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

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

There was no information available during the year regarding arbitrary or unlawful killings by police.

The Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) reported 126 deaths during 2015 as a result of police using unwarranted or excessive force in the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires.

In February authorities elevated to a criminal cause of action the April 2015 killing of a youth in San Martin, Buenos Aires Province, by a police officer on patrol. The officer chased two youths who were suspected of stealing a motorcycle and shot at them as they fled on the motorcycle, killing the passenger. Following the incident authorities dismissed the officer for excessive use of force.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

Authorities continued to investigate and prosecute individuals implicated in disappearances, killings, and torture committed during the 1976-83 military dictatorship. On August 25, the Cordoba Federal Oral Courthouse No. 1 sentenced former Third Army Corps commander Luciano Benjamin Menendez to an additional life term in prison for murder, torture, and crimes against humanity, bringing his full sentence to 14 prison terms and 12 consecutive life sentences for human rights violations. Menendez was one of 43 defendants in the La Perla megatrial. Six defendants were acquitted, while the others received sentences ranging from two years to life imprisonment. On March 29, the Salta Federal Oral Court convicted former bus company owner Marcos Levin for conspiring with two former police officers to kidnap and torture a former employee in 1977. The court sentenced Levin to 12 years in prison, making him the first businessman to be sentenced for crimes against humanity during the military dictatorship era.

Judicial authorities continued to investigate cases of kidnapping and illegal adoption of children born to detained dissidents by members of the former military dictatorship. On October 4, the NGO Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo reported that the 121st missing grandchild of the estimated 500 persons born to detained and missing dissidents during the dictatorship and illegally adopted by former military officials had been identified and made aware of his background.

The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team continued cooperation with the National Institute of Industrial Technology, which provides technical support and assistance in the identification of remains of victims of the military junta.

The law prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and provides penalties for torture similar to those for homicide. NGOs, CELS, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Penitentiary Authority (an independent government body that monitors prison conditions), and the Buenos Aires Provincial Memory Commission’s Committee against Torture (an autonomous office established by the provincial government) reported complaints of torture perpetrated by provincial and federal prison officials.

No unified registration system to record acts and victims of torture exists at the federal level.

The Buenos Aires Provincial Criminal Court of Cassation’s Office of Public Defenders reported that from January to April there were 221 complaints of torture and mistreatment by law enforcement officers during arrest or institutional confinement, of which 52 cases involved minors. A 2015 Santa Fe Provincial Office of Public Defenders survey, the latest available information, reported 503 alleged victims of abuse, mistreatment, and human rights violations committed by provincial security force personnel in the penitentiary system. According to the report, 21 percent of the victims were 18 years old or younger, and mistreatment most frequently occurred in detention centers and while in transit.

On July 18, a court sentenced five police officers from the Buenos Aires Provincial Police to life imprisonment for the torture and murder of detainee Gaston Duffau in the locality of Ramos Mejia in 2008.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions often were harsh due to overcrowding, poor medical care, and unsanitary conditions. Particularly in the province of Buenos Aires, there were reports of forced transfers and the recurrent use of solitary confinement as a method of punishment.

Physical Conditions: While prison capacity in federal penitentiaries was marginally adequate (approximately 103 percent of capacity), prisoners in Buenos Aires provincial penitentiaries exceeded facility capacity by an estimated 87 percent, according to a CELS report during the year. Many pretrial detainees were held with convicted prisoners.

Inmates in many facilities suffered from overcrowding; poor nutrition; inadequate medical and psychological treatment; inadequate sanitation, heating, ventilation, and light; limited family visits; and frequent degrading treatment, according to reports by human rights organizations and research centers.

Overcrowding in juvenile facilities often resulted in minors being held in police station facilities, although some NGOs and the national prison ombudsman noted the law prohibited doing so.

Women’s prisons were generally less violent, dangerous, and crowded than men’s prisons. Pregnant prisoners were exempted from work and rigorous physical exercise and were transferred to the penitentiary clinic prior to their delivery date. Children born to women in prison may remain in a special area of the prison with the mother until the age of four and receive daycare.

According to the Penitentiary Prosecutors Office of the Nation, 257 cases of torture and mistreatment were registered in the Federal Penitentiary Service during the first semester of the year; however, only 42 percent of the complaints of torture and bad treatment resulted in criminal investigations.

The Federal Penitentiary Service reported 20 inmate deaths in federal prisons, seven of which were violent, between January and June; however, CELS statistics for the province of Buenos Aires for 2015 reflected 50 prisoners died from violence, while another 89 died from health problems and lack of medical attention.

Administration: Information on the adequacy of recordkeeping was unavailable. Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. Local NGOs noted, however, that access to a public defender was sometimes limited and that prisoners occasionally did not submit complaints to authorities due to fear of reprisal.

Independent Monitoring: The government usually permitted monitoring by independent local and international human rights observers.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.

On October 21, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for the release of Tupac Amaru social activist Milagro Sala, opining that her preventive detention was arbitrary. On January 16, authorities arrested Sala as she led a protest against the Jujuy provincial government’s reforms to social spending. Authorities initially charged Sala with sedition; however, the Jujuy province prosecutor later dropped the sedition count and brought new charges of assault, fraud, and embezzlement of public funds. International NGOs criticized the detention and the provincial government’s rejection of the UN Working Group’s opinion. On December 28, a federal court convicted Sala of “aggravated material damages” and sentenced her to a three-year suspended prison sentence. On December 29, Sala was convicted by a state court of civil disturbances charges. She was fined 4,363 pesos ($235) and prohibited from holding office in any civil organization.


The federal police generally have jurisdiction for maintaining law and order in the federal capital and for federal crimes in the provinces. Other federal police authorities include the airport security police, the Gendarmerie, the Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Prisons. All federal police forces fall under the authority of the Ministry of Security. Each province, including the city of Buenos Aires, also has its own police force that responds to a provincial (or municipal) security ministry or secretariat. Individual forces varied considerably in their effectiveness and respect for human rights. The armed forces fall under the Ministry of Defense and by law do not participate in internal security. Through executive decree the government sought to expand the scope of the armed forces to provide logistics support and surveillance of national borders. The federal security forces have authority to conduct internal investigations into alleged abuses and to dismiss individuals who allegedly committed a human rights violation. In September the minister of security dispatched additional federal security force personnel to Santa Fe Province for one year to combat complex crime and corruption.

The federal government can file complaints about alleged abuses with the federal courts, and provincial governments can do the same for provincial security forces. Members of security forces convicted of a crime were subject to stiff penalties. Authorities generally administratively suspended officers accused of wrongdoing until their investigations were completed. Authorities investigated and in some cases detained, prosecuted, and convicted the officers involved; however, impunity at the federal and provincial level remained a problem.


Police generally apprehended individuals openly with warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by a duly authorized official. Police may detain suspects for up to 10 hours without an arrest warrant if authorities have a well-founded belief they have committed or are about to commit a crime or police are unable to determine the suspect’s identity. Human rights groups reported that police occasionally arrested persons arbitrarily and detained suspects longer than 10 hours.

The law provides detainees with the right to a prompt determination of the legality of their detention by a lower criminal court judge, who determines whether to proceed with an investigation. In some cases there were delays in this process and in informing detainees of the charges against them.

The law provides for the right to bail except in cases involving flight risk or risk of subornation of justice.

Authorities allowed detainees prompt access to counsel and provided public defenders if they were unable to afford counsel. In some cases such access was delayed due to an overburdened system.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police on occasion arrested and detained citizens arbitrarily.

Pretrial Detention: The law provides for investigative detention of up to two years for indicted persons awaiting or undergoing trial; the period may be extended by one year in limited circumstances. The slow pace of the justice system often resulted in lengthy detentions beyond the period stipulated by law. A June census carried out by the Federal Penitentiary Service revealed that in Buenos Aires Province prisons, 61 percent of prisoners were either in pretrial confinement or awaiting a final sentence. According to several human rights organizations, 30 percent of pretrial detainees were eventually acquitted. A convicted prisoner usually receives credit for time served.

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

While the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the government did not always respect judicial independence. According to local NGOs, judges in some federal criminal and ordinary courts were subject at times to political manipulation. NGOs also criticized all three branches of the government for use of inappropriate procedures for selecting judges and for manipulating the assignment of judges to specific cases.

A law enacted in June 2015 allowed the Magistrates’ Council to designate “substitute judges” from congressionally approved lists of judges, attorneys, and court secretaries, circumventing the normal qualifying and order of merit criteria reserved for permanent appointments. Media reported that the government selected substitute judges sympathetic to its interests. In November 2015 the Supreme Court ruled the law providing for the appointment of substitute judges was unconstitutional. Nonetheless, the civil society organization Fores reported that almost 25 percent of judges remained “substitute” or temporary judges.


The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Trials are generally public. In federal and provincial courts, all defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have the right to legal counsel and free interpretation from the moment charged through all appeals, to remain silent, to call defense witnesses, and to appeal. If needed, a public defender is provided at public expense when defendants face serious criminal charges. During the investigative stage, defendants can submit questions in writing. A panel of judges decides guilt or innocence. Although defendants and their attorneys have access to government-held evidence, local NGOs indicated defendants sometimes experienced obstacles or delays in obtaining such evidence. Defendants can present witnesses and provide expert witness reports, in addition to the defendant’s own evidence. Defendants have the right to be present at their hearings, and there is no trial in absentia. The law extends the above rights to all defendants.

Lengthy delays, procedural logjams, long gaps in the appointment of permanent judges, inadequate administrative support, and general inefficiency hampered the judicial system. Judges’ broad discretion on whether and how to pursue investigations contributed to a public perception that many decisions were arbitrary.

Federal and provincial courts continued the transition to trials with oral arguments in criminal cases, replacing the old system of written submissions. Cordoba, Neuquen, Chaco, and Buenos Aires provinces provide defendants accused of certain serious crimes the right to a trial by jury. Additionally, Chaco and Neuquen provinces approved legislation in September 2015 to include special provisions establishing a reserved quota for women and indigenous representatives.

In 2014 Congress enacted supplementary legislation implementing a new criminal procedure code, but the government delayed full implementation until 2017. The law transforms the country’s hybrid federal inquisitive system into a full accusatory system, with expanded prosecution under the authority of the attorney general and trial by jury. The new criminal code imposes time limitations on prosecutions (most cases under the new system must be disposed of in three years), expands victims’ rights, and provides for expedited deportations of foreigners in lieu of prosecution. The code also creates direct interaction between security forces and prosecutors, who will assume prosecutorial responsibilities currently exercised by investigating magistrates.


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.


Citizens have access to the courts to bring lawsuits seeking damages or the protection of rights provided by the constitution.

The constitution prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. On July 25, the National Administration for Social Security (ANSES) and the Secretariat of Public Communications under the Chief of Staff’s Office officially announced an interagency information-sharing agreement. The agreement would make the ANSES database of citizen personal information available to facilitate government public-service communications to the population. A group of citizens, including some opposition legislators, filed a criminal complaint alleging the practice constituted a violation of the right to privacy. On September 7, a lower federal court dismissed the charge, stating the facts alleged failed to constitute a crime. On September 8, a prosecutor appealed the decision, and at year’s end the case remained on appeal.


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

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

There were some reports government security forces committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

The Ministry of Interior Ombudsman’s annual report detailed its investigations into seven detainee deaths that occurred from May 2015 to May. Investigators determined one prisoner died of a drug overdose, one committed suicide, four died from complications to preexisting medical conditions, and one died from injuries sustained when police attempted to arrest the individual. The government’s investigations into the death of 17-year-old Ali Abdulghani during arrest and 35-year-old Hassan al-Hayki in police custody continued as of year’s end (see section 1.c.).

Violent extremists perpetrated dozens of attacks against security officers and government officials during the year, killing one and injuring other security officers. On June 30, a remotely detonated bomb planted on Sitra highway near the village of Eker killed a woman and injured three of her children; no group claimed responsibility for the bombing.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The constitution prohibits “harm[ing] an accused person physically or mentally.” Some domestic and international human rights organizations, as well as former detainees, reported instances of torture, abuse, and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Human rights groups reported prisoner accounts alleging security officials beat them, placed them in stress positions, humiliated them in front of other prisoners, deprived them of sleep and prayers, insulted them based on their religious beliefs, and subjected them to sexual harassment, including removal of clothing and threat of rape. Officials reportedly kept some detainees in solitary confinement, sometimes in extreme temperatures; poured cold water on them; and forced them to stand for long periods. Human rights organizations also reported authorities prevented some detainees from using toilet facilities, withheld food and drink, and denied medical treatment to injured or ill detainees and prisoners. Detainees also reported that security forces committed some abuses during searches, arrests at private residences, and during transportation. Detainees reported intimidation took place at the Ministry of Interior’s Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID). In a report based on an unannounced visit to Jaw Prison in November 2015, the Commission on Prisoner and Detainee Rights (PDRC) confirmed allegations that prison staff had physically assaulted prisoners. The ministry denied torture and abuse were systemic. The government reported it had equipped all interrogation rooms, including those at local police stations and the CID, with closed-circuit television cameras monitored at all times. The PDRC repeatedly noted in reports released 2014-16 that many facilities had areas without video monitoring.

Some detainees at the CID reported security officials used physical and psychological mistreatment to extract confessions and statements under duress or to inflict retribution and punishment. The PDRC made an unannounced visit to the CID in 2014 and found that officials kept some prisoners handcuffed for the duration of their time at the facility, provided food at irregular times, and restricted prisoner access to a single toilet. It has not been made public whether the PDRC visited the facility since 2014.

The Ministry of Interior’s ombudsman reported it received 68 complaints against the CID and 65 against Jaw Prison from May 2015 to May. The ombudsman referred 28 of the cases against the CID and 23 against Jaw Prison for criminal or disciplinary procedures; 37 additional cases were still under investigation.

Human rights groups reported authorities subjected children, sometimes under the age of 15, to various forms of mistreatment, including beating, slapping, kicking, and verbal abuse. The age of majority in the country is 15 years old, and the law considers all persons over this age to be adults. Authorities held detainees under the age of 15 at the Juvenile Care Center. The Ministry of Interior reported police arrested 31 children under the age of 15 from January to September; as of September there was one child at the Juvenile Care Center awaiting trial and 11 more serving their sentences. The PDRC visited the CID in 2014 and found that staff was not trained to treat special needs suspects or to treat those between the ages of 15 and 18 differently than adults.

On April 4, 17-year-old Ali Abdulghani died in the hospital from head injuries sustained during his March 31 arrest in the village of Shahrakkan. The government reported that police pursued Abdulghani based on a five-year sentence he had received in his absence. During the pursuit the government claimed Abdulghani entered a building under construction and either fell or jumped to his death. Critics disputed the government’s version of events and alleged a police car had intentionally hit Abdulghani. According to press reports, the ombudsman and Special Investigative Unit (SIU) investigated and determined police acted appropriately.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Human rights activists reported conditions in prisons and detention centers were harsh and sometimes life threatening due to overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. Detainees and human rights organizations also reported abuse in official pretrial detention centers, as well as in Jaw Prison and Dry Dock Detention Center.

Physical Conditions: Human rights organizations and prisoners reported gross overcrowding in detention facilities, which placed a strain on administration and led to a high prisoner-to-staff ratio. Observers reported that from 2013 to year’s end, the Jaw Prison population increased, perhaps to as high as 3,600 at times, while the ombudsman reported the number of prison guards remained the same, at 23 for the day shift. In October 2015 the Ministry of Interior reported it had opened four new buildings at Jaw Prison during the year and transferred inmates under the age of 21 to new buildings for convicted youth at the Dry Dock facility. PDRC reports from 2015 detailed concerns about prison conditions including overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and lack of access to basic supplies. Human rights organizations noted their concern about the health of prisoners with chronic medical conditions, including cancer.

Social media estimated there were up to 400 school-age youth in prison. The ministry held detainees under the age of 15 at the Juvenile Care Center, which, according to a PDRC report, was under capacity at the time of the commission’s unannounced visit in January 2015. As of June 2015, convicted males between the ages of 15 and 21 were housed in newly constructed buildings located on the grounds of the Dry Dock facility, but they were kept separate from pretrial detainees. The ministry separated prisoners under the age of 18 from those between the ages of 18 and 21. Upon reaching the age of 21, prisoners are transferred to the general population at Jaw Prison. In September 2015 the Royal Charity Organization opened a branch of the Nasser Center for Rehabilitation and Vocational Training at Jaw Prison with space for 50 inmates to participate; this program continued to operate.

The ombudsman’s annual report detailed its investigations into the seven detainee deaths that occurred from May 2015 to May. Investigators determined one prisoner died of a drug overdose, one committed suicide, four died from complications to preexisting medical conditions, and one died from injuries sustained when police attempted to arrest the individual.

The ombudsman and the SIU also reported their investigations into the July 31 death of 35-year-old Hassan al-Hayki. Authorities announced he died of a heart attack shortly after arriving at a hospital from the Dry Dock pretrial detention facility; opposition activists alleged al-Hayki was mistreated following his arrest. Al-Hayki had been in custody since his July 13 arrest on suspicion of involvement in the June 30 bombing in Eker (see section 1.a.).

Although the government reported potable water was available for all detainees, and there were water coolers in all detention centers, there were reports of lack of access to water for drinking and washing, lack of shower facilities and soap, and unhygienic toilet facilities. There were also reports of air conditioning units not running in extremely hot weather. Human rights organizations reported food was adequate for most prisoners; however, those prisoners needing dietary accommodations due to medical conditions had difficulty receiving special dietary provisions. Other detainees reported physical abuse, verbal assault, and threats of sexual assault, as well as denial of sleep, prayer, and bathroom access.

There were no accommodations for persons with disabilities in prisons and detention centers. Human rights groups reported prisoners who became physically or mentally disabled while in custody relied on fellow prisoners for their care.

Prisoners needing medical attention reported difficulty in alerting guards to their needs, and medical clinics at the facilities were understaffed. Prisoners with chronic medical conditions including sickle-cell anemia, diabetes, and gout had difficulty accessing regular medical care. Those needing transportation to outside medical facilities reported delays in scheduling offsite treatment, especially those needing follow-up care for complex or chronic conditions. The PDRC noted numerous deficiencies with health services at most facilities. There were outbreaks of communicable diseases that spread quickly and severely, due to overcrowded conditions, lack of sanitation, and understaffed medical clinics.

In March 2015 hundreds of prisoners at Jaw Prison participated in a riot that caused significant damage to the prison and injured 245 inmates and police. The prison kept some prisoners in tents in the yard for up to three months after the riot, with limited access to showers. There were also reports authorities partially shaved prisoners’ heads to humiliate them, placed them in stress positions, made them mimic animals, and beat them. Detainees reported police who abused them self-identified as Jordanian Special Police Force (known as the Darak). Prosecutors charged more than 50 inmates in connection with the rioting. Although authorities reported the SIU continued to investigate alleged abuse, as of years’ end, it had not brought any disciplinary or criminal proceedings against police or security forces allegedly involved in abuses during and after the riot.

Administration: The Ministry of Interior reported authorities registered the location of detainees from the moment of arrest. Authorities generally allowed prisoners to file complaints to judicial authorities without censorship, and officials from the ombudsman were available to respond to complaints. Human rights groups, however, reported some prisoners faced reprisals from prison staff for lodging complaints. Prisoners had access to visitors at least once a month, often more frequently, and authorities permitted them 30 minutes of calls each week, although authorities reportedly denied prisoners communication with lawyers and family members at times. Authorities generally permitted prisoners to practice their religion, but there were reports authorities sometimes denied prisoners access to religious services and prayer time.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities permitted access for the quasi-governmental National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) and PDRC, as well as the government’s ombudsman and SIU. Some local and international human rights organizations expressed concern regarding the degree of independence of the domestic groups.

The SIU, formed in 2012, acted as a mechanism for the public to complain about prisoner mistreatment or conditions in prisons and detention facilities. The SIU reported it received 137 complaints through August, five of which it referred to court; the others remained under investigation. The ombudsman began monitoring prisons and detention centers in 2013, conducting announced and unannounced visits and accepting written and in-person complaints. From May 2015 until May, the office received 305 complaints and an additional 687 requests for assistance. The ombudsman had complaint boxes at most Ministry of Interior detention facilities and staffed a permanent office at Jaw Prison to receive complaints. The ombudsman reported it was able to get evidence preserved on more than one occasion after receiving a complaint about mistreatment.

In December 2015 the NIHR published its third annual report, which covered 2015. The NIHR reported it received 88 complaints representing 119 complainants for 2015 and an additional 124 requests for assistance and legal advice. Separately, the NIHR reported it visited Jaw prison and interviewed more than 40 prisoners, and it had followed complaints from inmates’ families regarding alleged denial of medical treatment.

From the end of 2014 throughout the year, the PDRC conducted unannounced visits at a number of detention facilities, including Jaw Prison, the CID, Juvenile Care Center, Women’s Detention Center, Women’s Reformation and Rehabilitation Center, and four police directorates; it posted reports on these facilities on its website.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, although local and international human rights groups continued to report the practice of detaining individuals without notifying them at the time of the arrest of the legal authority of the person conducting the arrest, the reasons for the arrest, and the charges against them. Human rights groups claimed the Ministry of Interior conducted many arrests at private residences without either presenting an arrest warrant or presenting an inaccurate or incomplete one, but government sources disputed these claims.

In 2013 the king tightened penalties for those involved in terrorism, banned demonstrations in the capital, allowed for legal action against political associations accused of inciting and supporting violence and terrorism, and granted security services increased powers to protect society from terrorism, including the ability to declare a State of National Safety. Human rights groups asserted the 2013 laws conflicted with protections against arbitrary arrest and detention, including for freedom of speech.

In 2014 authorities detained leading opposition society Wifaq secretary general Sheikh Ali Salman over concerns about political statements. Authorities charged him with four crimes: inciting a change of government by force, inciting hatred of a segment of society, inciting others to break the law, and insulting the Ministry of Interior. In June 2015 a criminal court acquitted Salman of inciting political change by force but sentenced him to four years on the other three charges. Both Salman and the prosecution appealed. On May 30, the appeals court convicted him on all charges, including the one on which the lower court had acquitted him, and sentenced him to nine years in prison. In October the Court of Cassation threw out the appeals court decision and sent the case back to have another appeals court review the case. At that review on December 12, the appeals court reinstated Salman’s nine-year sentence; Salman remained in custody at Jaw Prison at year’s end. His legal team claimed the prosecution entered falsified evidence, including altered transcripts of speeches, and that prison officials had prevented the team from passing legal documents to Salman, complicating their ability to mount a defense. Evidence presented against Salman in court consisted solely of public statements he made in sermons or speeches. In November 2015 the UN working group on arbitrary detention determined that authorities had arbitrarily detained Salman. On September 15, police questioned Salman at the CID in connection with a letter submitted with his name to the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein (see section 5), but as of year’s end, no new charges have been filed.


The Ministry of Interior is responsible for internal security and controls the public security force and specialized security units responsible for maintaining internal order. The coast guard is also under its jurisdiction. The Bahrain Defense Force is primarily responsible for defending against external threats, while the Bahrain National Guard is responsible for both external and internal threats. Security forces effectively maintained order and generally responded in a measured way to violent attacks.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces during the year, although impunity remained a problem. In 2012 the government established the SIU to investigate and refer cases of security force misconduct to the appropriate court, which includes civilian criminal courts, the ministry’s Military Court, and administrative courts. As of August the SIU reported it had received and investigated 137 new complaints since the beginning of the year. The SIU submitted five of these cases, with a total of 11 defendants, to civilian criminal court, and had one officer and two enlisted men convicted, with one sentenced to a year in prison. The SIU also referred some cases to the ministry’s administrative and military courts. As of September the ministry reported 41 police officers were in jail, another nine were in detention awaiting trial, and 190 had received reprimands. The ministry generally did not release the names of officers convicted, demoted, reassigned, or fired for misconduct. Many human rights groups asserted that investigations into police abuse were slow and ineffective.

Unidentified individuals conducted numerous attacks aimed at security personal during the year, which the perpetrators often filmed and posted to social media. These videos showed attackers using Molotov cocktails and other improvised weapons against police patrols and stations, including in close proximity to bystanders. Police avoided responding with deadly force.

In 2012 the king ordered the creation of the Bahrain National Security Agency’s (BNSA) Office for the Inspector General and the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman. While both offices were responsible for addressing cases of mistreatment and abuse, there was little public information available about the BNSA inspector general’s activities.

In 2012 the minister of interior approved a new police code of conduct that requires officers to abide by 10 principles, including limited use of force and zero tolerance for torture and mistreatment. According to government officials, the code forbids the use of force “except when absolutely necessary.” The Royal Police Academy included the code in its curriculum in 2012 and provided new recruits with copies in English and Arabic. The ministry reported it took disciplinary action against officers who did not comply with the code.

The Ombudsman maintained a hotline for citizens to report police abuse, but human rights groups reported many citizens hesitated to report abuse for fear of retribution. As of September, the police hotline had received 260 calls. The Ombudsman reported a reduction in the number of complaints it received about the riot police from 15 in the 2014-2015 reporting cycle to two in 2015-2016.

Local activists and human rights organizations claimed that the demographics of the police and security forces were not representative of Bahrain’s communities. To address these concerns and in response to a BICI recommendation on integrating Shia citizens into the police force, the government established the community police program, which recruits individuals to work in their own neighborhoods, in 2012. In 2012, the government graduated 577 new police from its academy and said that the majority would be “working in the community.” In October 2015, the government reported 504 community police officers graduated from the same community policing program in 2015, bringing the total number of community police that have graduated from the Royal Police Academy to 1500. As of September, the government reported it had not hired any additional community police in 2016, leaving the total number of community police at approximately 1,400, of which 320 were women. Community members have confirmed that Shia have been among those integrated into the community police and the police cadets, but not in significant numbers; information is not available on recruitment rates of Shia into other security forces.


