age 18. The government conducted no known prevention or mitigation programs. Girls often married much older men. Child marriage occurred more frequently among girls who were uneducated, poor, and living in rural areas.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law defines statutory rape as sexual relations with anyone under age 18. Penalties for conviction of statutory rape are 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 to 200,000 pesos ($2,100 to $4,200).

The commercial sexual exploitation of children generally occurred in tourist locations and major urban areas. The government conducted programs to combat the sexual exploitation of minors.

Displaced Children: Large populations of children, primarily Haitians or Dominicans of Haitian descent, lived on the streets and were vulnerable to trafficking. See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community comprised approximately 350 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

Although the law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, these individuals encountered discrimination in employment, education, the judicial system, and in obtaining health care and transportation services. The law provides for access to basic services and physical access for persons with disabilities to all new public and private buildings. It also specifies that each ministry should collaborate with the National Disability Council to implement these provisions. Authorities worked to enforce these provisions, but a gap in implementation persisted. Very few public buildings were fully accessible.

The Dominican Association for Rehabilitation received support from the Secretariat of Public Health and from the Office of the Presidency to provide rehabilitation assistance to persons with physical and learning disabilities as well as to run schools for children with physical and mental disabilities. Lack of accessible public transportation was a major impediment.

The law states that the government should provide for persons with disabilities to have access to the labor market as well as to cultural, recreational, and religious activities, but it was not consistently enforced. There were three government centers for care of children with disabilities–in Santo Domingo, Santiago de los Caballeros, and San Juan de la Maguana. In May 2016 the Ministry of Education reported that 80 percent of registered students with disabilities attended school.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There was evidence of racial prejudice and discrimination against persons of dark complexion, but the government denied such prejudice or discrimination existed and, consequently, did little to address the problem. Civil society and international organizations reported that officials denied health care and documentation services to persons of Haitian descent.

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

The constitution upholds the principles of nondiscrimination and equality before the law, but it does not specifically include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected categories. It does prohibit, however, discrimination on the grounds of “social or personal condition” and mandates that the state “prevent and combat discrimination, marginalization, vulnerability, and exclusion.” The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity only for policies related to youth and youth development.

Discrimination limited the ability of LGBTI individuals to access education, employment, health care, and other services.

NGOs reported police abuse, including arbitrary arrest, police violence, and extortion, against LGBTI persons. According to civil society organizations, authorities failed to properly document or investigate the incidents that were reported. According to a report presented by Dominican civil society before the UN Human Rights Committee, the law does not provide for the prosecution of hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

NGOs reported widespread discrimination against LGBTI persons, particularly transgender individuals and lesbians, in such areas as health care, education, justice, and employment. LGBTI individuals often faced intimidation and harassment.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the law prohibits the use of HIV testing to screen employees, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that workers in various industries faced obligatory HIV testing. Workers were sometimes tested without their knowledge or consent. Many workers found to have the disease were not hired, and those employed were either fired from their jobs or denied adequate health care.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

On a number of occasions, citizens attacked and sometimes killed alleged criminals in vigilante-style reprisals for theft, robbery, or burglary.

Egypt

Executive Summary

According to its constitution, Egypt is a republic governed by an elected president and unicameral legislature. Domestic and international observers concluded the 2014 presidential election was administered professionally and in line with the country’s laws, while also expressing serious concerns that government limitations on association, assembly, and expression constrained broad political participation. Domestic and international observers also concluded that government authorities professionally administered parliamentary elections in 2015 in accordance with the country’s laws, while also expressing concern about restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and expression and their negative effect on the political climate surrounding the elections.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

A three-month state of emergency (SOE), subsequently renewed for an additional three months, was imposed following the Palm Sunday terrorist attacks on Coptic churches in April. Two days after the expiration of the second SOE in October, a three-month SOE was imposed. By law SOEs may only be renewed once.

The most significant human rights issues included arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government or its agents; major terrorist attacks; disappearances; torture; harsh or potentially life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; including the use of military courts to try civilians; political prisoners and detainees; unlawful interference in privacy; limits on freedom of expression, including criminal “defamation of religion” laws; restrictions on the press, internet, and academic freedom; and restrictions on freedoms of assembly and association, including government control over registration and financing of NGOs. LGBTI persons faced arrests, imprisonment, and degrading treatment. The government did not effectively respond to violence against women, and there were reports of child labor.

The government inconsistently punished or prosecuted officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in government. In most cases the government did not comprehensively investigate human rights abuses, including most incidents of violence by security forces, contributing to an environment of impunity.

Attacks by terrorist organizations caused arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of life. Terrorist groups conducted deadly attacks on government, civilian, and security targets throughout the country, including places of worship and public transportation. Authorities investigated terrorist attacks.

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 or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including incidents that occurred while making arrests or holding persons in custody, during disputes with civilians, or while dispersing demonstrations. There were also reports of civilians killed during military operations in Sinai. Impunity was a problem.

There were instances of persons tortured to death and other allegations of killings in prisons and detention centers. The government charged, prosecuted, and convicted perpetrators in some cases.

On February 13, Mahmoud Sayed Hussein died due to what government investigators described as beatings and torture following a 15-day detention on charges of murder and theft. In March the Giza Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the detention of three police officers involved. The investigation was still pending at year’s end.

As of year’s end, an investigative team led by the Prosecutor General’s Office had not released its conclusions of its investigation into the killing of Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni in 2016. In February 2016 authorities found Regeni’s body with what forensics officials said were signs of torture, including cigarette burns, broken bones, and head injuries. Local and international human rights groups stated such signs of torture were consistent with forms of abuse committed by security services. Some human rights groups further alleged torture by security services was responsible for Regeni’s death. An international news agency reported security services detained Regeni prior to his death, citing intelligence and police sources. The Interior Ministry denied such claims and any connection with Regeni’s death.

There were reports of suspects killed in unclear circumstances during or after arrest. On July 19, authorities arrested Gamal Aweida, a 43-year-old Coptic Christian man, on charges of procuring false drivers’ licenses. According to an Amnesty International (AI), 15 hours after his arrest, authorities informed his family he was dead by suicide. A subsequent Forensic Medical Authority report listed his cause of death as “suspect criminal action and a severe drop in blood circulation.” Family members stated Aweida’s body bore marks of torture. The prosecutor’s office summoned police officers for questioning, but there were no reports of further action.

There were reports of police killing unarmed civilians during personal or business disputes, which local academics and human rights groups asserted were part of a culture of excessive violence within the security services. On January 18, the Prosecutor’s Office charged two police officers with beating and torturing to death a laborer in July 2016 after the laborer attempted to bribe a friend of the officers.

There were reports of suspected terrorists and other suspected criminals killed during security raids conducted by police. The Interior Ministry claimed police officers fired at suspects only when suspects fired first. In July press reported that the Ministry of Interior killed 54 persons in 14 operations following a May 26 terrorist attack on a bus carrying Coptic Christians (see below). According to state-affiliated press reporting, the ministry alleged 29 of those killed were Arms of Egypt Movement (HASM) and Islamic State Sinai Province (IS-Sinai) terrorists and had not yet identified the remaining 25. Rights groups claimed these shootings might have amounted to extrajudicial killings. In some cases, human rights organizations and media reported there was evidence that police detained suspects before killing them. On January 13, the Interior Ministry reported it killed 10 alleged members of the armed group IS-Sinai in al-Arish during a house raid. The Interior Ministry named six of the 10. According to AI and Human Rights Watch (HRW), all six were in police custody at the time of the reported house raid, and police had held them for three months.

The government, at times, used excessive force to disperse both peaceful and nonpeaceful demonstrations. On July 16, security forces killed one protester on Warraq Island, near Cairo, reportedly due to suffocation from tear gas. The Ministry of Interior and press reporting claimed protesters attacked security forces with rocks and birdshot. A local resident claimed police fired birdshot as well as tear gas at protesters.

On February 14, the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial in the case of the Central Security Forces officer previously convicted of killing secular activist Shaimaa el-Sabbagh at a peaceful demonstration in 2015. A Cairo criminal court previously convicted the officer of manslaughter and sentenced him to 15 years’ imprisonment (see section 1.d.). On June 19, a Cairo criminal court reduced the sentence to 10 years’ imprisonment prison.

A second appeal was pending at year’s end in the case of four police officers charged in the 2013 deaths of 37 Muslim Brotherhood (MB) detainees while transferring them to Abu Zaabal Prison near Cairo. In 2014 an appeals court overturned their original conviction. In 2015 the officers were convicted again, but the court reduced one officer’s sentence from 10 to five years, while maintaining the one-year suspended prison sentences for the three other officers.

At year’s end the government had not held accountable any individual or governmental body for state violence after 2013, including the deaths of hundreds of civilians during the 2013 dispersals of the sit-ins at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo and Nahda Square in Giza.

The independent online newspaper Mada Masr reported that, on July 5, an airstrike killed an engineer and two workers near the Bahariya Oasis in the Western Desert. No party took responsibility for the attack.

Terrorist groups, including IS-Sinai (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis) and Ajnad Misr, among others, conducted deadly attacks on government, civilian, and security targets throughout the country, including schools, places of worship, banks, and public transportation. On April 9, twin terrorist attacks on the St. George Church in Tanta and the St. Mark Church in Alexandria during Palm Sunday prayers killed 53 civilians and injured dozens more. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. On April 18, police arrested Ali Mahmoud Mohamed Hassan on suspicion of involvement with the bombings. On June 22, according to a Ministry of the Interior statement, police killed seven persons with alleged links to the attacks in a security operation.

On May 26, a terrorist attack on a bus carrying Coptic Christians killed 29 civilians. According to government statements, the perpetrators were HASM and IS-Sinai terrorists.

There were no published official data on the number of victims of terrorist violence during the year. According to local media reports, terrorists killed hundreds of civilians throughout the country. In Sinai alone militant violence had killed at least 405 civilians and 137 security force members (police and military), according to publicly available information. During the same period in Sinai, the government killed 753 terrorists, according to official public statements.

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

The constitution states that no torture, intimidation, coercion, or physical or moral harm shall be inflicted upon a person whose movements are restricted or whom authorities have detained or arrested. The penal code forbids torture to induce a confession from a detained or arrested suspect but does not account for mental or psychological abuse against persons whom authorities have not formally accused, or for abuse occurring for reasons other than securing a confession. The penal code also forbids all public officials or civil servants from “employing cruelty” or “causing bodily harm” under any circumstances.

Local rights organizations documented hundreds of incidents of torture throughout the year, including deaths that resulted from torture (see section 1.a.). According to domestic and international human rights organizations, police and prison guards resorted to torture to extract information from detainees, including minors. Reported techniques included beatings with fists, whips, rifle butts, and other objects; prolonged suspension by the limbs from a ceiling or door; electric shocks; sexual assault; and attacks by dogs. A June UN Committee against Torture report concluded that torture was a systematic practice in the country. Government officials denied the use of torture was systemic. A September HRW report catalogued multiple cases in which members of the public prosecution, the authority empowered with investigating abuses, ignored victims’ allegations of torture. According to HRW and local NGOs, torture was most common in police stations and other Interior Ministry detention sites. Local NGO al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence documented an average of 35 to 40 instances of torture per month. Authorities stated they did not sanction these abuses and, in some cases, prosecuted individual police officers for violating the law (see section 1.a.).

On July 6, AI released a report claiming that four individuals, whom authorities stated were killed in shootouts with police, may have earlier been detained in May, tortured, released, and in June extrajudicially executed. AI reported that family members who saw victims’ bodies at the morgue told AI three bore signs of torture including bruises and, in one case, burns.

On February 7, the Cairo Criminal Court released assistant detective Karim Magdy, accused in the torture and death of cart driver Magdy Makeen, on bail of 5,000 Egyptian pounds (EGP) ($283). In November 2016 authorities found Makeen dead with signs of severe torture. A forensic report stated Makeen died as a result of one or more persons standing on his back. Authorities arrested nine persons, including Magdy. No further information was available on the status of the investigation at year’s end.

A third retrial continued for two national security officers accused of torturing to death lawyer Karim Hamdy in 2015. The most recent hearing was scheduled for January 2018. In October 2016 the Court of Cassation canceled the five-year prison sentences for the two security officers. Hamdy died in custody after authorities arrested him on charges of taking part in antigovernment protests. According to a forensic report, he sustained fractures to the ribs and bruises and bleeding in the chest and head. The accused officers remained free pending the results of the retrial.

On June 7, the Court of Cassation upheld the death sentences against six men who were forcibly disappeared and tortured to obtain the confessions used to convict them, according to AI. The men were arrested by the National Security Sector in 2014 and disappeared for periods ranging from days to three months during which time authorities tortured them. On June 15, the men’s lawyers submitted a final appeal, requesting a retrial based on due process errors in the previous trial. No further information on the state of the appeal was available at year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in the prisons and detention centers were harsh and potentially life threatening due to overcrowding, physical abuse, inadequate medical care, poor infrastructure, and poor ventilation.

Physical Conditions: According to domestic and international nongovernmental NGO observers, prison cells were overcrowded, and prisoners lacked adequate access to medical care, proper sanitation and ventilation, food, and potable water. Tuberculosis was widespread. Provisions for temperature control and lighting generally were inadequate. Reports that guards abused prisoners, including juveniles, in adult facilities were common. Prison conditions for women were marginally better than those for men. Media reported that some prisoners protested conditions in July by going on hunger strikes, including at Wadi al-Natrun Prison.

According to the law, religious books are required to be available for prisoners, religious counsel (including confession if appropriate) should be provided to prisoners in keeping with the tenets of their religious group, and prisoners should not be compelled to work during religious holidays.

The large number of arrests and the use of pretrial detention during the year exacerbated harsh conditions and overcrowding, contributing to the prevalence of deaths in prisons and detention centers. During the year the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) reported police detention centers were at 150 percent of maximum capacity and that prisons were at 300 percent of maximum capacity. Health care in prisons was inadequate, leading to a large number of prisoner deaths due to possibly treatable natural causes. Human rights groups and the families of some deceased prisoners claimed that prison authorities denied prisoners access to potentially life-saving medical care and, in some cases, denied requests to transfer the prisoners to the hospital, leading to deaths in prison.

According to an August 14 HRW report, journalist Hisham Gaafar’s health, including his eyesight, was deteriorating because prison authorities could not provide him necessary health care. Since 2015 authorities detained Gaafar on charges including membership in the MB and illegally receiving foreign funds for his foundation. According to HRW Gaafar suffered from a number of ailments, which required continuing specialist care.

On November 4, Nubian activist Gamal Sorour (see section 6) died after falling into a diabetic coma while in pretrial detention. According to press reports, Sorour was one of at least 223 detainees participating in a hunger strike protesting prolonged pretrial detention and maltreatment.

There were reports authorities sometimes held prisoners accused of crimes related to political or security issues separately from common criminals and subjected them to verbal or physical abuse and punitive solitary confinement. On October 12, the Court of Cassation ordered the retrial of imprisoned activist Ahmed Douma. In 2015 authorities convicted Douma of several offenses, including assaulting police and military forces during clashes between protesters and police in 2011. Beginning with his arrest in 2015, Douma was held in solitary confinement for more than 1,200 days.

Authorities did not always separate juveniles from adults and sometimes held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. Rights organizations alleged the illegal use of Central Security Forces camps as detention facilities.

The law authorized prison officials to use force against prisoners who resisted orders.

Administration: The penal code provides for reasonable access to prisoners. According to NGO observers and relatives, the government sometimes prevented visitors’ access to detainees. Prisoners could request investigation of alleged inhumane conditions. NGO observers claimed, however, that prisoners sometimes were reluctant to do so due to fear of retribution from prison officials. The government investigated some, but not all, of these allegations. As required by law, the public prosecutor inspected prisons and detention centers.

Independent Monitoring: The government did not permit visits by nongovernmental observers but did permit some visits by the National Council for Women and Parliament’s Human Rights Committee to prisons and detention centers. The law formally recognizes the NCHR’s role in monitoring prisons, specifying that visits require notifying the prosecutor general in advance. The NCHR did not visit any prisons in 2017. Authorities did not permit other human rights organizations to conduct prison visits.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, but reported incidents of arbitrary arrests and detentions remained frequent.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces. The government does not have effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. Official impunity was a problem. Police investigative skills remained poor. Police did not investigate reported police abuses sufficiently, according to local and international human rights groups. The government investigated and prosecuted some, but not all, reports of abuse, and some prosecutions resulted in acquittals due to insufficient or contradictory evidence. The government frequently called for investigations of abuses by security forces, although these investigations rarely resulted in judicial punishment.

The primary security forces of the Interior Ministry are the Public Police and the Central Security Forces. The Public Police are responsible for law enforcement nationwide. The Central Security Forces provide security for infrastructure and key domestic and foreign officials, and are responsible for crowd control. The National Security Sector, which investigates counterterrorism and internal security threats, also reports to the minister of interior. The armed forces report to the minister of defense and are generally responsible for external defense, but they also have a mandate to “assist” police in protecting “vital public facilities,” including roads, bridges, railroads, power stations, and universities. Military personnel have arrest authority during “periods of significant turmoil.” The Border Guards Department is responsible for border control and includes members from the army and police. Single-mission law enforcement agencies, such as the Tourist and Antiquities Police and the Antinarcotics General Administration, also worked throughout the country.

On June 19, the retrial of a Central Security Forces officer previously convicted of killing secular activist Shaimaa el-Sabbagh at a peaceful demonstration in 2015 concluded when a Cairo Criminal Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

On March 2, the Court of Cassation found former president Hosni Mubarak, former minister of interior Habib al-Adly, and six others innocent of issuing an order to kill protesters during the 2011 revolution. The decision marked the end of a retrial that began in late 2015. The court also rejected lawyers’ and victims’ requests to reopen civil suits. There are no further options for repeal or retrial. Thus far no entity or individual has been found responsible for the deaths of protesters during the 2011 revolution.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

For persons other than those apprehended in the process of committing a crime, the government required a warrant issued either under the penal code or the code of military justice, both of which were in effect simultaneously; however, there were numerous reports of arrests without such a warrant.

Ordinary criminal courts and misdemeanor courts hear cases brought by the prosecutor general. Arrests under the penal code occurred openly and with warrants issued by a public prosecutor or judge. There was a functioning bail system, although some defendants claimed judges imposed unreasonably high bail.

Criminal defendants have the right to counsel promptly after arrest, and usually, but not always, authorities allowed access to family members. The court is obliged to provide a lawyer to indigent defendants. Nevertheless, defendants often faced administrative and, in some cases, political obstacles and could not secure regular access to lawyers or family visits. A prosecutor may order four days of preventative detention for individuals suspected of committing misdemeanors and 15 days for individuals suspected of committing felonies. The period of preventative detention is subject to renewal by the prosecutor for up to 60 days, in cases of both misdemeanors and felonies. On the 61st day, the prosecutor must submit a case to a relevant judge who may release the accused person or renew the detention in increments of 15 days (but no longer than 45 days at a time). Detention may extend from the stage of initial investigation through all stages of criminal judicial proceedings. Except in cases involving the death penalty or life imprisonment, the combined periods of prosecutor and court-ordered detentions may not exceed six months in cases of misdemeanors and 18 months in cases of felonies. After the detention reaches its legal limit without a conviction, the accused person must be released immediately. Legal experts offered conflicting interpretations of the law in cases in which convictions carry the death penalty or life imprisonment, with some arguing there is no time limit to court-ordered renewals of detention in such cases.

Charges involving the death penalty or life imprisonment sometimes could apply to cases related to demonstrations, such as blocking roads or demonstrating outside government buildings; as a result authorities might hold some appellants charged with nonviolent crimes indefinitely.

Arbitrary Arrest: The constitution prohibits arrest, search, or detention without a judicial order, except for those caught in the act of a crime. There were frequent reports of arbitrary arrest and detention. Local activists and rights groups stated that hundreds of arrests did not comply with due-process laws. For example, authorities did not charge the detainees with crimes or refer them to prosecutors and prevented access to their lawyers and families (see section 1.b.).

Pretrial Detention: The government did not provide figures on the total number of pretrial detainees. Rights groups and the quasi-governmental NCHR alleged excessive use of pretrial detention and preventative detention during trials for nonviolent crimes. Authorities sometimes held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. Large backlogs in the criminal courts contributed to protracted periods of pretrial detention. Estimates of the number of pretrial and preventive detainees were unreliable. According to a May 2016 report by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, at least 1,464 persons in four governorates remained in detention without bail for more than two years without a conviction and at various stages in the legal process. According to a 2015 report by the NCHR, citing Interior Ministry figures, at least 7,000 persons remained in detention without a conviction at various stages in the legal process on charges related to incidents after mid-2013, including approximately 300 “activists.” Most others were affiliated with the MB, according to the NCHR.

On June 30, Ministry of Interior authorities arrested Ola al-Qaradawi and her husband Hosam Khalaf while they were on vacation in the country. HRW reported the couple is being held in solitary confinement in Cairo, have limited access to a lawyer, and have yet to be formally charged but are being investigated in connection with belonging to the MB and spreading information aimed at distorting Egypt’s image.

On April 16, following almost three years of detention, the Cairo Criminal Court acquitted spouses Aya Hijazi and Mohamed Hassanein, founders of the Belady Foundation NGO, and their codefendants of torturing children, sexual assault, forcing children to participate in illegal demonstrations, and operation of a criminal group for the purposes of trafficking, among other charges. Authorities had held them in detention without bail since 2014. Local human rights groups described the charges against them as baseless and depicted the delays in the defendants’ trial as spurious. While the first trial hearing was held in 2015, according to local human rights groups, authorities delayed proceedings on procedural grounds and the defense could not begin to argue its case until February 2016.

Authorities have held photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid (known as Shawkan) in detention without bail since 2013. Authorities arrested him while he was taking pictures during the security forces’ dispersal of the MB sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo. Authorities charged Shawkan and 737 other defendants with belonging to the MB, possessing firearms, and murder. The court issued a decision to continue his detention during trial, according to his lawyers. The trial began in 2015, but no substantive hearings have taken place. The next hearing was scheduled for January 2, 2018.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: According to the constitution, detainees have the right to challenge the legality of their detention before a court, which must decide if the detention is lawful within one week or otherwise immediately release the detainee. In practice authorities deprived some individuals of this right, according to international and local human rights groups.

Amnesty: The constitution gives the president the power to grant a pardon or reduce a sentence after consulting with the cabinet. According to press reports, as of September the president had used this authority to pardon more than 2,000 prisoners–generally those who had served more than one-half their sentences, including secular activists, student protesters, MB members, and others.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

The conflict involving security forces, militant groups, and terrorist organizations in Sinai continued. Rights groups and international media reported the armed forces used indiscriminate force during military operations resulting in killings of civilians and destruction of property, particularly along the border with Gaza, where there was extensive smuggling of weapons and other equipment to terrorist groups. The government did not report any civilian casualties during operations in Sinai.

Killings: At year’s end the government recognized no civilian deaths due to security force actions. Human rights organizations stated some persons allegedly killed in raids on terrorist hideouts in Sinai had in fact been in state detention for months before their deaths (see section 1.a.). On April 22, a Turkish-based media network released a video apparently showing members of the armed forces killing detainees. Human rights organizations claimed eight individuals were killed, including one minor. The government claimed the video was a fabrication.

Human rights groups reported the cities of Rafah and al-Arish witnessed repeated artillery and rocket bombardment as well as sporadic gunfire from ambushes affiliated with security forces. On January 20, a drone strike killed 10 civilians attending Friday prayers in the North Sinai city of Rafah. An artillery shell killed eight civilians when it fell on a house in Southern Rafah in January, according to press reports.

Human rights groups and media also reported authorities killed civilians for allegedly not adhering to security personnel instructions at checkpoints or for unknown reasons. For example, according to press reports, security forces shot and killed Abdul-Latif al-Nasayira at the Raysa military checkpoint in Arish, North Sinai Governorate, as he exited his car at the Raysa checkpoint vehicle queue to get food on February 7. Security forces injured another individual.

Militants and terrorist groups in Sinai also targeted the military and civilians, using tactics including gunfire and beheading. ISIS claimed in a public infographic that, between October 2016 and September, it had killed 86 persons and deployed 27 improvised explosive devices. On July 8, a suicide bomb attack on an army checkpoint in North Sinai Governorate killed 26 soldiers, according to security sources. On November 24, militants attacked the Sufi-associated al-Rawda mosque in Bir al-Abd during Friday prayers, killing 309 persons, including 27 children. More than 100 additional individuals were injured. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. According to the prosecutor general, the 25-30 attackers, some of whom carried ISIS flags, shot at worshipers and ambulances as they left the mosque.

There were multiple reports of attacks on military-owned or -affiliated industries and that militants killed civilians for allegedly cooperating with security forces. For example, on November 10, militants attacked a convoy of cement trucks from an Egyptian military factory in central Sinai resulting in the deaths of eight civilian employees and two soldiers.

IS-Sinai reportedly targeted Coptic Christian civilians in Sinai. In February IS-Sinai claimed responsibility for the deaths of seven Coptic Christian civilians in al-Arish. One of the civilians was beheaded and another set on fire, according to press reports. In response to the attacks, at least 90 Coptic families reportedly fled to Ismailia.

Fighting between armed Bedouin tribal groups and IS-Sinai also resulted in deaths. In April members of the Tarabin tribe reportedly set on fire and killed a captured member of IS-Sinai. In May, IS-Sinai killed 10 members of the Tarabin tribe in an attack.

Abductions: Militants abducted civilians in North Sinai. According to human rights groups, militants rarely released abductees; they were more often shot or beheaded. According to human rights groups, militants abducted civilians rumored or known to cooperate with security forces. Militants warned citizens of North Sinai not to cooperate with the security forces or risk beheading. On February 22, militants kidnapped and later killed two Coptic Christians as part of a wave of killings targeting Copts (see above).

Other Conflict-related Abuse: According to press reports, militants attacked health-care personnel and ambulances trying to reach security checkpoints or transfer injured soldiers to hospitals. State authorities forcibly displaced civilians from the Rafah border area in an attempt to curb smuggling operations, according to press reports (see section 2.d.).

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, prescribing criminal penalties of 15 to 25 years’ imprisonment, or life imprisonment for cases of rape involving armed abduction. Spousal rape is not illegal. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Civil society organizations reported police pressure not to pursue charges.

Domestic violence was a significant problem. The law does not prohibit domestic violence or spousal abuse, but authorities may apply provisions relating to assault with accompanying penalties. The law requires that an assault victim produce multiple eyewitnesses, a difficult condition for domestic abuse victims. Police often treated domestic violence as a social rather than criminal matter.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity supported eight women’s shelters. The Interior Ministry includes a unit responsible for combating sexual and gender-based violence. The NCW, a quasi-governmental body, was responsible for coordinating government and civil society efforts to empower women. In 2015 the NCW launched a five-year National Strategy to Combat Violence Against Women with four strategic objectives: prevention, protection, intervention, and prosecution.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal, but it remained a serious problem. According to the 2015 Egypt Health Issues Survey, published during 2016 by the Ministry of Health and Population, 70 percent of girls between ages 15 and 19 had undergone FGM/C, a decrease from 81 percent in 2008.

A 2016 amendment to the law designates FGM/C a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor as it was previously, and assigns penalties for conviction of five to seven years’ imprisonment for practitioners who perform the procedure, or 15 years if the practice led to death or “permanent deformity.” The law granted exceptions in cases of “medical necessity,” which rights groups identified as a problematic loophole that allowed the practice to continue. According to international and local observers, the government did not effectively enforce the FGM/C law.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law does not specifically address “honor” crimes, which authorities treated as any other crime. There were no reliable statistics regarding the incidence of killings and assaults motivated by “honor,” but local observers stated such killings occurred, particularly in rural areas.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a serious problem.

The government prioritized efforts to address sexual harassment. The penal code defines sexual harassment as a crime, with penalties including fines and sentences of six months to five years’ imprisonment if convicted. Media and NGOs reported that sexual harassment by police was also a problem, and the potential for further harassment further discouraged women from filing complaints.

In April as part of a focus on sexual harassment during the holiday of Sham el-Nessim, police reportedly detained dozens of men in connection with accusations of sexual harassment. Police forces, including female officers, were deployed in public gardens, parks, and streets, and government hotlines were available for reporting incidents.

On July 30, a Cairo court convicted a male tuk-tuk (covered moped taxi) driver of “harassment” after he sexually assaulted a woman in September 2016 while she was walking in a street and sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment. According to the NCW, the ruling was the first conviction under the sexual harassment law.

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

Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal rights for male and female citizens. Women did not enjoy the same legal rights and opportunities as men, and discrimination was widespread. Aspects of the law and traditional societal practices disadvantaged women in family, social, and economic life.

Women faced widespread societal discrimination, threats to their physical security, and workplace bias in favor of men that hindered their social and economic advancement.

Laws affecting marriage and personal status generally corresponded to an individual’s religious group. A female Muslim citizen cannot legally marry a non-Muslim man. If she were to do so, authorities could charge her with adultery and consider her children illegitimate. Under the government’s interpretation of Islamic law, any children from such a marriage could be placed in the custody of a male Muslim guardian. “Khula” divorce allows a Muslim woman to obtain a divorce without her husband’s consent, provided she forgoes all her financial rights, including alimony, dowry, and other benefits. The Coptic Orthodox Church permits divorce only in rare circumstances, such as adultery or conversion of one spouse to another religion. Other Christian churches sometimes permitted divorce on a case-by-case basis.

The law follows Islamic sharia in matters of inheritance; therefore, a Muslim female heir generally receives one-half the amount of a male heir’s inheritance, and Christian widows of Muslims have no inheritance rights. A sole Muslim female heir receives one-half her parents’ estate, and the balance goes to the siblings of the parents or the children of the siblings if the siblings are deceased. A sole male heir inherits his parents’ entire estate. A court case suing for the right of a Christian family to divide property equally among sons and daughters was pending appeal.

In marriage and divorce cases, a woman’s testimony must be judged credible to be admissible. Usually the woman accomplishes credibility by conveying her testimony through an adult male relative or representative. The law assumes a man’s testimony is credible unless proven otherwise.

The law makes it difficult for women to access formal credit. While the law allows women to own property, social and religious barriers strongly discouraged women’s ownership of land, a primary source of collateral in the banking system.

Labor laws provide for equal rates of pay for equal work for men and women in the public but not the private sector. Educated women had employment opportunities, but social pressure against women pursuing a career was strong. Large sectors of the economy controlled by the military excluded women from high-level positions.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship through the citizenship of their parents. The mother or the father transmits citizenship and nationality. The government attempted to register all births soon after birth, but some citizens in remote and tribal areas, such as the Sinai Peninsula, resisted registration or could not document their citizenship. In some cases failure to register resulted in denial of public services, particularly in urban areas where most services required presentation of a national identification card.

Education: Education is compulsory, free, and universal until the ninth grade. The law provides this benefit to stateless persons and refugees. Public schools enrolled Syrian refugees, but they largely excluded refugees of other nationalities.

Child Abuse: The constitution stipulates the government shall protect children from all forms of violence, abuse, mistreatment, and commercial and sexual exploitation. According to a local rights group, authorities recorded hundreds of cases of alleged child abuse each month. No dedicated government institution addressed child abuse, although several civil society organizations assisted runaway and abandoned children.

In March the Department of Family and Children at the Ministry of Social Solidarity investigated complaints of child abuse in the Ishraqa orphanage in Six October City. According to a ministry official, orphanage employees beat and sexually assaulted the children; moreover, they did not receive adequate food or supervision. One orphanage employee told the press the abuse had continued for years. Police arrested the former orphanage supervisor as part of a continuing investigation.

Rights organizations reported children faced mistreatment in detention, including torture, sharing cells with adults, denial of their right to counsel, and authorities’ failure to notify their families. According to a local rights group, police sometimes charged street children with unsolved crimes to increase perceived police effectiveness. On January 31, authorities released Mazen Mohamed Abdallah pending investigation of charges of belonging to a banned group, protesting without authorization, and printing flyers inciting protests. Security forces detained then 14-year-old Abdallah in 2015. AI reported authorities held him for seven days without contacting his family and that authorities tortured Abdallah, including by raping him with a wooden stick and subjecting him to electric shocks. The Interior Ministry denied these claims. No further information was available on the case as of year’s end.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18. According to UNICEF 17 percent of girls married before age 18, and 2 percent of girls were married by age 15. According to NCW statistics, nearly 36 percent of marriages in rural areas in the southern part of the country included a partner who was not yet age 18. Families reportedly sometimes forced adolescent girls to marry wealthy foreign men in what were known locally as “tourism” or “summer” marriages for the purpose of sexual exploitation, prostitution, or forced labor. According to the law, a foreign man who wants to marry an Egyptian woman more than 25 years younger than he is must pay a fine of EGP 50,000 ($2,830). Women’s rights organizations argued that allowing foreign men to pay a fine to marry much younger women represented a form of trafficking and encouraged child marriage. They called on the government to eliminate the system altogether. The Antitrafficking Unit at the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), a governmental body, is responsible for raising awareness of the problem.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for sentences of not less than five years’ imprisonment and fines of up to EGP 200,000 ($11,315) for conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. The government did not adequately enforce the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is age 18.

Displaced Children: The CAPMAS and the National Council for Motherhood estimated the number of street children to be 16,000, while civil society organizations estimated the number to be in the millions. The ministry offered shelters to street children, but many chose not to use them because staff treated the children as if they were criminals, according to local rights groups. According to rights groups, the incidence of violence, prostitution, and drug dealing in these shelters was high. Religious institutions and NGOs provided services for street children, including meals, clothing, and literacy classes. The Ministry of Health and Population offered mobile health clinics staffed by nurses and social workers. In July the Ministry of Social Solidarity launched an initiative in which 17 mobile units in 10 governorates provided emergency services, including food and health care, to street children.

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

Anti-Semitism

The country’s Jewish community reportedly numbered less than 20 individuals. Criticism of Israel rarely reached the level of anti-Semitism in public discourse. State-owned and private media greatly reduced the use of anti-Semitic rhetoric, including by academics, cultural figures, and clerics, with cartoons demonizing Jews. There were a few reports of imams using anti-Semitic rhetoric in their sermons. Societal anti-Semitism remained widespread.

In praise of a UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem, Grand Mufti of Dar al-Ifta Shawky Allam called al-Aqsa Mosque “a holy site dedicated only for Muslims without any right for Jews,” according to press reports.

The chairman of parliament’s Human Rights Committee, Alaa Abed, said the “Zionist Lobby” funded an HRW report on torture in Egyptian jails.

