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Burkina Faso

Executive Summary

Burkina Faso is a constitutional republic led by an elected president. In November 2020 the country held presidential and legislative elections. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore was re-elected to a second five-year term with 57.74 percent of the popular vote, and his party – the People’s Movement for Progress – won 56 seats in the 127-seat National Assembly, remaining the largest party in a legislative majority coalition with smaller parties. National and international observers characterized the elections as peaceful and “satisfactory,” with credible results, while noting logistical problems on election day and a lack of access to the polls for many citizens due to insecurity. The government had previously declared that elections would take place only in areas where security could be guaranteed.

The Ministry of Security and the Ministry of Defense are responsible for internal security. The Ministry of Security oversees the National Police. The army, air force, and National Gendarmerie, which operate within the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for external security but sometimes assist with missions related to domestic security. In January 2020 the government passed legislation formalizing community-based self-defense groups by establishing the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland, a civilian support corps for state counterterrorism efforts with rudimentary oversight from the Ministry of Defense. By year’s end the government registered approximately 2,700 Volunteers. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over security forces, but there were credible reports members of state-sponsored militias committed numerous abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by security forces and state-sponsored militias and extremist groups; forced disappearance by security forces and extremist groups; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by extremist groups; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; serious abuses in an internal conflict, including widespread civilian harm, abductions, torture, and physical abuses or punishment, and unlawful recruitment of child soldiers by extremist groups; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists and censorship; serious acts of corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic or intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, and other harmful practices; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of national, racial, and ethnic minorities; and the worst forms of child labor.

The government investigated and punished some cases of abuse, but impunity for human rights abuses and corruption remained a problem.

The country experienced deadly attacks by violent extremist organizations during the year. Terrorist groups Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims), the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and other armed groups, such as the homegrown Ansaroul Islam, perpetrated numerous attacks that resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths as well as scores of deaths among government security forces and state-sponsored militias. Security incidents included improvised explosive device attacks; targeted killings; kidnappings; attacks on mining sites (especially gold mines); burning of schools, medical centers, and homes; and theft of cattle, vehicles, and food assistance, contributing to a humanitarian crisis and the internal displacement of more than 1.5 million persons. The government detained several hundred suspected violent extremists, including several children. Some detainees had been awaiting trial for several years. In August the Specialized Antiterrorism Court held the first criminal trials of terrorist suspects.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

There were reports that the state security forces committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year (see section 1.g., Killings).

There were reports that state-sponsored militias, known as the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland, committed arbitrary or unlawful killings (see section 1.g., Killings).

There were numerous reports that violent extremist groups committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Multiple sources reported that extremists killed hundreds of civilians, members of the security forces, and members of state-sponsored militias (see section 1.g., Killings). There were several accounts of criminal groups working in concert with terrorist organizations and drug traffickers killing gendarmes, police, state-sponsored militias, and park rangers, especially in the Est Region.

On June 4, an unidentified group of assailants attacked and destroyed a settlement adjacent to a gold mine on the outskirts of the village of Solhan, approximately 30 miles from the country’s border with Niger, resulting in the killing of 132 civilians, according to the government, although international media sources reported the number of victims was closer to 160 or even 200. The attack was the deadliest in the country’s more than five-year fight against terrorism.

On October 11, the trial of 14 individuals accused of complicity in the 1987 assassination of then president Thomas Sankara began in Ouagadougou. The court announced that former president Blaise Compaore, who fled the country in 2015 following a popular uprising, would be tried separately in absentia for his alleged role in the assassination.

b. Disappearance

There were reports of disappearances by or on behalf of security forces and state-sponsored militias during the year (see section 1.g., Abductions).

There were numerous reports of disappearances of civilians by violent extremist groups (see section 1.g., Abductions).

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. Local rights groups alleged numerous accounts of torture committed by state-sponsored militias and members of the community-based armed groups known as the Koglweogo. Most allegations of torture involved victims suspected of having links to extremists or persons of Fulani/Peuhl ethnicity (see section 1.g., Physical Abuse, Torture, and Punishment).

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, during the year there were two allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by Burkina Faso peacekeepers deployed to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, both concerning alleged transactional sex with an adult. In both cases UN payments were suspended pending the results of the investigation, which continued at year’s end. Two previous allegations, both dating to 2015, were found to be unsubstantiated and closed without any action.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in prisons and detention facilities were harsh and at times life threatening due to overcrowding and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

Physical Conditions: The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights’ most recent report on prison statistics, covering 2020, indicated the country had 7,401 persons incarcerated nationwide, an occupancy rate of 142 percent. Authorities held pretrial detainees in the same locations as convicted prisoners. The High Security Prison in Ouagadougou, which mostly housed suspected extremists, was at more than double its designed capacity. Almost all were in pretrial detention.

Female prisoners had better conditions than those of men, in large part due to less crowding. Some infants and children younger than age five accompanied their inmate mothers. There were no appropriate facilities or installations for prisoners or detainees with disabilities, and they relied on other inmates for assistance.

Food, potable water, sanitation, heating, ventilation, lighting, and medical care were inadequate in most detention facilities across the country. Tuberculosis, HIV, AIDS, and malaria were the most common health problems among prisoners. For example, at the High Security Prison there were three nurses employed to treat more than 900 detainees and prisoners, with no doctor present on site but available on an on-call basis. Detention conditions were better for wealthy or influential citizens or detainees considered nonviolent.

Prisoners received two meals a day, but diets were inadequate, and inmates often relied on supplemental food from relatives. Some prisons lacked adequate ventilation, although some cells had electricity and some inmates had fans. Sanitation was rudimentary.

On March 24, President Kabore granted pardons to 796 prisoners. A similar mass pardon was granted on December 30.

Administration: The government did not provide information on investigations into allegations of mistreatment in prisons.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Burkinabe Movement for Human and People’s Rights (le Mouvement burkinabe des droits de lhomme et des peuples) were able to visit prisoners in some facilities throughout the country. The ICRC visited more than 4,400 inmates in 16 detention facilities during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court. Arbitrary arrests occurred, however, and a lack of access to defense counsel and inadequate staffing of the judiciary prevented many detainees from seeking pretrial release in court. The ICRC received more than 600 new reports of persons reported missing by their families during the year.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

By law police and gendarmes must usually possess a court-issued warrant based on sufficient evidence before apprehending a person suspected of committing a crime, but authorities did not always follow these procedures. Authorities did not consistently inform detainees of charges against them. Detainees have the right to expeditious arraignment, bail, access to legal counsel, and, if indigent, access to a lawyer provided by the government after being charged. In practice, however, attorneys were not appointed until trial began. A judge may order temporary release without bail pending trial. Authorities seldom respected these rights. The law provides detainees access to family members through court-issued authorizations.

The law limits detention without charge for investigative purposes to a maximum of 72 hours, renewable for a single 48-hour period. In terrorism investigations the law allows detention for a 10-day period. In cases not related to terrorism, police did not always comply with the law, and the average time of detention without charge (preventive detention) was one week. Once authorities charge a suspect, the law permits judges to impose an unlimited number of consecutive six-month preventive detention periods while the prosecutor investigates charges. Authorities often detained defendants without access to legal counsel for weeks, months, or even years before the defendant appeared before a magistrate. There were instances in which authorities detained suspects incommunicado.

Arbitrary Arrest: Local independent rights groups alleged that security forces regularly arrested individuals arbitrarily for suspected involvement in terrorism. An official with the Ministry of Justice reported that hundreds of individuals detained at the High Security Prison remained in detention without being charged. Judiciary leaders decried what they saw as a “broad net” cast by security forces in the field, whom they suspected of rounding up large groups of suspects without sufficient cause.

Pretrial Detention: In many cases authorities held detainees without charge or trial for longer periods than the maximum sentence for conviction of the alleged offense; this was especially true in cases involving terrorism and included children detained for alleged association with armed groups. While a pretrial release (release on bail) system existed, the extent of its use was unknown. Authorities estimated 52 percent of prisoners nationwide were in pretrial status, but local independent rights groups estimated it to be as high as 70 percent. Local media regularly reported on cases of persons detained more than one year without trial. Some terrorism suspects were held for years awaiting trial.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides persons arrested or detained the right to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention. Prisoners who did so, however, reportedly faced difficulties due to either judicial corruption or inadequate staffing of the judiciary.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary was corrupt, inefficient, and subject to executive influence, according to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). There were no instances in which the trial outcomes appeared predetermined, however, and authorities respected court orders. Legal codes were outdated, there were not enough courts, and legal costs were excessive. Citizens’ poor knowledge of their rights further weakened their ability to obtain justice. The reluctance of private defense lawyers to represent terrorist suspects in criminal cases was a problem, due to both lack of funds to pay appointed counsel and the social stigma associated with representing accused extremists.

Nearly six years after the government’s first arrests of persons implicated in extremist violence and after multiple delays, the country held its first criminal terrorism trials in the week of August 9-13 at the new courthouse in the capital city. The court acquitted one defendant, while five others were convicted and sentenced to between 10 and 21 years in prison. International observers raised concerns with the conduct of the trials, including a lack of legal representation for the accused. Two convicted defendants appealed their convictions.

Military courts try cases involving military personnel charged with violating the military code of conduct. In certain rare cases, military courts may also try cases involving civilian defendants. Rights provided in military courts are equivalent to those in civil criminal courts. Military courts are headed by a civilian judge, hold public trials, and publish verdicts in the local press.

Trial Procedures

The law presumes defendants are innocent. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free assistance of an interpreter. Trials are public but may be delayed. Judicial authorities use juries only in serious criminal cases. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and to legal representation, consultation, and adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants have the right to provide evidence. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but a refusal to testify often resulted in harsher decisions. Defendants may challenge and present witnesses, and they have the right of appeal. In civil cases where the defendant is destitute and files an appeal, the state provides a court-appointed lawyer. In criminal cases court-appointed lawyers are mandatory for those who cannot afford one. The government did not always respect these rights, due in part to a shortage of magistrates and court-appointed lawyers.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees during the year.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

There is an independent judiciary in civil matters, but it was often seen as inefficient, corrupt, and subject to executive influence. As a result, citizens sometimes preferred to rely on the Office of the Ombudsman to settle disputes with the government.

The law provides for access to a court to file lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation, and both administrative and judicial remedies were available for alleged wrongs. Victims of human rights violations may appeal directly to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice, even before going through national courts. For civil and commercial disputes, authorities may refer cases to the ECOWAS Common Court of Justice and Arbitration in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. The courts issued several such orders during the year.

There were problems enforcing court orders in sensitive cases involving national security, wealthy or influential persons, and government officials.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. In cases of national security, however, the law permits surveillance, searches, and monitoring of telephones and private correspondence without a warrant. The penal code permits wiretapping in terrorism cases, to be authorized by the president of a tribunal for a limited term. Investigative judges have the authority to authorize audio recording in private places. These investigative techniques were relatively new to the legal framework. The national intelligence service is authorized to use technology for surveillance, national security, and counterterrorism purposes.

The state of emergency, first declared by President Kabore in 2018, remained in effect in 14 provinces within seven of the country’s 13 administrative regions in response to growing insecurity from extremist attacks. The state of emergency granted additional powers to the security forces to carry out searches of homes and restrict freedom of movement and assembly. The state of emergency was extended in June for an additional 12 months. Authorities in the Sahel and Est Regions also ordered a curfew due to extremist attacks.

According to international and local independent rights groups, the military employed informant systems to generate lists of suspected extremists based on anecdotal evidence. Violent extremist groups were widely reported to employ similar systems to identify civilians accused of aiding security forces; some of those identified suffered violence or death at the hands of extremists.

g. Conflict-related Abuses

The country experienced numerous attacks by violent extremist organizations during the year, such as targeted killings; abductions; attacks on schools, health centers, and mining sites; and theft of food assistance, contributing to a humanitarian crisis and creating significant internal displacement. Extremists including Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims), the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and Ansaroul Islam committed numerous killings and other abuses. Security forces and state-sponsored militias also were implicated in killings and other abuses.

Killings: Both security forces and state-sponsored militias were implicated in or credibly accused of abuses against civilians, including arbitrary or unlawful killings. Human rights defenders reported that in late November security forces were implicated in at least 22 unlawful killings in the Sud-Ouest and Cascades Regions. Media reported that in May state-sponsored militias kidnapped Fulani community leaders from an internally displaced persons (IDP) site outside Koumbri, near the Malian border in the country’s Nord Region. The bodies of two of the kidnapping victims were later found outside the village. According to the Armed Conflict and Location Event Data project, state-sponsored militias killed at least 95 civilians from January 2020 to August.

According to a local think tank that specializes in security, violent extremists committed more than one terrorist incident per day on average during the year, with 91 incidents resulting in 89 civilian deaths in the month of July alone. Between April and June, suspected extremists killed 298 civilians, an increase of almost 250 percent compared with the first trimester of the year. Since January more than 20,000 persons fled to neighboring countries, almost doubling the total number of refugees (38,000) in just six months, according to United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ (UNHCR) Global Focus Update for 2022.

Violent extremist groups perpetrated numerous attacks against government security forces and state-sponsored militias throughout the year (see section 1.a.). Violent extremist groups killed hundreds of members of state-sponsored militias, including more than 120 persons between February and April. Extremist groups frequently targeted state-sponsored militias, often demanding communities disband or expel the militias as a condition of ceasing attacks on the population. Local sources indicated extremist groups also targeted villagers suspected of collaborating with state-sponsored militias.

On August 18, extremists attacked a military convoy escorting civilians in the village of Boukouma, in Soum Province, Sahel Region, killing 80 persons, including 65 civilians and 15 gendarmes.

Improvised explosive device (IED) attacks sharply increased during the year. Armed groups took advantage of poor road maintenance to plant IEDs in potholes and ditches in efforts to ambush security forces and state-sponsored militias, which also led to the deaths of civilians. On March 2, an ambulance from the Djibo medical center hit an IED on the road between Djibo and Namssiguia, Sahel Region, while transporting a patient, killing six civilians. On May 20, security forces ran over an IED while on a mission in Tialbonga, Est Region. The explosion killed one soldier and wounded two others.

Extremists killed civilians to coerce local populations into following their ideology. On July 29, extremists entered the village of Ouroudjama, Sahel Region, with two hostages they had previously kidnapped. After publicly executing one of the hostages, they demanded that the local population submit to their ideology or face repercussions.

An investigation by the government continued into the 2019 attack by members of a community-based armed group (the Koglweogo) against Fulani herding communities in Yirgou outside the town of Barsalogho, an attack that killed 46 civilians.

Abductions: Extremists kidnapped dozens of civilians throughout the year, including international humanitarian aid and medical workers. The extremists sometimes kidnapped health workers for a temporary period to obtain medical assistance. They also kidnapped IDPs and local leaders.

On March 18, extremists abducted six health workers, including two women on the Sebba-Mansila road, in Yagha Province, Sahel Region. The extremists reportedly freed the two women and disappeared with the four men.

On the night of July 29, extremists kidnapped two IDPs from the IDP camp in Barsalogho, located 30 miles from Kaya, in Sanmatenga Province, Centre-Nord Region. One of the two was believed to be the leader of the IDP community. The next day extremists returned to the camp and abducted more than 40 additional individuals. In response, IDPs fled the camp.

On August 29, extremists kidnapped the town councilor of Manzourou village in Tin-Akof commune, Sahel Region. His body was found on August 30 in a field near the town. According to local sources, he was suspected by extremists for collaborating with a state-sponsored militia.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: According to the Collective against Communities’ Impunity and Stigmatization and the Burkinabe Movement for Human and People’s Rights, on several occasions state-sponsored militias tortured and beat civilians they suspected of having ties to terrorist groups, and sometimes destroyed their property (see section 1.c.).

Media reported that in July a young man accused of livestock theft was bound so tightly by the militias that doctors were later forced to amputate his hands.

Extremists also used physical abuse to coerce local populations to adopt their ideology. In December 2020 a dozen extremists armed with Kalashnikov-type rifles and whips raided the village of Doubare, approximately 12 miles from the town of Thiou, on the border with Mali, Nord Region. They whipped women who were not wearing veils at several water distribution points.

Child Soldiers: There were no reports of the government recruiting or using child soldiers. Although it was difficult to obtain precise data on groups, including extremist groups, that recruited and used children, the minister of women, national solidarity, family, and humanitarian action announced on September 13 that 374 child victims of trafficking had been rescued by the government between January and March. The minister also reported that, since the beginning of the country’s security crisis in 2015, 58 children had been arrested during military operations and handed over to social services. The government continued to detain minors for alleged association with violent extremist groups, some of whom may be trafficking victims, in a high-security prison. The number of minors detained during the year was estimated to be between five and 15.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: According to the Ministry of National Education, as of May 28, 2,244 schools were closed, affecting more than 304,500 students in several regions of the country (see section 6, Children). On January 2, extremists reportedly set fire to the primary school of Libouli, a cultural hamlet in the village of Pori, in the commune of Botou, southeast of Kantchari, Est Region.

Extremist groups also stole livestock, vehicles, and food. They attacked humanitarian convoys, looted and burned villages, and disrupted cellular telephone services to prevent local communities from calling for protection in the event of an attack. On January 18, extremists stole approximately 35 head of cattle in Wiboria, a village located 12 miles from Falagountou, Sahel Region. According to local sources, the extremists moved the cattle east towards the border with Niger. On the night of January 19, extremists allegedly entered Niaptana, a village in the commune of Sebba, Sahel Region, without causing any casualties. They reportedly fired several sporadic shots, looted, burned shops, and stole livestock. On February 10, extremists carjacked two public transport vehicles that were transporting traders on the Markoye-Tin-Akof road, in Oudalan Province, Sahel Region. After removing cell phones and cash from the passengers, assailants left with the two vehicles, including a truck full of merchant goods. A UNHCR team was attacked on May 19 as they attempted to reach Dori from the Malian refugee camp of Goudebo. Six armed assailants fired on the team’s vehicle, which was armored. The group escaped and safely reached its destination. On July 16, extremists intercepted commercial vehicles carrying food on the Dori-Gorgadji road, in Seno Province, Sahel Region. They killed one civilian, set a vehicle on fire, and stole foodstuffs. On August 5, extremists sabotaged mobile network installations in Mansila commune, Sahel Region, reportedly to disrupt telephone calls and prevent the local population from alerting state-sponsored militias in the event of an attack.

Sustained insecurity displaced approximately 1.5 million persons, according to the United Nations. Protracted displacement exacerbated food insecurity, and more than 2.9 million persons were likely to require emergency food assistance during the lean season, with displaced and inaccessible populations at increased risk. Displaced populations also lacked access to basic services, such as health care, water and sanitation, and adequate shelter, and faced protection risks. In an August 6 announcement, the governor of the Sahel Region prohibited the cultivation of certain crops, including millet, sorghum, and maize, in the main towns and near security checkpoints of the region during the rainy season. The governor claimed that these crops provided cover for extremists to hide and ambush state security forces. Media also reported that extremists also banned populations from planting crops.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

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

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, but the government did not always respect this right. In 2019 the National Assembly voted to amend the penal code banning journalists from reporting any security-related news to preserve national security and prevent the demoralization of the military “by any means.” Attempts to “demoralize” members of the military had previously been a crime.

A 2015 law decriminalized press offenses and replaced prison sentences with substantial monetary fines. Some editors complained that few newspapers or media outlets could afford such fines. Despite the reform, journalists occasionally faced criminal prosecution for libel and other forms of harassment and intimidation.

Freedom of Expression: The 2019 revision of the penal code criminalizes communicating the position or movements of defense forces, or sites of national interest or of a strategic nature, and the publication of any terrorist crime scene without authorization. The amendment significantly increases penalties for the crime of publicly insulting another person if electronic communications are used to publish the insult; the law had previously prohibited persons from insulting the head of state or using derogatory language with respect to the office. Local and international associations of journalists called for the rejection of the amendment as an unacceptable attempt to stifle freedom of speech.

On August 9, police detained and questioned activist Zakaria Sana regarding a Facebook post he had written that appeared to encourage a coup d’etat. Sana was released and received a six-month suspended jail sentence.

On the morning of August 13, judicial police arrested Pascal Zaida, a civil society activist, accusing him of “attempting to compromise state security, inciting a rebellion, and making subversive statements.” The arrest followed an August 12 press conference in which Zaida claimed “all the conditions are in place to bring down the government.” Members of the media condemned his arrest as an example of government restrictions on freedom of expression. The police dropped the charges and released Zaida on August 17.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views, albeit with some restrictions. Foreign radio stations broadcast without government interference.

All media are under the administrative and technical supervision of the Ministry of Communications, which is responsible for developing and implementing government policy on information and communication. The Conseil Superieur de la Communication monitored the content of local radio and television programs, newspapers, and internet websites to enforce compliance with standards of professional ethics and government policy. The council may summon journalists and issue warnings for subsequent violations. Hearings may concern alleged libel, disturbing the peace, inciting violence, or violations of state security.

Violence and Harassment: On March 15, investigative journalist Yacouba Ladji Bama was fined two million CFA francs ($3,500) after he lost a defamation suit brought against him by the ruling party. The defamation case against Bama, former editor in chief of the biweekly newspaper Courrier Confidentiel, originated from a December 2020 incident in which he claimed an attempt had been made on his life by the ruling party, allegedly in retaliation for Bama’s public assertions that the party had violated the electoral code when it distributed branded items at a campaign event in the period preceding the November 2020 presidential elections.

In March, four media organizations released a declaration expressing concern that six cases of violent attacks or other acts of intimidation against journalists in 2020 remained pending before the courts.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: In addition to prohibitions on publishing security-related information and insulting the head of state, the law prohibits the publication of shocking images or material that demonstrates lack of respect for the deceased. Journalists practiced self-censorship, fearing that publishing blatant criticism of the government could result in arrest or closure of their newspaper. Journalists were denied access to sites housing internally displaced persons during the year.

Internet Freedom

The law permits a judge, at the request of a “public minister” (prosecutor), to block internet websites or email addresses being used to spread “false information” to the public. The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet; however, the Conseil Superieur de la Communication and the chief prosecutor monitored internet websites and discussion forums to enforce compliance with regulations. Claiming national security interests, the government disabled the mobile data network providing access to the internet via mobile devices on several occasions, including in November for a period of one week.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events. Extremist groups threatened civilians with beatings or death for listening to music.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government at times restricted these rights.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

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

On November 27, protests in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso organized by civil society activists turned violent. Dozens of persons reportedly were injured as security forces used tear gas to disperse the protesters, and protesters threw rocks at security forces and ransacked public buildings, including the ruling party’s headquarters and Ouagadougou’s city hall. On November 24, Ouagadougou’s mayor released a statement cautioning would-be protesters that they did not have a permit and security forces could be called in to respond to the illegal protest. Protest organizers disputed the mayor’s statement, noting they submitted their application to demonstrate within the 72-hour deadline mandated by law. On November 29, authorities arrested Pascal Zaida, a civil society activist who helped organize protests. Authorities arrested additional participants in the following days. At year’s end all protesters had been released.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

In-country Movement: The government required citizens to carry a national identity document, and it authorized officials to request the document at any time. Without a national identity card, citizens could not pass between certain regions of the country and were subject to arrest and fines.

Of the country’s 13 regions, 96 percent of registered IDPs were in six regions: Nord, Boucle du Mouhoun, Centre-Nord, Nord, Est, and Centre-Est. The Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, Family, and Humanitarian Affairs publicly stated that IDPs could not register in Ouagadougou, and humanitarian actors were prevented from providing assistance to IDPs in the capital city.

Armed extremists restricted movement of thousands of rural inhabitants throughout the country by planting IEDs on major highways, hijacking vehicles, and setting up checkpoints. In response to dozens of attacks by unknown armed groups presumed to be extremists, local authorities instituted a ban on motorcycle traffic from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. in the Est, Sahel, and Nord Regions.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Recurrent armed attacks and interethnic clashes throughout the country resulted in the displacement of more than 1.42 million persons as of August 31, up from approximately 560,000 registered IDPs in December 2019 (see section 1.g.). The country registered more than 56,000 new IDPs in July. As of August 31, 60 percent of the internally displaced persons were children, 23 percent were women, and 16 percent were men. Protracted displacement and vulnerability exacerbated the conditions that caused food insecurity. More than 2.9 million persons were estimated to require emergency food assistance during the June-to-August lean season, when household food supplies are lowest, according to the World Food Program. IDPs were concentrated in urban areas, leading to overcrowding, pressure on basic services, and growing social tensions between IDPs and host communities. There were reports of sexual exploitation of IDPs by host community leaders in exchange for food.

The government promoted the safe, voluntary, and dignified return, resettlement, or local integration of IDPs. The government had policies and protections for IDPs in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

At times the government denied humanitarian NGOs or international organizations access to IDPs. During a September 13 press conference, the minister of humanitarian affairs criticized international NGOs that had criticized the government’s humanitarian response. The minister’s comments were a response to complaints by NGOs, including the Norwegian Refugee Council, that the government’s “slow and insufficient humanitarian response” was endangering IDPs and other vulnerable individuals. The Norwegian Refugee Council claimed local authorities did not have sufficient capacity to register IDPs in a timely manner, which prevented relief organizations from providing needed assistance. The minister responded that her ministry had “sole responsibility for the registration of IDPs.” In a September 22 letter, the minister suspended the Norwegian Refugee Council’s access to IDP sites for “discrediting the government.” The government lifted the suspension on October 21 following a public apology by the group.

Humanitarian partners continued to respond to the crisis with life-saving assistance targeting 2.9 million persons, or 14 percent of the country’s population. The government, through its National Council for Emergency Assistance and Rehabilitation, operated with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and its partners to assess, plan, and respond to the crisis.

f. Protection of Refugees

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, Family, and Humanitarian Affairs aided by the National Committee for Refugees, is the focal point for coordination of national and international efforts.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, as well as to returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. UNHCR recorded approximately 25,000 refugees as of December, the vast majority from Mali.

Freedom of Movement: According to UNHCR, police arbitrarily arrested Fulani refugees travelling from the Sahel Region to Ouagadougou on multiple occasions, sometimes holding them in detention overnight before releasing them.