The law stipulates law enforcement officials may arrest individuals without a warrant only if they are caught committing certain crimes for which there is sufficient evidence to press charges. Local activists reported police sometimes made arrests without presenting a warrant.

By law the arresting authority must interrogate an arrested individual immediately and cannot detain the person for more than 48 hours, after which authorities must either release the detainee or transfer the person to the Public Prosecution Office (PPO) for further questioning. The PPO is required to question the detainee within 24 hours, and the detainee has the right to legal counsel during questioning. To hold the detainee longer, the PPO must issue a formal detention order based on the charges against the detainee. Authorities may extend detention up to seven days for further questioning. If authorities require any further extension, they must bring the detainee before a judge, who may authorize a further extension not exceeding 45 days. The High Criminal Court must authorize any extensions beyond that period and any renewals at 45-day intervals. In the case of alleged acts of terror, law enforcement officials may detain individuals for questioning for an initial five days, which the PPO can extend up to 60 days. A functioning system of bail provides maximum and minimum bail amounts based on the charges; however, judges often denied bail requests without explanation, even in nonviolent cases. The bail law allows the presiding judge to determine the amount within these parameters on a case-by-case basis.

Attorneys reported difficulty in gaining access to their clients in a timely manner through all stages of the legal process, including reports defense attorneys had difficulty registering themselves as a detainee’s legal representative because of arbitrary bureaucratic hurdles, had their qualifications arbitrarily questioned by police, were not notified of their client’s location in custody, were directed to seek a court order to meet with their client, were prohibited from meeting their client in private, were prohibited from passing legal documents to their client, were told at short notice when their client would be questioned by the PPO, were not allowed to be present during questioning by police or prosecutor, and were not provided access or allowed to consult with their clients in court. While the state provides counsel to indigent detainees, there were reports detainees never met with their state appointed attorney before or during their trial.

According to reports by local and international human rights groups, authorities held some detainees for weeks with limited access to outside resources. The government sometimes withheld information from detainees and their families about the detainees’ whereabouts for days.

On October 24, Sayed Alawi Hussain Alawi from Diraz went missing, and his family filed a missing person’s report with police that night. The family then received a call from an individual who identified himself as being from the CID, who said police had arrested Alawi. According to social media reports, police prevented Alawi’s lawyer from meeting with his client and prevented Alawi from calling his family until December 1.

In August 2015 authorities arrested former opposition member of parliament, Sheikh Hassan Isa, at the airport upon his return from abroad. According to Wifaq CID investigators prohibited Isa’s lawyers from speaking to him and from being present during his questioning. Authorities allowed Isa to meet with his lawyers only after the lawyers filed multiple requests. As of year’s end, his trial continued.

Arbitrary Arrest: Human rights groups reported the Ministry of Interior sometimes arrested individuals for activities such as calling for and attending protests and demonstrations, expressing their opinion either in public or on social media, and associating with persons of interest to law enforcement. Some of these detained individuals reported arresting forces did not show them warrants. Authorities arrested dozens of participants in a nonviolent, long-term sit-in protesting the revocation of Sheikh Isa Qassim’s citizenship outside of his residence in Diraz (see Section 2.b., Freedom of Assembly). The government maintained that police only summoned, questioned, and detained individuals who had broken the law.

In July 2015 police summoned former president of the capital governorate’s municipal council, Majeed Milad, to the Houra Police Station and arrested him. A criminal court found him guilty of “incitement of hatred against the regime,” during a speech he gave at a Ramadan gathering, and gave him a one-year sentence. Authorities released him from prison on July 1. (See section 2.a, for information about the arrest and detention of human rights activist Nabeel Rajab.)

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, although local and international human rights groups continued to report the practice of detaining individuals without notifying them at the time of the arrest of the legal authority of the person conducting the arrest, the reasons for the arrest, and the charges against them. There were reports that authorities sometimes delayed or limited an individual’s access to an attorney. There were no reports of courts finding individuals to have been unlawfully detained and recommending compensation.

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary remained vulnerable to political pressures, especially in cases involving political opposition figures. The judiciary has two branches: the civil law courts deal with all commercial, civil, and criminal cases, including family issues of non-Muslims, and the sharia law courts handle personal status cases of Muslims. The government subdivided the sharia courts into Sunni and Shia sharia courts. Many of the country’s approximately 160 judges were foreign judges serving on limited-term contracts (which are subject to government approval for renewal and residence in the country). The Supreme Judicial Council is responsible for supervising the work of the courts, including judges, and the PPO.


The constitution presumes defendants are innocent until proven guilty. By law authorities should inform detainees of the charges against them upon arrest. Civil and criminal trial procedures provide for a public trial. A panel of three judges makes the rulings. Defendants have the right to consultation with an attorney of their choice within 48 hours (unless the government charges them pursuant to counterterrorism legislation); however, there are reports that defendants and their lawyers have had difficulty getting police, public prosecutor, and courts to recognize or register representation by an attorney. The government provides counsel at public expense to indigent defendants. No law governs defendants’ access to government-held evidence, and such evidence was available at the discretion of the court. Defendants have the right to present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. While defendants have the right to question witnesses against them, the judges can declare the questions to be irrelevant and prohibit a line of questioning without providing reasoning. Prosecutors rarely present evidence orally in court but provide it in written and digital formats to judges in their chambers. In criminal trials prosecutors and judges walk into the courtroom together. Defendants are not compelled to testify or to confess guilt and have the right to appeal. The government frequently tries defendants in their absence.

Family status law varied according to Shia or Sunni interpretations of Islamic law, especially for women (see section 6).


The government denied holding any political prisoners, although it acknowledged holding several dozen high-profile individuals, including leaders or prominent members of political societies and organizations and others who were publically critical of government institutions or government actions prior to their arrests. Human rights organizations and opposition groups asserted there were more than 4,000 political prisoners in the country, but this number could not be confirmed. According to the PDRC, the total number of individuals in custody charged with all types of crimes is 3,700 and includes 700 foreigners. Authorities held some high-profile prisoners separately from the general prison population. Activist Nabeel Rajab remained in detention as the only prisoner held at the East Riffa Police Station, and human rights organizations raised concerns that he was not consistently provided prompt access to medical care (see section 2.a.). There were some reports authorities held political prisoners in better conditions compared to other prisoners and detainees.

In March 2015 the Ministry of Interior arrested Fadhel Abbas, secretary general of the Democratic Unity Gathering Society (al-Wahdawi), in relation to a tweet sent by the al-Wahdawi political society that criticized the country’s military involvement in Yemen. A criminal court sentenced him in June 2015 to five years in prison for “spreading false information that could harm the military operations of Bahrain and its allies.” On October 27, an appeals court reduced his sentence to three years, and at year’s end he remained in Jaw Prison.

Authorities released several prominent politicians and activists arrested in 2011 from prison at the completion of their prescribed sentences, including Mohammed Ali al-Mahfoodh on April 30, Mahdi Abu Deeb on April 1, and Salah al-Khawaja on March 19. In June 2015 authorities pardoned and released former Wa’ad secretary general Ibrahim Sharif, but police rearrested him on new charges 23 days later, and he spent another year in jail (see section 2.a.).

(See section 1.d. for information about the arrest and detention of Wifaq secretary general Sheikh Ali Salman. See section 2.a. for more information about the arrest and detention of activists Nabeel Rajab and Zainab al-Khawaja.)


Citizens may bring civil suits before a court seeking cessation of or damages for some types of human rights violations. In many such situations, however, the law prevents citizens from filing civil suits against security agencies.

Although the constitution prohibits such actions, the government violated prohibitions against interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence. Human rights organizations reported security forces sometimes entered homes without authorization and destroyed or confiscated personal property. The law requires the government to obtain a court order before monitoring telephone calls, e-mail, and personal correspondence. Many citizens and human rights organizations believed police used informer networks, including ones that targeted or used children under 18 years of age.

Reports also indicated the government used computer programs to spy on political activists and members of the opposition inside and outside the country.

According to local and international human rights groups, security officials sometimes threatened detainees’ family members with reprisals for the detainee’s unwillingness to cooperate during interrogations and refusal to sign confession statements.


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

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

There were no reports during the year that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The government continued to conduct investigations into several killings allegedly committed by former government officials.

In May a border guard from breakaway Abkhazia shot and killed a Georgian citizen near the crossing point into the occupied territory. According to the Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association (GYLA), in June the de facto “court” of Abkhazia sentenced a suspect to house arrest. On December 27, a Georgian court in Zugdidi sentenced the suspect to 12 years in prison in absentia. Georgian and de facto authorities exchanged documentation related to the incident, and discussions continued.

In January the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity that the ICC had “reasonable basis to believe” were committed during the 2008 war in breakaway South Ossetia.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances during the year in government-administered territory, although there were frequent reports of abductions along the administrative boundary lines of both occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgian authorities detained a number of Russian citizens near the administrative boundary line on various charges, including for entering an occupied territory of Georgia from Russia, which is against the law.

Russian border guards along the administrative boundary line with Abkhazia typically enforced the boundary-crossing rules imposed by de facto authorities by fining and releasing detained individuals. Along the South Ossetia administrative boundary line, Russian border guards frequently transferred individuals to de facto authorities. The State Security Service of Georgia reported detentions by de facto authorities typically lasted between two to three days until the detainee paid “fines” set by the de facto “court.”

The European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) recorded 78 individuals detained along the administrative boundary line with Abkhazia and 140 along the administrative boundary line with South Ossetia. The Public Defender’s Office reported that, from January to September, 177 individuals were detained along the administrative boundary line with Abkhazia and 104 individuals on the South Ossetian administrative boundary line. The EUMM also reported that, on at least one occasion, local South Ossetian border guards crossed into government-controlled territory to detain an individual.

There were also reports of arbitrary arrests of ethnic Georgians by the de facto authorities, particularly in the Tskhinvali and Gali regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, respectively. Detainees reported they were not informed of the reason for their arrest or why they were brought before a de facto prosecutor.

More than 2,300 individuals were still missing following the 1992-93 war in Abkhazia and the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The organization continued to work with all sides, including de facto authorities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, to identify remains.

While the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were reports government officials employed them. Although the number and severity of allegations of such abuse by penitentiary employees decreased, the Public Defender’s Office reported that mistreatment of detained persons by police officers remained an acute problem.

NGOs and the Public Defender’s Office reported they continued to receive reports of mistreatment at the hands of police and penitentiary officials. The Public Defender’s Office considered investigations into such cases as not effective, independent, prompt, or impartial. NGOs and the Public Defender’s Office continued to recommend the creation of an independent mechanism to investigate allegations of misconduct by law enforcement officials.

GYLA received 20 complaints of such treatment during the year, 11 of which were from No. 3 prison, and reported them to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office to initiate investigations. The Prosecution Service of Georgia confirmed it received 20 complaints from GYLA but reported 12 involved alleged mistreatment of detainees by police and eight in penitentiary facilities, including only one in prison No. 3. The Prosecution Service of Georgia stated it commenced investigations into five of the complaints in the penitentiary establishments and found three were based on allegations of inhuman and degrading treatment and two were based on allegations of abuse of official power. The Prosecution Service of Georgia also reported it started investigations into six of the reported complaints of violations by police officers, and at year’s end the investigations were underway.

Authorities also conducted investigations into allegations of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment reported during the year. As of November the Public Defender’s Office submitted two cases of mistreatment of inmates by employees of penitentiary facilities to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecution Service of Georgia reported it started investigations into both cases of alleged mistreatment of prisoners reported by the Public Defender’s Office and declared one of the investigations was terminated due to the lack of cooperation from the victim and lack of additional evidence. The Prosecution Service of Georgia said it also received 10 reports of mistreatment in detention by police officers from the Public Defender’s Office and after conducting investigations brought charges for the abuse of official power against five police officers.

An investigation into the alleged 2015 assault of lawyer Giorgi Mdinaradze by police officers in Vake-Saburtalo Police Department No. 5 continued. The Public Defender’s Office reported the prosecution did not bring charges against any additional police officers who allegedly participated in the assault and noted the court hearings had been postponed a number of times because the witness police officers did not show up in court. The Prosecution Service of Georgia reported the trial against one police officer involved in the incident for charges of abusing official power committed with violence was in progress but that evidence did not support the allegation other police officers were involved in the violent act against Mdinaradze.

GYLA did not identify any instances of torture during the year. In September the Public Defender’s Office noted any allegations of torture by law enforcement officials were increasingly investigated as “exceeding official power,” rather than “torture or inhuman treatment,” and thus were difficult to track.

Regarding alleged instances of torture under the former government, in December 2015 the Prosecution Service of Georgia charged former deputy defense minister Davit Akhalaia, former deputy chief of the general staff Giorgi Kalandadze, and two other former officials with illegal imprisonment and torture. According to the Prosecution Service of Georgia, the accused beat and exposed Elberd Koberidze to asphyxiating gas in 2012 to make him confess to committing a terrorist act. The trial began in July, and GYLA monitors did not document any procedural violations. In May the Prosecution Service of Georgia charged two former officials, deputy culture minister Giorgi Udesiani and director of Gldani No. 8 prison Aleksandre Mukhadze, with the torture of a businessman in an attempt to expropriate his property in 2011. Both Udesiani and Mukhadze left the country in 2012. As of December former defense minister Bacho Akhalaia was on trial in absentia at the Tbilisi City Court for torture, organization of sexual abuse, and abuse of official power.

Individuals detained in Russian-occupied South Ossetia and Abkhazia who later returned to Georgian government-controlled territory reported incidents of mistreatment and abuse, including cigarette burns and beatings, while in custody, according to the EUMM. Human rights observers estimated half of the individuals detained by South Ossetian de facto authorities experienced some form of abuse.

There was one report of conflict-related abuse by Ministry of Defense peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic (CAR). In January the UN high commissioner for human rights issued a report on alleged sexual exploitation and abuse of minors by foreign peacekeepers stationed in the CAR. The report detailed accusations from four girls claiming that their abusers were attached to contingents operating as part of the EU operation (EUFOR). While the nationalities of some of the soldiers were unclear, three of the girls said they believed some of their abusers were members of the Georgian EUFOR contingent. The girls were between 14 and 16 years of age at the time of the alleged abuse. In response to the allegations, the minister of defense issued an order creating an interagency investigation team that travelled to the CAR to conduct a comprehensive investigation. The team, composed of professionals with backgrounds in academia, law enforcement, and medicine, sought to gather information while protecting the best interests of the victims. In June the defense minister announced the team’s preliminary results indicated Georgian soldiers were not involved in the alleged abuse. As of December the investigatory team had returned from the CAR and was preparing a final report.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

While overall prison and detention facility conditions continued to improve, conditions in some old facilities were inhuman and lacked sufficient ventilation, natural light, minimum living space, and adequate health care.

Physical Conditions: According to the Ministry of Corrections, the penitentiary system, which holds both pretrial and convicted inmates, had an operating capacity for 12,681 individuals. As of December there were 9,334 inmates, or 73 percent of capacity.

While persons in pretrial detention were required by law to be held separately from convicted prisoners, the Public Defender’s Office reported the practice of placing convicts and accused persons together remained a problem in several facilities.

According to the Ministry of Corrections, 17 prisoners died in the penitentiary system during the year, a slight increase from 12 deaths in 2015.

While the Ministry of Corrections maintained a special medical unit for prisoners with disabilities, in 2015 the Public Defender’s Office reported the needs of persons with disabilities, including for medical services, were not taken into account in prisons and temporary detention centers. The Public Defender’s Office also noted the majority of institutions failed to keep data and register the needs of persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Corrections reported during the year that the No. 2 and No. 14 penitentiary establishments were equipped with cells adapted to the needs of prisoners with disabilities and noted specially adapted cells for prisoners with disabilities were available at No. 5, No. 6, and No. 16 penitentiary institutions, in addition to the long-term care units at No. 18 penitentiary medical facility.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs also ran a migration center, built to international standards, to house individuals being deported or brought into Georgia for legal reasons. Men, women, and families each had their own quarters, and there were specially adapted rooms for individuals with disabilities. A designated monitoring unit provided internal oversight for the facility, which supplied medical and psychological support to its residents as needed.

Prison conditions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia were reported to be chronically substandard.

Administration: The Public Defender’s Office noted there was only one ombudsman authorized to respond to complaints by prisoners and reported that obstacles such as a lack of information on their rights, fear of intimidation, distrust of the outcome, and lack of confidentiality could deter prisoners from filing complaints with judicial authorities.

The Public Defender’s Office reported it received a vast number of complaints from prisoners that prison officials did not inform them about disciplinary measures taken against them and a number of complaints that they were not allowed to keep their case files in their cells. These prisoners also claimed they were not allowed to receive any law-related material, making it harder for them to form an appropriate defense for hearings. In 2015 the NGO Human Rights Center reported women and juvenile prisoners did not have access to lawyers for legal assistance in preparing various documents, complaints, statements on early release, and other important matters.

According to the Public Defender’s Office, records on registering and distributing detainees in temporary detention centers were often incomplete or erroneous.

Most prisons had Georgian Orthodox Christian chapels but no specific nondenominational areas for worship.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by international organizations and some local and international human rights groups. The national preventive mechanism operating under the Public Defender’s Office had access to penitentiaries and conducted planned and unscheduled visits and was allowed to take photographs during monitoring visits.

The ICRC had full access to prisons and detention facilities in undisputed Georgian territory and some access to prison and detention facilities in South Ossetia.

Improvements: In September the Ministry of Corrections approved photographic recording in penitentiaries and granted the right to the national mechanism of prevention to photograph bodily injuries and the physical condition inside penitentiaries during monitoring visits. The ministry also amended its regulations to better define conditions and compensation requirements for inmates employed within the penitentiary system, launched a new website to allow inmates to sell handicrafts online, and created an advisory council including NGOs and international organizations to increase transparency and feedback to the minister.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported during the year it opened a medical care service in its Temporary Detention Department, hired 30 staff for the department, and trained the staff on documenting injuries according to the Istanbul protocol and emergency response. The ministry also reported it repaired or reconstructed ventilation and heating in temporary detention facilities throughout the country, installed them in facilities where no ventilation system existed, fully reconstructed two existing facilities, and completed construction of one new facility.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government’s observance of these prohibitions was uneven.


Two organizations have primary responsibility for law enforcement and the maintenance of public order: the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is the primary law enforcement organization in the country and includes the national police force, the border security force, and the Georgian Coast Guard. The State Security Service is the internal intelligence service responsible for counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and anticorruption. The Ministry of Finance and the Prosecution Service of Georgia both have investigative services with police powers in financial investigations. The Ministry of Defense is responsible for external security, although the government may call on it during times of internal disorder.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Ministry of Internal Affairs, State Security Service, and Ministry of Defense, and the organizations have internal mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. While there were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year, the Public Defender’s Office reported it received a number of complaints regarding the excessive use of force by police. State Security Service official allegedly placed political pressure on candidates and campaign staff (see section 3).

In July the Chief Prosecutor’s Office charged former justice minister Zurab Adeishvili in absentia regarding an alleged 2007 illegal detention and kidnapping of a former opposition leader, Koba Davitashvili. Adeishvili reportedly ordered the deputy head of the Revenue Office in the Ministry of Finance, Davit Karseladze, to use a special unit to prevent opposition leaders from appearing in crowds, to prevent them from addressing the public, and to attack other protesters. As of December the trial was underway at Tbilisi City Court.

In September the former head of the Constitutional Security Department, Davit Akhalaia, and three additional former Ministry of Internal Affairs officials were charged in connection with the violent dispersal of a protest in 2011 that was allegedly ordered by then internal affairs minister Ivane Merabishvili, who remained in prison.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, its General Inspection Service imposed 1,305 disciplinary actions, such as reprimands, demotions, and dismissals, on law enforcement officers between January and July. There were 2,623 such actions in 2015. The ministry also reported it transferred 23 cases to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office for investigation, of which 10 ended with convictions on various charges.


Law enforcement officers must have a warrant to make an arrest except in limited cases where destruction of evidence or commission of a new crime cannot be prevented by other means. The criminal procedure code provides that an arrest warrant can be obtained only where probable cause can be shown that a person committed a crime punishable by imprisonment and that the individual may abscond or fail to appear in court, destroy evidence, or commit a new crime. GYLA noted courts generally failed to conduct proper review of the legality of arrests, but in some cases judges began to review arrests.

Upon arrest, a detainee must be advised of his or her legal rights. Any statement made after arrest but before a detainee is advised of his or her rights is inadmissible in court. The arresting officer must immediately take the detainee to the nearest police station and record the arrest, providing a copy to the detainee and his or her attorney. Detainees must be indicted within 48 hours and taken to the court within the first 72 to decide on the use of pretrial conditions. Violating the time limit results in the immediate release of the person. Anyone taken into custody on administrative grounds has the right to be heard in court within the first 12 hours after detention, and violating the time limit results in the immediate release of the person.

GYLA monitored the Tbilisi and Kutaisi city and appellate courts from February to July and reported courts generally continued to use bail and imprisonment as preventive measures. While GYLA reported the percentage of unsubstantiated decisions imposing bail significantly increased, it also reported the number of decisions unreasonably imposing imprisonment slightly declined. GYLA also stated that proper judicial oversight of the conclusion of plea bargains deteriorated and that the number of cases in which judges failed to explain fully to defendants their rights increased.

The law permits alternatives to bail and detention, but they were rarely used.

Detainees have the right to request immediate access to a lawyer and the right to refuse to make a statement in the absence of counsel. An indigent defendant charged with a crime has the right to counsel appointed at public expense. This support, managed by the Legal Aid Service, is a separate and independent entity with a nine-member board.

Detainees facing possible criminal charges have the right to have their families notified by the prosecutor or the investigator within three hours of arrest; persons charged with administrative offenses have the right to notify family upon request. The law requires the Chief Prosecutor’s Office to approve requests by detainees in pretrial detention to contact their family.

In February a new law shifted the government from a system of compelled witness interrogations to voluntary witness interviewing. The law provides the right for witnesses to refuse to participate in an interview with law enforcement officials and includes a mechanism for prosecutors and investigators to petition the court when a witness refuses to participate and law enforcement can prove that the person has “necessary information” on the circumstances of the case. NGOs and international partners criticized this mechanism as a significant loophole. As of December, however, statistics showed the practice had not been abused by law enforcement: prosecutors had interviewed approximately 123,000 adults and 4,000 minors on a voluntary basis and petitioned the court on 71 occasions for court-compelled interviews (the court granted 66 of the 71 requests). Of those individuals compelled by the court, only 27 witnesses were interviewed because of their refusal to talk. The other motions were for individuals who were leaving the country before trial, had deteriorating health, or were due to foreign government requests.

Concerns persisted regarding the use of administrative detention, under which authorities may detain an individual for up to 15 days without the right to effective defense, defined standards of proof, and effective right to appeal. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 701 persons served terms of administrative detention in temporary detention isolation cells during the year, compared with 998 in 2015.

Arbitrary Arrest: The Public Defender’s Office reported that, although the number of complaints of such detentions was not high, it was studying a case concerning the detention of an individual who authorities described as “not accused” but “taken to the administrative building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to be questioned.” The Public Defender’s Office also raised concerns that individuals who were confined in mental health institutions based on medical records may be detained involuntarily and that individuals who refuse to give a drug test sample to police, but remain under police control for several hours without the procedural guarantees of detainees, may be held arbitrarily.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs explained “questioning” and “inviting a person to a police station to conduct an interview” were strictly voluntary, that the person must be informed of the grounds for “interviewing,” and that police stations where “interviews” were conducted are equipped with video surveillance systems and in a controlled environment. The Ministry of Internal Affairs also explained police officers are authorized to bring an individual for a drug test only when the police officer personally witnesses that the person is committing an offense and there is sufficient ground to believe that a person is under the influence of narcotics or psychotropic substances.

Members of the opposition party United National Movement (UNM) alleged the government engaged in politically motivated arrest and detention. On June 14, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that former prime minister Ivane Merabishvili’s pretrial detention in May 2013 was lawful, but it added that the Tbilisi City Court ruling for additional detention in 2013 should have included a justification even though it was not legally required. The ECHR further concluded that prosecuting authorities also used Merabishvili’s pretrial detention to seek to gain leverage over him in two unrelated cases in December 2013. At that time Merabishvili reported he was taken from his detention cell to a late night meeting with the then chief prosecutor, who sought to intimidate him into cooperating on these cases. Opposition party leaders said the ECHR’s ruling substantiated their claim that Merabishvili was a political prisoner and called on the authorities to release him. On June 21, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office stated it had opened an investigation into the December 2013 events; as of year’s end no investigation results were publicly released.

Pretrial Detention: In September the Constitutional Court ruled that prolonging pretrial detention beyond nine months was unconstitutional if law enforcement officials knew of the crimes, or potential charges, at the time the defendant was serving pretrial detention for other offenses. Although there was noticeable progress in the substantiation of court rulings, NGO trial monitors identified inadequate substantiation of detention decisions and delays in a number of cases. Pretrial detention at times was lengthy, and NGOs noted uneven application of the standards to grant bail or require detention. Lawyers noted courts sometimes used ECHR standards to justify their rulings. Nevertheless, prosecutors and judges often did not articulate a reasoned and specific justification for requesting or ordering detention.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The criminal procedure code provides that in exigent circumstances, a person can be arrested without a court warrant. A person shall be immediately released if the substantial breach of an arrest procedure has been identified. This decision can be made by a prosecutor or a judge at the first appearance hearing within 72 hours from the arrest. The law provides that regardless of whether the arrested person is convicted or not, the person shall be fully reimbursed from the state budget for the damage incurred as a result of an unlawful and unjustified arrest. The legality of administrative arrest–which is not to exceed 12 hours–can be appealed with a prosecutor. There is no meaningful judicial review provided by the code of administrative violations for an administrative arrest.