For the seventh consecutive year, authorities cancelled the Abu Hassira celebrations scheduled for January, preventing an annual Jewish pilgrimage, which in previous years had included many Israelis, to the shrine of 19th-century scholar Rabbi Yaakov Abu Hassira. The cancellation followed a 2014 administrative court decision to ban the festival permanently, stating the festival was a “violation of public order and morals” and “incompatible with the solemnity and purity of religious sites.”

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution states persons with disabilities are equal without discrimination before the law, but no laws explicitly prohibited discrimination, nor mandate access to buildings, information, communication, or transportation.

The law provides for persons with disabilities to gain access to vocational training and employment. Government policy sets a quota for employing persons with disabilities of 5 percent of workers with disabilities for companies with more than 50 employees. Authorities did not enforce the quota requirement, and companies often had persons with disabilities on their payroll to meet the quota without actually employing them. Government-operated treatment centers for persons with disabilities, especially children, were of poor quality.

The Ministries of Education and Social Solidarity share responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities rode government-owned mass transit buses without charge, but the buses were not wheelchair accessible. Persons with disabilities received subsidies to purchase household products, wheelchairs, and prosthetic devices.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law prohibits discrimination on any grounds. Nevertheless, dark-skinned Egyptians and sub-Saharan Africans faced discrimination and harassment, as did Nubians from Upper Egypt.

According to the constitution, the state should make efforts to return Nubians to their original territories and develop such territories within 10 years of the constitution’s 2014 ratification.

On September 3, security forces in Aswan arrested 25 Nubians who were participating in a protest to commemorate the 2011 detention of Nubians during a sit-in. The charges against them included protesting illegally and receiving funds from foreign sources. Several of the original detainees undertook hunger strikes in protest of their continued detention, including activist Gamal Sorour, who died on November 6 after falling into a diabetic coma. The death of Sorour triggered another protest on November 9 by members of the Nubian community outside the detention facility where Sorour had been held. Authorities reportedly arrested as many as 13 protesters at the event. On November 12, a court ordered the original 24 detainees released, pending their next hearing in 2018.

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

While the law does not explicitly criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, it allows police to arrest LGBTI persons on charges such as “debauchery,” “prostitution,” and “violating the teachings of religion” and provides for prison sentences if convicted of up to 10 years. According to a local rights group, there were more than 250 reports of such arrests since 2013. Authorities did not use antidiscrimination laws to protect LGBTI individuals. Legal discrimination and social stigma impeded LGBTI persons from organizing or advocating publicly in defense of their rights. Information was not available on official or private discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There were no government efforts to address potential discrimination.

There was an increase in reports of arrests and harassment of LGBTI individuals, particularly after a rainbow flag was raised on September 22, at a concert by the rock band “Mashrou Leila.” Intimidation and the risk of arrest greatly restricted open reporting and contributed to self-censorship. Rights groups and activists reported harassment by police, including physical assault and forced payment of bribes to provide information concerning other LGBTI individuals or to avoid arrest. The government has the authority to deport or bar entry to the country of LGBTI foreigners.

There were credible reports that authorities used social media, dating websites, and cell phone apps to entrap persons they suspected of being gay or transgender, a method that LGBTI advocates described as especially effective as LGBTI-friendly public spaces had largely closed during the past two years.

On September 25, police arrested seven persons for raising the rainbow flag at the “Mashrou Leila” concert. According to news reports, police also arrested a person for filming and promoting the concert on his Facebook page. By December 4, the number of arrests had risen to more than 70, including one minor. Of those arrested and convicted, 49 received sentences ranging from three months’ to six years’ imprisonment. Two detainees were released on probation and three acquitted. According to media reports, charges included “promoting sexual deviancy” and “habitual debauchery.”

On September 26, the Dokki court convicted and sentenced one man to six years’ imprisonment for practicing debauchery and being openly gay on social media. Press reports indicated the charges stemmed from police searches of LGBTI social media pages and linked the conviction to the rainbow flag incident.

Rights groups alleged that authorities, including the Forensic Medical Authority, subjected individuals detained on suspicion of debauchery to forced anal examinations.

On October 1, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation issued an order to ban all forms of promotion or sympathy toward LGBTI individuals on media outlets in addition to banning their appearance on media outlets.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

HIV-positive individuals faced significant social stigma and discrimination in society and the workplace. The health-care system provided anonymous counseling and testing for HIV, free adult and pediatric antiretroviral therapy, and support groups.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were incidents of mob violence and vigilantism, particularly sectarian violence against Coptic Christian Egyptians. On September 14, a mob of Muslim residents of Minya’s Ezbat el-Sheikh Nageim village attacked Coptic Christians, injuring three persons and destroying several shops and vehicles. The mob also pelted a church with stones, according to press reports. Police detained 19 persons in connection with the violence. Police also charged two Coptic Christian men with inciting sectarian strife and insulting Islamic leaders

India

Executive Summary

India is a multiparty, federal, parliamentary democracy with a bicameral legislature. The president, elected by an electoral college composed of the state assemblies and parliament, is the head of state, and the prime minister is the head of the government. Under the constitution the 29 states and seven union territories have a high degree of autonomy and have primary responsibility for law and order. Voters elected President Ram Nath Kovind in July to a five-year term, and Narendra Modi became prime minister following the victory of the National Democratic Alliance coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2014 general elections. Observers considered these elections, which included more than 551 million participants, free and fair despite isolated instances of violence.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included police and security force abuses, such as extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, rape, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, and lengthy pretrial detention. Widespread corruption; reports of political prisoners in certain states; and instances of censorship and harassment of media outlets, including some critical of the government continued. There were government restrictions on foreign funding of some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including on those with views the government stated were not in the “national interest,” thereby curtailing the work of these NGOs. Legal restrictions on religious conversion in eight states; lack of criminal investigations or accountability for cases related to rape, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, honor killings, sexual harassment; and discrimination against women and girls remained serious problems. Violence and discrimination based on religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and caste or tribe, including indigenous persons, also persisted due to a lack of accountability.

A lack of accountability for misconduct at all levels of government persisted, contributing to widespread impunity. Investigations and prosecutions of individual cases took place, but lax enforcement, a shortage of trained police officers, and an overburdened and underresourced court system contributed to a small number of convictions.

Separatist insurgents and terrorists in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast, and the Maoist-affected areas committed serious abuses, including killings and torture of armed forces personnel, police, government officials, and of civilians, and recruitment and use of child soldiers.

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 and its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and insurgents.

During the year the South Asian Terrorism Portal, run by the nonprofit Institute for Conflict Management, reported the deaths of 111 civilians, 15 security force members, and 210 terrorists or insurgents as of June 2. Data from the institute also showed 317 fatalities from terrorist violence were recorded in the state of Jammu and Kashmir through August, compared with 329 for 2016.

There were 108 reported deaths as a result of “encounter killings”–a term used to describe any encounter between the security or police forces and alleged criminals or insurgents that resulted in a death–documented countrywide by the Investigation Division of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), according to Ministry of Home Affairs 2016-17 data.

On June 6, police killed six individuals during a protest in Madhya Pradesh. The Madhya Pradesh government appointed a one-member commission to investigate police action and paid 10 million rupees ($160,000) to each of the victims’ families. By year’s end the investigation had not concluded.

Reports of custodial death cases, in which prisoners or detainees were killed or died in police custody, continued. Decisions by central and state authorities not to prosecute police or security officials despite reports of evidence in certain cases remained a problem. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 92 cases of custodial deaths nationwide in 2016 with Maharashtra reporting the highest number of cases at 16. Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat reported 11 cases, and Uttar Pradesh, nine cases. According to a media report, in response to a “Right to Information” (RTI) petition, the NHRC stated that 74 persons died in police custody from January 1 through August 2.

On July 24, the Supreme Court sought an update from the government’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Madhya Pradesh state government on a court-monitored investigation into the October 2016 killings of eight suspected members of the outlawed Students’ Islamic Movement of India after they allegedly killed a guard and escaped from a high security prison. In November 2016 the NHRC issued a formal complaint against the state government, police, and prison authorities, expressing doubt that the men were killed while attempting to escape, classifying them instead as custodial deaths. A relative of one of the deceased, in her petition to the Supreme Court, criticized the Madhya Pradesh government for only appointing only a one-person investigative commission.

On October 25, a special CBI court brought charges against 16 law enforcement officers for their alleged involvement in the encounter deaths of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati. A joint Rajasthan and Gujarat antiterrorist squad allegedly killed Sheikh on a highway near Ahmedabad in November 2005; later, police allegedly killed his wife Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati, a key witness in the case. According to the CBI, charges were not brought against those accused who had applications pending in the Bombay High Court or the Supreme Court.

On March 25, the High Court of Madras directed the Tamil Nadu government to pay one million rupees ($16,000) to the family of a man named Ramesh, known as “Nambu,” who died in 2010 after reportedly being tortured while in police custody on suspicion of theft. The court also imposed a fine of 50,000 rupees ($800) on the municipal administration secretary of the Tamil Nadu government for failing to provide compensation to the family of the victim. A probe into the case by the additional director general of police confirmed in July that Nambu was subjected to “ill treatment” during his illegal detention and died as a result of this treatment.

Three individuals died in separate incidents due to alleged torture while in Telangana state police custody. On April 7, Mohan Krishna died on the way to a hospital after he returned from Begumpet police station in Hyderabad, where he was detained and questioned in a case of alleged sexual harassment of a minor. On April 21, a man identified as “Ganesh” died on the way to a hospital after he was interrogated in the Hayathnagar police station near Hyderabad for “suspicious movement” on the road. On March 18, Bhim Singh died in a Hyderabad police station after being detained for questioning following an altercation. In all these instances, police denied that detainees were tortured, citing previous illnesses as the cause of death.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) remained in effect in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, and parts of Mizoram, and a version of the law was in effect in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The government also declared Meghalaya’s border areas adjoining Assam and three districts in Arunachal Pradesh as “disturbed” for two more months from August through October. While the Nagaland government demanded the AFSPA be lifted in the state, the central government extended it through December.

Under the AFSPA, a central government designation of a state or union territory as a “disturbed area” authorizes security forces in the state to use deadly force to “maintain law and order” and arrest any person “against whom reasonable suspicion exists” without informing the detainee of the grounds for arrest. The law also provides security forces immunity from civilian prosecution for acts committed in regions under the AFSPA, although in 2016 the Supreme Court concluded that every death caused by the armed forces in a disturbed area, whether a common person or a terrorist, should be thoroughly investigated, adding that the law must be equally applied.

There was considerable public support for repeal of the AFSPA, particularly in areas that experienced a significant decrease in insurgent attacks. Human rights organizations also continued to call for the repeal of the law, citing numerous alleged human rights violations over the years. On July 14, the Supreme Court directed the CBI to set up a five-member team to examine at least 87 of 1,528 alleged killings by police, army, and paramilitary forces between 1979 and 2012 in Manipur. This order was in response to a petition filed by victims’ families and NGOs. According to rights activists, until mid-December the CBI had not summoned any victims or witnesses and was still collecting documents related to the killings from the courts and the government of Manipur. The Supreme Court judgment stated the CBI must file formal charges by December 31.

The NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative noted in its 2016 report that of 186 complaints of human rights violations reported against the armed forces in states under the AFSPA, between 2012 and 2016, 49.5 percent were from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The data supplied by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the RTI Act did not, however, indicate whether complaints were deemed to have merit.

On June 27, the Gujarat High Court granted bail to Atul Vaidya, one of 24 individuals convicted in the 2002 Gulbarg Society killings, when a rioting mob killed 69 individuals during communal unrest. The Gujarat government did not allow the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation to appeal to the Supreme Court to enhance the sentences awarded to some of the 24 persons convicted or to challenge the acquittal of 14 others accused. On October 5, the Gujarat High Court dismissed Zakia Jafri’s plea, upholding a lower court’s verdict exonerating senior Gujarat government officials, citing lack of prosecutable evidence following her allegations of “a larger conspiracy” behind the 2002 riots. The court allowed Jafri to appeal in higher courts.

Nongovernmental forces, including organized insurgents and terrorists, committed numerous killings and bombings in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern states, and Maoist-affected areas (see section 1.g.). Maoists in Jharkhand and Bihar continued to attack security forces and key infrastructure facilities such as roads, railways, and communication towers. On April 24, Maoist insurgents attacked a convoy in Chhattisgarh, killing 25 Central Reserve Police Force personnel and critically injuring six.

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

The law prohibits torture, but NGOs reported torture occurred during the year.

Police beatings of prisoners resulted in custodial deaths (see section 1.a.).

The law does not permit authorities to admit coerced confessions into evidence, but NGOs and citizens alleged authorities used torture to coerce confessions. In some instances authorities submitted these confessions as evidence in capital cases. Authorities allegedly also used torture as a means to extort money or as summary punishment. According to human rights experts, the government continued to try individuals arrested and charged under the repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act. Under the repealed laws, authorities treated a confession made to a police officer as admissible evidence in court.

On June 19, Abhay Singh, an antiques dealer, died while in custody in Odisha, allegedly following seven days of torture. Police took Singh into custody on May 30 to investigate the theft of a mobile phone, subsequently charged him with drug trafficking, and transported him to a hospital on June 10 where his health reportedly deteriorated. The NHRC and Odisha State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) ordered the state human rights protection cell of police to investigate and submit a report. At year’s end there were no updates to the case.

On July 18, a 19-year-old lower-caste man reportedly committed suicide at Engadiyur in Kerala’s Thrissur District a day after he was released from police custody for not having proper motor vehicle registration papers. His father and friends alleged instead that he died from injuries sustained from police brutality while in custody, and a postmortem report confirmed he had injuries consistent with torture. Based on the complaint by the victim’s father, a case was filed against several police officers under the Criminal Procedure Code and the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act. Two police officers were suspended for the death, and the case was transferred to the Crime Bureau for further investigation.

There were continued reports that police raped female and male detainees. The government authorized the NHRC to investigate rape cases involving police officers. By law the NHRC may also request information about cases involving the army and paramilitary forces, but it has no mandate to investigate those cases. NGOs claimed the NHRC underestimated the number of rapes committed in police custody. Some rape victims were unwilling to report crimes due to social stigma and the possibility of retribution, compounded by a perception of a lack of oversight and accountability, especially if the perpetrator was a police officer or other official. There were reports police officials refused to register rape cases.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were frequently life threatening, most notably due to inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care and extreme overcrowding. Prisons did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: Prisons were often severely overcrowded, and food, medical care, sanitation, and environmental conditions often were inadequate. Potable water was often unavailable. Prisons and detention centers remained underfunded, understaffed, and lacking sufficient infrastructure. Prisoners were physically mistreated.

According to the NCRB Prison Statistics India 2015 report, there were 1,401 prisons in the country with an authorized capacity of 366,781 persons. The actual incarcerated population was 419,623. Persons awaiting trial accounted for more than two-thirds of the prison population. The law requires detention of juveniles in rehabilitative facilities, although at times authorities detained them in adult prisons, especially in rural areas. Authorities often detained pretrial detainees along with convicted prisoners. In Uttar Pradesh occupancy at most prisons was two and sometimes three times the permitted capacity, according to an adviser appointed by the Supreme Court.

In November 2016 the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative launched two reports on the “alarming conditions” in prisons. According to the reports, those awaiting trial included 67 percent of the country’s prison population, and independent monitors regularly inspected less than 1 percent of prisons.

According to the NCRB Prison Statistics India 2015 report, overcrowding was most severe in Dadra and Nagar Haveli at 277 percent of capacity, while Chhattisgarh prisons were at 234 percent of capacity and Delhi prisons, at 227 percent of capacity. On August 8, Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir quoted NCRB data to inform the lower house of parliament that 149 out of 1,401 jails in the country had an overcrowding rate of more than 200 percent at the end of 2015.

In March, Minister of State for Home Affairs Ahir informed the lower house of parliament that there were 4,391 female jail staff for a population of 17,834 female prisoners as of 2015.

On September 26, police submitted charges in a local court against six prison officials for the death of Manjula Shetye, a female convict in Mumbai. On July 8, Mumbai police arrested six prison officials who allegedly assaulted Shetye following her complaint about inadequate food. Her death resulted in violent protests by 200 prison inmates, who were later charged with rioting. On July 31, the Bombay High Court ordered an inquiry into the cause of Shetye’s death. A government doctor who signed the death certificate was suspended.

Administration: Authorities permitted visitors some access to prisoners, although some family members claimed authorities denied access to relatives, particularly in conflict areas, including the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

On August 4, through an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, the Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority released 570 pretrial detainees (in nine Central Prisons and five Special Prisons for women in Tamil Nadu) who had been detained for longer than the minimum term prescribed for their alleged crimes.

Independent Monitoring: The NHRC received and investigated prisoner complaints of human rights violations throughout the year, but civil society representatives believed few prisoners filed complaints due to fear of retribution from prison guards or officials. On May 26, the NHRC ordered an investigation into torture allegations by 21 inmates on trial in a jail in Bhopal.

Authorities permitted prisoners to register complaints with state and national human rights commissions, but the authority of the commissions extended only to recommending that authorities redress grievances. Government officials reportedly often failed to comply with a Supreme Court order instructing the central government and local authorities to conduct regular checks on police stations to monitor custodial violence.

In many states the NHRC made unannounced visits to state prisons, but NHRC jurisdiction does not extend to military detention centers. An NHRC special rapporteur visited state prisons to verify that authorities provided medical care to all inmates. The rapporteur visited prisons on a regular basis throughout the year but did not release a report to the public or the press.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but both occurred during the year. Police also used special security laws to postpone judicial reviews of arrests. Pretrial detention was arbitrary and lengthy, sometimes exceeding the duration of the sentence given to those convicted.

According to human rights NGOs, some police used torture, mistreatment, and arbitrary detention to obtain forced or false confessions. In some cases police reportedly held suspects without registering their arrests and denied detainees sufficient food and water.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The 29 states and seven union territories have primary responsibility for maintaining law and order, with policy oversight from the central government. Police are under state jurisdiction. The Ministry of Home Affairs controls most paramilitary forces, the internal intelligence bureaus, and national law enforcement agencies, and provides training for senior officials from state police forces. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), cases of arbitrary arrest, torture, and forced confessions by security forces remained common. Police continued to be overworked, underpaid, and subjected to political pressure, in some cases contributing to corruption. The HRW 2017 India country report found that officials were rarely prosecuted for crimes committed because the law made it “difficult, if not impossible” to prosecute public officials.

The effectiveness of law enforcement and security forces varied widely throughout the country. According to the law, courts may not hear a case against a police officer unless the central or state government first authorizes prosecution. Nonetheless, NGOs reported that in many instances police refused to register victim’s complaints, termed “first information reports” (FIR), on crimes reported against officers, effectively preventing victims from pursuing justice. Additionally, NGOs reported that victims were sometimes reluctant to report crimes committed by police due to fear of retribution. There were cases of officers at all levels acting with impunity, but there were also cases of security officials held accountable for illegal actions. Military courts investigated cases of abuse by the armed forces and paramilitary forces. Authorities tried cases against law enforcement officers in public courts but sometimes did not adhere to due process. Authorities sometimes transferred officers after convicting them of a crime.

The NHRC recommended the Criminal Investigations Department of the state police investigate all deaths taking place during police pursuits, arrests, or escape attempts. Many states did not follow this nonbinding recommendation and continued to conduct internal reviews at the discretion of senior officers.

While NHRC guidelines call for state governments to report all cases of deaths from police actions to the NHRC within 48 hours, state governments did not consistently adhere to those guidelines. The NHRC also called for state governments to provide monetary compensation to families of victims, but the state governments did not consistently adhere to this practice. Authorities did not require the armed forces to report custodial deaths to the NHRC.

On July 27, the Armed Forces Tribunal suspended the life sentences of five army personnel involved in the 2010 killing of three civilians from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The civilians were reportedly killed in a staged encounter and later accused of being foreign militants.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police may detain an individual without charge for up to 30 days, although an arrested person must be brought before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. Lengthy arbitrary detention remained a significant problem due to overburdened and under resourced court systems and a lack of legal safeguards.

Arraignment of detainees must occur within 24 hours unless authorities hold the suspect under a preventive detention law. State authorities invoked preventive detention laws, most frequently in Delhi but also in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir.

Authorities must promptly inform persons detained on criminal charges of the charges against them and of their right to legal counsel. By law a magistrate may authorize the detention of an accused person for a period of no more than 90 days prior to filing charges. Under standard criminal procedure, authorities must release the accused on bail after 90 days if charges are not filed. The law also allows police to summon individuals for questioning, but it does not grant police prearrest investigative detention authority. There were incidents in which authorities allegedly detained suspects beyond legal limits.

The law also permits authorities to hold a detainee in judicial custody without charge for up to 180 days (including the 30 days in police custody). The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which gives authorities the ability to detain persons without charge in cases related to insurgency or terrorism, makes no bail provisions for foreign nationals and allows courts to deny bail in the case of detained citizens. It presumes the accused to be guilty if the prosecution can produce evidence of the possession of arms or explosives, or the presence of fingerprints at a crime scene, regardless of whether authorities demonstrate criminal intent. State governments also reportedly held persons without bail for extended periods before filing formal charges under the UAPA.

The law permits preventive detention in certain cases. The National Security Act allows police to detain persons considered security risks anywhere in the country, except the state of Jammu and Kashmir, without charge or trial for as long as one year. The law allows family members and lawyers to visit national security detainees and requires authorities to inform a detainee of the grounds for detention within five days, or 10 to 15 days in exceptional circumstances.

The Public Safety Act, which applies only in the state of Jammu and Kashmir permits state authorities to detain persons without charge or judicial review for up to two years without visitation from family members. Authorities allowed detainees access to a lawyer during interrogation, but police in the state of Jammu and Kashmir allegedly routinely employed arbitrary detention and denied detainees access to lawyers and medical attention.

Accused individuals have a right to free legal assistance, including for their first hearing after arrest. The constitution specifies that the state should furnish legal aid to provide that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities, but authorities did not assess this need systematically.

There were reported cases in which police denied suspects the right to meet with legal counsel as well as cases in which police unlawfully monitored suspects’ conversations and violated confidentiality rights. By law authorities must allow family members access to detainees, but this was not always observed.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, but in some cases police reportedly continued to arrest citizens arbitrarily. There were reports of police detaining individuals for custodial interrogation without identifying themselves or providing arrest warrants.

Pretrial Detention: The Center for Constitutional Right, Research and Advocacy (CCRRA) in Kochi, Kerala, reported certain prisoners with mental disabilities in the Kerala central prison considered “not fit for trial” had awaited trial for 10 to 26 years. According to the NGO, the prisoners in some cases were in detention far longer than their potential sentences. In 2013 CCRRA’s founder filed a writ petition with the Kerala High Court for the release of those prisoners. The court responded by issuing an order directing the state government to provide adequate medical treatment to the accused to render them fit for trial. The case was pending in the Kerala High Court at year’s end.

The government continued efforts to reduce lengthy detentions and alleviate prison overcrowding by using “fast track” courts, which specified trial deadlines, provided directions for case management, and encouraged the use of bail. Some NGOs criticized these courts for failing to uphold due process and requiring detainees unable to afford bail remain in detention.

NCRB data from 2015 showed most individuals awaiting trial spent more than three months in jail before they could secure bail, and nearly 65 percent spent between three months and five years before being released on bail. The NCRB’s 2016 report did not include updated statistics.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

The country’s armed forces, the security forces of individual states, and paramilitary forces engaged in armed conflict with insurgent groups in several northeastern states, and with Maoist insurgents in the north, central, and eastern parts of the country–although the intensity of these conflicts continued to decrease significantly. Army and central security forces remained stationed at conflict areas in the northeast.

The use of force by all parties to the conflicts resulted in deaths and injuries to both conflict participants and civilians. There were reports government security forces committed extrajudicial killings, including staging encounter killings to conceal the deaths of captured militants. Human rights groups claimed police refused to release bodies in cases of alleged “encounters.” Authorities did not require the armed forces to report custodial deaths to the NHRC.

In July the SHRC directed the state of Jammu and Kashmir to pay one million rupees ($16,000) as compensation to a textile worker who was tied to the front bumper of a military jeep by an army major and used as a human shield against demonstrators in central Kashmir in May. Media reported Major Nitin Gogoi used the victim to prevent an angry mob from attacking military personnel during a parliamentary by-election on April 9. Human rights activists also criticized Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement backing Gogoi’s actions. Gogoi was also awarded the army chief’s commendation card for his action and was not individually punished.

The central and state governments and armed forces investigated complaints and punished some violations committed by government forces. Authorities arrested and tried insurgents under terrorism-related legislation.

There were few investigations and prosecutions of human rights violations arising from internal conflicts. NGOs claimed that due to AFSPA immunity provisions, authorities did not hold the armed forces responsible for the deaths of civilians killed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in previous years.

Killings: Various domestic and international human rights organizations continued to express serious concern at the use of pellet guns by security forces for crowd control purposes in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 143 instances in which pellet guns were reportedly used across 12 districts of the Kashmir Valley through July 31, one civilian was killed and 36 were injured. ‎By comparison in 2016 777 instances of pellet gun use across the state of Jammu and Kashmir, mostly during violent protests following the July 2016 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani, left at least 15 civilians dead and 396 injured.‎ In a report during the year, Amnesty International detailed cases of 88 individuals in the country whose eyesight was damaged by metal pellets fired by the state of Jammu and Kashmir police and the Central Reserve Police Force in the years 2014-17. Both national and international media sources and NGOs have reported on the harm, both physical and psychological, to individuals injured by pellet guns.

In Maoist-affected areas, there were reports of abuses by security forces and insurgents. On March 29, two tribal-affiliated citizens died in Assam’s Chirang District after an encounter with security forces. The two were believed to be members of a banned armed insurgent group called the National Democratic Front of Bodoland. In a report filed by the Assam Police, the security forces stated they came under heavy fire from the group and that retaliatory fire from the security forces killed the two men. An inquiry conducted by the inspector general of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), however, stated that the two men, already in police custody, were taken to a nearby village, shot, and killed. The report also found that security forces planted arms and ammunition, including a hand grenade with Chinese markings, as incriminating evidence. The CRPF refused to make the inspector general’s report public, although a pirated, online version was available.

On March 12, Maoist insurgents killed 13 paramilitary personnel near the Bheji village of Sukma in Chhattisgarh. On April 25, Maoist insurgents killed 25 paramilitary personnel and injured six others, also in Chhattisgarh. The soldiers were providing security for road construction at the time of the attack.

Abductions: Human rights groups maintained that military, paramilitary, and insurgent forces abducted numerous persons in Manipur, Jharkhand, and Maoist-affected areas. Human rights activists alleged cases of prisoners tortured or killed during detention. During the year media outlets reported cases of abduction by insurgent groups in Manipur. According to media reports, in May militants abducted three Kuki tribal members in Manipur and killed two of them. No one claimed responsibility for the incident. United NGOs Mission Manipur reported 291 cases of extrajudicial killing, rape, and disappearance committed by security forces, including Assam Rifles, Manipur Police, and the army as of June.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: There were reports government security forces tortured, raped, and mistreated insurgents and alleged terrorists in custody and injured demonstrators.

Child Soldiers: Insurgent groups reportedly used children to attack government entities. The Ministry of Home Affairs reported Maoist groups conscripted boys and girls ages six to 12 into specific children’s units (Bal Dasta and Bal Sangham) in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. The Maoist groups used the children in combat and intelligence-gathering roles. Insurgents trained children as spies and couriers, as well as in the use of arms, planting explosives, and intelligence gathering.

Although the United Nations was not able to verify all allegations of child soldiers, reports submitted to parliament contained similar allegations. Recruitment of children by Maoist armed groups allegedly continued. Observers reported children as young as age 12 were members of Maoist youth groups and allied militia. The children reportedly handled weapons and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Maoists reportedly held children against their will and threatened severe reprisals, including the killing of family members, if the children attempted to escape. The government claimed, based on statements of several women formerly associated with Maoist groups, that sexual violence, including rape and other forms of abuse, was a practice in some Maoist camps. NGOs quoting police contacts stated that children employed by Maoist groups in Jharkhand were made to carry IED triggers with them. Police did not engage the children to retrieve these triggering devices.

According to government sources, Maoist armed groups used children as human shields in confrontations with security forces. Attacks on schools by Maoists continued to affect children’s access to education in affected areas. There were continued reports on the use of schools as military barracks and bases. The deployment of government security forces near schools remained a concern. There were reports armed groups recruited children from schools in Chhattisgarh.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimated that conflicts, violence, and natural disasters in the country displaced 2.8 million persons in 2016.

In August, Minister of State for Home Affairs Ahir informed parliament’s lower house there were approximately 62,000 registered Kashmiri migrant families in the country. The Jammu and Kashmir state government reported threats to Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) in the Kashmir Valley during the year. Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits have fled the Kashmir Valley to Jammu, Delhi, and other areas in the country since 1990 because of conflict and violent intimidation, including destruction of houses of worship, sexual abuse, and theft of property, by Kashmiri separatists.

During the year the state of Jammu and Kashmir allotted apartments to 31 Kashmiri Pandit migrant families who did not leave the valley during the 1990s. These flats were constructed under a program approved by the central government for rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants.

In the central and eastern areas, armed conflicts between Maoist insurgents and government security forces over land and mineral resources in tribal forest areas continued. According to the South Asian Terrorism Portal’s existing conflict map, Maoist-affected states included Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Assam. Human rights advocates alleged the government’s operations sought not only to suppress the Maoists but also to force tribal populations from their land, allowing for purchase by the private sector.

Internally displaced person (IDP) camps continued to operate in Chhattisgarh for tribal persons displaced during the 2005 fighting between Maoists and the subsequently disbanded state-sponsored militia Salwa Judum.

Throughout the year there were reports by media organizations and academic institutions of corporations’ abuses against tea workers, including violations of the law. In some cases violent strikes resulted from companies withholding medical care required by law. Other reports indicated workers had difficulty accessing clean water, with open sewage flowing through company housing areas.

On January 6, the NHRC found that Chhattisgarh police personnel in Bijapur District raped 16 tribal women in 2015. The NHRC directed state authorities to compensate the victims and initiate action against the perpetrators. The NHRC also began an investigation into details of the sexual assault allegations, which the victims reported in January 2016. There was no update on the status of the investigation or delivery of compensation by year’s end.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape in most cases, although marital rape is not illegal when the woman is over the age of 15. Official statistics pointed to rape as the country’s fastest growing crime, prompted at least in part by the increasing willingness of victims to report rapes, although observers believed the number of rapes still remained vastly underreported.

Law enforcement and legal recourse for rape victims were inadequate, overtaxed, and unable to address the problem effectively. Police officers sometimes worked to reconcile rape victims and their attackers, in some cases encouraging female rape victims to marry their attackers. NGO Lawyers Collective noted the length of trials, lack of victim support, and inadequate protection of witnesses and victims remained major concerns. Doctors continued to carry out the invasive “two-finger test” to speculate on sexual history, despite the Supreme Court’s holding that the test violated a victim’s right to privacy. In 2015 the government introduced new guidelines for health professionals for medical examinations of victims of sexual violence. It included provisions regarding consent of the victim during various stages of examination, which some NGOs claimed was an improvement to recording incidents.

Women in conflict areas, such as in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh, as well as vulnerable Dalit or tribal women, were often victims of rape or threats of rape. National crime statistics indicated Dalit women were disproportionately victimized compared with other caste affiliations.

Domestic violence continued to be a problem. Acid attacks against women caused death and permanent disfigurement. During the year Chhattisgarh became the first state to establish one-stop crisis centers for women in distress, called “Sakhi centers,” in all its 27 districts, supported with federal funds from the Ministry of Women and Child Development. These centers provide medical, legal, counseling, and shelter services for women facing various types of violence, but primarily domestic violence related to dowry disputes and sexual violence.

The NCRB estimated the conviction rate for crimes against women to be 18.9 percent.

In 2015 the Supreme Court directed all private hospitals to provide medical assistance to victims of acid attacks. Implementation of the policy began in Chennai in 2016. In April the government announced that acid attack victims were to be included in the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.

In July 2016 the central government launched a revised Central Victim Compensation Fund scheme to reduce disparities in compensation for victims of crime including rape, acid attacks, crime against children, and human trafficking.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No national law addresses the practice of FGM/C. According to human rights groups and media reports, between 70 and 90 percent of Dawoodi Bohras, a population of approximately one million concentrated in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Delhi, practiced FGM/C.

On June 26, the Supreme Court sought responses from the national government and the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Delhi following a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking a ban on FGM/C. In May national Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi said FGM/C should be a criminal offense.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law forbids the provision or acceptance of a dowry, but families continued to offer and accept dowries, and dowry disputes remained a serious problem. NCRB data showed authorities arrested 19,973 persons for dowry deaths in 2015.

“Sumangali schemes” affected an estimated 120,000 young women. These plans, named after the Tamil word for “happily married woman,” are a form of bonded labor in which young women or girls work to earn money for a dowry to be able to marry. The promised lump-sum compensation ranged from 80,000 to 100,000 rupees ($1,300 to $1,600), which is normally withheld until the end of three to five years of employment. Compensation, however, sometimes went partially or entirely unpaid. While in bonded labor, employers reportedly subjected women to serious workplace abuses, severe restrictions on freedom of movement and communication, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and being killed. The majority of sumangali-bonded laborers came from the Scheduled Castes (SC) and, of those, employers subjected Dalits, the lowest-ranking Arunthathiyars, and migrants from the northern part of the country, to particular abuse. Authorities did not allow trade unions in sumangali factories, and some sumangali workers reportedly did not report abuses due to fear of retribution. A 2014 case study by NGO Vaan Muhil described health problems among workers and working conditions reportedly involving physical and sexual exploitation. In 2016 the Madras High Court ordered the Tamil Nadu government to evaluate the legality of sumangali schemes. It is unclear whether the state has complied with the court order.

Most states employed dowry prohibition officers. A 2010 Supreme Court ruling makes it mandatory for all trial courts to charge defendants in dowry-death cases with murder.

So-called honor killings remained a problem, especially in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana. These states also had low female birth ratios due to gender-selective abortions. On August 21, the Supreme Court sought suggestions from NGO Shakti Vahini and khap panchayats on ways to prevent harassment and killings of young couples in the name of family honor. The most common justification for the killings cited by the accused or by their relatives was that the victim married against her family’s wishes.

In a case of suspected honor killing in Telangana, police found a lower-caste Dalit man M. Madhukar dead from injuries on March 13. Dalit rights organizations rejected the police contention that it was a case of suicide and asserted the family members of an upper-caste girl were involved in his death. On April 6, the Hyderabad High Court ordered another autopsy on the body following protests and allegations that a local member of parliament was involved in a cover-up operation. There were no updates to the case at year’s end.