Access to Basic Services: According to UNHCR, public institutions such as banks, schools, and hospitals occasionally refused service to refugees on a discriminatory basis. Refugee camps in Mentao effectively closed down in 2020 following attacks by violent extremist organizations. The government and UNHCR provided support to relocate the refugees to Goudebou camp, which officially reopened in December 2020 but was forced to close in November due to security concerns in the region. Approximately 13,000 refugees fled the camp, and most resettled in the area around Dori, where UNHCR provided them limited services.

Durable Solutions: In August, UNHCR reported that the number of Malian refugees who intended to repatriate dropped from more than 3,500 persons in 2020 to only five persons in July due to insecurity and unsuitable conditions in Mali. The government, UNHCR, and the Malian government engaged in tripartite discussions and established frameworks to pursue durable solutions for Malian refugees in the country.

Temporary Protection: The government agreed to offer temporary protection to individuals who did not qualify as refugees, but there were no such applicants during the year.

g. Stateless Persons

According to UNHCR, more than 700,000 habitual residents were legally or de facto stateless, mostly due to a lack of documentation. The Ministry of Justice, Human Rights, and Civic Promotion worked with UNHCR and other international NGOs to deploy mobile courts to remote villages to issue birth certificates and national identity documents to residents who qualified for citizenship.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: President Roch Marc Christian Kabore was re-elected to a second five-year term with 57.74 percent of the popular vote in the November 2020 national elections. His party, the People’s Movement for Progress, won 56 of the 127 seats in the National Assembly, remaining the largest party in a legislative majority coalition with smaller parties. The Congress for Democracy and Progress, the party of longtime former president Blaise Compaore, ousted in a popular uprising in 2014, became the largest opposition party with 20 seats. Some leading opposition candidates alleged irregularities and fraud but acknowledged the results and urged a “spirit of political dialogue.” National and international observers characterized the elections as peaceful and “satisfactory,” while noting logistical problems on election day and a lack of access to the polls for many citizens due to insecurity, including the majority of IDPs of voting age. The government had earlier declared that voting would take place only in areas where security could be guaranteed.

The National Assembly adopted a bill in August 2020 to modify the electoral law. This new electoral law stipulates that in the event of force majeure or exceptional circumstances duly noted by the Constitutional Council, resulting in the impossibility of organizing the elections in a part of the territory, the elections shall be validated on the basis of results from those polling stations open on election day. This modification, which was approved with the support of the ruling coalition as well as key segments of the parliamentary opposition, was nonetheless criticized by part of the political class and civil society organizations, since it allows for the exclusion of many voters living in insecure areas of the country.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties generally operated freely. In September 2020 the Minister of Territorial Administration, Decentralization, and Social Cohesion, in application of the electoral code, made public the list of political parties authorized to participate in the November 2020 presidential and legislative elections. According to the communique, 143 political parties and three political formations were legally constituted.

The 2015 electoral code approved by the National Transitional Council stipulated the exclusion of certain members of the former political majority. The code stated that persons who “supported an anti-constitutional change that led to a popular uprising” were ineligible to be candidates in future elections. The electoral law allows all political candidates to run for election and opened the vote to members of the Burkinabe diaspora in possession of a national identity card or passport.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Parties and government officials stated women were less engaged in politics due to cultural and traditional factors. Although the gender quota law requires political parties to name women to fill at least 30 percent of the positions on their candidate lists in legislative and municipal elections, no political party met this requirement in the November 2020 elections. In March 2020 a new law establishing “zebra lists” mandated that electoral lists alternate names of men and women to better achieve a 30 percent quota. The law includes positive incentives for political parties respecting the quota but no penalties for those who do not abide by the law. Monique Yeli Kam, of the Burkina Rebirth Movement, was the only female candidate among 14 certified as eligible for the November 2020 presidential election. Following the 2020 legislative elections and the formation of a new government, women held 19 of 127 seats in the National Assembly after the elections (compared with 14 women in the previous National Assembly). Of 18,602 city councilors, 2,359 were women.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year, including cases of misappropriation, fraud, or other offenses. The NGO National Network for Anti-Corruption cited the customs, police, and General Directorate of Land and Maritime Transport as the most corrupt entities in the government.

Corruption: Authorities opened an investigation of Seydou Zagre, the president’s chief of staff, for money laundering. He answered the summons of the investigating judge of the Ouagadougou Court on June 18. The investigation continued at year’s end.

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

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and somewhat responsive to their views. In September the minister of humanitarian affairs suspended the activities of the Norwegian Refugee Council in IDP sites for criticizing the government’s humanitarian response (see section 2.d.).

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: On October 6, the minister of foreign affairs and the UN country representative for human rights signed a Memorandum of Understanding for opening a UN Human Rights Office, which the government had originally approved in May 2020.

Government Human Rights Bodies: During the year the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights organized several training sessions for security forces on the laws of armed conflict, provided assistance to victims of extremist and gender-based violence, and organized antistigmatization and social cohesion campaigns. The government sometimes assigned gendarmes as provost marshals to accompany deployed troops during military operations to verify detainees were afforded proper treatment and promptly taken before a military magistrate.

The Office of the Ombudsman addresses citizen complaints regarding government entities and other bodies entrusted with a public service mission. The ombudsman, whom the president appoints for a nonrenewable five-year term and who may not be removed during the term, was generally viewed as effective and impartial.

The government-funded National Commission on Human Rights provides a permanent framework for dialogue on human rights concerns. Its members include 15 representatives of human rights NGOs, unions, professional associations, and the government. In March the National Assembly adopted a bill that gives the commission the authority to act in matters regarding torture, strengthens the independence of commissioners, and, for the first time, sets aside funds to guarantee commissioners’ salaries. The bill also authorizes funds to reimburse commissioners for the previous three years’ salaries, which had not been paid.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Gender-based violence was prevalent, including rape and domestic violence. According to the penal code, rape is punishable by a prison sentence of 11 to 20 years and a substantial monetary fine when committed against an adult or minor age 13 years or older. The penalty is 11 to 30 years in prison and even higher monetary fines when the survivor is younger than 13. Rape was widely underreported in part due to societal taboos and the drawn-out judicial process owing to the overburdened justice system. Media, however, reported on the prevalence of rape cases and subsequent convictions.

Two women were killed by their spouses on May 2 and May 9 in the Nord Region. Following these deaths hundreds of women marched on the local headquarters of the gendarmerie, where the men had taken refuge. Carrying tree branches and threatening to whip any man in their path, the protesters demanded justice for the two women, both of whom had been pregnant. The minister of women joined the demonstrations to show solidarity with the women but urged the crowd to allow the cases to work their way through the justice system.

On August 31, a man was sentenced to 48 months in prison plus a fine of 500,000 CFA francs ($177) for forcing a European woman, in May in a park in Ouagadougou, to perform oral sex on him under threat of stabbing her.

Survivors of domestic violence seldom pursued legal action due to shame, fear, or reluctance to take their spouses to court. For the few cases that went to court, the Ministry of Justice could provide no statistics on prosecutions, convictions, or punishment. On International Women’s Day, the Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, Family, and Humanitarian Affairs launched a toll-free number for survivors of domestic abuse. According to the head of the center, more than 425 calls were received in the hotline’s first two months of operation and 30 survivors received care. A government-run shelter for survivors of gender-based violence housed women and girls regardless of nationality. In Ouagadougou the ministry assisted survivors of domestic violence at four centers. The ministry sometimes provided counseling and housing for abused women.

The ministry has a legal affairs section to educate women on their rights, and several NGOs cooperated to protect women’s rights. To raise awareness of gender discrimination and reduce gender inequalities, the ministry organized numerous workshops and several awareness campaigns mainly in the Nord, Sahel, Est, and Centre-Ouest Regions.

The law makes conviction of “abduction to impose marriage or union without consent” punishable by six months to five years in prison. Conviction of sexual abuse or torture or conviction of sexual slavery is punishable by two to five years in prison. Conviction of these crimes may also carry substantial monetary fines.

The law requires police to provide for protection of domestic violence survivors and their minor children and mandates the establishment of chambers in the High Court with exclusive jurisdiction over cases of violence against women and girls. According to the minister of women, in 2020 the High Court of Ouagadougou heard more than 120 rape cases, 43 cases of assault, and 18 abduction cases of young girls. The law requires all police and gendarmerie units to designate officers to assist women affected or threatened by gender-based violence and to respond to emergencies; however, some units had not complied by year’s end. It also mandates the creation of care and protection centers in each commune for gender-based violence survivors and a government support fund for their care. The centers receive survivors on an emergency basis, offer them security, provide support services (including medical and psychosocial support), and, when possible, refer them to court.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The practice of FGM/C is prohibited by law, and those found guilty are liable to a prison sentence of one to 10 years with a substantial monetary fine. If a victim of FGM/C dies following the excision, the sentence increases to a term of 11 to 20 years’ imprisonment and an even higher monetary fine. Accomplices are also punishable with penalties. While comprehensive statistics were not available, as of 2019 the Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, Family, and Humanitarian Affairs had registered 185 FGM/C cases in the Sud-Ouest Region. Some arrests were reported.

Media reported some FGM/C cases. For example, on May 4, five girls ages between one and three years were excised in the village of Masbore, Nord Region. On June 29, the Ouahigouya Court held a criminal hearing on the case and sentenced four defendants to 24 months’ imprisonment with a suspended sentence and a fine of 100,000 CFA francs ($177). In July, 10 girls ages seven to 11 were excised in the village of Sideratougou in Banfora, but no arrests were reported.

The government continued to fund and operate a toll-free number to receive anonymous reports of the practice. The government continued to fund the Permanent Secretariat of the National Council for the Fight against the Practice of Excision. The council strengthened the skills of regional coordinators of women’s associations in the campaign against excision through training. The government also provided training to hundreds of health workers to strengthen their skills in caring for FGM/C-related medical complications. On July 14, President Kabore spoke with representatives of youth from the 13 regions of the country engaged in the campaign.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: In the Centre-Est and Nord Regions, primarily in rural areas, self-proclaimed traditional healers performed rituals in which participants denounced others as “witches” whom they held responsible for their misfortune. Those accused, often elderly women, and less frequently men, were sometimes tied up, humiliated, beaten, brutalized, banned from their villages, or killed. Widows were disproportionately accused of witchcraft by male relatives, who then claimed their land and other inheritance. The law, which was seldom enforced, makes the conviction of physical or moral abuse of women or girls accused of witchcraft punishable by one to five years in prison, a substantial monetary fine, or both.

Sexual Harassment: The law provides for sentences of three months to one year in prison and a substantial monetary fine for conviction of sexual harassment; the maximum penalty applies if the perpetrator is a relative or in a position of authority, or if the survivor is “vulnerable.” The government was ineffective in enforcing the law. Owing to social taboos, survivors rarely reported sexual harassment.

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

Government and private health centers were open to all women and offered reproductive health services, skilled medical assistance during childbirth (essential obstetric and postpartum care), and diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Family planning services were free in all public health facilities. Remote villages, however, often lacked these facilities or did not have adequate transportation infrastructure to permit easy access.

According to a March survey, modern contraceptive prevalence among women in union increased from 28 percent in February 2020 to 32 percent in March. The survey revealed an increase in unavailability for certain methods such as the implant, the pill, and the male condom in health facilities in the first quarter of the year compared with 2020. The survey revealed unmet reproductive needs dropped from 32 percent to 17 percent between December 2014 and March.

Geographical distance, illiteracy, insufficient capacity of providers, lack of medical supplies, and religious and social beliefs regarding the negative effects of contraceptive methods were the main barriers to access to contraception. Women’s limited decision-making power and men’s lack of support for and understanding of family planning were also barriers to access to contraception.

The government worked with international and local aid organizations to provide access to sexual and reproductive health services for IDPs.

The country’s volatile security situation impacted women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health needs because 12 percent of the health centers in the Nord, Sahel, and Est Regions closed due to insecurity.

In 2016, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Demography, the maternal mortality rate was 320 deaths per 100,000 live births. According to the UN Population Fund, between 2014 and 2019, 80 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel. Among the leading causes of maternal deaths were hemorrhage (30 percent) and infection (23 percent).

The government’s official midwifery curriculum included components on the prevention of FGM/C and care for women and girls affected by it.

Discrimination: Although the law generally provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, labor, property, and inheritance laws, discrimination frequently occurred. Labor laws provide that all workers, male and female, should receive equal pay for equal working conditions, qualifications, and performance. Women nevertheless generally received lower pay for equal work, had less education, and owned less property. There were legal restrictions on women’s employment under certain working conditions and in the same occupations and industries as men.

Although the law provides equal property and inheritance rights for women and men, land tenure practices emphasized family and communal land requirements more than individual ownership rights. As a result, authorities often denied women the right to own property, particularly real estate. Many citizens, particularly in rural areas, held to traditional beliefs that did not recognize inheritance rights for women and regarded a woman as property that could be inherited upon her husband’s death.

The government conducted media campaigns to change attitudes toward women. It sponsored several community outreach efforts and awareness campaigns to promote women’s rights.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Long-standing conflicts between Fulani (Peuhl) herders and sedentary farmers of other ethnic groups sometimes resulted in violence. Incidents were commonly triggered by herders allowing their cattle to graze on farmlands or by farmers attempting to cultivate land set aside by local authorities for grazing. Government efforts at dialogue and mediation contributed to a decrease in such incidents.

Allegations continued of extrajudicial killings, torture, and violations of due process and basic human rights by state-sponsored militias, particularly against the Fulani community (see section 1.g.). While senior officials, including President Kabore, appeared politically committed to reinforcing respect for human rights and holding abusers accountable, the government lacked capacity to address the growing case load of such allegations.

Many observers, including the Collective against Impunity and Stigmatization of Communities, noted an ethnic dynamic underscoring the violence in the country. Armed groups often recruited from the Fulani community, while most men allegedly killed by state-sponsored militias were Fulani because of their perceived support of extremist groups.

There were reports the state-sponsored militias did not incorporate Fulani into their ranks, nor did Fulani seek to be included among the militias. This dynamic underscored the precarious situation for the Fulani, who lacked security in their community but were excluded from the state’s security effort, thereby fueling a perception of or actual experience of marginalization among the Fulani. The government conducted media campaigns to change attitudes toward the Fulani community. It sponsored several media outreach efforts and awareness campaigns against the stigmatization of ethnic groups. In what observers understood to be a reference to the Fulani, President Kabore spoke against the “stigmatization of entire communities” on several occasions.

Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous persons and their institutions sometimes participated in decisions affecting their land. Exploitation of natural resources near indigenous land endangered the welfare and livelihoods of indigenous communities. Local populations near mining sites in the Est and Centre-Nord Regions expressed their grievances to mining companies. In August youth in Fada N’Gourma denounced the nonrecruitment of local populations by Endeavour Mining. In Centre-Nord Region, populations forced the suspensions of Bissa Gold’s operations, alleging the company was noncompliant with its commitments, including construction of a village church, middle school, and housing for teachers. They called on the mining companies to respect local laws.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives either from birth within the country’s territory or through a parent. Parents generally did not register births immediately, particularly in the rural areas; lack of registration sometimes resulted in denial of public services, including access to school. To address the problem, the government periodically organized registration drives and issued belated birth certificates.

Education: The law provides for compulsory schooling of children until age 16. Nevertheless, many children did not attend school. Targeted attacks on schools and insecurity forced thousands of schools to close (see section 1.g.). Parents often had to pay their children’s school fees as well as provide their uniforms and supplies. Other factors affecting school enrollment included distance to the nearest school, lack of transportation, shortages of teachers and instructional materials, and lack of school feeding programs. Girls’ enrollment was lower than that of boys at all levels due to poverty, a cultural preference to educate boys, the early marriage of girls, and sexual harassment of girls.

Many children attended Quranic schools. Educators forced some children, sent to Quranic schools by their parents, to engage in begging (see section 7.c.).

Child Abuse: The penal code provides for a prison sentence of one to three years with a substantial monetary fine for those found guilty of inhuman treatment or mistreatment of children. In 2019 the government launched a National Child Protection Strategy to create a strengthened institutional, community, and family environment to ensure effective protection for children by 2023.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law prohibits forced marriage and provides for prison sentences ranging from six months to two years for offenders, and a three-year prison sentence if the survivor is younger than age 13. According to media reports, however, the traditional practice persisted of kidnapping, raping, and impregnating a girl and then forcing her family to consent to her marriage to her violator. NGOs reported that minors, especially girls, were kidnapped on their way to school or to market and forced into early marriage.

According to the family code, “marriage can only be contracted between a man older than age 20 and a woman older than 17, unless age exemption is granted for serious cause by the civil court.” Nonetheless, data from UNICEF indicated that 10 percent of women were married before age 15 and 52 percent of women before 18. While early marriage occurred throughout the country, the NGO Plan International reported that some of the highest rates of early marriage were 83 percent in the Sud-Ouest Region, 83 percent in the Centre-Nord Region, and 72 percent in the Centre-Est Region.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides penalties for conviction of child pornography of five to 10 years’ imprisonment, a substantial monetary fine, or both. The minimum age of consensual sex is 15. The law criminalizes the sale of children, child commercial exploitation, including child sex trafficking, and child pornography. Children from poor families were particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking. The government did not report any convictions for violations of the law during the year. The penal code prescribes penalties of 11 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a substantial monetary fine for sex trafficking involving a victim 15 years or younger. It also prescribes five to 10 years’ imprisonment and substantial monetary fines for sex trafficking involving a victim older than age 15.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The law provides for a sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment for infanticide. Newspapers reported several cases of abandonment of newborn babies.

Displaced Children: Recurrent armed attacks displaced hundreds of thousands of children. According to the national emergency relief council, women and children accounted for 83 percent of the IDPs (see section 2.e.).

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no known Jewish community. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities encountered discrimination and could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or the provision of other state services. There is legislation to provide persons with disabilities less costly or free health care and access to education and employment. The law also includes building codes to provide for access to government buildings. The government did not effectively enforce these provisions.

The government had limited programs to aid persons with disabilities, but NGOs and the National Committee for the Reintegration of Persons with Disabilities conducted awareness campaigns and implemented integration programs.

The government continued to arrange for candidates with vision disabilities to take the public administration recruitment exams by providing the tests in braille. Additionally, authorities opened specific counters at enrollment sites to allow persons with disabilities to register more easily for public service admission tests. According to the Ministry of Education, children with disabilities attended school at lower rates than others, although the government provided for limited special education programs in Ouagadougou.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Societal discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS continued to be a problem and prohibited some individuals from receiving medical services due to fear of harassment. Families sometimes shunned persons who tested positive and sometimes evicted HIV-positive wives from their homes, although families did not evict their HIV-positive husbands. Some property owners refused to rent lodgings to persons with HIV or AIDS. The government distributed free antiretroviral medication to some HIV-positive persons who qualified according to national guidelines.

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

The country has no hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the investigation, prosecution, or sentencing of bias-motivated crimes against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community. NGOs reported police occasionally arrested gay men and transgender individuals and humiliated them in detention before releasing them.

Societal discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons was a problem, and it was exacerbated by religious and traditional beliefs. Medical facilities often refused to provide care to members of the transgender community, and LGBTQI+ individuals were occasionally victims of verbal and physical abuse, according to LGBTQI+ organizations. There were no reports the government responded to societal violence and discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons.

LGBTQI+ organizations had no legal status in the country but existed unofficially with no reported harassment. There were no reports of government or societal violence against such organizations.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law allows workers to form and join independent unions, except for public employees and essential workers, such as magistrates, police, military, and other security personnel. The law provides unions the right to conduct their activities without interference.

The law provides for the right to strike, although it significantly limits that right. For strikes that call on workers to stay home and that do not entail participation in a rally, the union is required to provide eight to 15 days’ advance notice to the employer. If unions call for a march, they must provide three days’ advance notice to the city mayor. Authorities hold march organizers accountable for any property damage or destruction that occurs during a demonstration. The law strictly prohibits all strikes that include occupying the workplace, including nonviolent strikes. The law also gives the government extensive requisitioning powers, authorizing it to requisition private- and public-sector workers to secure minimum service in essential services. The government defined essential services more broadly than international standards, including services such as mining and quarrying, university centers, and slaughterhouses.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and allows a labor inspector to reinstate immediately workers fired because of their union activities. Relevant legal protections cover all workers, including migrants, workers in the informal sector, and domestic workers. International organizations reported that contract workers and agency workers faced antiunion discrimination from employers. The law provides for freedom of association and collective bargaining. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The law lists sanctions for violations, including warnings, penalties, suspension, or dissolution. Penalties consist of imprisonment and fines and vary depending on the gravity of the violation. Penalties were not commensurate with those for comparable offenses. Amendments to the law award a legal existence to labor unions of NGOs, create a commission of mediation, and require that associations abide by the law concerning funding terrorism and money laundering. The law also states that no one may serve as the head of a political party and the head of an association at the same time.

The government generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The government generally respected the right of unions to conduct activities without interference. Unions have the right to bargain directly with employers and industry associations for wages and other benefits. Worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties. There were no reports of strikebreaking during the year. Government resources to enforce labor laws were not sufficient to protect workers’ rights.

Employers did not always respect freedom of association and sometimes discouraged union membership. For example, workers in the mining industry were often intimidated, transferred, or fired when they chose to join a union. According to union officials, workers in the domestic service, contract worker, or informal sector who attempted to join unions lost their jobs if their employers learned of their action.

There were no reports of government restrictions on collective bargaining during the year. There was extensive collective bargaining in the formal wage sector, where workers utilized complaint processes to report worker rights violations. National unions reported that domestic workers, workers hired through employment agencies and subcontractors, and other contract workers were fired for joining unions and were unable to utilize complaint mechanisms because they were employed in the informal wage sector. No official records counted violations in the informal sector.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law considers forced or compulsory any labor or service provided by an individual under the threat of any type of sanction and not freely offered. The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. The government did not have a significant, effective program in place to address or eliminate forced labor. There were no reported forced labor prosecutions or convictions. The government continued to conduct antitrafficking advocacy campaigns and operated a toll-free number for individuals to report cases of violence and trafficking. Penalties for forced labor were commensurate with those for comparable offenses, such as kidnapping.

Forced child labor occurred in the agricultural (particularly cotton), domestic labor, forced begging, and animal husbandry sectors, as well as at gold panning sites and stone quarries. Women from other West African countries were fraudulently recruited for employment and subsequently subjected to sex trafficking, forced labor in restaurants, or domestic servitude in private homes. Traffickers also exploited Burkinabe women in domestic servitude in the Middle East.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children, child pornography, mining, and jobs that harm the health of a child. The law sets the minimum age for employment at 16 and prohibits children younger than age 18 from working at night, except in times of emergency. The minimum age for employment is consistent with the age for completing educational requirements, which is 16. In the domestic labor and agricultural sectors, the law permits children who are 13 and older to perform limited activities for up to four and one-half hours per day. The law does not define the kinds of work appropriate for children younger than 16. Penalties were commensurate with those for comparable offenses.

The government undertook activities to implement the national action plan to combat the worst forms of child labor and to reduce significantly exploitative child labor. The plan coordinated the efforts of several ministries and NGOs to disseminate information in local languages, increase access to services such as rehabilitation for victims, revise the penal code to address the worst forms of child labor, and improve data collection and analysis. The government organized workshops and conferences to inform children, parents, and employers of the dangers of exploitative child labor.

The government did not consistently enforce the law, in part due to the insecurity imposed by violent extremist groups. The Ministry of Civil Service, Labor, and Social Security, which oversees labor standards, lacked transportation and access and other resources to enforce worker safety and the minimum age law. No data were available on number of prosecutions and convictions during the year.

Child labor took place in the agricultural sector or in family-owned small businesses in villages and cities. There were no reports of children younger than age 15 employed by either government-owned or large private companies. Children also worked in the mining, trade, construction, and domestic labor sectors. Some children, particularly those working as cattle herders and street hawkers, did not attend school. Many children younger than 15 worked long hours. A study by the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that children working in artisanal mining sometimes worked six or seven days a week and up to 14 hours per day. Street beggars often worked 12 to 18 hours daily. Educators forced some children, sent to Quranic schools by their parents, to engage in begging. Such children suffered from occupational illnesses, and employers sometimes physically or sexually abused them. Child domestic servants worked up to 18 hours per day. Employers often exploited and abused them. Criminals transported Burkinabe children to Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and Niger for forced labor or sex trafficking.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, social origin, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or having other communicable diseases, or social status with respect to employment and occupation. The government did not effectively enforce the laws and regulations. Penalties were commensurate with those for comparable offenses but were seldom applied.

There were legal restrictions to women’s employment in occupations deemed arduous or “morally inappropriate” and in industries such as construction. Women were forbidden from doing work that was determined to have a health risk for their health or reproductive capacity.

Discrimination occurred based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, social origin, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or having other communicable diseases, or social status with respect to employment and occupation. Women were paid less than men and prohibited from holding certain positions (see section 6). Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in hiring and access to the workplace. The government took few actions during the year to prevent or eliminate employment discrimination.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law mandates a minimum monthly wage in the formal sector, which does not apply to subsistence agriculture or other informal occupations. The minimum wage was less than the poverty income level.

The law mandates a standard workweek of 40 hours for nondomestic workers and a 60-hour workweek for household employees. The law provides for overtime pay, and there are regulations pertaining to rest periods, limits on hours worked, and prohibitions on excessive compulsory overtime. The Ministry of Civil Service, Labor, and Social Security is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage and hours of work standards.

Employers often paid less than the minimum wage. Employees usually supplemented their income through reliance on extended family, subsistence agriculture, or trading in the informal sector.

Occupational Safety and Health: Existing occupational safety and health (OSH) standards provide general, not industry-specific guidance, and do not actively identify unsafe conditions in particular industries. Although the labor law requires employers to take measures to provide for worker safety, to protect the physical and mental health of their workers, and to verify that the workplace, machinery, materials, substances, and work processes under their control do not present health or safety risks to the workers, the ILO noted in 2020 that the government had not yet formulated a national OSH policy, conducted periodic reviews, nor developed a national OSH program.

The law requires every company with 30 or more employees to have a work safety committee. The law provides that employees in such companies have the right to remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardy to their employment. If an employee working for a company with fewer than 30 employees decides to remove himself or herself due to safety concerns, a court rules on whether the employee’s decision was justified.