Amnesty: According to the Ministry of Corrections, the government granted amnesty to eight individuals and pardoned 834 individuals who were serving prison sentences during the year.

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary and progress on judicial reforms occurred in late December, there remained indications of interference in the judicial system. The president, public defender, and NGOs raised public concerns regarding pressure on judges, judicial appointments (including to the Constitutional Court), passage of Constitutional Court legislation, prosecutorial reform, case assignments, due process, appellate review, and compulsory defense.

The president and the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, consisting of dozens of human rights and democracy NGOs, expressed concern that flawed processes for selecting judges at all court levels–many to lifetime appointments–left the judiciary vulnerable to political influence in politically sensitive cases. Nearly 100 new judges with lifetime appointments were appointed throughout the year. Coalition members reported they were able to attend High Council of Justice meetings and enjoyed unlimited access to court sessions. On February 9, however, the coalition criticized the judicial selection and appointment processes as “unfair, nontransparent, and unconstitutional” and called on the High Council of Justice to suspend the election and appointment of new judges, reiterating its request made in December 2015.

In May parliament passed legislation that was controversial both in content and timing altering the functioning of the Constitutional Court, including judicial competencies in the final months of their office, term limits, and quorum requirements. The president vetoed the law and requested an opinion from the Council of Europe’s European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), which found the law was excessively stringent with regard to term limits, quorum requirements, and its proposed limits on judges’ hearing of cases in their final months in office. In addition to voicing substantive concerns, the president, public defender, and NGOs criticized parliament’s speedy passage of the legislation, which they considered worthy of broad public discussion. In December the Constitutional Court ruled the changes made to the Constitutional Court were unconstitutional.

Parliament passed a revised version of the amendment in June that incorporated the Venice Commission’s criticism regarding term limits and limits to judicial competencies in the final months of their office. The final version did not address Venice Commission concerns regarding the high quorum requirement for a ruling, which the commission noted was “excessive” and created the risk that a minority of judges could “easily” block decisions.

In July the chairman of the Constitutional Court, whose term ended in September, claimed the justices on the court involved in politically charged cases were under external pressure to rule in favor of the government. Some of the judges on the court, however, refuted the claim, asserting they were not under external pressure and claimed the chairman was the one pressuring them to act quickly and in certain ways. NGOs also cited threats against Constitutional Court judges and the lack of response by law enforcement authorities as causes for concern.

The court system continued to lack an effective system to guarantee the random assignment of cases. According to Transparency International, the case distribution system in the trial and appeals courts remained a major problem and hindered judicial independence. A package of legislation informally known as the “third wave of judicial reforms”–which would have enhanced judicial independence–contained amendments to introduce random electronic distribution of cases. Parliament did not adopt the package, which the government submitted in the summer of 2015 and which remained the subject of high public and international interest, until late December. At year’s end the legislation was pending the president’s approval.

The president and the Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary also highlighted that the 2015 amendments on the appointment of the chief prosecutor failed to achieve the goal of depoliticizing the Prosecution Service of Georgia. In particular, the coalition stated that a lack of genuine transparency in the formation of the Prosecutorial Council remained and that power to select the chief prosecutor ultimately rested with the ruling party and the government. The Venice Commission, which also reviewed the reforms, advised that the process of selection and appointment of the chief prosecutor should include procedures that avoid the appointment of a candidate acceptable solely to the ruling party. It also advised that the law should contain a merit-based process driven by consensus among the ruling and opposition parties, and representatives of professional circles and the society. The coalition concluded that the 2015 law failed to meet both of these criteria. Aimed at reforming the Prosecution Service of Georgia and specifically the rules for selection and discipline of the chief prosecutor, the 2015 package focused on depoliticizing the selection of the chief prosecutor by involving several agencies and parliament in both the selection and discipline of a chief prosecutor. To meet this goal, the legislation created a Prosecution Council chaired by the minister of justice and composed of prosecutors, judiciary, academia, and civil society members. The legislation also codified (for the first time) professional objective qualifications required to hold the office and implemented mechanisms to guarantee checks and balances within the Prosecution Service of Georgia.


The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair trial. While the judiciary generally enforced this right, NGOs noted this was not the case in some high-profile, politically sensitive cases. Although the constitution and law provide for the right to a public trial, GYLA reported on December 8 that courts were inconsistent in their approaches to closing hearings to the public and at times did not provide an explanation for holding a closed hearing.

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence and to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary. Defendants have a right to be present at their trial and have a public trial except where national security, privacy, or protection of a juvenile is involved. The law allows for trial in absentia in certain cases where the defendant has left the country. The code on administrative offenses does not provide the necessary due process guarantees including the presumption of innocence, especially when dealing with violations that can result in a defendant’s deprivation of liberty.

The law does not prescribe a maximum period for investigation of cases but stipulates a maximum period for trial if the person is detained. In 2015 the criminal procedure code was amended to require trial courts to issue a verdict within 24 months of completing a pretrial hearing.

GYLA noted that defendants increasingly had difficulty understanding judges’ explanation of their rights, particularly in cases where the defendants represented themselves and in plea bargain cases. Courts allowed photographs and audio and video recordings of trials and provided these to the public upon request.

Defendants have the right to meet with an attorney of their choice without hindrance, supervision, or undue restriction. Defendants enjoy the right to have an attorney provided at public expense if they are indigent, but many did not always have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. The Public Defender’s Office noted that while a state appointed lawyer generally was available for those in need, state-appointed attorneys often were not presented until submitting charges or plea bargaining. Furthermore, the Public Defender’s Office explained there was not adequate documentation of when detainee requests for state-appointed attorneys were submitted and recommended that the demand for the right to a lawyer be documented to ensure such demands and relevant actions were recorded.

Defendants and their attorneys have the right to have access to the prosecution’s evidence relevant to their cases no later than five days before the pretrial hearing, during criminal proceedings, and could make copies. Defendants have the right to question and confront prosecution or witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf at trial. Defendants have the right to refuse to testify or self-incriminate. While a defendant has the right to appeal a conviction, making an effective appeal under the administrative code was difficult. Under the criminal procedure code, defendants have 30 days to file an appeal once they receive the court’s written and reasoned judgment. Administrative sentences that entail incarceration are required to be appealed within 48 hours and within 10 days otherwise.

By law a court must certify that a plea bargain was reached without violence, intimidation, deception, or illegal promise and that the accused had the opportunity to obtain legal assistance. Plea bargaining provisions in the criminal procedure code provide safeguards for due process, including the removal of a no contest plea and allowing charge bargaining. The evidentiary standard for plea agreements stipulates that evidence must be sufficient to find a defendant guilty, without a full trial of a case, and must satisfy an objective person that the crime was committed by the defendant.


The UNM opposition party and family members of prisoners alleged the government held political prisoners, including the former internal affairs minister and former mayor of Tbilisi. The government permitted international and domestic organizations to visit persons claiming to be political prisoners or detainees, and several international organizations did so during the year.


The constitution provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, but there were concerns about the professionalism of civil judges and transparency in their adjudication. The constitution and law stipulate that a person who suffers damages resulting from arbitrary detention or other unlawful or arbitrary acts, including human rights violations, is entitled to bring a civil action. Individuals have the right to appeal court decisions involving the alleged violation of the European Convention on Human Rights by the state to the ECHR after they have exhausted domestic avenues of appeal.


There were reports of lack of due process and respect for rule of law in a number of property rights cases. The Public Defender and Chief Prosecutor’s Offices stated that after the 2012 parliamentary elections, numerous former business owners and individuals claimed former government officials illegally deprived them of property. NGOs also reported several cases in which groups claimed the former government improperly used eminent domain or coercion to seize property at unfairly low prices. The Public Defender’s Office noted hundreds of persons were still waiting for redress, although the Chief Prosecutor’s Office considered these complaints in its Investigation Department of Crimes Committed in the Course of Legal Proceedings.

During the year the government’s newly established Investigation Department of Crimes Committed in the Course of Legal Proceedings under the Chief Prosecutor’s Office investigated allegations of illegal deprivation of property under the previous government. As of year’s end, the department had received 700 such complaints and had granted 85 individuals “victim” status, in each case returning to the claimant property worth approximately 18 million lari ($6.8 million). In November the department indicted former internal affairs minister Merabishvili and former justice minister Adeishvili on charges of infringing the right to private property and forceful deprivation of citizens’ property. In 2013 the Tbilisi City Court ordered that Adeishvili be held in pretrial detention in absentia; the former justice minister remained outside the country with several cases pending against him.

According to the Public Defender’s Office, the problem of “overlapping registration” in Bakuriani, Zemo Svaneti, and Adjara, where the government only partially implemented land reform, continued and resulted in hundreds of pending cases in common courts and a high number of applications submitted to its office.

In Abkhazia the de facto legal system prohibits property claims by ethnic Georgians who left Abkhazia before, during, or after the 1992-93 war, thereby depriving IDPs of their property rights in Abkhazia.

In a 2010 decree, South Ossetian de facto authorities invalidated all real estate documents issued by the Georgian government between 1991 and 2008 relating to property in the Akhalgori Region. The decree also declared all property in Akhalgori belongs to the de facto authorities until a “citizen’s” right to that property is established in accordance with the de facto “law,” effectively stripping ethnic Georgians displaced in 2008 of their property rights in the region.

The constitution and law prohibit such actions without court approval or legal necessity and prohibit police from searching a residence or conducting nonconsensual electronic surveillance or monitoring operations without a warrant. NGOs, media outlets, and others asserted the government did not respect these prohibitions. For example, there were widespread reports that the government monitored the political opposition.

In March numerous unauthorized videos purporting to show politicians in compromising positions were released on the internet. Several other public figures stated they were blackmailed with recordings made of their private lives. The Public Defender’s Office criticized law enforcement agencies for failing to identify the sources of the recordings or establish responsibility for disseminating them. The Public Defender’s Office also admonished law enforcement bodies for failing to take appropriate measures to stop the spread of the videos.

In April the Constitutional Court ruled the country’s electronic surveillance law was unconstitutional and that the government must update it by March 2017. The court ruling drew attention to the security services’ unrestricted and direct access to telecommunication networks as well as to the inadequacy of checks on the services’ activities to protect individual privacy.

In September an audio tape was released on the internet, allegedly of a former president and other opposition leaders discussing the feasibility and logistics of organizing a revolution in the country. Opposition party members also claimed they received texts from unknown sources threatening to release incriminating footage of them. The government’s investigation was in progress at year’s end.


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

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

There were reports the government and its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and insurgents. During the year the South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP), run by the nonprofit Institute for Conflict Management, reported fatalities due to terrorism and insurgency (other than Maoist extremism), to include 145 civilians, 114 security force members, and 324 terrorists or insurgents. According to the SATP, fatalities due to terrorist violence in the northeastern states decreased from 273 deaths in 2015 to 119 during the year. Data compiled by the Institute of Conflict Management showed fatalities from terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir increased to 223 between January and October 2016 compared with 174 in 2015. Furthermore, the 2016 figure does not include 90 persons, including violent protesters, reportedly killed by security forces during a four-month period of unrest in the summer.

There were 104 reported police “encounter deaths”–a term used to describe any encounter between the security or police forces and alleged criminals or insurgents that results in a death–registered countrywide by the Investigation Division of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), according to Ministry of Home Affairs 2015 data. The Telangana government established a special investigation team to investigate the April 2015 deaths of five prisoners killed by police in Nalgonda District, Telangana, while being transported to a court in Hyderabad for trial. At the year’s end, the special investigation team had yet to submit its report to the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad.

In August 2015 the NHRC ordered the central government to pay 500,000 rupees ($7,500) as compensation for the 2011 Border Security Force killing of Felani Khatun. During the year the central government rejected the NHRC recommendation and did not pay the compensation. Felani’s family and Kolkata-based rights group MASUM petitioned the Supreme Court against the government’s refusal to pay compensation.

On August 8, Telangana security personnel fatally shot an individual, described by police as a former Maoist insurgent, who was a witness in an alleged 2005 “encounter” case involving a joint Rajasthan and Gujarat antiterrorism squad. A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court trial in Mumbai continued its deliberations on the 2005 case.

On October 31, Madhya Pradesh police reportedly killed eight suspected members of the outlawed Students’ Islamic Movement of India, after they allegedly murdered a prison guard and escaped from the high-security Central Jail of Bhopal. On November 1, the NHRC issued a formal complaint against the state government, police, and prison authorities, expressing concern about deaths. The Madhya Pradesh police appointed a special investigation team to investigate the killings.

There continued to be reports of custodial death cases, in which prisoners or detainees were killed or died in police custody. Decisions by central and state authorities not to prosecute police or security officials despite reports of evidence in certain cases remained a problem. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 97 cases of custodial deaths in 2015 with Maharashtra reporting the highest number of cases at 19. Uttar Pradesh reported nine cases and Punjab three cases.

On March 14, the Tamil Nadu government awarded 500,000 rupees ($7,500) compensation to relatives of an auto-rickshaw driver after determining a Nagapattinam District police inspector used excessive force, which led to the driver’s death in 2014. The Madras High Court oversaw the departmental inquiry after the NGO Campaign for Custodial Justice and Abolition of Torture filed a public interest petition in April 2014. Criminal and departmental proceedings against the inspector were pending.

On April 9, 20-year-old Sunil Yadav was found dead in Umri police station in Madhya Pradesh, four days after his arrest on charges of theft. Madhya Pradesh police suspended four police personnel and ordered a judicial inquiry.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) remained in effect in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, and parts of Mizoram, and a version of the law was in effect in Jammu and Kashmir. Under the AFSPA, a central government designation of state or union territory as a “disturbed area,” authorizes security forces in the state to use deadly force to “maintain law and order” and arrest any person “against whom reasonable suspicion exists” without informing the detainee of the grounds for arrest. The law also provides security forces immunity from civilian prosecution for acts committed in regions under the AFSPA. There were no official records available of enforcement actions or human rights abuses by security forces under the AFSPA during the year. In September the central government denied a request to visit Jammu and Kashmir by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the NHRC. The government also denied NHRC access to Manipur.

There was considerable public support for repeal of the AFSPA, particularly in areas that experienced a significant decrease in insurgent attacks. On July 8, the Supreme Court ruled 1,528 alleged “encounter” cases in Manipur during the last 20 years must be investigated and armed forces personnel should not be immune from prosecution if the investigations disclosed criminal conduct. The ruling stated the indefinite deployment of armed forces under AFSPA “mocks India’s democratic process.”

On August 9, human rights activist Irom Sharmila ended her 16-year hunger strike to protest of the imposition of AFSPA in Manipur. Sharmila remained in police custody for 16 years for violating a law that criminalizes attempted suicide. She initiated her strike after federal paramilitary forces killed 10 civilians in 2000.

On June 17, a Gujarat special court convicted 24 individuals (11 of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment), and acquitted 36 others for their role in the Gulberg Society killings in 2002, when a rioting mob killed 69 individuals during communal unrest. A separate case filed by Zakia Jafri one of the Gulberg Society survivors, remained pending in the Gujarat High Court. The High Court also affirmed a 2013 lower court verdict exonerating senior Gujarat government officials from culpability in the communal violence that engulfed the state from February to May 2002.

Nongovernmental forces, including organized insurgents and terrorists, committed numerous killings and bombings in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern states, and the Maoist belt (see section 1.g.). Maoists in Jharkhand and Bihar continued to attack security forces and key infrastructure facilities such as railways and communication towers. On July 19, Maoist rebels conducted improvised explosive device attacks, killing 10 paramilitary soldiers on the border of Gaya and Aurangabad districts in Bihar.

There were allegations police failed to file required arrest reports for detained persons, resulting in hundreds of unresolved disappearances. Police and government officials denied these claims. The central government reported that state government screening committees informed families about the status of detainees. There were reports, however, that prison guards sometimes required bribes from families to confirm the detention of their relatives.

Disappearances attributed to government forces, paramilitary forces, and insurgents occurred in areas of conflict during the year (see section 1.g.).

The law prohibits torture, but NGOs reported torture occurred during the year.

Police beatings of prisoners resulted in custodial deaths (see section 1.a.).

The law does not permit authorities to admit coerced confessions into evidence, but NGOs and citizens alleged authorities used torture to coerce confessions. In some instances authorities submitted these confessions as evidence in capital cases. Authorities allegedly also used torture as a means to extort money or as summary punishment. According to human rights experts, the government continued to try individuals arrested and charged under the repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act. Under the repealed law, authorities treated a confession made to a police officer as admissible as evidence in court.

According to a National Law University, Delhi study released in May, a significant percentage of prisoners on death row reported that they lived in inhumane conditions, were denied due process, and were subjected to torture. The university’s Death Penalty Research Project interviewed 373 of 385 current death row inmates between July 2013 and January 2015. Of the 270 prisoners who spoke about their experience in police custody, 216 said they had been tortured. Among states with 10 or more death row prisoners, Haryana had the highest proportion of those that reported being tortured in custody. The study categorized three out of four death row inmates as “economically vulnerable” and indicated social and economic factors often determined how authorities treated a person in jail.

On July 8, police arrested environmental and human rights activist Piyush Manush and his associates, Esan Karthik and Muthu, for protesting the construction of a railway overpass in Salem, Tamil Nadu. The court granted bail to Karthik and Muthu on July 15. Manush did not receive bail and NGOs alleged that while in Salem Central Prison police bound his hands, beat him, and placed him in solitary confinement. On July 24, the NHRC issued a notice to the Tamil Nadu government requesting a response to the allegations.

On April 5, the Supreme Court granted bail to disabled Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba on medical grounds after Maharashtra police arrested him in 2014 for alleged links with Maoist insurgents and for violating the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). In 2014 Amnesty International and civil rights activists campaigned for Saibaba’s release and alleged jail authorities denied him medical and sanitary facilities.

In January the CBI charged two police officials in Dharavi, Maharashtra with culpable homicide after a detainee died, allegedly from multiple injuries inflicted by the officers. Police initially claimed his death was due to meningitis. In June 2014 the Bombay High Court instructed CBI to takeover the investigation from the Mumbai Crime Branch.

There were continued reports that police raped male and female detainees. The government authorized the NHRC to investigate rape cases involving police officers. By law the NHRC can also request information about cases involving the army and paramilitary forces, but it has no mandate to investigate those cases. NGOs claimed the NHRC underestimated the number of rapes committed in police custody. Some rape victims were unwilling to report crimes due to social stigma and the possibility of retribution, compounded by a perception of a lack of oversight and accountability, especially if the perpetrator was a police officer or other official. There were reports police officials refused to register rape cases.

In April Kanyakumari District police arrested and detained 17 persons from the Kurava tribal community for alleged theft. According to local NGOs, police allegedly beat, tortured, and sexually assaulted the detainees over a period of 63 days. On July 8, the Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission initiated a probe into the conduct of the Kanyakumari Police.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were frequently life threatening and did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: Prisons were often severely overcrowded, and food, medical care, sanitation, and environmental conditions often were inadequate. Potable water was only occasionally available. Prisons and detention centers remained underfunded, understaffed, and lacking sufficient infrastructure. Prisoners were physically mistreated.

According to the NCRB Prison Statistics India 2015 report, there were 1,401 prisons in the country with an authorized capacity of 366,781 persons. The actual incarcerated population was 419,623. Persons awaiting trial accounted for more than two-thirds of the prison population. Authorities held men and women separately. The law requires the detention of juveniles in rehabilitative facilities, although at times authorities detained them in adult prisons, especially in rural areas. Authorities often detained pretrial detainees along with convicted prisoners. In Uttar Pradesh, occupancy at most prisons was two and sometimes three times the permitted capacity, according to an advisor appointed by the Supreme Court.

According to NCRB, authorities convicted three out of an estimated 600 inmates in a prison in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. The remainder of prisoners awaited trial in a jail built for a capacity of 150. According to the NCRB 2015 report, overcrowding was most severe in Dadra and Nagar Haveli at 277 percent of capacity, while Chhattisgarh prisons were at 234 percent of capacity; and Delhi prisons at 227 percent of capacity. A 2016 study on Indian prison monitoring by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative cited little oversight of prisons, neglect of facilities, and breaches of prisoner rights.

Administration: Authorities permitted visitors some access to prisoners, although some family members claimed authorities denied access to relatives, particularly in conflict areas, including Jammu and Kashmir. There was no ombudsman for detention facilities, but authorities allowed prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities.

Independent Monitoring: The NHRC received and investigated prisoner complaints of human rights violations throughout the year, but civil society representatives believed few prisoners filed complaints due to fear of retribution from prison guards or officials.

Authorities permitted prisoners to register complaints with state and national human rights commissions, but the authority of the commissions extended only to recommending that authorities redress grievances. Government officials reportedly often failed to comply with a 2012 Supreme Court order instructing the central government and local authorities to conduct regular checks on police stations to monitor custodial violence.

In many states the NHRC made unannounced visits to state prisons, but NHRC jurisdiction does not extend to military detention centers. An NHRC special rapporteur visited state prisons to verify that authorities provided medical care to all inmates. The rapporteur visited prisons on a regular basis throughout the year but did not release a report to the public or the press.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but both occurred during the year. Police also used special security laws to postpone judicial reviews of arrests. Pretrial detention was arbitrary and lengthy, sometimes exceeding the duration of the sentence given to those convicted.

According to human rights NGOs, some police used torture, mistreatment, and arbitrary detention to obtain forced or false confessions. In some cases police reportedly held suspects without registering their arrests and denied detainees sufficient food and water.


The 29 states and seven union territories have primary responsibility for maintaining law and order, with policy oversight from the central government. Police are under state jurisdiction. The Ministry of Home Affairs controls most paramilitary forces, the internal intelligence bureaus, and national law enforcement agencies, and provides training for senior officials from state police forces. According to Human Rights Watch, cases of arbitrary arrest, torture, and forced confessions by security forces remained common. Police forces continued to be overworked, underpaid, and subjected to political pressure, in some cases contributing to corruption.

The effectiveness of law enforcement and security forces varied widely throughout the country. According to the code of criminal procedure, Section 197, courts may not hear a case against a police officer unless the central or state government first authorizes prosecution. Nonetheless, NGOs reported that in many instances police refused to register victim’s complaints, termed “first information reports” (FIR), on crimes reported against officers, effectively preventing victims from pursuing justice. In addition, NGOs reported that victims were sometimes reluctant to report crimes committed by police due to fear of retribution. There were cases of officers at all levels acting with impunity, but there were also cases of security officials held accountable for illegal actions. Military courts investigated cases of abuse by the armed forces and paramilitary forces. Authorities tried cases against law enforcement officers in public courts. Authorities sometimes transferred officers after convicting them of a crime.

The NHRC recommended the Criminal Investigations Department investigate all deaths taking place during police pursuits, arrests, or escape attempts. Many states did not follow this nonbinding recommendation and continued to conduct internal reviews at the discretion of senior officers.

While NHRC guidelines call for state governments to report all cases of deaths from police actions to the NHRC within 48 hours, state governments did not consistently adhere to those guidelines. The NHRC also called for state governments to provide monetary compensation to families of victims, but the state governments did not consistently adhere to this practice. Authorities did not require the armed forces to report custodial deaths to the NHRC.

On January 30, a video released by the Aam Aadmi Party allegedly showed three policemen in New Delhi beating students protesting the death of Dalit student Rohith Vemula. The protesters claimed their protest was peaceful and did not justify the treatment by the police or the subsequent charges.

On October 1, four persons died and nearly 30 were injured after police reportedly fired on protesting villagers in Hazaribagh District, Jharkhand. According to media reports, the villagers were protesting acquisition of land for the development of coal mines by the central government-owned National Thermal Power Corporation.


Arbitrary Arrest: The code of criminal procedure prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, but in some cases police reportedly continued to arrest citizens arbitrarily. There were reports of police detaining individuals for custodial interrogation without identifying themselves or providing arrest warrants.

Pretrial Detention: Authorities must promptly inform persons detained on criminal charges of the charges against them and of their right to legal counsel. Under the criminal code, a magistrate may authorize the detention of an accused person for a period of no more than 90 days prior to filing charges. Under standard criminal procedure, authorities must release the accused on bail after 90 days. The code also allows police to summon individuals for questioning, but it does not grant police prearrest investigative detention authority. There were incidents in which authorities allegedly detained suspects beyond legal limits.

There were reported cases in which police denied suspects the right to meet with legal counsel as well as cases in which police unlawfully monitored suspects’ conversations and violated confidentiality rights. The constitution mandates that authorities provide defendants with “economic or other disabilities” free legal counsel, but authorities do not assess this need systematically. By law authorities must allow family members access to detainees, but this was not always observed. Arraignment of detainees must occur within 24 hours unless authorities hold the suspect under a preventive detention law. State authorities invoked preventive detention laws, most frequently in Delhi but also in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Kashmir.

Police may detain an individual without charge for up to 30 days. The law also permits authorities to hold a detainee in judicial custody without charge for up to 180 days (including the 30 days in police custody). The UAPA, which gives authorities the ability to detain persons without charge in cases related to insurgency or terrorism, makes no bail provisions for foreign nationals, and allows courts to deny bail in the case of detained citizens. It presumes the accused to be guilty if the prosecution can produce evidence of the possession of arms or explosives, or the presence of fingerprints at a crime scene, regardless of whether authorities demonstrate criminal intent. State governments also reportedly held persons without bail for extended periods before filing formal charges under the UAPA.

The law permits preventive detention in certain cases. The National Security Act allows police to detain persons considered security risks anywhere in the country, except Jammu and Kashmir, without charge or trial for as long as one year. The law allows family members and lawyers to visit national security detainees and requires authorities to inform a detainee of the grounds for detention within five days, or 10 to 15 days in exceptional circumstances.