There were reports women and girls in the “devadasi” system of symbolic marriages to Hindu deities were victims of rape or sexual abuse at the hands of priests and temple patrons, a form of sex trafficking. NGOs suggested families forced some SC girls into prostitution in temples to mitigate household financial burdens and the prospect of marriage dowries. Some states have laws to curb prostitution or sexual abuse of women and girls in temple service. Enforcement of these laws remained lax, and the problem was widespread. Some observers estimated more than 450,000 women and girls engaged in temple-related prostitution.

There was no federal law addressing accusations of witchcraft; however, authorities may use other legal provisions as an alternative for a victim accused of witchcraft. Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Assam, and Jharkhand have laws criminalizing those who accuse others of witchcraft. Most reports stated villagers and local councils usually banned those accused of witchcraft from the village.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remains a serious problem. Authorities required all state departments and institutions with more than 50 employees to operate committees to prevent and address sexual harassment, often referred to as “eve teasing.”

Coercion in Population Control: There were reports of coerced and involuntary sterilization.

Some women reportedly were pressured to have tubal ligations, hysterectomies, or other forms of sterilization because of the payment structures for health workers and insurance payments for private facilities. This pressure appeared to affect disproportionately poor and lower-caste women. In September 2016 the Supreme Court ordered the closure of all sterilization camps within three years.

The country continued to have deaths related to unsafe abortion, maternal mortality, and coercive family planning practices, including coerced or unethical sterilization and policies restricting access to entitlements for women with more than two children. Policies and guideline initiatives penalizing families with more than two children remained in place in seven states, but some authorities did not enforce them. Certain states maintained government reservations for government jobs and subsidies for adults with no more than two children and reduced subsidies and access to health care for those who have more than two.

Rajasthan, one of 11 states to adopt a two-child limit for elected officials at the local level, was the first to adopt the law in 1992. Despite efforts at the state level to reverse or amend the law, it remained unchanged during the year. According to NGO Lawyers Collective, such policies often induced families to carry out sex-selection for the second birth to assure they have at least one son, without sacrificing future eligibility for political office.

Although national health officials noted the central government did not have the authority to regulate state decisions on population issues, the central government creates guidelines and funds state level reproductive health programs. A Supreme Court decision deemed the national government responsible for providing quality care for sterilization services at the state level. Almost all states also introduced “girl child promotion” schemes, intended to counter sex selection, some of which required a certificate of sterilization for the parents to collect benefits.

The government has promoted female sterilization as a form of family planning for decades and, as a result, female sterilization made up 86 percent of all contraceptive use in the country. Despite recent efforts to expand the range of contraceptive choices, the government sometimes promoted permanent female sterilization to the exclusion of alternate forms of contraception.

Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination in the workplace and requires equal pay for equal work, but employers often paid women less than men for the same job, discriminated against women in employment and credit applications, and promoted women less frequently than men.

Many tribal land systems, including in Bihar, deny tribal women the right to own land.

In January 2016 the Bihar government approved a 35-percent quota for women in state government jobs at all levels.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the latest census (2011), the national average male-female sex ratio at birth was 1,000 to 943. The law prohibits prenatal sex selection, but authorities rarely enforced it.

Children

Birth Registration: The law establishes state government procedures for birth registration. UNICEF estimated authorities registered 58 percent of national births each year. Children lacking citizenship or registration may not be able to access public services, enroll in school, or obtain identification documents later in life.

Education: The constitution provides for free education for all children from ages six to 14, but the government did not always comply with this requirement. The NGO Pratham’s 2016 Annual Survey of Education noted that in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Manipur, West Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh, female student attendance rates ranged between 50 to 60 percent.

According to the National Survey of Out of School Children 2014 report, 28 percent of children with disabilities ages six to 13 did not attend school.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, but it does not recognize physical abuse by caregivers, neglect, or psychological abuse as punishable offenses. Although banned, teachers often used corporal punishment. The government often failed to educate the public adequately against child abuse or to enforce the law.

In May humanitarian aid organization World Vision India conducted a survey of 45,844 children between the ages of 12 and 18 across 26 states and found that one in every two children was a victim of sexual abuse. The Counsel to Secure Justice reported nearly 30 percent of child sexual abuse cases involved incest and 99 percent of overall child sexual abuse cases were not reported.

The government sponsored a toll-free 24-hour helpline for children in distress working with 640 partners in 402 locations.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal age of marriage for women at 18 and men at 21, and it empowers courts to annul child marriages. It also sets penalties for persons who perform, arrange, or participate in such marriages. Authorities did not consistently enforce the law nor address rape of girls forced into marriage. The law does not characterize a marriage between a girl below age 18 and a boy below age 21 as “illegal,” but it recognizes such unions as voidable. According to international and local NGOs, procedural limitations effectively left married minors with no legal remedy in most situations.

The law establishes a full-time child-marriage prohibition officer in every state to prevent and police child marriage. These individuals have the power to intervene when a child marriage is taking place, document violations of the law, file charges against parents, remove children from dangerous situations, and deliver them to local child-protection authorities.

In May Karnataka amended existing legislation to declare every child marriage illegal and empowered police to take specific action.

On July 20, Minister of State for Women and Child Development Krishna Raj informed the upper house of parliament that 2015-16 data from NFHS-4 revealed a decline in the percentage of women between ages 20 and 24 married before age 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child pornography and sets the legal age of consent at 18. It is illegal to pay for sex with a minor, to induce a minor into prostitution or any form of “illicit sexual intercourse,” or to sell or buy a minor for the purposes of prostitution. Violators are subjected to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine.

Special Courts to try child sexual abuse cases existed in all six Delhi courts. Civil society groups observed, however, that large caseloads severely limited judges’ abilities to take on cases in a timely manner.

Child Soldiers: No information was available on how many persons under age 18 were serving in the armed forces. NGOs estimated there were at least 2,500 children associated with insurgent armed groups in Maoist-affected areas as well as child soldiers in insurgent groups in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. There were allegations government-supported, anti-Maoist village defense forces recruited children (see section 1.g., Child Soldiers).

Displaced Children: Displaced children, including refugees, IDPs, and street children, faced restrictions on access to government services (see also section 2.d.).

Institutionalized Children: Lax law enforcement and a lack of safeguards encouraged an atmosphere of impunity in a number of group homes and orphanages.

The Calcutta Research Group reported police sometimes separated families detained at the India-Bangladesh border in the state of West Bengal by institutionalizing children in Juvenile Justice Homes with limited and restricted access to their families.

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

Anti-Semitism

Jewish groups from the 4,650-member Jewish community cited no reports of anti-Semitic acts during the year.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution does not explicitly mention disability. The law provides equal rights for persons with a variety of disabilities, and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 increased the number of recognized disabilities, including Parkinson’s disease and acid attacks. The law set a two-year deadline for the government to provide persons with disabilities with unrestricted free access to physical infrastructure and public transportation systems.

The law also reserves 3 percent of all educational places for persons with disabilities, and 4 percent of government jobs. In June 2016 the Supreme Court directed the government to extend the 4-percent reservation to all government posts. In June a government panel decided that private news networks must accompany public broadcasts with sign language interpretations and closed captions to accommodate persons with disabilities better. The government allocated funds to programs and NGO partners to increase the number of jobs filled.

Despite these efforts, problems remained. Private-sector employment of persons with disabilities remained low, despite governmental incentives.

Discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, and access to health care was more pervasive in rural areas, and 45 percent of the country’s population of persons with disabilities was illiterate. There was limited accessibility to public buildings. A PIL file was pending in the Supreme Court on accessibility to buildings and roads.

A Department of School Education and Literacy program provided special educators and resource centers for students with disabilities. Mainstream schools remained inadequately equipped with teachers trained in inclusive education, resource material, and appropriate curricula.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare estimated of the individuals with mental disabilities, 25 percent were homeless.

Patients in some mental-health institutions faced food shortages, inadequate sanitary conditions, and lack of adequate medical care. HRW reported women and girls with disabilities occasionally were forced into mental hospitals against their will.

In June 2016 the Supreme Court directed the government to extend the 4-percent reservation to all government posts.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The constitution prohibits caste discrimination. The registration of castes and tribes continued for the purpose of affirmative action programs, as the government implemented programs to empower members of the low castes. Discrimination based on caste remained prevalent particularly in rural areas.

The term “Dalit,” derived from the Sanskrit for “oppressed” or “crushed,” refers to members of what society regarded as the lowest Hindu castes, the Scheduled Castes (SC). Many SC members continued to face impediments to social advancement, including education, jobs, access to justice, freedom of movement, and access to institutions and services. According to the 2011 census, SC members constituted 17 percent (approximately 200 million persons) of the population.

Although the law protects Dalits, there were numerous reports of violence and significant discrimination in access to services, such as health care, education, temple attendance, and marriage. Many Dalits were malnourished. Most bonded laborers were Dalits. Dalits who asserted their rights were often victims of attacks, especially in rural areas. As agricultural laborers for higher-caste landowners, Dalits reportedly often worked without monetary remuneration. Reports from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination described systematic abuse of Dalits, including extrajudicial killings and sexual violence against Dalit women. Crimes committed against Dalits reportedly often went unpunished, either because authorities failed to prosecute perpetrators or because victims did not report crimes due to fear of retaliation.

NGOs reported widespread discrimination, including prohibiting Dalits from walking on public pathways, wearing footwear, accessing water from public taps in upper-caste neighborhoods, participating in some temple festivals, bathing in public pools, or using certain cremation grounds. In Gujarat, for example, Dalits were reportedly denied entry to temples and denied educational and employment opportunities.

NGOs reported that Dalit students were sometimes denied admission to certain schools because of their caste or were required to present caste certification prior to admission. There were reports that school officials barred Dalit children from morning prayers, asked Dalit children to sit in the back of the class, or forced them to clean school toilets while denying them access to the same facilities. There were also reports that teachers refused to correct the homework of Dalit children, refused to provide midday meals to Dalit children, and asked Dalit children to sit separately from children of upper-caste families.

In April the supporters of Bhim Army, a lower-caste Dalit advocacy group in Uttar Pradesh, reportedly faced violence at the hands of organized upper-caste Thakur landlords in Uttar Pradesh. More than 50 Dalit houses were reportedly burned and many individuals injured in the violence. In May thousands of Dalits, led by the Bhim Army, staged a demonstration against the violence. As confrontations between the communities escalated, police arrested several Bhim Army activists, including leader Chandrshekhar Azad. State police reportedly did not detain upper-caste participants.

The federal and state governments continued to implement programs for members of lower caste groups to provide better-quality housing, quotas in schools, government jobs, and access to subsidized foods. Critics claimed many of these programs suffered from poor implementation and/or corruption.

Manual scavenging–the removal of animal or human waste by Dalits–continued in spite of its legal prohibition. NGO activists claimed elected village councils employed a majority of manual scavengers that belonged to Other Backward Classes and Dalit populations. Media regularly published articles and pictures of persons cleaning manholes and sewers without protective gear. On March 16, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment stated that there were 12,737 manual scavengers in 13 states and union territories. NGOs maintained the actual numbers were higher.

HRW reported that children of manual scavengers faced discrimination, humiliation, and segregation at village schools. Their occupation often exposed manual scavengers to infections that affected their skin, eyes, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. Health practitioners suggested children exposed to such bacteria were often unable to maintain a healthy body weight and suffered from stunted growth.

The law prohibits the employment of scavengers or the construction of dry (nonflush) latrines, and penalties range from imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of 2,000 rupees ($32), or both.

Indigenous People

The constitution provides for the social, economic, and political rights of disadvantaged groups of indigenous persons. The law provides special status for indigenous individuals, but authorities often denied them their rights.

In most of the northeastern states, where indigenous groups constituted the majority of the states’ populations, the law provides for tribal rights, although some local authorities disregarded these provisions. The law prohibits any nontribal person, including citizens from other states, from crossing a government-established inner boundary without a valid permit. No one may remove rubber, wax, ivory, or other forest products from protected areas without authorization. Tribal authorities must approve the sale of land to nontribal persons.

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

The law criminalizes homosexual sex. The country recognizes Hijras (male-to-female transgender persons) as a third gender, separate from men or women. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons faced physical attacks, rape, and blackmail. Some police committed crimes against LGBTI persons and used the threat of arrest to coerce victims not to report the incidents. With the aid of NGOs, several states offered education and sensitivity training to police.

LGBTI groups reported they faced widespread societal discrimination and violence, particularly in rural areas. Activists reported that transgender persons, who were HIV positive, continued to face difficulty obtaining medical treatment.

In January 2015 a high court dismissed petitions challenging the 2013 Supreme Court judgment reinstating a colonial-era legal provision criminalizing homosexual sex. It has since agreed to review that ruling. Additionally, in an August ruling that the country’s citizens have a constitutional right to privacy, the Supreme Court termed sexual orientation “an essential attribute of privacy.”

In February the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare unveiled the 2017 Saathiya Education Plan, resource material related to sex education, which recognized that persons can feel attraction for any individual of the same or opposite sex.

In April K. Prithika Yashini became India’s first transgender individual to join a state police force in Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu. She was initially denied police service employment until the Madras High Court intervened and ruled in her favor.

In May the Kerala government hired 21 transgender citizens in Kochi, but several weeks later many of the transgender workers quit their jobs, reportedly because of difficulty finding rental accommodation in Kochi due to their gender identities.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The number of new HIV cases decreased by 57 percent over the past decade. The epidemic persisted among the most vulnerable populations: high-risk groups, which include female sex workers; men who have sex with men; transgender persons; and persons who inject drugs.

Additionally, antiretroviral drug stock outages in a few states led to treatment interruption. On April 11, the government passed the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill. The bill is designed to prevent discrimination in regards to health care, employment, education, housing, economic participation, or political representation.

The National AIDS Control Program prioritized HIV prevention, care, and treatment interventions for high-risk groups and rights of persons living with HIV.

The National AIDS Control Organization worked actively with NGOs to train women’s HIV/AIDS self-help groups.

Police engaged in programs to strengthen their role in protecting communities vulnerable to human rights violations and HIV.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Societal violence based on religion and caste and by religiously associated groups continued to be a serious concern. Ministry of Home Affairs 2016-17 data showed 703 incidents of communal (religious) violence took place, which killed 86 persons and injured 2,321.

On July 26, the upper house of parliament issued a statement in response to hate crimes, expressing the need for the Union and the Ministry of Home Affairs to take proactive measures in order to create a heightened sense of security and inclusion for citizens from the northeastern region. In response to a recommendation of the Supreme Court, a committee was established to address such concerns.

The year saw an increase in cow vigilante attacks, typically associated with Hindu extremists. Since 2010 61 of the 63 reported attacks targeted Muslims, and 24 out of 28 of those killed in the attacks were Muslim. According to HRW cow vigilante violence has resulted in the death of at least 10 Muslims since 2015, including a 12-year-old boy. In several instances police filed charges against the assault victims under existing laws prohibiting cow slaughter. According to a report by IndiaSpend, an independent journalism outlet, mob lynchings of minorities took place in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. In the first six months of the year, 20 cow-related vigilante attacks were reported, a more than 75-percent increase over 2016.

According to media reports, on June 22, 16-year-old Junaid Khan was stabbed to death on a train in Haryana by a mob who accused him and his three companions of transporting beef. The Haryana police arrested six accused individuals in connection with the case. On July 9, Maharashtra police arrested Naresh Kumar, the prime suspect in the case, and as of August, four of the six accused had been granted bail.

On September 11, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told the 36th opening session of the Human Rights Council he was dismayed by a broader rise of intolerance towards religious and other minorities in the country. He stated, “The current wave of violent, and often lethal, mob attacks against persons under the pretext of protecting the lives of cows is alarming.”

Iran

Executive Summary

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a theocratic republic with a Shia Islamic political system based on “velayat-e faqih” (“guardianship of the jurist” or “rule by the jurisprudent”). Shia clergy, most notably the “Rahbar” (“supreme jurisprudent” or “supreme leader”), and political leaders vetted by the clergy dominate key power structures.

The supreme leader is the head of state. The members of the Assembly of Experts are directly elected in popular elections, and the assembly selects and may dismiss the supreme leader. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has held the position since 1989. He has direct or indirect control over the legislative and executive branches of government through unelected councils under his authority. The supreme leader holds constitutional authority over the judiciary, government-run media, and armed forces, and indirectly controls internal security forces and other key institutions. While mechanisms for popular election exist for the president, who is head of government, and for the Islamic Consultative Assembly (parliament or “Majles”), the unelected Guardian Council vets candidates and controls the election process. Half of the 12-member Guardian Council is appointed by the supreme leader, while the other half is appointed by the head of the judiciary. In May voters re-elected Hassan Rouhani as president. Despite high voter turnout, candidate vetting allowed six presidential candidates to run out of 1,636 individuals who registered for the race. Restrictions on media, including censoring campaign materials and preventing prominent opposition figures from speaking publicly, limited the freedom and fairness of the elections.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included a high number of executions for crimes not meeting the international legal standard of “most serious crimes” and without fair trials of individuals, including juvenile offenders; disappearances by government agents; torture; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention and imprisonment; hundreds of political prisoners; unlawful interference with privacy; severe restrictions on freedom of expression, including criminalization of libel and suppression of virtually all expression deemed critical of the regime or its officials; severe restrictions on the press, including imprisonment of reporters, and of the internet which the government disrupted and censored, as well as on academic and cultural freedom; severe restrictions on the rights of assembly and association to block any activity it deemed “anti-regime”, including repression of nationwide protests that began on December 28; egregious restrictions on religious freedom; refoulement of refugees; elections where the regime pre-selected the candidates and that otherwise did not meet international standards and severely limited political participation; pervasive government corruption in all branches and at all levels of government; trafficking in persons; and governmental restrictions on the rights of women and minorities. LGBTI status and/or conduct remained criminalized and subject to the death penalty and LGBTI persons faced arrest, official harassment, and intimidation, as well as cruel and degrading treatment by security officials. There were severe restrictions on independent trade unions.

The government took few steps to investigate, prosecute, punish, or otherwise hold accountable officials who committed these abuses, many of which were perpetrated as a matter of government policy. Impunity remained pervasive throughout all levels of the government and security forces.

The country materially contributed to human rights abuses in Syria, through its military support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and for Hizballah forces there, as well as in Iraq, through its aid to certain Iraqi Shia militia groups.

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

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

The government and its agents reportedly committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, most commonly by execution after arrest and trial without due process, or for crimes that did not meet the international threshold of “most serious crimes.” As noted by the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Asma Jahangir, Revolutionary Courts continued to issue the vast majority of death sentences in the country, and trials lacked due process. Legal representation was denied during the investigation phase, and in most cases no evidence other than confessions, often reportedly extracted through torture, was considered.

The government made few attempts to investigate allegations of deaths that occurred after or during torture or other physical abuse or after denying detainees medical treatment. The death penalty may also be imposed on appeal, which deterred appeals in criminal cases.

In the context of the severe fair trial limitations mentioned above, there were at least 437 reported executions as of October, according to NGO Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC). The government officially announced 70 executions through October but did not release further information on many of those executions, such as the execution dates, names of those executed, or crimes for which they were executed.

Many executions continued to be carried out in public. According to reports by the IHRDC, there were at least 26 public executions during the year at Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj (also known as Gohardasht Prison). Reports indicated that these public executions were generally attended by hundreds of individuals, including children. The government also continued regularly to carry out mass executions. According to the NGO Iran Human Rights, at least 12 prisoners were hanged on February 15 at Rajai Shahr Prison.

The law provides for the death penalty in cases of conviction for murder, “attempts against the security of the state,” “outrage against high-ranking officials,” “moharebeh” (which has a variety of broad interpretations, including “waging war against God”), “fisad fil-arz” (corruption on earth, including apostasy or heresy), rape, adultery, drug possession and trafficking, recidivist alcohol use, consensual same-sex sexual conduct, and “insults against the memory of Imam Khomeini and against the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic.”

Prosecutors frequently used moharebeh as a criminal charge against political dissidents and journalists, accusing them of “struggling against the precepts of Islam” and against the state that upholds those precepts. Authorities have expanded the scope of this to include “working to undermine the Islamic establishment” and “cooperating with foreign agents or entities.” The judiciary is required to review and validate death sentences.

The majority of executions in the country continued to be for drug-related offenses. Drug offenders, like others, continued to be executed without due process.

In August parliament passed an amendment to the 1997 Law to Combat Drugs that would raise the threshold for the death penalty for drug-related offenses. Under the amended law, capital punishment applies to the possession, sale, or transport of more than approximately 110 pounds of natural drugs, such as opium, or approximately 4.4 to 6.6 pounds of manufactured narcotics, such as heroin or cocaine. According to the old law, capital punishment applied to similar offenses involving slightly more than 11 pounds of natural drugs or two-thirds of a pound of manufactured drugs. Capital punishment, however, still applies to drug offenses involving smaller quantities of narcotics, if the crime is carried out using weapons, employing minors, or involving someone in a leadership role in a trafficking ring or someone who has previously been convicted of drug crimes and given a prison sentence of more than 15 years. The Guardian Council approved the law, and it went into effect on November 14.

The Islamic Penal Code allows for the execution of juvenile offenders starting at age nine for girls and age 13 for boys.

The law allows the judge to determine whether the individual understood the nature and consequences of the crime committed, potentially offering an alternative punishment to the death penalty in certain cases, although reports threw into doubt whether these alternative punishments were applied.

According to an August report by Amnesty International, 89 juvenile offenders were on death row. The government executed at least four juvenile offenders during the year, including Alireza Tajiki, who was executed in August. Tajiki was arrested in 2012 at age 15 and sentenced to death for murder. Reports noted that Tajiki’s trial was unfair and relied on “confessions” Tajiki claimed were made under duress and torture.

In August spiritual leader Mohammad Ali Taheri was sentenced to death on charges of founding a cult and “corruption on earth.” The government labelled Taheri’s movement, variously referred to as Erfan-e Halgheh or Erfan Kayhani, a “satanic” and “deviant sect.” In 2014 Taheri had been sentenced to death on similar charges, although that sentence was annulled in 2015. According to media and NGO reports, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also detained dozens of Taheri’s followers during the year.

Adultery remained punishable by death by stoning. According to the NGO Justice for Iran, provincial authorities have been ordered not to provide public information about stoning sentences since 2001. According to Iran Human Rights, in February a man and woman were sentenced to death by stoning by a criminal court in Lorestan Province.

Terrorist groups targeted civilians during the year. ISIS claimed responsibility for the June 7 terrorist attacks in Tehran, which killed at least 12 persons and injured dozens more at the parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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

Although the constitution prohibits all forms of torture “for the purpose of extracting confession or acquiring information,” use of physical and mental torture to coerce confessions remains prevalent, especially during pretrial detention. There were credible reports that security forces and prison personnel tortured and abused detainees and prisoners throughout the year.

Commonly reported methods of torture and abuse in prisons included threats of execution or rape, forced virginity and sodomy tests, sleep deprivation, electroshock, burnings, the use of pressure positions, and severe and repeated beatings. UNSR Jahangir highlighted reports of prisoners being subjected to blackmail, beating, and other physical abuse.

Human rights organizations frequently cited some prison facilities, including Evin Prison in Tehran and Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj, for their use of cruel and prolonged torture of political opponents of the government, particularly Wards 209 and Two of Evin Prison, which were reportedly controlled by the IRGC. Authorities also allegedly maintained unofficial secret prisons and detention centers outside the national prison system where abuse reportedly occurred.

Judicially sanctioned corporal punishments continued. These included flogging, blinding, stoning, and amputation, which the government defends as “punishment,” not torture.

Iran Human Rights reported the case of three prisoners accused of theft having their hands amputated on September 21 at Qom Central Prison.

UNSR Jahangir reported that in January, Hossein Movahedi, a reporter in Najafabad accused of disseminating falsehoods, was flogged for inaccurately reporting the number of student-owned motorcycles impounded by the Najafabad police department.

Extrajudicial punishments involving degrading public humiliation of alleged offenders were also frequently reported throughout the year.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. Prisoner hunger strikes in protest of their treatment were frequent.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding remained a problem in prisons with many prisoners forced to sleep on floors, in hallways, or in prison yards. The human rights NGO United for Iran, which closely monitored prison conditions, reported in June that the country’s existing prisoner population of approximately 220,000 was three times the capacity of its prisons and detention centers.

There were reported deaths in custody. The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported that on June 19, Fardin Faramarzi died in Sanandaj Central Prison without receiving medical care, despite repeated attempts to obtain care for an undisclosed heart condition and related severe pain.

According to IranWire, guards beat both political and nonpolitical prisoners during raids on wards, performed nude body searches in front of other prisoners, and threatened prisoners’ families. In some instances, according to HRANA, guards singled out political prisoners for harsher treatment.

Prison authorities often refused to provide medical treatment for pre-existing conditions, injuries that prisoners suffered at the hands of prison authorities, or illness due to the poor sanitary conditions in prison. Human rights organizations reported that authorities also used denial of medical care as a form of punishment for prisoners. In March the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) reported that authorities had denied medical care to Jamaloddin Khanjani and Behrouz Tavakkoli, two of the Bahai leaders imprisoned since 2008.

Medical services for female prisoners in places like Evin Prison were reported as grossly inadequate. Human rights groups highlighted the case of children’s rights activist Atena Daemi, serving a seven-year sentence in Evin Prison during the year for meeting with the families of political prisoners, criticizing the government on Facebook, and condemning the 1988 mass executions of prisoners in the country. Authorities reportedly denied Daemi treatment for kidney infections and complications from gall bladder stones, while an additional charge was brought against her for pretending to be sick.

Frequent water shortages, intolerable heat, unsanitary living spaces, and poor ventilation were regularly reported.

UNSR Jahangir and others condemned the inhuman, life-threatening conditions of Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj following the hunger strike of numerous political prisoners that began at the end of July. Prisoners protested the sudden transfer of more than 50 political prisoners, including at least 15 Bahais, whom authorities moved without notice from Ward 12 to the prison’s high security Ward 10. Authorities reportedly deprived prisoners of medicine, adequate medical treatment, and personal belongings, and sealed prisoners’ cells with iron sheets that limited air circulation. In her statement issued on August 31, UNSR Jahangir expressed deep alarm at the deteriorating medical conditions of the political prisoners and at reports of their continued torture following the transfer.

Authorities occasionally held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. According to HRANA, juvenile detainees were held with adult prisoners in some prisons, including Saghez Central Prison in Kurdistan Province. Authorities held women separately from men.

Mohammad Javad Fat’hi, a member of parliament’s judicial committee, was quoted in media saying that 2,300 children were in prisons during the year with their incarcerated mothers. Fat’hi urged the Prisons Organization to provide transparent statistics on the number of imprisoned mothers. IranWire reported that multiple prisons across the country held older children who lived with their incarcerated mothers without access to medical care or educational and recreational facilities.

There were numerous reports of prisoner suicides throughout the year. According to HRANA, Saeed Naderi Gol Dareh, imprisoned in Ghezelhasar Prison in Karaj on drug-related charges, committed suicide on June 10 by ingesting chemicals.

Administration: Prisoners generally had weekly access to visitors and telephone and other correspondence privileges, but authorities often revoked these privileges. Prisoners practicing a religion other than Shia Islam reported experiencing discrimination while incarcerated. Prisoners were able to submit complaints to judicial authorities but often faced censorship and retribution.

Authorities did not initiate credible investigations into allegations of inhuman conditions. Families of executed prisoners did not always receive notification of their deaths, and authorities frequently denied them the ability to perform funeral rites.

Independent Monitoring: The government did not permit independent monitoring of prison conditions. Prisoners and their families often wrote letters to authorities and, in some cases, to UN bodies to highlight and protest their treatment. The UNSR reported that authorities sometimes threatened prisoners after accusing them of contacting her office.

In July authorities arranged a visit for representatives from numerous foreign diplomatic missions to Evin Prison. According to Amnesty International and other sources, however, the representatives were not allowed unrestricted access to the entire prison.

Prisoner hunger strikes occurred frequently at Evin Prison and elsewhere, and reports on Evin Prison’s inhuman conditions continued. These included infestations with cockroaches and mice, chronic overcrowding, poor ventilation, prisoners being forced to sleep on the floor with little bedding, and insufficient food.

For more information on treatment of political prisoners, see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Although the constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, the practices occurred frequently during the year. President Rouhani’s 2016 “Citizen’s Rights Charter” enumerates various freedoms, including “security of their person, property, dignity, employment, legal and judicial process, social security and the like.” The government has not implemented these provisions. Detainees may appeal their sentences in court but are not entitled to compensation for detention.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Several agencies shared responsibility for law enforcement and maintaining order, including the Ministry of Intelligence and Security and law enforcement forces under the Interior Ministry, which report to the president, and the IRGC, which reports directly to the supreme leader.

The Basij, a volunteer paramilitary group with local organizations across the country, sometimes acted as an auxiliary law enforcement unit subordinate to IRGC ground forces. Basij units often engaged in repression of political opposition elements or intimidation of civilians accused of violating the country’s strict moral code, without formal guidance or supervision from superiors. The supreme leader holds ultimate authority over all security agencies.

Impunity remained a problem within all security forces. Human rights groups frequently accused regular and paramilitary security forces, such as the Basij, of committing numerous human rights abuses, including acts of violence against protesters and participants in public demonstrations. According to remarks from Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, the attorney general is responsible for investigating and punishing security force abuses, but the process was not transparent, and there were few reports of government actions to discipline abusers. In a notable exception, in November authorities sentenced former Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi to two years in prison for his alleged responsibility for the torture and death of protesters in 2009.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution and law require a warrant or subpoena for an arrest and state that arrested persons should be informed of the charges against them within 24 hours. Authorities, however, held some detainees, at times incommunicado, for days, weeks, or months without charge or trial and frequently denied them contact with family or timely access to legal representation.

The law obligates the government to provide indigent defendants with attorneys for certain types of crimes. The courts set prohibitively high bail, even for lesser crimes, and in many cases, courts did not set bail. Authorities often compelled detainees and their families to submit property deeds to post bail, effectively silencing them due to fear of losing their families’ property.

The government continued to use house arrest without due process to restrict movement and communication. At year’s end former presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, as well as Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard, remained under house arrest imposed in 2011 without formal charges. Security forces continued to restrict their access to visitors and information. In August, 79-year-old Karroubi went on a hunger strike to demand a public trial and protest the continuing presence of security guards in his house. According to reports Intelligence Ministry agents departed Karroubi’s house but continued to control access from outside. Concerns persisted over Karroubi’s deteriorating health, reportedly exacerbated by his treatment by authorities.

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities commonly used arbitrary arrests to impede alleged antiregime activities. Plainclothes officers arrived unannounced at homes or offices, arrested persons, conducted raids, and confiscated private documents, passports, computers, electronic media, and other personal items without warrants or assurances of due process.

Individuals often remained in detention facilities for long periods without charges or trials, and authorities sometimes prevented them from informing others of their whereabouts for several days. Authorities often denied detainees’ access to legal counsel during this period and imposed travel bans on individuals released on bail or pending trial.

On February 23, according to a CHRI report, authorities arrested Kurdish civil rights activist Farzaneh Jalali without a warrant. They held her at an Intelligence Ministry detention center until she was released, without charge, on March 13.

Dual nationals–individuals who are citizens of both Iran and another country–continued to be targeted for arbitrary and prolonged detention on the basis of politically motivated charges during the year. Like other Iranians in similar situations, dual nationals faced a variety of due process violations, including lack of prompt access to a lawyer of their choosing and brief trials during which they were not allowed to defend themselves. In some cases courts sentenced such individuals to 10 years or more in prison, and such sentences were generally affirmed on appeal.

Pretrial Detention: Pretrial detention was often arbitrarily lengthy, particularly in cases involving alleged violations of national security law. In other cases authorities held persons incommunicado for lengthy periods before permitting them to contact family members. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a judge may prolong detention at his discretion, and pretrial detentions often lasted for months. Often authorities held pretrial detainees in custody with the general prison population.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees may appeal their sentences in courts of law but are not entitled to compensation for detention and were often held for extended periods without any legal proceedings.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and subject to strict penalties, including death, but it remained a problem. The law considers sex within marriage consensual by definition and, therefore, does not address spousal rape, including in cases of forced marriage.

Most rape victims likely did not report the crime because they feared retaliation or punishment for having been raped, including charges of indecency, immoral behavior, or adultery, the last of which carries the death penalty. Rape victims also feared societal reprisal or ostracism.

For a conviction of rape, the law requires four Muslim men or a combination of three men and two women or two men and four women, to have witnessed a rape. A woman or man found making a false accusation of rape is subject to 80 lashes.

The law does not prohibit domestic violence. Authorities considered abuse in the family a private matter and seldom discussed it publicly.

An August report by the CHRI referenced a study presented at the nongovernmental Imam Ali Foundation’s May conference in Tehran on violence against women in the country, according to which 32 percent of women in urban areas and 63 percent in rural areas had been victims of domestic violence. In March a government official was quoted saying that 11,000 cases of domestic abuse had been registered by the National Welfare Organization.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law criminalizes FGM/C and states, “the cutting or removing of the two sides of female genitalia leads to ‘diyeh’ (financial penalty or blood money) equal to half the full amount of ‘diyeh’ for the woman’s life.”

FGM was reportedly most common in Hormozgan Province and also practiced in Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan provinces. According to a Radio Farda report in February, 46 percent of women in Kermanshah Province and 31 percent in West Azerbaijan Province had undergone FGM. Traditional midwives were said to perform approximately 98 percent of the mutilations.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: There were no official reports of killings motivated by “honor” or other harmful traditional practices during the year, although human rights activists reported that such killings continued to occur, particularly among rural and tribal populations.

The law reduces punitive measures for fathers and other family members who are convicted of murder or physically harming children in domestic violence or “honor killings.” If a man is found guilty of murdering his daughter, the punishment is between three and 10 years in prison rather than the normal death sentence or payment of “diyeh” for homicide cases.

Sexual Harassment: The law addresses sexual harassment in the context of physical contact between men and women and prohibits physical contact between unrelated men and women. There was no reliable data on the extent of sexual harassment, but women and human rights observers reported that sexual harassment was the norm in many workplaces. There were no known government efforts to address this problem.

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

Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal protection for women under the law in conformity with its interpretation of Islam. The government did not enforce the law, and provisions in the law, particularly sections dealing with family and property law, discriminate against women.

Women may not transmit citizenship to their children or to a noncitizen spouse. The government does not recognize marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men, irrespective of their citizenship. The law states that a virgin woman or girl wishing to wed needs the consent of her father or grandfather or the court’s permission.

The law permits a man to have as many as four wives and an unlimited number of “sigheh” (temporary wives), based on a Shia custom under which couples may enter into a limited-time civil and religious contract, which outlines the union’s conditions.