Ministry inspectors and labor tribunals are responsible for overseeing occupational health and safety standards in the small industrial and commercial sectors, but these standards do not apply in subsistence agriculture and other informal sectors.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties for violations were commensurate with those for comparable offenses, but the penalties were seldom applied. Inspectors lacked transport and training, and the number of inspectors was insufficient. There were no reports of effective enforcement of inspection findings during the year for wage, hour, and safety regulations. No official data was available on work-related injuries or death, but police reported in September the death of seven informal gold miners and injuries to others when the miners entered the closed Bissa gold mine in northern Bam. Mining officials noted increasing mining accidents related to illegal gold mining.

Informal Sector: The labor law applies to the informal sector, but it was seldom enforced. Workers in the informal sector represented more than 80 percent of all workers and contributed approximately 50 percent of all economic production. Almost all economic activity outside of the gold and cotton industries was small-scale and informal work. Informal-sector work included subsistence agriculture, trade, services, hotels, tourism, artisanal mining, transport, and private education. Researchers noted the strong participation of women in the informal sector, including in activities such as market trading, manufacturing millet beer (dolo), selling fruit and vegetables, sewing, hairdressing, managing kiosks, and operating restaurants. The ILO reported that informal workers were more severely impacted than formal workers by the COVID-19 pandemic, when most markets were closed for weeks and 22 percent of informal workers lost their livelihoods. Informal workers were more vulnerable to violations of wage, overtime, and OSH standards. Because they were largely self-employed and worked for their own subsistence, they could not benefit from worker protections. Safety violations were prevalent in the informal sector, especially in the mining, construction, and agricultural sectors.

Chad

Executive Summary

Chad was by year’s end controlled by a 15-member transitional military council. On April 19, the National Independent Electoral Commission announced Idriss Deby won a sixth presidential term. Observers considered the April election neither free nor fair due to bans of public gatherings, abuses by security forces against the opposition, disqualification of opposition candidates, and numerous irregularities on election day.

The National Army of Chad, National Gendarmerie, Chadian National Police, Chadian National Nomadic Guard, and National Security Agency are responsible for internal security. The armed forces report to the minister delegate to the president in charge of armed forces, veterans, and war victims. The National Police, National Nomadic Guard, and a specialized gendarmerie unit (the Detachment for the Protection of Humanitarian Workers and Refugees) report to the Ministry of Public Security and Immigration. The National Security Agency reports directly to the president of the Transitional Military Council. Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control of the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

On April 20, President Idriss Deby died on the battlefield while confronting Libya-based rebels. Since Chad had not constituted a Senate, according to the constitution, the powers of the Senate should have devolved to the National Assembly, whose president and first vice president declined to take power. The newly established Transitional Military Council chose the former president’s son, Army General Mahamat Idriss Deby, as its president. Deby then appointed a civilian transitional government.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings; extrajudicial killings by the government or on behalf of the government; forced disappearance by or on behalf of the government ;torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government or on behalf of the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental and civil society organizations; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic or intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child, early, and forced marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, and other harmful practices; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of ethnic minority groups; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

There were reports that authorities sought to combat widespread impunity by prosecuting or punishing some government officials who committed human rights abuses or participated in corruption.

Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa killed numerous civilians and military personnel. At least one incident in Litri was investigated, but no prosecution had resulted as of year’s end. The political-military group Front for Change and Concord in Chad engaged in armed hostilities with armed forces in April, leading to the death of at least five troops and then president Idriss Deby.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

There were several reports the government, or its agents, committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Human rights groups credibly accused security forces of killing with impunity. The Ministry of Justice and the National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) investigate allegations of security force killings.

On February 28, a standoff with government forces at the home of presidential candidate Yaya Dillo resulted in the deaths of four members of Dillo’s family (see section 1.f.).

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that at least seven individuals were killed nationwide when security forces used lethal force on demonstrators during protests against Transitional Military Council (CMT) rule on April 27 and 28 (see section 2.b., Freedom of Peaceful Assembly). CMT President Deby said on June 27 that authorities had opened an investigation. As of December no substantive progress had become public.

In May, Mahamat Nour Ibedou, the leader of the civil society organization Chadian Convention for the Defense of Human Rights (CTDDH), said that 27 prisoners from the Libya-based Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) group had reportedly died after experiencing torture.

Boko Haram, the Nigerian militant terrorist group, and ISIS-West Africa killed numerous civilians and military personnel. In August, Reuters reported that suspected Boko Haram fighters killed 26 soldiers in a raid on Lake Chad’s Tchoukou Telia island. In September, Voice of America reported that Boko Haram killed nine persons and set fire to the village of Kadjigoroum.

In 2020, 44 suspected Boko Haram prisoners died in a gendarmerie prison cell. The CNDH assessed they died from heat, overcrowding, and lack of adequate food and water (see section 1.c., Prison Conditions). As of December the government had yet to provide a substantive update related to investigations into these deaths or make public charges against the 14 remaining detainees.

Interethnic violence resulted in deaths (see section 6).

b. Disappearance

There were reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. The government made no efforts to prevent, investigate, and punish such acts.

The Libya-based FACT group accused government security forces of killing of its rebels, Ali Ibrahim and Wongoto Ngarial Modeste, while they were in custody. The government had not reported any investigation into the allegations at year’s end.

The family of Tom Erdimi, coleader of the Union of Resistance Forces rebel group, accused the government of being involved in his disappearance in 2020 in Egypt (see section 1.e., Bilateral Pressure).

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

The 2020 constitution and subsequent transitional charter prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishments, but human rights groups, the Les Transformateurs opposition party, and a group of lawyers led by Midaye Guerimbaye and Kemneloum Delphine credibly accused security forces of engaging in torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

On April 4, Niger’s National Human Rights Commission and the G5 Sahel Joint Force affirmed that Chadian soldiers engaged in the fight against jihadists in the Sahel were responsible for the rape of several women in Tera in the Tillaberi Region. One was allegedly a girl age 11. Authorities arrested two soldiers suspected of the crime and sent the two individuals to N’Djamena for further investigation.

In late April and May, HRW reported that security forces arrested more than 700 opposition protesters, several of whom reported mistreatment, including torture, in detention. HRW detailed police beatings of numerous protesters and other forms of mistreatment, including pouring urine into the cell of a detainee. Any steps to hold the perpetrators accountable remained unknown at year’s end.

Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces due to corruption, poor discipline, and general impunity for wrongdoers able to leverage basic political connections. Institutions that investigated abuses included the Ministry of Justice and the CNDH. Authorities offered training in human rights to its security forces through international partners, such as the United Nations and individual countries. The International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC) stated in its 2020 annual report, the latest available, that the national army took steps to strengthen the integration of international humanitarian law principles into its doctrine, training, and operations.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in the country’s 41 prisons were harsh and potentially life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. Such conditions presented major problems for juveniles or persons with disabilities. In addition to official prisons, there were reports that the National Security Agency held prisoners in unofficial detention centers.

Physical Conditions: Regional prisons were in states of disrepair, overcrowded, and without adequate protection for women and juveniles. While the government constructed some new facilities in the past decade, major increases in the prison population meant that overcrowding continued to be a problem. Authorities did not separate juveniles from adult male prisoners and sometimes held children with their inmate mothers. Authorities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners and did not always separate male and female prisoners. Prison guards, who were not regularly paid, sometimes released prisoners if bribed.

No estimate of deaths in prisons or detention centers was available. Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the ICRC reported potable water, food, sanitation, and health care were inadequate. Provisions for heating, ventilation, and lighting were inadequate or nonexistent. Inmates were vulnerable to diseases such as tuberculosis, COVID-19, and malaria. The law stipulates a doctor must visit each prison three times a week, but authorities did not permit this level of access. In some cases authorities denied detainees visits from doctors. The few prisons that had doctors lacked medical supplies. Detainees frequently relied upon family members for food, soap, medicine, and other supplies.

In its Freedom in the World 2021 report, Freedom House stated, “Opposition activists risk arrest and severe mistreatment while in detention.”

Administration: Authorities did not investigate credible allegations of mistreatment. There was no mechanism for prisoners to submit complaints. There was no data available on prisoner access to the requirements of religious observance or practice. In April and May local human rights organizations reported that authorities sometimes did not allow prisoners and detainees access to visitors.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted the ICRC to visit prisons, and the ICRC conducted such visits. In the first half of the year, the ICRC visited detainees in five places of detention – collectively holding approximately 4,195 persons – to check on their treatment and living conditions. According to its 2020 annual report, the latest available, the ICRC reported that at least four detention facilities lacked budgetary and human resources and experienced “systemic issues” in prison administration. The CNDH also conducted visits to detention facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions. The law does not provide for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

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

Arbitrary Arrest: According to local media, security forces arbitrarily arrested journalists, demonstrators, critics of the government, and other individuals. Freedom House reported, “Security forces routinely ignore constitutional protections regarding search, seizure, and detention. Detained persons may be denied access to lawyers, notably those detained in connection with their involvement in antigovernment protests or activities. Many people suspected of committing crimes are held for lengthy periods without charge.”

Following demonstrations in N’Djamena in February and March, HRW reported that security forces arbitrarily arrested at least 112 opposition party members and supporters and civil society activists.

The ICRC followed up on allegations of arrest; through its efforts, 17 individuals were in prisons, and their families were informed of their detention. The group also helped authorities in some prisons to maintain registries and reminded them of their responsibility to notify families of their detained relative’s arrest, transfer, release, or death.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem, despite the minister of justice having visited prisons generally suspected of long pretrial detention occurrences early in the year and requested that they speed up justice. According to justice activists, in 2018 at least 20 to 25 percent of inmates were in long-term pretrial detention. According to a Ministry of Justice official, authorities sometimes held detainees without charge for years, particularly for felonies allegedly committed in the provinces, because the court system only had the capacity to try criminal cases in the capital. The length of detention sometimes equaled or exceeded the possible sentence for the alleged crime. Lengthy pretrial detention was exacerbated by an overworked judiciary susceptible to corruption. There were reports officials held detainees in police cells or in secret detention facilities.

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary was overburdened, corrupt, and subject to executive interference. According to representatives of the bar association, members of the judiciary were not always impartial in civil matters, sometimes received death threats, or were demoted for not acquiescing to pressure from officials or otherwise coerced into manipulating decisions. Government personnel, particularly members of the military, often were able to avoid prosecution. Courts were generally weak and in some areas, nonexistent. Authorities did not always respect court orders. According to local media and civil society organizations, members of the Judicial Police, an office within the Ministry of Justice with arrest authority, did not always enforce domestic court orders against military personnel or members of their own ethnic groups.

A judicial oversight commission known as Inspection Generale du Ministere de la Justice (Inspector General of the Ministry of Justice) has the power to investigate judicial decisions and address suspected injustices. The CMT president appointed 11 members to the body in December, increasing executive control of the judiciary.

The constitution provides for a military court system composed of the Military Court and the High Military Court, which acts as an appellate court. There were no reports the government utilized the military court system for anyone other than members of defense and security forces. A military judicial authority also investigates some crimes.

Trial Procedures

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, but the judiciary did not always enforce this right.

The law provides for a presumption of innocence, and for fair, timely, and public trials. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them and to be provided free interpretation. According to local media, however, these rights were seldom respected. Only criminal trials used juries, but not in politically sensitive cases. While defendants have the right to consult an attorney in a timely manner, this did not always occur. By law indigent persons have the right to legal counsel at public expense in all cases, although according to legal experts this seldom occurred. Human rights groups sometimes provided free counsel to indigent clients. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and to be present at their trial. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to question witnesses and present witnesses and evidence. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but the government did not always respect these rights, according to lawyers. Defendants have the right to appeal court decisions.

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

In some areas growing Islamic legal tradition influenced local practice and sometimes influenced legal interpretation. For example, local leaders may apply the Islamic concept of diya, which involves a payment to the family of a crime victim by the perpetrator or the perpetrator’s family, a common practice in Muslim areas. Non-Muslim groups challenged the practice, asserting it was unconstitutional. In 2019 the government issued an interministerial order regulating the practice of diya, with the criminal code taking precedence in any conflict with diya practices. On October 15, religious leaders and traditional chiefs signed an agreement establishing the practice in the Christian-majority southern province of Mandoul, defining suggested compensation amounts, including for accidental and intentional deaths. The governor’s attendance at the accord’s signing lent tacit local government acceptance to the change. On October 22, the central government annulled this agreement, following criticism from the legal community.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

The most recent estimate of the number of political prisoners was from 2018; at that time the NGO Citizen Action for the Integral Application of Amnesty in Chad assessed there were at least 72 political detainees. Citizen Action was unable to conduct a more recent study. Human rights organizations were not allowed access to these detainees.

On February 18, the criminal court sentenced human rights defender and president of the Chadian Organization for Human Rights, Baradine Berdei Targuio, to a fine and three years in prison for “breach of the constitutional order.” This followed seven months in incommunicado detention by the National Security Agency after being charged in August 2020 with breach of national security, illegal possession of weapons, assault, and battery. Media reported that two days prior to his arrest, Targuio made Facebook posts regarding the health of the president. Targuio was reportedly released from prison on June 10.

Media suggested the September 2020 arrest of former oil minister Djerassem Le Bemadjiel was politically motivated because of his ties to an opposition party (see section 4). On March 9, the Supreme Court released Le Bemadjiel but did not dismiss the charges. According to his lawyer, “After this provisional release by the Supreme Court, the case will be transferred to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for the final indictments.” There were no updates to his case at year’s end.

Amnesty: On November 29, the CMT announced an amnesty for 296 rebels and political dissidents, including 39 individuals convicted of “harming state integrity or crimes of opinion,” according to international press reports.

Politically Motivated Reprisal against Individuals Located Outside the Country

Bilateral Pressure: There were credible reports the government attempted to exert politically motivated pressure on Egypt in 2020. The International Crisis Group reported that the family of Tom Erdimi, coleader of the Union of Resistance Forces rebel group, accused Egyptian authorities of having arrested Erdimi in 2020 at the request of the Chadian government. The Chadian government, in response to the case, maintained that citizens arrested abroad are not the direct responsibility of the government.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Lawsuits for human rights abuses may be brought before a criminal court, but compensation is addressed by a civil court. Administrative and judicial remedies, such as mediation, are available. Individuals may also submit cases to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

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

Although the constitution provides for the right to privacy and inviolability of the home, the government did not always respect these rights. It was common practice for authorities to enter homes without judicial authorization and seize private property without due process. There were reports authorities blocked or filtered websites and social media platforms. There were also reports authorities punished family members for offenses allegedly committed by their relatives.

On February 28, a standoff between government forces and opposition politician and former rebel Yaya Dillo at his residence in N’Djamena resulted in several deaths. The day before, one day after Dillo presented his candidacy for president to the Supreme Court, the government sent judicial police to arrest Dillo pursuant to two charges: defamation against First Lady Hinda Deby and appropriation of three government vehicles issued during his tenure as Central African Economic and Monetary Community resident representative in the country. Dillo allegedly resisted arrest, prompting security forces to return at dawn on February 28. Dillo told Radio France International that members of the presidential guard, led by President Deby’s son Mahamat Deby, attempted forced entry, resulting in a shootout that allegedly killed five members of his family, including his mother. On March 1, Foreign Minister Amine Abba Siddick and international media asserted that Dillo fled his residence the afternoon of February 28. Following President Deby’s death on April 20, the government allowed Dillo to return to the country without further threat of arrest.

A government decree prohibits possession and use of satellite telephones. During politically sensitive times, the government routinely blocked popular messaging applications, such as WhatsApp.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

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

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, but the government severely restricted this right. According to Freedom House, authorities used threats and prosecutions to curb freedom of expression for members of the press and other media.

Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits “inciting racial, ethnic, or religious hatred,” which is punishable by up to two years in prison and fines. Space for open and free private discussion existed but tended to be self-censored due to fear of reprisal from the state.

During an October search of the opposition Les Transformateurs party headquarters, security forces seized a Chadian national flag flying within the premises, despite no law prohibiting flying of the flag.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and attempted to express a variety of views; however, authorities placed severe restrictions on them. The government subsidized Le Progres – the only daily newspaper – and owned the biweekly newspaper L’Info. Government and opposition newspapers had limited readership outside the capital due to low literacy rates and lack of distribution in rural areas.

Radio remained a critical source of information throughout the country. The government owned the Chadian National Radio station. Private stations faced high licensing fees. The number of community radio stations that operated outside of government control continued to grow, and radio call-in programs broadcast views of callers that included criticism of the government.

Violence and Harassment: Authorities reportedly harassed, threatened, arrested, and assaulted journalists for critical reporting regarding the government. Local media reported that journalists regularly faced arrest after publication of such reporting. Most were released quickly, but others were held in detention for weeks or months, and some severely mistreated, particularly when articles alleged government officials acted with impunity or criticized former president Deby or his associates. Journalists, as well as human rights defenders, reported being the victims of threats, harassment, and intimidation by anonymous individuals.

Local print and online news reported that on October 6, the governor of Tibesti Province physically assaulted a news cameraman, alleging that the cameraman lacked appropriate documentation required for access to Tibesti. The status of any investigation or accountability measures remained unclear.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government penalized those who published reports counter to government guidelines, sometimes by closing media outlets. According to Freedom House, private radio stations faced threat of closure for coverage critical of the government. Some journalists and publishers practiced self-censorship due to concerns regarding intimidation and arrest.

A member of the Union of Chadian Journalists said several newspapers suspended in 2020 were reauthorized in mid-January, but details regarding the number and names of these newspapers could not be obtained.

In February 2020 as it typically does in each election, the High Authority for Media and Broadcasting released a decree suspending all political programming on public and private networks until the April 2021 election. As rationale, officials cited a desire to maintain stability, noting networks lacked the technical and human resources to assure equitable network coverage for all political parties during a “sensitive” electoral period. Nevertheless, throughout the electoral period, state-owned radio and television outlets continued regularly broadcasting content in support of the ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) party.

Libel/Slander Laws: Libel and slander are misdemeanors punishable by fines. Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of authorities having arrested or detained persons on charges of defamation. During the year there were no reports of government or individual public figures using libel or slander laws to restrict public discussion or retaliate against journalists or political opponents.

Internet Freedom

The government restricted and disrupted access to the internet in many ways. It directly censored online content, such as Facebook; occasionally blocked sites and popular messaging applications, such as WhatsApp; and arrested activists for postings on social media. There was widespread speculation that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The government cut internet service on both national mobile providers, Airtel and Moov (formerly Tigo), on a few occasions during the year. Service was restored after a brief suspension following the raid on presidential candidate Yaya Dillo’s home in February (see section 1.f.). In contrast to previous years, the government did not restrict network access during the electoral period.

Breaking from previous practices, the government did not restrict social media and internet access during demonstrations occurring in August and September but did restrict access during two demonstrations in early October.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

While no government restrictions on academic freedom are known to exist, self-censorship frequently curtailed genuine expression in academic environments. The government banned large gatherings, including cultural events, during a COVID-19 curfew, which was in effect from May 2020 to January.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The government limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

Although the constitution and transitional charter provides for freedom of peaceful assembly “under conditions fixed by the law,” the government did not always respect this right.

The government regularly dictated the locations of opposition protests and civil society gatherings to limit their base of popular support. Authorities routinely banned gatherings and arrested organizers, and security forces used excessive force against demonstrators. The law requires organizers to notify the Ministry of Public Security and Immigration five days in advance of demonstrations, although groups that provided advance notice did not always receive permission to assemble. The law also requires opposition political parties to meet complicated registration requirements for party gatherings.

Despite a blanket ban on all demonstrations from 2016 until July, a significant protest against CMT rule occurred on April 27, one week after the public announcement of President Idriss Deby’s death. Protests against CMT rule and deviation from the constitution occurred in N’Djamena and several southern provincial capitals. Protesters in N’Djamena burned tires in multiple neighborhoods. Amnesty International reported that the protests “resulted in the deaths of at least five people, according to authorities. Many other people were also injured and arrested.” There were allegations security forces used lethal force against demonstrators. Prosecutor General Youssouf Tom announced that 711 protesters were arrested. Security forces held many in police custody for up to a week without a judicial hearing (see section 1.c.). Several local attorneys, a human rights organization, and a radio station reported that the demonstrators were all detained beyond the legal period of custody and did not have access to their lawyers or to doctors. Several national and international journalists were arrested during the protests, some of whom suffered intimidation while others had their images and videos deleted and their devices confiscated.

Beginning in July the government lifted the ban and authorized several protests and peaceful demonstrations, including those opposed to the ruling CMT.

On October 2, security forces dispersed a planned demonstration by the opposition coalition Wakit Tama before it began, due to the group planning to use a different route than was authorized by the government. HRW reported that state security forces injured 40 to 45 demonstrators, arrested several others, and used teargas canisters and rubber bullets against protesters. On October 4, Communications Minister Abdraman Khoulamallah said on state television that 12 members of the security forces were injured and 12 of their vehicles damaged by stones thrown by protesters. Police leadership, including police spokesperson, Paul Manga, denied claims that lethal weapons were used.

Freedom of Association

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, but the government on occasion did not respect this right. While the law requires the Ministry of Public Security and Immigration to provide prior authorization before an association, including a labor union, may be formed, there were no reports of the state enforcing the law. The law also allows for the immediate administrative dissolution of an association and permits authorities to monitor association funds. In 2018 authorities modified the regulation on NGOs to exert greater control over development and humanitarian activities, requiring and enforcing a provision that each NGO contribute 1 percent of its budget to the “functioning of the structures of the Ministry of Planning.” Following pushback from NGOs, the government discontinued enforcement of this provision.

Authorities denied recognition to some opposition political groups (see section 3, Political Parties and Political Participation).

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, the government occasionally limited these rights.

In-country Movement: Lack of security in the east, primarily due to armed banditry, occasionally hindered the ability of humanitarian organizations to provide services to refugees. In Lake Chad Province, government military operations and attacks by Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa constrained the ability of humanitarian organizations to aid IDPs.

Citing security reasons, authorities enacted a daily curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. from April 20, 2021 to April 21, 2021, and from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. from April 21 until May 2, 2021. The government also implemented a COVID-19-based curfew, which it renewed every two weeks, from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting on April 2, 2020, and ending on March 10.

Foreign Travel: Citing COVID-19 considerations, the government closed the country’s only international airport, Hassan Djamous International Airport, from March 18, 2020, to August 1, 2020. It also closed the airport, along with the borders with Cameroon, Nigeria, Sudan, and Libya for one day following the death of then president Idriss Deby in April.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

According to the International Organization for Migration, in September more than 457,000 persons were internally displaced in Lake Chad Province in the west. Attacks by armed nonstate groups, including Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa, were responsible for most internal displacement in the province. There were also approximately 90,000 displaced citizens who returned from the Central African Republic (CAR) in the south as of September due to attacks by nonstate armed groups in intercommunal tensions in CAR.

f. Protection of Refugees

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

UNHCR confirmed reports that on August 15, violent intercommunal clashes in Cameroon between Shuwa Arab herders and Mousgoum fishermen concerning agricultural, fisheries, and pastoral resources resulted in the death of 45 individuals and a significant displacement of civilian population into the country. UNHCR estimated 11,000 persons fled from Cameroon to the country, with women and children accounting for more than 90 percent of the incoming refugees. UNHCR reported that communal clashes in December led to an estimated 50,000 additional refugees crossing over the border from Cameroon.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for asylum or refugee status. In December 2020 the country adopted its first-ever asylum law to provide refugees and asylum seekers freedom of movement, the right to work, and access to health care, education, and justice. Implementation of the law was underway, but refugees were reportedly able to access identification documents and work permits.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Within refugee camps, like much of the country, authorities rarely prosecuted perpetrators of sexual violence. survivors often chose not to report sexual crimes. The judicial system did not provide consistent and predictable recourse or legal protection. To overcome these problems, UNHCR enlisted a local NGO to support refugees through the judicial process. The Detachment for the Protection of Humanitarian Workers and Refugees was unable to provide humanitarian escorts consistently but was generally effective in providing protection inside refugee camps.

Durable Solutions: COVID-19 continued to affect the ability of authorities to resettle refugees. As durable solutions became more difficult to achieve, UNHCR explored helping refugees secure protection by receiving admission to third countries.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens with the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, but the government limited this right. The executive branch dominated the other branches of government.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The March 11-April 9 presidential election campaign culminated in elections on April 11. The political opposition had a highly limited space to operate in both before and during the election. Amnesty International reported pretrial detentions, systematic bans on gatherings, and attempts to prevent the free exchange of information leading up to the election.

In the leadup to the election, the government disallowed the candidacies of two major opposition figures, Yaya Dillo, citing an improper birth certificate, and Succes Masra, for his not having met the required minimum candidate age of 40 and the lack of government recognition of his political party. Other candidates, citing unfair government behavior in favor of President Deby, voluntarily announced their withdrawal from the electoral process prior to the March 9 deadline for the publication of the final presidential candidate list by the Supreme Court. These voluntary withdrawals included Brice Mbaimon Guedmabye, Ngarledjy Yorongar, Mahamat Yosko, and Saleh Kebzabo. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court retained three of these candidates on the election day ballot, which some perceived as an effort to disperse the accumulation of votes behind any single opposition candidate.

Analysts viewed many of the remaining candidates as tacit supporters of Deby. Election observers reported low voter turnout and an overwhelming presence of ruling MPS party observers on election day. Election observers reported multiple irregularities, including improperly secured ballot boxes, polling sites in private spaces in violation of the law, voting authorities improperly accompanying some voters, poor staffing coverage by the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI), campaigning within or near polling stations, police and military giving voters instructions on voting, missing voter registration lists, duplicate voting, underage voting, and improper transport of ballot boxes.

On April 19, the CENI announced Idriss Deby won the election with 79 percent of the vote. The sitting transitional government Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke finished second with 10 percent of the vote. The CENI announced high turnout of 65 percent, although opposition figure Saleh Kebzabo took credit in media reports for his part in suppressing turnout by encouraging a boycott.