The Public Safety Act, which applies only in Jammu and Kashmir, permits state authorities to detain persons without charge or judicial review for up to two years without visitation from family members. Authorities allowed detainees access to a lawyer during interrogation, but police in Jammu and Kashmir allegedly routinely employed arbitrary detention and denied detainees access to lawyers and medical attention. According to media reports, approximately 440 individuals in Jammu and Kashmir have been detained without trial since the beginning of large-scale protests in July. Human rights activist Khurram Pervez was arrested and detained by security forces in September prior to his departure to address the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir. On October 19, UN experts called on the government to release Pervez immediately. On November 30, authorities released Pervez after a court ruled his detention illegal.

The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) in Kochi, Kerala, reported certain prisoners with mental disabilities in the Kerala central prison considered “not fit for trial” had awaited trial for 10 to 26 years. According to the NGO, the prisoners in some cases were in detention far longer than their potential sentences. In 2013 the HRLN filed a writ petition with the Kerala High Court for the release of those prisoners. The court responded by issuing an order directing the state government to provide adequate medical treatment to the accused to render them fit for trial. The case was pending in the Kerala High Court at year’s end.

Lengthy arbitrary detention remained a significant problem due to overburdened and under resourced court systems and a lack of legal safeguards. The government continued efforts to reduce lengthy detentions and alleviate prison overcrowding by using “fast track” courts, which specified trial deadlines, provided directions for case management, and encouraged the use of bail. Some NGOs criticized these courts for failing to uphold due process and requiring detainees unable to afford bail remain in detention.

NCRB data showed most individuals awaiting trial spent more than three months in jail before they could secure bail, and nearly 65 percent spent between three months to five years before being released on bail.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but judicial corruption was widespread.

The judicial system remained seriously overburdened and lacked modern case management systems, often delaying or denying justice. According to 2015-16 data released by the Supreme Court, there was a 43 percent vacancy of judges in the country’s 24 high courts as of October 1.

On April 25, after a 10-year investigation, the special Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act court in Mumbai acquitted nine Muslim defendants accused of bomb attacks in Malegaon, Maharashtra, in 2006 and 2008, which killed 31 and injured 312,The National Investigation Agency also filed charges against Hindu nationalists for perpetrating the same attacks. After investigations by three agencies–the Maharashtra Antiterrorism Squad, the Central Bureau of Investigation, and the National Investigation Agency–the court dismissed all terror charges due to lack of evidence.


The criminal procedure code provides for public trials, except in proceedings that involve official secrets or state security. Defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence, except as described under UAPA conditions, and may choose their counsel. The state provides free legal counsel to defendants who cannot afford it, but circumstances often limited access to competent counsel, and an overburdened justice system resulted in lengthy delays in court cases, with disposition sometimes taking more than a decade.

The law allows defendants access to relevant government evidence in most civil and criminal cases, but the government reserved the right to withhold information and did so in cases it considered sensitive. While defendants have the right to confront accusers and present their own witnesses and evidence, defendants sometimes did not exercise this right due to lack of proper legal representation. Defendants have the right not to testify or confess guilt. Courts must announce sentences publicly, and there are effective channels for appeal at most levels of the judicial system.


There were reports of political prisoners and detainees. NGOs reported the Jammu and Kashmir government held political prisoners and between 2005 and 2014 temporarily detained more than 690 persons characterized as terrorists, insurgents, and separatists under the Public Safety Act. On July 20, a Kolkata court acquitted veteran Communist Party India (Maoist) spokesperson Gour Chakraborty, who was arrested in 2009 and charged with several offenses, including sedition. The court released Chakraborty after the prosecution failed to substantiate the charges.


Individuals, or NGOs on behalf of individuals or groups, may file public interest litigation petitions in any high court or directly to the Supreme Court to seek judicial redress of public injury. Grievances can include a breach of public duty by a government agent or a violation of a provision of the constitution. NGOs credited public-interest litigation petitions with making government officials accountable to civil society organizations in cases involving allegations of corruption and partiality.

On January 13, the Bombay High Court addressed a two-fold rise in reported custodial death and police torture cases from 2014 to 2015 and directed the Maharashtra government to submit a report to the court. The court criticized the government for its failure to install closed-circuit television cameras in police stations, despite a court order.

While the constitution does not contain an explicit right to privacy, the Supreme Court has found such a right implicit in other constitutional provisions, most notably Article 21. The law, with some exceptions, prohibits arbitrary interference. The government generally respected this provision, although at times authorities infringed upon the privacy rights of citizens. The law requires police to obtain warrants to conduct searches and seizures, except in cases in which such actions would cause undue delay. Police must justify warrantless searches in writing to the nearest magistrate with jurisdiction over the offense.

The Official Secrets Act hindered transparency and accountability with regard to electronic surveillance. Responding to a query in the lower house of parliament in August, the Union Home Ministry stated the government set up an interministerial committee to examine the provisions of the Official Secrets Act and that the matter was under consideration.

Both the central and state governments intercepted communications under the authority of the Telegraph Act 1885, section 5(2), and under section 69 of the Information Technology Act 2000, as amended. The Group of Experts on Privacy convened in 2012 by the Government of India Planning Commission, the most recent review available, noted that the differences between these two statutes had created an unclear regulatory regime that was, according to the report, “inconsistent, nontransparent, prone to misuse, and does not provide remedy or compensation to aggrieved individuals.”

The UAPA provides an additional legal basis for warrantless searches. The UAPA also allows use of evidence obtained from intercepted communications in terrorist cases. In Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Manipur, security officials have special authorities to search and arrest without a warrant.

The Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) of 2005 allows police to detain a person without charge for as long as 90 days. Opponents argued the law, which authorizes detention of individuals with a “tendency to pose an obstacle to the administration of law,” infringed upon privacy and free speech. The government detained two journalists under the CSPSA, accusing them of complicity in a deadly attack on police by Naxalite insurgents; some media reports indicated authorities imprisoned the journalists because of their reporting. A local court acquitted one of the two journalists on July 21.

The country’s armed forces, the security forces of individual states, and paramilitary forces engaged in armed conflict with insurgent groups in several northeastern states, and with Maoist insurgents in the north, central, and eastern parts of the country–although the intensity of these conflicts continued to decrease significantly. Army and central security forces remained stationed at conflict areas in the northeast.

The use of force by all parties to the conflicts resulted in deaths and injuries to both conflict participants and civilians. There were reports government security forces committed extrajudicial killings, including staging encounter killings to conceal the deaths of captured militants. Human rights groups claimed police refused to release bodies in cases of alleged “encounters.” Authorities did not require the armed forces to report custodial deaths to the NHRC.

The July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahidden commander Burhan Wani led to continuing civilian protests in the Kashmir Valley and resulted in 90 deaths, including 88 civilians and two police officers. According to media reports, more than 4,500 civilians and more than 4,000 security personnel were injured. Schools, markets, offices, and businesses remained closed for extended periods.

The central and state governments and the armed forces investigated complaints and punished some violations committed by government forces. Authorities arrested and tried insurgents under terrorism-related legislation.

There were few investigations and prosecutions of human rights violations arising from internal conflicts. NGOs claimed that due to AFSPA immunity provisions, authorities did not hold the armed forces responsible for the deaths of civilians killed in Jammu and Kashmir in previous years.

Insurgents and terrorists reportedly committed attacks on roads and railways.

Killings: According to NGO and media reports, the apparently indiscriminate use of shotguns loaded with birdshot by security forces to control crowds, including violent protests, in Jammu and Kashmir resulted in 87 civilian deaths and blinded hundreds more, including children.

In Maoist-affected districts, there were reports of abuses by security forces and insurgents. On February 27, security forces killed Manda Kadraka, a member of an Odisha tribal community, during an exchange of gunfire with Maoists in Rayagada District. Police claimed Kadraka was a Maoist and died after exchanging fire with security forces. The Niyamgiri Surakhya Samithi, an organization that works for the welfare of the Dongria Kondh tribal group, maintained Kadraka was not a combatant and that the police killed him to suppress protests against mining in the surrounding area. In July, 10 soldiers were killed in an attack by Maoist insurgents in the Dumrinala area, 100 miles outside Patna, the capital of Bihar. According to state police officials, the insurgents employed improvised explosive devices and small arms in the attack on soldiers.

Abductions: Human rights groups maintained military, paramilitary, and insurgent forces abducted numerous persons in Manipur, Jharkhand, and the Maoist belt. Human rights activists alleged cases of prisoners tortured or killed during detention. During the year media outlets reported cases of abduction by insurgent groups in Manipur. On June 28, the Assam Rifles disrupted a plot by the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak insurgent group to abduct and extort petroleum truck drivers. Contractors working on a railway project connecting Manipur’s capital Imphal to Jiribam also reported abduction and extortion threats by militant groups. In April police recovered the body of a driver from Lhangnom village in Manipur’s Senapati District. The driver was allegedly abducted by insurgents on March 3.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: There were reports government security forces tortured, raped, and mistreated insurgents and alleged terrorists in custody and injured demonstrators. All parties to the conflicts injured civilians.

Child Soldiers: Insurgent groups reportedly used children to attack government entities in roles such as bomb couriers. The Ministry of Home Affairs reported Maoist groups conscripted boys and girls ages six to 12 into specific children’s units (Bal Dasta and Bal Sangham) in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha States. The Maoist groups used the children in combat and intelligence-gathering roles. Insurgents trained children as spies and couriers, as well as in the use of arms, planting explosives, and intelligence gathering. NGOs in Manipur reported the National Socialist Council of Nagaland Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) recruited nearly 3,000 personnel, a large percentage of whom were minors, between January and April. Security officials in Manipur corroborated the trend.

Although the United Nations was not able to verify all allegations, reports submitted to parliament contained similar allegations. Recruitment of children by Maoist armed groups allegedly continued. Observers reported children as young as 12 were members of Maoist youth groups and allied militia. They reportedly handled weapons and improvised explosive devices. Maoists reportedly held children against their will and threatened severe reprisals, including the killing of family members, if the children attempted to escape. There were reports of girls serving in Maoist groups. The government claimed, based on statements of several women formerly associated with Maoist groups, that sexual violence, including rape and other forms of abuse, was a practice in some Maoist camps.

According to government sources, Maoist armed groups used children as human shields in confrontations with security forces. Attacks on schools by Maoists continued to affect children’s access to education in affected areas. There were continued reports on the use of schools as military barracks and bases. The deployment of government security forces near schools remained a concern. There were reports armed groups recruited children from schools in Chhattisgarh.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: As of July the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimated conflicts and instability in the country displaced 3.7 million persons.

Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) have fled the Kashmir Valley to Jammu, Delhi, and other areas in the country since 1990 because of conflict and violent intimidation, including destruction of houses of worship, sexual abuse, and theft of property, by Kashmiri separatists. The Kashmiri Pandits began to leave Kashmir after the 1990 onset of insurgency against the Indian state. In Jammu and Kashmir, central government assistance to displaced Kashmiri Pandits consisted of monthly cash allowances and food rations, but some members of the group claimed the assistance failed to address their livelihood needs. In May 2015 thousands of Kashmiri Pandits and members of the National Conference protested against state government plans to resettle the group in secluded enclaves in Kashmir without consultation.

In the central and eastern areas, armed conflicts between Maoist insurgents and government security forces over land and mineral resources in tribal forest areas continued, affecting 182 of the country’s 626 districts in 20 of its 29 states. Human rights advocates alleged the government’s operations sought not only to suppress the Maoists but also to force tribal persons off their land, allowing for commercial exploitation.

Internally displaced person (IDP) camps continued to operate in Chhattisgarh for tribal persons displaced during the 2005 fighting between Maoists and state-sponsored militia Salwa Judum.

Throughout the year there were reports by media organizations and academic institutions of corporations’ human rights abuses against tea workers, including violations of the Plantation Labor Act. In some cases violent strikes resulted from companies withholding medical care required by law. Other reports indicated workers had difficulty accessing clean water, with open sewage flowing through company housing areas. The tea industry is among the largest private-sector employers in the country, providing work for more than one million permanent workers and up to two million seasonal laborers.

Between January 11 and 14, tribal women alleged rape and sexual assault by security forces during search operations in Nendra, Chhattisgarh. Six tribal women from the village of Kunna alleged security forces assaulted them on January 12. On January 25, Amnesty International called for an investigation of police inaction in 13 sexual assault cases of tribal women in Nendra village. In April the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) claimed mass sexual abuse by security forces during counterinsurgency operations. The NCST recommended that investigation of three specific cases be transferred from district police authorities to the state’s Criminal Investigation Department.


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

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

During the year human rights groups and the media reported that military and police personnel used excessive force during arrests, investigations, crowd control situations, and other operations. In these cases and other cases of alleged misconduct, the police and the military frequently did not disclose the findings of internal investigations to the public or confirm whether such investigations occurred. Official statements related to these allegations sometimes contradicted witness accounts, making confirmation of the facts difficult. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the media reported that police tortured suspects during detention and interrogation, including torture that resulted in death (see section 1.c.).

Komnas HAM and the Presidential Advisory Board (Wantimpres) hosted a two-day symposium on the 1965-66 anti-Communist purges on April 18 and 19 in Jakarta, marking the first government-sponsored event on disappearances and killings that affected hundreds of thousands of persons by common estimates. The event featured speakers from the government, including then coordinating minister for politics, legal, and security affairs Luhut Pandjaitan, former military officers from the period, victims, victims’ families, and advocates. Government officials made clear at the outset that reconciliation would not include judicial remedies, official apologies, or reparations, a move criticized by NGOs as inadequate. During the symposium victims of the tragedy were for the first time given a stage–on national television–to tell their stories and ask for an end to stigma, without fear of censorship or reprisal. Many hardline groups made clear their opposition to any event on the purges, and there were small protests at the symposium. The symposium concluded that the government should create a full historical accounting of the 1965-66 events, facilitate rehabilitation for victims, end the social stigma, and undertake a national reconciliation process that would include similar events across the country. President Jokowi said he would consider the recommendations.

Occasional violence continued to affect the provinces of Papua and West Papua. In December 2015 a shootout between 25 personnel of Yapen Police District and 20 alleged members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) took place in Wanapompi Bawah village, Serui, Yapen Islands, during a patrol to disperse a Papua Independence Day commemoration. This resulted in the death of two OPM members, Erik Manitori and Yulianus Robaha, and injuries to 10 other members. Later that month an unknown armed group attacked the Sinak subdistrict police office and killed three officers, while another two were injured but managed to escape. The attackers also stole seven firearms and a box of ammunition.

The lack of transparent investigations continued to hamper accountability in a number of past cases involving security forces. These included the 2013 killings of two members of a proindependence group at a prayer service and flag raising ceremony in Sorong, the 2012 killings of Mako Tabuni and Tejoli Weya, and the 2011 killing of three individuals during the forced dissolution of the Third Papuan People’s Congress. Human rights groups continued to allege that senior members of the State Intelligence Agency were involved in the 2004 killing of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib. In September, President Jokowi pledged to settle the unresolved case. On October 10, the Public Information Commission ruled that the investigation findings conducted during the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono were public information that must be released. President Yudhoyono sent copies of the findings to the State Secretariat Ministry on October 26. The findings remained under examination at the Attorney General’s Office.

On January 14, four civilians were killed in a terrorist attack involving bombs and shooting in Central Jakarta. Four attackers also were killed.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. The government and civil society organizations, however, reported little progress in accounting for persons who disappeared in previous years or in prosecuting those responsible for such disappearances.

The constitution states that every person shall have the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. The law criminalizes the use of violence or force by officials to elicit a confession. Officials can be imprisoned for up to four years if they use violence or force, but the criminal code does not specifically criminalize torture.

NGOs reported that torture continued to be commonplace in police detention facilities. Police reportedly tortured suspects during detention and interrogation, including torture that resulted in death. NGOs, victims, and media organizations reported that police officers blindfolded detainees; beat detainees with nightsticks, fists, and rifle butts; applied electric shock; burned suspects during interrogations; and forced confessions at gunpoint.

Between July 2015 and July 2016, the Commission on the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) recorded 224 reports of police violence, including 91 cases of torture. A disproportionate number of these incidents involved the Investigative General Crimes (Reskrim) units, also known as the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) units. Komnas HAM reported 188 cases of police misconduct involving CID units from January to April.

On February 25, the Supreme Court overturned the acquittal of Neil Bantleman and Ferdinant Tijong, two teachers at the Jakarta International School (now Jakarta Intercultural School), on charges they sexually abused three students. The Supreme Court ruling reinstated the trial court convictions, returned the teachers to jail, and increased their sentences from 10 to 11 years. In a related case, five custodial staff members at the school were also convicted of sexual abuse and were serving sentences of 10 years after the Jakarta High Court rejected their appeal in August 2015. The five reported that police officers tortured them during interrogations. A sixth custodial staff member died while being questioned by police. Expert medical evidence presented at the trial, along with inquiries by NGOs and the media, concluded that no child abuse had taken place.

Under terms of the 2005 peace agreement that ended a separatist conflict in Aceh, the province has special authority to implement sharia law regulations. Authorities in Aceh carried out public canings for violations of sharia in cases of gambling, adultery, alcohol consumption, and sexual relations outside of marriage. According to media reports, authorities caned 108 individuals in 2015. On April 12, a 60-year-old Christian woman was caned for selling alcohol. Her caning was the first instance of a non-Muslim being punished under sharia law in Aceh. Aceh provincial officials in charge of sharia law enforcement stated that the woman chose to receive punishment under sharia law rather than the criminal statutes, which may carry fines and imprisonment. Other officials stated that the caning was an “error” that was not in accordance with Aceh’s sharia code and reiterated that provincial sharia does not apply to non-Muslims. A new criminal code that took effect in Aceh during the year also calls for caning of those convicted of homosexuality, adultery, and other offenses (see section 6). Authorities in Aceh issued a public statement clarifying that sharia law does not apply to non-Muslims, foreigners, or Muslim Indonesians not resident in Aceh.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions at the country’s 477 prisons and detention centers were often harsh and sometimes life threatening.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding was a serious problem, including at immigration detention centers. According to the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, in July there were 198,199 prisoners and detainees in the prisons and detention centers, which were designed to hold 118,969. Overcrowded prisons faced hygiene and ventilation problems in high temperature regions such as North Sumatra, which adversely affected the living conditions of the convicts.

By law prisons are supposed to hold those convicted by courts, while detention centers hold those awaiting trial. At times, however, officials held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners.

By law children convicted of serious crimes serve their sentences in juvenile prisons. As of August there were 3,115 juvenile convicted prisoners, some of whom were held in the adult prison system. On August 5, Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly announced plans to build special juvenile correction facilities in 34 provinces, but as of November no juveniles had been relocated to the 19 facilities completed since President Joko Widodo took office.

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

According to government figures, 548 prisoners died in custody between January 1 and June 30. Of these, 240 died of old age and natural causes, 30 died from leptospirosis, five died during a prison riot, and 50 of other causes.

NGOs noted authorities sometimes did not provide prisoners adequate medical care. Human rights activists observed that authorities did not deny medical care to prisoners based on their crimes, but rather due to a lack of resources. International and local NGOs reported that in some cases prisoners did not have ready access to clean drinking water. There were widespread reports that the government did not supply sufficient food to prisoners, and family members often brought food to supplement their relatives’ diets. Family members also reported prison officials sought bribes to allow prison visits, according to NGO reports.

Guards in detention facilities and prisons regularly extorted money from inmates, and prisoners reported that guards physically abused them. Inmates within the correctional institutions often bribed or paid corrections officers for favors, food, phones, or narcotics. The use and production of illicit drugs in prisons was a serious problem, with some drug networks basing operations out of prisons.

Administration: The Ombudsman’s Office launched a self-initiated investigation of prison conditions and reported its findings to the minister of law and human rights. It was not clear whether any changes resulted from this reporting.

Independent Monitoring: Some domestic NGOs received access to prisons, but they were required to obtain permission through bureaucratic mechanisms, including approval from the police, attorney general, courts, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and other agencies. NGOs reported that direct access to prisoners for interviews was rarely permitted.

Improvements: On August 5, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights formed a special team to investigate allegations of extortion and bribery in all correctional facilities.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but there are inadequate enforcement mechanisms. NGOs and the media reported that police abuse of suspects in detention was common.


By law the Indonesian National Police (POLRI) is responsible for internal security. The Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) is responsible for external defense, and its military territorial commands are individually charged with deterring and overcoming threats to national sovereignty and territorial integrity within their respective commands. On request and with authorization from the president, the military may provide operational support to the police in counterterrorism operations and in resolving communal conflicts. A presidential instruction issued in 2013, and a subsequent memorandum of understanding between the police and the TNI, further elaborated the military’s role in resolving communal conflicts. Such operations are subject to laws and regulations that govern law enforcement activities other than warfare, and police retain explicit operational control. Despite this regulatory framework, some observers expressed concern that the TNI used its role in counterdomestic terrorism operations as a means to re-establish a stronger unilateral role in domestic security and intelligence operations.

The president appoints the national police chief, subject to confirmation by the House of Representatives (DPR). The police chief reports to the president but is not a full member of the cabinet. Police had approximately 430,000 personnel deployed in 31 regional commands in 34 provinces. They maintain a centralized hierarchy with local police units formally reporting to national headquarters, but in fact local units exercise considerable autonomy.

The Ethics Division of POLRI is responsible for investigating crimes committed by police. The TNI appoints teams of investigators who are responsible for investigating crimes by military personnel. The police and TNI rarely disclosed the findings or acknowledged the existence of internal investigations to the public. The Internal Affairs Division and the National Police Commission within the POLRI investigated complaints from the public against individual police officers. As of August, 349 police officers had been discharged because of infractions. There is no system in place, however, to ensure that abusive officers cannot be rehired elsewhere as police officers.

On March 11, terrorist suspect Siyono (one name only) died while in police custody near Klaten, Central Java, drawing widespread criticism from civil society groups, politicians, and the public. On April 19, the Police Internal Affairs Division ethics tribunal found that two Detachment 88 officers had violated standard operating procedures by failing to handcuff Siyono while transporting him and failing to have enough individuals guarding him. The tribunal demoted the officers and transferred them to other detachments for at least four years, a decision the officers appealed. Human rights groups criticized the accountability as inadequate and continued to push for criminal charges against the officers. The police stated that no criminal charges would be filed because there was no evidence that the officers intentionally killed Siyono.

In Aceh the Sharia Police, an independent provincial body, is responsible for enforcing sharia law.

There was impunity and corruption within the police and military (see sections 1.a. and 4). For example, in September, Hartomo (one name only) was appointed to head the Armed Forces Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS). In 2003 a military tribunal convicted Hartomo for the 2001 murder of prominent Papuan civil society leader, Theys Eluay. He was sentenced to three and one-half years in prison and discharged from the military. Later in 2003 he appealed his conviction to a military tribunal in Jakarta. The outcome of that tribunal was never made public, but Hartomo resurfaced on active duty in 2005. Several former members of the Special Forces’ Rose Team, who were convicted in 1999 of kidnapping youth and prodemocracy activists from 1996 to 1998, reemerged on active duty in the military, counterterrorism agency, intelligence agency, and Ministry of Defense. On September 1, the military promoted four of these former members.

On July 27, President Jokowi appointed Wiranto (one name only), the former TNI commander in chief, as the coordinating minister for political, legal, and security affairs. In 2003 the UN-established Special Panel for Serious Crimes (SPSC) in East Timor indicted Wiranto for crimes against humanity based on his command responsibility for Indonesia-directed militias that committed atrocities in East Timor in 1999. In September the government appointed General Yayat Sudrajat secretary of the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs. The SPSC for East Timor also indicted him for crimes against humanity in 2003.


The law provides detainees the right to notify their families promptly and specifies that security forces must produce warrants during an arrest. Exceptions are permitted if, for example, a suspect is caught in the act of committing a crime. The law allows investigators to issue warrants, but at times authorities made arrests without warrants. By law suspects or defendants have the right to legal counsel of their choice at every stage of an investigation. Court officials are supposed to provide free legal counsel to persons charged with offenses that carry a death penalty or imprisonment of 15 years or more, or to destitute defendants facing charges that carry a penalty of five years or more. Such resources were limited.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports of arbitrary arrest by police.

There were multiple reports of police temporarily detaining individuals in Papua for participation in peaceful demonstrations and other nonviolent activities advocating independence (see section 2.b.).

Pretrial Detention: The law permits pretrial detention only if there is a danger the suspect will flee, destroy or remove evidence, commit another crime, or if the suspect is held for an offense that carries a penalty of five or more years’ imprisonment or for other specific charges such as fraud and embezzlement. In instances when pretrial detention is allowable, police are permitted to impose an initial 20-day detention, which can be extended to 60 days by the prosecutors while the investigation is conducted. Prosecutors may detain a suspect for a further 30 days during the prosecution phase and may seek a 20-day extension from the courts. The district and high courts may detain a defendant up to 90 days during trial or appeal, while the Supreme Court may detain a defendant for 110 days while considering an appeal. Additionally, the court may extend detention periods up to another 60 days at each level if a defendant faces a possible prison sentence of nine years or longer or if the individual is certified to be mentally disturbed. Authorities generally respected these limits. The antiterrorism law allows investigators to detain for up to four months any person who, based on adequate preliminary evidence, is strongly suspected of committing or planning to commit any act of terrorism; thereafter charges must be filed.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: A defendant may challenge the legality of his or her arrest and detention in a pretrial hearing and may sue for compensation if wrongfully detained. Defendants, however, rarely won pretrial hearings and almost never received compensation after being released without charge. Military and civilian courts rarely accepted appeals based on claims of improper arrest and detention.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary remained susceptible to influence from outside parties, including business interests, politicians, and the security forces.