A woman has the right to divorce if her husband signs a contract granting that right; cannot provide for his family; has violated the terms of their marriage contract; or is a drug addict, insane, or impotent. A husband is not required to cite a reason for divorcing his wife. The law recognizes a divorced woman’s right to part of shared property and to alimony. These laws were not always enforced.

The law provides divorced women preference in custody for children up to age seven, but fathers maintain legal guardianship rights over the child and must agree on many legal aspects of the child’s life (such as issuing travel documents, enrolling in school, or filing a police report). After the child reaches the age of seven, the father is granted custody unless he is proven unfit to care for the child.

Women sometimes received disproportionate punishment for crimes such as adultery, including death sentences. Islamic law retains provisions that equate a woman’s testimony in a court of law to half that of a man’s and value a woman’s life as half that of a man’s. According to the law, the “diyeh” (blood money) paid in the death of a woman is half the amount paid in the death of a man, with the exception of car accident insurance payments.

Women have access to primary and advanced education. According to media reports during the year, women gaining admission to universities nationwide outnumbered men by 13 percent. Quotas and other restrictions nonetheless limited women’s admissions to certain fields and degree programs.

As UNSR Jahangir reported during the year, women’s participation in the job market remained as low as 16 percent. Women were said to earn 41 percent less than men for the same work. Unemployment among women in the country was twice as high as it was among men.

Women continued to face discrimination in home and property ownership, as well as access to financing. In cases of inheritance, male heirs receive twice the inheritance of their female counterparts. The government enforced gender segregation in many public spaces. Women must ride in a reserved section on public buses and enter some public buildings, universities, and airports through separate entrances.

The law provides that a woman who appears in public without appropriate attire, such as a cloth scarf veil (“hijab”) over the head and a long jacket (“manteau”), or a large full-length cloth covering (“chador”), may be sentenced to flogging and fined. Absent a clear legal definition of “appropriate attire” or of the related punishment, women were subjected to the opinions of various disciplinary and security force members, police, and judges.

February media reports stated that morality police beat and detained a 14-year-old girl for wearing ripped jeans. Authorities released the girl and her friends only after they signed pledges promising to dress modestly.

In September, according to media and reporting from human rights groups, women were barred from attending a World Cup qualifying match in Tehran between Iran and Syria. Female Syrian fans were present, and a protest outside Azadi stadium ensued.

As noted by the UNSR and other organizations, several Iranian female athletes were also barred from participating in international tournaments, either by the country’s sport agencies or by their husbands.

The ability of civil society organizations to fight for and protect women’s rights was significantly challenged by judicial harassment, intimidation, detention, and smear campaigns.

Children

The country established the National Body on the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2012 to promote the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which it is a signatory. The body, which reviews draft regulations and legislation relating to children’s rights, is overseen by the Ministry of Justice.

The country last underwent a periodic panel review by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in January 2016. The review noted many concerns, including discrimination against girls; children with disabilities; unregistered, refugee, and migrant children; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) minors.

There is a separate juvenile court system. Male juvenile detainees were held in separate Rehabilitation Centers in most urban areas, but female juvenile detainees and male juvenile detainees in rural areas were held alongside adults in detention facilities, according to NGO reports presented to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Birth Registration: Only a child’s father conveys citizenship, regardless of the child’s country of birth or mother’s citizenship. Birth within the country’s borders does not confer citizenship, except when a child is born to unknown parents. The law requires that all births be registered within 15 days.

Education: Although primary schooling until age 11 is free and compulsory for all, media and other sources reported lower enrollment in rural areas, especially for girls.

In December 2016 Deputy Labor Minister Ahmad Meydari was quoted saying that 130,000 children had been left out of the country’s education system that year. A CHRI report in July noted that it was unclear whether the number cited by Meydari included children without Iranian citizenship. Children without state-issued identification cards are denied the right to education.

Child Abuse: There was little information available on how the government dealt with child abuse. The law states, “Any form of abuse of children and juveniles that causes physical, psychological, or moral harm and threatens their physical or mental health is prohibited,” and such crimes carry a maximum sentence of three months in confinement or 10 million rials ($275). The law does not directly address sexual molestation nor provide punishment for it. In March a government official stated that 12,000 cases of child abuse had been registered by the National Welfare Organization, but the time frame for the cases was not clear.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage for girls is 13, but girls as young as nine years old may be married with permission from the court and their fathers. In 2016 UNICEF reported that 17 percent of girls in the country were married before reaching age 18. NGOs reported that many families did not register underage marriages, indicating the number may be higher.

In her March 17 report, UNSR Jahangir cited statistics from the Tehran-based Association to Protect the Rights of Children, according to which 17 percent of all marriages in the country involved girls married to “old men.”

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The legal age requirements for consensual sex are the same as those for marriage, as sex outside of marriage is illegal. There are no specific laws regarding child sexual exploitation, with such crimes either falling under the category of child abuse or sexual crimes of adultery.

According to the CHRI, the legal ambiguity between child abuse and sexual molestation could lead to child sexual molestation cases being prosecuted under adultery law. While no separate provision exists for the rape of a child, the crime of rape, regardless of the victim’s age, is potentially punishable by death.

Displaced Children: There are thousands of Afghan refugee children in the country, many of whom were born in Iran but could not obtain identity documents. These children were often unable to attend schools or access basic government services and were vulnerable to labor exploitation and trafficking.

In its January 2016 report, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child noted continued “allegations of abuse and ill treatment of refugee and asylum-seeking children by police and security forces.” UNHCR stated that school enrollment among refugees was generally higher outside camps and settlements, where greater resources were available.

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

Anti-Semitism

The law recognizes Jews as a religious minority and provides for their representation in parliament. According to the 2011 census, the Jewish community numbered approximately 8,700. Siamak Moreh Sedgh is the Jewish member of parliament. Officials continued to question the history of the Holocaust, and anti-Semitism remained a pervasive problem.

According to human rights organizations, unidentified assailants vandalized two synagogues in the city of Shiraz on December 24-25 (see the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/).

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law generally prohibits discrimination by government actors against persons with disabilities but does not apply to private actors. No information was available regarding authorities’ effectiveness in enforcing the law. The law prohibits those with visual, hearing, or speech disabilities from running for seats in parliament. While the law provides for government-funded vocational education for persons with disabilities, according to domestic news reports vocational centers were only located in urban areas and unable to meet the needs of the entire population.

The law provides for public accessibility to government-funded buildings, and new structures appeared to comply with these standards. There were efforts to increase the access of persons with disabilities to historical sites. Government buildings that predated existing accessibility standards remained largely inaccessible, and general building accessibility for persons with disabilities remained a problem. Persons with disabilities had limited access to informational, educational, and community activities.

ainstream children with disabilities into public schools.

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

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The constitution grants equal rights to all ethnic minorities, allowing minority languages to be used in the media. Article 101 of the Charter on Citizens’ Rights grants the right of citizens to learn, use, and teach their own languages and dialects. In practice, minorities did not enjoy equal rights, and the government consistently barred use of their languages in school as the language of instruction.

The government disproportionately targeted minority groups, including Kurds, Ahvazis, Azeris, and Baluchis, for arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, and physical abuse. In its January 2016 panel review on the country, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child reported “widespread discrimination against children of ethnic minorities,” as well as “reported targeted arrests, detentions, imprisonments, killings, torture, and executions against such groups by the law enforcement and judicial authorities.”

These ethnic minority groups reported political and socioeconomic discrimination, particularly in their access to economic aid, business licenses, university admissions, job opportunities, permission to publish books, and housing and land rights.

The law, which requires religious screening and allegiance to the concept of “velayat-e faqih,” not found in Sunni Islam, impaired the ability of Sunni (many of whom are also Baluch, Ahvazi, or Kurdish) to integrate into civic life and to work in certain fields.

Human rights organizations observed that the government’s application of the death penalty disproportionately affected ethnic minorities. In pretrial detention authorities reportedly repeatedly subjected members of minority ethnicities and religious groups to more severe physical punishment, including torture, than other prisoners, regardless of the type of crime for which authorities accused them.

Amnesty International reported on the forced disappearances of five Kurdish men on June 23-24. According to the report, Ramin Panahi, a member of the Komala armed opposition group, was arrested after taking part in an armed clash with the IRGC in Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province. IRGC guards then arrested Panahi’s brother and three other relatives, none of whom were reported to be involved with the armed clashes.

The estimated eight million ethnic Kurds in the country frequently campaigned for greater regional autonomy. The government continued to use the law to arrest and prosecute Kurds for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. The government reportedly banned Kurdish-language newspapers, journals, and books and punished publishers, journalists, and writers for opposing and criticizing government policies.

Authorities suppressed legitimate activities of Kurdish NGOs by denying them registration permits or bringing security charges against persons working with such organizations. Authorities did not prohibit the use of the Kurdish language in general.

Amnesty International reported that on May 12, authorities released Mohammad Sediq Kaboudvand from Evin Prison. The government originally arrested Kaboudvand in 2007 and sentenced him to 10 years in prison for “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the state.” According to the CHRI, authorities continually denied medical treatment or furlough to Kurdish women’s activist Zeinab Jalalian, despite her need for surgery. Jalalian was serving a life sentence for “enmity against God.”

International human rights observers, including the IHRDC, stated that the country’s estimated two million Ahvazi Arabs, representing 110 tribes, faced continued oppression and discrimination. Ahvazi rights activists reported the government continued to confiscate Ahvazi property to use for government development projects, refusing to recognize the paper deeds of the local population from the prerevolutionary era.

In June, 13 activists were reportedly arrested in Ahvaz as they gathered to celebrate Eid al-Fitr on the day before an annual protest for Arab ethnic rights. The activists had planned to walk to the homes of political prisoners and the families of those who have been unjustly executed. Officials also prevented the demonstrations planned for the next day, which had been held since 2005.

Ethnic Azeris, who numbered approximately 13 million, or 16 percent of the population, were more integrated into government and society than other ethnic minority groups and included the supreme leader. Azeris reported that the government discriminated against them by harassing Azeri activists or organizers, and changing Azeri geographic names.

According to a CHRI report in February, authorities arrested four Azeris and charged them with “forming an illegal group” and “assembly and collusion against national security” for peaceful activism on International Mother Language Day. Alireza Farshi was sentenced to 15 years in prison and two years in exile, while Akbar Azad, Behnam Sheikhi, and Hamid Manafi were sentenced to 10 years in prison and two years in exile. The activists were reportedly opposing a government ban on the teaching of Turkish alongside Persian in schools.

Local and international human rights groups alleged discrimination during the year against the Baluchi ethnic minority, estimated at between 1.5 and two million persons. Areas with large Baluchi populations were severely underdeveloped and had limited access to education, employment, health care, and housing, and Baluchi activists reported that more than 70 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.

According to activist reports, the law limited Sunni Baluchis’ employment opportunities and political participation. Activists reported that throughout the year, the government sent hundreds of Shia missionaries to areas with large Sunni Baluch populations to try to convert the local population. According to Baluchi rights activists, Baluchi journalists and human rights activists faced arbitrary arrest, physical abuse, and unfair trials.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, which is punishable by death, flogging, or a lesser punishment. The law does not distinguish between consensual and nonconsensual same sex intercourse, and NGOs reported this lack of clarity led to both the victim and the perpetrator being held criminally liable under the law in cases of assault. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Security forces harassed, arrested, and detained individuals they suspected of being gay or transgender. In some cases security forces raided houses and monitored internet sites for information on LGBTI persons. Those accused of “sodomy” often faced summary trials, and evidentiary standards were not always met. Punishment for same-sex sexual activity between men was more severe than between women.

According to international and local media reports, on April 13 at least 30 men suspected of homosexual conduct were arrested by IRGC agents at a private party in Isfahan Province. The agents reportedly fired weapons and used electric Tasers during the raid. According to the Canadian-based nonprofit organization Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, those arrested were taken to Dastgerd Prison in Isfahan, where they were led to the prison yard and told they would be executed. The Iranian LGBTI activist group 6Rang noted that, following similar raids, those arrested and similarly charged were subjected to forced “anal” or “sodomy” tests and other degrading treatment and sexual insults.

The government censored all materials related to LGBTI issues. Authorities particularly blocked websites or content within sites that discussed LGBTI issues, including the censorship of Wikipedia pages defining LGBTI and other related topics. There were active, unregistered LGBTI NGOs in the country. Hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms did not exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes.

The law requires all male citizens over age 18 to serve in the military but exempts gay and transgender women, who are classified as having mental disorders. New military identity cards listed the subsection of the law dictating the exemption. According to 6Rang this practice identified the men as gay or transgender and put them at risk of physical abuse and discrimination.

The government provided transgender persons financial assistance in the form of grants of up to 45 million rials$1,240 and loans up to 55 million rials $1,500 to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Additionally, the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare required health insurers to cover the cost of such surgery. Individuals who undergo gender reassignment surgery may petition a court for new identity documents with corrected gender data, which the government reportedly provided efficiently and transparently. NGOs reported that authorities pressured LGBTI persons to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Despite government programs to treat and provide financial and other assistance to persons with HIV/AIDS, international news sources and organizations reported that individuals known to be infected with HIV/AIDS faced widespread societal discrimination. Individuals with HIV/AIDS, for example, continued to be denied employment as teachers.

Kenya

Executive Summary

Kenya is a republic with three branches of government: an executive branch, led by a directly elected president; a bicameral parliament consisting of the Senate and the National Assembly; and a judiciary. On August 8, the country held its second general election under the 2010 constitution. Citizens cast ballots for president and deputy president, parliamentarians, and county governors and legislators. International and domestic observers judged the elections generally credible, although some civil society groups and the opposition pointed to irregularities. On August 11, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) declared Jubilee Coalition Party candidate Uhuru Kenyatta had won reelection as president. Opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga challenged the presidential election result in court. On September 1, the Supreme Court annulled the results for president and deputy president, citing chiefly irregularities in the transmission and verification of the poll tabulations. The court ordered a new vote for president and deputy president for October 26. Odinga withdrew from the new election on October 10 and called for his supporters to boycott the vote. Low voter turnout in many areas and episodic violence in opposition strongholds characterized the October 26 vote. The IEBC declared President Kenyatta the winner of the October 26 vote, and the Supreme Court upheld the results on November 20.

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

The most significant human rights issues included: unlawful and politically motivated killings; forced disappearances; torture; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; impunity; arbitrary arrest and detention; an inefficient judiciary; arbitrary infringement of citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on press freedom and freedom of assembly; lack of accountability in many cases involving violence against women, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); and criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct.

The governmental Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) established to provide civilian oversight over the work of police, investigated numerous cases of misconduct. Impunity at all levels of government continued to be a serious problem, despite public statements by the president and deputy president and police and judicial reforms. The government took only limited and uneven steps to address cases of alleged unlawful killings by security force members, although the IPOA continued to increase its capacity and referred cases of police misconduct to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) for prosecution. Impunity in cases of alleged corruption was also common. President Kenyatta continued his anticorruption campaign launched in March 2015, and the inspector general of police continued his strong public stance against corruption among police officers.

Al-Shabaab terrorists conducted deadly attacks and guerilla-style raids on isolated communities along the border with Somalia, targeting both security forces and civilians. Human rights groups alleged that security forces committed abuses while conducting counterterror operations.

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 or its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings, particularly of known or suspected criminals, including terrorists. In July the nongovernmental organization (NGO) International Federation for Human Rights reported 80 cases of individuals killed by police since January, and according to the NGO Independent Medico Legal Unit, at least 33 of these were summary executions. On March 31, video footage surfaced on the internet of an alleged plainclothes police officer shooting two subdued suspects in the Nairobi neighborhood of Eastleigh. According to the daily newspaper Daily Nation, the Nairobi police commander defended the shooting, calling the victims “gangsters.” The inspector general of police then ordered an investigation, which had not concluded as of year’s end.

Some groups alleged authorities significantly underestimated the number of extrajudicial killings by security forces due to underreporting of such killings in informal settlements, including those in dense urban areas. The NGO Mathare Social Justice Center estimated police killed at least one young male every week in the Mathare neighborhood of Nairobi. From April 1 to September 22, IPOA received 147 complaints regarding deaths resulting from police actions, including 44 fatal shootings involving police and 20 deaths due to other actions by police.

In October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report documenting more than 100 persons badly injured and at least 33 killed by police, including a six-month old child, in response to protests following the August election. The report documented that police and other security forces, namely the General Services Unit and Administrative Police (AP), used excessive force, including unlawful killings and beatings. The autonomous governmental entity Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) reported police killed at least 35 persons in opposition strongholds following the August 8 elections. Both reports urged law enforcement authorities to investigate these deaths.

Media reports and NGOs attributed many of the human rights abuses not related to elections to Kenya Defense Forces counterterrorism operations in the northeast counties of Mandera, Garissa, and Wajir bordering Somalia. For example, the daily newspaper The Standard reported on July 4 some locals accused security forces of killing four men and one woman whose bodies were found in a shallow grave in Mandera County.

Impunity remained a serious problem (see section 1.d.).

Al-Shabaab terrorists conducted deadly attacks and guerilla-style raids on isolated communities along the border with Somalia. For example, in July al-Shabaab terrorists hijacked at gunpoint Public Works Principal Secretary Miriam El-Maawy and six others traveling in her motorcade in Lamu County. On September 26, El-Maawy died from injuries she sustained in the attack.

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

On April 13, President Kenyatta approved the Prevention of Torture Act, which provides a basis to prosecute torture. The law provides a platform to apply articles of the 2010 constitution, including: Article 25 on freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; Article 28 on respect and protection of human dignity; and Article 29 on freedom and security of the person. The law brings all state agencies and officials under one, rather than multiple pieces of legislation. Additionally, the law provides protections to vulnerable witnesses and law enforcement officials who refuse to obey illegal orders that would lead to torture.

Police reportedly used torture and violence during interrogations as well as to punish both pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners. According to human rights NGOs, physical battery, bondage in painful positions, and electric shock were the most common methods of torture used by police. A range of human rights organizations and media reported police committed torture and indiscriminate violence with impunity. For example, there were numerous press and NGO reports on police brutality against protestors and unarmed citizens, including in house-to-house operations in the days following the August 8 election (see section 3). According to reports, the postelection violence largely targeted ethnic areas where support for the opposition parties was the strongest (see section 6).

In July the International Federation for Human Rights reported KNCHR had collected multiple, credible narratives of security forces rounding up and torturing suspects while in extended detention.

There were numerous reports of police using excessive force in a cruel, inhuman, or degrading fashion during postelection violence (see section 2.b). For example, on October 2, AP forces teargassed a nursery school in Kisumu during election-related protests happening nearby, injuring three children.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Human rights organizations reported that prison, detention center, and police station conditions were harsh due to overcrowding, food and water shortages, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. A Directorate of Health Services in the Prisons Department oversees health and hygiene issues.

Physical Conditions: According to the Kenya Prisons Service (PS), the prison population as of October 2 was 50,572, held in prisons with a designated capacity of 26,837. More than 90 percent of prisoners were men. According to the National Council on the Administration of Justice’s (NCAJ) January report, the country has 105 prisons–87 for men and 18 for women. While the PS noted that seven prisons have been constructed since 2012, serious overcrowding was the norm, with an average prisoner population of nearly 200 percent capacity and some prisons housing up to 400 percent of capacity. Authorities continued a “decongestion” program that entailed releasing petty offenders and encouraging the judiciary to increase use of the Community Service Orders program in its sentencing.

The PS reported 50 deaths as of August 2016, mostly from natural causes, representing a dramatic reduction from previous years, which the service attributed to improvements in prison health services. According to a study by the NCAJ released in January, sanitary facilities were inadequate, and tuberculosis remained a serious problem at eight prisons.

In January the NCAJ reported that despite the legal requirement to separate male prisoners from women and children, the mixing of genders and ages remained a problem in some prisons. Between January and June IPOA observed that authorities separated women from men in detention facilities on average 89 percent of the time in the 29 detention facilities its representatives visited. In smaller jails, female prisoners were not always separated from men. There were no separate facilities during pretrial detention, and sexual abuse of female prisoners was a problem. Human rights groups reported that police routinely solicited sex from female prisoners and that many female inmates resorted to prostitution to obtain necessities, such as sanitary items and underwear, which the Prisons Service did not provide.

Authorities generally separated minors from adults except during the initial detention period at police stations, when authorities often held adults and minors of both sexes in a single cell. Minors often mixed with the general prison population during lunch and exercise periods, according to the Coalition for Constitutional Interpretation, a domestic NGO. Prison officials reported that because there were few detention facilities for minors, authorities often had to transport them very long distances to serve their sentences, spending nights at police stations under varying conditions along the way. On October 6, the Daily Nationnewspaper reported a witness had accused a police officer of raping a 13-year-old victim while she was held overnight at a police station for alleged theft. IPOA investigated the incident, and a criminal prosecution was pending in the courts.

The law allows children to stay with their inmate mothers in certain circumstances until age four or until arrangements for their care outside the facilities are concluded, whichever is earlier.

Prisoners generally received three meals a day, but portions were inadequate. The PS stated in August that it no longer served a penal diet for punishment. Water shortages, a problem both inside and outside of prison, continued. Prisoners generally spent most of their time indoors in inadequately lit and poorly ventilated cellblocks. This was especially true for the more than one-third of inmates awaiting trial, as they were not engaged in any work programs that would allow them to leave their cells regularly.

Administration: Recordkeeping on prisoners remained inadequate despite the enactment and entry into force in 2014 of the Security Laws Amendment Act. The act requires improved recordkeeping at prisons and jails. The Prisons Service took steps to improve recordkeeping, including engaging with prison reform NGOs and IPOA, and to conduct training and improve practices.

Mechanisms for prisoners to report abuse and other concerns improved due to collaboration between the PS and the KNCHR to monitor human rights standards in prison and detention facilities. By law, the Commission on the Administration of Justice serves as ombudsman on government administration of prisons. It is to receive and treat as confidential correspondence from inmates and recommend remedies to address their concerns, including those pertaining to prison living conditions and administration. Government-established special committees, which included paralegals and prison officials, also served to increase prisoners’ access to the judicial system. The Legal Aid Center of Eldoret noted there was no single system providing “primary justice” to prisoners and detainees, who instead relied on a patchwork of services largely provided by NGOs. Many government-designated human rights officers lacked necessary training, and some prisons did not have a human rights officer.

Noncustodial community service programs and the release of some petty offenders alleviated somewhat prison overcrowding. The total prison population did not decrease substantially, however, because of unaffordable bail and bond terms for pretrial detainees, high national crime rates, overuse of custodial sentencing, and a high number of death row and life-imprisoned inmates. Legal rights NGOs and prison officials reported overuse of the charge of “robbery with violence,” which may carry a life sentence, without sufficient evidence to support it. Some petty offenders consequently received disproportionately heavy sentences.

Prison officials sometimes denied prisoners and detainees the right to contact relatives or lawyers. Family members who wanted to visit prisoners commonly reported bureaucratic obstacles that generally required a bribe to resolve. According to the Legal Resources Foundation, prisoners had reasonable access to legal counsel and other official visitors, although there was insufficient space in many prisons and jails to meet with visitors in private and conduct confidential conversations.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent nongovernmental observers.

Improvements: On August 8, a total of 167 inmates at four prisons voted in the presidential election, the first time prisoners have been permitted to participate in an election.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arrest or detention without a court order unless there are reasonable grounds for believing a suspect has committed or is about to commit a criminal offense. Police, however, arrested and detained citizens arbitrarily, accused them of more severe crimes than they had committed, or accused them of a crime to mask underlying police abuses.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Police Service (NPS) maintains internal security and is subordinate to the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government (Interior).

The NPS includes the Kenya Police Service (KPS) and the Administration Police Service. The KPS is responsible for general policing and maintains specialized subunits, such as the paramilitary General Services Unit, which is responsible for responding to significant and large-scale incidents of insecurity and guarding high-security facilities. The Administration Police Service’s mandate is border security, but it also assumed some traditional policing duties. The Directorate of Criminal Investigation is an autonomous department responsible for all criminal investigations and includes specialized investigative units, such as the Antinarcotics Unit, the Antiterrorism Police Unit, and the Forensics Unit.

The National Intelligence Service collects intelligence internally as well as externally and is under the direct authority of the president.

The Kenya Defense Forces are responsible for external security but have some domestic security responsibilities, including border security and supporting civilian organizations in the maintenance of order, as allowed by the constitution. The defense forces are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense. In September 2015 the defense forces and police launched a coordinated operation to drive al-Shabaab terrorists out of the Boni Forest in northern Lamu and southern Garissa Counties; the operation continued throughout the year.

The National Police Service Commission (NPSC) and IPOA, both government bodies, report to the National Assembly. The NPSC consists of six civilian commissioners, including two retired police officers, as well as the NPS inspector general’s two deputies. Two commissioner positions remained vacant despite requests from the NPSC and public pressure to fill those positions. The NPSC is responsible for recruiting, transferring, vetting, promoting, and removing police officers in the National Police Service. IPOA investigates serious police misconduct, especially cases of death and grave injury at the hands of police.

The ODPP is empowered to direct the inspector general to investigate any information or allegation of criminal conduct and to institute criminal proceedings in police abuse or corruption cases.

Impunity was a major problem. Authorities sometimes attributed the failure to investigate a case of police corruption or unlawful killing to the failure of victims to file official complaints. Victims could file complaints at regional police stations, police headquarters through the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU), and through the IPOA website and hotline. Sometimes police turned away victims who sought to file complaints at police stations where alleged police misconduct originated, and instead directed them to other area stations. This created a deterrent effect on reporting complaints against police. NGOs documented threats against police officers who attempted to investigate criminal allegations against other police officers. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders lauded the adoption on March 21 of the National Coroners Service Act, which established an agency to investigate suspicious deaths and to create a coroner position in each county with the authority to collect related forensic evidence.

Police failed to prevent vigilante violence in numerous instances but in other cases played a protective role (see section 6).

Poor casework, incompetence, and corruption undermined successful prosecutions; the overall conviction rate for criminal prosecutions was between 13 and 16 percent. Police also frequently failed to enter detainees into custody records, making it difficult to locate them. Dispute resolution at police stations resolved a significant number of crimes, but authorities did not report or record them, according to human rights organizations.

Witness harassment and fear of retaliation severely inhibited the investigation and prosecution of major crimes. The Witness Protection Agency was underfunded, doubts about its independence were widespread, and the Supreme Court cited its weaknesses as a serious judicial shortcoming. It cooperated closely with IPOA and other investigative bodies.

Human rights activists reported that at times police officers in charge of taking complaints at the local level were the same ones who committed abuses. Police officials resisted investigations and jailed some human rights activists for publicly registering complaints against government abuses.

Research by a leading legal advocacy and human rights NGO found police used disciplinary transfers of officers to hide their identities and frustrate investigations into their alleged crimes. Many media and civil society investigations into police abuse ended after authorities transferred officers, and police failed to provide any information about their identities or whereabouts.

Police accountability mechanisms, including those of IAU and IPOA, increased their capacity to investigate cases of police abuse. The IAU acting director reported directly to the inspector general of police. Fifty-eight officers served in the unit, mostly investigators with a background in the Kenya Police Service and the Administration Police Service. The IAU handles allegations of bribery, harassment, and indiscipline. Between January and June, the IAU generated approximately 650 complaints, the number of which has increased year-to-year as police and the public became more familiar with the IAU.

IPOA opened three regional offices, in Mombasa, Kisumu, and Garissa, and increased its staff by 30 to approximately 120. Between January and June IPOA received 1,013 complaints, bringing the total since its inception in 2012 to 8,042. IPOA defines five categories of complaints. Category One complaints comprise the most serious crimes–such as murders, torture, rape, and serious injury–and result in an automatic investigation. Category Two, serious crimes such as assault without serious injury, are investigated on a case-by-case basis. Categories Three to Five, less serious crimes, are generally not investigated. Approximately one-third of IPOA complaints fall under Categories One and Two. If, after investigation, IPOA determines there is criminal liability in a case, it forwards the case to the ODPP. Between January and June IPOA conducted 137 investigations, of which 48 were forwarded to the ODPP. As of September, IPOA and ODPP had 50 cases pending in courts. In April 2016, IPOA secured its first and only manslaughter conviction against two police officers who killed a 14-year-old girl in Kwale County in 2014.

The NPSC continued vetting all serving police officers. Vetting required an assessment of each officer’s fitness to serve based on a review of documentation, including financial records, certificates of good conduct, and a questionnaire, as well public input alleging abuse or misconduct. The NPSC reported it had vetted approximately 1,000 officers between January and July, bringing the total number vetted to 4,116. More than half of the officers vetted during the year were from the traffic department, which had a reputation for extensive corruption. The NPSC has removed 21 senior officers and 127 traffic officers from the service since 2015. Some legal challenges brought by officers vetted out of the service continued in court.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law provides police with broad powers of arrest. Police officers may make arrests without a warrant if they suspect a crime occurred, is happening, or is imminent. Victims’ rights NGOs reported that in some cases authorities required victims to pay bribes and to provide transportation for police to a suspect’s location to execute a legal arrest warrant.

The constitution’s bill of rights provides significant ‎legal protections, including provisions requiring persons to be charged, tried, or released within a certain time and provisions requiring the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus to allow a court to determine the lawfulness of detention. In many cases, however, authorities did not follow the prescribed time limits. According to the attorney general in a response to a questionnaire from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2013, “an unexplained violation of a constitutional right will normally result in an acquittal.” While authorities in many cases released the accused if held longer than the prescribed period, some cases did not result in an acquittal, and authorities provided no compensation.

Police used excessive force in some cases when making arrests. In 2016, two officers were charged and convicted of using of excessive force in the shooting death of a 14-year-old girl in Kwale. A High Court judge found both officers guilty of manslaughter for their actions during the search of the girl’s home and sentenced each to prison for seven years.

The constitution establishes the right of suspects to bail unless there are compelling reasons against release. There is a functioning bail system, and all suspects, including those accused of capital offenses, are eligible for bail. Many suspects remained in jail for months pending trial because of their inability to post bail. Due to overcrowding in prisons, courts rarely denied bail to individuals who could pay it, even when the circumstances warranted denial. For example, NGOs that worked with victims of sexual assault complained that authorities granted bail to suspects even in cases in which there was evidence that they posed a continuing threat to victims.

Although the law provides pretrial detainees with the right to access family members and attorneys, family members of detainees frequently complained that authorities permitted access only upon payment of bribes. When detainees could afford counsel, police generally permitted access to attorneys.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police arbitrarily arrested and detained persons. Victims of arbitrary arrest were generally poor young men. Human rights organizations complained that security forces made widespread arbitrary arrests and detentions during counterterrorism operations and targeted ethnic Somalis and Kenyan Muslims. On March 22, AP officers allegedly arrested and assaulted Standard newspaper journalist, Isaiah Gwengi, presumably because of his stories on police brutality. The IPOA investigation continued at the end of the reporting year.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a serious problem and contributed to prison overcrowding. Some defendants were held in pretrial detention longer than the statutory maximum term of imprisonment for the crime with which they were charged. The government claimed the average time spent in pretrial detention was 14 days, but there were reports many detainees spent two to three years in prison before their trials were completed. Police from the arresting locale are responsible for bringing detainees from prison to court when hearings are scheduled but often failed to do so, forcing detainees to wait for the next hearing of their cases (see section 1.e.).

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law entitles persons arrested or detained to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention, but that right was not always protected in practice.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, defilement, sexual violence within marriage, and sex tourism, but enforcement remained limited. The law criminalizes abuses that include early and forced marriage, FGM/C, forced wife “inheritance,” and sexual violence within marriage. The law’s definition of violence also includes damage to property, defilement, economic abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, harassment, incest, intimidation, physical abuse, stalking, verbal abuse, or any other conduct against a person that harms or may cause imminent harm to the safety, health, or well-being of the person. Under law, insulting the modesty of another person by intruding upon that person’s privacy or stripping them of clothing are criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment for up to 20 years.

The law provides a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for rape, although sentences were at the discretion of the judge and usually no longer than the minimum of 10 years.

Citizens frequently used traditional dispute resolution mechanisms to address sexual offenses in rural areas, with village elders assessing financial compensation for the victims or their families. They also used such mechanisms occasionally in urban areas. In October, CEDAW reported the government failed to provide substantial assistance to female victims of gender-based violence as recommended by the Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence of 2007.

The Coalition on Violence against Women estimated 16,500 rapes occurred per year. IPOA investigated eight reported cases of sexual assault by police officers between April and September.

Although police no longer required physicians to examine victims, physicians still had to complete official forms reporting rape. Rural areas generally had no police physician, and in Nairobi there were only two. NGOs reported police physicians often but inconsistently accepted the examination report of clinical physicians who initially treated rape victims.

Domestic violence against women was widespread. Police officers generally refrained from investigating domestic violence, which they considered a private family matter.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law makes it illegal to practice FGM/C, procure the services of someone who practices FGM/C, or send a person out of the country to undergo the procedure. The law also makes it illegal to make derogatory remarks about a woman who has not undergone FGM/C. Nevertheless, individuals practiced FGM/C widely, particularly in some rural areas. Government officials often participated in public awareness programs to prevent the practice.

Media reported growing numbers of female students refused to participate in FGM/C ceremonies, traditionally performed during the August and December school holidays. Media reported arrests of perpetrators and parents who agreed to FGM/C, but parents in regions with a high prevalence of FGM/C frequently bribed police to allow the practice to continue. There were also reports the practice of FGM/C increasingly occurred underground to avoid prosecution.

For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Certain communities commonly practiced wife inheritance, in which a man inherits the widow of his brother or other close relative, regardless of her wishes. Such inheritance was more likely in cases of economically disadvantaged women with limited access to education living outside of major cities. Other forced marriages were also common. The law codifies the right of men to enter into consensual marriage with additional women without securing the consent of any existing wife.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Sexual harassment was often not reported, and victims rarely filed charges.

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

Discrimination: The constitution provides equal rights for men and women and specifically prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, color, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language, or birth. The justice system and widely applied customary laws often discriminated against women, limiting their political and economic rights.

The constitution prohibits gender discrimination in relation to land and property ownership and gives women equal rights to inheritance and access to land. The constitution also provides for the enactment of legislation for the protection of wives’ rights to matrimonial property during and upon the termination of a marriage, and it affirms that parties to a marriage are entitled to equal rights at the time of marriage, during the marriage, and at its dissolution.

The law includes provisions to strengthen property rights for wives, According to an October report by CEDAW, despite the law, much of the country held to the traditions that married women are not entitled to their fathers’ property and that upon remarriage, a woman loses her claim to her deceased husband’s property.