On the next day, President Idriss Deby died on the battlefield while commanding an army unit against Libya-based rebels advancing toward N’Djamena. Shortly after Deby’s death, a 15-member CMT established itself, dissolved the country’s constitution, and issued a transitional charter that outlined an 18-month mandate and transition back to a democratically elected civilian-led government.

Under the 2020 constitution, the Senate president stood to take charge of the country, with the Senate vice president standing next in line. The Senate, however, had not yet been constituted when Deby died. In this scenario, the constitution provided that the powers of the Senate should have devolved to the National Assembly. The CMT offered the presidency to the president of the National Assembly, who declined. The first vice president also declined. The CMT thus named Deby’s son, army general Mahamat Idriss Deby as CMT president and the de facto leader of the country.

On April 26, CMT President Deby appointed a civilian transitional government led by Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke and a cabinet of ministers, but the transitional charter grants the CMT president the authority to dissolve the transitional government, which exists to “guide and execute the nation’s policy defined by the CMT.”

The transitional charter as of year’s end guided the country’s transition toward elections of a civilian leader in late 2022. In September, CMT President Deby appointed by presidential decree a transitional parliament, the National Transitional Council, composed of a majority loyal to the powerful MPS, to replace the National Assembly. The government began planning for a national dialogue, new constitution, and elections in 2022.

The most recent legislative elections took place in 2011, during which the ruling MPS won 118 of the National Assembly’s 188 seats. Subsequent legislative elections were repeatedly postponed for lack of financing or planning.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There were 138 registered political parties, of which more than 100 were associated with the dominant MPS party. Changes to the law in 2018 complicated and increased the cost of party registration, outreach, and participation procedures. Opposition leaders attributed the changes to the government’s attempt to limit dissent. The government severely restricted opposition protests and suspended all political programming on public and private networks until the April elections (see sections 2.a. and 2.b.).

Numerous laws disadvantage full political participation by citizens holding political views or allegiances out of alignment with the dominant MPS party. For example, opposition parties are legally barred from ownership of media outlets. The government enacted age limits on leadership of political parties, which many viewed as an effort to disqualify certain key opposition leaders. The dominant MPS party owned and enjoyed state-funded political programming on state-owned television and radio stations, which many saw as granting it an unfair political advantage in a country where television and radio comprised the most effective public outreach tools. Others criticized the MPS party as leading the unfair drawing of voter districts in ways that directly benefitted the MPS. Officials affiliated with the MPS often used official vehicles for political campaigning, and there were reports that government employees were pressured to close their offices during campaign season to support MPS campaigning. Active membership in the MPS often conferred advantages for those wishing to hold high-level government positions. In addition, the MPS-led central government faced accusations of having appointed local and traditional chiefs in a way that rewarded allegiance to the MPS rather than respecting the traditional transmission of power via birth.

After previously refusing registration on administrative grounds, on June 8, the Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization signed the decree granting the opposition party Les Transformateurs the permission to operate.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: Political disenfranchisement in the country is typically de facto, rather than de jure.

The law mandates that leadership of all political parties must be at least 30 percent women. Women’s political participation, however, was limited by many factors, including lack of access to economic resources and cultural norms that discourage their participation in public and professional life. The law also requires a minimum of 30 percent women in government institutions and elective offices. In April, Beassemda Lydie was the first woman to run for president, placing third. Women also received appointments to the transitional parliament and the National Transitional Council, although observers noted that many were relatives of powerful men, casting doubt on their autonomy. While women comprised 33 percent of the council, there were no female members, despite several high-ranking potential women candidates in security institutions.

Government authorities often awarded political positions and formed alliances based largely on tribal and ethnic affiliations. Political parties and groups generally had readily identifiable regional or ethnic bases. Northerners, particularly members of the CMT president’s Zaghawa ethnic group, were overrepresented in key institutions, including the military officer corps, elite military units, and presidential staff.

Widespread social discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals resulted in all but a tiny percentage choosing to live closeted for personal safety and to enjoy fuller social and political rights. Those choosing to live openly, at great personal risk, were often denied the opportunity to register to vote, which observers noted appeared to contravene the constitution, which affirms that suffrage is universal.

Persons with disabilities, while generally able to vote, faced major hurdles in achieving full political participation. Likewise, some laws prohibited persons with disabilities from serving in elected office. Observers noted these laws appeared in contravention of the constitutional right of all persons to work. In addition, the constitution mandates “good physical and mental health” for presidential candidacy, a provision many observers believed disallowed persons with disabilities from serving as president.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but authorities did not implement the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year.

According to Freedom House’s Freedom in The World 2021 report, corruption, bribery, and nepotism were “endemic” in the country, and prominent journalists, labor leaders, and religious figures faced harsh reprisals for speaking out concerning corruption, including arrest, prosecution, and exile.

Corruption: Freedom House reported that selective prosecutions of high-level officials were widely viewed as efforts to discredit those posing a threat to the former president or his allies. Judicial corruption hindered effective law enforcement and rule of law. Security forces routinely stopped citizens on pretexts of minor traffic violations to extort money or confiscate goods.

While widespread, corruption was most pervasive in government procurement, the awarding of licenses or concessions, dispute settlement, regulation enforcement, customs, and taxation. While the investigation by international journalists continued in December, the October publication of the leaked “Pandora Papers” tax documents implicated Zakaria Deby Itno, a son of former president Idriss Deby and ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, in having owned shares in a Seychelles-based company along with a known arms dealer.

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

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated in the country, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were sometimes cooperative and responsive to their views.

In August 2020 a court approved a request by a former member of the CTDDH to suspend Mahamat Nour Ibedou from his position as head of the organization. In December 2020 a new CTDDH general assembly was installed despite protests by sitting members of procedural violations. Observers believed the former member lacked standing to bring any legal action, the new general assembly lacked legitimacy, and authorities supported these actions to lessen the stature and capability of the CTDDH to investigate human rights problems. In May the Court of Appeals cancelled the order that suspended Ibedou from his post.

In late April and early May the headquarters of the Chadian League of Human Rights was encircled by police and military forces, preventing staff from entering their offices. These acts were denounced by the Observatory of International Federation of Human Rights.

Government Human Rights Bodies: To show solidarity with the human rights community, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights cosponsored, made remarks at, and attended conferences, training sessions, and launches of campaigns officially hosted by local and international NGOs aimed at protecting human rights. Local NGOs reported the ministry functioned independently yet was of limited effectiveness, due partially to conflicts of interest with state security forces.

In February 2020 the CNDH became operational. The commission’s mandate is to advise the government on human rights, conduct investigations, assess prison conditions, verify adequate protection against abuse and torture of prisoners, and provide recommendations to the government following investigations. Observers considered the CNDH to be substantially independent of the government and relatively effective.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is punishable by eight to 30 years in prison. Nevertheless, rape – including rape of female refugees – was a problem. The law does not specifically address spousal rape, the gender of victims, or domestic violence. Police often detained alleged perpetrators, but rape cases were rarely tried. Authorities fined and released most rape suspects, according to local media. Communities sometimes compelled rape survivors to marry their attackers.

Although the law prohibits violence against women, gender-based violence was widespread. Police rarely intervened, and women had limited legal recourse. On June 21, the Chadian League for Women’s Rights and other women’s associations demonstrated in N’Djamena against rape and all forms of violence faced by women.

During the year the Ministry of Women, Family, and Childhood Protection worked to address gender-based violence. The ministry helped organize events against gender-based violence at universities and seminars throughout the country, and on November 25, it launched a 16-day campaign against the abuse. In December the ministry also inaugurated two hospital-based centers to address the psychosocial, medical, and social reintegration needs of survivors of gender-based violence. The ministry also took an active role in advocating for an update to the National Gender Strategy and held an event in December in support of this effort. The ministry had a leadership role in advocating for women’s rights via the G5 Sahel.

During the year local newspapers began reporting what many perceived as an increase in cases of gender-based violence. For example, on September 27, a man killed his former wife in southeastern Sila Province. In response, on September 29, CMT President Mahamat Deby responded to the wave of gender-based violence, assuring that “these abject acts, contrary to our habits and customs, will not go unpunished.” The government did not provide further information on investigations or prosecutions following the September 29 announcement.

On April 4, Niger’s National Human Rights Commission and the G5 Sahel Joint Force affirmed that Chadian soldiers engaged in the fight against jihadists in the Sahel were responsible for the rapes of several women (see section 1.c.).

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for girls and women, but the practice remained widespread, particularly in rural areas. According to 2019 data from UNICEF, the latest available, approximately 29 percent of girls and women ages 15 to 49 were survivors of FGM/C. The Ministry of Women and Early Childhood Protection is responsible for coordinating activities to combat FGM/C. By law FGM/C may be prosecuted as a form of assault, and charges may be brought against the parents of survivors, medical practitioners, or others involved. Nevertheless, lack of specific penalties hindered prosecution, and authorities prosecuted no cases during the year.

NGOs cited enduring local social norms and limited federal authority in rural areas as major impediments to progress. Observers denounced ineffective local officers and ministry officials, saying that despite local NGO efforts, such initiatives would not gain traction without government action. Observers reported that FGM/C continued to have the tacit support of local leaders and had become increasingly common over the past year, with impunity and political influence hindering its eradication.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment, both verbal and physical, was widespread at all levels of society and typically targeted women. The law provides penalties for sexual harassment ranging from six months to three years in prison and fines. The government did not effectively enforce the law.

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

Many persons lacked access to reproductive information or care, particularly in rural areas. Obstacles to contraception use included the lack of education, the limited supply of contraceptive products, and cultural paradigms. The government provided some contraception products for free to the public through NGOs. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated only 24 percent of live births were attended by skilled health personnel between 2014 and 2019. The country had a severe shortage of health-care providers, including nurses, midwives, hospital staff, and specialists, such as obstetricians. Prenatal care remained limited, particularly in rural areas. The government provided limited access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence due to capacity constraints. Emergency contraception was officially unavailable, including as part of the clinical management of rape.

UNFPA estimated that in 2017, the latest data available, the maternal mortality rate was 1,140 deaths per 100,000 live births. Factors contributing to maternal mortality included adolescent pregnancies, multiple closely spaced births, and lack of access to medical care.

UNICEF reported in 2013, the latest available, the adolescent birth rate was 179 per 1,000 adolescent women ages 15 to 19. The country’s high adolescent birth rate was partially attributed to conservative cultural practices, traditional gender norms in both urban and rural areas, lack of birth control, and lack of access to family planning services.

Adolescent women reported barriers to access education due to menstruation or childbirth (see the Discrimination subsection for additional information). Peers and community members often shamed female students who become pregnant while studying, and some schools did not permit their attendance.

Discrimination: Although property and inheritance laws provide the same legal status and rights for women as for men, the government did not enforce the laws effectively. Inheritance, property, and housing practices frequently discriminated against women due to cultural and religious elements present in many communities. Women often could not inherit property from their father or husband. Additionally, local leaders settled most inheritance disputes in favor of men, according to traditional practice. Women seeking to rent a house often had to prove they were married, while men were able often to rent without a similar burden. Women requesting divorce from men often faced a process that took three times as long as men asking for the same. While access to financial resources typically benefited men in child custody cases, some courts granted child custody to economically disadvantaged women who demonstrated a better ability to care for children over better-resourced men.

Women who did not enjoy access to the same resources as men often struggled to qualify for credit based on one’s resources. Female entrepreneurs reported perceptions of slowness of administrative paperwork approval relative to male peers. Female entrepreneurs also pointed to a lack of understanding of their needs, since longstanding gender norms had also filled the ranks of local administrators with a male-heavy decision chain. There were legal restrictions to women’s employment in occupations deemed dangerous, including mining, construction, and factories.

In some ethnic groups, when a woman menstruated she was not permitted to prepare food for men to eat because she was considered “unclean.” Some religious groups prohibited a woman from praying during her menstrual period.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Both the constitution and transitional charter provide for the protection of “fundamental rights and freedoms” for all citizens and for legal equality regardless of race, origin, or religion. Members of the Zaghawa, the former president’s ethnic group, occupied a disproportionate share of civilian and military posts, creating imbalances in access to opportunity and enforcement of laws guaranteeing equal protection for all.

Indigenous Peoples

The Mbororo, a subgroup of the pastoral Fulani (Peul) people, are pastoralists who inhabit the central and southern part of the country but lacked official government recognition as an indigenous ethnic group. They constituted approximately 10 percent of the population, according to the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. A 2014 pastoral law limits access to transhumance (seasonal livestock grazing movements) and water resources on which Mbororo pastoralists depended, contributing to their social marginalization.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from birth within the country’s territory or from at least one parent. The registration process for male and female individuals was the same. Failure to register a birth via official channels, common in rural areas with low government presence, often resulted in later complications accessing government services and, sometimes, fines upon registration.

Education: Although primary education is tuition free, universal, and compulsory between ages six and 16, parents were required to pay for textbooks, except in some rural areas. Parents often were required to pay tuition for public secondary education. According to a UNESCO Institute for Statistics 2019 report, approximately 65 percent of girls enrolled in primary school, compared with 82 percent of boys. Similar gender disparities persisted through secondary school, where approximately 13 percent of girls enrolled, compared with 23 percent of boys.

An obstacle to education cited by human rights organizations was the problem of the mouhadjirin, migrant children who attended certain Islamic schools and whose teachers forced them to beg for food and money. There was no reliable estimate of the number of mouhadjirin.

Individuals with family and kinship ties to ruling elites from the Zaghawa ethnic group enjoyed disproportionate access to educational opportunities.

Medical Care: All children enjoy equal access to medical care before the law, but stigmatization of young pregnancies often dissuaded young women from seeking prenatal and other related care.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law sets the minimum age for marriage at 18 for men and women. According to UNICEF’s 2019 data, approximately 24 percent of women ages 20 to 24 were married or in a union before age 15 and nearly 61 percent were married or in a union before age 18. The law precludes invoking the consent of the minor spouse to justify child marriage and prescribes sentences of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and fines for persons convicted of perpetrating child marriage. The practice, however, was widespread, especially in northern areas where there were minimal government efforts to enforce the law and resistance from local religious leaders who condoned the practice. According to the Chadian Women Lawyers’ Association, girls sold or forced into child marriages were often forced by their husbands into domestic servitude and agricultural labor.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The law specifically addresses the sale, offering, or use of children for commercial sexual exploitation, including child sex trafficking. The law prohibits sexual relations with children younger than age 14, even if married, but authorities rarely enforced the ban. The law criminalizes the use or offering of a child for the production of pornography; no cases of child pornography were reported during the year. Refugee children from CAR were particularly vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation.

In May, three men were jailed on suspicion of raping a girl age 15 and leaving her on the street semiconscious. The alleged perpetrators, who were believed to the sons of military generals, filmed the assault and posted the video on social media. Between 2019 and 2020, medical professionals in N’Djamena reported a sixfold upsurge in sexual assault on girls younger than age 18 toward the end of the rainy season, attributed to rising insecurity. UNICEF confirmed this increase in incidents of gender-based violence from 2019 to 2020, including physical assault, psychological violence, and denial of resources.

Displaced Children: Insecurity in the Lake Chad Basin limited the ability of humanitarian actors to understand this population more precisely. While exact figures were not available, there was no indication that the age distribution of IDPs differed systematically from the broader population distribution and therefore contained a substantial youthful portion.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no known Jewish community in the country, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings and transportation on an equal basis with others. There are no specific laws that provide for equal access to public buildings, education, health services, the judicial system, or other state services. Schools, transportation, and other public buildings were overwhelmingly inaccessible to persons with disabilities. The government did not provide government information and communication in accessible formats.

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, although it does not define disability. The government did not effectively enforce the law, according to the Chadian Disability Organization. Disability rights activists reported facing discrimination in access to transportation and participation in economic activity. In November persons with disabilities protested the government prohibition on tricycles, which are more popular in the country than wheelchairs, because many persons with disabilities had relied on them to cross the land border to Cameroon and to transport goods to generate income. Government officials claimed they had sought to address smuggling with this prohibition.

Despite legal protections against discrimination in employment for persons with disabilities, laws were not enforced, and employers discriminated against applicants. In the telecommunications sector, one applicant with a physical disability advanced through a multistep hiring process but was told during the in-person interview that the company would be unable to accommodate him and was subsequently not offered the position. Additionally, some government schools or positions required certificates of physical aptitude, often refusing employment to anyone whose certificate noted any physical disability.

Children with physical disabilities may attend primary, secondary, and higher education institutions, but most schools lacked accommodations for students with physical disabilities. As a result, children with disabilities often dropped out after primary school, leading to much lower attendance at secondary and higher education institutions, compared with other children. The government supported separate schools for children with vision or mental disabilities, but such schools inadequate (see also section 3, Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups).

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law provides individuals with HIV and AIDS the same rights as other persons and requires the government to provide information, education, and access to tests and treatment for HIV and AIDS, but authorities rarely complied with the law. According to the Chadian Women Lawyers’ Association, women sometimes were accused of passing HIV to their husbands and were threatened by family members with judicial action or banishment. HIV-positive persons also faced social and employment discrimination. Due to the country’s relatively low HIV prevalence rate of 1 percent, there were no reports of specific instances of HIV and AIDS-related employment discrimination during the year. Data from UNAIDS, however, suggested stigma against HIV and AIDS was prevalent within the population, with 47 percent of adults saying they would not buy fresh vegetables from a vendor known to have HIV or AIDS.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, with punishments ranging from three months’ to two years’ imprisonment and fines. The government did not actively enforce the law, but there were reports of police harassment against LGBTQI+ persons.

The law does not prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services.

LGBTQI+ persons faced steep cultural, social, and legal barriers to equal treatment and public acceptance. Many viewed same-sex sexual conduct as a sin, antithetical to local customs and African values. Acceptance of LGBTQI+ persons was minimal; many individuals hid their identity for self-protection, especially those living outside the capital. LGBTQI+ persons reported that the environment in the country was so intolerant that many of them only believed themselves comfortable publicly engaging on the topic after having made the decision to live outside of the country (see also section 3, Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups).

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of all workers, except members of the armed forces, to form and join independent unions of their choice. All unions must be authorized by the Ministry of Public Security and Immigration, which may order the dissolution of a union that does not comply with the law as determined by the ministry. The law provides for the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively. While there are no restrictions on collective bargaining, the law authorizes the government to intervene under certain circumstances. The law recognizes the right to strike but restricts the right of civil servants and employees of state enterprises to do so. The law requires a 72-hour notification before a strike. By law civil servants and employees of state enterprises must complete a mediation process before initiating a strike, but there is no specified timeline for this process. Civil servants who engage in strikes or resign in protest may be subjected to imprisonment and forced labor. Employees of several public entities classified as essential services, including postal workers, abattoir employees, and nine more categories, must continue to provide a certain level of services and may be “requisitioned” at the government’s discretion during a strike. The law permits imprisonment with hard labor for participation in an illegal strike. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and explicitly covers all workers, including foreign and irregular workers. The law requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Union members reported these protections were not always respected.

The government effectively allowed for limited freedom of association in labor relations and collective bargaining, although both were subject to delays, primarily due to administrative difficulties in convening key officials for negotiations. Penalties were commensurate with those for comparable offenses.

There were no reports of restrictions on collective bargaining or punishment of workers for participating in illegal strikes. More than 90 percent of employees in the formal sector belonged to unions. In the informal sector, which employed the vast majority of workers, most workers were self-employed and nonunionized, working as farmers or herders. State-owned enterprises dominated many sectors of the formal economy, and the government remained the largest employer. Unions were officially independent of both the government and political parties, although some unions were unofficially linked through members’ affiliation with political parties.

Following the June announcement that ExxonMobil would sell its assets in the country, approximately 300 employees went on strike for six weeks to demand better terms of separation upon Exxon’s departure.

Beginning in summer, the national teacher’s union went on strike, demanding unpaid compensation and calling for an improved learning environment at different universities throughout the country, including the southern city of Moundou, the eastern city of Abeche, and in the capital, N’Djamena. They also called for payment of salaries, bonuses, and overtime owed teachers.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law criminalizes labor trafficking offenses, including forced labor. The Ministry of Justice’s Action Plan for 2019 Ordinance on Trafficking in Persons focused on training members of the courts, local authorities, traditional and religious leaders, members of civil society, and members of enforcement agencies.

The law criminalizes “involuntary labor” or servitude using force, fraud, or coercion, although observers noted there are gaps in the law. These penalties were commensurate with those for comparable crimes. The government engaged in forced prison labor and may legally compel political prisoners to engage in forced labor. Prison officials subjected prisoners to forced labor on private projects, separate from the penalties provided for by the legal sentence imposed on the prisoners. Human rights NGOs reported that the use of forced prison labor was common.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. The government did not conduct adequate inspections. There were no reports of prosecutions. Forced labor, including forced child labor, occurred in the informal sector (see section 7.c.). Children and some adults in rural areas were exploited in forced labor in agriculture, industry, and services.

In coordination with the International Organization for Migration, in September the Ministry of Justice launched an interim interministerial committee to combat trafficking in persons, a problem closely related to compulsory child labor in areas where children are forced to look after livestock holdings. The committee issued standard operating procedures for the identification and referral of trafficking victims to medical care and in September conducted training sessions for security services, law enforcement, and civil society to implement the procedures. The committee began training law enforcement and judicial sector personnel immediately following the committee’s launch.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law does not prohibit all the worst forms of child labor. The law allows children age 16 and older to engage in some forms of hazardous work, and existing prohibitions on hazardous work do not apply to children in the informal sector. The labor code stipulates the minimum age for employment is 14. The law provides exceptions for light work in agriculture and domestic service at age 12. The legal minimum age for employment, a lack of schooling opportunities in some areas, and tribal initiation practices contributed to a general acceptance of working children if they were 14 or older, some of whom might have engaged in hazardous work. The minimum age for hazardous work is 18, but the law allows for children age 16 or older to engage in certain forms of hazardous work. The prohibition on children doing hazardous work does not apply to children in the informal sector. The minimum age for military recruitment is 18, and the minimum age for conscription is 20. The law prohibits the use of child soldiers.

The Child Protection Brigade of the National Police is responsible for enforcing criminal laws against child forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation, the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and use of children in illicit activities. The brigade coordinated with the Ministry of Women, Childhood Protection, and National Solidarity; the Ministry of Public Service, Employment, and Social Dialogue; and the Ministry of Justice to enforce criminal laws against child labor and hosted detachments from all three organizations to facilitate collaboration. Child labor remained widespread, but authorities did not prosecute any cases, according to officials at the Ministry of Labor. Labor laws apply to work only in formal enterprises; there are no legal protections for children working in the informal sector. Penalties for violating child labor laws were not commensurate with those for comparable crimes. The law does not impose penalties “if the breach was the result of an error as to a child’s age, if the error was not the employer’s fault.” Police sometimes took extrajudicial action, such as arresting and detaining persons without a court warrant, against child labor offenders. Traditional leaders also sometimes meted out traditional punishments for offenses, such as ostracism, according to local human rights organizations.

While the government did not have a comprehensive plan to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, it worked with UNICEF and NGOs to increase public awareness of child labor. Efforts continued to educate parents and civil society on the dangers of child labor, particularly for child herders.

Children provided labor, often forced, in various sectors: agriculture (cultivating and harvesting crops, production of charcoal, herding livestock, fishing), industry (brick making, carpentry, gold mining), and services (domestic work, street vending, work in restaurants as servers and barmaids, garbage scavenging, begging, tailoring, auto repair). Local children were also found in forced cattle herding in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Nigeria. Child herders often lived in substandard conditions without access to school or proper nutrition. Their parents and herders generally agreed on an informal contract for the child’s labor that included a small monthly salary and a goat after six months or a cow at the end of a year. Local NGOs reported that compensation often was not paid. According to the Chadian Women Lawyers’ Association, girls sold or forced into child marriages were often forced by their husbands into domestic servitude and agricultural labor.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and labor regulations prohibit employment or wage discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, refugee status, national origin or citizenship, or membership in a union. There are no laws preventing employment discrimination based on disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV-positive status, other communicable diseases, or social origin. There were legal restrictions on women’s employment in occupations deemed hazardous, arduous, or “morally inappropriate” and in industries such as mining, construction, and factories. Women generally were not permitted to work at night, more than 12 hours a day, or in jobs that could present “moral or physical danger,” which is not defined.

Workers may file discrimination complaints with the Directorate of Labor Inspection, which investigates and subsequently may mediate between workers and employers. If mediation fails, the case is forwarded to the labor court for a public hearing. The government did not effectively enforce these laws and regulations. The penalties by the labor court for discrimination were not commensurate with those for comparable violations. Persons with disabilities frequently experienced employment discrimination. Although the law prohibits discrimination based on citizenship, foreign citizens often had difficulty obtaining work permits, earned lower wages, and had poor working conditions. LGBTQI+ persons and HIV-positive persons reported facing social and employment discrimination in all industries and avoided revealing their sexual orientation or status.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage for all sectors of the economy, and the minimum wage was greater than the World Bank poverty rate. The law limits most employment to 39 hours per week, with overtime paid for additional hours. Agricultural work is limited to 2,400 hours per year, an average of 46 hours per week. All workers are entitled to uninterrupted rest periods of between 24 and 48 hours per week and paid annual holidays.

The Directorate of Labor Inspection of the Ministry of Labor has responsibility for the enforcement of the minimum wage and work hours, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Many persons were paid less than the minimum wage, especially in the informal sector. The Ministry of Public Works employed an insufficient number of labor inspectors to enforce the law, especially in the large artisanal gold mining sector in the north. Labor inspectors may refer cases to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights for prosecution and have the authority to make unannounced inspections. The government did not provide adequate staffing or training, which, together with corruption, impeded effective enforcement. Authorities did not always respect legal protections for foreign and irregular workers. Penalties were not commensurate with violations.

Salary arrears remained a problem for some employees, most often in the education and health-care sectors that saw multiple strikes throughout the year. Workers did not always avail themselves of their rights concerning workhour limits, largely because they preferred the additional pay. Pursuant to International Monetary Fund recommendations, the government paid some wage arrears to private-sector contractors.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law mandates occupational safety and health (OSH) standards that are up to date and appropriate for main industries, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Despite penalties existing for violation of OSH laws, enforcement often depended on the personal connections and financial resources of parties involved. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous working conditions without jeopardy to their employment, but they generally did not do so. The law gives inspectors the authority to enforce the law and explicitly covers all workers, including foreign and informal workers.