At times local authorities did not respect court orders, and decentralization created additional difficulties for the enforcement of these orders.

During the year military courts tried a number of low-level and some mid-level soldiers for offenses that, among others, involved civilians or occurred when the soldiers were off duty. If a soldier is suspected of committing a crime, military police investigate and then pass their findings to military prosecutors, who decide whether to prosecute. Under the law military prosecutors are accountable to the Supreme Court, but military prosecutors are responsible to the TNI for applying the laws.

A three-person panel of military judges hears military trials. The High Military Court, Primary Military Court, and Supreme Court hear appeals. Civil society organizations and other observers criticized the short length of prison sentences imposed by military courts.

Four district courts located in Surabaya, Makassar, Jakarta, and Medan are authorized to adjudicate cases of systematic gross human rights violations upon the recommendation of Komnas HAM. The law provides for each court to have five members, including three noncareer human rights judges appointed to five-year terms. Verdicts can be appealed to the standing appellate court and the Supreme Court. The law provides for internationally recognized definitions of genocide, crimes against humanity, and command responsibility. It does not include war crimes as a gross violation of human rights, nor does it require the prosecution of commanders in crimes perpetrated by subordinates. None of the four district courts have heard or ruled on any cases since 2005.

Under the sharia court system in Aceh, 19 district religious courts and one court of appeals hear cases. In the past the courts heard only cases involving Muslims and used decrees formulated by the local government rather than the penal code. A new sharia criminal code (Qanun) that took effect in October 2014 appears to extend sharia law to non-Muslims in certain cases (see section 6). Under the new sharia criminal code, offenses including homosexuality, gambling, consumption of alcohol, and proximity to the opposite sex outside of marriage are punishable with caning, fines, and imprisonment. In February authorities in Aceh issued a written public statement clarifying that sharia law does not apply to non-Muslims, foreigners, or Muslim Indonesians not resident in Aceh.


The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial; however, corruption and misconduct in the judiciary hindered the enforcement of this right for many individuals. The law presumes defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Defendants are informed promptly and in detail of the charges and have the right to confront witnesses and call witnesses in their defense. An exception is permitted in cases in which distance is excessive or the expense of transporting witnesses to the court is too expensive. In such cases sworn affidavits may be introduced. In some cases courts allowed forced confessions and limited the presentation of defense evidence. Defendants have the right to avoid self-incrimination. In each of the country’s 825 courts, a panel of judges conducts trials by posing questions, hearing evidence, deciding on guilt or innocence, and imposing punishment. Both the defense and prosecution can appeal. Defendants may access the prosecution’s evidence through application to the hearing panel’s presiding judge.

Convicts have one year to request a pardon, provided they have completed two-thirds of their sentence. Suud Rusli, who was convicted of murder in 2013, did not request a pardon within one year of his sentencing. He requested a judicial review from the Constitutional Court on the pardon law, arguing that it was unjust that he could request a pardon only once and within a one-year timeframe. The Constitutional Court granted Suud a partial pardon request, but on June 21, it rejected the petition to extend the one-year limit for seeking pardons.

The law gives defendants the right to an attorney from the time of arrest and at every stage of examination and requires that counsel represent defendants in cases involving capital punishment or a prison sentence of 15 years or more. In cases involving potential sentences of five years or more, the law requires an attorney be appointed if the defendant is indigent and requests counsel. In theory indigent defendants may obtain private legal assistance, and NGO lawyer associations provide free legal representation to indigent defendants. For example, Jakarta Legal Aid handled 1,322 cases during 2015. Defendants have the right to free interpretation, which can be provided if requested through their defense plea. The law extends these rights to all citizens. In some cases procedural protections, including those against forced confessions, were inadequate to ensure a fair trial. With the notable exceptions of sharia court proceedings in Aceh and some military trials, trials are public.


NGOs estimated there were as many as 51 political prisoners from the provinces of Papua and West Papua and at least an additional nine from Maluku. Most were imprisoned under treason and conspiracy statutes for actions related to the display of banned separatist symbols, and many were serving lengthy sentences.

A number of independence activists from the Papua and Maluku regions were detained or imprisoned for peacefully expressing their political views. Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of arrests made specifically for raising banned separatist flags, but peaceful protests and calls for independence resulted in arrest and trial on treason charges.

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


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


An eminent domain law allows the government to appropriate land for the public good against the owner’s wishes provided the government properly compensates owners. NGOs accused the government of using its authority to expropriate or facilitate private acquisition of land for development projects, often without fair compensation. In other cases state-owned companies were accused of endangering resources upon which citizens’ livelihoods depended.

On February 15, Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama closed the red-light district in Kalijodo. Activists accused the Jakarta Provincial government of unlawfully evicting the residents. Ahok provided compensation in the form of low-cost apartments and funding for former Kalijodo residents to operate small and medium-sized enterprises in their new locations.

Land access and ownership were major sources of conflict. Lack of credible maps, traditional rights, as well as numerous competing laws and regulations on land ownership, allow for multiple parties with legitimate claims to the same piece of land. Security forces sometimes evicted those involved in land disputes without due process, often siding with business claimants over poorer residents. The Legal Aid Foundation reported that it received nearly 1,322 complaints related to land conflicts, noting that in many cases police and the TNI evicted residents on behalf of corporations.

On August 18, the residents of Sari Rejo subdistrict in North Sumatra were involved in a physical confrontation with Air Force personnel guarding disputed land. At least 10 civilians were injured in the clash.

The law requires judicial warrants for searches except for cases involving subversion, economic crimes, and corruption. Security forces generally respected these requirements. The law also provides for searches without warrants when circumstances are “urgent and compelling” and for the execution of warrantless wiretaps by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). The law grants police special powers to restrict civil liberties and allows military intervention to manage conflicts that might cause social unrest.

NGOs claimed security officials broke into their homes and offices, occasionally conducting warrantless surveillance on individuals and their residences and monitoring telephone calls.


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

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

There were some reports of arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life. Local human rights organizations alleged that at least three individuals died in custody from torture during the year, but they did not publicly report specifics of the cases.

In April the National Coordinator for Human Rights announced that the police court was considering three cases of alleged torture by Public Security Directorate (PSD) personnel. The three police court cases, including the May 2015 death while in custody of Abduallah al-Zo’ubi and the September 2015 death while in custody of Omar al-Nasir, continued at year’s end.

There were no reports during the year of politically motivated disappearances.

The constitution bans torture, including psychological harm, by public officials and provides penalties of as long as three years’ imprisonment for its use, with a penalty of up to 15 years if serious injury occurs. While the law prohibits such practices, international and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to report incidents of torture and widespread mistreatment in police and security detention centers. Human rights lawyers found the law ambiguous and supported amendments to define “torture” better and strengthen sentencing guidelines.

The police court case against five police officers charged with the torture of Omar al-Nasir continued. Omar al-Nasir died in custody at the Criminal Investigation Department’s headquarters in Amman in late September 2015.

According to a report by the quasi-governmental National Center for Human Rights (NCHR), the PSD received and investigated 239 complaints of torture and mistreatment in police stations in 2015; 147 cases had no further action due to a decision by the police prosecutor, 45 were referred to the chief of a police unit for administrative punishment, and 27 remained pending. Authorities referred 20 complaints to the police court in comparison with one case in 2014. The NCHR received 92 complaints of torture and mistreatment in police stations in 2015.

The NCHR received complaints of torture and inhuman treatment, but did not report specifics of the allegations. Throughout the year a local NGO reported that, in an effort to humiliate detainees, government agents at times abused them during arrest or detention by making them remove their clothing and threatening them with rape. The NCHR reported in 2015 a sharp drop in complaints of torture and mistreatment at prisons and rehabilitation centers, while it observed an increase in complaints of torture and mistreatment against the Anti-Narcotics Department and the Criminal Investigation Department.

The 2015 NCHR report documented no effective steps by either the legislative or the executive powers to address torture and called for amending the law to give jurisdiction to ordinary courts to follow up on torture cases to ensure the trial and conviction of perpetrators of torture and that victims received compensation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in the country’s six older prisons were poor, while the eight new prisons met international standards. Authorities held migrants without legal work or residency permits, or charged with other crimes, in the same facilities as citizens. (For information on asylum seekers and refugees, see section 2.d.).

Physical Conditions: Significant problems in older prison facilities included inadequate health care, poor sanitation and ventilation, extreme temperatures, and insufficient basic and emergency medical care. In its 2015 report, the NCHR, identified as problems overcrowding; and limited health care, legal assistance for inmates, and social care for the inmates and their families. Detainees reported abuse and mistreatment by guards.

According to a report by the NCHR, in 2015 the PSD received 38 cases of allegations of torture and mistreatment in prisons and rehabilitation centers compared to 61 in 2014: authorities convicted 12 officers, but, in the other 30 cases, authorities took no further action for unspecified reasons. In 2015 the NCHR received eight complaints of torture and mistreatment at prisons and rehabilitation centers compared with 11 in 2014. According to NCHR there were 30 deaths in prisons in 2015, 26 of them were due to “natural causes,” one was due to “unnatural causes” (beaten to death by a fellow inmate), and three were suicides.

Officials and the NCHR reported overcrowding at most of the prisons, especially the prisons in and around Amman. The NCHR repeatedly recommended the closure of Jweideh Prison, citing deteriorating infrastructure and inmates’ complaints of poor social and medical care.

During the year the government closed eight temporary detention centers for failing to meet acceptable standards, and conducted renovations at an additional 17 temporary detention centers at police stations.

A 2014 law stipulates that juveniles and adult detainees should be held separately during the pretrial phases as well.

International and domestic NGOs reported that in some instances Islamist prisoners faced harsher prison conditions than other inmates.

Authorities often held pretrial detainees in the same detention facilities as convicted prisoners. The General Intelligence Directorate held some persons detained on national security charges in separate detention facilities. In 2015 the NCHR made an unspecified number of announced visits to directorate prisons, where the detainees complained of prolonged pretrial detention. The center received the following complaints about the Intelligence Directorate: solitary confinement and isolation of prisoners and prolonged detentions of up to one year. According to human rights activists and the 2015 NCHR report, the directorate held detainees in solitary confinement and did not allow unsupervised meetings with visitors, including their lawyers. There were also reports of mistreatment, abuse, and torture in their detention facilities. The 2015 NCHR report noted a decrease in the number of complaints related to the physical conditions of Intelligence Directorate detention facilities compared with previous years.

Although basic care was available in all correctional facilities, medical staff complained that correction facilities throughout the country lacked adequate facilities, supplies, and staff. The staff was unable to address deficiencies in care available to inmates. Most facilities were unable to conduct blood tests and had limited X-ray capabilities, forcing doctors to rely largely on patient self-reporting for certain conditions. If an inmate’s condition was too severe for treatment at the clinic, doctors recommended transfer to a local hospital.

Conditions in the women’s prison were generally better than conditions in most of the men’s prison, but overcrowding at Jweideh was sometimes a problem.

Administration: During the year the PSD instituted a requirement that all temporary detention centers must keep a logbook recording the health status of each prisoner before and after detention. Authorities took no steps systematically to use alternatives to prison sentences for nonviolent offenders. As of 2014 the Juvenile Law recommends that judges use alternative sentencing, including community service and vocational training, for juveniles, although authorities had not done so. There were limited post-release programs and poor classification of inmates. Some newer prisons, such as Umm al-Lulu Prison, offered a range of vocational training programs and employment opportunities for adult male prisoners. There were no prison ombudsmen. In some cases authorities severely restricted the access of prisoners and detainees to visitors. In some cases authorities did not inform the families regarding the whereabouts of detainees and banned family visits. Prisoners could observe their religious practices. Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities and, in some prisons, prison directors without censorship, but authorities rarely investigated allegations of poor conditions. Karamah, a team of government officials and NGOs, and the NCHR, a quasi-governmental organization, monitored prison conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some local and international human rights observers to visit prisons and conduct private interviews. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited prisoners and detainees in all prisons, including those controlled by the Intelligence Directorate, according to standard ICRC modalities. Authorities denied requests by local human rights observers to conduct monitoring visits independently of Karamah and the NCHR. The prime minister-appointed national human rights coordinator organized monitoring visits for several local and international NGO representatives to the Jweideh Prison on January 21 and, after its renovation, on November 15. The coordinator organized a similar visit to Swaqah Prison on March 17.

Improvements: Early in the year, the government completed renovations of the men’s section of Jweideh Prison to expand the living area for each inmate to meet international standards, including by installing fans in the rooms and toilets, and repairing the roof to prevent leaks. The renovations also created a new family visiting area, a dining hall, and an outdoor recreation area, renovated the mosque, clinic, and dentist’s office, upgraded the sewage, electricity, heating, and water systems, and expanded the facility’s capacity from 1,080 to 1,400.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the government did not always observe these prohibitions.


The PSD controls general police functions. The PSD, the Intelligence Directorate, the gendarmerie, the Civil Defense Directorate, and the military share responsibility for maintaining internal security. The PSD, the Civil Defense Directorate, and the gendarmerie report to the Minister of Interior with direct access to the king when necessary, and the Intelligence Directorate reports directly to the king. Civilian authorities maintained control over security forces.

According to local and international NGOs, the government rarely investigated allegations of abuse or corruption, and when authorities investigated such allegations, there were few convictions and little to no public information or transparency about the investigation and sentencing. Local and international NGOs and activists alleged widespread impunity. Citizens may file complaints of police abuse or corruption with the PSD’s Ombudsman Bureau or at a police prosecutor stationed with each unit and at each prison. Citizens may file complaints of abuse and corruption by the gendarmerie directly with the PSD’s Ombudsman Bureau. An Intelligence Directorate liaison officer receives complaints against the directorate and refers them to Intelligence Directorate personnel for investigation. Citizens may also file complaints against the PSD, gendarmerie, and the Intelligence Directorate with the NCHR, several human rights NGOs, or the civilian prosecutor general.

The PSD’s Special Branch Unit is tasked with investigating allegations of police corruption. The PSD and the Intelligence Directorate try their personnel internally with their own courts, judges, and prosecutors; authorities rarely published reports about the proceedings. Trials rarely yielded substantive punishments for human rights violations, and authorities did not make such punishments public. Human rights activists cited fear of official retribution as a reason for the overall lack of official complaints of human rights violations.

Through June 30 the PSD Ombudsman Office had received eight complaints against officers that were allegations of harm (a lesser charge than torture that does not require a demonstration of intent). Authorities dismissed two cases for lack of evidence, and six remained pending. As of June 30, the PSD Ombudsman Office had received 32 other complaints against officers for disobeying the orders and instructions of a commander–such as an order to refrain from insulting inmates. Authorities dismissed four cases, and 28 remained pending.

The PSD includes a module on human rights in required annual training for all personnel. There is also a module on human rights in the required training for all new officers.

During the year there were few reported instances of security forces using excessive force with impunity and failing to protect demonstrators from violence. On June 13, a 14-year old boy died in Balqa Governorate during a police raid against suspected drug dealers. Police said the boy fell to his death as he ran from security forces. Two of the boys’ relatives suggested in an online video that the police were responsible for the boy’s death. The Public Security Directorate was investigating the incident. In 2015 the NCHR received 24 complaints concerning security personnel using excessive force during arrests and searches.


The law allows authorities to detain suspects for up to 24 hours without a warrant in all cases. It requires that police notify authorities within 24 hours of an arrest and that authorities file formal charges within 15 days of an arrest. Authorities can extend the period to file formal charges to as long as six months for a felony and two months for a misdemeanor. According to local NGOs, prosecutors routinely requested extensions, which judges granted. The State Security Court authorizes judicial police to arrest and keep persons in custody for seven days prior to notification while conducting criminal investigations. This authority includes arrests for alleged misdemeanors. NGOs alleged that authorities transferred suspects to the State Security Court to extend the legal time from 24 hours to seven days for investigation prior to notification or transferred suspects from police station to police station to extend the period for investigation. The NCHR report criticized the lack of record keeping at police detention facilities, noting that records failed to note the exact time of arrest and the arresting employee.

The penal code allows bail, and authorities used it in some cases. Some detainees reported not having timely access to a lawyer or the ability to contact their relatives at the time of arrest, but authorities generally permitted family member visits, albeit sometimes up to a week after the arrest. Authorities appointed lawyers to represent indigent defendants charged with felonies carrying possible life sentences or the death penalty, although legal aid services remained minimal. The law provides the right to appear promptly before a judge or other judicial officer for a judicial determination of the legality of the detention. At times authorities held suspects incommunicado for up to one week or placed them under house arrest. A number of human rights activists alleged that authorities held arrestees incommunicado to hide evidence of physical abuse by security forces.

Arbitrary Arrest: In cases purportedly involving state security, security forces at times arrested and detained citizens in administrative detention without warrants or judicial review, held them in pretrial detention without informing them of the charges against them, and either did not allow defendants to meet with their lawyers or did not permit meetings until shortly before trial. Activists reported that, during the year, officials detained migrant laborers for working without authorization, being absent from their authorized workplace, or lacking proper residency permits. They reported employers physically abused or mistreated some of these detainees. On September 26, the Prisons Administration reported 1,058 persons were in administrative detention: 901 men and 157 women. In 2015 the NCHR reported 19,860 administrative detainees held throughout the year, some as long as five years.

The law allows the 12 provincial governors to detain administratively individuals suspected of planning to commit a crime or sheltering thieves, habitually stealing, or constituting a danger to the public. Authorities held these individuals in prison or house arrest without due process and often despite a finding of not guilty in legal proceedings. The governors may prolong detentions; authorities administratively detained some migrants for several months without charges. Governors used this provision widely, including to incarcerate women allegedly to protect them from becoming potential victims of honor crimes, although the detainees posed no threat to public safety.

Several international and national NGOs noted governors routinely abused the law, imprisoning individuals when there was not enough evidence to convict them and prolonging the detention of prisoners whose sentences had expired.

Pretrial Detention: The common practice of judges granting extensions to prosecutors prior to filing formal charges unnecessarily lengthened pretrial detention. Lengthy legal procedures, a large number of detainees, judicial inefficiency, and judicial backlog added to the problem of pretrial detention. Automation of several legal procedures in recent years reduced the average period of pretrial detention, according to local legal aid organizations.

The law criminalizes the act of detaining any person without a prosecutor’s order for more than 24 hours. According to human rights organizations, impunity was very common for such violations.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law does not have an explicit provision that entitles victims of arbitrary or unlawful detention to restitution. The Criminal Procedures Law does not provide for routine judicial review of administrative detentions ordered by the 12 governors. Detainees can bring civil lawsuits for restitution for arbitrary or unlawful detention or bring criminal lawsuits for illegal incarceration, but this rarely occurred in practice. Detainees must hire a lawyer with at least five years’ experience, must pay their own fees, and must present a copy of the order of detention. In the only known case of compensation for unlawful detention, in 2015 the Court of Appeals upheld a 2014 decision by the Amman Magistrate Court to award compensation to an Egyptian worker for unlawful detention. Authorities had administratively detained the worker for 13 months.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but allegations of nepotism and the influence of special interests by legal experts and human rights lawyers raised concerns about the judiciary’s independence. Additionally, judicial inefficiency and a large case backlog delayed the provision of justice. Authorities did not always respect court orders.


The law presumes that defendants are innocent. According to the law, all civilian court trials, as well as State Security Court trials are open to the public unless the court determines that the trial should be closed to protect the public interest. State Security Court trials are generally open to the journalists and NGOs, but the court can decide to close them if it deems it in the public interest. Authorities occasionally tried defendants in their absence. Defendants are entitled to legal counsel, provided at public expense for the indigent in cases involving the death penalty or life imprisonment, but only at the trial stage. Most criminal defendants lacked legal representation prior to and at trial. Officials did not respect the right of defendants to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them or to a fair and public trial without undue delay. Authorities did not uniformly provide foreign residents, especially foreign workers who often did not speak Arabic, with translations and defense. Defendants may present witnesses and evidence and may question witnesses presented against them. Authorities generally granted defendants access to government-held evidence relevant to a case. Defendants can appeal verdicts; appeals are automatic for cases involving the death penalty. Defendants do not have the right to refuse to testify. Although the constitution prohibits the use of confessions extracted by torture, human rights activists noted that courts routinely accepted confessions allegedly extracted under torture or mistreatment.

Defendants before the State Security Court frequently met with their attorneys only one or two days before their trial began. Authorities did not accord defendants adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. In many cases, the accused remained in detention without bail during the proceedings. In the State Security Court, defendants have the right to appeal their sentences to the Court of Cassation, which has the authority to review issues of both fact and law.

The government allowed international observers to visit the State Security Court and the Police Court to watch court proceedings in October 2015 and March. One of the cases observed at the police court in March was the trial of five police officials accused of torturing and beating Omar al-Nasir to death in September 2015. The case remained pending at year’s end.

Civil, criminal, and commercial courts accord equal weight to the testimony of men and women. On the other hand, in sharia courts, which have jurisdiction over Muslim marriage, divorce, and inheritance cases, the testimony of one man equals that of two women.


During the year the government detained and imprisoned activists for political reasons including criticizing the government, criticizing the government’s foreign policy, the publication of criticism of government officials and official bodies, criticizing foreign countries, and chanting slogans against the king. Citizens and NGOs alleged the government continued to detain other individuals for political reasons and that governors continued to use administrative detention for what appeared to be political reasons.

On June 14, authorities detained Amjad Qourshah, a professor of religious studies at the University of Jordan. The State Security Court charged him with harming relations with a foreign state under the Counterterrorism Law. Qourshah said that the charges related to videos he published in 2014 criticizing the country’s participation in the counter-Da’esh coalition. The State Security Court rejected six requests for bail from his lawyer before releasing him on bail on September 6. The charges were pending at year’s end.


Individuals may bring civil lawsuits related to human rights violations.

The law prohibits arbitrary interference in private matters, but the government did not respect this prohibition. Citizens widely believed that security officers monitored telephone conversations and internet communication, read private correspondence, and engaged in surveillance without court orders. Citizens widely believed the government employed an informer system within political movements and human rights organizations.

Activists reported that Intelligence Directorate officials withheld documents and threatened to bar children of activists from entering or graduating from university.

Former prisoners alleged authorities banned citizens from obtaining security clearances needed for employment.


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

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

There were numerous allegations the government or its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings, particularly of known or suspected criminals, including terrorists. On September 7, the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Independent Medico Legal Unit reported 114 cases of individuals killed by police between January and August, including 101 individuals who were allegedly executed extrajudicially and 13 individuals who were killed in unclear circumstances. Some groups alleged authorities significantly underestimated the number of extrajudicial killings due to underreporting of security force killings in informal settlements, including those in dense urban areas. From January to September 22, IPOA received 62 complaints regarding deaths resulting from police actions, including 28 fatal shootings involving police and 34 deaths due to other actions by police. Of these, IPOA referred one to the ODPP, based on conclusive investigations. From the 7,169 complaints IPOA received against police since its inception, authorities were trying 30 cases as of October 25.

In July the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report documenting 34 cases of individuals who disappeared and 11 cases of individuals found dead after allegedly being taken into custody by security forces during counterterrorism operations in Nairobi and the country’s northeast region between December 2013 and December 2015. According to the report, law enforcement authorities did not meaningfully investigate these deaths and disappearances. The report attributed many of the human rights abuses to the Kenya Defense Forces in the northeast counties of Mandera, Garissa, and Wajir bordering Somalia.

In July, four police officers were charged with the homicides of International Justice Mission (IJM) investigator and lawyer Willie Kimani, IJM client Josphat Mwenda, and their driver Joseph Muiruri; the three went missing after Kimani filed a case against a police officer on behalf of Mwenda. Their severely tortured bodies were recovered from a river a week later. The case prompted demonstrations by lawyers and members of civil society across the country calling for an end to extrajudicial killings by police. In September a fifth police officer was charged. The trial continued at year’s end.

Impunity remained a serious problem (see section 1.d.).

Al-Shabaab terrorists conducted deadly attacks and guerilla-style raids on isolated communities along the border with Somalia. There were numerous cases of terrorist abuses, including the killing of at least six persons in Mandera County on July 1 by suspected al-Shabaab terrorists who attacked two commercial buses and the killing of 12 persons in Mandera County by al-Shabaab terrorists in an attack on a hostel.

Observers and NGOs suspected members of the security forces were culpable of forced disappearances. On the August 30 commemoration of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, 15 international and local human rights organizations released a joint press statement calling on the government to acknowledge the practice of abductions by security agencies. The statement also reported that human rights organizations documented more than 300 cases of individuals who had gone missing while in the hands of security agencies since 2009. The Star, a daily newspaper, reported on August 31 that more than 100 citizens had disappeared during the year, and it cited NGO Haki Africa claims of 78 killings and enforced disappearances in the prior two months in Mombasa County. In July, HRW reported 34 suspected cases of enforced disappearances (see section 1.a.).

Several members of parliament representing northeastern and coastal constituencies noted their constituents reported cases of disappearances.

There were also separate media reports of families on the coast and in northeastern counties searching for relatives who disappeared following arrest and of authorities holding individuals incommunicado for interrogation for several weeks or longer (see section 1.d.).

While the constitution and law prohibit torture, the legal code does not define torture and provides no sentencing guidelines for violating the constitutional and legal prohibitions. These gaps functionally prevent prosecution for torture. Police reportedly used torture and violence during interrogations as well as to punish both pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners. According to human rights NGOs, physical battery, being tied up in painful positions, and electric shocks were the most common methods of torture used by police. A range of human rights organizations and media reported cases of torture and indiscriminate police beatings committed with impunity. For example, local media widely reported in July on leaked autopsy results from murdered IJM investigator and lawyer Willie Kimani, IJM client Josphat Mwenda, and their driver Joseph Muiruri that revealed the three were tortured to death by police officers, including by physical beating and strangulation (see section 1.a). HRW’s July report documented six cases of serious abuse of detainees that appeared to amount to torture that allegedly took place in military camps and bases in Garissa, Wajir, and Mandera Counties. The Standard daily newspaper reported on September 15 that a High Court awarded five million shillings ($50,000) in compensation to four civilians who suffered permanent disabilities through physical beating and gunshot wounds inflicted by Kenya Defense Forces soldiers in Garissa in 2012.