Children

Birth Registration: A child derives citizenship from the citizenship of the parents, and either parent may transmit citizenship. Birth registration is compulsory. An estimated 63 percent of births were officially registered. Lack of official birth certificates resulted in discrimination in delivery of public services. The Department of Civil Registration Services began implementing the Maternal Child Health Registration Strategy requiring nurses administering immunizations to register the births of unregistered children.

For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Education is tuition free and compulsory through age 13. Authorities did not enforce the mandatory attendance law uniformly.

While the law provides pregnant girls the right to continue their education until after giving birth, NGOs reported that schools often did not respect this right. School executives sometimes expelled pregnant girls or transferred them to other schools.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes several forms of violence that affect children, including early and forced marriage, FGM/C, incest, and physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. Violence against children, particularly in poor and rural communities, was common, and child abuse, including sexual abuse, occurred frequently.

The minimum sentence for conviction of defilement is life imprisonment if the victim is less than 11 years old, 20 years in prison if the victim is between ages 11 and 16, and 10 years’ imprisonment if the child is age 16 or 17.

The government banned corporal punishment in schools, but there were reports corporal punishment occurred.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18 years for women and men. Media occasionally highlighted the problem of early and forced marriage, which some ethnic groups commonly practiced. Under the constitution, the kadhi courts retained jurisdiction over Muslim marriage and family law in cases where all parties profess the Muslim religion and agree to submit to the jurisdiction of the courts. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes sexual exploitation of children, including prohibiting procurement of a child under age 18 for unlawful sexual relations. The law also prohibits domestic and international trafficking, or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, transfer, or receipt of children up to the age of 18 for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances. Provisions apply equally to girls and boys. The Sexual Offenses Act has specific sections on child trafficking, child sex tourism, child prostitution, and child pornography. Nevertheless, according to human rights organizations, children were sexually exploited and victims of trafficking.

Child Soldiers: Although there were no reports the government recruited child soldiers, there were reports that the al-Shabaab terrorist group recruited children.

Displaced Children: Poverty and the spread of HIV/AIDS continued to intensify the problem of child homelessness. Street children faced harassment and physical and sexual abuse from police and others and within the juvenile justice system. The government operated programs to place street children in shelters and assisted NGOs in providing education, skills training, counseling, legal advice, and medical care to street children whom the commercial sex industry abused and exploited.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community was very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. A number of laws limit the rights of persons with disabilities. For example, the Marriage Act limits the rights of persons with mental disabilities to get married and the Law of Succession limits the rights of persons with disabilities to inheritance. The constitution provides legal safeguards for the representation of persons with disabilities in legislative and appointive bodies. The law provides that persons with disabilities should have access to public buildings, and some buildings in major cities had wheelchair ramps and modified elevators and restrooms. The government did not enforce the law, however, and new construction often did not include accommodations for persons with disabilities. Government buildings in rural areas generally were not accessible to persons with disabilities. According to NGOs, police stations remained largely inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.

NGOs reported that persons with disabilities had limited opportunities to obtain education and job training at all levels due to lack of accessibility of facilities and resistance by school officials and parents to devoting resources to students with disabilities.

Authorities received reports of killings of persons with disabilities as well as torture and abuse, and the government took action in some cases. For example, the Daily Nation newspaper reported in March 2016 that a woman was arrested and would be prosecuted in Nairobi after 11 disabled children were found in poor living conditions, locked up, and malnourished in her home.

Persons with disabilities faced significant barriers to accessing health care. They had difficulty obtaining HIV testing and contraceptive services due to the perception they should not engage in sexual activity. According to Handicap International, 36 percent of persons with disabilities reported facing difficulties in accessing health services; cost, distance to a health facility, and physical barriers were the main reasons cited.

Few facilities provided interpreters or other accommodations to persons with hearing disabilities. The government assigned each region a sign language interpreter for court proceedings. Authorities often delayed or adjourned cases involving persons who had hearing disabilities due to a lack of standby interpreters, according to an official with the NGO Deaf Outreach Program. According to the KNCHR, 10 secondary schools in the country could accommodate persons with hearing limitations.

The Ministry for Devolution and Planning is the lead ministry for implementation of the law to protect persons with disabilities. The quasi-independent but government-funded parastatal National Council for Persons with Disabilities assisted the ministry. Neither entity received sufficient resources to address effectively problems related to persons with disabilities.

Nominated and elected parliamentarians with disabilities formed the Kenya Disability Parliamentary Caucus in 2013 and issued a strategy statement focusing on improving economic empowerment and physical access for persons with disabilities as well as integrating disability rights into county government policies. According to an October report by CEDAW, persons with disabilities comprised only 2.8 percent of the Senate and National Assembly, less than the 5 percent mandated by the constitution (see section 3).

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There are 42 ethnic groups in the country; none holds a majority. The Kikuyu and related groups dominated much of private commerce and industry and often purchased land outside their traditional home areas, which sometimes resulted in fierce resentment from other ethnic groups, especially in the coastal and Rift Valley areas.

Many factors contributed to interethnic conflicts: longstanding grievances regarding land-tenure policies and competition for scarce agricultural land; the proliferation of illegal guns; cattle rustling; the growth of a modern warrior/bandit culture (distinct from traditional culture); ineffective local political leadership; diminished economic prospects for groups affected by regional droughts; political rivalries; and the struggle of security forces to quell violence. Conflict between landowners and squatters was particularly severe in the Rift Valley and coastal regions, while competition for water and pasture was especially serious in the north and northeast. According to the OHCHR, between December 2016 and April, in defiance of a court order, Kenya Forest Service guards burned multiple dwellings of the minority Sengwer tribe in order to evict them from Embobut Forest.

There was frequent conflict, including banditry, fights over land, and cattle rustling, among the Somali, Turkana, Gabbra, Borana, Samburu, Rendille, and Pokot ethnic groups in arid northern, eastern, and Rift Valley areas that at times resulted in deaths. Disputes over county borders were also a source of ethnic tensions.

Ethnic differences also caused a number of discriminatory employment practices.

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

The constitution does not explicitly protect LGBTI persons from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The penal code criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” which was interpreted to prohibit consensual same-sex sexual activity, and specifies a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment if convicted. A separate statute specifically criminalizes sex between men and specifies a maximum penalty of 21 years’ imprisonment if convicted. Police detained persons under these laws, particularly persons suspected of prostitution, but released them shortly afterward. In April 2016 the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) filed Petition 150 of 2016 challenging the constitutionality of these penal codes. As of November, two cases filed by NGOs in early 2016 to test the constitutionality of these laws remained unresolved.

LGBTI organizations reported police more frequently used public-order laws (for example, disturbing the peace) than same-sex legislation to arrest LGBTI individuals. NGOs reported police frequently harassed, intimidated, or physically abused LGBTI individuals in custody.

Authorities permitted LGBTI advocacy organizations to register and conduct activities.

Violence and discrimination against LGBTI individuals was widespread. According to a 2015 HRW and Persons Marginalized and Aggrieved report, LGBTI individuals were especially vulnerable to blackmail and rape by police officers.

On May 26, the government gazetted a taskforce on policy and institutional reforms toward intersex persons in order to implement a High Court’s judgment in the 2014 Baby ‘A’ case recognizing the existence of intersex persons. Separately, in 2015, a High Court ruled in favor of the NGLHRC in a case challenging the government’s refusal to register LGBTI advocacy and welfare organizations. The court ruled that refusing to register the organization was an infringement on the constitutionally protected freedom of association. The Court of Appeal ruled in May 2016 that the High Court’s judgment stood in the interim. The government’s appeal remained pending as of November.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The government, along with international and NGO partners, made progress in creating an enabling environment to combat the social stigma of HIV and AIDS and to address the gap in access to HIV information and services. For example, the government launched treatment guidelines for sex workers and injected drug users in collaboration with key stakeholders. The government and NGOs supported a network of at least 5,488 counseling and testing centers providing free HIV/AIDS diagnosis. Diagnosis of other sexually transmitted infections was available through hospitals and clinics throughout the country. In 2016, according to its website, the First Lady’s Beyond Zero Campaign to stop HIV infections led to the opening of 46 mobile clinics across the country.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Mob violence and vigilante action were common and resulted in numerous deaths. Human rights observers attributed vigilante violence to a lack of public confidence in police and the criminal justice system. The social acceptability of mob violence also provided cover for acts of personal vengeance. Police frequently failed to act to stop mob violence.

In 2016 the Senate and the National Assembly established a joint parliamentary select committee to investigate police brutality and mob violence. That committee continued to meet as of November.

Mobs also attacked persons suspected of witchcraft or participation in ritual killings. For example, according to the Starnewspaper, on June 6 a mob in the coastal city of Kilifi killed three persons accused of using witchcraft to drown a man hours before his wedding ceremony. Police investigated the three murders, but there were no reports of arrests.

Societal discrimination continued against persons with albinism, many of whom left their home villages due to fear of abuse and moved to urban areas where they believed they were safer. Individuals attacked persons with albinism for their body parts, which some believed could confer magical powers and which could be sold for significant sums.

Libya

Executive Summary

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

The government had limited effective control over security forces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ctice.

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

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

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

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

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

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

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

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

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

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

Pakistan

Executive Summary

Pakistan is a federal republic. In May 2013 the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections, and Nawaz Sharif became prime minister for the third time. While judged to be mostly free and fair, some independent observers and political parties raised concerns about election irregularities. On July 28, the Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from office over corruption allegations. Parliament elected Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the new prime minister on August 1. Asif Ali Zardari completed his five-year term as president in September 2013 with Mamnoon Hussain (PML-N) succeeding him. Orderly transitions in the military (chief of army staff) and the judiciary (Supreme Court chief justice) solidified the democratic transition.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial and targeted killings; disappearances; torture; lack of rule of law, including lack of due process; poor implementation and enforcement of laws; and frequent mob violence and vigilante justice with limited accountability. Additional problems were arbitrary detention; lengthy pretrial detention; a lack of judicial independence in the lower courts; governmental infringement on citizens’ privacy rights; harassment of journalists, and high-profile attacks against journalists and media organizations. Government restrictions on freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, and freedom of religion and discrimination against religious minorities, and sectarian violence continued. Corruption within the government and police; lack of criminal investigations or accountability for cases related to rape, violence based on gender, gender identity and sexual orientation, sexual harassment, so-called honor crimes, and female genital mutilation/cutting remained problems. Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is a criminal offense; however, the government rarely prosecuted cases. Child labor resulting in frequent exposure to violence and human trafficking–including forced and bonded labor–persisted.

There was a lack of government accountability, and abuses often went unpunished, fostering a culture of impunity among the perpetrators, whether official or unofficial. Authorities seldom punished government officials for human rights abuses.

Terrorist violence and human rights abuses by nonstate actors contributed to human rights problems in the country. The military sustained significant campaigns against militant and terrorist groups. Nevertheless, violence, abuse, and social and religious intolerance by militant organizations and other nonstate actors, both local and foreign, contributed to a culture of lawlessness in some parts of the country, particularly in the provinces of Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). As of the end of October, terrorism fatalities stood at 1,084, in comparison with 1,803 fatalities in the full year 2016, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a database compiled by the public-interest advocacy organization Institute for Conflict Management that collects statistics on terrorism and low intensity warfare in South Asia.

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 authorities committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Security forces reportedly committed extrajudicial killings in connection with conflicts in Punjab, Balochistan, FATA, Sindh, and KP (see section 1.g.).

Physical abuse while in official custody allegedly caused the death of some criminal suspects. Lengthy trial delays and failure to discipline and prosecute those responsible for killings contributed to a culture of impunity.

On June 27, the Frontier Corps fired into a crowd in Parachinar, Kurram Agency, killing four. The crowd was staging a sit-in, protesting the perceived failure of authorities to protect Parachinar from terrorism. Following the incident, the chief of army staff (the army’s highest-ranking military official), General Qamar Javed Bajwa, personally visited Parachinar, ordered the removal of the Parachinar Frontier Corps commandant, and opened an investigation into the occurrence.

There were continued allegations of politically motivated killings in Balochistan and Sindh. On July 6, unidentified gunmen killed Balochistan National Party leader Malik Naveed Dehwar and his guard, Mohammad Zareef. On April 27, local authorities recovered the mutilated bodies of five abducted Baloch activists, including Baitullah Mehmood Baloch, a leader of the Baloch National Movement. The perpetrators were unknown.

The SATP reported that journalists, teachers, students, and human rights defenders also were targeted by state and nonstate actors in Balochistan. According to the SATP, at least 183 civilians were killed due to terrorist-related violence in Balochistan, compared with 251 in 2016.

There were reports of politically motivated killings by political factions or unknown assailants in Sindh. In July unidentified gunmen killed two Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) activists–Abdul Hameed (alias Mulla) and Rashid Khan–in Karachi. PSP’s chairman blamed the London faction of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement political party for their deaths.

The provincial governments and political parties in Sindh, Balochistan, KP, and Punjab remained targets of attack by militant and other nonstate actors.

Following its announced formation in February, the Ansar ul-Sharia Pakistan (ASP, also known as Jamaat-ul-Ansar al-Sharia Pakistan) was allegedly involved in at least seven attacks that killed a retired colonel, six police officers, and a private security guard in Sindh and a bombing that targeted security forces in Balochistan. On August 12, ASP killed Deputy Superintendent of Police (Traffic) Hanif Khan, 56, and his driver, Constable Sultan Ishtiaq, in Karachi. ASP spokesperson Abdullah Hashmi stated the attack was “revenge” for alleged torture of militants in jail. The Sindh police Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) continued to investigate the case, although no arrests had been made. Authorities claimed ASP was responsible for the attempted assassination of Sindh Assembly opposition leader Khwaja Izharul Hassan.

There were numerous reports of attacks against police. On June 23, a blast near the inspector general of police’s office in Quetta killed at least 11 individuals, including seven police officers. According to Punjab provincial officials, police were the main targets of a July 24 suicide attack in Lahore that killed 26, including nine police officers.

Militants and terrorist groups killed hundreds and injured thousands with bombs, suicide attacks, and other violence (see section 1.g.).

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

Although the constitution prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, the criminal code has no specific section against torture. No legislative provisions specifically prohibit torture. There were reports that security forces, including the intelligence services, tortured and abused individuals in custody.

According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the absence of proper complaint centers and the absence of a particular section in the criminal code that defines and prohibits torture contributed to such practices. The commission maintained the government undertook no serious effort to make torture a crime and that perpetrators, mostly police or members of the armed forces, operated with impunity.

There were reports police personnel employed cruel and degrading treatment and punishment. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that police committed “excesses” in at least 114 cases as of late December, compared with more than 147 cases in 2016. Multiple sources reported that torture occasionally resulted in death or serious injury and was often underreported.

On October 11, the newspaper Dawn reported that Punjab Police from Bahu Chowk police station beat to death an eighth grade student, Arsalan Mushtaq, in Jhabran Mandi. Police allegedly struck the boy’s head with a pistol, bundled him into a van, and later left his body on the side of the road.

The practice of collective punishment continued in the Federally and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (FATA and PATA), as provided for in the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) of 1901, which governs FATA. In 2011 the government amended the FCR to exempt women, all individuals over age 65, and children below age 16 from collective punishment. Authorities apply collective punishment incrementally, starting with the first immediate male family members, followed by the subtribe, and continuing outward. Although this graduated approach reduces its scope, the FCR assigns collective punishment without regard to individual rights. Human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) expressed concern about the concept of collective responsibility, as authorities used collective responsibility to detain members of fugitives’ tribes, demolish their homes, confiscate or destroy their property, or lay siege to their villages pending surrender or punishment of the fugitives by their own tribes in accordance with local tradition. From November 2016 to June, the political administration of Mohmand Agency suspended all mining at the Ziarat marble mine due to alleged support of militants by the Safi tribe. In July the political agent of Khyber Agency suspended compensatory payments to the Sipah tribe after an attack on security forces. The political administration of South Waziristan Agency arrested and jailed 97 men including doctors, teachers, and students after a fire incident at Agency Headquarters Hospital in which two ambulances, a medical store, and National Database and Registration Authority offices were burned. The men remained in police custody despite protests and demonstrations staged by local political parties and student associations.

As of August the country had 7,009 police, military experts, and soldiers performing peacekeeping duties around the world. The United Nations reported that as of October 15 it received two allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against Pakistani peacekeepers for one incident alleged to have occurred in September 2016, and one allegedly continuing exploitative sexual relationship that lasted from an unspecified date in 2011 to June 2012. One pending allegation reported in 2016, which allegedly involved rape of a minor by military personnel deployed to the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire, was still under both Pakistani government and UN investigation as of October 15.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in some prisons and detention centers were harsh and life threatening. Problems such as overcrowding and inadequate medical care were widespread.

Physical Conditions: Prison conditions often were extremely poor. Overcrowding was common. The Society for Human Rights and Prisoners’ Aid-Pakistan (SHARP) estimated the total nationwide prison population fluctuated between 95,000 and 107,000 while claiming that the normal capacity of prisons was approximately 36,000. The Inspector General’s Office reported prison capacity of 52,784.

Provincial governments were the primary managers of prisons and detention centers.

Although quality and quantity of prison food improved, inadequate food and medical care in prisons continued to cause chronic health problems and malnutrition among inmates unable to supplement their diets with help from family or friends. In many facilities sanitation, ventilation, lighting, and access to potable water were inadequate. Most prison facilities were antiquated and had no means to control indoor temperatures. A system existed for basic and emergency medical care, but bureaucratic procedures slowed access. Foreign prisoners often remained in prison long after completion of their sentences because they were unable to pay for deportation to their home countries. From January to May, 16 prisoners died in Karachi Central Prison and Malir Jail. Prison medical records listed the cause of death for the majority of the deceased as “heart failure.” According to press reports and prison hospital sources, prison medical facilities are in poor condition with limited medicine available.

Prison security remained a concern. On June 14, two members of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorist group–Shaikh Muhammad Mumtaz and Muhammad Ahmed Khan–escaped from Karachi Central Jail and were not recaptured as of December 6. They had been arrested by the Sindh Police CTD for alleged involvement in the killings of more than 60 individuals, mainly members of the Shia community and law enforcement officials. In a follow-up investigation, CTD highlighted prison officials’ fear of jihadi elements and MQM detainees, claiming they allowed prisoners to “virtually run” Karachi Central Jail.

Prisoners who were members of religious minorities generally received poorer treatment than Muslims and often suffered violence at the hands of fellow inmates. Representatives of Christian and Ahmadiyya Muslim communities claimed their members were often subjected to abuse in prison. Civil society organizations reported prisoners accused of blasphemy violations were frequently subjected to poor prison conditions. NGOs reported that many individuals accused of blasphemy remained in solitary confinement for extended periods, sometimes for more than a year. The government asserted this treatment was for the individual’s safety, given the likelihood that prisoners accused of blasphemy would face threats from the general prison population.

Authorities held female prisoners separately from men. NGOs reported transgender women were held with men and faced harassment. Balochistan had no women’s prison, but women were housed in separate barracks in prisons located in Khuzdar, Gaddani, Quetta, and Loralai.

Due to lack of infrastructure, police often did not segregate detainees from convicted criminals. Prisoners with mental disabilities usually lacked adequate care.

Prison officials kept juvenile offenders in barracks separate from adults. Juveniles and adults were in close proximity when waiting for transport but were kept under careful supervision at this time. According to the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), prisoners and prison staff subjected children to abuse, rape, and other forms of violence. SPARC described conditions for juvenile prisoners as among the worst in the country.

Administration: According to SHARP, there was adequate manual recordkeeping on prisoners, but there was a need for computerized records.

There was an ombudsman for detainees, with a central office in Islamabad and offices in each province. Inspectors general of prisons irregularly visited prisons and detention facilities to monitor conditions and handle complaints.

By law prison authorities must permit prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. According to SHARP, however, prisoners often refrained from submitting complaints to avoid retaliation from jail authorities.

Independent Monitoring: International organizations responsible for monitoring prisons reported difficulty accessing detention sites, in particular those holding security-related detainees. Authorities did not allow international organizations access to detention centers most affected by violence in KP, FATA, and Balochistan. Provincial governments in Sindh, Gilgit-Baltistan, and the AJK permitted some international organizations to monitor civil prisons, but leaders of monitoring organizations noted their operations were becoming more restricted each year.

Authorities at the local, provincial, and national levels permitted some human rights groups and journalists to monitor prison conditions of juveniles and female inmates.

Improvements: Infrastructure improvements and new policies in existing prisons, along with the construction of new facilities, increased the frequency with which pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were separated. A digitized prison management information system was operational in 20 Punjab province prisons. The government, in collaboration with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, took steps to expand the system to an additional 24 prison facilities in Punjab.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, but authorities did not always observe these requirements. Corruption and impunity compounded this problem.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Police have primary domestic security responsibility for most of the country. Local police are under the jurisdiction of provincial governments. Police effectiveness varied by district, ranging from good to ineffective. The Rangers are a paramilitary organization under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, with branches in Sindh and Punjab. The Frontier Corps is the Rangers’ counterpart in Balochistan and the tribal areas; it reports to the Ministry of Interior in peacetime and military in times of conflict. The military is responsible for external security but continues to play a role in domestic security.

The FCR provides the framework for law and order in FATA, implemented through appointed political agents who report to the governor of KP. The court system and judiciary do not have jurisdiction in FATA. Under the FCR, the trial by jirga (an assembly of community leaders that makes decisions by consensus) does not allow residents legal representation. If the accused is an adult man, he normally appears before the jirga in person to defend his case. Parents normally represent their minor children, and men normally represent their female relatives. Observers often criticized the FCR for harsh provisions. In 2011 authorities amended some of these provisions, including modifying the collective responsibility of a tribe, restricting the arbitrary nature of the powers of political agents or district coordination officers, and granting citizens limited rights to challenge the decisions of political agents in a codified tribunal system.

In lieu of police, multiple law enforcement entities operated in FATA. They included the paramilitary Frontier Corps, the Frontier Constabulary, “Khasadars” (hereditary tribal police), and the FATA Levies Force–which reported to political agents (the appointed administrative heads of each tribal agency)–to help maintain order. Tribal leaders convened “lashkars” (tribal militias) to deal with temporary law and order disturbances, but they operated as private tribal militias and not as formal law enforcement entities. The military assumed interim responsibility for security from the Frontier Corps in Parachinar, Kurram Agency, FATA, on June 30, after three separate bombings killed more than 120 people. The bombings had prompted a seven-day protest against the perceived failure of the Frontier Corps to protect the citizens of Parachinar.

Failure to punish abuses contributed to a climate of impunity throughout the country. According to civil society sources, police and prison officials frequently used the threat of abuse to extort money from prisoners and their families. The inspectors general, district police, district nazims (chief elected officials of local governments), provincial interior or chief ministers, federal interior minister, prime minister, or courts can order internal investigations into abuses and order administrative sanctions. Executive branch and police officials have authority to recommend, and the courts may order, criminal prosecution. The court system remained the only means available to investigate abuses by security forces. The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), established in 2015, may not inquire into any complaints against intelligence agencies and must refer such complaints to the competent authority concerned. The NCHR may seek a report from the national government on any complaint made against the armed forces, and after receipt of a report, it can either end the process or forward recommendations for further action to the national government.

During the year the government continued to use the military to support domestic security. Paramilitary forces, including Rangers and the Frontier Constabulary, provided security to some areas of Islamabad and continued active operations in Karachi. On February 22, following several high-profile terrorist attacks, the military launched Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, using expanded civilian and paramilitary cooperation against militants throughout the country. Representing an upgraded effort to combat terrorism, the operation also included deployment of the paramilitary Ranger corps into Punjab Province.

In January 2015, in response to an attack on the Peshawar Army Public School, Parliament approved a constitutional amendment to allow military courts to try civilians on terrorism, militancy, sectarian violence, and other charges. The amendment included a provision under which the mandate of the courts to try civilians would expire in January 2017. The government, however, reauthorized the amendment, extending the mandate of the courts until January 2019. Civil society members expressed concerns about the use of military courts for trying civilian suspects, citing lack of transparency and their redundancy with the civilian judicial system.

Police often failed to protect members of religious minorities–including Ahmadiyya Muslims, Christians, Shia Muslims, and Hindus–from attacks. Mob violence often accompanied blasphemy allegations, and individuals accused of blasphemy from both majority and minority communities were killed during the year. In one high-profile case, a mob in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, killed university student Mashal Khan on April 13 after rumors circulated on his campus that he had committed blasphemy; police officers were present at the killing but took no action to stop it.

Shia organizations complained that the government failed to provide adequate security to pilgrims traveling through Sindh and Balochistan en route to Iran.

There were improvements in police professionalism and instances of local authorities protecting minorities from discrimination and communal violence. In August police rescued a Christian teenager accused of blasphemy from a vigilante mob in Alipur Chatha, Punjab. According to local human rights organizations, the mob was beating the accused until the police intervened and took him into protective custody while his blasphemy charges were pending.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

A first information report (FIR) is the legal basis for any arrest, initiated when police receive information about the commission of a “cognizable” offense. A third party usually initiates a FIR, but police can file FIRs on their own initiative. A FIR allows police to detain a suspect for 24 hours, after which a magistrate may order detention for an additional 14 days if police show detention is necessary to obtain evidence material to the investigation. Some authorities did not observe these limits on detention. Authorities reportedly filed FIRs without supporting evidence in order to harass or intimidate detainees or did not file them when adequate evidence was provided unless the complainant paid a bribe. There were reports of persons arrested without judicial authorization and individuals paying bribes to visit prisoners.

The Ministry of Interior frequently did not provide notification of the arrest of foreigners to their respective embassies or consulates. In 2015 the ministry introduced a new requirement that foreign missions request access to their arrested citizens 20 days in advance.

There was a functioning bail system. Human rights groups noted, however, that judges sometimes denied bail upon payment of bribes. NGOs reported authorities sometimes denied bail in blasphemy cases on the grounds that defendants who faced the death penalty were likely to flee or were at risk from public vigilantism. NGOs also reported that lawyers representing individuals accused of blasphemy often asked that their clients remain in custody to protect them from vigilante violence. Bail is not available in antiterrorism courts or in the military courts established under the 2015 amendment to the constitution.

The government provided state-funded legal counsel to prisoners facing the death penalty, but it did not regularly provide legal representation in other cases. The constitution recognizes the right of habeas corpus and allows the high courts to demand that a person accused of a crime be present in court. The law allows citizens to submit habeas corpus petitions to the courts. In many cases involving forced disappearances, authorities failed to present detainees according to judges’ orders.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports police arbitrarily detained individuals to extort bribes for their release or detained relatives of wanted individuals to compel suspects to surrender. Ethnic Rohingya in Karachi who lacked official identification documents reported arbitrary arrests and harassment by police authorities.

Pretrial Detention: Police sometimes held persons in investigative detention without seeking a magistrate’s approval and often held detainees without charge until a court challenged the detention. Magistrates generally approved investigative detention at the request of police without requiring justification. When police did not develop sufficient evidence to try a suspect within the 14-day period, they generally requested that magistrates issue new FIRs, thereby further extending the suspect’s detention.

By law detainees must be brought to trial within 30 days of arrest. There were exceptions: a district coordination officer has authority to recommend preventive detention on the grounds of “maintenance of public order” for up to 90 days and may–with approval of the Home Department–extend it for an additional 90 days.

In some cases trials did not start until six months after a FIR, and at times individuals remained in pretrial detention for periods longer than the maximum sentence for the crime with which they were charged. SHARP estimated that more than 70 percent of the prison population was awaiting trial. Authorities seldom informed detainees promptly of charges against them.

Special rules apply to cases brought to court by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which investigates and prosecutes corruption cases. The NAB may detain suspects for 15 days without charge (renewable with judicial concurrence) and deny access to counsel prior to charging. Offenses under the NAB are not bailable, and only the NAB chairman has the power to decide whether to release detainees.

Under the FCR in FATA, the political agent has legal authority to detain preventively individuals on a variety of grounds and may require bonds to prevent undesired activities. Indefinite detention is not allowed, and detained persons may appeal to the FCR tribunal. Prisoners have the right to compensation for wrongful punishment. Cases must be decided within a specified period, and authorities may release arrested persons on bail. Regulations require prisoners to be brought before FCR authorities within 24 hours of detention, which curtails the ability of political agents to arbitrarily arrest and hold persons for up to three years. The accused have the right of appeal under a two-tiered system, which starts with an appellate authority consisting of an FCR commissioner and an additional judicial commissioner.

In FATA, PATA, and KP, security forces may restrict the activities of terrorism suspects, seize their assets for up to 48 hours, and detain them for as long as one year without charges. Human rights and international organizations reported that authorities held an unknown number of individuals allegedly affiliated with terrorist organizations indefinitely in preventive detention, where they were often tortured and abused. In many cases authorities held prisoners incommunicado, denying them prompt access to a lawyer of their choice. Family members often were not allowed prompt access to detainees.

The 2011 Actions in Aid of Civil Power Regulation (retroactive to 2008) provides the military legal authority to detain suspected terrorists in FATA and PATA when called upon by the civilian government. Critics stated the regulation violates the constitution because of its broad provisions expanding military authority and circumventing legal due process. Under the regulation, detainee transfers to internment centers continued on a regular basis.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: There were reports of persons arrested or detained who were not allowed to challenge in court the legal basis or nature of their detention, obtain relief, or receive compensation.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

Militant and terrorist activity continued, and there were numerous suicide and bomb attacks in all four provinces and FATA. Militants and terrorist groups, including the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) targeted civilians, journalists, community leaders, security forces, law enforcement agents, and schools, killing hundreds and injuring thousands with bombs, suicide attacks, and other forms of violence. Militant and terrorist groups often attacked religious minorities. A low-intensity separatist insurgency continued in Balochistan. Security forces reportedly committed extrajudicial killings in the fight against militant groups.

The military conducted multiple counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations to eradicate militant safe havens. In 2014 the military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb, an operation against foreign and domestic terrorists in FATA. The operation continued until February, when the military replaced it with Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, a nationwide counterterrorism campaign aimed at consolidating Zarb-e-Azb’s gains. The government also acted throughout the country to weaken terrorist groups and prevent recruitment by militant organizations. For example, law enforcement agencies reported seizures of large caches of weapons in urban areas such as Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi. Police arrested Karachi gang members and TTP commanders who allegedly provided logistical support to militants in the tribal areas. Police arrested would-be suicide bombers in major cities, confiscating weapons, suicide vests, and planning materials.

Poor security, intimidation by both security forces and militants, and control by government and security forces over access by nonresidents to FATA impeded the efforts of human rights organizations to provide relief to victims of military abuses and efforts of journalists to report on any such abuses.

Political, sectarian, criminal, and ethnic violence in Karachi continued, although violence declined and gang wars were less prevalent than before security operations in the city. Natural disasters and instability caused by terrorist activity and military operations elsewhere in the country motivated ongoing relocation of citizens from different ethnic groups–including Sindhi, Baloch, and Pashtun migrants–to Karachi. This trend continued to shift the balance among political parties and the ethnic and sectarian groups they represented. Political parties and their affiliated gangs continued to vie for political and economic control, engaging in a turf war over bhatta (extortion) collection privileges and “ownership” over katchi abadis (illegal/makeshift settlements).

Killings: There were reports that government security forces caused civilian casualties and engaged in extrajudicial killings during operations against militants. Security forces killed militants throughout the country. There were numerous media reports of police and security forces killing terrorist suspects in “police encounters.” Some observers believed security forces orchestrated at least some of these killings.

The TTP faction Jamaat-ur-Ahrar claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack near the Punjab Provincial Assembly in Lahore on February 13 that killed 13 individuals and injured more than 80. The militant faction said the attack was the beginning of a new campaign of violence against the government, security forces, the judiciary, and secular political parties.

On July 24, at least 26 individuals died and 58 were injured in a suicide explosion in Lahore. Officials stated the attack targeted a group of police. According to provincial authorities, at least nine of those killed were police officers. The TTP claimed responsibility for the blast.

ISIS-K claimed responsibility for several attacks in Balochistan and Sindh. On February 17, ISIS-K claimed responsibility for killing at least 75 persons and injuring more than 200 others, when a suicide bomber detonated at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sindh.

Sectarian violence also continued throughout the country. NGOs differed in their definitions of sectarian violence, leading to differences in accounting for the number of attacks and deaths. According to SATP, 15 sectarian attacks from January to mid-December resulted in the deaths of 229 individuals, compared with 132 deaths in 31 incidents in 2016. Kurram Agency, FATA, which is the only part of FATA that has a majority Shia population, was the target of three separate bombings that claimed the lives of more than 120 individuals. On January 21, a bomb was detonated in a vegetable market in Parachinar, the capital of Kurram Agency, killing 25; Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the TTP claimed responsibility. On June 23, twin blasts hit the Turi Market in central Parachinar, killing 72. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed the attack. On October 10, a suicide bomber killed at least 24 worshippers at a shrine in Balochistan.

Multiple Ahmadiyya community members died in what appeared to be targeted killings. Unknown gunmen killed three Ahmadis in three separate attacks on March 30, April 7, and May 3.

Abductions: There were reports militant groups kidnapped or took civilians hostage in FATA, KP, Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the May 24 abduction and killing of two Chinese nationals from Quetta.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Nonstate militant groups targeted noncombatants and killed civilians in various incidents across the country.

Child Soldiers: Nonstate militant groups kidnapped boys and girls and used fraudulent promises to coerce parents into giving away children as young as 12 to spy, fight, or die as suicide bombers. The militants sometimes offered parents money, often sexually and physically abused the children, and used psychological coercion to convince the children the acts they committed were justified. The government operated a center in Swat to rehabilitate and educate former child soldiers.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: The terrorist groups TTP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and related factions bombed government buildings and attacked and killed female teachers and polio vaccination workers. During the year there were two reported cases of fatal attacks against health-care workers associated with a polio vaccination campaign. Both incidents took place in KP, the first on May 24 in Bannu and the second on July 2 in Peshawar. The TTP particularly targeted girls’ schools to demonstrate its opposition to girls’ education but also destroyed boys’ schools. Military operations created hardships for the local civilian population when militants closed key access roads and tunnels and attacked communications and energy networks, disrupting commerce and the distribution of food and water.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a criminal offense, with punishment that ranges from a minimum of 10 to 25 years in prison and a fine to the death penalty. The penalty for gang rape is death or life imprisonment. Although rape was frequent, prosecutions were rare. Spousal rape is not a crime. In 2016 Parliament passed a new antirape law that provides for collection of DNA evidence and includes nondisclosure of a rape victim’s name, the right to legal representation of rape victims, and enhanced penalties for rape of victims with mental or physical disabilities.