The Directorate of Labor Inspection of the Ministry of Labor also has responsibility for the enforcement of the OSH standards. Multinational companies generally met the government’s acceptable OSH standards. The civil service and local private companies occasionally disregarded OSH standards, while artisanal mining in the north remained a sector with scant enforcement of labor protections for juveniles and other vulnerable workers drawn to the region by the prospect of financial gain. In June the tunnel of an informal gold mine in the country’s northern Miski region collapsed, killing 11 workers. A similar incident occurred in 2019, killing 52 workers, and accidents of smaller magnitude typically occurred several times per year. Governors and relevant ministries sent delegations in the wake of such incidents to encourage compliance with OSH regulations but failed to spur meaningful institutional reform. Local private companies and public offices often had substandard conditions, including a lack of ventilation, fire protection, and OSH protection.

Informal Sector: The World Bank reported that almost 96 percent of workers were in the informal sector, and approximately 46 percent of total workers were self-employed with no social security insurance. According to the Household Consumption and Informal Sector survey conducted by the government every five years, most male informal workers were engaged in agriculture, and more than 85 percent of the rural population engaged in crop and livestock production. Informal workers in urban areas engaged in household manufacturing, services, or trade. The country’s low population density limited market opportunities in both agriculture and nonagriculture sectors. Security conflicts in the Lake Chad region harmed informal sector livelihoods sustained by fishing and cross-border trade.

Informal workers who obtain work contracts from their employers are protected by the labor code, minimum wage law, and social security. The vast majority, however, who were self-employed and thus worked without a contract, did not benefit from wage, hour, and OSH laws and inspections. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Labor, through its Directorate of Labor Inspection, investigated claims of possible legal violations in both the formal and informal sectors. While they cannot prosecute, they can refer cases for prosecution to the labor division of the Ministry of Justice.

Guinea

Executive Summary

Guinea was a constitutional democratic republic until September 5, when Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya and military special forces arrested President Alpha Conde and seized power through a coup d’etat. The country last held presidential elections in October 2020, electing President Conde to a controversial third term with 59.5 percent of the vote following a March 2020 referendum that amended the constitution to permit him to run. International and domestic observers raised concerns regarding widespread electoral violence, restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, lack of transparency in the vote tabulation, and polling station vote tally discrepancies.

The Ministry of Defense oversees the gendarmerie, and the Ministry of Security oversees the National Police. After September 5, the military junta, led by the National Committee for Reunification and Development, oversaw the entire government, while individual government ministries continued to be led by civilian appointees. The gendarmerie and National Police share responsibility for internal security, but only the gendarmerie can arrest police or military officials. The army also has some domestic security responsibilities. Until September 5, civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

On the morning of September 5, Guinean Military Special Forces Group leader Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya seized power from the government. Colonel Doumbouya declared himself head of state, dissolved the government and National Assembly, and suspended the constitution. Doumbouya announced the creation of a National Committee for Reunification and Development government comprised primarily of military officers. On September 27, Colonel Doumbouya released the Transitional Charter, which supersedes the constitution and law until a new constitution is promulgated. As of December the military government had released 364 members of the political opposition arrested by former president Conde’s administration and pardoned five others previously convicted.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by an individual; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly; restrictions on freedom of movement and residence within the territory of a state and on the right to leave the country; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and the existence of the worst forms of child labor.

Impunity for government officials remained a problem. The Conde government took minimal steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed human rights abuses or corruption.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Offices tasked with investigating security force killings include civilian and military security services, civil and military courts, and inspectors general within the Ministry of Security and Civilian Protection.

Fighting during the September coup d’etat was limited to Conakry’s Kaloum neighborhood, with press reporting eight to 20 members of the military killed.

According to Amnesty International, in the months leading up to the 2020 presidential election, between October 2019 and July 2020, security forces killed at least 50 persons and injured more than 200. Opposition sources claimed that security forces killed 99 individuals between October and December 2020 during and after the presidential election. The government did not confirm the number of persons killed during this period.

Impunity persisted for abuses perpetrated by state actors in past years, including the 2009 Conakry stadium massacre by security forces. At least 150 opposition demonstrators were killed, and more than 100 women and girls were raped. Since 2011 the judiciary confirmed indictments against 13 individuals. Two of the alleged ringleaders of the massacre, Colonel Claude Pivi and Colonel Moussa Tiegboro Camara, served in high-level government posts during the Conde administration. Tiegboro retained his senior position within the National Committee for Reunification and Development (CNRD) at year’s end. General Mathurin Bangoura, a person of interest whose indictment was dismissed following a judicial review, remained governor of Conakry until September.

The steering committee established in 2018 to organize a future trial for the perpetrators of the 2009 stadium massacre resumed its work during the year. The body reconvened in January after holding no meetings in 2020 due to COVID-19. During the May steering committee meeting, the minister of justice outlined a roadmap for an eventual trial; however, as of September 4, no trial date had been announced. The Conde administration cited the need for training and capacity building for judges as the reason for the delayed announcement of a trial date. On November 27, an International Criminal Court delegation met with the CNRD to demand that the stadium massacre trial begin. On December 3, the Ministry of Justice met with the stadium massacre steering committee. On December 22, former 2008 coup leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who was indicted for his alleged role in the stadium massacre, returned to the country after living in self-imposed exile in Burkina Faso. In statements made to the press, Captain Camara said he was willing to stand trial. The CNRD’s December 25 transition roadmap further reiterated the transition government’s support for the trial but provided no timeline for judicial proceedings.

b. Disappearance

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

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment, human rights observers reported that government officials continued to employ such practices with impunity.

Abuse of inmates in government detention centers continued. Security officials designated as “judicial police officers” abused detainees to coerce confessions. Human rights activists noted the most egregious abuses occurred during arrests or at detention centers. Human rights associations stated that complainants often presented evidence of abuse, and wardens did not investigate these complaints. These nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also alleged that guards abused detainees, including children, and coerced some women into exchanging sex for better treatment.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there was one allegation submitted in July 2020 of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, allegedly involving an exploitative relationship with an adult. As of September the United Nations was investigating the allegation.

Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces, particularly in the gendarmes, police, and military forces. Factors contributing to impunity included corruption, lack of training, politicization of forces, and a lack of transparency in investigations. Offices tasked with investigating abuses included civil and military courts and government inspectors general within the Ministry of Security and Civilian Protection. In September the CNRD announced a new public toll-free number for citizens to report on abuses of power by defense and security forces. By year’s end the CNRD had removed two soldiers from the armed forces for vandalism and looting based on information received from the hotline.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in civilian prisons, which are under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice, remained abusive, with poor sanitation, malnutrition, disease, and lack of medical attention pervasive throughout the prison system. Conditions were allegedly worse in gendarme and police detention facilities designed for short-term detentions.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding remained a problem. According to government sources, between January and February, the Conakry Central Prison in Conakry held 1,570 prisoners in a facility designed for 300 (523 percent of total capacity); Nzerekore held 271 prisoners in a facility designed for 80 (339 percent of total capacity); and Kakan held 229 in a facility designed for 80 (286 percent of total capacity). Government-funded rehabilitation programs were underfunded and ineffective, leading some NGOs to try filling the void.

Prison officials held men and women separately. Authorities held minors in separate sections at prisons and detention facilities, where they slept on iron bunk beds with no mattresses, or on the floor because it was too hot on the upper bunks below the building’s metal roof. Prison officials did not separate pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners. There were reports the government had trouble tracking the location of pretrial detainees in the justice system.

Between December 2020 and January, at least three opposition members died while in pretrial detention, reportedly due to poor prison living conditions. A fourth member died shortly after his release in December 2020. Authorities investigated none of the several reported deaths of prisoners.

Although the Ministry of Justice administered civilian prisons, prisoners allegedly controlled cell assignments and provided better conditions at some detention centers to prisoners who were able to pay. Rumors persisted that guards ignored court orders to free prisoners until bribes were paid.

A lack of health-care personnel, medicine, and medical supplies in prisons, combined with malnutrition and dehydration, sometimes made infection or illness life threatening; cases of beriberi were recorded. Only two of the 31 detention centers had a full-time doctor and medical staff. Reports of overcrowding in medical wards at detention centers were common, including at the Conakry Central Prison. Prisoners relied on family members, charities, or NGOs to bring medication, but visitors often had to pay bribes to provide the medicine to prisoners.

Mismanagement and neglect were prevalent. Toilets reportedly did not function, and prisoners often slept and ate in the same space used for sanitation purposes. Access to drinking and bathing water was inadequate. Many prisons were former warehouses with little ventilation and little access to electricity for air conditioning or other cooling techniques.

NGOs as well as the National Institution for Human Rights reported endemic malnutrition throughout the prison system. Authorities provided food at the Conakry Central Prison, but most prison directors relied on charities and NGOs to provide food for inmates. The Conakry Central Prison claimed it provided two meals a day; however, NGOs reported prisoners in Conakry and elsewhere received only one meal per day and that many relied on food from their families or other outside sources. Guards often demanded bribes for delivering food to prisoners, which they then frequently confiscated.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and NGOs noted that conditions at gendarmerie detention centers, intended to hold detainees for not more than two days while they awaited court processing, were much worse than in prisons. Such “temporary” detention could last from a few days to more than two years, and facilities had no established systems to provide meals or medical treatment. As in the case of prisons, gendarmerie facilities were dank and unsanitary.

Administration: Prison authorities did not investigate credible allegations of abuse or inhuman prison conditions. Prisoners and detainees have the right to submit complaints but seldom did due to possible reprisals from prison guards. Prisoners must use a lawyer to file a complaint, but lawyers were scarce and expensive. Prison authorities received little to no formal penal training, and prison guards received only rudimentary basic military training designed for gendarmes. The local NGO Equal Rights for All stated religious practice was restricted at prisons other than the Conakry Central Prison. Prisoners complained that they were regularly denied access to visitors, including family members. Visitors were often required to pay bribes to access prisoners.

Independent Monitoring: Local NGOs such as Equal Rights for All and the Association for the Support of Refugees, Displaced Persons, and Detainees received regular and unimpeded access to the Conakry Central Prison; authorities rarely granted access to other facilities to monitor conditions.

Military prison conditions, managed by the Ministry of Defense, could not be monitored since the government denied access to prison advocacy groups and international organizations. Although military authorities claimed they did not hold civilians at military prisons, previously reported cases contradicted this assertion. Prior to the September coup d’etat, reports indicated a prison existed at a military camp on Kassa Island, and that political prisoners were at times held at a military camp near Kankan.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The Transition Charter, previous constitution, and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions.

The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention, but few detainees chose this option due to the difficulties they might face and fear of retribution.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Although the law requires arrest warrants, police did not always follow this protocol. The law also provides that detainees be charged within 48 hours, renewable once if authorized by a judge. In cases involving national security, the law allows the original length of detention to be increased to 96 hours, renewable once. Many detainees were held for much longer periods before being charged. Authorities held most detainees in the three main prisons indefinitely and without trial.

The law precludes the arrest of persons in their homes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., but arrests between those times occurred. After being charged the accused may be held until the conclusion of the case, including a period of appeal. Authorities routinely ignored the legal provision entitling defendants to an attorney and did not provide indigent defendants with an attorney at government expense.

Release on bail is at the discretion of the magistrate under whose jurisdiction the case falls. The law allows detainees prompt access to family members, but access was sometimes denied or restricted until families paid bribes to the guards at detention facilities.

Arbitrary Arrest: The CNRD arrested and arbitrarily detained former president Alpha Conde on September 5. On November 27, authorities moved former president Conde from his previous location to his wife’s house in the Dixinn neighborhood of Conakry. As of December he remained under house arrest without charge.

In February 2020 authorities arrested without charge more than 30 persons in various Conakry neighborhoods and held them for more than a month at the Soronkoni camp in Kankan, Upper Guinea. The detainees reported they were arrested by police and other security service units, were isolated, and had no contact with family. Following postelection violence in Nzerekore in March 2020, local sources reported that at least 40 persons were transferred to the same Soronkoni camp. As of September the CNRD released an additional five of these detainees. By December the CNRD released a total of 364 political prisoners. (See section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees, for details regarding the postelection situation.)

Pretrial Detention: In February pretrial detainees constituted 72 percent of the prison population. Information was not available regarding the average length of detentions, or whether detentions exceeded the maximum possible sentence.

The law states that when the prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant against an individual or an individual is questioned by an investigating judge, the individual may remain in detention for a maximum of 24 months under circumstances related to national security.

In June authorities provisionally released a boy, age 17, who spent three years in pretrial detention at the Conakry Central Prison. The boy was arrested in 2018 and charged with unauthorized gathering. According to his lawyer, he was arrested in a Conakry neighborhood near where a police officer was killed several days before. As of December authorities had not set a trial date for the case.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judicial system was plagued by corruption. The Transition Charter also states the CNRD’s commitment to an independent judiciary. The judicial process often lacked independence and impartiality. Political and social status often influenced decisions. A shortage of qualified lawyers and magistrates, outdated and restrictive laws, nepotism, and ethnic bias limited the judiciary’s effectiveness. Domestic court orders were often not enforced. For example, some prisoners ordered to be freed by courts remained in detention because they failed to pay “exit fees” to guards. On the other hand, politically connected criminals often evaded prosecution.

Many citizens, wary of judicial corruption or with no other choice, relied on traditional systems of justice at the village or urban neighborhood level. Litigants presented their civil cases before a village chief, neighborhood leader, or a council of “wise men.” The dividing line between the formal and informal justice systems was vague, and authorities sometimes referred a case from the formal to the traditional system to assure compliance by all parties. Similarly, a case not resolved to the satisfaction of all parties in the traditional system could be referred to the formal system for adjudication. In the traditional system, evidence given by women carried less weight (see section 6, Women).

Trial Procedures

The Transition Charter, previous constitution, and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary, although burdened by corruption and limited effectiveness, generally strived to enforce this right.

Trials are public and defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Trials must be timely. The prosecution prepares a case file, including testimony and other evidence, and provides a copy for the defense. Defendants have the right to confront and question prosecution witnesses and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. The law provides for the presumption of innocence of accused persons, the independence of judges, the equality of citizens before the law, the right of the accused to counsel (but only for major crimes), and the right to appeal a judicial decision, but these rights were not consistently observed.

Authorities must inform defendants promptly of charges. Defendants are entitled to free assistance from an interpreter, if necessary. Defendants generally had adequate time but lacked resources, such as access to a lawyer, to prepare a defense. Most cases never came to trial.

Although the government was responsible for funding legal defense costs in serious criminal cases, it rarely disbursed funds for this purpose. The attorney for the defense frequently received no payment. Authorities allowed detainees’ attorneys access to their clients, but often on condition that prison guards or gendarmes be present. The law provides that defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but torture or other harsh treatment and conditions in detention centers undermined this protection.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

The previous government and CNRD arrested or summoned individuals without cause. Civil society described the actions as “political intimidation.” Local sources estimated the number of such arrestees or summoned individuals to be more than 300. The government permitted access to such persons on a regular basis by the International Committee of the Red Cross or other human rights or humanitarian organizations.

In May authorities released 40 detainees arrested following the October 2020 postelection violence. Nine of the released detainees were arrested by security forces for their proximity to the October 2020 mob attack on a freight train operated by the aluminum producer Rusal, in which according to government and press reports attackers killed four security force members.

In June President Conde pardoned four high-profile opposition members who requested clemency following their convictions. Although the four were pardoned and released, the convictions remained part of their record.

In July the government announced that four senior-level members of the opposition political party Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea were conditionally released for medical reasons. The members were previously imprisoned for their alleged role in postelection violence following the 2020 October presidential election. One of them, however, was sent back to prison in August for reportedly violating the conditions of his provisional release. He also was among the 79 detainees released by the CNRD on September 7.

On September 5, Colonel Doumbouya and the CNRD announced their intention to release all political prisoners and activists imprisoned during former president Conde’s administration. The CNRD requested that the Ministries of Justice and Defense coordinate closely with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the prison administration, and lawyers to release all the detainees.

On September 7, the CNRD released 79 political detainees from the Conakry Central Prison. Many of the released were prominent opposition members such as Oumar Sylla (Fonike Mengue), Abdoulaye Bah, Etienne Soropogui, Ismael Conde, and Keamou Bogolan Haba. On September 24, the CNRD released 12 detainees, including five soldiers and two civilians held in Conakry, and five soldiers held at Camp Soronkoni. On September 28 in Kankan, the CNRD released one military detainee and Colonel Doumbouya pardoned five soldiers previously convicted and imprisoned.

Prior to the September 5 coup d’etat, in February Amnesty International reported that during the March and October 2020 elections there were “400 arbitrary arrests targeting opponents and members of civil society after the presidential election.” Lawyers for the detainees reported that authorities made many of the arrests during house-to-house searches at night in neighborhoods considered opposition strongholds. Authorities also reportedly used excessive force in the arrests. The government announced that these individuals were arrested for participating in postelection violence.

In March President Conde pardoned seven minors who were reportedly members of the opposition and were arrested immediately following the October 2020 presidential election for “illegal assembly on a public road.”

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The law provides for a judicial procedure in civil matters, including lawsuits seeking damages for human rights abuses. Individuals filed few lawsuits seeking damages for human rights abuses, in part due to public fear of suing security force members and lack of confidence in the competence and impartiality of the judiciary. Some cases were appealed to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice.

Property Seizure and Restitution

In 2019 the government forcibly evicted persons from four neighborhoods in Conakry. The government alleged the inhabitants were squatters on land long-planned as the relocation site of multiple ministries. Authorities demolished an estimated 2,500 buildings, resulting in 20,000 persons evicted, some of whom allegedly had legal ownership of their land. The victims formed a collective and appealed to the ECOWAS Court of Justice for compensation. On September 11, the victim’s association made a public statement demanding assistance and the indictment of the former minister of housing for destroying their homes. As of September 30, the ECOWAS Court of Justice suspended all existing legal proceedings with the country because of the coup d’etat. The government made no efforts to protect, assist, resettle, or integrate these displaced persons in other areas.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but police reportedly ignored legal procedures in the pursuit of criminal suspects, including when it served their personal interests. Authorities sometimes removed persons from their homes without legal authorization, stole their personal belongings, and demanded payment for the release of their belongings.

The government continued to arrest or punish family members for alleged offenses committed by relatives.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: Independent and opposition-owned media were active and generally expressed a wide variety of views. Print media had limited reach. Radio remained the most important source of information for the public, and numerous private stations broadcast throughout the country. FM radio call-in shows were popular and allowed citizens to express broad discontent with the government. An increase in online news websites reflected the growing demand for divergent views. Nevertheless, allegations against or criticism of the Conde government could result in government reprisals, including suspensions, fines, and arrests. The CNRD reportedly engaged in reprisal against a media outlet that was affiliated with former president Conde.

Violence and Harassment: There were reports of arbitrary arrests, harassment, and intimidation of journalists by Conde government officials and CNRD transition authorities.

On July 18, police arrested journalist Habib Marouane Kamara in Conakry and took him to the Office of the Director of Judicial Police where he was questioned for several hours. According to his lawyer, Kamara was sued for defamation and blackmail following a complaint by the new director of the Guinea Water Company. Kamara previously criticized the appointments of water company executives, including the CEO’s wife, on his Facebook page. The Union of Private Press Professionals denounced his arrest and the lack of a judicial summons. Authorities released Kamara after two nights in police custody.

On October 9, security forces raided the compound of Djoma Media, a private media outlet with reported ties to former president Conde. The military claimed they were searching for missing government vehicles, although they did not have a warrant to enter the compound. Gunfire erupted at the scene, reportedly injuring two persons, after Djoma Media security guards refused to grant access.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The Conde government penalized media outlets and journalists who broadcasted items criticizing government officials and their actions. Some journalists accused government officials of attempting to influence the tone of their reporting.

There were also reports CNRD authorities restricted journalists from covering certain transition government meetings and froze the assets of Djoma Media, a media outlet linked to former president Conde. According to media sources, the bank accounts were frozen due to “unjustified movements of money.” Djoma Media’s founder, Kabinet Sylla (known as “Bill Gates”), was a former government official and confidant of former president Conde. At year’s end the accounts remained inaccessible.

On October 8, according to Reporters Without Borders, CNRD authorities restricted several private television stations from filming CNRD Prime Minister Mohamed Beagovui’s swearing-in ceremony. State-owned Radio Television Guinea was often the only media outlet invited to cover Conde government meetings; it remained the only platform for official CNRD announcements to the public.

Libel/Slander Laws: Libel against the head of state, slander, and false reporting are criminal offenses subject to imprisonment up to five years and heavy fines. Conde government officials used these laws to harass opposition leaders and journalists. Journalists alleged the defamation lawsuits targeted persons critical of the government to silence dissent.

On February 4, a Conakry court sentenced sports journalist Ibrahima Sadio Bah to six months in prison and a monetary fine for defaming Mamadou Antonio Souare, the president of the national soccer federation.

On February 27, authorities arrested and detained sports journalist and historian Amadou Dioulde Diallo for allegedly insulting President Conde during a radio talk show. Reporters Without Borders, local press associations, and the Guinean Organization for the Defense of Human Rights expressed concern regarding the arrest and denounced his imprisonment, claiming that it was a violation of the law on freedom of the press. On May 19, a court sentenced him to a substantial fine and released him.

In January three journalists detained since 2018 from the private radio station Nostalgie FM, were prosecuted for “defamation, slanderous denunciation, and insults.” The journalists were sentenced on January 13 to two months’ imprisonment with suspended sentences and fined. During a 2018 episode of their radio show Africa 2025, a former teacher from the undergraduate school Saint Joseph de Cliny called in to denounce the working conditions at the school. In response the director of the school filed a complaint against the journalists who hosted the broadcast. The journalists’ lawyer announced they would appeal the decision. As of December the appeal was pending with the Conakry Court of Appeals. Several local press associations issued a press statement announcing their support for the journalists and advocated the cancellation of their sentence. On January 15, the Union of Private Press Professionals held a sit-in at the court to denounce the decision.

In December 2020 Minister of Technical Education and Vocational Training Zenab Nabaya Drame sued the three journalists for defamation for publishing a story implicating her in the embezzlement of approximately 219 billion Guinean Francs (GNF) ($22.3 million) in public funds as minister and in former positions as finance director in the Ministries of Health and Agriculture. The minister withdrew the suit in February after the court ruled that it could not proceed with the case while there was an ongoing investigation into the allegations of embezzlement (see section 4, Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government).

National Security: Authorities used the law to punish journalists and executives at media outlets critical of the government.

In November 2020, after being detained for three weeks, Guinean-Canadian pro-opposition blogger Mamady Conde (alias Madic 100 Frontieres) was charged with slander, threats, xenophobia, inciting a revolt, and harming the fundamental interests of the state. He was convicted on February 8 and sentenced to five years in prison and fined for “downloading and disseminating messages, photos, drawings of a racist nature, xenophobia, threat, violence and insults through a computer system.” His sentence was reduced to one year on June 10 after an appeal. Then president Conde pardoned Mamady Conde in addition to three other high-profile opposition members in July after the four wrote letters of contrition seeking clemency.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Transitional Charter and the law provide for freedom of peaceful assembly and association, as did the constitution before it was suspended on September 5. Both the Conde government and CNRD transition authorities routinely barred public protests and assembly.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The Transitional Charter and the previous constitution provide for freedom of peaceful assembly and association, but the Conde government and CNRD restricted this right, primarily to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The law bans any meeting that has an ethnic or racial character or any gathering “whose nature threatens national unity.” Prior to September 5, the government required a 72-working-hour advance notification for public gatherings. The law permits prohibition of demonstrations or meetings if local authorities believe the event poses a threat to public order. Authorities may hold event organizers criminally liable if violence or destruction of property occurs. The law punishes anyone who hinders the right to demonstrate to a sentence of one to six months’ imprisonment and a substantial fine.

The CNRD used previous COVID-19 restrictions to limit unsanctioned public gatherings. Although the CNRD permitted celebratory marches demonstrating support for Colonel Doumbouya, on September 11, the CNRD forbade all marches and protests on public health grounds. The CNRD strongly condemned a National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC)-led march from Conakry International Airport to Bambeto Circle on September 18 welcoming the return of exiled senior FNDC leader Sekou Koundouno. No violence was reported during the march.

Prior to September 5, large demonstrations were typically met with a heavy-handed response by security forces including arbitrary arrests, tear gas, and excessive use of force. Since September 5, reported security force interactions with demonstrators was more restrained.

On December 11, supporters of former president Conde gathered in front of their party, Rally of the Guinean People Arc-en-Ciel, headquarters in Conakry to demand his release. Security forces deployed and used tear gas to disperse protesters. Media reports indicated eight activists were arrested and later released on December 13. Government officials applauded the security force response to the unsanctioned demonstration, citing adherence to established norms and no reported injuries or deaths. Civil society leaders and other political parties denounced the government’s response.

Prior to September 5, the decision to ban a meeting or demonstration could be appealed to the Court of First Instance.

Freedom of Association

The Transition Charter and previous constitution provide for freedom of association, and authorities both before and after September 5 generally respected this provision. Requirements to obtain official recognition for public, social, cultural, religious, or political associations were not cumbersome, although bureaucratic delays sometimes impeded registration. (See section 3, Political Parties and Political Participation, for further information concerning political party registrations.)

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The Transitional Charter and the constitution permit freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government sometimes restricted these rights.

In-country Movement: The government requires all citizens older than 18 to carry national identification cards, which they must present on request at security checkpoints.

Police and gendarmes regularly established random checkpoints where they routinely asked drivers to pay “tolls” or other illegal fees. Police and gendarmes occasionally robbed and beat travelers at these checkpoints and sometimes threatened them with death. In August, as a part of government measures to provide financial relief to drivers facing higher fuel prices, the minister of security announced the formal prohibition of any law enforcement officer from extorting drivers and other transporters, noting that law enforcement officers who erected unauthorized checkpoints would face sanction. The minister also announced the reduction in the total number of official checkpoints across the country.