On April 2, according to an IPOA report, police officers from the General Service Unit deployed to the University of Nairobi entered academic and dormitory buildings, evicted, and assaulted an estimated 30 students with batons. Many students sustained serious injuries from police batons, including bone fractures (see section 1.f.).

In late May and early June, police used violent and at times deadly force against demonstrators denouncing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (see section 3).

There were reports security forces deployed to quell ethnic violence committed abuses (see section 6).

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Human rights organizations reported in 2015 that prison, detention center, and police station conditions were harsh due to overcrowding, food and water shortages, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. Overall, health care improved during the year due to the Kenya Prisons Service’s enhanced capacity to respond to the health-care needs of inmates.

Physical Conditions: The Kenya Prisons Service reported a prison population of 53,841 as of August, more than 90 percent of which were men. The country’s 108 prisons had a designed capacity of 26,687 inmates. While the Prisons Service noted that 10 more facilities were built to improve capacity, with more than five others under construction, serious overcrowding was the norm. Authorities continued a “decongestion” program that entailed releasing petty offenders and encouraging the judiciary to increase utilization of the Community Service Orders program in their sentencing.

The Kenya Prisons Service reported 50 deaths as of August 5, mostly from natural causes, representing a dramatic reduction from previous years, which the service attributed to improvements in prison health services.

Between January and June, IPOA observed that authorities separated women from men in detention facilities 81 percent of the time in the 46 detention facilities its representatives visited. In smaller jails female prisoners were not always separated from men. There were no separate facilities during pretrial detention, and sexual abuse of female prisoners was a problem. Conditions for female inmates in small, particularly rural, facilities were worse than for men. Human rights groups reported that police routinely solicited sex from female prisoners and that many female inmates resorted to prostitution to obtain necessities, such as sanitary items and underwear, which the Prisons Service did not provide.

Authorities generally separated minors from adults except during the initial detention period at police stations, when authorities often held adults and minors of both sexes in a single cell. Between January and June, IPOA observed that only 16 percent of the detention facilities visited included separate housing for juveniles. In the same period, IPOA observed that only 4 percent of detention facilities inspected had child protection units. Minors often mixed with the general prison population during lunch and exercise periods, according to the Coalition for Constitutional Interpretation, a domestic NGO. Prison officials reported that because there were few detention facilities for minors, authorities often had to transport them very long distances to serve their sentences, spending nights at police stations under varying conditions along the way.

The law allows children to stay with their inmate mothers in certain circumstances until age four or until arrangements for their care outside the facilities are concluded, whichever is earlier.

Prisoners generally received three meals a day, but portions were inadequate. The Prisons Service stated in August that it no longer served a penal diet for punishment. Water shortages, a problem both inside and outside of prison, continued. Sanitary facilities were inadequate. Prisoners generally spent most of their time indoors in inadequately lit and poorly ventilated cellblocks. This was especially true for the more than one-third of inmates awaiting trial, as they were not engaged in any work programs that would allow them to leave their cells regularly.

Administration: Recordkeeping on prisoners remained inadequate despite the enactment and entry into force in 2014 of the Security Laws Amendment Act. The act requires improved recordkeeping at prisons and jails. The Prisons Service took steps to improve recordkeeping, including engaging with prison reform NGOs and IPOA, and to conduct training and improve practices.

Mechanisms for prisoners to report abuse and other concerns improved due to collaboration between the Prisons Service and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) to monitor human rights standards in prison and detention facilities. By law the Commission on the Administration of Justice serves as ombudsman on government administration of prisons. It is to receive and treat as confidential correspondence from inmates and recommend remedies to address their concerns, including those pertaining to prison living conditions and administration. Government-established special committees, which included paralegals and prison officials, also served to increase prisoners’ access to the judicial system. The Legal Aid Center of Eldoret noted there was no single system providing “primary justice” to prisoners and detainees, who instead relied on a patchwork of services largely provided by NGOs. Many government-designated human rights officers lacked necessary training, and some prisons did not have a human rights officer.

Noncustodial community service programs and the release of some petty offenders alleviated somewhat prison overcrowding. The total prison population did not decrease substantially, however, because of unaffordable bail and bond terms for pretrial detainees, high national crime rates, overuse of custodial sentencing, and a high number of death row and life-imprisoned inmates. Legal rights NGOs and prison officials reported overuse of the charge of “robbery with violence,” which may carry a life sentence, without sufficient evidence to support it. Some petty offenders consequently received disproportionately heavy sentences.

Prison officials sometimes denied prisoners and detainees the right to contact relatives or lawyers. Family members who wanted to visit prisoners commonly reported bureaucratic obstacles that generally required a bribe to resolve. According to the Legal Resources Foundation, prisoners had reasonable access to legal counsel and other official visitors, although there was insufficient space in many prisons and jails to meet with visitors in private and conduct confidential conversations.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent nongovernmental observers.

Improvements: Overall health care in prisons improved due to strengthened capacity to respond to health-care needs. A Directorate of Health Services was established in the Prisons Department to oversee health and hygiene issues, and prison and detention facilities added more health professionals. A program was launched to provide care for inmates with HIV/AIDS and improve tuberculosis diagnoses, important factors in decreasing morbidity and mortality. The Prisons Service opened its first facility exclusively for juvenile female offenders–the Kamae Girls Borstal Institution at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in Kiambu County, which can accommodate up to 200 girls ages 15 to 17.

The law prohibits arrest or detention without a court order unless there are reasonable grounds for believing a suspect has committed or is about to commit a criminal offense. Police, however, arrested and detained citizens arbitrarily, accused them of more severe crimes than they had committed, or accused them of a crime to mask underlying police abuses.


The National Police Service (NPS) maintains internal security and is subordinate to the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government (Interior).

The NPS includes the Kenya Police Service and the Administration Police Service. The Kenya Police Service is responsible for general policing and maintains specialized subunits, such as the paramilitary General Services Unit, which is responsible for responding to significant and large-scale incidents of insecurity and guarding high-security facilities. The Administration Police Service’s mandate is border security, but it also assumed some traditional policing duties. The Directorate of Criminal Investigation is an autonomous department responsible for all criminal investigations and includes specialized investigative units, such as the Antinarcotics Unit, the Antiterrorism Police Unit, and the Forensics Unit.

The National Intelligence Service collects intelligence internally as well as externally and is under the direct authority of the president.

The Kenya Defense Forces are responsible for external security but have some domestic security responsibilities, including border security and supporting civilian organizations in the maintenance of order, as allowed by the constitution. The defense forces are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense. In September 2015 the defense forces and police launched a coordinated operation to drive al-Shabaab terrorists out of the Boni Forest in northern Lamu and southern Garissa Counties; the operation continued as of October.

The National Police Service Commission (NPSC) and IPOA, both government bodies, report to the National Assembly. The NPSC consists of six civilian commissioners, including two retired police officers, as well as the NPS inspector general’s two deputies. Two commissioner positions remained vacant despite requests from the NPSC and public pressure to fill those positions. The NPSC is responsible for recruiting, transferring, vetting, promoting, and removing police officers in the National Police Service. IPOA investigates serious police misconduct, especially cases of death and grave injury at the hands of police.

Impunity was a major problem. Authorities sometimes attributed the failure to investigate a case of police corruption or unlawful killing to the failure of victims to file official complaints. Victims could file complaints at regional police stations, police headquarters through the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU), and through the IPOA website and hotline. Sometimes police turned away victims who sought to file complaints at police stations where alleged police misconduct originated, and instead directed them to other area stations. This created a deterrent effect on reporting complaints against police. NGOs documented threats against police officers who attempted to investigate criminal allegations against other police officers.

Police corruption remained a significant problem. Human rights NGOs reported that police often stopped and arrested citizens to extort bribes; they jailed, on trumped-up charges, those who could not pay and sometimes beat them. During police vetting conducted by the NPSC, multiple police officers were exposed as having the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in their bank accounts, far exceeding what would be possible to save from their salaries. Mobile money records showed that some officers also transferred money to superior officers. Media and civil society groups reported that police used illegal confinement, extortion, physical abuse, and fabricated charges to accomplish law enforcement objectives as well as to facilitate illegal activities.

Police failed to prevent vigilante violence in numerous instances but in other cases played a protective role (see section 6, Other Societal Violence or Discrimination).

Poor casework, incompetence, and corruption undermined successful prosecutions; the overall conviction rate for criminal prosecutions was between 13 and 16 percent. Police also frequently failed to enter detainees into custody records, making it difficult to locate them. Dispute resolution at police stations resolved a significant number of crimes, but authorities did not report or record them, according to human rights organizations.

Witness harassment and fear of retaliation severely inhibited the investigation and prosecution of major crimes. The Witness Protection Agency was underfunded, doubts about its independence were common (see section 4), and the Supreme Court cited its weaknesses as a serious judicial shortcoming. It cooperated closely with IPOA and other investigative bodies.

Human rights activists reported that at times police officers in charge of taking complaints at the local level were the same ones who committed abuses. Police officials resisted investigations and jailed some human rights activists for going to a police station to make a complaint. In August, Kayole police chief Ali Nuno allegedly assaulted and detained an IPOA officer sent to deliver to him a summons for an investigation into allegations of Nuno’s abuse of office.

Research by a leading legal advocacy and human rights NGO found police used disciplinary transfers of officers to hide their identities and frustrate investigations into their alleged crimes. Many media and civil society investigations into police abuse ended after authorities transferred officers, and police failed to provide any information about their identities or new whereabouts.

During the year police accountability mechanisms, including those of IPOA and the IAU, increased their capacity to investigate cases of police abuse. The IAU acting director reported directly to the inspector general of police. Close to 70 officers served in the unit, mostly investigators with a background in the Kenya Police Service and the Administration Police Service. The IAU handles allegations of bribery, harassment, and indiscipline.

Between January and June, IPOA received six reports of deaths and one report of serious injury caused by NPS officers, which is legally required to report all deaths to IPOA. IPOA repeatedly expressed its concern about the lack of compliance with this legal requirement. Since its inception in 2012, IPOA had received 219 reports of deaths in addition to 89 reports of serious injuries.

The ODPP is empowered to direct the inspector general to investigate any information or allegation of criminal conduct and to institute criminal proceedings in police abuse or corruption cases.

Between January and June, IPOA received 1,326 complaints, bringing the total since its inception to 7,835. In the same six-month period, IPOA completed 94 complaints, 13 of which were death cases. In the previous four years, IPOA completed 321 cases and referred 66 to the ODPP for prosecution. Of those 66 cases, 35 cases were before the courts. In April IPOA secured its first manslaughter conviction, against two police officers who killed a 14-year-old girl in Kwale in 2014.

The NPSC continued transitional vetting of all serving police officers. Vetting required an assessment of each officer’s fitness to serve based on a review of documentation, including financial records, certificates of good conduct, and a questionnaire, as well as consideration of public input regarding allegations of abuse or misconduct. By September the NPSC had vetted nearly 3,000 officers, of whom 919 were vetted during the year. All of the officers vetted during the year were from the traffic department, which has a reputation for extensive corruption. Nearly 50 officers were removed from the service based on 2015 vetting. Removals based on the year’s vetting had not been announced as of October 25. Some legal challenges brought by officers vetted out of the service continued in court.


The law provides police with broad powers of arrest. Police officers may make arrests without a warrant if they suspect a crime occurred, is happening, or is imminent. Victims’ rights NGOs reported that in some cases authorities required victims to pay bribes and to provide transportation for police to a suspect’s location to execute a legal arrest warrant.

The constitution’s bill of rights provides significant ‎legal protections, including provisions for persons to be charged, tried, or released within a certain time and for issuing a writ of habeas corpus to allow a court to determine the lawfulness of detention. In many cases, however, authorities did not follow the prescribed time limits. According to the attorney general in a response to a questionnaire from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2013, “an unexplained violation of a constitutional right will normally result in an acquittal.” While authorities in many cases released the accused if held longer than the prescribed period, some cases did not result in an acquittal, and authorities provided no compensation.

Police used excessive force in some cases when making arrests. Some officers were charged and convicted for use of excessive force during the year. For example, in a case reported by every major domestic newspaper in 2014, police officers in Kwale shot and killed a 14-year-old girl while searching for a suspect in her residence. Police claimed she confronted them with a machete. According to press reports, an eyewitness, who subsequently went into hiding, claimed police shot her without provocation. Two police officers stood trial for the homicide, and in March a high-court judge found them both guilty of manslaughter; they were each sentenced to prison for seven years.

The constitution establishes the right of suspects to bail unless there are compelling reasons against release. There is a functioning bail system, and all suspects, including those accused of capital offenses, are eligible for bail. Many suspects remained in jail for months pending trial because of their inability to post bail. Due to overcrowding in prisons, courts rarely denied bail to individuals who could pay it, even when the circumstances warranted denial. For example, NGOs that worked with victims of sexual assault complained that authorities granted bail to suspects even in cases in which there was evidence that they posed a continuing threat to victims.

Although the law provides pretrial detainees with the right to access family members and attorneys, family members of detainees frequently complained that authorities permitted access only upon payment of bribes. When detainees could afford counsel, police generally permitted access to attorneys.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police arrested and detained persons arbitrarily. Victims of arbitrary arrest were generally poor young men. Human rights organizations complained that security forces engaged in widespread arbitrary arrests and detentions during counterterrorism operations and targeted ethnic Somalis and Kenyan Muslims. On the August 30 International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances, human rights activists in Mombasa asked the National Assembly to address the issue of arbitrary arrests and murder (see section 1.a.).

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a serious problem and contributed to prison overcrowding. Some defendants were held in pretrial detention longer than the statutory maximum term of imprisonment for the crime with which they were charged. The government claimed the average time spent in pretrial detention was 14 days, but there were reports many detainees spent two to three years in prison before their trials were completed. Police from the arresting locale are responsible for bringing detainees from prison to court when hearings are scheduled but often failed to do so, forcing detainees to wait for the next hearing of their cases (see section 1.e.).

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law entitles persons arrested or detained to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention; that right was not always protected in practice.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Reform of the judiciary continued during the year. The judiciary demonstrated independence and impartiality, but there were media and other allegations of significant judicial corruption. Authorities generally respected court orders, and the outcomes of trials did not appear to be predetermined.

The Judicial Services Commission–a constitutionally mandated oversight body intended to insulate the judiciary from political pressure–provides the president with a list of nominees for judicial appointment. The president selects one of the nominees for parliamentary approval. The president appoints the chief justice and appellate and High Court judges through this process. The commission publicly reviews judicial appointees.

The Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board, established in 2011 to determine the suitability of judges and magistrates to hold office, completed its vetting and submitted its final report to the president on September 6. The board proposed to the president the formation of an independent disciplinary tribunal to receive complaints against judicial officers and make recommendations for appropriate action. In the final report, 44 percent of Court of Appeal judges, 15.9 percent of High Court judges, and 4.7 percent of magistrates were found unsuitable.

There were several allegations of judicial corruption. In January the Judicial Service Commission asked the president to form a tribunal to investigate claims that Supreme Court judge Philip Tunoi received an estimated 200 million shillings ($2 million) to influence an election petition opposing Nairobi’s governor. In February the president suspended the judge and appointed the tribunal, which ended its proceedings in June on the grounds that it lacked a legal mandate to investigate the judge after he retired at age 70, as required by law.

The constitution gives the judiciary authority to review appointments and decisions by other branches of government. Parliament sometimes ignored judicial decisions. For example, on August 27, a High Court deadline expired for parliament to enact legislation to implement the constitutionally mandated two-thirds gender principle (see section 3).

The law provides for “qadi” courts, which adjudicate Muslim law on marriage, divorce, and inheritance among Muslims. There were no other traditional courts. The national courts used the traditional law of an ethnic group as a guide in personal matters as long as it did not conflict with statutory law.


The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, although individuals may give some testimony in closed session; the independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law provides for a presumption of innocence, and defendants have the right to attend their trials, confront witnesses, and present witnesses and evidence in their defense. The law also provides defendants the right to receive prompt and detailed information of the charges against them, with free interpretation if necessary; to be tried without undue delay; to have access to government-held evidence; and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Authorities generally respected these rights, although they did not always promptly inform persons of the charges against them. Sentencing Policy Guidelines, a policy document drafted by the Judicial Task Force on Sentencing, was launched by the chief justice on January 25. The Active Case Management Guidelines, developed to improve prosecution procedures, were gazetted (announced via official publication) on February 29 and implemented as a pilot project in four courts as of September. A randomized bench selection system was partially implemented within the Court of Appeal to avoid the public perception that parties with vested interests could influence the composition of a bench of judges.

Trial delays sometimes resulted because witnesses failed to present themselves, judges cancelled trial dates without notice, witnesses were not protected, or legal counsel failed to appear. Authorities generally respected a defendant’s right to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, although there was no public defenders service. Defendants generally had adequate time to prepare a defense if they were capable of doing so. The government and court generally respected these rights. The Legal Aid Act enacted in June established the National Legal Aid Service to facilitate access to justice and promote pro-bono services for indigent defendants who cannot afford legal representation. The National Council on the Administration of Justice was working to implement the changes as of October. Courts continued to try the vast majority of defendants without representation because they could not afford legal counsel. Legal aid was available only in major cities where some human rights organizations, notably the Federation of Women Lawyers, an international NGO, provided it.

The ODPP significantly increased the number of trained prosecutors. At year’s end there were an estimated 900 state prosecutors, compared with 200 in 2013. The ODPP phased out police prosecutors entirely. The expansion of the prosecution service also reduced delays in court proceedings. The judiciary improved its case clearance rate and substantially reduced case backlog by increasing benches of judges sitting daily.

Discovery laws are not clearly defined, handicapping defense lawyers. Implementation of a High Court ruling requiring provision of written statements to the defense before trial remained inconsistent. Defense lawyers often did not have access to government-held evidence before a trial. There were reports the government sometimes invoked the Official Secrets Act as a basis for withholding evidence.

Defendants may appeal a verdict to the High Court and ultimately to the Court of Appeal and, for some matters, to the Supreme Court.


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.


Individuals may use the civil court system to seek damages for violations of human rights and may appeal its decisions to the Supreme Court as well as to the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. On May 5, the judiciary launched a program of Enhanced Service Delivery Initiatives to promote more efficient and affordable justice. For example, the Family and Commercial Divisions of the High Court at Milimani in Nairobi commenced a pilot Court Annexed Mediation Program to give parties an alternative forum for dispute resolution.

According to human rights NGOs, bribes, extortion, and political considerations influenced the outcomes in some civil cases. Court fees for filing and hearing civil cases effectively barred some from access to the courts.


There is no single established system of land tenure in the country: private titles compete with customary land rights and community land, while public land is vulnerable to squatters or to unscrupulous developers. There is no clear legal framework for issuing title deeds or for adjudicating land disputes because of legal disputes between the National Land Commission, vested with powers of land adjudication through the constitution and 2012 implementing legislation, and the Ministry of Lands. Plots of land were sometimes allocated twice. The Community Land Act signed into law on August 31 allows communities to apply for land registrations as a single entity and put in train the adjudication process in which their applications will be considered alongside any competing claims.

While three-quarters of the population is rural, according to the National Land Commission, only 20 percent of citizens possessed actual titles to land.

There is no established system for restitution or compensation for those declared to be squatters and ordered to vacate land. Both private and communal clashes were common because of land disputes. The government used forced eviction and demolition to restore what it claimed was illegally occupied public land. In some cases authorities arranged ad hoc restitution or relocation of residents under NGO pressure. For example, according to the Guardian on August 18, more than 200 indigenous Ogiek families on the slopes of Mount Elgon were evicted in June by police and forest rangers; activists claimed the terms for compensation payments were unclear and that the families were not resettled.

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, except “to promote public benefit,” but authorities sometimes infringed on citizens’ privacy rights. The law permits police to enter a home without a search warrant if the time required to obtain a warrant would prejudice an investigation. Although security officers generally obtained search warrants, they occasionally conducted searches without warrants in the course of large-scale security sweeps to apprehend suspected criminals or to seize property believed stolen.

On April 2, according to the subsequent IPOA report, police officers from the General Service Unit deployed to the University of Nairobi; they entered academic and dormitory buildings, evicted, and then assaulted approximately 30 students with batons. The incident received extensive media coverage after a live video clip was widely shared on social media. Many students sustained serious injuries from police batons, including bone fractures. Both IPOA and the IAU initiated investigations into the events, but the investigations were frustrated by a lack of police cooperation. No charges against police officers had been filed as of October 25.

Human rights organizations reported police officers raided homes in informal settlements in Nairobi and communities in the coast region in search of suspected terrorists and weapons. The organizations documented numerous cases in which plainclothes police officers searched residences without a warrant and household goods were confiscated when residents were unable to provide receipts of purchase on demand.


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

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

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

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The law prohibited torture and ill treatment, although the UN’s Committee Against Torture (CAT) during its third periodic review of Kuwait in July expressed concerns about: “consistent reports of torture and ill-treatment in particular during prolonged detention of persons by police and security forces” in cases relating to terrorism and peaceful protests by human rights defenders and members of minority groups. For example, according to Amnesty International, several defendants in the Imam Sadeq mosque bombing in June 2015 stated in court that they had been “tortured or otherwise ill-treated” in pretrial custody, including beatings, electric shocks and placement in stress positions. The UNCAT also cited allegations of insufficient investigation of torture allegations.

Several persons claimed police or Kuwait State Security (KSS) force members beat them at police checkpoints or in detention. In March 2015 authorities arrested a human rights activist, Nawaf al-Hendal, during a protest at al-Erada Square in front of the National Assembly and charged him with slandering the rulers of a neighboring country and for participating in an illegal rally. Media reports stated police arrested and beat al-Hendal and nine other demonstrators. Subsequently, the government imposed a travel ban on al-Hendal. In March al-Hendal stood trial and was acquitted, along with nine other demonstrators, and freed.

The government stated it investigates complaints against police officers resulting in disciplinary action. Disciplinary actions included fines, detention, and some being removed from their positions or termination. Although the government did not make public all the findings of its investigations or all punishments it imposed, it stated it sentenced a police officer in May to two months’ detention for sending a noncitizen worker to the detention center without cause. The government, responding to a complaint filed by the worker’s mother, investigated the complaint, took disciplinary action against the officer, and ensured the release of the worker form the deportation center. Although the government investigation does not lead to compensation for victims of abuse, the victim can utilize government reports and results of internal disciplinary actions to seek compensation via civil courts.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: The Central Prison Complex housed the country’s three prisons: a men’s prison for pretrial detention or those convicted of minor offenses, another men’s prison for those convicted of more serious crimes, and a women’s prison for those in pretrial detention, convicted, or awaiting deportation. There were approximately 5,400 inmates in the Central Prison. Cells in the male prison held four to 12 persons and cells in the female prison held four to six; inmates reportedly lived in moderately overcrowded conditions. There were reports of overcrowding at the women’s prison.

A nursery complex was provided for female inmates with children under two years of age. Officials stated the prison was not designed to facilitate prisoners with disabilities as, by law, any convict with a significant disability cannot be held in the central prison.

There is a separate detention facility for juveniles up to 18 years of age. The juvenile detention facility contains classroom, vocational workshops, and private meeting rooms for visiting family members. As of September, the center housed 33 juveniles.

The deportation center at Talha, the only one in the country, housed on average 700 persons. The overall detainee population was unknown, although observers reported some overcrowding at times and poor sanitation, mostly the consequence of the age of the facility. Noncitizen women pending deportation were kept at the Central Prison due to lack of segregated facilities at the deportation center.

Administration: There were no serious problems in the administration of the prison and detention center system although ombudsmen were not available to respond to complaints on behalf of prisoners.

Independent Monitoring: The Ministry of Interior permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by some nongovernmental observers and international human rights groups and required written approval for visits by local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Authorities permitted staff from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to visit the prisons and detention centers. The government also allowed local NGOs to visit the prison upon approval from the Ministry of Interior. The Kuwait Society for Human Rights and the Kuwait Association for the Basic Evaluation of Human Rights were allowed to visit prisoners during the year. A government official stated that approximately 70 local and international NGOs visited prisons during the year.

Improvements: In September the government opened a special family visiting facility within the prison complex to allow male and female inmates with good behavior records to spend up to 72 hours with visiting family members in a private setting.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. There were numerous reports, however, that police arbitrarily arrested individuals, principally as part of sustained action against persons in the country illegally.


Police have sole responsibility for the enforcement of laws not related to national security, and the KSS oversees national security matters; both are under the purview of civilian authorities at the Ministry of Interior. The armed forces (land forces, air force, and navy) are responsible for external security and are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense. The Kuwait National Guard is a separate entity that is responsible for critical infrastructure protection, support for the Ministries of Interior and Defense, and for the maintenance of national readiness. The Kuwait Coast Guard falls under the Ministry of Interior.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over all security forces, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption.

Police were generally effective in carrying out core responsibilities. There were reports some police stations did not take seriously criminal complaints, especially those of foreigners, and by both citizen and noncitizen victims of rape and domestic violence. In cases of alleged police abuse, the district chief investigator is responsible for examining abuse allegations and refers cases to the courts for trial.

According to the government, during the first five months of the year, individuals filed 655 complaints against the Ministry of Interior, mostly involving investigative law enforcement personnel. Complaints included contesting traffic violations, verbal and/or physical maltreatment, and unlawful detentions. Disciplinary action resulted from 201 of the complaints.