As in previous years, the government did not effectively enforce the 2006 Women’s Protection Act. The act brought the crime of rape under the jurisdiction of criminal rather than Islamic courts. By law police are not allowed to arrest or hold a female victim overnight at a police station without a civil court judge’s consent. The law requires a victim to complain directly to a sessions court, which is considered a trial court for heinous offenses. After recording the victim’s statement, the sessions court judge officially lodges a complaint, after which police may then make arrests. NGOs reported the procedure created barriers for rape victims who could not afford to travel to or access the courts. Rape was a severely underreported crime.

In 2016 the provincial government of Punjab passed the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act to provide greater legal protections for domestic abuse victims, including judicial protective orders and access to a new network of district-level women’s shelters, the first of which was inaugurated in Multan in March. The center provided women a range of services including assistance with the completion of first information reports (FIRs) regarding the crimes committed against them, first aid, medical examinations, post-trauma rehabilitation, free legal services, and a shelter home.

There were no reliable national, provincial, or local statistics on rape due to underreporting and a lack of any centralized law enforcement data collection system.

According to the Aurat Foundation and others, prosecutions of reported rapes were rare. Police and NGOs reported individuals involved in other types of disputes sometimes filed false rape charges, reducing the ability of police to identify legitimate cases and proceed with prosecution. NGOs reported police were at times implicated in rape cases. NGOs also alleged police sometimes abused or threatened victims, demanding they drop charges, especially when police received bribes from suspected perpetrators or the perpetrators were influential community leaders. Some police demanded bribes from victims before registering rape charges, and investigations were sometimes superficial. The use of postrape medical testing increased, but medical personnel in many areas did not have sufficient training or equipment, which further complicated prosecutions. Accusations of rape were often resolved using extrajudicial measures, with the victim often forced to marry her attacker.

No specific federal law prohibits domestic violence, which was widespread. Forms of domestic violence reportedly included beating, physical disfigurement, shaving of women’s eyebrows and hair, and–in the most extreme cases–homicide. In-laws abused and harassed the wives of their sons. Dowry and other family-related disputes sometimes resulted in death or disfigurement by burning or acid.

Women who tried to report abuse faced serious challenges. Police and judges were sometimes reluctant to take action in domestic violence cases, viewing them as family problems. Instead of filing charges, police typically responded by encouraging the parties to reconcile. Authorities routinely returned abused women to their abusive family members.

To address societal norms that disapprove of victims who report gender-based violence and abuse, the government established women’s police stations, staffed by female officers, to offer women a safe haven where they could safely report complaints and file charges. These women’s police stations, however, struggled with understaffing and limited equipment.

The government continued to operate the Crisis Center for Women in Distress, which referred abused women to NGOs for assistance. Numerous government-funded Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Centers for Women across the country provided legal aid, medical treatment, and psychosocial counseling. These centers served women who were victims of exploitation and violence. Victims later were referred to dar-ul-amans, shelter houses for abused women and children, of which there were several hundred around the country. The dal-ul-amans also provided access to medical treatment. According to NGOs, the shelters did not offer other assistance to women, such as legal aid or counseling, and often served as halfway homes for women awaiting trial for adultery, even though they were the victims of rape and domestic abuse.

Government centers lacked sufficient space, staff, and resources. Conditions in many dar-ul-amans did not meet international standards. Many were severely overcrowded with, in some cases, more than 35 women sharing one toilet. Few shelters offered access to basic needs such as showers, laundry supplies, or feminine hygiene products. In some cases, women were reportedly abused at the government-run shelters, found their movements severely restricted, or were pressured to return to their abusers.

There were some reports of women being trafficked and prostituted out of shelters. Shelter staff reportedly sometimes discriminated against women in shelters; they assumed that if women fled their homes, it was because they were women of ill repute. In some cases, women were reportedly abused at the government-run shelters, found their movements severely restricted, or were pressured to return to their abusers.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No national law addresses the practice of FGM/C. According to human rights groups and media reports, many Dawoodi Bohra Muslims practiced various forms of FGM/C. Some other isolated tribes and communities in rural Sindh and Balochistan also practiced FGM/C. Some Dawoodi Bohras spoke publicly and signed online petitions against the practice.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: At times women were victims of various types of societal violence and abuse, including so-called honor killings, forced marriages and conversions, imposed isolation, and being used as chattel to settle tribal disputes.

A 2004 law on honor killings, the 2011 Prevention of Antiwomen Practices Act, and the 2016 Criminal Law Amendment (Offenses in the Name or Pretext of Honor) Act criminalize acts committed against women in the name of traditional practices. Despite these laws, hundreds of women reportedly were victims of so-called honor killings, and many cases went unreported and unpunished. In many cases, the male involved in the alleged “crime of honor” is not killed but allowed to flee. In October 2016 the government passed the anti-honor-killing law, closing the loophole that allowed perpetrators in “honor killings” to go free if the victim’s family pardoned the perpetrator.

Because honor crimes generally occurred within families, many went unreported. Police and NGOs reported that increased media coverage enabled law enforcement officials to take some action against a limited number of perpetrators. In July 2016 social media celebrity Fouzia Azeem (better known as Qandeel Baloch) was killed by her brother at their family home in southern Punjab. The brother said she had shamed the family with her “liberal” lifestyle. The government charged Baloch’s brother and accomplices with her murder, which made the state a party in the case and barred the family from “forgiving” the brother and setting him free, a common outcome in these types of killings.

The practice of cutting off a woman’s nose or ears, especially in connection with honor crimes, was reported, and legal repercussions were rare.

In March, Parliament passed the federal Hindu Marriage Act. The national law codifies the legal mechanisms to register Hindu marriages and to prove the legitimacy of Hindu marriages under the law. While leaders in the Hindu community generally saw the legislation as a positive step toward preventing forced marriages of Hindus to Muslims, the law contains one controversial provision allowing for the termination of the marriage upon the conversion of one party to a religion other than Hinduism. A similar provision was included in Sindh’s 2016 Hindu Marriage Act.

The 2011 Prevention of Antiwomen Practices Amendment Act criminalizes and punishes the giving of a woman in marriage to settle a civil or criminal dispute; depriving a woman of her rights to inherit movable or immovable property by deceitful or illegal means; coercing or in any manner compelling a woman to enter into marriage; and compelling, arranging, or facilitating the marriage of a woman with the Quran, including forcing her to take an oath on the Quran to remain unmarried or not to claim her share of an inheritance. Although prohibited by law, these practices continued in some areas.

The law makes maiming or killing using a corrosive substance a crime and imposes stiff penalties against perpetrators. As with other laws, these measures are not applicable in FATA and PATA unless the president issues a notification to that effect. There were numerous acid attacks on women across the country, with few perpetrators brought to justice.

The 2012 National Commission on the Status of Women Bill provides for the commission’s financial and administrative autonomy to investigate violations of women’s rights. According to women’s rights activists, however, the commission lacked resources and remained powerless.

Sexual Harassment: Although several laws criminalize sexual harassment in the workplace and public sphere, the problem was widespread. Laws require all provinces to establish provincial-level ombudsmen. Sindh was the first province to do so in 2012. Punjab Province and administrative district Gilgit-Baltistan also established ombudsmen.

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

Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination based on sex in general, but authorities did not enforce it. Women also faced discrimination in employment, family law, property law, and the judicial system. Family law provides protection for women in cases of divorce, including requirements for maintenance, and sets clear guidelines for custody of minor children and their maintenance.

The law entitles female children to one-half the inheritance of male children. Wives inherit one-eighth of their husbands’ estates. Women often received far less than their legal entitlement.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth in the country, although for children born abroad after 2000, citizenship may be derived by descent if either the mother or the father is a citizen and the child is registered with the proper authorities (see section 2.d.).

Education: The constitution mandates compulsory education, provided free of charge by the government, to all children between the ages of five and 16. Despite this provision, government schools often charged parents for books, uniforms, and other materials.

Medical Care: Boys and girls had equal access to government facilities, although families were more likely to seek medical assistance for boys than for girls.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was widespread. Employers, who in some cases were relatives, abused young girls and boys working as domestic servants by beating them and forcing them to work long hours. Many such children were trafficking victims.

Local authorities subjected children to harmful traditional practices, treating girls as chattel to settle disputes and debts.

In 2016 the government updated its definition of statutory rape and expanded the previous definition, which was sexual intercourse with a girl younger than 16, to include boys.

Early and Forced Marriage: Despite legal prohibitions, child marriages occurred. Federal law sets the legal age of marriage at 18 for men and 16 for women. The 2014 Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act sets 18 as the legal age of marriage for both girls and boys in Sindh Province. A February amendment to the federal 1929 Child Marriage Restraint Act substantially increased punishment for violators of the law. Under the amendment, violators may be imprisoned for up to 10 years and no less than five years (up from imprisonment of up to one month), and may also be fined up to one million rupees ($9,000), up from 1,000 rupees (nine dollars).

In 2014 the Council of Islamic Ideology declared child marriage laws to be un-Islamic and noted they were “unfair and there cannot be any legal age of marriage.” The council stated that Islam does not prohibit underage marriage since it allows the consummation of marriage after both partners reach puberty. Decisions of the Council are nonbinding.

According to a 2017 nationally representative Gallup survey, 24.7 percent of women were married before the age of 18. In rural areas, poor parents sometimes sold their daughters into marriage, in some cases to settle debts or disputes. Although forced marriage is a criminal offense and many cases were filed, prosecution remained limited.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: In 2016 Parliament amended the criminal code to protect children further from specific crimes of child pornography, sexual abuse, seduction, and cruelty. The 1961 Suppression of Prostitution Ordinance and portions of the penal code are intended to protect children from sexual exploitation though socioeconomic vulnerabilities led to the sexual exploitation of children, including sex trafficking, and authorities did not regularly enforce these laws. Child pornography is illegal under obscenity laws.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: By law anyone found to have abandoned an infant may be imprisoned for seven years, while anyone guilty of secretly burying a deceased child may be imprisoned for two years. Murder is punishable by life imprisonment, but authorities rarely prosecuted the crime of infanticide.

Displaced Children: According to civil society sources, it was difficult for children displaced by military operations to access education or psychological support. SPARC and other child rights organizations expressed concern that children displaced by flooding and conflict were vulnerable to child labor abuses as some families relocated to urban areas.

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

Anti-Semitism

There is a very small Jewish population in the country. Anti-Semitic sentiments were widespread in the vernacular press. Hate speech broadcast by traditional media and through social media derogatorily used terms such as “Jewish agent” to attack individuals and groups.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law provides for equal rights for persons with disabilities, but authorities did not always implement its provisions. After the Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education was dissolved in 2011, its affiliated departments–including the Directorate General for Special Education, the National Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, and the National Trust for the Disabled–were transferred to the Capital Administration and Development Division. The special education and social welfare offices, which devolved to the provinces, are responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

In Sindh the law mandates the minister for bonded labor and special education to address the educational needs of persons with disabilities. According to civil society sources, most children with disabilities did not attend school.

Employment quotas at the federal and provincial levels require public and private organizations to reserve at least 2 percent of jobs for qualified persons with disabilities. Authorities only partially implemented this requirement due to lack of adequate enforcement mechanisms.

Organizations that did not wish to hire persons with disabilities could instead pay a fine to a disability assistance fund. Authorities rarely enforced this obligation. The National Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled provided job placement and loan facilities as well as subsistence funding. Voting was challenging for persons with disabilities, however, because of severe difficulties in obtaining transportation and access to polling stations. The Elections Act 2017, however, allows for mail-in voting for persons with disabilities. In addition, the Election Commission of Pakistan issued a directive for 2018 general election polling stations to be installed on ground floors when possible and to be equipped with ramps in order to facilitate access for persons with disabilities.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is a criminal offense; however, the government rarely prosecuted cases. The penalty for same-sex relations is a fine, two years’ to life imprisonment, or both. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, male transgender, and intersex persons rarely revealed their sexual orientation or gender identity. There were communities of openly transgender women, but they were marginalized and were frequently the targets of violence and harassment. Transgender women were marginalized and were frequently the targets of violence and harassment. No laws protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2013 the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority blocked the country’s first online platform for the LGBTI community to share views and network, but social media pages working on LGBTI rights and related issues continued to function.

Violence and discrimination continued against LGBTI persons. Police generally refused to take action on cases involving members of the LGBTI community. In Karachi, Sindh police were slow or reluctant to pursue crimes committed against transgender women, including in the cases of an August 30 killing and two separate gang rapes in September. Outreach by NGOs in KP, in contrast, improved interactions between police and the transgender community there.

According to a wide range of LGBT NGOs and activists, society generally shunned transgender women, eunuchs, and intersex persons, collectively referred to as “hijras”–a word some transgender individuals view as pejorative, preferring the term “khwaja serra”–who often lived together in slum communities and survived by begging and dancing at carnivals and weddings. Some also were prostitutes. Local authorities often denied transgender individuals places in schools or admission to hospitals, and landlords often refused to rent or sell property to them. Authorities often denied transgender individuals their share of inherited property. A 2012 Supreme Court ruling recognizes transgender persons as a “third gender” and allows them to obtain accurate national identification cards. Because of the ruling, in 2013 transgender individuals were able to participate in elections for the first time as candidates and voters.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The country continued to have a concentrated HIV epidemic with an estimated prevalence among the general population at less than 0.1 percent. Estimates indicated that 93 percent of those living with HIV were in two provinces: Punjab (50 percent) and Sindh (43 percent). The epidemic was concentrated among key populations, primarily injecting drug users. For all key populations, stigma and discrimination by the general population and by health-care providers in particular remained a significant barrier to treatment access.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Societal violence due to religious intolerance remained a serious problem. There were occasionally reports of mob violence against religious minorities, including Christians, Ahmadiyya Muslims, Hindus, and Shia Muslims.

Members of the Hazara ethnic minority, who are Shia Muslim, continued to face discrimination and threats of violence in Quetta, Balochistan. At least 13 Hazara Shia were killed in targeted attacks throughout the year. For example, on July 19, unidentified gunmen killed a Hazara Shia family of four travelling from Quetta to Karachi. According to press reports and other sources, Hazara were unable to move freely outside of Quetta’s two Hazara-populated enclaves. Consumer goods in those enclaves were available only at inflated prices, and Hazaras reported an inability to find employment or pursue higher education. They also alleged government agencies discriminated against Hazaras in issuing identification cards and passports. To avoid causing violent incidents, authorities confined Shia religious processions to the Hazara enclaves.

Russia

Executive Summary

The Russian Federation has a highly centralized, authoritarian political system dominated by President Vladimir Putin. The bicameral Federal Assembly consists of a directly elected lower house (State Duma) and an appointed upper house (Federation Council), both of which lacked independence from the executive. State Duma elections in September 2016 and the presidential election in 2012 were marked by accusations of government interference and manipulation of the electoral process.

Security forces generally reported to civilian authorities, except in some areas of the North Caucasus.

The occupation and purported “annexation” of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula continued to affect the human rights situation significantly and negatively. The government continued to arm, train, lead, and fight alongside, forces in eastern Ukraine. Credible observers attributed thousands of civilian deaths and injuries, as well as widespread abuses, to Russian-led forces in Ukraine’s Donbas region and to Russian occupation authorities in Crimea (see the Country Reports on Human Rights for Ukraine). Authorities also conducted politically motivated arrests, detentions, and trials of Ukrainian citizens in Russia, many of whom claimed to have been tortured. Human rights groups asserted that numerous Ukrainian citizens remained in Russia as political prisoners.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings, including of LGBTI persons in Chechnya; enforced disappearances; torture that was systematic and sometimes resulted in death and sometimes included punitive psychiatric incarceration; harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of judicial independence; political prisoners; severe interference with privacy; severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, including the use of “antiextremism” and other vague laws to prosecute peaceful dissent; and violence against journalists and bloggers; blocking and filtering of internet content and use of cyberattacks to disrupt peaceful internet discussion; severe restrictions on the rights of peaceful assembly; increasingly severe restriction on freedom of association, including laws on “foreign agents” and “undesirable foreign organization”; restrictions on freedom of movement of those charged with political offenses; refoulement; severe restriction on the right to participate in the political process, including restrictions on opposition candidates’ ability to seek public office and conduct political campaigns, and on the ability of civil society to monitor election processes; widespread corruption at all levels and in all branches of government; thousands of fatal incidents of domestic violence to which the government responded by reducing the penalty for domestic violence, and honor killings and other harmful traditional practices against women in parts of the North Caucasus; thousands of fatal incidents of child abuse; trafficking in persons; institutionalization in harsh conditions of a large percentage of persons with disabilities; and state-sponsored as well as societal violence against LGBTI persons, especially in Chechnya.

The government failed to take adequate steps to prosecute or punish most officials who committed abuses, resulting in a climate of impunity.

Conflict in the North Caucasus between government forces, insurgents, Islamist militants, and criminals led to numerous abuses of human rights, including killings, torture, physical abuse, politically motivated abductions, and a general degradation in the rule of law. Ramzan Kadyrov’s government in Chechnya committed abuses with impunity. Virtually none of these abuses was credibly investigated or prosecuted by either the federal government or local Chechen authorities.

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 or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, particularly in Chechnya. In the North Caucasus, both authorities and local militants reportedly carried out numerous conflict-related extrajudicial killings (see section 1.g.).

On April 1, the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that, during an “antigay purge” that took place from December 2016 through March, local Chechen security services kidnapped, held prisoner, and tortured more than 100 male residents in Chechnya based on their suspected sexual orientation, resulting in at least three deaths. Multiple independent human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, the Russia LGBT Network, and Memorial, subsequently confirmed Novaya Gazeta’s allegations. On April 19, following international condemnation, the government authorized a “preinvestigative check” of the allegations by the Investigative Committee. Chechen officials denied the killings had taken place, while simultaneously making statements that condoned extrajudicial killings of LGBTI persons. In May Human Rights Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova also began an investigation and requested the Investigative Committee to look into the fate of individual alleged victims, based on information provided to her by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). On July 6, she received an interim response from the Investigative Committee that did not confirm any violence against the LGBTI community in Chechnya, citing a lack of specific information on the victims. She publicly noted her dissatisfaction with the response and traveled to Chechnya in September. According to Novaya Gazeta and credible NGO reports, during her visit to Chechnya, local authorities misled her and attempted to cover up the killings. On October 16, a surviving victim of the “antigay purge,” Maksim Lapunov, filed a complaint with the Investigative Committee in which he alleged torture and provided information about extrajudicial killings. On November 1, Moskalkova stated she would ensure that Lapunov’s allegations were properly investigated, stating, “I believe there are grounds to open a criminal case and provide state protection to Maxim Lapunov.” On December 27, Novaya Gazeta published a report that included interviews with 12 victims of the purge, describing in detail their arrests, imprisonment, and torture at the hands of authorities. According to Novaya Gazeta, by the end of the year, the Russia LGBT Network had evacuated 106 persons from Chechnya, all of whom left Russia.

Prison officials and police allegedly subjected inmates and suspects in custody to physical abuse that in some instances resulted in death. In one case, on September 27, police in Nizhiy Tagil arrested Stanislav Golovko on suspicion of robbery and allegedly brutally beat him. As a result of his injuries, he died in a local hospital on September 30. According to media reports, the coroner’s report documented 26 injuries on his body, including nine broken ribs, three skull fractures, and broken fingers and toes on all four extremities. On October 25, a district court in Nizhniy Tagil confirmed the detention of police investigator Dmitriy Panov and Senior Lieutenant Yegor Yalunin on charges of “causing fatal injuries” and “exceeding official authority” leading to Golovko’s death.

In the 2016 torture and extrajudicial killing of Magomed Daliyev, a suspect in police custody in connection with a robbery, authorities arrested three Ministry of Internal Affairs personnel, including Timur Khamkhoyev, the head of the local ministry’s counterextremism center (CCE). In May the Investigative Committee of Ingushetia combined five criminal cases of torture brought against CCE officials, including Daliyev’s case, into one criminal case.

Physical abuse and hazing, which in some cases resulted in death, continued to be a problem in the armed forces. The Main Military Investigative Department opened an investigation into the circumstances of the March 8 death of conscript Denis Khamidullin in Yekaterinburg. While his commanders asserted he had committed suicide, an examination of the body indicated that he had been beaten shortly before his death. A criminal case was initiated against the commander of the unit for alleged official misconduct.

In the 2015 killing of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, who was deputy prime minister during the Yeltsin administration, a court on July 13 convicted Zaur Dadayev, Anzor Gubashev, Khamzat Bakhayev, Shadid Gubashev, and Temirlan Eskerkhanov of murder as part of an organized group and illegally purchasing, carrying, transporting, and storing firearms. The court sentenced the five to prison terms of between 11 and 20 years. Human rights activists and the Nemtsov family believed the court intentionally ignored the question of who ordered and organized the killing and noted that these individuals were still at large.

The country played a significant military role in conflicts in eastern Ukraine and Syria, where human rights organizations attributed thousands of civilian deaths as well as other human rights abuses to Russian-led forces and Russian occupation authorities in Crimea (see Country Reports on Human Rights for Ukraine). Since 2015 the country’s forces have conducted military operations, including airstrikes, in the continuing conflict in Syria. According to human rights organizations, the country’s forces took actions such as bombing urban areas during the conflict, including purposefully targeting civilian infrastructure (see Country Reports on Human Rightsfor Syria).

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

Although the constitution prohibits such practices, numerous credible reports indicated law enforcement personnel engaged in torture, abuse, and violence to coerce confessions from suspects, and authorities generally did not hold officials accountable for such actions. If law enforcement officers were prosecuted, they were typically charged with simple assault or exceeding their authority. According to human rights activists, judges often elected instead to use laws against abuse of power, because this definition better captures the difference in authority between an officer of the law and the private individual who was abused.

There were reports of deaths as a result of torture (see section 1.a.).

Physical abuse of suspects by police officers was reportedly systemic and usually occurred within the first few days of arrest. Reports from human rights groups and former police officers indicated that police most often used electric shocks, suffocation, and stretching or applying pressure to joints and ligaments because those methods were considered less likely to leave visible marks. In the North Caucasus, local law enforcement organizations as well as federal security services reportedly committed torture (see section 1.g.).

In one example the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that on August 1, police tortured one of the newspaper’s employees, Uzbek journalist Khudoberdi Nurmatov (pen name Ali Feruz), while authorities detained him on charges of violating immigration law. The newspaper reported that police beat and used electric shocks on Nurmatov while transporting him to a detention center for foreign nationals. On the day of his detention, the Basmannyy District Court in Moscow charged Nurmatov with violating immigration law and ordered his deportation. Nurmatov previously filed multiple asylum claims in the country. On June 6, Nurmatov filed an appeal, and on August 3, the Presidential Human Rights Council released a statement asserting his deportation would be against the constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights because his family members were Russian citizens. On August 8, the Moscow City Court ruled to suspend Nurmatov’s deportation pending review of his case by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Nurmatov’s asylum case was pending, and he remained in a temporary detention facility.

Arrests and court decisions related to police torture continued to come from the Republic of Tatarstan. On October 19, Ilnaz Pirkin, a resident of Nizhnekamsk, Tatarstan, reportedly committed suicide after being detained on charges of theft. In a video message, Pirkin accused police of torture. Three police officials were arrested in the case. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tatarstan completed an investigation resulting in the dismissal of the head of the Nizhnekamsk Ministry of Internal Affairs, Robert Khusnutdinov.

Police and individuals who appeared to be operating with the tacit approval of authorities conducted attacks on political and human rights activists, critics of government policies, and persons linked to the opposition. For example, on March 18, officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) detained, interrogated, and beat a Moscow State University student who hung a Ukrainian flag out his window.

Reports by refugees, NGOs, and the press suggested a pattern of police carrying out beatings, arrests, and extortions of persons whose ethnic makeup was assumed to be Romani, Central Asian, African, or of a Caucasus nationality.

There were multiple reports of authorities detaining defendants for psychiatric evaluations for up to 30 days or longer as a means exerting of pressure, or sending defendants for psychiatric treatment as a means of punishment them. A July report released by the Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry described at least 12 cases of punitive psychiatric incarceration in the country since 2012 and noted that the phenomenon was likely underreported. On June 1, a district court in Chelyabinsk ordered the release of activist Aleksey Moroshkin, who was forcibly committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2015 after making online calls for the establishment of an “Ural people’s republic.”

Nonlethal physical abuse and hazing continued to be a problem in the armed forces, although violations related to hazing in the military were fewer than in previous years. Activists reported suspicious military deaths were often tied to extortion schemes. The NGO Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers confirmed a decrease in incidents of “dedovshchina” (a pattern of hazing) in 2015 continued into 2016, but that extortion of conscripts had become “the norm.” In February the news outlet Media Zone reported 306 criminal cases of hazing were initiated in the first half of 2016. In 2015 some 901 cases were initiated.

There were continued problems with recruits medically unfit for duty being forced to enter into the army. NGOs reported complaints from conscripts drafted into service despite their claims of poor health.

There were reports Russian-led forces and Russian occupation authorities in Ukraine engaged in torture (see Country Reports on Human Rights for Ukraine).

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in prisons and detention centers varied but were often harsh and life threatening. Overcrowding, abuse by guards and inmates, limited access to health care, food shortages, and inadequate sanitation were common in prisons, penal colonies, and other detention facilities.

Physical Conditions: Prison overcrowding remained a serious problem. While the penal code establishes the separation of women and men, juveniles and adults, and pretrial detainees and convicts into separate quarters, there was anecdotal evidence that not all prison facilities followed these rules.

Penal Reform International reported conditions were generally better in women’s colonies than in those for men, but they remained substandard. Thirteen women’s facilities also contained facilities for underage children of inmates who had no options for housing them with friends or relatives.

On February 20, Minister of Justice Aleksandr Konovalov asserted publicly that the overall mortality rate in the Russian penitentiary system declined by 9.6 percent in 2016, while deaths from diseases declined by 11.8 percent.

In 2016 some 99 persons died in police stations and pretrial detention or temporary detention facilities according to a tally maintained by the prison monitoring website Russian Ebola.

Physical abuse by prison guards was systemic. For example, on April 24, special forces police beat Ivan Nepomnyashchikh, a 26-year-old Bolotnaya Square defendant serving 2.5 years in a Yaroslavl prison colony. According to media reports sourced to Nepomnyashchikh’s lawyer, special forces allegedly entered the prison and began beating inmates, including Nepomnyashchikh, for disobeying security search orders from prison guards. On April 21, authorities reportedly moved Nepomnyashchikh to a solitary confinement/punishment cell.

Prisoner-on-prisoner violence was also a problem. In some cases, prison authorities encouraged prisoners to abuse certain inmates. There were elaborate inmate-enforced caste systems in which certain groups, including informers, gay inmates, rapists, prison rape victims, and child molesters, were considered “untouchables.” Prison authorities provided little or no protection to these groups.

In the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died of medical neglect and abuse while in pretrial detention in 2009, as of year’s end, authorities had not, brought those reportedly responsible for his death to justice. The investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death remained officially closed.

Health, nutrition, ventilation, and sanitation standards varied among facilities but generally were poor. Potable water sometimes was rationed. Access to quality medical care remained a significant problem in the penal system. According to the NGO Torture Territory, 18 prisoners held in the LIU-3 prison (Therapeutic Corrective Institution 3) in Saratov went on a hunger strike in June to protest poor conditions in the prison. There were reports of officials beating the strikers. Torture Territory appealed to the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman on behalf of the strikers.

In its annual report released in February, Amnesty International noted that during the year the ECHR found in 12 cases of prisoners being subjected to torture or other mistreatment through failure to provide adequate medical care in prisons and pretrial detention centers. On May 26, lawyers from the NGO Zona Prava appealed to the ECHR on behalf of Ivan Shaydullin, a prisoner at the Trans-Baikal prison. According to his lawyers, Shaydullin had advanced brain cancer that required radiation therapy, but the prison lacked a staff oncologist or the license necessary to provide such treatment.

Tuberculosis and HIV among the country’s prison population remained significant problems. In 2015 the Federal Penitentiary Services reported that nearly 4 percent of the country’s prison population was infected with tuberculosis, while the HIV rate among prisoners increased 6 percent from 2014 levels (see section 6, HIV and Social Stigma).

In a 2012 pilot judgment in the case of Ananyev v. Russia, the ECHR noted that inadequate conditions of detention were a recurrent and systemic problem in the country and ordered the government to draft a binding implementation plan to remedy the situation. In 2012 the government submitted an action plan for implementing the court’s ruling. Since release of the action plan, however, there have been no significant indications of progress.

There were reports political prisoners were placed in particularly harsh conditions of confinement and subjected to other punitive treatment within the prison system, such as solitary confinement or punitive stays in psychiatric units.

Administration: Both convicted inmates and inmates in pretrial detention facilities had visitation rights, but authorities could deny access to visitors depending on the circumstances. Authorities allowed prisoners serving a regular sentence four three-day visits with their spouses per year. By law those prisoners with harsher sentences are allowed fewer visitation rights. On occasion prison officials cancelled visits if the prison did not have enough space to accommodate them. The judge in a prisoner’s case could deny the prisoner visitation rights. Authorities could also prohibit relatives deemed a security risk from visiting prisoners.

While prisoners could file complaints with public oversight commissions or with the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, they were often afraid of reprisal. Prison reform activists reported that only prisoners who believed they had no other option risked the consequences of filing a complaint. Complaints that reached the oversight commissions often focused on minor personal requests.

NGOs reported that many prisoners who alleged torture were subsequently charged with making deliberately false denunciations, which often resulted in additional prison time. For example, on July 17, the District Court of Kirov sentenced former inmate Alexey Galkin to two years in prison for making a deliberately false denunciation. Upon release in March 2016 from a penal colony in the Omutninskiy District, Galkin appealed to the Investigative Committee, citing frequent torture and beatings while in prison. Galkin claimed that damage from one beating resulted in the removal of two of his ribs.

Independent Monitoring: There were no prison ombudsmen. The law regulating public oversight of detention centers allows public oversight commission representatives to visit facilities. According to the Russian Public Chamber, there were public oversight commissions in 81 regions with a total of 1,154 commission members. By law, there should be five to 40 members on each commission. Authorities permitted only the oversight commissions to visit prisons regularly to monitor conditions. Human rights activists expressed concern that several of the most active members of the commissions had been removed and replaced with individuals close to authorities, including many from law enforcement backgrounds. In one notable example, Dmitriy Komnov, who had overseen the prison where lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in 2009, was elected to the Moscow public oversight commission in 2016. According to the NGO Committee for the Prevention of Torture, public oversight commissions were legally entitled to have access to all prison and detention facilities, including psychiatric facilities, but prison authorities often prevented such access. The law does not establish procedures for federal authorities to respond to oversight commission findings or recommendations, which are not legally binding.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

While the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, authorities engaged in arbitrary arrest and detention with impunity. The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention, but successful challenges were rare.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the FSB, the Investigative Committee, the Office of the Prosecutor General, and the National Guard are responsible for law enforcement at all levels of government. The FSB is responsible for security, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism as well as for fighting organized crime and corruption. The national police force, under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, is organized into federal, regional, and local directorates. In 2016 President Putin established the Russian Federal National Guard Service under the direct control of the president. The National Guard secures borders alongside the Border Guard and the FSB, administers gun control, combats terrorism and organized crime, protects public order, and guards important state facilities. The National Guard also participates in armed defense of the county’s territory in coordination with Ministry of Defense forces.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces. While mechanisms to investigate abuses existed, the government generally did not investigate and punish rights abuses by law enforcement officers, and impunity was widespread. National-level civilian authorities had, at best, limited control over security forces in the Republic of Chechnya, which were accountable only to head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. Authorities investigated and prosecuted numerous cases of corruption by law enforcement officials, but in many instances, corruption investigations appeared to be a means of settling political scores or turf battles among law enforcement entities.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

By law, authorities may arrest and hold a suspect for up to 48 hours without court approval, provided there is evidence of a crime or a witness; otherwise an arrest warrant is required. The law requires judicial approval of arrest warrants, searches, seizures, and detentions. Officials generally honored this requirement, although bribery or political pressure sometimes subverted the process of obtaining judicial warrants. After arrest, police typically take detainees to the nearest police station, where they inform them of their rights. Police must prepare a protocol stating the grounds for the arrest, and both detainee and police officer must sign it within three hours of detention. Police must interrogate detainees within the first 24 hours of detention. Prior to interrogation, a detainee has the right to meet with an attorney for two hours. No later than 12 hours after detention, police must notify the prosecutor. They must also give the detainee an opportunity to notify his or her relatives by telephone unless a prosecutor issues a warrant to keep the detention secret. Police are required to release a detainee after 48 hours, subject to bail conditions, unless a court decides, at a hearing, to prolong custody in response to a motion filed by police not less than eight hours before the 48-hour detention period expires. The defendant and his or her attorney must be present at the court hearing.

By law, police must complete their investigation and transfer a case to a prosecutor for arraignment within two months of a suspect’s arrest, although an investigative authority may extend a criminal investigation for up to 12 months. Extensions beyond 12 months need the approval of the head federal investigative authority in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the FSB, or the Investigative Committee. According to some defense lawyers, the two-month time limit often was exceeded, especially in cases with a high degree of public interest.

A number of problems exist related to detainees’ ability to obtain adequate defense counsel. Federal law provides defendants the right to choose their own lawyers, but investigators generally did not respect this provision, instead designating lawyers friendly to the prosecution. These “pocket” defense attorneys agreed to the interrogation of their clients in their presence while making no effort to defend their clients’ legal rights. In many cases, especially in more remote regions, defense counsel was not available for indigent defendants. Judges usually did not suppress confessions taken without a lawyer present. Judges at times freed suspects held in excess of detention limits, although they usually granted prosecutors’ motions to extend detention periods.

Except in the North Caucasus, authorities generally respected the legal limitations on detention. There were reports of occasional noncompliance with the 48-hour limit for holding a detainee. At times authorities failed to issue an official detention protocol within the required three hours after detention and held suspects longer than the legal detention limits. The practice was widespread in the North Caucasus (see section 1.g.) and unevenly applied.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were many reports of arbitrary arrest, often in connection with demonstrations. In one example, on June 12, police in St. Petersburg arrested attorney and human rights activist Dinar Idrisov after he attempted to provide legal assistance to protestors detained during anticorruption demonstrations. On June 14, the Dzerzhinskiy District Court in St. Petersburg found Idrisov guilty of petty hooliganism for allegedly swearing at police and sentenced him to 14 days of administrative detention.

There were reports that Russian-led forces and Russian occupation authorities in Ukraine engaged in arbitrary detention (see Country Reports on Human Rights for Ukraine).