As part of the health state of emergency, travelers were asked to present a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination certificate. Some travelers reported being forced to pay a fine or “toll” if they did not have a negative test or certificate. The health state of emergency remained in force at year’s end.

Foreign Travel: Following the September 5 coup d’etat, CNRD authorities banned former president Conde and his former cabinet officials from foreign travel. The CNRD requested the former senior government officials surrender their personal and official travel documents.

Prior to September 5, the Conde government banned numerous opposition party members and private citizens from travelling. Following the October 2020 presidential election, the Conde government prevented the opposition Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea party’s president Cellou Dalein Diallo, his wife, and party vice president Fode Oussou Fotana from leaving the country. The government also prevented several other opposition members, including Union of Republican Forces president Sidya Toure and chief of staff Mohamed Tall, and the new Generation for the Republic party president Abe Sylla, and others who spoke out against President Conde from leaving the country even in instances where travel was necessary for medical treatment.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

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

Access to Asylum: The Transition Charter and laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The law on the right of asylum and the protection of refugees has provisions to protect individuals from deportation.

Durable Solutions: Repatriation procedures existed and allowed refugees to choose a voluntary repatriation. Voluntary repatriations, previously suspended due to COVID-19, resumed. Ivorian refugees composed the majority of voluntary repatriations during the year. According to UNHCR data, as of December 7, 23 UNHCR-designated refugees were repatriated, while 8,622 returnees and other persons of concern voluntarily repatriated to their countries of origin.

g. Stateless Persons

There were a few hundred effectively stateless persons, most of whom came from Sierra Leone. These persons did not meet any of the criteria for citizenship. According to UNHCR, these persons requested neither repatriation nor local integration. The government could not provide information on stateless persons due to a lack of identification activities.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Prior to September 5, the constitution and law provided citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, but both the Conde government and CNRD transition authorities abridged this right. The Transitional Charter calls for free and fair local and national elections after the creation of the National Transition Council to determine the elections timeline and draft the constitution. As of December the council had not been formed. On September 5, Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya and military special forces arrested President Alpha Conde and seized power through a coup d’etat.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Following the October 2020 presidential election, and an unsuccessful legal challenge from opposition presidential candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo, in November 2020 the Constitutional Court certified that President Conde won re-election with 59.5 percent of the vote. Diallo claimed victory and called on his supporters to protest the election results. Government security forces violently dispersed protesters and surrounded Diallo’s home.

Although election day proceeded relatively smoothly, international and domestic observers raised concerns regarding unresolved voter roll problems, widespread pre- and postelection violence, restrictions on freedom of assembly, the lack of transparency in vote tabulation, insecure ballot transportation, and inconsistencies between the announced results and tally sheet results from polling stations.

The number of persons injured and killed during the pre- and postelection violence was widely disputed between the government and opposition groups. Government officials claimed at least 50 persons were killed, while the opposition published a list of 46 killed and estimated at least 200 persons were injured during the violence. Amnesty International reported 400 arbitrary arrests targeting opponents and members of civil society after the presidential election.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There were no official restrictions on political party formation beyond registration requirements. Parties may not represent a single region or ethnicity. The Conde government in some cases delayed opposition party registration. As of September 5, the government continued to deny accreditation to Bloc for Change in Guinea, despite a ruling by the ECOWAS Court of Justice, and to the Liberal Democratic Movement, despite an injunction by the Supreme Court in January to accredit the party. The government was accused of conditioning both parties’ accreditation on their commitment not to oppose the government or join the political opposition.

In October 2020 the government closed the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea’s main political party office in Conakry on the grounds of COVID-19 public health measures and national security, preventing the party from using the space for meetings and assemblies. The party appealed to the courts to reopen their office, but their appeals were rejected. The CNRD reopened the premises on September 6.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption, but the government did not implement the law effectively. There were multiple allegations during the year of corrupt practices by public officials that went unpunished.

Corruption: Conde administration authorities prosecuted very few cases, and even fewer resulted in convictions. Allegations of corruption ranged from low-level functionaries and managers of state enterprises to ministers and the presidency. Officials allegedly diverted public funds for private use or for illegitimate public uses, such as buying expensive vehicles for government workers. Land sales and business contracts generally lacked transparency. Business leaders asserted regulatory procedures were opaque and facilitated corruption.

In November 2020 several local media sources published a story implicating the minister of technical education and vocational training, Zenab Nabaya Drame, in the embezzlement of approximately GNF 219 billion ($22.3 million) as minister and while serving in former positions as finance director in the Ministries of Health and Agriculture. According to media, Drame was responsible for approximately GNF 100 billion ($10.2 million) in unjustified expenses during her tenure as Ministry of Health finance director; she reportedly embezzled GNF 56 billion ($5.71 million) during her time at the Ministry of Agriculture; while as minister of technical education and vocational training she allegedly siphoned GNF 35 billion ($3.57 million) from a program to build new vocational training facilities in Upper Guinea and the Forest Region that were never built and overcharged GNF 28 billion ($2.86 million) to administer nationwide school exams. Drame sued the journalists for defamation but dropped her suit in February due to the corruption investigation, which as of December was pending (see section 2.a., Libel/Slander Laws). In January authorities announced the Kaloum Court of First Instance would hear the corruption case, but judicial proceedings did not move forward before the September 5 coup d’etat.

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

Some domestic and international human rights groups monitored and attempted to disseminate information on human rights abuses. They generally operated without government restriction. Government officials rarely were cooperative and responsive to their views. Since September 5, CNRD officials included human rights groups as part of the national dialogue process. NGOs are required to renew their permits with the government every three years.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Institution for Human Rights promotes human rights awareness and investigates abuses. The institution was controversial from its inception because it was set up in a manner different than prescribed by law. It remained ineffective and lacked independence under the Conde administration.

The Conde government did not establish a truth and reconciliation commission as recommended in the Commission for National Reconciliation 2016 final report. Prior to September 5, the technical committee organized within the Prime Minister’s Office to establish the commission had not finalized the draft law on its profile, mandate, and members. The CNRD did not take any steps to establish the commission.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and domestic violence, but both occurred frequently, and authorities rarely prosecuted perpetrators. The law does not address spousal rape or the gender of survivors. Rape is punishable by five to 20 years in prison. Survivors often declined to report crimes to police due to custom, fear of stigmatization, reprisal, and a lack of cooperation from investigating police or gendarmes. Studies indicated citizens also were reluctant to report crimes because they feared police would ask the survivor to pay for the investigation.

In domestic violence cases, authorities may file charges under general assault, which carries sentences of two to five years in prison and fines. Violence against a woman that causes an injury is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine. If the injury causes mutilation, amputation, or other loss of body parts, it is punishable by 20 years of imprisonment; if the victim dies, the crime is punishable by life imprisonment. Assault constitutes grounds for divorce under civil law, but police rarely intervened in domestic disputes, and courts rarely punished perpetrators.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Although the Transition Charter does not explicitly prohibit FGM/C, it grants individuals the right to their physical integrity. Prior to September 5, the constitution and laws prohibited FGM/C. The country had an extremely high FGM/C prevalence rate. According to a 2018 UNICEF survey, 94.5 percent of women and girls ages 15 to 49 had undergone the procedure, which was practiced throughout the country and among all religious and ethnic groups. The rate of FGM/C for girls between the ages of six and 14 dropped six percentage points since 2015.

The law specifies imprisonment of five to 20 years and a fine if the victim is severely injured or dies; if the victim dies within 40 days of the procedure the penalty is up to life in prison or death. The law provides for imprisonment of three months to two years and fines for perpetrators who do not inflict severe injury or death. These laws were not effectively or regularly enforced. In 2019 the Conde government adopted an action plan to eliminate FGM/C (2019-23) that included integrating FGM/C modules into the curriculum of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Conakry and updating the curriculum for midwifery and social work students. During the year the Conde administration continued to cooperate with NGOs and youth organizations in their efforts to eradicate FGM/C and educate health workers, government employees, and communities on the dangers of the practice.

On October 25-26, the CNRD appointed Morissanda Kouyate, a lifelong advocate for women’s rights and the eradication of FGM/C, as minister of foreign affairs, international cooperation, African integration, and Guineans abroad.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits all forms of workplace harassment, including sexual harassment; however, the Transition Charter does not explicitly mention workplace or sexual harassment. Prior to September 5, the constitution prohibited harassment based on sex, race, ethnicity, political opinions, and other grounds. The Ministry of Labor did not document any case of sexual harassment, despite its frequency. The law penalizes sexual harassment. Sentences range from three months to two years in prison and the payment of a fine, depending on the gravity of the harassment. Authorities rarely enforced the law.

According to the Union of Guinean Workers, women working in the public sector reported professional repercussions, marginalization, and threats by superiors when they did not accept their advances.

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

No law adversely affected access to contraception, but low accessibility and poor quality of family planning services as well as limited contraception choices hindered access. Cultural barriers included a lack of male partner engagement or support for a woman’s decision to use family planning services; lack of decision-making power for women, as women in many cases needed approval from their husbands before using health services, including family planning; and expectations for newlywed couples to have children. Religious beliefs also hindered access. According to the 2018 Demographic and Health Survey, modern contraceptive prevalence rate among women ages 15-49 who were married or in a relationship was 11 percent.

According to the 2018 Demographic and Health Survey, 55 percent of women gave birth with a skilled health-care professional present. Lack of quality health care and sociocultural barriers, such as preferring a female health attendant during pregnancy and childbirth, also affected women’s access to skilled health attendants when no midwives were available.

According to the 2016 UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, the maternal mortality rate was 550 per 100,000 live births. Lack of accessible, quality health services, discrimination, gender inequalities, early marriage, and adolescent pregnancy all contributed to the maternal death rate. (See the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) subsection for additional information.) According to the UN Population Fund, the adolescent birth rate was 120 per 1,000 girls ages 15-19 years.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Multisectoral committees at the national, regional, and local levels addressed gender-based violence, including sexual violence. Committee participants included health professionals, police, and administrative authorities. Health professionals provided health care, including sexual and reproductive health services, to survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Emergency contraception was available at International Planned Parenthood Federation-affiliated clinics through purchases made by the UN Population Fund. Emergency contraception was also included in gender-based violence kits.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The country’s population was diverse, with three main linguistic groups and several smaller ones. While the law prohibits racial or ethnic discrimination, allegations of discrimination against members of all major ethnic groups occurred in private-sector hiring. Ethnic segregation of urban neighborhoods and ethnically divisive rhetoric during political campaigns were common. The government made little effort to address these problems.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country, marriage, naturalization, or parental heritage. Authorities did not permit children without birth certificates to attend school or access health care.

Education: Government policy provides for tuition-free, compulsory primary education for all children up to age 16. While girls and boys had equal access to all levels of primary and secondary education, approximately 39 percent of girls attended primary school, compared with 52 percent of boys. Government figures indicated 13 percent of girls completed secondary school, compared with 22 percent of boys.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was a problem, and authorities and NGOs continued to document cases. Child abuse occurred openly on the street, although families ignored most cases or addressed them at the community level. Authorities rarely prosecuted offenders.

On March 11, an updated Children’s Code first adopted in 2019 entered into force. The new code provides increased penalties for offenses that expose children to violence, sexuality, the display or dissemination of obscene images, and messages not intended for children. The new code also increases penalties relating to child labor, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children, and child pornography.

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 https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities could in some cases access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law prohibits the discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in education, employment, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or the provision of other government services. Other elements of the law describe the rights of persons with disabilities, such as access to regular, dedicated, or subsidized private schools, government hiring quotas, priority access to government services, and access to public transportation. The government did not effectively implement the law and programs to provide access to buildings, information, and communications. The government provided some information and communication in accessible formats. Colonel Doumbouya delivered the president’s end of year speech, which for the first time was accompanied by sign language simultaneous interpretation.

The law prohibits discrimination in employment against persons with disabilities. The government estimated the population of persons with disabilities to be 155,900. The Ministry of Social Action and the Promotion of Women and Children is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, but it was ineffective. The government had informal hiring programs for the hiring of persons with disabilities. The government provided no support for placing children with disabilities in regular schools.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Laws exist to protect persons with HIV and AIDS from stigmatization. The law on reproductive health provides that persons diagnosed with AIDS or HIV receive special assistance in basic care and a guarantee of confidentiality. The government relied on donor efforts to combat discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS, and government efforts were limited to paying health-care worker salaries. Most victims of stigmatization were widows abandoned by their families after their husbands died of AIDS.

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

LGBTQI+ persons faced arbitrary arrest, violence, and harassment by security forces who accused them of disrupting the social order. LGBTQI+ persons reported being stigmatized by their families and, in many cases, forced into unwanted heterosexual marriages. They were also subject to sexual assault based on their sexual orientation.

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, which is punishable by three years in prison; however, there were no known prosecutions during the year. The Office for the Protection of Women, Children, and Morals (OPROGEM), a part of the Ministry of Security, includes a unit for investigating morals offenses, including same-sex sexual conduct.

Deep religious and cultural taboos exist against consensual same-sex sexual conduct. Antidiscrimination laws do not apply to LGBTQI+ persons. The Transitional Charter and existing laws do not protect the rights of LGBTQI+ persons. The Transitional Charter describes marriage and the traditional family unit as the foundation of the country’s society. LGBTQI+ persons were subject to employment and housing discrimination. There were no official or NGO reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, although societal stigma likely prevented survivors from reporting abuse or harassment. There were no publicly active LGBTQI+ organizations, although some public health organizations worked to raise sexual health and HIV and AIDS awareness, as well as prevent human rights abuses among vulnerable communities, including the LGBTQI+ community. An association supported by the National AIDS Control Committee and the Global Fund Works provided educational awareness on AIDS prevention and safe sexual practices and antiretroviral treatment distribution, and it advocated for the rights of vulnerable populations, including members of the LGBTQI+ community who continued to hide their status.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The Transition Charter and the law provides most workers the right to organize, bargain collectively, join a union, and engage in strikes. The law also places restrictions on the free exercise of these rights. The law requires unions to obtain the support of 20 percent of the workers in a company, region, or trade in order to strike. The law mandates that unions provide a 10-day notice to the Ministry of Labor before striking, although it allows work slowdowns without notice.

Strikes are permitted only for work-related topics; such permission, however, does not extend to government workers, members of the armed forces, or temporary government workers, as these categories do not have the legal right to strike. Despite lacking the right to strike, public school teachers repeatedly went on strike for better working conditions.

The law protects workers from antiunion discrimination. The law prohibits employers from taking union membership into consideration when considering decisions concerning an employee’s hiring, firing, and conduct. It also allows workers 30 days to appeal any labor decisions and provides for reinstatement of any employee fired for union activity.

The Office of the Inspector General of Labor within the Ministry of Labor manages consensus arbitration, as required by law. Employers often imposed binding arbitration, particularly in “essential services.”

Penalties for various labor violations ranged from fines to imprisonment. The law also defines labor crimes to include workers and employers who subvert national interests or steal trade secrets. Penalties were not commensurate with similar crimes.

The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Inspections were not adequate to achieve compliance, and penalties were not enforced.

Worker organizations did not generally operate independently of government or political party interference. Differences existed among the trade unions with members accusing each other of supporting the company or government. This resulted in some unions having two leaders. Companies did not always respect freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

In August workers from the private transport company Albayrak organized a strike demanding better work conditions. Security forces arrested and detained 36 workers for vandalizing company buses. They were released three weeks later with eight workers given six-month suspended sentences.

Hotel workers at the Sheraton Grand Conakry achieved union recognition in February 2020 after the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers’ Associations filed a formal complaint with the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation and Dutch Development Bank for failing to maintain the International Finance Corporation’s specific performance standards. According to the international union, in October 2020 hotel management refused to engage union leadership on health-care negotiations in violation of national labor laws. The international union and local unions reported numerous violations of local labor laws, antiunion retaliation and discrimination, as well as violating internationally recognized worker standards of freedom of association and collective bargaining.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor and debt bondage. Prison labor, however, is legal, including for crimes related to political and religious expression. The law prescribes penalties of three to seven years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both for forced labor offenses involving an adult victim, and five to 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both for those involving a child victim. Penalties were not commensurate with similar crimes. The government did not effectively enforce the law or prosecute any cases for adult forced labor.

Traffickers exploited men, women, and children in forced labor in agriculture. Traffickers exploited boys in forced labor in begging, mining, fishing, and on coffee, cashew, and cocoa plantations. Some government entities and NGOs alleged forced labor was most prevalent in the mining sector. Women and children were the most vulnerable to trafficking (see section 7.c.). Migrant laborers represented a small proportion of forced labor victims.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits child labor in the formal sector and sets forth penalties of imprisonment and confiscation of resulting profits. While a 2020 relevant law strengthened protections for children, the law does not meet international standards. The law provides additional prohibitions against hazardous work including work at night, work with explosives or corrosives, and extraction of minerals and other materials in mines and quarries. The law does not protect children in the informal sector, and authorities were hesitant to pursue cases due to longstanding sociocultural norms. The country made minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, and the law does not prohibit the practice. The law allows minors to work below the minimum age for employment, which is 16. Exceptions allow children to work at age 12 as apprentices for light work in the domestic service and agriculture sectors, and at age 14 for other work. The law does not prescribe the number of work hours per week for children, nor does it specify the conditions under which light work may be undertaken.

The Ministry of Labor maintained an outdated list of hazardous occupations or activities that may not employ children, but enforcement was limited to large firms in the formal sector. The law does not prohibit hazardous occupations and activities in all relevant child labor sectors, including agriculture. The law increases penalties for forced labor if minors are involved, but penalties did not meet international standards, and enforcement was not sufficient to deter child labor violations. Although the law provides that treaty obligations be regarded by the justice system as lawfully binding, ambiguity concerning this provision’s validity continued due to the government’s failure to pass implementing legislation.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, and it conducted occasional inspections. OPROGEM is the unit within the Ministry of Security responsible for investigating child trafficking and child labor violations. As of September OPROGEM brought three cases involving child labor exploitation to court. Penalties were not commensurate with similar crimes.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, and inspections were not adequate. Girls were subjected to domestic servitude domestically and abroad. Forced child labor occurred primarily in the cashew, cocoa, coffee, gold, and diamond sectors of the economy. Many children between ages five and 16 worked 10 to 15 hours a day in the diamond and gold mines for minimal compensation and little food. Child laborers extracted, transported, and cleaned the minerals. They operated in extreme conditions, lacked protective gear, did not have access to water or electricity, and faced a constant threat of disease. Many children did not attend school and could not contact their parents, which may indicate forced labor.

Many parents sent their children to live with relatives or Quranic teachers while the children attended school. Host families often required such children to perform domestic or agricultural labor, or to sell water or shine shoes on the streets. Some children were subjected to forced begging.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children also occurred. Penalties were not commensurate with similar crimes.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law includes dispositions against sexual harassment and discrimination based on race, color, national origin, citizenship, social origin, age, language, or HIV-positive status or other communicable disease status. The government took no steps to prevent discrimination in employment and occupation. Penalties were not commensurate with similar crimes.

Discrimination in employment occurred. Although the law requires equal pay for equal work, women received lower pay for similar work, and there were legal restrictions on women’s employment in some occupations (see section 6). Few persons with disabilities had access to work in the formal sector, although some worked in small family businesses; many survived by begging on the streets.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Mali

Executive Summary

Mali had a constitutional democratic system that was upended in an August 2020 military coup d’etat. The country last held presidential elections in 2018, re-electing Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in elections that met minimum acceptable standards. Following the August 2020 coup, a brief period of military rule was followed by a civilian-led transition government in September 2020. On May 24, the transition government was itself overthrown by the military. On June 7, Assimi Goita, one of the August 2020 coup leaders and the former transition vice president, was sworn in as transition president. Repeatedly delayed parliamentary elections were held in March and April of 2020, followed by manipulation of results by the Constitutional Court. Parliament was dissolved after August 2020 and replaced by an unelected National Transition Council.

The National Police report to the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection and have responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order in urban areas. The National Gendarmerie has responsibility in rural areas, including a specialized border security unit. The country’s defense and security forces consist of the Malian Armed Forces, the National Gendarmerie, and the National Guard, which all fall administratively under the Ministry of Defense. Operational control of the National Guard and National Gendarmerie is shared between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection. The National Guard and the army occasionally performed law enforcement duties in northern areas where police and gendarmes were absent. The responsibilities of the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection include maintaining order during exceptional circumstances, such as national disasters or riots. The country’s intelligence service has authority to investigate any case and temporarily detain persons at the discretion of its director general, who reports directly to the president. It usually detains persons only in terrorism and national security cases. Civilian authorities did not always maintain effective control over civilian and military security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings, by both government and nonstate actors; forced disappearance by government forces; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by government forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious abuses in a conflict, including unlawful and widespread civilian harm by government forces and nonstate armed groups, as well as unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers by nonstate armed groups; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists and the existence of criminal libel and slander laws; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child, early, and forced marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, and other harmful practices; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting national and ethnic minority groups; existence and use of de facto laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.

With occasional notable exceptions, the government made little effort to investigate, prosecute, or punish government officials who committed abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. The government did, however, make efforts to address corruption. Impunity for serious crimes committed in the country’s northern and central regions continued with few exceptions, in view of the government’s lack of control of 80 percent of the national territory. Cases related to massacres, forced disappearances, or other serious human rights abuses rarely moved beyond an investigative phase.

Despite signing the 2015 Algiers Accord for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali (Algiers Accord), signatory armed groups committed serious human rights abuses, including summary executions, torture, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Ethnic militias, formed to defend one ethnic group from other ethnic groups or other armed groups, committed serious human rights abuses, including summary executions, the destruction of homes and food stores, and the burning of entire villages. Terrorist groups kidnapped and killed civilians, including humanitarian workers, and military and peacekeeping forces. Investigations and prosecutions were rare because most abuses occurred in areas that the government did not control.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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 (see also section 1.g.). The gendarmerie is responsible for conducting initial investigations into security forces. Cases are then transferred to the Ministry of Justice for investigations into alleged police violence or to the Ministry of Defense’s military tribunal for investigations into alleged military abuses. Depending on the infraction and the capacity of the military tribunal, some cases related to military abuses may be processed by the Ministry of Justice.

In reports dated March 26, June 1, and October 1, the UN secretary-general documented that as of August 26, a total of 871 attacks against civilians resulted in the death of 484 civilians, 385 injuries, and 383 abductions. The reports also mentioned 1,556 human rights abuses, including 65 extrajudicial killings, 73 cases of torture, and 444 abductions and or involuntary or enforced disappearances. For example, the March 26 report stated that on March 18, members of the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) summarily executed two men, injured four other men, and mistreated at least 30 persons in Boni in the Douentza area.

Attacks by extremist groups and criminal elements occurred in the northern regions, in the central part of the country, and in the west. Extremist groups frequently employed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to target civilians as well as government and international security forces. IEDs were also used repeatedly to target important infrastructure, including major national roads, cutting off communities from humanitarian assistance, important trade routes, and security forces. On February 10, unidentified armed individuals used IEDs to attack a temporary base of the United Nation’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The attack seriously injured several peacekeepers. On May 31, an IED boobytrap exploded, killing at least five persons in the village of Petaka in the Douentza area. On August 15, a FAMa vehicle hit an IED in the Menaka Region, killing three FAMa soldiers.

Terrorist groups, signatory and nonsignatory armed groups to the Algiers Accord, and ethnic militias committed numerous arbitrary killings related to the internal conflict. According to the UN secretary-general’s March 26, June 1, and October 1 reports to the UN Security Council, terrorist elements were allegedly responsible for 675 human rights abuses, including killings. Signatory armed groups to the Algiers Accord, including the armed group Platform of Movements (Platform) and the armed group Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), were allegedly responsible for at least 76 human rights abuses, including killings, while nonsignatory armed groups were allegedly responsible for at least 356 human rights abuses, including killings.

On March 30, MINUSMA’s Human Rights and Protection Division (HRPD) released a report on the findings of the human rights investigation into a January 3 air strike in Bounti by French forces that killed at least 22 persons, including 19 civilians. At least eight other persons were injured by the air strike. In a March 30 communique, the French Ministry of Armed Forces expressed reservations about the methodology used by the United Nations, stated that the report was based on “unverifiable local testimonies” and “unsubstantiated hypotheses,” and maintained that the strike had targeted a terrorist group.

Following an April 2 terrorist attack against the MINUSMA base in Aguelhok, killing four peacekeepers and injuring at least 34, peacekeeping forces allegedly killed three persons in Aguelhok that same day. The local population protested, claiming the victims were civilians and demanding MINUSMA relocate its base and clarify the circumstances of the killings. MINUSMA’s HRPD noted in its August 30 report that the circumstances of the killings remained unclear.

The UN secretary-general reports also alleged that on April 27, Nigerien armed forces summarily executed at least 19 civilian men during a cross-border operation in Mali’s Menaka Region.

On July 21, a unit of the anticriminality brigade of the National Police allegedly shot and killed a boy age 17, Abdoulaye Keita, in Bamako. The incident prompted protests in the Lafiabougou neighborhood and led to the arrest of six police officers for homicide. At the end of the year, the Commune IV Tribunal of High Instance in Bamako was investigating these alleged crimes.

On September 3, authorities indicted and arrested Oumar Samake, commander of the Special Antiterrorist Force, on charges of murder and assault and battery in connection with the repression of social unrest by security forces in July 2020. After police officers protested the arrest and stormed a prison where Samake had previously been held, Samake was released. On September 6, following several meetings among Samake, police union leaders, the director general of police, and the minister of security, Samake voluntarily surrendered to the gendarmerie in Bamako. He remained in custody as of November.

According to Human Rights Watch, between October 1 and 5, members of the security forces, later identified as FAMa, arrested at least 34 men in and around the town of Sofara in Mopti Region, allegedly in response to an uptick in attacks by terrorist groups, notably an October 1 attack in nearby Marebougou. Three of the arrested men were found dead a few miles from the Sofara military camp on or around October 11, according to local witnesses. In an October 13 communique, FAMa stated that 22 “presumed terrorists” had been transferred from FAMa custody to the gendarmerie for investigation (see also sections 1.b. and 1.c.).

b. Disappearance

There were numerous reports of forced disappearances believed to have been carried out by extremist groups and, in some instances, by the defense and security forces (MDSF) in the central and northern regions of the country. MINUSMA’s HRPD reported that the MDSF were responsible for 29 forced disappearances between January and June.