Police responded only to the most serious cases of violence between family members, such as spousal and child abuse, and to emergency calls by domestic workers who reported abuse.


A police officer generally must obtain an arrest warrant from a state prosecutor or a judge before making an arrest, except in cases of hot pursuit or observing the commission of a crime. There were numerous reports of police arresting and detaining foreign nationals without a warrant, primarily as part of the government’s action against unlawful residents. The courts usually do not accept cases without warrants issued prior to arrests. Authorities generally informed detainees promptly of the charges against them and allowed access to their lawyers and family members.

In July the government amended the national detention laws. Police may hold a suspected criminal at a police station without charge for as long as four days for commission of a felony and up to 48 hours for a misdemeanor, during which time lawyers and family members may visit the defendant upon approval from authorities. During detention, authorities permitted lawyers to attend legal proceedings but did not allow direct contact with their clients. The law provides the detained person the right to a prompt judicial determination about the detention’s legality. If authorities file charges, a prosecutor may remand a suspect to detention for an additional 10 days for a misdemeanor and 20 days for a felony. Prosecutors also may obtain court orders for up to six months’ detention pending trial by the judge in the case. There is a functioning bail system for defendants awaiting trial. The bar association provides lawyers for indigent defendants; in these cases, defendants do not have the option of choosing which lawyer is assigned to them. There were no reports of suspects being held incommunicado.

The Ministry of Interior investigates misdemeanor charges and refers cases to the misdemeanor courts as appropriate. The undersecretary in the Ministry of Interior is responsible for approving all administrative deportation orders.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government observed these prohibitions for citizens. There were reports that police during raids arbitrarily detained nonnationals, including some who possessed valid residency permits and visas and who claimed to be bystanders.

Pretrial Detention: Arbitrary lengthy detention before trial sometimes occurred. Authorities held some detainees beyond the maximum detention period of six months. Excessive detention in the deportation center, where there are no maximum time limits on detention prior to deportation, was also a problem, particularly when the detainee owed money to a citizen or was a citizen from a country without diplomatic representation in the country to facilitate exit documents.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees, and those convicted by a court, were able to challenge their detention. In August a prominent bidoon activist convicted of conducting an illegal protest and of assaulting police successfully challenged his detention, resulting in his release pending further adjudication of his case.

The law and the constitution provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence if the judge. The Supreme Judicial Council nominates all prosecutors and judges and submits nominees to the emir for approval. Judges who were citizens received lifetime appointments until they reached mandatory retirement age; judges who were noncitizens held one to three year renewable contracts. The Supreme Judicial Council may remove judges for cause. Noncitizen residents involved in legal disputes with citizens frequently alleged the courts showed bias in favor of citizens. While no legal provisions prohibit women from appointment as judges and public prosecutors, the only path to those positions is through work in the prosecutor’s office. In August the Supreme Judicial Council ruled that women prosecutors would be eligible to serve as judges.

Under the law questions of citizenship or residency status and various provisions of immigration law are not subject to judicial review, so noncitizens arrested, for example, for unlawful residency, or those whose lawful residency is canceled due to an arrest, have no access to the courts. The law subjects noncitizens charged with noncriminal offenses, including some residency and traffic violations, to administrative deportations that cannot be challenged in court; however, noncitizens charged in criminal cases face legal deportations, which can be challenged in court.


The constitution provides for the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair public trial and the judiciary generally enforced this right. The law forbids physical and psychological abuse of the accused. Under the law defendants also enjoy the right to be present at their trial, as well as the provision of prompt, detailed information on charges against them. Criminal trials are public unless a court decides “maintenance of public order” or the “preservation of public morals” necessitate closed proceedings. The bar association is obligated upon court request to appoint an attorney without charge for indigent defendants in civil, commercial, and criminal cases, and defendants used these services. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants and their attorneys generally had access to government-held evidence, but the general public did not have access to most court documents. The Ministry of Justice generally provides defendants with interpreters from the moment charged through all appeals.

Defendants have the right to confront their accusers, to confront witnesses against them, and to present their own witnesses, although authorities did not always allow defendants this opportunity. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right to appeal verdicts to a higher court, and many persons exercised this right.

Under the new domestic labor law, domestic workers are exempted from litigation fees. If foreign workers had no legal representation, the public prosecutor arranged for it on their behalf, but with little or no involvement by the workers or their families. When workers received third-party assistance to bring a case, the cases were often resolved when the employer paid a monetary settlement to avoid a trial.


There were several instances of persons detained for their political views. Throughout the year the government arrested approximately two dozen individuals on charges such as insulting the emir, insulting leaders of neighboring countries, or insulting the judiciary. Most of those arrested were citizens protesting the Saudi-led coalition’s military action in Yemen or criticizing the emir. Others were bidoons advocating for human rights or opposition political figures alleging government corruption. While authorities arrested and released some individuals after a few days, they held others for weeks or months pending trial.

In April the government arrested Salem al-Dousari Abu Refa’a for allegedly issuing offensive statements against the emir. Salem was provided access to legal services, and in November he was sentenced to five years in prison. The government provided limited access for political prisoners to international human rights or humanitarian organizations.


The law provides for an independent and impartial judiciary by individuals or organizations in civil matters regarding human rights violations, but authorities occasionally did not enforce rulings for various reasons, including the influence of involved parties or concern for possible political repercussion. Authorities also occasionally used administrative punishments in civil matters, such as instituting travel bans or deportations. Individuals were able to appeal adverse domestic court decisions to international human rights bodies if they chose to do so.

The constitution and the law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. Cybercrime agents within the Ministry of Interior regularly monitored publicly accessible social media sites and sought information about owners of accounts, although foreign-owned social media companies denied most requests for information.

Following the bombing of the Imam al-Sadeq mosque in June 2015, authorities required all citizens to transition to an electronic passport. Citizens were given one year in which to provide a DNA sample at one of the three processing centers. In July 2015 the government passed a DNA law requiring all persons entering the country, including citizens and noncitizens, to submit DNA samples for security purposes. Human Rights Watch criticized the law as a violation of privacy, expressed concern over potential misuse of personal information broadly to track individuals. The United Nations also expressed concern over the “compulsory nature and sweeping scope” of required DNA sampling, and the lack of safeguards and mechanisms for appeal before a court. In October the emir ordered a review of the DNA law to ensure compliance with the constitution, and in November the emir said that the DNA law would only apply to convicted felons.

The law forbids marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men and requires male citizens serving in police or the military to obtain government approval to marry nonnationals. Nevertheless, the government offered only nonbinding advice on such matters and generally did not prevent marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims. According to an official, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prohibited the country’s diplomats from marrying noncitizens without the diplomat being asked to resign.

The government may deny a citizenship application by a bidoon resident based on security or criminal violations committed by the individual’s family members. Additionally, if a person loses citizenship, all family members whose status derives from that person also lose their citizenship and all associated rights.


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

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

There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In June the government disclosed there were 50 deaths in police custody from the beginning of 2013 through April, with only one death allegedly caused by the police. Civil society activists disputed this, claiming police were responsible for more of the deaths in custody.

In April a government commission found police culpable for the 2013 death of N. Dharmendran, and detailed efforts by police to cover up the case and alter evidence. In June a court acquitted the four police officers charged with the murder. Human rights organizations criticized the decision, and noted the rarity of successful prosecutions in death-in-custody cases.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

No law specifically prohibits torture; however, laws that prohibit “committing grievous hurt” encompass torture. More than 60 offenses are subject to caning, and judges routinely mandated caning in response to crimes including kidnapping, rape, robbery, narcotics possession, criminal breach of trust, migrant smuggling, and immigration offenses.

Civil and criminal law exempt men older than 50 years, unless convicted of rape, and all women from caning. Male children between 10 and 18 years may receive a maximum of 10 strokes of a “light cane” in a public courtroom. The government revealed in a letter to a member of parliament that authorities caned 8,451 prisoners (5,968 foreigners and 2,483 citizens) in 2013.

Some states’ sharia laws–those governing family issues and certain crimes under Islam and that apply to all Muslims–also prescribe caning for certain offenses. Women are not exempt from caning under sharia, and national courts have not resolved issues involving conflicts among the constitution, the penal code, and sharia.

In January a human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) released handwritten accounts by seven suspected terrorists held under investigatory detention alleging maltreatment, including beatings, sexual humiliation, and forced confessions. In July, R. Sri Sanjeevan, an activist working on police corruption and whom police arrested on extortion charges, said police blindfolded and beat him while denying him medical treatment.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in prisons and detention centers operated by the government’s Immigration Department were harsh.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding in prisons and immigration detention centers, particularly in facilities near major cities, remained a serious problem.

Some prisoners and detainees died, including while in police holding cells. In May the government revealed that from the beginning of 2013 through April, 721 prisoners died in the country’s prisons, an average of 18 deaths per month. International media reported allegations of deaths in immigration detention centers, but official statistics were not available.

Administration: Authorities used caning in combination with imprisonment for some nonviolent offenders. Prisoners and detainees had freedom of religious observance provided religious practices did not derive from one of the sects of Islam the government bans as “deviant.” The law does not provide a process for prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities, but it allows judges to visit prisons to examine conditions and ask prisoners and prison officials about prison conditions. Authorities generally treated attorney-client communications as private and confidential.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities generally did not permit NGOs and media to monitor prison conditions. The government provided regular prison access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and SUHAKAM, the government human rights commission, on a case-by-case basis. In 2015 the ICRC conducted 27 visits to seven prisons, seven immigration detention centers, and one temporary detention center, visiting 24,845 detainees.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) generally had access to registered refugees, asylum seekers, and unregistered persons of concern who may have claims to asylum and refugee status and who authorities held in immigration detention centers and prisons. This access, however, was not always timely.

Police may detain persons suspected of terrorism, organized crime, gang activity, and trafficking in drugs or persons without a warrant or judicial review for two-year terms, renewable indefinitely. Within seven days of the initial detention, however, police must present the case for detention to a public prosecutor. If the prosecutor agrees “sufficient evidence exists to justify” continued detention and further investigation, a fact-finding inquiry officer appointed by the minister of home affairs must report within 59 days to a detention board appointed by the king. The board may renew the detention order or impose an order to restrict–without trial or judicial review–a suspect’s place of residence, travel, access to communications facilities, and use of the internet for a maximum of five years. Details on the numbers of those detained or under restriction orders were not generally available.

The law allows investigative detention to prevent a criminal suspect from fleeing or destroying evidence during an investigation. Immigration law allows authorities to arrest and detain noncitizens for 30 days pending a deportation decision.

Some observers criticized other legal provisions that allow the identity of witnesses to be kept secret (inhibiting cross-examination of witnesses) and allow authorities to detain the accused after an acquittal in case the prosecution decides to appeal.

Investigation into use of deadly force by a police officer occurs only if the attorney general initiates the investigation or if he approves an application for an investigation by family members of the deceased. When the attorney general orders an official inquiry, a coroner’s court convenes, and the hearing is open to the public. In such cases the court generally issues an open verdict, which means there was no verdict and it would take no further action against police.


The Royal Malaysia Police force, with approximately 102,000 members, reports to the home affairs minister. The inspector general of police is responsible for organizing and administering the police force. The Ministry of Home Affairs also oversees immigration and border enforcement. State-level Islamic religious enforcement officers have authority to accompany police on raids or conduct their own raids of private premises and public establishments to enforce sharia, including bans on indecent dress, alcohol consumption, sale of restricted books, or close proximity to members of the opposite sex. Religious authorities at the state level administer sharia for civil and family law through Islamic courts and have jurisdiction for all Muslims. The Ministry of Home Affairs also oversees the People’s Volunteer Corps (RELA), a paramilitary civilian volunteer corps. NGOs remained concerned inadequate training left RELA members poorly equipped to perform their duties.

The government has some mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, and SUHAKAM played a role in investigating alleged abuses committed by the security forces. NGOs and media reported that despite investigation into some incidents, security forces often acted with impunity.

Police officers are subject to trial by criminal and civil courts. Police representatives reported there were disciplinary actions against police officers, and punishments included suspension, dismissal, and demotion. Civil society groups and NGOs continued to call for establishment of an independent police complaints and misconduct commission. Government officials and police opposed the idea. Police training included human rights awareness in its courses. SUHAKAM also conducted human rights training and workshops for police and prison officials.


The law permits police to arrest and detain individuals for some offenses without a warrant. Although police generally observed legal provisions regarding arrest, NGOs reported the police practice of releasing suspects and then quickly re-arresting and holding them in continued investigative custody. Some NGOs asserted a police approach of “arrest first, investigate later” was prevalent, particularly in cases involving allegations of terrorism. By law an arrested person has the right to be informed of the grounds for arrest by the arresting police officer. To facilitate investigations police can remand an arrested person for 24 hours, which can be extended for up to 14 days by a court order under general criminal law provisions.

In June police arrested and re-arrested activist and police critic R. Sri Sanjeevan eight times during a two-month period under different allegations before finally detaining him under an anti-organized crime provision that allows for a 21-day detention period. He successfully challenged his remand order in court, and authorities freed him a few days later.

Bail is usually available for persons accused of crimes not punishable by life imprisonment or death. The amount and availability of bail is at the judge’s discretion. Persons granted bail usually must surrender their passports to the court.

Police must inform detainees of the right to contact family members and consult a lawyer of their choice. Nonetheless, police often denied detainees access to legal counsel and questioned suspects without allowing a lawyer to be present. Police justified this practice as necessary to prevent interference in investigations in progress, and the courts generally upheld the practice. On occasion police did not allow prompt access to family members.

The law allows the detention of a material witness in a criminal case if that person is likely to flee.

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities sometimes used their powers to intimidate and punish opponents of the government. In April police arrested and charged opposition Member of Parliament Rafizi Ramli with leaking state secrets after he released part of an audit report he claimed linked a continued government financial scandal to late payments to military veterans. Human rights organizations and the political opposition criticized the arrest as breaching parliamentary privileges and intimidating other elected representatives to silence. In November authorities sentenced Rafizi to 18 months in prison, although he remained free pending an appeal. Unless the sentence is overturned or reduced to less than 12 months, Rafizi will be disqualified from seeking re-election.

Pretrial Detention: Crowded and understaffed courts often resulted in lengthy pretrial detention, sometimes lasting several years. The International Center for Prison Studies reported that pretrial detainees made up approximately 26 percent of the prisoner population as of mid-2015.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees have the right to challenge their detention by filing a habeas corpus application. In July a lower court freed anticorruption campaigner R. Sri Sanjeevan, declaring his remand under an anti-organized crime law null and void.

Three constitutional articles provide the basis for an independent judiciary; however, other constitutional provisions, legislation restricting judicial review, and additional factors limited judicial independence and strengthened executive influence over the judiciary.

Members of the bar, NGO representatives, and other observers expressed serious concern about significant limitations on judicial independence, citing a number of high-profile instances of arbitrary verdicts, selective prosecution, and preferential treatment of some litigants and lawyers.

In June, NGOs criticized the attorney general’s decision to lead the prosecution of opposition leader and Penang State Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, claiming a conflict of interest between the attorney-general’s role as legal adviser to the government and a public prosecutor would create the perception of a politically motivated trial.


English common law is the basis for the civil legal system. The constitution states all persons are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection under the law. The law allows defendants a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Judges conduct trials and render verdicts. Trials are public, although judges may order restrictions on press coverage. Defendants have the right to counsel at public expense if they face charges that carry the death penalty and may apply for a public defender in certain other cases.

According to the Malaysian Bar Council, defendants generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense if they have the means to engage private counsel. Otherwise, defendants must rely on legal aid and the amount of time to prepare for trial is at the discretion of the judge. Authorities provide defendants free interpretation in Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and some other commonly used dialects from the moment charged through all appeals. Strict rules of evidence apply in court; however, the government did not consistently make evidence available to defense counsel.

Defendants have the right to be present at their own trial, to confront witnesses against them, and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf, although judges sometimes disallowed witness testimony. Defendants may make statements for the record to an investigative agency prior to trial. Limited pretrial discovery in criminal cases impeded defendants’ ability to defend themselves. Attorneys must apply for a court order to obtain documents covered under the official secrecy laws.

Defendants may appeal court decisions to higher courts, but only if the appeal raises a question of law or if material circumstances raise a reasonable doubt regarding conviction or sentencing. The Bar Council claimed these restrictions were excessive.

Many NGOs complained women did not receive fair treatment from sharia courts, especially in cases of divorce and child custody (see section 6).


Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim remained in prison, serving a five-year sentence for consensual sodomy, a charge many international observers and human rights organizations viewed as politically motivated. In December the federal court rejected his appeal to set aside his conviction and sentence.


Individuals or organizations may sue the government and officials in court for alleged violations of human rights. The structure of the civil judiciary mirrors that of the criminal courts. A large case backlog often resulted in delayed court-ordered relief for civil plaintiffs. The courts have increasingly encouraged the use of mediation and arbitration to speed settlements.

Laws prohibit arbitrary interference with privacy rights; nevertheless, authorities sometimes infringed on citizens’ privacy rights. Certain provisions allow police to enter and search without a warrant the homes of persons suspected of threatening national security. Police also may confiscate evidence under these provisions. Police used this legal authority to search homes and offices; seize computers, books, and newspapers; monitor conversations; and take persons into custody without a warrant. The government monitored the internet and threatened to detain anyone sending or posting content the government deemed a threat to public order or security (see section 2.a.).

Islamic authorities may enter private premises without a warrant if they deem swift action necessary to catch Muslims suspected of engaging in offenses such as gambling, consumption of alcohol, and sexual relations outside marriage.

The government bans membership in unregistered political parties and organizations.

The government does not recognize marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims and considers children born of such unions illegitimate.


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

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

There were many reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, often with impunity. Organized criminal groups also were implicated in numerous killings, often acting with impunity and at times in league with corrupt state, local, and security officials. The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) reported 27 complaints for “deprivation of life” between January and November.

On August 2, authorities arrested Juan Carlos Arreygue, the mayor of the municipality of Alvaro Obregon, and four police officers, including a commander, in connection with the killing of 10 persons detained by police on July 29. According to news reports, Alvaro Obregon police under instructions from the mayor, detained the civilians and executed them, later burning their bodies. The criminal investigation into the case continued at year’s end.

In April a federal court charged the commander of the 97th Infantry Battalion and three other military officers for the July 2015 illegal detention and extrajudicial killing of seven suspected members of an organized criminal group in Calera, Zacatecas. No trial date had been set at year’s end.

On August 18, the CNDH released a report that accused federal police of executing 22 persons after a gunfight in May 2015 near Tanhuato, Michoacan, and of tampering with evidence. The CNDH report concluded that two of the men killed were tortured and 13 were killed after they had been detained. One police officer was killed in the incident. National Security Commissioner Renato Sales Heredia claimed the officers acted in self-defense. In response to the CNDH report, President Enrique Pena Nieto removed Federal Police Chief Enrique Galindo from his position to allow for “an agile and transparent investigation.” No federal police agents were charged, and the federal investigation continued at year’s end.

Authorities made no additional arrests in connection with the January 2015 killing of 10 individuals and illegal detentions and injury to a number of citizens in Apatzingan, Michoacan.

In May a civilian federal judge acquitted and dismissed all charges against the remaining members of the military with pending charges in relation to the 2014 killings of 22 suspected criminals in Tlatlaya, State of Mexico. The court ruled that the evidence was insufficient to convict. In April the press reported that in October 2015 the Sixth Military Court dropped the charges against six soldiers and convicted one soldier, sentencing him to time served. In a report released in October 2015 before the verdicts, the CNDH determined that authorities arbitrarily deprived at least 12 to 15 of the civilians of life and tortured some of the witnesses. In July authorities of the State of Mexico declared they intended to fire nine state-level investigators from the General Prosecutor’s Office and suspend 21 others for misconduct related to the case. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) expressed concerns regarding the lack of convictions in the case and the perceived failure to investigate the chain of command.

Former military corporal, Juan Ortiz Bermudez, appealed his 2015 conviction to 18 years’ imprisonment for intentional homicide in the 2010 killing of two unarmed civilians in Nuevo Leon. Authorities had not scheduled a hearing at year’s end.

Criminal organizations carried out human rights abuses and widespread killings throughout the country. For example, from July 9 to 15, criminal gangs executed several families in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas in what media reported as a war among drug-trafficking organizations. Criminals also targeted mayors (at least six killed this year) and other public officials. From 2006 to the middle of the year, 82 mayors were killed in the country.

News reports and NGO sources noted that from January 2015 to August, authorities discovered more than 724 bodies in several hundred clandestine graves throughout the country, the majority of killings were suspected to have been carried out by criminal organizations.

Federal law prohibits forced disappearances, but laws relating to forced disappearances vary widely across the 32 states and not all classify “forced disappearance” as distinct from murder or kidnapping. Investigation, prosecution, and sentencing for the crime of disappearance remained rare. The CNDH reported to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that as of October 2015, authorities opened 95 investigations at the state level for forced disappearances in nine states, resulting in four indictments but no convictions.

There were many reports of forced disappearances by security forces. There were numerous cases of disappearances related to organized criminal groups. In its data collection, the government often merged disappeared persons with missing persons, making it difficult to compile accurate statistics on the extent of the problem.

The CNDH registered 16 cases of alleged forced disappearances through the end of October.

The Office of the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) revamped its Special Unit for Disappeared Persons in 2015, establishing expanded authorities and transferring 846 open cases from the predecessor PGR unit. The unit employed approximately 30 prosecutors and, as of May, was investigating the cases of 1,050 missing or disappeared persons. In June the attorney general appointed a prosecutor to lead the unit.

Authorities arrested 13 persons, including eight state police officers; they faced charges for the January 11 disappearance of five youths from Tierra Blanca, Veracruz. On February 8, federal authorities located the remains of two of the youths on a property reportedly used by drug traffickers after one officer admitted to the abduction and transfer of the youths to a local criminal gang. Several containers found there contained human remains estimated to belong to hundreds of victims killed over a period of several years.

On April 28, a 17-year-old boy disappeared in the state of Veracruz, with the alleged participation of the Veracruz state police called “Fuerza Civil.” International NGOs reported that the boy’s mother had difficulty filing the disappearance report with the state attorney general’s office.

On November 10, the IACHR launched the follow-up mechanism agreed to by the government, the IACHR, and the families of the 43 students who disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, in 2014. The government provided funding for the mechanism that follows up the work of the group of independent experts who supported the investigation of the disappearances and assisted the families of the victims from March 2015 to April 30. At the end of their mandate in April, the experts released a final report strongly critical of the government’s handling of the case.

According to information provided by the PGR in November, authorities had indicted 168 individuals and arrested 128, including 73 police officers from Cocula and Iguala and 55 alleged members of the Guerrero-based drug trafficking organization, Guerreros Unidos. Representatives of civil society organizations and the IACHR-affiliated experts noted that authorities held many of those arrested on charges such as participation in a criminal organization but not on involvement in the students’ disappearances. A CNDH report implicated federal police and local police officers from nearby Huitzuco. In October authorities arrested the former police chief of Iguala, who had been in hiding since the 2014 disappearances. Both federal and state authorities continued at year’s end to investigate the case, including the whereabouts of the missing students or their remains.

Kidnappings remained a serious problem for persons at all socioeconomic levels, and there were credible reports of instances of police involvement in kidnappings for ransom, often at the state and local level. The government’s statistics agency (INEGI) estimated that 94 percent of crimes were either unreported or not investigated and that underreporting for kidnapping may be even higher.

Coahuila state authorities issued arrest warrants in June for 15 individuals–10 of whom were former police–for forced disappearances in the border state of Coahuila. According to state authorities, from 2009 to 2012, the Zetas transnational criminal organization, allegedly in collusion with local police, carried out mass disappearances in the border towns of Piedras Negras, Allende, and Nava. Elements of the organization allegedly killed some of the victims and disposed of their remains in Piedras Negras’ state prison.

The law prohibits such practices and stipulates confessions obtained through illicit means are not admissible as evidence in court, but there were reports that government officials employed them.

There is no national registry of torture cases, and a lack of data on torture cases at the state level.

As of October 31, the CNDH registered 206 complaints of alleged torture and 451 cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. NGOs stated that in some cases the CNDH misclassified torture as inhuman or degrading treatment.

News reports indicated that the PGR was examining 4,000 cases of torture in the first nine months of the year. The reports indicated that judges issued 14 arrest warrants for torture, including five arrest warrants for army and federal police members.

In June a report by Amnesty International accused security officials of using sexual and other types of torture to secure confessions from women.

On April 14, a video was posted on social media showing a woman being tortured by two soldiers and members of the Federal Police in an incident that took place in February 2015 in Ajuchitlan del Progreso, state of Guerrero. The secretary of defense, General Salvador Cienfuegos, made an unprecedented public apology. National Security Commissioner Renato Sales also offered a public apology. In January authorities detained two of the soldiers allegedly implicated, and they faced civilian charges of torture as well as military charges of disobeying orders. Authorities suspended members of the Federal Police for their involvement.

On January 20, a federal court in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua sentenced army Colonel Elfego Jose Lujan Ruiz (the former commander of the 35th Infantry Battalion in Nuevo Casas Grandes) to 33 years in prison for the 2009 torture, homicide, and clandestine burial of two men. Authorities also sentenced five other convicted former soldiers of the 35th Infantry Battalion; three to 33 years in prison for the same crimes and two to 39 months in prison for torture.

In April authorities sentenced army General Manuel Moreno Avina to 52 years’ imprisonment for the torture, homicide, and destruction of human remains of a man in Chihuahua in 2008. The federal judge also ordered the Ministry of Defense (SEDENA) to offer a public apology and accept responsibility for killing the man. Media reported that, as of October 31, authorities sentenced 21 soldiers who were under Moreno’s command on charges related to torture, homicide, drug trafficking, and other crimes.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in prisons and detention centers were often harsh and life threatening due to corruption, overcrowding, prisoner abuse, alcohol and drug addiction, and lack of security and control.