Pretrial Detention: Observers noted that lengthy pretrial detention was a problem, but data on its extent was not available.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: According to the law, a detainee may challenge the lawfulness of detention before an investigator, prosecutor, or court. The challenge can take the legal form of a referral or complaint. The defense typically submits a referral to ask for a certain procedural motion, be it with the prosecution or court, and a complaint is submitted with respect to action that was already taken. Using these instruments a detainee or his or her lawyer can cause the prosecution or court to change the type of detention used (from arrest in a detention facility to house arrest, for example) or complain that a certain type of pretrial restraint is unlawful. The investigator and the court have absolute discretion to impose limits on the type of detention used if they have sufficient grounds to believe that the defendant will escape from prosecution, continue criminal activity, threaten witnesses or other individuals connected with the criminal case, destroy evidence, or otherwise hamper the investigation. The judge typically agrees with the investigator’s position and dismisses defense referrals or complaints on the problem.

Amnesty: In July, President Putin pardoned Annik Kesyan and Marina Dzhandzhgava, two women convicted of treason for sending text messages about the movement of Russian military equipment on the eve of the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

Violence continued in some North Caucasus republics, driven by jihadist movements, interethnic conflict, personal and clan-based vendettas, and excesses by security forces. According to statistics compiled by the Caucasian Knot, the total number of deaths and injuries during the year resulting from armed the conflict decreased to 173 (125 deaths, 48 injured) from 280 (198 deaths, 82 injured) in 2016 across the North Caucasus. Dagestan remained the most violent area in the North Caucasus, accounting for approximately 32 percent of all casualties in the region during the year, although according to the Caucasian Knot, the overall number of casualties in Dagestan decreased by 73 percent. Local media described the level of violence in Dagestan as the result of Islamic militant insurgency tactics dating back to the Chechen conflict as well as of the high level of organized crime in the region. Chechnya was a close second, accounting for 25 percent of all casualties in the region.

Killings: The Caucasian Knot reported that at least 125 deaths in the North Caucasus resulted from armed conflicts in the region. With 46 and 35 deaths from armed conflict through December 2017, Dagestan and Chechnya, respectively, were the most deadly regions. Of the deaths in Chechnya, 18 were militants, five were civilians, and 12 were law enforcement officers. The independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta alleged in a July report that between 27 and 56 individuals detained as a result of counterterrorism operations were summarily executed by Chechen law enforcement authorities, although the government denied the allegations and remains of those allegedly executed were not produced. Of the deaths in Dagestan, 35 were militants, five were civilians, and six were law enforcement officers.

There continued to be reports that use of indiscriminate force by security forces resulted in numerous deaths or disappearances and that authorities did not prosecute the perpetrators.

In the wake of a December 2016 terror attack in Groznyy, Chechen security forces conducted broad “counterterror” operations in December 2016 and January in which they claimed to have detained “hundreds” of suspected militants. On July 9, Novaya Gazetareported that on January 27, Chechen security services summarily executed 27 individuals detained in the raids. When Human Rights Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova investigated the allegations, Chechen authorities claimed that several of the alleged victims were either alive, had died of “natural causes,” or had left to fight in Syria. Authorities sought to disprove the deaths of two individuals allegedly executed by ostensibly presenting them in person to Moskalkova on her visit to Chechnya’s capital. The Memorial Human Rights Center reported, however, that the two young men presented to Moskalkova were in fact the brothers of those allegedly killed. On July 27, the BBC Russian Service reported authorities forced the relatives of the 27 missing Chechens to sign documents saying the missing persons fled Chechnya to Syria or simply had left home. Novaya Gazeta reported intense pressure on the families to cease their cooperation with investigators, the human rights ombudswoman, and the press.

Local militants engaged in isolated violent acts against local security forces, at times resulting in deaths. On August 28, two police officers in Dagestan were killed by militant retaliatory fire and one was injured.

Abductions: Government personnel, militants, and criminal elements continued to engage in abductions in the North Caucasus. According to the prosecutor general, as of 2011 there were more than 2,000 unsolved disappearances in the North Caucasus District. According to data from Caucasian Knot, the official list of missing persons in the North Caucasus contained 7,570 names. Local activists asserted that the number of missing persons in Chechnya was much higher than officially reported, potentially up to 20,000 individuals.

According to independent observers, Chechnya saw a marked increase in disappearances of citizens during the year. Independent observers and journalists believed that in most cases in which individuals disappeared they had been detained or abducted by government forces or law enforcement officials and had been imprisoned or killed. The Caucasian Knot news website reported that since the beginning of the year, relatives of at least 43 persons reported their abduction or disappearance. In many cases relatives of missing persons who informally or publicly appealed to regional or federal authorities for help ultimately recanted their pleas and apologized for making “false statements.”

On November 17, Amnesty International issued a statement of concern about the welfare of Chechen asylum seeker Imran Salamov, whom authorities forcibly returned to the country from Belarus on September 5. Although Salamov’s wife and lawyer met with him at the Groznyy City Police Headquarters on September 11, Salamov subsequently disappeared and authorities claimed that he was not in their custody. On October 6, Salamov’s wife and lawyer lodged a complaint with the prosecutor’s office of the Chechen Republic and subsequently received threats from members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs warning them of future problems for Imran Salamov if they failed to withdraw their complaint. At year’s end, Salamov’s whereabouts remained unknown.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Armed forces and police units reportedly abused and tortured both militants and civilians in holding facilities.

On April 1, Novaya Gazeta reported that Chechen security services kidnapped, secretly held prisoner, and tortured more than 100 male residents in Chechnya based on their suspected sexual orientation, resulting in at least three deaths (see section 1.a.).

The law requires relatives of terrorists to pay the cost of damages caused by an attack, which human rights advocates criticized as collective punishment. The Memorial Human Rights Center reported Chechen Republic authorities upheld the principle of collective responsibility by punishing the relatives of alleged members of illegal armed groups.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, and the law provides the same punishment for a relative, including the spouse, who commits rape as for a nonrelative. Rape survivors may act as full legal parties in criminal cases brought against their alleged assailants and may seek compensation as part of a court verdict without initiating a separate civil action. While members of the medical profession assisted assault survivors and sometimes helped confirm an assault or rape, doctors were often reluctant to provide testimony in court.

The penalty for rape is three to six years’ imprisonment for a single offender, with additional time imposed for aggravating factors. According to NGOs, many law enforcement personnel and prosecutors did not consider spousal or acquaintance rape a priority and did not encourage reporting or prosecuting such cases. NGOs reported that local police officers sometimes refused to respond to rape or domestic violence calls unless the victim’s life was directly threatened.

Domestic violence remained a major problem. There is no significant domestic violence provision in the criminal code and no legal definition of domestic violence. The laws that address bodily harm are general in nature and do not permit police to initiate a criminal investigation unless the victim files a complaint. The burden of collecting evidence in such cases typically falls on the alleged victims. Federal law prohibits battery, assault, threats, and killing, but most acts of domestic violence did not fall within the jurisdiction of the prosecutor’s office. According to NGOs, police were often unwilling to register complaints of domestic violence and frequently discouraged victims from submitting them.

On February 7, President Putin signed legislation that made beatings by “close relatives” an administrative rather than criminal offense for first-time offenders, provided the beating does not cause serious harm requiring hospital treatment. The law’s sponsor in the State Duma, Yelena Mizulina, noted she believes women “don’t take offense when they see a man beat his wife” and that “a man beating his wife is less offensive than when a woman humiliates a man.” Mizulina also stated the country’s law should support family traditions that are “built on the authority of the parents’ power,” and that parents should be allowed to hit their children

According to Ministry of Internal Affairs statistics cited by NGOs, approximately 12,000 women died annually from domestic violence in the country. The NGO Center for Women’s Support asserted that a majority of domestic violence cases filed with authorities were either dismissed on technical grounds or transferred to a reconciliation process conducted by a justice of the peace whose focus was on preserving the family rather than punishing the perpetrator.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not specifically prohibit FGM/C. Local NGOs in Dagestan reported that FGM/C was occasionally practiced in some villages.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Human rights groups reported “honor killings” of women in Chechnya, Dagestan, and elsewhere in the North Caucasus were rarely prosecuted, although there were rare instances in which such killings led to convictions.

In some parts of the North Caucasus, women continued to face bride kidnapping, polygamy, forced marriage (including child marriage), legal discrimination, and enforced adherence to Islamic dress codes. In April a criminal case was initiated against a 20-year-old resident of Ingushetia after he kidnapped a 19-year-old woman to be his wife.

According to Human Rights Watch, in June, Chechnya head Ramzan Kadyrov began an initiative to reunite divorced families. In August media reported the program had reunited 948 families. According to NGOs, many of these reunifications were forced.

Sexual Harassment: The criminal code contains a general provision against compelling a person to perform actions of a sexual character by means of blackmail, threats, or by taking advantage of the victim’s economic or other dependence on the perpetrator.

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

Discrimination: The constitution and law provide that men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights, but women often encountered significant restrictions.

Children

Birth Registration: By law, citizenship derives from parents at birth or from birth within the country’s territory if the parents are unknown or if the child cannot claim the parents’ citizenship. Failure to register a birth resulted in the denial of public services.

Education: Education is free and compulsory through grade 11, although regional authorities frequently denied school access to the children of persons who were not registered as residents of the locality, including Roma, asylum seekers, and migrant workers.

Child Abuse: A 2013 estimate by the Ministry of Internal Affairs indicated that one in four children in the country was subjected to abuse by a parent or foster parent. According to a 2011 report published by the NGO Foundation for Assistance to Children in Difficult Life Situations, 2,000 to 2,500 children died annually from domestic violence. According to the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman, there were 8,000 convictions for child abuse in 2015.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18 for both men and women. Local authorities may authorize marriage from the age of 16 under certain circumstances, and even earlier in some regions.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation, sale, offering or procuring for prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. The authorities generally enforced the law. The age of consent is 16. The Investigative Committee reported filing charges in 1,645 cases of rape involving children in 2015 as well as in more than 5,300 cases of sexual assault of children.

The law prohibits the manufacture, distribution, and possession with intent to distribute child pornography, but possession without intent to distribute is not prohibited by law. Manufacture and distribution of pornography involving children under the age of 18 is punishable by two to eight years in prison or to three to 10 years in prison if it involves children under 14. Authorities considered child pornography to be a serious problem.

Roskomnadzor has the power to shut down any website immediately and without due process until its owners prove its content does not include child pornography. In 2014 approximately 15 percent of the 45,700 links Roskomnadzor shut down were related to child pornography.

Displaced Children: Official statistics on the numbers of displaced children in the country were conflicting and of questionable reliability.

Institutionalized Children: There were reports of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse in state institutions for children. Children with disabilities were especially vulnerable.

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

Anti-Semitism

The 2010 census estimated the Jewish population at slightly more than 150,000. In 2015, however, the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia stated that the actual Jewish population was nearly one million.

A number of leading figures in the Jewish community reported the level of anti-Semitism in the country was decreasing, but that during the year some political and religious figures made anti-Semitic remarks publicly.

In their alternative report on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) by the Russian Federation for the 93rd Session of the UN CERD Committee (July 31-August 11), the NGOs SOVA Center, Krym SOS, International Federation for Human Rights, and Memorial Antidiscrimination Center noted the continued use of anti-Semitic statements by political figures. The report noted that, to that date, there had been no violent anti-Semitic attacks.

In late November, the Investigative Committee announced that the investigation into the killing of Tsar Nicholas II–reopened in 2015–would review the theory that it may have been a “ritual killing,” referring to the conspiracy theory that Jews engage in “ritual killings” of Christians. Bishop Tikhon of the Russian Orthodox Church also publicly supported the investigation of the theory. Aleksandr Boroda, chairman of the Chabad Lubavitch Federation of Jewish Organizations of Russia, spoke out against the implicit anti-Semitism of Tikhon’s statement.

In February authorities ordered the deportation of Rabbi Ari Edelkopf on the grounds that he posed a risk to national security after he lost an appeal to the Central District Court in Sochi. In March the Krasnodar Regional Court upheld the decision. In December 2016 the Ministry of Internal Affairs canceled Edelkopf’s residency permit in Sochi. Edelkopf was a dual U.S. and Israeli citizen who moved to the country in 2002.

On January 23, State Duma deputy speaker Pyotr Tolstoy used anti-Semitic rhetoric to criticize continuing protests against the handover of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg to the Russian Orthodox Church. He said protesters were “continuing the work” of their ancestors “who destroyed our cathedrals after jumping over the Pale of Settlement with revolvers in 1917.” Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia leaders condemned the statement as an anti-Semitic reference to conspiracy theories that Jews fomented the Bolshevik Revolution. Tolstoy expressed surprise and stated he was “misunderstood.” State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin backed Tolstoy, while the head of the Presidential Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov, criticized the remarks, expressing surprise at hearing a “respected parliamentarian repeating a favorite thesis of anti-Semites.” The government did not censure or punish Tolstoy.

On February 12, while criticizing opponents of the transfer of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, State Duma deputy Vitaliy Milonov stated, “Christians survived despite the fact that the ancestors of Boris Vishnevskiy and Maksim Reznik boiled us in cauldrons and fed us to animals.” Russian Jewish Congress president Yuriy Kaner told media, “It is clear…that these lawmakers (Vishnevsky and Reznik) are of Jewish descent and that he means ‘Jews’ by his statement.” The spokesman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, Borukh Gorin, told media, “For a State Duma deputy, it is unacceptable to make such irresponsible statements.”

In July, Gorin condemned a ruling by a Sochi court that labeled as extremist a book penned by a 19th-century rabbi, asserting that part of a judicial policy in Sochi was to limit the growth of Jewish spiritual life there.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

While several laws prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, the government generally did not enforce these laws.

The conditions of guardianship imposed by courts on persons with mental disabilities deprived them of almost all personal rights. Under the family code, individuals with mental disabilities were at times prevented from marrying without a guardian’s consent.

Conditions in institutions for adults with disabilities were often poor, with unqualified staff and overcrowding. Institutions rarely attempted to develop the abilities of residents, whom they frequently confined to the premises and whose movements they sometimes restricted within the institutions themselves.

On January 1, a new law for the social protection of persons with disabilities that introduces a federal register of persons with disabilities became effective.

Federal law requires that buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, but authorities did not enforce the law, and many buildings and modes of public transportation remained inaccessible. According to Moscow Transport, approximately 20 percent of subway stations are equipped with elevators. Disability rights NGOs confirmed, however, that accessibility remained a problem. In February the transport prosecutor’s office brought an administrative violation against Russian Railways for not complying with accessibility requirements at the Domodedovo railway station.

Election laws do not specifically mandate that polling places be accessible to persons with disabilities, and the majority of them were not. Election officials generally brought mobile ballot boxes to the homes of voters with disabilities.

According to Human Rights Watch, although the government began to implement inclusive education, most children with disabilities did not study in mainstream schools due to a lack of reasonable accommodations to facilitate their individual learning needs. The lack of reasonable accommodations left tens of thousands of children with disabilities isolated at home or in specialized schools, often far from their homes. Most children with disabilities in orphanages had at least one living parent, and many faced violence and neglect, including inadequate health care, education, and opportunities to play, according to Human Rights Watch.

According to Ministry of Internal Affairs data, more than 45 percent of the country’s total population of children with disabilities were institutionalized. While the law mandates inclusive education for children with disabilities, authorities generally segregated them from mainstream society through a system that institutionalized them through adulthood. Graduates of such institutions often lacked the social, educational, and vocational skills to function in society.

Most children with disabilities remained isolated from other community members and were unable to attend public schools, since only 3 percent of schools could accommodate them. According to a 2014 Human Rights Watch report, nearly 30 percent of children with disabilities lived in state orphanages, where they faced violence and neglect. Some children interviewed by the NGO reported that orphanage staff beat them, injected them with sedatives, and sent them to psychiatric hospitals for days or weeks at a time to control or punish them.

Human Rights Watch reported that at least 95 percent of children living in orphanages and foster care had at least one living parent, although children with disabilities who entered institutions at a young age were unlikely to return to their birth families, mostly due to the practice of local-level state commissions recommending continued institutionalization of children. Within orphanages, Human Rights Watch documented the segregation of children whom staff deemed to have the most severe disabilities into “lying-down” rooms, where they were confined to cribs and often tied to furniture with rags. Many of these children received little attention except for feeding and diaper changing.

There appeared to be no legal mechanism by which individuals could contest their assignment to a facility for persons with disabilities. The classification of children with mental disabilities by category of disability often followed them through their lives. The official designations “imbecile” and “idiot,” assigned by a commission that assesses children with developmental problems at the age of three, signified that authorities considered a child uneducable. These designations were almost always irrevocable. The designation “weak” (having a slight cognitive or intellectual disability) followed an individual on official documents, creating barriers to employment and housing after graduation from state institutions.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law prohibits discrimination based on nationality, but according to a September report by the CERD, government officials discriminated against minorities, including through “de facto racial profiling, targeting in particular migrants and persons from Central Asia, and the Caucasus.”

Some incidents highlighted longstanding discrimination against Roma and tensions between the Romani community and authorities. In 2016 clashes between residents of a Romani settlement in Tula and riot police over access to a gas pipeline led to the demolition of 118 Romani homes that authorities ruled to be illegal settlements. In July residents of a neighboring village signed a petition against relocating 21 affected Romani families to their community. In August local authorities demolished 17 more homes.

In some cases authorities held perpetrators responsible for xenophobic violence, and as of July there were at least six convictions for such acts, resulting in the sentencing of 17 persons to prison. Among those punished were Russian nationalist Maxim Martsinkevich and nine codefendants who were sentenced to prison terms of between three and 10 years for racially motivated violent crimes.

Indigenous People

The constitution and various statutes provide support for “small-numbered” indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East, permitting them to create self-governing bodies and allowing them to seek compensation if economic development threatened their lands. The government granted the status of “indigenous” and its associated benefits only to those ethnic groups numbering fewer than 50,000 and maintaining their traditional way of life. The majority of small-numbered indigenous communities believed that a combination of overlapping legal codes and authorities’ lack of political will to enforce laws prevented them from fully exercising their rights.

During the year the government introduced fishing restrictions and eliminated special quotas for indigenous peoples throughout the country, endangering some communities in Khabarovsk and Kamchatka that depended on fishing.

Indigenous sources reported an increase in state-sponsored harassment, including interrogations by the security services, as well as employment discrimination (see section 7.d.).

Since 2015 the Ministry of Justice has added several NGOs focusing on indigenous problems to the foreign agents’ list (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association), including the Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North and Batani, and the International Foundation for the Development of Indigenous and Small Numbered Peoples of the North, Siberia, and Far East (Batani Fund), making it difficult for them to operate.

Pavel Sulyandziga, the head of the Batani Fund, told media outlets that his confrontations with officials from the Ministry of Regional Development over the organization’s attempts to enforce the rights of indigenous persons to receive their hunting and fishing quotas were the reason his organization was added to the foreign agents’ list. He criticized the government’s approach to supporting indigenous people as simply providing funding for indigenous festivals and holidays but not allowing them the use of rivers or traditional land sites.

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

During the year there were reports of both societal and government violence motivated by the sexual orientation or gender identity of the victim. Human rights activists and NGOs reported torture and killings of LGBTI persons in the North Caucasus by security services (see section 1.a. for information on Chechnya).

Openly gay men were particular targets of violence, and police often failed to respond adequately to such incidents. On August 12, attackers used pepper spray against participants of the eighth annual St. Petersburg gay pride march, injuring 10. According to media reports, police did not take steps to stop the attackers. Authorities opened a criminal investigation of the incident on August 15 and, on August 19, detained one of the alleged attackers. On November 11, four young men wearing hoods attacked two LGBTI activists taking part in an inclusive family conference in Moscow.

There were reports police abused and harassed individuals whom they perceived to be LGBTI. A report by the LGBT Network in 2016 documented 21 cases of alleged violations of LGBTI person’s rights by law enforcement officials in 2015.

On May 11, authorities detained five LGBTI activists in Moscow while they attempted to submit to the prosecutor general’s office a petition signed by two million persons calling for an investigation into the torture of gay men in Chechnya. Authorities charged the activists with an administrative violation for holding a public event without permission; they were released later in the day.

LGBTI individuals often declined to report attacks against them due to fears police would subject them to mistreatment or publicize their sexual orientation or gender identity. There continued to be reports of groups and individuals luring gay men on fake dates to beat and rob them.

The law criminalizes the distribution of “propaganda” of nontraditional sexual relations to minors and effectively limits the rights of free expression and assembly for citizens who wished to advocate publicly for rights or express the opinion that homosexuality is normal. Examples of what the government considered LGBTI propaganda included materials that “directly or indirectly approve of persons who are in nontraditional sexual relationships” (see section 2.a.).

Since 2015 the Ministry of Justice added at least three LGBTI organizations to the foreign agents’ list (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association), including the St. Petersburg NGO Sfera, which provided social and legal services to members of the LGBTI community, and Rakurs, an LGBTI advocacy organization in Arkhangelsk.

Many events planned by members of the LGBTI community were officially unsanctioned and conducted in private due to security concerns. Nevertheless, in 2016 the LGBT Network reported that in at least four cases during the year LGBTI-related events were disrupted, sometimes through anonymous calls alleging bomb threats.

Moscow authorities refused to allow a gay pride parade for the 12th consecutive year, notwithstanding a 2010 ECHR ruling that the denial violated the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom from discrimination.

Police stopped as many as 300 persons from participating in an LGBTI pride event called Polar Pride scheduled for January 29 in the town of Salekhard. On September 24, authorities briefly detained three individuals crossing the border back into Russia by bus following participation in a Norwegian gay pride event.

A homophobic campaign continued in state-controlled media in which officials, journalists, and others called LGBTI persons “perverts,” “sodomites,” and “abnormal” and conflated homosexuality with pedophilia.

LGBTI persons reported heightened societal stigma and discrimination, which some attributed to increasing official promotion of intolerance and homophobia. Activists asserted that the majority of LGBTI persons hid their sexual orientation or gender identity due to fear of losing their jobs or homes as well as the threat of violence. Medical practitioners reportedly continued to limit or deny LGBTI persons health services due to intolerance and prejudice. There were reports that high levels of employment discrimination against LGBTI persons persisted (see section 7.d.) and that LGBTI persons continued to seek asylum abroad due to the domestic environment.

During the year a chain of shops called Khleb i Sol (Bread and Salt), hung signs in their shop windows reading, “No Entry for [Slur Referring to LGBTI Persons].” In response to complaints from members of the public in the city of Perm about the sign, local police determined that there was no grounds for an investigation because they considered the slur to be a scientific term and thus inoffensive. According to press reports, on September 25, the Perm regional human rights ombudsman urged the local prosecutor’s office to investigate the matter.

Although the law allows transgender individuals to change their names and gender classifications on government documents, they faced difficulties doing so because the government had not established standard procedures and many civil registry offices denied their requests. When their documents failed to reflect their gender accurately, transgender persons often faced harassment by law enforcement officers and discrimination in accessing health care, education, housing, transportation, and employment.

There were some isolated positive developments during the year for the LGBTI community. In some instances courts found in favor of LGBTI persons seeking to exercise their human rights. According to Human Rights Watch, in December 2016 three men attacked and forced a transgender woman from Uzbekistan into a car where they gang-raped her. The perpetrators filmed it and extorted money from her by threatening to publish the video. In May a court in Murmansk found the men guilty of extortion with the use of violence and sentenced them to four years in prison. They were not charged with rape, but the court did recognize it as a hate crime on the basis of her gender identity.

On August 4, the Pervomayskiy District Court in Omsk ruled that a sport shop should pay Eduard Myra 30,000 rubles ($514) in compensation for denying him employment on the basis of his “feminine manner” and being “too well groomed,” which the company stated suggested he was part of the LGBTI community.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS faced significant legal discrimination, growing informal stigma-based barriers, employment discrimination (see section 7.d.), and were prohibited from adopting children.

According to NGO activists, men who have sex with men were discouraged from seeking antiretroviral treatment, since treatment exposed the fact that these individuals had the virus, while sex workers were afraid to appear in the official system due to threats from law enforcement bodies. Economic migrants also concealed their HIV status and avoided treatment due to fear of deportation. By law foreign citizens who are HIV-positive may be deported. The law, however, bars the deportation of HIV-positive foreigners who have a Russian national or permanent resident spouse, child (including adopted children), or parents (including adoptive parents).

Prisoners with HIV/AIDS experienced regular abuse and denial of medical treatment. Prisoners with HIV were excluded from amendments to the criminal code adopted during the year that improved visitation opportunities for incarcerated parents.

Although the law provides for treatment of HIV-positive persons, drug shortages, legal barriers, and lack of funds caused large gaps in treatment. In June the Ministry of Health forbade the Federal AIDS Center in Moscow from dispensing antiretroviral drugs. The center served persons who could not get treatment at Moscow hospitals because they were living in Moscow without permanent registration.

The Ministry of Justice continued to designate HIV-related NGOs as foreign agents; at least two such groups were so designated during the year (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association).

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

The lack of an internal passport often prevented homeless citizens from fully securing their legal rights and social services. Homeless persons faced barriers to obtaining legal documentation.

Rwanda

Executive Summary

Rwanda is a constitutional republic dominated by a strong presidency. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led a governing coalition that included four smaller parties. In August voters elected President Paul Kagame to a third seven-year term with a reported 99 percent of the vote and a reported 98 percent turnout. One independent candidate and one candidate from an opposition political party participated in the presidential election, but authorities disqualified three other candidates. International election monitors reported numerous flaws, including irregularities in the vote tabulation process. In 2013 elections for parliament’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, candidates from the RPF coalition and two other parties that supported RPF policies won all of the open seats. In 2015 the country held a constitutional referendum; the National Electoral Commission reported 98 percent of registered voters participated of which 98 percent endorsed a set of amendments that included provisions that would allow the president to run for up to three additional terms in office.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over state security forces (SSF).

The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary killings and politically motivated disappearances by security forces; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest; security forces’ disregard for the rule of law; prolonged pretrial detention; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights and on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; restrictions on and harassment of media and some local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); restrictions on freedom to participate in the political process and the ability to change government through free and fair elections; harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates, and individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control of social order; trafficking in persons; and restrictions on labor rights.

The government occasionally took steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, including within the security services, but impunity involving some civilian officials and some members of the SSF 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 numerous reports the government committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

On July 13, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report documenting the cases of 37 individuals killed by police or other security forces in western areas between 2016 and 2017 for a variety of petty crimes, including theft of bananas, fishing with illegal nets, and unlawful border crossings. HRW reported, “The killings and enforced disappearances appear to have been part of a broader strategy to spread fear, enforce order, and deter any resistance to government orders or policies.” It was unclear, however, whether the national government ordered or approved this strategy. According to the report, local authorities, including law enforcement officers, threatened family members who reported the deaths. In January and February, members of unregistered opposition groups and local human rights activists issued similar reports that included some of the same cases covered by HRW as well as others. Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye publicly called the HRW report “fake news.”

On October 13, the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), which is nominally independent but funded by the government, held a press conference to discredit HRW’s findings. The NCHR claimed that seven of the individuals cited in the report were alive and presented one individual with the same name at the press conference. The NCHR stated most of the others cited in the HRW report either had died of natural causes or were unknown to local authorities and residents. The NCHR reported that 10 of the individuals named in the HRW report were shot and killed by border patrols while using an illegal border crossing with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The NCHR stated that residents had been warned not to cross the border at night, and the government did not investigate the cases further. The NCHR also reported that in two cases documented by HRW, authorities had arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and jailed the security official responsible for the reported killings, a Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) soldier, who was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

On November 1, HRW issued a press release that called the NCHR findings “largely fabricated” and noted discrepancies in the ages, next of kin, and residences among three of the individuals whose deaths HRW had documented and the persons presented by the NCHR. HRW also claimed that government officials “threatened and coerced victims’ family members to present false information” and detained those who refused to contradict their initial testimonies to HRW. The government launched an investigation into HRW’s allegations but did not complete it by year’s end.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were numerous reports of abuse of detainees and prisoners by police, military, and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) officials.

In 2012 the government signed into law a penal code that upgrades torture from an aggravating circumstance to a crime in itself. The law mandates the maximum penalty, defined by the extent of injury, for SSF and other government perpetrators. In 2015 the government ratified and indigenized the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). However, the Constitution takes precedence over international treaties. In December the Committee Against Torture reported there were no cases in which the Convention was applied or invoked before domestic courts.

On October 10, HRW published a report documenting 104 cases of individuals who were illegally detained, and in many cases tortured, in military detention centers between 2010 and 2016. According to the report, military intelligence personnel and army soldiers employed torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to obtain confessions before transferring the individuals to formal detention facilities. Detainees described asphyxiation, electric shocks, mock executions, severe beatings, and other mistreatment. HRW observed the trials of multiple individuals who alleged being tortured at unofficial military detention centers, including Kami and Mukamira military camps, a military base known as the “Gendarmerie” in Rubavu, and detention centers in Bigogwe, Mudende, and Tumba. According to the HRW report, many of the individuals told judges they had been illegally detained and tortured, but “HRW is not aware of any judges ordering an investigation into such allegations or dismissing evidence obtained under torture.” There were no reported prosecutions of SSF personnel for torture.

There were numerous reports police at times beat newly arrested suspects to obtain confessions or instructed other inmates to beat them. Allegations of abuse at the police station in Gisenyi, located across the border from Goma, DRC, and the Remera station in Kigali were particularly frequent. Official reports of sexual abuse were rare, but according to former detainees, transactional sex in prisons and detention centers occurred regularly.

In 2015 and 2016, HRW published reports documenting the abuse by police and other detainees of detained street vendors, persons in prostitution, and beggars at the Gikondo Transit Center, a detention facility in Kigali (locally known as “Kwa Kabuga”), as well as so-called transit centers in Muhanga, Mbazi, and Mudende. According to the HRW report and unpublished reports from domestic observers, inmates carried out the majority of beatings, often with sticks, acting under direction of detention center authorities. The government disputed HRW’s findings, denying the existence of undeclared detention centers and stating that Gikondo was a rehabilitation facility designed to provide “social emergency assistance” in lieu of incarceration. According to HRW, several persons died during or just after their detention in Mudende in 2016 from severe injuries sustained during detention. According to local human rights organizations, these abuses continued during the year despite government efforts since 2015 to improve conditions in Gikondo.

Three RNP officers serving in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti were cited in a 2016 report by the UN secretary-general on sexual exploitation and abuse of civilians by international peacekeepers. All three were paternity cases arising from inappropriate relationships with adult victims. The government immediately suspended the officers and opened investigations into their conduct, promising appropriate disciplinary action, provided DNA to the United Nations, and sent a senior officer to Haiti to ensure cooperation with the UN investigation. The UN investigations had not concluded by year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions ranged from harsh and life threatening to meeting international standards. The government took steps to improve conditions in some prisons and constructed additional facilities to relieve overcrowding, but conditions varied widely among prisons.

Domestic civil society organizations reported impediments for persons with disabilities, including lack of sign language interpreters at police stations and detention centers.

Physical Conditions: According to the Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS), the prison population rose by approximately 15 percent, from fewer than 52,000 inmates in 2015 to more than 61,000 in August, which greatly exacerbated prison overcrowding. The government blamed inadequate facilities for two prison fires in March that caused severe damage to the Gasabo prison in Kigali. The government closed the prison in Gasabo and substantially reduced the prison population of the “1930” prison in Nyarugenge, transferring inmates to a newly constructed facility in Mageragere. Authorities held men and women separately in similar conditions, although overcrowding was more prevalent in men’s wards.

Conditions were generally harsh and life threatening in detention and transit centers, according to HRW reports in 2015 and 2016. Detention centers in general lacked separate facilities for children. According to HRW, officials held children together with adults in Muhanga, Mudende, and Gikondo. They sometimes held minors in separate facilities, such as in Mbazi that had marginally better conditions than the facilities for adults. There was also a minors-only facility in Nyagatare; observers reported Nyagatare came close to meeting international norms and noted authorities provided detained children with formal education opportunities.

According to the Ministry of Justice, approximately 150 children under age three lived with their mothers in prison. The law does not allow children above age three to remain with their incarcerated mothers.

Authorities generally separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners, although there were numerous exceptions due to the large number of detainees awaiting trial.

The government held six prisoners of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in a purpose-built detention center that the United Nations deemed met international standards for incarceration of prisoners convicted by international criminal tribunals. The government moved international transfers and some high-profile “security” prisoners previously held in maximum-security wings of Kigali Central “1930” Prison to the facility in Mageragere.

Prisoner deaths resulted from anemia, HIV/AIDS, respiratory diseases, malaria, and other diseases at rates similar to those found in the general population. Medical care in prisons was commensurate with care for the public at large because the government enrolled all prisoners in the national health insurance plan. Prisoners were fed once per day, but there were no provisions for feeding those in pretrial detention, who relied on family members for food. Authorities permitted family members to supplement the diets of vulnerable prisoners with health problems. HRW stated several detainees shared mattresses often infested with lice and fleas.

Conditions in police and military detention centers varied. Overcrowding was common in police stations and detention centers, and poor ventilation often led to high temperatures. Provision of adequate food and medical care was inconsistent.

Authorities transferred transit center male detainees and at-risk adults ages 18 to 35 to the Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Development Center on Iwawa Island in Lake Kivu. Sanitation, nutrition, and health services at the center generally met international standards.

Administration: The RCS investigated reported abuses by corrections officers, and the same hierarchical structure existed in police and security forces; there was no independent institution charged with investigating abuses or punishing perpetrators.

Detainees held at the Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Development Center did not have the right to appeal their detentions to judicial authorities.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions on a limited basis by diplomats and the International Committee of the Red Cross and also by members of the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists carrying out monitoring functions on behalf of the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT). At times, however, it restricted access to specific prisoners and did not permit monitors to visit undeclared detention centers and certain military intelligence facilities. No domestic or international NGOs reported monitoring prison conditions during the year, citing intimidation by the government.

On October 20, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture suspended its monitoring mission under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, citing government obstruction, restrictions on access to detention facilities and detainees, and fear of reprisals against individuals interviewed by the delegation.

Journalists could access prisons with a valid press card but required permission from the RCS commissioner to take photographs or interview prisoners or guards.

Improvements: Under its strategic plan for 2013-18, the RCS completed construction of a 9,500-person facility in the Mageragere suburb of Kigali to relieve overcrowding in the Kigali Central “1930” and Kimironko prisons. During the year the RCS established a correctional policy specialist position to oversee compliance with legal inmate rights provisions, and observers credited the RCS with continuing to take steps to improve prison conditions and eradicate abuses in formal detention facilities. The Ministry of Justice organized several conferences during the year on prisoners’ rights and encouraged corrections officers to respect the rights of inmates.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but SSF personnel regularly arrested and detained persons arbitrarily and without due process. The law provides for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, but in practice few tried, and there were no reports of any detainees succeeding in obtaining prompt release or compensation for unlawful detention.