Human rights observers reported they were unable to verify the whereabouts of dozens of prisoners purportedly detained in connection with the northern conflict. The limited capacity of the Penitentiary Administration to keep accurate records made it difficult to locate individuals within the country’s penal system. Human rights organizations estimated that the General Directorate for State Security (DGSE), the intelligence agency, held at least 60 unacknowledged detainees, but these organizations noted they did not have access to the DGSE’s facilities to verify the estimates. COVID-19 pandemic restrictions prevented many organizations from visiting prisons. Despite being denied access to DGSE facilities, the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH) reported improved access to detention centers and sensitive detainees.

As of mid-November, the whereabouts of seven of the individuals arrested in October by FAMa in Sofara (see also section 1.a.) remained unknown.

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

The constitution and statutory law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but reports indicated that FAMa soldiers employed these tactics against individuals with suspected links to extremist groups, including groups affiliated with Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) (see also section 1.g.). The UN secretary-general’s March 26, June 1, and October 1 reports noted 73 instances of torture or cruel and inhuman treatment committed by the MDSF, signatory armed groups, militias, violent extremists, or unidentified armed actors during the first six months of the year.

In response to a video showing mistreatment of a suspect by four uniformed men, an October 13 communique from FAMa related to October arrests in Sofara (see also section 1.a.) pledged to investigate the alleged mistreatment, noting that FAMa had imposed disciplinary actions on the officers involved and that legal proceedings pertaining to their cases were pending with the gendarmerie.

Impunity was a significant problem in the defense and security forces, including FAMa, according to allegations from Amnesty International, MINUSMA’s HRPD, and various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The Ministry of Defense reportedly ordered investigations into several of the allegations made against FAMa, but the government provided limited information regarding the scope, progress, or findings of these investigations. The lack of transparency in the investigative process, the extended length of time required to order and complete an investigation, the absence of security force prosecutions related to human rights abuses, and limited visibility of outcomes of the few cases carried to trial all contributed to impunity within the defense and security forces. Human rights organizations maintained that insufficient resources, insecurity, and a lack of political will were the largest obstacles to fighting impunity.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions, and inadequate medical care caused prison conditions to be harsh and life-threatening.

Physical Conditions: As of November Bamako Central Prison held approximately 2,920 prisoners in a facility designed to hold 400. There was also significant overcrowding at other prisons. Detainees were separated by age (adults or minors), gender, and offense type (terrorist or criminal). Detention conditions were better in Bamako’s women’s prison than in prisons for men.

By law authorities may hold arrested individuals for up to 72 hours in police stations, where there were no separate holding areas for women and children. Prison authorities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. As of November authorities held 200 individuals arrested on charges related to terrorism in the higher security division of Bamako Central Prison and in Koulikoro. The combination of the general security situation, population growth, and overloaded, inefficient courts worsened already poor prison conditions by increasing the number of pretrial detainees and preventing the release of prisoners who completed their sentences. Gendarmerie and police detention centers were at maximum capacity at year’s end.

As of November the prison administration reported that 17 prisoners and detainees, including three inmates detained on terrorism charges, died in custody due to heart attacks and stress. The CNDH, an independent entity that received administrative and budgetary assistance from the Ministry of Justice, attributed the deaths to unhealthy prison conditions. Authorities had a limited ability to control prisons, including prisoner-on-prisoner violence.

Prison food was insufficient in both quality and quantity, and prison medical facilities were inadequate. Lack of sanitation continued to pose the most significant threat to prisoners’ health. Buckets were used as toilets. Not all prisoners had access to potable water.

Administration: There were no prison ombudsmen. The CNDH is charged with visiting prisons and ensuring acceptable conditions. The law allows the CNDH to visit prisons without seeking prior permission from prison authorities, although its last visit to a military detention center occurred in 2012 despite several subsequent requests to visit. The government’s Penitentiary Administration also investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions.

Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints, either directly through the CNDH or through the Office of the Ombudsman of the Republic, to judicial authorities to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. Prisoners also made verbal complaints to the CNDH during prison inspections regarding their detention conditions.

Detainees were generally allowed to observe their religious practices and had reasonable access to visitors.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by human rights monitors and organizations. The government required NGOs and other monitors to submit a request to the prison director, who then forwarded it to the Ministry of Justice. The Malian Association for Human Rights visited prisons in Kati, where a military detention center was located. Human rights observers with MINUSMA and the International Committee of the Red Cross regularly visited detention centers holding CMA and Platform members. International human rights and humanitarian organizations had access to most of these centers but not to detainees held in facilities operated by the DGSE.

Improvements: The government took steps to improve staff training and physical security measures. A nine-billion African Financial Community (CFA) franc ($16.4 million) prison construction project in Kenieroba, 30 miles south of Bamako, continued; the prison was partially operational. Although much of the structure was complete, the facility lacked adequate water, electricity, furnishings, and equipment. The prison was designed to hold 2,500 inmates and to meet international standards; as of September it held approximately 400 inmates.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law generally prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention. Nevertheless, government security forces arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained numerous individuals. Platform, CMA, and terrorist armed groups unlawfully detained individuals in connection with the continued conflict in the northern and central regions (see also section 1.g.).

The law allows detainees to challenge the legal basis or the arbitrary nature of their detention in court. Individuals are generally released promptly if their detention is determined to have been arbitrary, but the law does not provide for compensation from or recourse against the government.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law requires judicial warrants for arrest. It also requires police to charge suspects or release them within 48 hours of arrest. Although police usually secured warrants based on sufficient evidence and through issuance by a duly authorized official, these procedures were not always followed. The law provides for the transfer of detainees from police stations to the prosecutor’s office within 72 hours of arrest, but authorities sometimes held detainees longer in police stations. Lack of resources to conduct transfers was often cited as a contributing factor. Detainees have a limited right to bail, but authorities often granted conditional release for minor crimes and civil matters. Authorities occasionally released defendants on their own recognizance.

Detainees have the right to a lawyer of their choice or, if they cannot afford one, to a state-provided lawyer. Detainees are typically granted prompt access to their lawyers. Nevertheless, a shortage of private attorneys – particularly outside Bamako and Mopti – often prevented access to legal representation.

In many cases gendarmes detained suspects on DGSE orders and then transferred them for questioning to the DGSE, which generally held suspects for hours or days. Due to the country’s size, long travel times, poor road conditions, and inadequate personnel, however, the transfer process itself sometimes took more than a week, during which security services did not inform detainees of the charges against them. Authorities did not provide released detainees with transport back to the location of their arrest, trips that often required several days of travel.

Arbitrary Arrest: Human rights organizations reported widespread allegations of arbitrary arrest and detention by transition government security forces, armed groups, and terrorist groups. Detentions often occurred in the wake of attacks by bandits or terrorists and were targeted against members of the ethnic group suspected of carrying out the attacks.

Between September and late October, the DGSE arrested and detained six individuals (Colonel-Major Kassoum Goita, former deputy director of the DGSE; Moustapha Diakite, police commissioner and chief of the Second District of Police in the Kayes Region; FAMa officer Abdoulaye Ballo; Kalilou Doumbia, former secretary general of the presidency during the tenure of former transition president Bah N’Daw; marabout (Quranic teacher) Issa Samake; and businessman Sandi Ahmed Saloum). All were accused of plotting against the transition government. On November 5, the prosecutor of the Commune VI Tribunal of High Instance charged them with “criminal conspiracy and attempted assault and conspiracy against the government.”

According to MINUSMA, because the CMA gradually replaced the national government as a de facto authority in the north of the country, the CMA had illegally detained and pardoned individuals being held at the Kidal remand center.

Pretrial Detention: There are three categories of chargeable offenses or crimes: contraventions, misdemeanors, and felonies. The law provides for trials to occur within prescribed periods of time which vary according to possible sentences for the offense charged.

For contraventions, akin to minor misdemeanors, with a sentencing exposure of one to 10 days or a fine, there is no pretrial detention since no investigation period is necessary. For serious misdemeanors where sentencing exposure for conviction is less than two years’ incarceration, detention is limited to six months, which may be renewed once for a total legal pretrial detention period of one year. For minor felonies with a sentencing exposure ranging from two to five years’ incarceration, or serious felonies with potential sentences ranging from five years to life in prison (or the death penalty), a defendant may be detained for a year, renewable twice, for a total legal pretrial detention period of three years.

Despite these legal restrictions, pretrial detention beyond legal limits remained a problem. Judicial inefficiency, the large number of detainees, corruption, and staff shortages contributed to excessive pretrial detention. Individuals sometimes remained in prison for several years before their cases came to trial. As of November approximately 92 percent of inmates were in pretrial detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary and the right to a fair trial, but the executive branch exerted influence over the judicial system. Corruption and limited resources affected the fairness of trials. Bribery and influence-peddling were widespread in the courts, according to domestic human rights groups. There were problems enforcing court orders. In the northern and central regions, due to insecurity, judges were sometimes absent from their assigned areas for months at a time. Village chiefs and justices of the peace appointed by the government decided most disputes in rural areas. Justices of the peace had investigative, prosecutorial, and judicial functions. These traditional systems did not provide the same rights as civil and criminal courts.

Trial Procedures

The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and the judiciary generally tried to enforce this right. Inadequate staffing, lack of logistical support (such as translators), poor infrastructure (insufficient number of court buildings), undigitized records and case management systems, security concerns, and political pressure sometimes interfered with or hampered trial processes. Proceedings often were delayed, and some defendants waited years for their trials to begin, in many cases beyond legal pretrial detention limits. The law presumes that defendants are innocent until declared guilty by a judge. Defendants have the right to prompt and detailed information on the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary, from the moment charged through all appeals. Trials generally were public, except in cases involving minors and sensitive family matters, where courtrooms were closed to protect the interests of victims or other vulnerable parties.

Defendants have the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice, or to have one provided at public expense for felony cases and cases involving minors. When a court declares a defendant indigent, it provides an attorney at public expense and the court waives all fees. Administrative backlogs and an insufficient number of private attorneys, particularly in rural areas, often prevented prompt access. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to access government-held evidence, to confront witnesses, and to present their own witnesses and evidence. The government generally respected these rights. Defendants may not be compelled to testify against themselves or confess guilt. They may appeal decisions to the Appellate Court and the Supreme Court. The law extends these rights to all citizens.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were reports of political prisoners or detainees. Local human rights organizations considered the arrest and detention of Kassoum Goita and Kalilou Doumbia (see also section 1.d., Arbitrary Arrest) to be politically motivated. As of November there were an estimated two political prisoners in the country. Medical treatment for political prisoners was sometimes delayed or denied. Human rights and humanitarian organizations had inconsistent access to political prisoners relative to other detainees.

Following the May 24 consolidation of military power, authorities arrested then transition president Bah N’Daw and then prime minister Moctar Ouane and detained them on a military base. Although N’Daw and Ouane were released from detention on May 27, they were subsequently placed under house arrest. On July 1, the CNDH reported it was denied access to N’Daw and Ouane during their detention under house arrest. On August 27, the transition government released N’Daw and Ouane from house arrest.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights abuses. They may appeal their cases to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In cases of hereditary slavery, there were reports that civil court orders were sometimes difficult to enforce.

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

The constitution and statutory law prohibit unlawful interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

g. Conflict-related Abuses

The military and several armed groups committed serious human rights abuses in the northern and central parts of the country. These armed groups included former separatist forces such as the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, High Council for the Unity of Azawad, and the Arab Movement of Azawad; northern militias aligned with the government, such as the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad and the Imghad Tuareg and Allies Self-Defense Group (GATIA); and terrorist and extremist organizations such as ISIS in the Greater Sahara, JNIM, Macina Liberation Front, and al-Mourabitoun. Most human rights abuses committed by the military appeared to target Fulani, Tuareg, and Arab individuals and were believed to be either retaliation for attacks attributed to armed groups associated with those ethnicities or the result of increased counterterrorism operations.

The government failed to pursue and investigate human rights abuses in the north, which was widely controlled by the CMA. Despite international assistance with investigating some human rights cases in the central region, no cases there were prosecuted.

Killings: The military, former rebel groups, northern militias whose interests aligned with the government, and terrorist organizations unlawfully killed persons throughout the country, especially in the central and, to a lesser extent, northern regions. Terrorist groups and unidentified individuals or groups carried out many attacks resulting in the deaths of members of the security force, members of signatory armed groups, UN peacekeepers, and civilians.

Ethnic Fulani in the central Mopti and Segou Regions reported abuses by government security forces. MINUSMA’s HRPD reported that on January 11, three civilians were killed by FAMa in Hombori, not far from a FAMa military base. The HRPD also reported that on January 15, five civilians from the Fulani ethnic group, including an employee of the international NGO Doctors Without Borders who was abducted in the Douentza area on January 10, were found dead near the town of Wami, not far from the Hombori FAMa military base. The HRPD further reported at least 20 civilians were killed and 18 wounded by the MDSF during military operations conducted between April and June.

According to the June report of the UN secretary-general, on March 18, the country’s armed forces unlawfully executed two individuals, injured four persons, and mistreated at least 30 others in Boni near Douentza, following the detonation of an IED in the area that injured soldiers. The UN secretary-general’s report stated as of June there were 303 conflict-related civilian deaths, including 145 from January to March and 158 from April to June, a decrease from the casualties registered during the same period in 2020. The report also stated that most conflict-related civilian deaths occurred in Mopti Region, Bandiagara, Douentza, and Segou Region.

On August 8, at least 42 civilians were killed in the villages of Ouatagouna, Karou, and Dirga in the Ansongo Circle, Gao Region, by unidentified armed individuals.

Abductions: Jihadist groups; armed groups associated with the CMA alliance; Platform-associated militias, such as GATIA; and ethnic self-defense militia groups reportedly held hostages. In the central region, the ethnic self-defense militia Dan Na Ambassagou (DNA) carried out dozens of abductions of civilians from Dogon villages that did not pay the money that DNA requested in lieu of the forced conscription of the villagers. On April 8, a French journalist, Olivier Dubois, was abducted in Gao. JNIM claimed responsibility for the abduction. Dubois remained in captivity as of November.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Human rights NGOs reported instances of conflict-related physical abuse, torture, and punishment perpetrated by the MDSF, armed groups, ethnic self-defense groups, and terrorist organizations.

Child Soldiers: The transition government’s National Directorate for the Protection of Children and Families reported that it had identified 30 cases of child soldiers during the year.

There were no known cases of FAMa using child soldiers during the year. On August 18, the militia group GATIA issued a statement expressing its commitment against use of children in armed conflict. On August 26, Platform, the armed group to which GATIA belongs, signed a UN action plan designed to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

According to two reports of the UN secretary-general to the UN Security Council covering the first nine months of the year, the United Nations documented 275 cases of recruitment and use of child soldiers by armed groups. According to those reports, 199 of the children were released to civilian child-protection organizations following UN intervention. The reports stated the government inappropriately detained some of these children, and that the government held some children comingled with adults in military detention centers. At the end of November, approximately 15 children remained in detention for association with armed groups. According to MINUSMA, four boys were detained between July and September for association with armed groups; however, they were released to child protection civilian partners after one to two days. Since January UNICEF assisted 256 children who were released from armed groups.

The HRPD reported exploitation of children in the gold mines controlled by the CMA in Kidal and that within the framework of a CMA operation to strengthen security in Kidal, children were used to manage checkpoints.

The government reported no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of corrupt and complicit officials or traffickers for child-soldier offenses during the year.

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

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

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, but the government occasionally restricted this right. Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views with some restrictions. In December 2020 the transition government declared a state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic; the state of emergency was not renewed as of June 26. According to a letter sent from the Ministry of Territorial Administration to regional and local authorities, the state of emergency granted authorities the power to take “all necessary measures” to control the press, social media, and other media, including radio and television broadcasts. There were no reports, however, that authorities used emergency measures to control the press and media.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: There was generally good public access to private radio stations and newspapers.

Financial considerations skewed press coverage. Most media outlets had limited resources. Journalists’ salaries were extremely low, and many outlets could not pay the transportation costs for their journalists to attend media events. Journalists often asked event organizers to pay their transportation costs, and the terms “transportation money” and “per diem” were euphemisms for a pay-for-coverage system, with better-financed organizations often receiving more favorable press coverage.

Violence and Harassment: The media environment in Bamako and the rest of the south was relatively open, although there were sporadic reports of threats against journalists. Reporting on the situation in the north remained dangerous due to the presence of active armed groups (see also section 1.g., Disappearances, case of Olivier Dubois).

There were no known restrictions of online media during the year, but journalists or radio announcers were arrested in relation to their work. For example on April 29, independent journalist Malick Konate and radio announcer Issa Kaba were arrested by police in Bamako following publication of their articles denouncing an electricity shortage. They were not formally charged and were released from police custody on April 30.

In July the NGO Reporters Without Borders reported that authorities arrested former DGSE head Moussa Diwara for the 2016 abduction, illegal detention, and abuse of journalist Birama Toure.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law imposes fines and prison sentences for conviction of defamation.

On May 17, the former head of the Land and Real Estate Sales Agency, Mamadou Tieni Konate, and a radio announcer, Kassim Traore of Radio Kledu, were charged with defamation by the Bamako Commune II Tribunal for claiming Baba Maiga, a local businessman, was involved in corruption. They were convicted and in August they were each sentenced to six months imprisonment and a fine of 150,000 CFA francs ($270).

National Security: The law criminalizes offenses such as undermining state security, demoralizing the armed forces, offending the head of state, sedition, and consorting with the enemy. In December 2020 five prominent figures, including popular radio presenter Ras Bath, were arrested for allegedly conspiring to destabilize the transition government. The public prosecutor’s office subsequently announced that those five individuals and a sixth (Boubou Cisse, former president Keita’s prime minister) were under investigation for “conspiracy against the government, criminal association, and insulting the head of state.” The prosecutor accused Bath of instigating public opinion against the transition government through radio broadcasts where Bath criticized transition authorities. In March the Appeals Court of Bamako ordered the dismissal of charges against the defendants, and the Supreme Court confirmed the dismissal on April 19.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports suggesting the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom and cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, but the government did not always respect this freedom.  For example, on July 16, the government refused to grant authorization to teachers’ unions to hold demonstrations.

Freedom of Association

The constitution provides for freedom of association, although the law prohibits associations deemed immoral. The government generally respected freedom of association, but because the government considered the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community as immoral, freedom of association for members of the LGBTQI+ community remained problematic.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

In-country Movement: While in-country movement was not formally restricted, the military and some militias established checkpoints, ostensibly to maintain security. The unstable security situation, armed groups’ deliberate targeting of infrastructure such as bridges, and embargos by armed groups on cities such as Farabougou and Dinangourou also limited freedom of movement. The inhabitants of Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu, and parts of Mopti feared leaving the cities for security reasons, including the threat from IEDs (see also section 1.g., Conflict-related Abuses). MINUSMA and NGOs complained they were often hindered from conducting patrols or carrying out humanitarian missions due to impromptu checkpoints by various militias and armed groups such as DNA and the CMA.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Insecurity, banditry, ethnic conflict, and intercommunal violence in the north and central parts of the country forced many persons to flee their homes, sometimes seeking refuge outside the country. Regional insecurity, particularly in neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso, led to the return of Malian refugees. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported 401,736 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country as of September 30. Approximately 115,000 IDPs were registered in the previous 12 months. According to the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, children constituted approximately 60 percent of IDPs in the country.

The Ministry of Health and Social Development registered IDPs, and the government assisted IDPs. IDPs generally lived with relatives, friends, or in rented accommodations. Most IDPs resided in urban areas and had access to food, water, and other forms of assistance. As many as one-half of all displaced families lacked the official identity documents needed to facilitate access to public services including schools, although identification was not required for humanitarian assistance. Aid groups provided humanitarian assistance to IDPs residing throughout the country, as access permitted.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government generally cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing humanitarian assistance, including some protection services, to refugees, returning refugees, and asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern. Insecurity affected the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. A national committee in charge of refugees operated with assistance from UNHCR. UNHCR reported 47,884 refugees and asylum seekers as of August 31, most of whom arrived from neighboring Niger, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso. UNHCR also reported 606,617 IDP returnees and 83,712 refugee returnees to the country as of September 30. This significant increase in IDP returnees and the steady increase in refugee flows strained already scarce resources dedicated to protecting and caring for refugees. Approximately 15,000 refugees registered in the country were of Afro-Mauritanian origin.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: Refugees and migrants regularly transited through contested territory where there was often little government control or oversight. During September UNHCR recorded 83 incidents of physical violence towards refugees and migrants by armed groups and border authorities.

Durable Solutions: The government offered naturalization to Mauritanian refugees. During the year the government supported the voluntary repatriation of 57 Ivorian refugees to Cote d’Ivoire. The worsening security situation in the country hindered consideration of resettlement of refugees in the country.

Temporary Protection: The government’s National Directorate for Social Development was responsible for providing temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. The National Commission for Refugees adjudicated refugee and asylum claims and provided temporary protection, pending a decision on whether to grant asylum.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, and citizens in the past exercised that right, but with some difficulty. The country had a military coup d’etat in August 2020, followed by a civilian-led transition government in September 2020 that was itself overthrown by the military on May 24. A new civilian-led transition government was subsequently formed; it announced plans to hold elections by February 27, 2022.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Originally scheduled for October 2018, legislative elections were held in March 2020. In April 2020 runoff elections took place. Restricted freedom of movement, logistical challenges, allegations of voter intimidation, election tampering, and financial limitations prevented many opposition candidates from campaigning in much of the central and northern parts of the country. In the months following the legislative elections, the constitutional court vacated key election results, especially in Bamako District, in favor of the then ruling party. The court’s action led to widespread civil unrest and efforts by ECOWAS to resolve the ensuing constitutional crisis.

In August 2020 military officers overthrew the elected government in a coup d’etat. The National Assembly was dissolved by then president Keita following the coup. ECOWAS swiftly imposed sanctions on the country, initially demanding an immediate return to constitutional order and eventually agreeing to an 18-month civilian transition government. In September 2020 a former minister of defense, retired colonel major Bah N’Daw, was sworn in as president of a transition government, and coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita was sworn in as transition government vice president. Later in September 2020, N’Daw named former minister of foreign affairs Moctar Ouane as prime minister of the transition government. In December 2020, 121 persons were nominated and subsequently confirmed to the National Transition Council (CNT), which played the role of the transition legislature. Goita selected the CNT’s members, the plurality of whom hailed from the MDSF.

On May 24, N’Daw and Ouane were arrested by the military, placed in detention for three days, and then placed under house arrest. On June 7, Goita became the new transition president. On June 11, a new government cabinet was formed with Choguel Kokalla Maiga as prime minister. On August 27, the transition government released N’Daw and Ouane from house arrest.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Cultural or religious factors, however, sometimes limited women’s political participation in formal and informal roles due to a perception that it was taboo or improper to have women in such roles. The law requires that at least 30 percent of the slots on party election lists be reserved for female candidates and that 30 percent of high-level government appointees be women. Six of the 25 ministers and delegate ministers of the transition government were women.

Compliance with the law mandating female candidate participation was nearly achieved for the March and April 2020 legislative elections, with 41 seats of the 147-member National Assembly going to women, representing 28 percent of the National Assembly. The National Assembly was dissolved following the August 2020 coup.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: Corruption in all sectors of the administration was widespread. Authorities did not hold police accountable for corruption. Officials, police, and gendarmes frequently extorted bribes.

In June the general auditor released reports on government and public institution waste, fraud, and abuse. The management of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Project was investigated from February 18 to June 25 for financial verification and conformity. The investigation revealed irregularities of more than five billion CFA francs ($9.1 million). On August 26, former prime minister (2017-19) Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga and the former economy and finance minister (2013-15) Bouare Fily Sissoko, were arrested after being charged by the Supreme Court with forgery and falsification of records, misappropriation of public funds, corruption, abuse of influence, and favoritism. On September 21, four military officers were arrested and charged with misappropriation of public funds of the Ministry of Defense.

On November 15, the Appeals Court of Bamako began the second session of a Court of Assizes focusing on corruption cases. On November 17, the court heard the case of Salia Diarra, the mayor of Baguineda in the Koulikoro Region, charged with misuse of public funds totaling nearly 530 million CFA francs ($964,000). On November 19, Diarra was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. On November 22, the court heard the case of former president of the Chamber of Agriculture Bakary Togola, arrested in 2019 and charged with misuse of public funds and embezzlement totaling 9.5 billion CFA francs ($17.3 million). On November 29, Togola was acquitted of all charges.

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

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. According to human rights organizations, government and military officials were generally not transparent, cooperative, or responsive to calls for investigations and prosecutions of allegations of human rights abuses by the MDSF.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The CNDH was an independent institution that received administrative and budgetary assistance from the Ministry of Justice. The government provided the CNDH with office space and staff. The CNDH’s membership included civil society representatives. The CNDH issued statements on several cases of human rights abuses, including the January 3 French forces’ airstrike in Bounti and the house arrest of former transition officials.

The Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission was created in 2014 to accept evidence, hold hearings, and recommend transitional justice measures for crimes and human rights abuses stemming from the 2012 crisis when rebel and terrorist groups invaded the country and began attacking military bases and government entities. In the commission’s third public hearing in April, 14 victims testified on cases of forced disappearances. According to the UN secretary-general’s October report to the UN Security Council, as of September 6, the commission had heard testimony from 22,507 persons, up from 19,198 persons at the end of 2020.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women and men, with a penalty of five to 20 years’ imprisonment for conviction, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. Rape was a widespread problem. Authorities prosecuted only a small percentage of rape cases. Survivors seldom reported rapes due to societal pressure, particularly because attackers were frequently close relatives, and due to fear of retaliation. No law explicitly prohibits spousal rape, but law enforcement officials stated that criminal laws against rape could apply to spousal rape. Police and judicial authorities investigated rape cases but were also willing to stop pursuing cases if parties privately reached an agreement prior to trial. This promoted an environment where survivors might be pressured by family to accept monetary compensation instead of seeking justice through the legal system.

In the June 1 report of the UN secretary-general to the UN Security Council on the situation in the country, MINUSMA documented at least two cases of conflict-related sexual violence. According to the report, the cases included the gang rape of a woman by unidentified armed individuals in the city of Menaka on March 27 and the mid-March gang rape of a Fulani woman. The latter was allegedly committed by members of the Dozo ethnic group in Niono, Segou Region.

Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, was prevalent. A 2012-13 gender assessment found a vast majority of women in the country suffered from domestic violence. The assessment concluded that 76 percent of women believed it was acceptable for a man to beat a woman for burning food, arguing, going out without telling the man, being negligent with children, or refusing to have sexual intercourse. The 2018 Mali Demographic and Health Survey concluded that 79 percent of women and 47 percent of men believed this behavior was justified. The survey found 49 percent of women experienced spousal violence (emotional, physical, or sexual), 43 percent of women ages 15 to 49 experienced physical violence, and one in every eight women experienced sexual violence. Of women who experienced domestic violence, 68 percent never sought help or told anyone.

Spousal abuse is a crime, but the law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. According to human rights organizations, most cases went unreported because of cultural taboos and a lack of understanding regarding legal recourse. Conviction of assault is punishable by prison terms of one to five years and substantial fines. The sentence may be increased up to 10 years’ imprisonment if the assault is found to be premeditated. Police were often reluctant to intervene in cases of domestic violence. Many women were reluctant to file complaints against their husbands due to financial dependence concerns, or to avoid social stigma, retaliation, or ostracism. The Planning and Statistics Unit in the Ministry of Justice, established to track prosecutions, did not produce reliable statistics.

The United Nations reported an increase in conflict-related sexual violence attributable to extremist armed elements and signatory armed groups in the northern and central parts of the country. UNHCR and NGOs serving refugees and asylum seekers reported rising incidences of gender-based violence against refugees, asylum seekers, and IDPs, attributed to the deterioration of the protective environment for women and girls. Of 3,744 cases of gender-based violence against IDPs reported between January and June, more than half were rapes and physical assaults that took place while women carried out daily activities such as collecting water or firewood and traveling locally. UNHCR reported 196 cases of gender-based violence in the refugee population as of August 31. UNICEF reported that it provided more than 108,000 women and children with access to services related to the mitigation of, prevention of, or intervention in cases of gender-based violence.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is legal in the country and, except in certain northern areas, all religious and ethnic groups practiced it widely, particularly in rural areas. Although FGM/C is legal, authorities prohibited the practice in government-funded health centers.

Parents generally had FGM/C performed on girls between ages six months and nine years. According to the 2018 Mali Demographic and Health Survey, 89 percent of women ages 15 to 49 were circumcised, but this varied widely by geographic location, with rates ranging from 2 percent in Gao to more than 95 percent in Koulikoro and Sikasso. Approximately 76 percent of circumcisions occurred prior to age five, and circumcision was almost always performed by a traditional practitioner (99 percent). According to the survey, approximately 70 percent of men and 69 percent of women believed excision was required by religion and three-quarters of the population, regardless of gender, believed the practice should continue. Government information campaigns regarding the dangers of FGM/C reached citizens throughout the country where security allowed, and human rights organizations reported decreased incidence of FGM/C among children of educated parents.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, which routinely occurred, including in schools, without any government efforts to prevent it.

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

While no government policy adversely affected access to contraception, women and girls faced cultural and social barriers such as needing the consent of their husbands and influential members of the household to manage their reproductive health.

Distant health-care facilities and flooded roadways during rainy season negatively affected the ability of those living in rural areas to easily access adequate health care.

In accessing information regarding their reproductive health, women with disabilities faced distinct barriers, such as physical barriers to entry into health-care facilities, communication barriers, discriminatory and disrespectful treatment from health-care providers, and the lack of reproductive health information in accessible formats.

While government sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, were available to survivors of sexual violence, including survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, the services were rarely specialized and survivors often sought care from general health facilities. Through Spotlight, an initiative supported by the European Union, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and UN Women, the country provided specialized assistance to survivors of gender-based violence, including family planning counseling, at the referral-health-center level via 10 “one-stop centers” in Bamako, Gao, Mopti, Kayes, and Koulikoro.

The maternal mortality rate was estimated at 325 per 100,000 live births, and 67 percent of women delivered in health centers assisted by skilled health workers. The key drivers of maternal mortality included poor access to and use of quality prenatal, delivery, and postnatal care services. The primary direct obstetric causes of maternal mortality were hemorrhage (37 percent), eclampsia (11 percent), and sepsis (11 percent). FGM/C was a significant public-health problem that contributed to maternal morbidity. According to UNFPA, the adolescent birth rate was 164 births per 1,000 girls.

There are no legal barriers related to menstruation or access to menstruation hygiene. Sociocultural barriers, however, impeded equal participation of women and girls in society in certain instances. Educational materials on menstrual hygiene management were scarce, and teachers often lacked knowledge on puberty and menstrual hygiene management. In a 2020 NGO study, more than a quarter of girls reported developing a genital condition related to improper menstrual hygiene, and 14 percent of girls missed classes due to pain during a menstrual cycle. According to the same study, more than half of girls attending school had problems concentrating in class due to menstrual periods, and menstruation caused three-quarters of girls to miss school due to the need to go home to change menstrual products to avoid embarrassment.

No law impedes adolescent girls’ access to education due to pregnancy or motherhood status. The law allows for the deferment, upon request, of education in secondary school for pregnant students. Many girls and their families were not informed of their rights and social stigma still prevented pregnant girls from attending school. Additionally, a lack of childcare was a barrier to girls’ access to education due to motherhood status.

Discrimination: The law does not provide the same legal status and rights for women as for men, particularly concerning divorce and inheritance. Women are legally obligated to obey their husbands and are particularly vulnerable in cases of divorce, child custody, and inheritance. There were legal restrictions on women holding employment in the same occupations, tasks, and industries as men. Women had very limited access to legal services due to their lack of education, lack of information, and the prohibitive cost. Despite the discriminatory nature of the law, the government effectively enforced it. The Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Children, and the Family is responsible for providing for the legal rights of women.

While the law provides for equal property rights, traditional practices and ignorance of the law prevented women from taking full advantage of their rights. The marriage contract must specify if the couple wishes to share estate rights. If marriage certificates of Muslim couples do not specify the type of marriage, judges presume the marriage to be polygynous.

According to MINUSMA, extremist groups were responsible for intimidating and threatening women into “modesty” by forcing women in the regions of Timbuktu and Mopti to wear a veil. Reportedly, in the Dianke area of Timbuktu, several unveiled women were threatened, while in Binedama in the Mopti Region, all women were forced to wear a veil.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Societal discrimination continued against Black Tuaregs, often referred to as Bellah. Some Tuareg groups deprived Black Tuaregs of basic civil liberties due to hereditary slavery-like practices and hereditary servitude relationships.

There were continued reports of slaveholders kidnapping the children of their Bellah slaves. Slaveholders considered slaves and their children as property and reportedly took children of slaves to raise them elsewhere without permission from their parents. The antislavery organization Temedt organized workshops in Kayes Region to convince communities to abandon the practice of keeping slaves.

On August 18, at the end of a regional forum to strengthen social cohesion organized by the Kayes governor’s office and international NGO Mercy Corps, the regional government in Kayes signed a draft charter to end hereditary slavery. This draft charter was supported by NGOs and community leaders as well as the regional government.

On November 4, an investigating judge in Kayes Region ordered the arrest of 36 proslavery suspects for their alleged role in violent attacks against antislavery activists and victims of hereditary slavery in the Bafoulabe Circle that killed one person and injured 12 others on September 28 and 29. The suspects were transferred from a prison in Bafoulabe to Kayes for additional oversight. On November 11, Minister of Justice Mamoudou Kassogue instructed all public prosecutors to prosecute hereditary slavery to the fullest extent of the law.

Members of the Fulani (or Peul) ethnic group frequently clashed with members of the Dogon and, separately, with Bambara communities regarding alleged Fulani support of armed Islamists linked to al-Qa’ida. According to Human Rights Watch, this tension caused a rise in ethnic “self-defense groups” and drove thousands from their homes, diminished livelihoods, and induced widespread hunger. Groups representing these communities were reportedly involved in several communal attacks, and retaliatory attacks were common.

In the central region, violence across community lines escalated. Clashes between the Dogon and Fulani communities were exacerbated by the presence of extremist groups and resulted in large numbers of civilian deaths (see also section 1.g., Killings).

Intercommunal violence related to disputes regarding transhumant (seasonal migration) cattle grazing occurred among Dogon, Bambara, and Fulani communities in the Mopti Region, between Bambara and Fulani in the Segou Region, and among various Tuareg and Arab groups in the regions of Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal.

Children

According to 2019 estimates, more than one-half of the population was younger than age 18.

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from either parent or by birth within the country. The law stipulates registration within 30 days of birth. A fine may be levied for registration occurring after the 30-day period. Girls were less likely to be registered.

The government did not register all births immediately, particularly in rural areas. Some organizations stated there were insufficient registration sites to accommodate all villages, further exacerbating the low registration rates in certain areas. According to a 2019 UNICEF report, 13 percent of children younger than five were not registered, while 22 percent of registered children did not receive birth certificates. Lack or inaccessibility of services, lack of birth registration books, and parental ignorance regarding the importance of birth certificates were among the challenges for birth registration.

According to UNICEF, the government registered nearly 90 percent of births in 2019. The government conducted an administrative census in 2014 that collected biometric data and assigned a unique identifying number to every citizen. The process allowed the registration of children not registered at birth, although the number of birth certificates assigned was unknown.

Several local NGOs worked with foreign partners to register children at birth and to educate parents regarding the benefits of registration, which was critical for access to education and government services. Birth registration also played an essential role in protecting children, as well as facilitating their release and reintegration if recruited by armed groups or detained by authorities.

Education: The constitution provides for tuition-free universal education, and the law provides for compulsory schooling of children ages six through 15. Nevertheless, many children did not attend school. Parents often had to pay their children’s school fees as well as provide their uniforms and supplies. Other factors affecting school enrollment included long distances to the nearest school, lack of transportation, shortages of teachers, a protracted teachers’ strike during the year, shortages of instructional materials, and lack of school feeding programs. Girls’ enrollment was lower than that of boys at all levels due to poverty, a cultural preference to educate boys, the early marriage of girls, sexual harassment of girls, lack of access to menstruation hygiene, and pregnancy and motherhood status (see also section 6, Reproductive Rights). According to the 2018 Mali Demographic and Health Survey, two-thirds of women ages 15 to 49 had no education, compared with 53 percent of men in the same age range, and only 28 percent of women were literate, compared with 47 percent of men. According to a UNICEF report in May, more than two million children ages five to 17 did not go to school and more than half of persons ages 15 to 24 were illiterate. An October UN secretary-general’s report to the UN Security Council estimated that more than 478,000 children in the country were affected by school closures during the year.

As of June 1, the conflict had caused the closure of at least 1,595 schools in the north and central regions of Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu, Mopti, and Segou. School closures began in June in the southern regions of Koulikoro and Sikasso. Many schools were damaged or destroyed because rebels sometimes used them as bases of operations. The United Nations reported government security forces sometimes used school compounds as bases. Most closed schools were in Mopti Region.

Child Abuse: Comprehensive government statistics on child abuse did not exist, but the problem was widespread. Most child abuse cases went unreported. The United Nations documented in the March, June, and October UN secretary-general’s reports 636 cases of grave abuses (defined as recruitment or use of children as soldiers, killing and maiming of children, rape and other grave sexual violence, abductions, attacks on schools and hospitals, or denial of humanitarian access to children) against 467 children between January and September. Police and the social services department in the Ministry of Solidarity and Humanitarian Action investigated and intervened in some reported cases of child abuse or neglect, but the government provided few services for such children (see also section 1.g., Child Soldiers).

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age to marry without parental consent is 16 for girls and 18 for boys. A girl age 15 may marry with parental consent and with approval of a civil judge. Authorities did not effectively enforce the law, particularly in rural areas, and child, early, and forced marriage was widespread throughout the country. Girls were also forced into marriage with combatants and leaders of armed groups. According to 2017 data from UNICEF, 54 percent of women were married by age 18 and 16 percent before age 15.

In some regions, especially Kayes and Koulikoro, girls married as young as age 10. It was common practice for a girl age 14 to marry a man twice her age. According to local human rights organizations, officials frequently accepted false birth certificates or other documents claiming girls younger than age 15 were old enough to marry. NGOs implemented awareness campaigns aimed at abating child, early, and forced marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the sexual exploitation of children, including commercial sexual exploitation. The country has a statutory rape law that defines 18 as the minimum age for consensual sex. The law, which was inconsistent with the legal minimum marriage age of 15 for girls, was not enforced. Sexual exploitation of children occurred.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The government criminalized the act of infanticide. The August Court of Assizes session heard two cases of infanticide.

Displaced Children: According to an August UNICEF report, children made up approximately 64 percent of IDPs in 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were fewer than 50 Jews in the country, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities could not access education, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. Persons with disabilities had access to basic health care. The government did not regularly provide official information and communications in accessible formats. The constitution and law do not specifically protect the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in access to employment, education, air travel and other transportation, health care, the judicial system, and state services. No law mandates accessibility to public buildings. Many individuals with disabilities relied on begging.

Persons with mental disabilities faced social stigmatization in public institutions.

The Ministry of Solidarity and Humanitarian Action was responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The ministry sponsored activities to promote income-earning opportunities for persons with disabilities. The ministry also worked with NGOs such as the Malian Federation of Associations for Handicapped Persons, which provided basic services. Although the government was responsible for eight schools countrywide for deaf persons, it provided almost no resources or other support for deaf persons.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Societal discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS occurred. HIV positivity was often locally perceived to be synonymous with LGBTQI+ identity. The government implemented campaigns to increase awareness of the condition and reduce discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS.

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

According to local NGOs, LGBTQI+ individuals experienced physical, psychological, and sexual violence, which society viewed as “corrective” punishment. Police frequently refused to intervene when such violence occurred.

The law prohibits conduct pertaining to “attacks on morality,” thereby criminalizing, on a de facto basis, consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. The government actively enforced this law. Anecdotal evidence suggested LGBTQI+ individuals were at risk of violence if their status were known; their full protection remained in question.

In October the prosecutor of the Bamako Commune IV Tribunal of High Instance charged three women on the grounds of incitement to debauchery (under the same section of the law pertaining to “attacks on morality”) and violation of private communications. Two of the women were imprisoned before being granted provisional release on November 2. The third woman was charged with the same alleged crimes but fled to Cote d’Ivoire. In the same case, another woman was prosecuted but not detained. Media reports characterized the women as part of “a network of lesbians.” During the year there were no other examples of the use of this law criminalizing, on a de facto basis, consensual same-sex conduct between adults.

Most LGBTQI+ individuals isolated themselves and kept their sexual orientation or gender identity hidden. An NGO reported that LGBTQI+ individuals frequently dropped out of school, left their places of employment, and did not seek medical treatment to hide their sexual identity and avoid social stigmatization.

No laws specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Some NGOs provided medical and support services focusing specifically on men having sex with men or HIV prevention.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for workers, except members of the armed forces, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. There are restrictions which limit these rights, such as the requirement that workers must be employed in the relevant profession before they may form a union. A worker may remain a member of a trade union only for a year after leaving the relevant function or profession. Members responsible for the administration or management of a union must reside in the country and be free of any legal convictions that could suspend their right to vote in national elections. The process to register a union was cumbersome and time-consuming, and the government sometimes denied trade union registration on arbitrary or ambiguous grounds.

The minister of labor and public service has the sole authority to approve sectoral collective agreements and to decide which unions participate in sectoral collective bargaining. Employers have the discretion to refuse to bargain with representatives of trade unions. The law allows all types of strikes and prohibits retribution against strikers. Unions must exhaust the mandatory conciliation and arbitration procedures set out in the labor code before they may strike legally. Regulations require civil servants and workers in state-owned enterprises to give two weeks’ notice of a planned strike and to enter into mediation and negotiations with the employer and a third party, usually the Ministry of Labor and Public Service.

The law does not allow workers in “essential services” sectors to strike, and the minister of labor may order compulsory arbitration for such workers. The law defines “essential services” as services whose interruption would endanger the lives, personal safety, or health of persons; affect the normal operation of the national economy; or affect a vital industrial sector. For example, the law requires striking police to maintain a minimum presence in headquarters and on the street. The government, however, does not have a list of essential services.

Participation in an illegal strike is punishable by harsh penalties, including dismissal and loss of other rights except wages and leave. Civil servants exercised the right to strike. In May the large National Workers’ Union of Mali went on strike, demanding the equalization of salaries and benefits of all public workers. Teachers’ unions also went on strike in August, demanding a salary increase and calling for a boycott of end-of-year exams if the transition government failed to accede to union demands for better working and living conditions.

Although the law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity, the government did not effectively enforce relevant laws. Penalties for violating antiunion discrimination provisions were commensurate with penalties for comparable offenses. The Ministry of Labor and Public Service did not have adequate resources to conduct inspections or perform mediation. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Authorities did not consistently respect freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, although workers generally exercised these rights. The government did not always respect unions’ right to conduct their activities without interference.

Although unions and worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties, they were closely aligned with various political parties or coalitions.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but forced labor occurred. The law prohibits the contractual use of persons without their consent, and conviction includes fines and imprisonment with compulsory hard labor. Penalties may be doubled if a person younger than 15 is involved. Penalties were seldom enforced and therefore were not sufficient to deter these crimes. Penalties were commensurate with penalties for comparable crimes. According to NGOs, the judiciary was reluctant to act in forced labor cases. The government made little effort to prevent or eliminate forced labor, although it did allocate funding to its antitrafficking action plan. Government officials reportedly interfered in hereditary slavery cases, threatening and intimidating individuals in an effort to have charges dismissed. Prosecutors charged most hereditary slavery cases as misdemeanor offenses under discrimination, destruction of crops, or burglary statutes, which prescribed significantly lower penalties than those available under the trafficking law.

Most adult forced labor occurred in the agricultural sector, especially rice, cotton, dry cereal, and corn cultivation, and in artisanal gold mining, domestic services, and in other sectors of the informal economy. Forced child labor occurred in the same sectors. Corrupt religious teachers compelled boys into begging and other types of forced labor or service (see also section 7.c.).

The salt mines of Taoudeni in the north subjected men and boys, primarily of Songhai ethnicity, to the longstanding practice of debt bondage. Employers subjected many Black Tuaregs to forced labor and hereditary slavery, particularly in the eastern and northern regions of Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal (see also section 6, Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits most of the worst forms of child labor and prescribes a minimum age of employment of 15, limitations on working hours, and occupational safety and health restrictions for children. No child may work more than eight hours per day under any circumstance. Girls between ages six and 18 may not work more than six hours per day. The government’s Hazardous Occupations List prohibits certain activities by children younger than 18. This law applies to all children, including those who work in the informal economy and those who are self-employed. Gaps exist in the legal framework to protect children adequately from the worst forms of child labor, and the law does not meet international standards regarding the prohibition of forced labor, the prohibition against using children in illicit activities, and the prohibition of military recruitment by nonstate armed groups.

Responsibility for enforcing child labor laws was shared among the Ministry for the Promotion of Children and Women, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Security, the National Social Security Institute through its health service, and the Ministry of Labor and Public Service. Interagency coordinating mechanisms were ineffective, inefficient, and cumbersome. Authorities often ignored child labor laws or did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Resources, inspections, and remediation were not adequate. The penalties for violations were commensurate with penalties for similar crimes but were not applied in all sectors.

Child labor, particularly in its worst forms, was a serious problem. Child labor was concentrated in the agricultural sector, especially rice and cotton production, but it was also found in domestic services, gold mining, forced begging organized by Quranic schools, and other sectors of the informal economy. Insecurity forced many schools to close, particularly in the regions of Sikasso and Mopti. Children not attending school were more vulnerable to labor exploitation, and children orphaned or separated from their families sometimes became victims of forced labor.

Approximately 25 percent of children between ages five and 14 were economically active, and employers subjected more than 40 percent of economically active children to the worst forms of child labor. Many children were engaged in hazardous activities in agriculture. Armed groups used child soldiers in the northern and central parts of the country (see also section 1.g.). Child trafficking occurred. Employers used children, especially girls, for forced domestic labor. Employers forced Black Tuareg children to work as domestic and agricultural laborers.

Traffickers targeted unaccompanied children and poor families, promising work opportunities, then selling them as laborers for farm and domestic work. Traffickers transported children across the border to Cote d’Ivoire to work on cocoa farms. In October 2020 the University of Chicago released a report showing West African child labor in cocoa production had increased 13 percent during a 10-year period, coinciding with a 62 percent growth in cocoa production. Although child labor increased, the report indicated that some interventions against hazardous child labor may have worked because there was no corresponding increase in hazardous child labor incidents in cocoa production due to using sharp tools, undertaking land clearing, working long hours or at night, and exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Child labor in artisanal gold mining was a serious problem. According to a March 2020 report from the Ministry of Environment on a 2019 action plan to reduce and eliminate the use of mercury in the artisanal mining sector, approximately 45,700 children worked under extremely harsh and hazardous conditions in artisanal gold mines and represented 9 percent of the artisanal mining workforce. Many of these children worked with mercury, a toxic substance used in separating gold from its ore.

An unknown number of primary-school-age boys throughout the country, most of them younger than 10, attended part-time Quranic schools funded by students and their parents. Some marabouts often forced their garibouts or talibes (students) to beg for money on the streets or to work as laborers in the agricultural sector. Any money earned was usually returned to their teachers. In some cases talibes worked as domestic workers without receiving compensation.

Prosecutors in Bamako had several pending investigations of potential abuse charges against marabouts who used children solely for economic purposes.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, gender, religion, political opinion, nationality, disability, social status, HIV-positive status, and skin color. The government’s Labor Inspection Agency is responsible for investigating and preventing discrimination based on race, gender, religion, political opinion, nationality, or ethnicity, but the law was not effectively enforced.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, sexual orientation, disability, and ethnicity (see also section 6). The government was the major formal-sector employer and ostensibly paid women the same as men for similar work, but differences in job descriptions permitted pay inequality. There were legal restrictions on women’s employment in dangerous occupations and tasks, and in industries such as mining, construction, and factories. Women are legally prohibited from working on the creation or sale of writing and images considered contrary to good morals. There were cases where employers from southern ethnic groups discriminated against individuals from northern ethnic groups.

Gender-based violence and sexual harassment were prevalent in the workplace. Research published by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Institute found that gender-based violence was an everyday occurrence for women and girls. The pandemic situation and growing insecurity increased the intensity and frequency of violent acts against women. The institute reported that husbands, co-wives, customary chiefs, religious leaders, and female employers of domestic workers were the main perpetrators of violence against girls and women in the central region.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage of 28,465 CFA francs per month ($52) in all sectors of the formal economy. The minimum wage is above the World Bank’s poverty line for the country. Minimum wage requirements did not apply to workers in the informal and subsistence sectors, which included most workers. In addition to setting a minimum wage, the government mandates that employers have a mandatory benefit package including social security and health care.

The legal workweek is 40 hours, except in the agricultural sector, where the legal workweek ranges from 42 to 48 hours, depending on the season. The law requires a weekly 24-hour rest period, and employers must pay workers overtime for additional hours. The law limits overtime to eight hours per week. The law applies to all workers, including migrants and domestics, but it was routinely ignored in the informal sector, which included an estimated 93 percent of workers, according to a 2018 International Labor Organization (ILO) report.

The Ministry of Labor and Public Service conducted few surprise or complaint-based inspections. Inspections conducted in August and October of oil companies Total, Oryx, and Vivo in Bamako found that salaries were below the legal minimum wage and that some workers were not registered with the national social security service. Following the inspections, the companies began implementing minimum wage policies and registered workers to receive social security benefits.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law provides for a broad range of occupational safety and health standards in the workplace. Workers have the right to remove themselves from work situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Workers also have the right to request an investigation by the Social Security Department, which is responsible for recommending remedial action when necessary. Authorities, however, did not effectively protect employees in these situations. Workers often were reluctant to report violations of occupational safety regulations due to fear of losing their jobs.

The Ministry of Labor and Public Service did not effectively enforce these standards, did not employ enough labor inspectors, and the few inspectors it did employ lacked resources to conduct field investigations. Many employers did not comply with regulations regarding wages, hours, and social security benefits. The ministry conducted few inspections in the three northern regions where the government has suspended services since the 2012 occupation of those regions by armed groups and other organizations. No government agencies provided information on violations or penalties. Labor inspectors made unannounced visits and inspections to worksites mostly after labor unions filed complaints.

Labor organizations reported employers used cyanide and mercury in gold mines, posing a public-health risk to workers exposed to them. Inspectors lacked the resources to assemble credible data on dangerous workplaces.

The most recent report from the ILO and the World Health Organization listed 2,915 annual work-related deaths in 2016. The Ministry of Labor reported two work-related deaths during the year.

Informal Sector: Almost 93 percent of workers worked in the informal sector, according to the ILO. Informal workers were employed in almost every sector of the economy, from agriculture (growing cotton) and transportation (including taxi drivers) to financial services (door-to-door banking, informal saving associations, and money lenders). Informal workers lost more income than formal-sector workers during the COVID-19 pandemic because informal workers were overrepresented in high-risk sectors of the economy such as restaurants, markets, hotels, beauty salons, tailoring, transport, and private education, according to a study released by United Nations University.

The worst working conditions existed in private businesses and informal sectors of the economy. In small, family-based agricultural endeavors, children worked for little or no remuneration. Employers paid some domestic workers as little as 7,500 CFA francs ($14) per month, which violated minimum wage laws; employers claimed that food and shelter provided to domestic workers was part of their compensation. Violations of overtime laws were common for children working in cities and those working in artisanal gold mines or rice and cotton fields.

Workers in the informal sector are not protected by wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws and inspections. Workers in the informal economy benefitted from government health insurance if they contributed periodically from their salaries; however, there was no insurance against unemployment or retirement, or other social protections for workers in the informal economy.