According to HRW’s October 10 report, individuals “suspected of collaborating with enemies” were detained unlawfully, and held “for up to nine months in extremely harsh and inhuman conditions,” frequently incommunicado. HRW also documented cases “in which individuals believed to be held in military custody have never returned and appear to have been forcibly disappeared.” Individuals detained by military intelligence were not registered in the formal law enforcement system, and “the period of their detention in military facilities [is] erased from public record,” according to HRW.

Domestic observers and local media reported the RNP systematically rounded up and arbitrarily detained street children, street vendors, suspected drug abusers, persons in prostitution, homeless persons, and suspected petty criminals. As in previous years, the RNP held detainees without charge at the Gikondo Transit Center before either transferring them to the Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Development Center without judicial review or forcibly returning them to their home areas in the countryside. In August, for example, the Ministry of Local Government and the mayor of Kigali ordered the forcible relocation to rural areas of more than 560 persons detained by police for begging and loitering in Kigali, according to local media. The government maintained that individuals in transit and rehabilitation centers were not detainees, although they could not leave the centers.

In the period preceding the August 4 presidential election, domestic observers noted that authorities intensified efforts to remove street children, unlicensed vendors, persons in prostitution, and the homeless from Kigali streets. Local human rights activists reported the SSF performed searches without a warrant of all residences near the president’s campaign rally points and detained those perceived to pose a potential threat. One human rights activist reported being detained for four days with at least one dozen other individuals without being charged.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The RNP, under the Ministry of Justice, is responsible for internal security. The RDF, under the Ministry of Defense, is in charge of providing external security, although the RDF also works on internal security and intelligence matters alongside the RNP. In 2016 the cabinet approved the creation of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau under the Ministry of Justice to assume the RNP’s investigation and prosecution responsibilities, but the bureau had not started operation by year’s end.

Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the RNP and the RDF, and the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The Inspectorate General of the RNP generally disciplined police for excessive use of force and prosecuted acts of corruption. Nevertheless, there were reports SSF elements at times acted independently of civilian control. For example, there were reports RDF J-2 (intelligence staff), NISS, and RNP intelligence personnel were responsible for disappearances, illegal detention, and torture in military and police detention centers, both declared and undeclared.

The RDF normally displayed a high level of military professionalism and discipline. In August RDF Major Aimable Rugomwa, who in 2016 shot and killed a young boy in Kanombe on suspicion of theft, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 11 million Rwandan francs ($13,000). In October, two RDF soldiers were convicted of murder and extortion and sentenced to life imprisonment. The soldiers were convicted of extorting payments from individuals who could not present an identification document (ID) and of shooting and killing a man who refused to comply with their demands while on a night patrol on May 9 in the Gikondo suburb of Kigali.

Police at times lacked sufficient basic resources–such as handcuffs, radios, and patrol cars–but observers credited the RNP with generally strong discipline and effectiveness. The RNP institutionalized community relations training that included appropriate use of force and human rights, although arbitrary arrests and beatings remained problems.

There were reports of abuse of suspects by the District Administration Security Support Organ (DASSO), including in May and August several incidents in which street vendors responded to alleged DASSO abuse by attacking DASSO officers. According to local media reports, street vendors also accused the DASSO of working with police to expropriate their merchandise. As in previous years, authorities disciplined individual DASSO officers and organized human rights training for all 2,600 DASSO personnel.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires authorities to investigate and obtain a warrant before arresting a suspect. Police may detain suspects for up to 72 hours without an arrest warrant. Prosecutors must submit formal charges within five days of arrest. Police may detain minors a maximum of 15 days in pretrial detention but only for crimes that carry a penalty for conviction of five years’ or more imprisonment. There were numerous reports police and prosecutors disregarded these provisions and held individuals, sometimes for months and often without charge, particularly in security-related cases. The SSF held some suspects incommunicado or under house arrest. At times police employed nonjudicial punishment when minor criminals confessed and the victims agreed to a police officer’s recommended penalty, such as a week of detention or providing restitution.

The law permits investigative detention if authorities believe public safety is threatened or the accused might flee, and judges interpreted these provisions broadly. A judge must review such detention every 30 days, which may not extend beyond one year, but the SSF held numerous suspects indefinitely after the first authorization of investigative detention and did not always seek reauthorization every 30 days. Police also routinely circumvented arrest procedures by summoning suspects for daily interrogation, requiring them to spend up to 16 hours each day at Criminal Investigations Division headquarters without formally charging them with a crime. Individuals subsequently reported spending the bulk of each day simply sitting in a cell, and said investigators only questioned them for 20 to 30 minutes each day.

After prosecutors formally file a charge, detention may be indefinite unless bail is granted. Bail exists only for crimes for which the maximum sentence if convicted is five years’ imprisonment or less, but authorities may release a suspect pending trial if satisfied the person would not flee or become a threat to public safety and order. Authorities generally allowed family members prompt access to detained relatives, unless the individuals were held on state security charges, at intelligence-related detention centers such as Camp Kami or Kwa Gacinya, or in undeclared detention facilities. The government at times violated the right to habeas corpus.

Convicted persons sometimes remained in prison after completing their sentences while waiting for an appeal date or due to problems with prison records. The law provides that pretrial detention, illegal detention, and administrative sanctions be fully deducted from sentences imposed, but it does not provide for compensation to persons who are acquitted. The law allows judges to impose detention of equivalent duration and fines on SSF and other government officials who unlawfully detained individuals, but there were no reports that judges exercised this authority.

Arbitrary Arrest: Unregistered opposition political parties reported authorities frequently detained their supporters and party officials but released most after detention of one week or less. Several, including FDU leaders, were detained longer than one week. FDU assistant treasurer Leonille Gasengayire, who was detained in August 2016 on what domestic and international observers called politically motivated charges, was released in March. On September 6, Gasengayire and eight other FDU members, including the party’s top leaders, were arrested, allegedly for “recruiting individuals into armed groups operating in a neighboring country.” On September 20, they were arraigned and charged with membership in a terrorist organization. Domestic and international observers disputed the prosecution’s claim and argued the charges were politically motivated. On September 6, Theophile Ntirutwa, the FDU’s Kigali representative, also was detained, but he was not charged with the others and was assumed missing until September 24, when RNP confirmed his detention. In October the courts denied bail to Ntirutwa and eight other FDU members and remanded them to pretrial detention. They remained in detention, and the trial had not commenced by year’s end.

Although there is no requirement for individuals to carry an ID, police and the DASSO regularly detained street children, vendors, and beggars without IDs and sometimes charged them with illegal street vending or vagrancy. Authorities released adults who could produce an ID and transported street children to their home districts, to shelters, or for processing into vocational and educational programs.

There were numerous reports that authorities detained family members of individuals suspected of committing crimes if the suspects themselves could not be located. Authorities advertised the detention of the suspects’ relatives but released them without charges if the suspects turned themselves in.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a serious problem, and authorities often detained prisoners for extended periods without arraignment. HRW reported that when some detainees were transferred from military detention facilities to official detention facilities, military, intelligence, or police officials made detainees sign documents stating they had been arrested on the date of their transfer rather than their actual date of arrest, thereby erasing their military detention from the record. The law permits detention of genocide and terrorism suspects until trial. The inspector general of the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) sanctioned some government officials who abused regulations on pretrial detention with penalties, including fines and suspensions.

To eliminate case backlogs and reduce the average length of pretrial detention, in 2015 the government promulgated national regulations on the organization, jurisdiction, competence, and functioning of cell- and sector-level mediation committees (Abunzi), whose members were elected locally, expanding their jurisdiction to include criminal cases. In March a domestic NGO announced preliminary findings of a survey that showed a sizable majority of citizens viewed the Abunzi as biased; many survey respondents described the Abunzi as corrupt and reported dissatisfaction with their decisions. The government criticized the survey findings, and the organization did not publish survey results by year’s end. If one of the parties to a dispute rejected the sector-level mediation committee’s decision, it could appeal it to the local primary court, but few reported having the means to do so. In approximately half of the cases that were appealed, courts overturned the Abunzi decisions because of misapplication of the law.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Although detainees have the right to challenge their detention in court, few tried and none were able to obtain prompt release or compensation for unlawful detention.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women and spousal rape, and the government handled rape cases as a judicial priority. Penalties for conviction of rape range from five years’ to life imprisonment with fines of 500,000 to one million Rwandan francs ($592 to $1,183). Penalties for conviction of spousal rape range from two months’ to life imprisonment with fines of 100,000 to 300,000 Rwandan francs ($118 to $355).

The law provides for imprisonment of three to six months for threatening, harassing, or beating one’s spouse. Domestic violence against women and children was common. Authorities encouraged the reporting of domestic violence cases, although most incidents remained within the extended family and were not reported or prosecuted.

Police headquarters in Kigali had a hotline for domestic violence. Several other ministries also had free GBV hotlines. Each of the 78 police stations nationwide had its own gender desk, an average of three officers trained in handling domestic violence and GBV cases, and a public outreach program. The government operated 44 one-stop centers throughout the country, providing medical, psychological, legal, and police assistance at no cost to victims of domestic violence.

The government continued its whole-of-government, multistakeholder campaign against GBV, child abuse, and other types of domestic violence. GBV was a required training module for police and military at all levels and was included as a module for all troops and police deploying to peacekeeping missions abroad.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment by employers or any other person and provides for penalties for conviction of two months’ to two years’ imprisonment and fines from 100,000 to 500,000 Rwandan francs ($118 to $592). Nevertheless, advocacy organizations reported sexual harassment remained common.

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

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and are entitled to the same rights as men, including under family, labor, nationality, and inheritance laws. The law allows women to inherit property from their fathers and husbands, and couples may make their own legal property arrangements. Women experienced some difficulties pursuing property claims due to lack of knowledge, procedural bias against women in inheritance matters, multiple spousal claims due to polygyny, and the threat of GBV. The law requires equal pay for equal work and prohibits discrimination in hiring decisions.

After the 1994 genocide that left many women as heads of households, women assumed a larger role in the formal sector, and many operated their own businesses. Nevertheless, men owned the major assets of most households, particularly those at the lower end of the economic spectrum, making bank credit inaccessible to many women and rendering it difficult to start or expand a business.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents. Children born to two Rwandan parents automatically receive citizenship. Children with one Rwandan parent must apply for citizenship before turning 18. Children born in the country to unknown or stateless parents automatically receive citizenship. Minor children adopted by Rwandans, irrespective of nationality or statelessness, automatically receive citizenship. Children retain their citizenship in the event of dissolution of the parents’ marriage. Births were registered at the sector level upon presentation of a medical birth certificate. There were no reports of unregistered births leading to denial of public services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The government implemented a 12-year basic education program in 2012 that extended tuition-free universal public education to six years of primary and six years of secondary education. Education through grade nine is compulsory. Parents were not required to pay tuition fees, although domestic observers reported that “in practice parents have to pay high education fees for teachers’ incentives and meal expenses.”

According to the 2015 Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey, 88 percent of children attended primary school and 23 percent attended secondary school in the 2013-14 academic year.

Child Abuse: While statistics on child abuse were unreliable, such abuse was common within the family, in the village, and at school. The government conducted a high-profile public awareness campaign against GBV and child abuse. The government supported a network of one-stop centers and hospital facilities that offered integrated police, legal, medical, and counseling services to victims of GBV and child abuse. The National Commission for Children (NCC) also partnered with UNICEF to establish a corps of 29,674 community-based “Friends of the Family” volunteers (two per village) to help address GBV and child protection concerns at the village level.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 21. Anecdotal evidence suggested child marriage was more common in rural areas and refugee camps than in urban areas. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: By law sexual relations with a child under age 18 constitutes child defilement for which conviction is punishable by life in prison and a fine of 100,000 to one million Rwandan francs ($118 to $1,183).

The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, which are punishable by penalties if convicted of six months to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 to 20 million Rwandan francs ($592 to $23,670). Conviction statistics were not available. The government, however, reported investigating 24 human trafficking cases through August. Of these, six led to criminal charges, 10 were dropped due to lack of evidence, two were reclassified, and six remained pending. Local media reports indicated victims in some of these cases were minors.

Child Soldiers: The government supported the Musanze Child Rehabilitation Center in Northern Province that provided care and social reintegration preparation for children who previously served in armed groups in the DRC (see section 2.d., Freedom of Movement). The center provided education, psychosocial support, recreational and cultural activities, medical care, and agricultural vocational training.

Displaced Children: There were numerous street children throughout the country. Authorities gathered street children in district transit centers and placed them in rehabilitation centers. Conditions and practices varied at 29 privately run rehabilitation centers for street children.

UNHCR reported that approximately 1,750 unaccompanied and separated children entered the country as part of an influx of more than 87,000 refugees from Burundi since 2015. UNHCR accommodated unaccompanied minors in the Mahama refugee camp and camp staff provided additional protection measures for them.

Institutionalized Children: In May the NCC reported that 2,691 children were transferred from private orphanages and government-run child-care institutions into family-based rehabilitation with the assistance of UNICEF between 2012 and 2017. The joint government-UNICEF program prevented approximately 2,500 children from being separated from their families. The government estimated approximately 1,200 children remained in 15 child-care institutions across the country.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was a very small Jewish community, consisting entirely of foreigners, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, and the provision of other state services, and the government generally enforced these provisions. The law mandates access to public facilities, accommodations for taking national examinations, provision of medical care by the government, and monitoring of implementation by the NCHR. Despite a continuing campaign to create a barrier-free environment for persons with disabilities, accessibility remained a problem throughout the country, including in public buildings.

There were no legal restrictions or extra registration steps to vote for citizens with disabilities, and registration could be completed online. The NEC provided sign language interpreters during the presidential campaign, although not for opposition candidates. Observers noted that some polling stations remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities and that some election volunteers appeared untrained on how to assist voters with disabilities. Observers, however, also reported significant improvements compared with previous electoral cycles, including the country’s first use of braille ballots and other accommodations for elderly persons and voters with disabilities.

Many children with disabilities did not attend primary or secondary school. Few students with disabilities reached the university level because many primary and secondary schools were unable to accommodate their disabilities.

There was one government psychiatric referral hospital in Kigali, with district hospitals providing limited psychiatric services. All other mental health facilities were nongovernmental.

Some citizens viewed disability as a curse or punishment that could result in social exclusion and sometimes abandoned or hid children with disabilities from the community.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The constitution provides for the eradication of ethnic, regional, and other divisions in society and the promotion of national unity. Longstanding tensions in the country culminated in the 1994 state-orchestrated genocide that killed between 750,000 and one million citizens, including approximately three-quarters of the Tutsi population. Following the killing of the president in 1994, an extremist interim government directed the Hutu-dominated national army, militia groups, and ordinary citizens to kill resident Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The genocide ended later in 1994 when the predominantly Tutsi RPF, operating from Uganda and northern Rwanda, defeated the national army and Hutu militias and established an RPF-led government of national unity that included members of eight political parties.

Since 1994 the government has called for national reconciliation and abolished the policies of the former government that created and deepened ethnic cleavages. The government removed all references to ethnicity in official discourse–with the exception of references to the genocide that is officially termed “the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi”–and eliminated ethnic quotas for education, training, and government employment.

Some individuals stated the government’s reconciliation policies and programs failed to recognize Hutu victims of the genocide or crimes committed by the RPF after the end of the genocide.

Indigenous People

After the genocide the government banned identity card references to Hutu, Tutsi, or Twa ethnicity and prohibited social or political organizations based on ethnic affiliation. As a result the Twa, who numbered approximately 34,000, lost their official designation as an ethnic group. The government no longer recognizes groups advocating specifically for Twa needs, and some Twa believed this government policy denied them their rights as an indigenous ethnic group.

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

There are no laws that criminalize sexual orientation or consensual same-sex sexual conduct, and cabinet-level government officials expressed support for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. LGBTI persons reported societal discrimination and abuse, and LGBTI rights groups reported occasional harassment by neighbors and police.

There were sporadic reports of physical attacks against LGBTI persons. Activists reported that two LGBTI individuals fled the country due to social media harassment from community members that they said was endorsed by local community leaders.

In May, Ugandan LGBTI activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera was arrested on arrival at the Kigali airport and returned to Uganda. According to an RNP statement, Nabagesera had been detained for drunkenness and misconduct.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The penal code provides for imprisonment of up to six months for persons convicted of stigmatizing an individual who suffers from an incurable infection. There were no reports of prosecutions under this statute. Discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS occurred, although such incidents remained rare. The government actively supported relevant public education campaigns, including establishing HIV/AIDS awareness clubs in secondary schools and making public pronouncements against stigmatization of those with the disease.

The penal code also provides stiffer penalties for conviction of rape and defilement in cases of transmission of an incurable illness. In most cases of sexual violence, the victim and alleged perpetrator both undergo HIV testing.

According to RDF policy and in keeping with UN guidelines, the military did not permit its members with HIV/AIDS to participate in peacekeeping missions abroad but allowed them to remain in the RDF.

South Africa

Executive Summary

South Africa is a multiparty parliamentary democracy in which constitutional power is shared among the executive, judiciary, and parliament branches. In 2016 the country held largely free and fair municipal elections, in which the ruling African National Congress (ANC) received 54 percent of the vote. In 2014 the country held a largely free and fair national election in which the ruling ANC won 62 percent of the vote and 249 of 400 seats in the National Assembly, which re-elected Jacob Zuma to a second term as the country’s president.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: police use of unlawful lethal force; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; official corruption; and victimization by police of migrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons, including violence.

Although the government investigated and prosecuted officials who committed abuses, there were numerous reports of impunity.

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

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

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

Police use of lethal and excessive force, including torture, resulted in numerous deaths and injuries, according to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), Amnesty International, and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The country had a high crime rate and criminals were often well armed. The government recorded more than 20,000 killings (or homicides) in the 12-month period ending March 31, 2016. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) did not publish statistics on the number of murderers prosecuted, but watchdog groups estimated the conviction rate for all crimes reported was as low as 10 percent.

According to the 2016-2017 IPID annual report, 394 persons died in police custody or due to police action during the 12-month period ending March 31. IPID recommended prosecution in 115 of the 394 cases.

During the year IPID received 7,014 complaints ranging from killings to assault, recommended prosecution in 1,140 cases, and arrested 124 police officers. Of the cases recommended for prosecution, the NPA prosecuted nine, dropped 26, and left 1,105 pending at year’s end. IPID referred 1,238 disciplinary cases to the South African Police Service (SAPS); 139 cases referred resulted in disciplinary action.

A death resulting from police action was defined as a death that occurred while a police officer attempted to make an arrest, prevent an escape, or in self-defense. It also covered collisions involving one or more SAPS or municipal police vehicles as well as mass actions where police officers were present. IPID did not track deaths resulting from torture, which it classified as murder. Watchdog groups noted deaths in custody often resulted from physical abuse combined with a lack of medical treatment or neglect (see section 1.c.).

Although government officials categorized few killings as politically motivated, media and NGOs claimed most were a result of intra-ANC disputes at the local level.

Because political killings remained high in Kwazulu Natal province, Premier Willies Mchunu established the Moerane Commission to investigate. The key political parties submitted evidence, and key figures testified. The commission identified ANC infighting and readily available hitmen as major contributing factors to the assassinations. The most notable killing was of former ANC Youth League secretary-general and uMzimkhulu (municipality) Councilor Sindiso Magaqa. He was shot 15 times in July and died in the hospital in September. Police said two suspects in the killing were in a shoot-out with police on September 1. One suspect died from gunshot wounds; the other remained hospitalized.

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

Although the law prohibits such practices, police officers reportedly tortured, beat, raped, and otherwise abused suspects. Amnesty International corroborated cases of torture, including the use of electric shock and suffocation. Police also assaulted detainees with batons, fists, and booted feet. To force confessions, police sometimes moved a nonviolent suspect under interrogation into the cell of violent criminals. Police allegedly ignored activities in the cell as the violent criminals intimidated, beat, or raped the suspect, after which police continued the interrogation. Police torture and physical abuse allegedly occurred during house searches, arrests, interrogations, and detentions; it sometimes resulted in death (see section 1.a).

From January to June, 61 incidents of torture by police officers were reported. A midterm report to parliament by IPID in June indicated there were 207 deaths from police action between January and June–a 30 percent increase over the first half of 2016. IPID noted in June that Gauteng province had the highest number of police brutality deaths in the year to date. One of the cases involved a six-year-old who allegedly died from pepper-spray used by police during a domestic violence intervention. According to the Gauteng Department of Community Safety, during the year no police officer was suspended or charged in connection with a police brutality death. In Free State province, 42 persons died in the first half of the year from police brutality; 20 persons died there in the first half of 2016.

The same mid-term report highlighted rapes by police officers. In the first half of the year there were 51 cases reported, allegedly committed by both on-duty and off-duty officers. According to the report, Gauteng had the highest number of officers allegedly involved in rapes, with 15 cases registered.

In July police investigated a gang rape after a group of men dressed in police uniforms attacked a woman at gunpoint in Johannesburg. No arrests were made. Investigations were ongoing.

Incidents of police harassment of foreigners continued. Refugee and migration advocacy organizations received reports police confiscated immigration and identity documents of foreign nationals, threatened them with arrest on spurious charges, and forced them to pay bribes to be released. This was most prevalent among individuals whose legal documentation was not renewed in a timely fashion, according to refugee advocacy organizations, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There were also reports police required bribes to protect the businesses of foreigners threatened by xenophobic violence.

In August, Kingsley Ikeriwas, a Nigerian, was allegedly killed by police while being interrogated for possession of drugs. In an effort to extort information, the police placed a plastic bag over his head and suffocated him in the process. The businessman and member of the Nigerian Union in South Africa died in the hospital in Free State province.

In September another Nigerian, businessman Clement Ofoma, was arrested by police on suspicion of dealing drugs. According to his wife, police searched their house and his store but did not find any evidence. Police allegedly put a cellophane bag over his head, which caused him to lose consciousness. Ofoma later died in hospital.

As of November 28, the United Nations reported that it had received six allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against South African peacekeepers during the year. Three allegations of exploitative relationships and three allegations of the solicitation of transactional sex were made against members of the military contingent serving with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As of November, three of the allegations were substantiated, resulting in repatriation; and three allegations were still pending investigation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

According to the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), many of the country’s operational prisons did not meet international standards, and prison conditions did not always meet the country’s minimum legal requirements.

Physical Conditions: In January 2016 the national commissioner for correctional services appealed to government security agencies to reduce overcrowding in the country’s correctional facilities. This followed a ruling by the High Court in December 2016 that the Pollsmoor detention facility’s inmate population be reduced to 150 percent of capacity within six months. Some prisoners believed they would be taken further away from their families, and often relatives could not afford increased travel costs.

The Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services (JICS) received 811 complaints of assaults on prisoners by correctional officers from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016. In addition to monitoring by its own employees, JICS appointed an Independent Correctional Center Visitor (ICCV) for each correctional center to monitor prison conditions. Authorities recorded and verified monthly ICCV visits in official registers kept at all correctional centers. The visitors submitted monthly reports to the inspecting judge, listing the number and duration of visits, the number of inmates interviewed, and the number and nature of inmate complaints. There were reports of shortages of prison doctors, inadequate investigation and documentation of prisoner deaths, inadequate monitoring of the prison population, high suicide rates among prisoners, and a lack of financial independence for JICS. Some detainees awaiting trial contracted HIV/AIDS through rape. Media and NGOs also reported prisoners were tortured.

According to the 2015-16 DCS annual report, the country’s correctional facilities held 159,331 prisoners in facilities designed to hold 119,134; the correctional system was 32 percent above capacity, up 3 percent from the previous year. Many prisoners had less than 13 square feet in which to eat, sleep, and spend 23 hours a day. To reduce overcrowding, the government transferred prisoners to facilities that were below capacity. JICS reported the prisoner transfer program resulted in a reduction in the number of prisons considered “critically overcrowded” (at more than 200 percent of capacity).

Prison overcrowding and poor living conditions, including lack of ventilation, contributed to the spread of disease, particularly tuberculosis.

According to its 2015-2016 annual report, DCS tested 98 percent of prisoners for HIV, dramatically improving testing over the previous year in which only 67 percent were tested. Prisons dispensed antiretroviral therapy, and 97 percent of HIV-positive prisoners received such therapy. In areas where prisons did not have medication, authorities took prisoners to local clinics to obtain it. There were no HIV screening programs on intake or discharge of prisoners, but the DCS conducted HIV prevention programs in prisons, including condom distribution, and awareness sessions throughout the country. NGOs such as the Aurum Institute, Society for Family Health, and South Africa Partners provided correctional centers with HIV testing and antiretroviral therapy. According to its 2015-2016 annual report, 21,722 inmates were placed on anti-retroviral treatment, and 199,750 inmates were voluntarily tested for HIV and informed of their status.

General health care in prisons was inadequate, and 7,574 inmates filed health-care complaints during the reporting year. Prisons provided inmates with potable water, but supplies and food were occasionally inadequate, and plumbing problems occurred, according to JICS.

The 2015-2016 DCS annual report noted prisons held 4,126 youth (individuals under age 25). Prisons sometimes held youth alongside adults, particularly in pretrial detention. Prisons generally held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners, although in some large urban areas dedicated pretrial facilities were available.

According to the JICS report, there were 1,273 prison deaths between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016–511 from natural causes, including HIV/AIDS–and the remainder due to suicides, assaults, or accidents. The JICS report drew a correlation between deaths from natural causes and overcrowding, noting that less crowded conditions would likely result in a decrease of natural deaths. Inmate violence sometimes resulted in deaths.

DCS required doctors to complete and sign reports of inmate deaths to lessen the likelihood that a death caused by neglect would be reported as natural. Nevertheless, DCS failed to investigate many deaths due to an insufficient number of doctors.

Prisons provided detainees in cells with felt mattresses and blankets. Most cells had toilets and basins but often lacked chairs, adequate light, and ventilation. Food, sanitation, and medical care in detention centers were similar to those in prisons.

Prisoners with mental illness sometimes failed to receive psychiatric care.

Administration: NGOs accused DCS of moving prisoners between facilities to prevent them from reporting abuse; DCS countered that the inmates were members of rival gangs and needed to be separated.

JICS recommended DCS have an ombudsman to address juvenile confinement and improve procedures to make confinement unnecessary, but DCS had not implemented the changes by year’s end.

Prisoners are generally able to practice their faiths. In June, Muslim inmates at the Tswelopele Correctional Service in Northern Cape complained they were forced to attend Christian gatherings. The Department of Correctional Services has denied the allegations.

Corruption among prison staff remained a problem (see section 4).

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions, including visits by human rights organizations, but organizations were required to apply for permission to gain access. Organizations could also request permission to visit prisons to conduct specific research.

JICS was the primary monitoring group for prisons but was not autonomous since the DCS controlled its budget. According to JICS, during the reporting year 309 ICCVs collectively handled 456,994 cases. NGOs claimed the failure of DCS to follow up on ICCV recommendations hindered the program’s effectiveness. They also claimed many ICCVs appeared to be fully captured by DCS and lacked independence in their oversight or reporting of abuses.

Local NGO Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) criticized conditions at the Lindell Repatriation Center, the country’s largest immigrant detention facility. According to LHR, detainees were subject to physical and verbal abuse, corruption and demands for bribes, insufficient food, lack of reading and writing materials, lack of access to recreational facilities or telephones, lack of access to and poor quality of medical care, indefinite detention without judicial review, and lack of procedural safeguards such as legal guidelines governing long-term detention.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but security forces arbitrarily arrested numerous persons during the year.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

SAPS has primary responsibility for internal security. The police commissioner has operational authority over police. The president appoints the police commissioner, but the minister of police supervises the commissioner. The South African National Defense Force, under the civilian-led Department of Defense, is responsible for external security but also has domestic security responsibilities, such as patrolling the borders. Border Control Operational Coordinating Committees–composed of representatives of SAPS, DHA (Department of Home Affairs), the defense force, the South African Revenue Service, the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Trade and Industry, the State Security Agency, and the Department of Environmental Affairs–are charged with overall migration and border enforcement. A committee representative is present at all land, air, and sea ports of entry to facilitate an interagency approach to border enforcement and migration management. The departments each have a representative at major border crossings; regional representatives covered lesser border crossings. The SAPS Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the “Hawks”) coordinates efforts against organized crime, priority crimes, and official corruption. Despite continued efforts to professionalize, SAPS remained understaffed, ill equipped, and poorly trained. Corruption continued to be a problem (see section 4).

The government investigated and prosecuted security force members who committed abuses, although there were numerous reports of police impunity, including of high-ranking members. IPID investigates complaints and makes recommendations to SAPS and to the NPA on which cases to prosecute. IPID examines all SAPS killings and evaluates whether they occurred in the line of duty and if they were justifiable. IPID also investigates cases of police abuse, although it was unable to fulfill its mandate due to funding shortages, inadequate cooperation by police, and lack of investigative capacity. When it did complete investigations, the NPA often declined to prosecute cases involving criminal actions by police and rarely obtained convictions. In cases in which IPID recommended disciplinary action, SAPS often failed to follow IPID disciplinary recommendations.

The law provides IPID with additional enforcement powers and requires SAPS and metropolitan police departments to report any suspected legal violations by their own officers to IPID. The law criminalizes the failure to report wrongdoing; in 2016-2017, IPID recorded 62 cases in which SAPS or metropolitan police departments failed to report wrongdoing to IPID.

Security forces failed to prevent or adequately respond to societal violence, particularly in response to attacks on foreigners (see sections 2.d. and 6).

Officers from SAPS and metropolitan police departments received training in ethics, human rights, corruption, sexual offenses, domestic violence, gender violence, and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. Training, however, was inconsistent. Many officers went years between refresher courses. SAPS also provided officers with access to social workers, psychologists, and chaplains. SAPS investigations of gender-based violence crimes and crimes against LGBTI individuals were often insufficient. For example, the minister of police ordered an investigation into the handling of a murder case of a man killing his girlfriend in Limpopo. Instead of arresting the suspect, detectives waited for him to turn himself in. The deceased’s sister alleged that the suspect bribed police with food to avoid arrest. The case continued at year’s end.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires that a judge or magistrate issue arrest warrants based on sufficient evidence. Police must promptly inform detainees of the reasons for their detention, their right to remain silent, and the consequences of waiving that right. Police must charge detainees within 48 hours of arrest, hold them in conditions respecting human dignity, allow them to consult with legal counsel of their choice at every stage of their detention (or provide them with state-funded legal counsel), and permit them to communicate with relatives, medical practitioners, and religious counselors. The government often did not respect these rights. Police must release detainees (with or without bail) unless the interests of justice require otherwise, although bail for pretrial detainees often exceeded what suspects could pay.

Human rights groups, judges, and judicial scholars expressed concern about the Criminal Procedure Second Amendment Act that allows pretrial detention of children and prohibits bail in certain cases. Some judges also expressed concern that police and the courts often construed the exercise of the right to remain silent as an admission of guilt.

Arbitrary Arrest: During the year there were numerous cases of arbitrary arrest, particularly of foreign workers, asylum seekers, and refugees.

Legal aid organizations reported police frequently arrested persons for minor crimes for which the law stipulates the use of a legal summons. Arrests for offenses such as common assault, failure to provide proof of identity, or petty theft sometimes resulted in the unlawful imprisonment of ordinary citizens alongside hardened criminals, which created opportunities for physical abuse.

NGOs and media outlets reported security forces arbitrarily arrested migrants and asylum seekers–even those with documentation–often because police were unfamiliar with asylum documentation. In some cases police threatened documented migrants and asylum seekers with indefinite detention and bureaucratic hurdles unless they paid bribes to obtain quick adjudication of their cases. The law prohibits the detention of unaccompanied migrant children for immigration violations, but immigrant rights NGOs reported that DHA and SAPS nevertheless detained them.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was common. According to the DCS 2015-2016 annual report, there were 45,043 pretrial detainees in the prison system. Police held approximately 1,678 detainees for more than two years (fewer than the 1,889 from the previous reporting year). According to the DCS 2015-2016 report, detainees waited an average of 176 days before trial. Observers attributed the high rate of pretrial detention to arrests without substantial evidence, overburdened courts, poor case preparation, irregular access to public defenders, and prohibitive bail amounts. Police often held detainees while prosecutors developed cases and waited for court dates. Legal scholars estimated prosecutors failed to convict 60 percent of those arrested. The law requires a review of pretrial detention once it exceeds two years.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested, 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. These rights, however, do not apply to undocumented residents in the country.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and remained a serious and pervasive problem. The minimum sentence for rape is 10 years in prison for the first offense. Under certain circumstances, such as second or third offenses, multiple rapes, gang rapes, or the rape of a minor or a person with disabilities, conviction results in a minimum sentence of life imprisonment (25 years), unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence. Perpetrators with previous rape convictions and perpetrators aware of being HIV positive at the time of the rape also face a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence.

In most cases attackers were acquaintances or family members of the victim, which contributed to a reluctance to press charges, as did a poor security climate and societal attitudes. From April 2016 to March 2017, 39,828 cases of rape were reported. According to the 2016-2017 NPA Annual Report, the conviction rate for sexual offense crimes was 72 percent. This was, however, only related to cases that went to trial. A recent Medical Research Council study on the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of reported rape cases concluded only 18.5 percent of all cases reported went to trial and only 8.6 percent of cases resulted in a verdict of guilty. Prosecutors chose not to prosecute many cases due to insufficient evidence. Poor police training, insufficient forensic lab capacity, a lack of trauma counseling for victim witnesses, and overburdened courts contributed to the low conviction rate.

The Department of Justice operated 57 dedicated sexual-offenses courts throughout the country. Although judges in rape cases generally followed statutory sentencing guidelines, women’s advocacy groups criticized judges for using criteria such as the victim’s behavior or relationship to the rapist as a basis for imposing lighter sentences.

The NPA operated 55 rape management centers, or TCCs (Thuthuzela Care Centers). All TCCs were located at hospitals. Of rape cases brought to TCCs, 47 percent went to trial and were terminated–by either conviction or acquittal–within nine months from the date a victim reported the case.

Domestic violence was pervasive and included physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse, as well as harassment and stalking. The government prosecuted domestic violence cases under laws governing rape, indecent assault, damage to property, and violating a protection order. The law requires police to protect victims from domestic violence, but police commanders did not always hold officers accountable. Conviction of violating a protection order is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years, or up to 20 years if additional criminal charges apply. Penalties for conviction of domestic violence include fines and sentences of between two and five years’ imprisonment.

The government financed shelters and rape-support centers for abused women, but more were needed, particularly in rural areas. The government conducted rape and domestic violence awareness campaigns. In honor of Women’s Month, the government hosted numerous events focused on empowering women in business, government, health, sports, and the arts. The discussions generated controversy, however, because the government focused on men’s role in protecting women, while civil society advocated a more inclusive focus on gender-based violence. Many civil society organi