Civil society groups reported abuses of migrants in some detention centers.

Physical Conditions: In a report published during the year, the IACHR noted that federal and state detention centers suffered from “uncontrolled self-government in aspects such as security and access to basic services, violence among inmates, lack of medical attention, a lack of real opportunities for social reintegration, a lack of differentiated attention for groups of special concern, abuse by prison staff, and lack of effective grievance mechanisms.”

There were numerous cases of corruption in the penitentiary system, including allegations of high-level corruption related to the July 2015 escape of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The IACHR reported that 200 of the 388 penitentiary centers in the country were overcrowded. News reports indicated that Hidalgo State had the most overcrowded prisons and identified the district jail in Tepeaca, Puebla, as the most overcrowded (329 inmates in a jail designed for 49); 239 of the prisoners were awaiting their sentences. In April the CNDH reported that overcrowding in prisons was the main factor in lack of social rehabilitation. Health and sanitary conditions were poor, and most prisons did not offer psychiatric care. Some prisons often were staffed with poorly trained, underpaid, and corrupt correctional officers, and authorities occasionally placed prisoners in solitary confinement indefinitely. Prisoners often had to bribe guards to acquire food, medicine, and other necessities. In some cases prisoners reportedly had to pay a fee to be permitted to visit with family members. Authorities held pretrial detainees together with convicted criminals. The CNDH noted a lack of access to adequate health care was a significant problem. Food quality and quantity, heating, ventilation, and lighting varied by facility, with internationally accredited prisons generally having the highest standards.

The CNDH reported conditions for female prisoners, particularly for women who lived with their children in prison, were inferior to those for men, due to a lack of appropriate living facilities and specialized medical care. There were reports women who lived with their children in prison did not receive extra food or assistance.

The CNDH reported 52 homicides and 23 suicides in state and district prisons in 2015. The CNDH noted in its 2015 report on prisons that 86 prisons did not have a suicide prevention system. On February 11, 49 inmates were killed in the deadliest prison riot in history at the Nuevo Leon state prison of Topo Chico. In June, three prisoners were killed and 14 injured in another riot at the same prison. A senior Nuevo Leon state official cited poor prison conditions and a lack of funding as primary contributing factors for continued violence at the prison.

Administration: At some state prisons, recordkeeping remained inadequate. While prisoners and detainees could file complaints regarding human rights violations, access to justice was inconsistent, and authorities generally did not publicly release the results of investigations.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the CNDH, and state human rights commissions. Independent monitors were generally limited to making recommendations to authorities to improve prison conditions.

Improvements: In June a new law allowed women to have full custody of their children while in prison until the children reached three years of age.

On June 16, the National Criminal Enforcement Act went into effect, which defines the guiding principles of the prison system to be dignity, equality, legality, due process, transparency, confidentiality, and social reinsertion. The law points out that women require different accommodations than men and identifies the important role community contact plays in successful social reintegration.

Both federal and state facilities sought international accreditation from the American Correctional Association, which requires demonstrated compliance with a variety of international standards. As of September 1, 12 additional correctional facilities achieved association accreditation, bringing the total number of accredited facilities to 42.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government often failed to observe these prohibitions.


The federal police, as well as state and municipal police, have primary responsibility for law enforcement and the maintenance of order. The federal police are under the authority of the interior minister and the National Security Committee, state police are under the authority of each of the 32 governors, and municipal police are under the authority of local mayors. SEDENA, which oversees the army and air force, and the Ministry of the Navy (SEMAR), which oversees the navy and marines, also play a role in domestic security, particularly in combatting organized criminal groups. The National Migration Institute (INM), under the authority of the Interior Ministry (SEGOB), is the administrative body responsible for enforcing migration laws and protecting migrants. The INM’s 5,400 agents worked at ports of entry, checkpoints, and detention centers, conducting migrant apprehension operations in coordination with the federal police.

The law requires military institutions to transfer all cases involving civilian victims, including human rights cases, to the civilian justice system under the jurisdiction of the PGR. If the victim is a member of the military, alleged perpetrators remain subject to the military justice system. SEDENA, SEMAR, the federal police, and the PGR have security protocols for the transfer of detainees, chain of custody, and use of force. The protocols, designed to reduce the time arrestees remain in military custody, outline specific procedures for handling detainees.

According to the Office of the Attorney General of Military Justice, as of April 18, the military had transferred to the civilian Attorney General’s Office prosecutorial jurisdiction for more than 1,273 military personnel accused of human rights violations in 558 criminal cases, 257 homicide cases, 229 torture cases, and 72 forced disappearance cases. As of June SEDENA reported there were no cases before military courts that involved a civilian victim.

Although civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces and police, impunity, especially for human rights abuses, remained a serious problem. The country had extremely low rates of prosecution, and prosecutions could take years to complete.

There were new developments in the 2006 San Salvador Atenco confrontation between local vendors and state and federal police agents in Mexico State during which two individuals were killed and more than 47 women were taken into custody with many allegedly sexually tortured by police officials. In 2009 an appeals court acquitted the only individual previously convicted in the case, and in September the Inter-American Court of Human Rights agreed to hear the case, but no date has been set.

By law elected officials enjoy immunity from prosecution, including for corruption, while they hold a public office, although state and federal legislatures have the authority to waive an elected official’s immunity.

SEDENA’s General Directorate for Human Rights investigates military personnel for violations of human rights identified by the CNDH and is responsible for promoting a culture of respect for human rights within the institution. The directorate, however, has no power to prosecute allegations or to take independent judicial action.

In May the code of military justice was reformed to establish procedures for the conduct of military oral trials, in accordance with the transition to an adversarial justice system. On June 15, the CNDH published and submitted to the Supreme Court a “Report of Unconstitutionality” in which it claimed aspects of the recently revised code of military justice and military code of criminal procedures (military code or CMPP) violated constitutional guarantees, including against unreasonable searches and seizures. The CNDH based its claims on provisions of the military code that allow military prosecutors to request permission from civilian prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office to intercept communications and search premises during the investigation of military personnel for ties to organized crime, murder, and weapons violations. The CNDH criticized the ability of a military judge to call a civilian to testify in military court, the requirement that authorities must conduct all procedural acts in Spanish, and the expanded roles given to the Military Ministerial Police (the top-level investigative entity of the military).

In February, SEMAR expanded its human rights program to include a weeklong course (from the previous one-day course), an intensive program for commanding officers, and a human rights diploma program, among others.


The constitution allows any person to arrest another if the crime is committed in his or her presence. A warrant for arrest is not required if an official has direct evidence regarding a person’s involvement in a crime, such as having witnessed the commission of a crime. Bail exists, except for persons held in connection with drug trafficking or other forms of organized crime. In most cases the law provides for detainees to appear before a judge, and for authorities to provide sufficient evidence to justify continued detention, within 48 hours of arrest, but there were violations of the 48-hour provision. In cases involving three or more parties to a conspiracy to commit certain crimes, authorities may hold suspects for up to 96 hours before being presented to a judge.

Only the federal judicial system may prosecute cases involving organized crime. Under a procedure known in Spanish as “arraigo” (a constitutionally permitted form of detention, employed during the investigative phase of a criminal case before probable cause is fully established), certain suspects may, with a judge’s approval, be detained for up to 80 days prior to the filing of formal charges. Human rights NGOs claimed arraigo allowed some corrupt officials to extort detainees, detain someone, and then seek reasons to justify the detention, or obtain confessions using torture. In the absence of formal charges, persons detained under arraigo are often denied legal representation and are not eligible to receive credit for time served if convicted.

Some detainees complained about lack of access to family members and to counsel after police held persons incommunicado for several days and made arrests arbitrarily without a warrant. Police occasionally provided impoverished detainees counsel only during trials and not during arrests or investigations as provided for by law. Authorities held some detainees under house arrest.

Arbitrary Arrest: Allegations of arbitrary detentions persisted throughout the year. The IACHR, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and NGOs expressed concerns regarding arbitrary detention and the potential for arbitrary detention leading to other human rights abuses.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. According to an IACHR report, SEGOB figures as of August 2015 noted that 107,441 of 254,469 individuals detained were in pretrial detention. According to an international NGO, more than 40 percent of prisoners were awaiting their trial at the end of 2015. The law provides time limits within which authorities must try an accused person. Authorities generally disregarded time limits on pretrial detention since caseloads far exceeded the capacity of the federal judicial system.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons who are arrested or detained, whether on criminal or other grounds, may challenge their detention through the Juicio de Amparo. The defense may argue, among other things, that the accused did not receive proper due process; suffered a human rights abuse; or that authorities infringed upon basic constitutional rights. By law individuals should obtain prompt release and compensation if found to be unlawfully detained, but the authorities did not always promptly release those unlawfully detained.

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, court decisions were susceptible to improper influence by both private and public entities, particularly at the state and local level. Authorities sometimes failed to respect court orders, and at the state and local levels, arrest warrants were sometimes ignored.


As of June the civilian and military courts officially transitioned from an inquisitorial legal system based primarily upon judicial review of written documents to an accusatory trial system reliant upon oral testimony presented in open court. While observers expected the new system would take several years to implement fully, the federal government and all of the states began to adopt it. In some states implementing the accusatory system, alternative justice centers employed mechanisms such as mediation, negotiation, and restorative justice to resolve minor offenses outside the court system.

Under the new system, all hearings and trials are conducted by a judge and follow the principles of public access and cross-examination. Defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence and to a fair and public trial without undue delay. Defendants have the right to attend the hearings and to challenge the evidence or testimony presented. Defendants have access to government-held evidence, although the law allows the government to keep elements of an investigation confidential until the presentation of evidence in court. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. The law also provides for the rights of appeal and of bail in many categories of crimes.

The law provides defendants with the right to an attorney of their choice at all stages of criminal proceedings. Attorneys are required to meet legal qualifications to represent a defendant. Not all public defenders had preparation and training to serve adequately on the defendants’ behalf, and often the state public defender system was not adequate to meet demand. Public defender services functioned either in the judicial or executive branch. According to the Center for Economic Research and Economic Teaching (CIDE), most criminal suspects did not receive representation until after they came under judicial authority, thus making individuals vulnerable to coercion to sign false statements prior to appearing before a judge.

Although required by law, interpretation and translation services from Spanish to indigenous languages at all stages of the criminal process were not always available. Indigenous defendants who did not speak Spanish sometimes were unaware of the status of their cases and were convicted without fully understanding the documents they were allegedly required to sign.


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees. On August 13, authorities released antilogging activist Ildefonso Zamora from prison after a court dropped burglary charges against him. Human rights NGOs had criticized his 2015 arrest as politically motivated due to his antilogging activism.


Citizens have access to an independent judiciary in civil matters to seek civil remedies for human rights violations. For a plaintiff to secure damages against a defendant, authorities first must find the defendant guilty in a criminal case, a significant barrier in view of the relatively low number of convictions for civil rights offenses.

The law prohibits such practices and requires search warrants. There were some complaints of illegal searches or illegal destruction of private property.


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

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

There were numerous reports the government or its agents committed numerous arbitrary and unlawful killings. The national police, army, and other security services used lethal and excessive force to disperse protesters and apprehend criminals and suspects and committed other extrajudicial killings. Authorities generally did not hold police, military, or other security force personnel accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. State and federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths did not make their findings public.

The use by security services of excessive force, including live ammunition, to deal with protesters and disperse demonstrators resulted in numerous killings. On February 9, police and military personnel reportedly used live ammunition to disperse protesting members or supporters of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement at a school in Aba, Abia State, killing at least nine. In June Amnesty International (AI) published the findings of an investigation, concluding that on May 29-30, police and military personnel in Onitsha, Anambra State, killed at least 17 IPOB members or supporters ahead of a planned political demonstration. According to a September AI report, since August 2015 security forces killed at least 150 IPOB members or supporters and arbitrarily arrested hundreds. As of December the government had not investigated these incidents.

In January the government of Kaduna State appointed a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the December 2015 killing by Nigerian Army (NA) forces of members of the Shia group Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in Zaria, Kaduna State. The federal government indicated it would wait for the results of this investigation before taking action, claiming it would be the most acceptable course of action. During the proceedings, from which the IMN abstained, claiming bias against the group, Kaduna officials revealed the existence of a mass grave holding the remains of 347 IMN members killed by the NA. The government of Kaduna made public the commission’s nonbinding report on July 31. According to the document, 348 IMN members and one soldier died during the December 2015 altercations, which were followed by the government’s destruction of IMN religious sites and property in and around Zaria. The commission found the NA used “excessive and disproportionate” force and recommended the federal government conduct an independent investigation and prosecute anyone found to have acted unlawfully. It also called for the proscription of the IMN and the monitoring of its members and their activities. In December the government of Kaduna published a white paper accepting the commission’s recommendation to investigate and prosecute allegations of excessive and disproportionate use of force by the NA. It also accepted the recommendation to hold IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky responsible for all illegal acts committed by IMN members during the altercations and in the preceding 30 years. A federal court in December declared the continued detention without charge of Zakzaky and his wife illegal and unconstitutional. The court ordered the immediate and unconditional release of the IMN leader and his spouse but gave authorities 45 days to carry it out, reasoning that the government needed that time to provide the couple with a dwelling to replace the one destroyed in the wake of the 2015 Zaria incidents. As of December more than two hundred imprisoned IMN members continued to await trial on charges of conspiracy and culpable homicide.

Security forces were allegedly responsible for extrajudicial killings, often arbitrarily killing many individuals at one time. For example, in August military personnel entered a village in Bosso Local Government Area (LGA), Niger State, and allegedly killed seven civilians for denying soldiers permission to enter their houses and search for arms and ammunition. The government of Niger State set up a commission of inquiry to investigate. As of December it had not issued a report.

There were reports of arbitrary and unlawful killings related to internal conflicts in the Northeast and other areas (see section 1.g.).

According to AI, on August 16, armed men in a sport utility vehicle bearing government license plates shot and abducted pro-Biafra activist Sunday Chucks Obasi outside his home in Amuko Nnewi, Anambra State. In response to inquiries by his family, police in Anambra stated Obasi was not in their custody. As of December his whereabouts remained unknown.

Criminal groups continued to abduct civilians in the Niger Delta and the Southeast, often to collect ransom payments. For example, according to press reports, in June gunmen kidnapped as many as seven cement company contractors, including several expatriates, in the outskirts of Calabar, Cross River State. The kidnappers released the men unharmed several days later.

Other parts of the country continued to experience a significant number of abductions. Prominent and wealthy figures were often targets of abduction. For example, in March gunmen kidnapped, and later killed, NA Colonel Samaila Inusa in Kaduna State. In April kidnappers briefly abducted former minister of education Senator Iyabo Anisulowo in Ogun State, allegedly releasing him after a ransom payment.

Boko Haram continued to conduct large-scale abductions in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States (see section 1.g.).

The constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), passed in 2015, prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of arrestees; however, it fails to prescribe penalties for violators. Each state must also individually adopt the ACJA for the legislation to apply beyond the FCT and federal agencies. As of December only the states of Anambra, Ekiti, Enugu, and Lagos had adopted it. Final passage of an antitorture bill, initially passed in 2015 by both houses of the National Assembly but returned by President Buhari to the Senate for amendments, was pending.

The Ministry of Justice established a National Committee against Torture (NCAT). Lack of legal and operational independence and lack of funding, however, continued to prevent NCAT from carrying out its work effectively.

The law prohibits the introduction into trials of evidence and confessions obtained through torture. Authorities did not respect this prohibition, however, and police often used torture to extract confessions later used to try suspects. Police also repeatedly mistreated civilians to extort money.

In September AI reported police officers in the Special Antirobbery Squad (SARS) regularly tortured detainees in custody as a means of extracting confessions and bribes. For example, SARS officers in Enugu State reportedly beat one victim with machetes and heavy sticks, releasing him only after payment of 25,500 naira ($81). In response to AI’s findings, the inspector general of police reportedly admonished SARS commanders and announced broad reforms to correct SARS units’ failures to follow due process and their use of excessive force.

Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and international human rights groups continued to accuse the security services of illegal detention, inhuman treatment, and torture of demonstrators, criminal suspects, militants, detainees, and prisoners. Military and police reportedly used a wide range of torture methods, including beatings, shootings, nail and tooth extractions, rape, and other forms of sexual violence. According to reports, security services committed rape and other forms of violence against women and girls, often with impunity. For example, in July a police inspector allegedly raped a 15-year-old girl in Mkpat Enin, Akwa Ibom State. As of December there were no reports of any investigation into the incident.

Police continued to use a technique commonly referred to as “parading” of arrestees, which involved walking arrestees through public spaces and subjecting them to public ridicule and abuse. Bystanders often taunted and hurled food and other objects at arrestees.

The sharia courts in 12 northern states may prescribe punishments such as caning, amputation, and death by stoning. The sharia criminal procedure code allows defendants 30 days to appeal sentences involving mutilation or death to a higher sharia court. Statutory law mandates state governors treat all court decisions equally, including amputation or death sentences, regardless of whether issued by a sharia or a non-sharia court. Authorities, however, often did not carry out caning, amputation, and stoning sentences passed by sharia courts because defendants frequently appealed, a process that could be lengthy. Federal appellate courts had not ruled on whether such punishments violate the constitution because no relevant cases had reached the federal level. Although sharia appellate courts consistently overturned stoning and amputation sentences on procedural or evidentiary grounds, there were no challenges on constitutional grounds.

There were no reports of canings during the year. Defendants generally did not challenge caning sentences in court as a violation of statutory law. Sharia courts usually carried out caning immediately. In some cases convicted individuals paid fines or went to prison in lieu of caning.

In January a sharia court in Kano confirmed the death sentence for blasphemy of an Islamic cleric and eight others. They had allegedly made blasphemous statements the previous May at a religious gathering in honor of the founder of the Tijaniya sect. As of December the case remained on appeal.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Prisoners and detainees were reportedly subjected to extrajudicial execution, torture, gross overcrowding, food and water shortages, and other abuses. The government often detained suspected militants outside the formal prison system (see section 1.g).

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding was a significant problem. Although the total designed capacity of the country’s prisons was 50,153 inmates, as of March they held 63,142 prisoners. Approximately 72 percent of inmates were in pretrial detention or remanded. There were 1,225 female inmates as of September 2015. Authorities sometimes held female and male prisoners together, especially in rural areas. In 2013 the NPS reported there were 847 juvenile inmates in juvenile detention centers, but prison authorities often held juvenile suspects with adults.

Prisoners and detainees, the majority of whom had not been tried, were reportedly subjected to extrajudicial execution, torture, gross overcrowding, food and water shortages, inadequate medical treatment, deliberate and incidental exposure to heat and sun, and infrastructure deficiencies that led to wholly inadequate sanitary conditions that could result in death. Guards and prison officials reportedly extorted inmates or levied fees on them to pay for food, prison maintenance, and release from prison. Female inmates in some cases faced the threat of rape.

Most of the 240 prisons were 70 to 80 years old and lacked basic facilities. Lack of potable water, inadequate sewage facilities, and severe overcrowding resulted in dangerous and unsanitary conditions. Disease remained pervasive in cramped, poorly ventilated prison facilities, which had chronic shortages of medical supplies. Inadequate medical treatment caused many prisoners to die from treatable illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. Although authorities attempted to isolate persons with communicable diseases, facilities often lacked adequate space, and inmates with these illnesses lived with the general prison population. There were no reliable statistics on the number of prison deaths during the year.

Only prisoners with money or support from their families had sufficient food. Prison officials routinely stole money provided for prisoners’ food. Poor inmates often relied on handouts from others to survive. Prison officials, police, and other security force personnel often denied inmates food and medical treatment to punish them or extort money.

In general prisons had no facilities to care for pregnant women or nursing mothers. Infants born to inmate mothers usually remained with the mother until weaned. Although the law prohibits the imprisonment of children, minors–many of whom were born in prison–lived in the prisons. According to the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS), in 2013 there were 69 infants in prison with their mothers. Results of a survey of women and children in prisons conducted by CURE-Nigeria and released in March revealed many children in custody did not receive routine immunizations, and authorities made few provisions to accommodate their physical needs, to include hygiene items, proper bedding, proper food, and recreation areas. According to a report by the NGO CURE-Nigeria, female inmates largely relied on charitable organizations to obtain female hygiene items.

Generally, prisons made few efforts to provide mental health services or other accommodations to prisoners with mental disabilities (see section 6).

Several unofficial military prisons reported by domestic and international human rights groups–including the Giwa Barracks facility in Maiduguri, Borno State–continued to operate (see section 1.g.). In May AI reported that at least 149 individuals, including 12 children and babies, had died since January at Giwa Barracks. According to the report, overcrowding coupled with disease and inadequate access to food and water were the most likely causes of the increase in mortality at the installation. The military reportedly detained many of those at Giwa Barracks during arbitrary mass arrests based on random profiling rather than reasonable suspicion of supporting Boko Haram. The military publicly denied the findings of the report but worked with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and by October had released 876 children previously detained at the facility. It was unclear following their release how many other children or adults remained in detention at Giwa Barracks or other unofficial detention facilities.

In 2014 AI reported the mass extrajudicial executions of more than 600 recaptured prisoners at Giwa Barracks following an escape attempt. In 2013 AI had revealed the existence of previously unknown military detention facilities in the Northeast–including Giwa Barracks, and the Sector Alpha (also called “Guantanamo”) and Presidential Lodge (also called “the Guardroom”) facilities in Damaturu, Yobe State. According to AI, the military subjected detainees in them to inhuman and degrading treatment; hundreds allegedly died due to of extrajudicial killings, beatings, torture, or starvation. In response to the Giwa Barracks allegations, the military indicated it would conduct an investigation. As of December the military had not released any reports of an investigation.

Administration: Recordkeeping on prisoners was inadequate, and authorities did not take steps to improve it. Authorities maintained records for individual prisoners in paper form inconsistently and did not make them widely accessible.

While prison authorities allowed visitors within a scheduled timeframe, few visits occurred, largely due to lack of family resources and travel distances.

The country does not have an ombudsman to serve on behalf of convicted prisoners and detainees. The ACJA provides that the chief judge of each state, or any magistrate designated by the chief judge, shall conduct monthly inspections of police stations and other places of detention within the magistrate’s jurisdiction, other than prisons, and may inspect records of arrests, direct the arraignment of suspects, and grant bail if previously refused but appropriate.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) conducts prison audits and in September announced the start of a new one. Despite an expressed willingness and ability to investigate credible allegations of inhuman conditions, however, the last audit report it publicly released was in 2012. Through its Legal Aid Council, the Ministry of Justice reportedly provided some monitoring of prisons under the Federal Government Prison Decongestion Program.

Independent Monitoring: There was limited monitoring of prisons by independent nongovernmental observers. The International Committee of the Red Cross continued to have access to police detention and NPS facilities. It was also able to visit some military detention facilities.

Improvements: Some individual attorneys general and prison administrators worked to improve local facilities and processes. CURE-Nigeria worked with the chief justice of the FCT to review the cases of FCT inmates incarcerated in neighboring states while awaiting trial or after having served their sentences.

Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, police and security services employed these practices. According to numerous reports, since 2013 the military arbitrarily arrested and detained–often in unmonitored military detention facilities–thousands of persons in the context of the fight against Boko Haram in the Northeast (see section 1.g.). In their prosecution of corruption cases, law enforcement and intelligence agencies often failed to follow due process and arrested suspects without appropriate arrest and search warrants.


The National Police Force (NPF) is the country’s largest law enforcement agency. An inspector general of police, appointed by the president and reporting to the minister of interior, commands the NPF. In addition to traditional police responsibilities of maintaining law and order in communities in each of the states and the FCT, the inspector general oversees law enforcement operations throughout the country involving border security, marine (navigation) matters, and counterterrorism. A state commissioner of police, nominated by the inspector general and approved by the state governor, commands NPF forces in each of the states and the FCT. Although administratively controlled by the inspector general, operationally the state commissioner reports to the governor. In the event of societal violence or emergencies, such as endemic terrorist activity or national disasters that necessitate the temporary deployment to a state of additional law enforcement resources, the governor may also assume operational control of these forces.

The Department of State Services (DSS) is responsible for internal security and reports to the president through the national security adviser. Several other federal organizations have law enforcement components, such as the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Attorney General’s Office, Ministry of Interior, and federal courts.

Due to the inability of law enforcement forces to control societal violence, the government increasingly turned to the armed forces in many cases. In July, for example, the military launched Operation Accord to tackle an increase in the number of herder-farmer conflicts throughout the country.

The police, DSS, and military reported to civilian authorities but periodically acted outside civilian control. The government lacked effective mechanisms and sufficient political will to investigate and punish security force abuse and corruption. The police and military remained susceptible to corruption, committed human rights abuses, and operated with widespread impunity in the apprehension, illegal detention, torture, and extrajudicial execution of suspects. The DSS also reportedly committed human rights abuses. In some cases private citizens or the government brought charges against perpetrators of human rights abuses, but most cases lingered in court or went unresolved after an initial investigation. In the armed forces, a soldier’s commanding officer determined disciplinary action, and the decision was subject to review by the chain of command under the Armed Forces Act. In March the army announced the creation of a human rights desk to investigate complaints of human rights violations brought by civilians, although as of December that office’s mandate remained unclear and no investigations had been formally initiated.


Police and other security services have the authority to arrest individuals without first obtaining warrants if they have reasonable suspicion a person committed an offense, a power they often abused. The law requires that, even under a state of emergency, detainees must appear before a magistrate within 48 hours and have access to lawyers and family members. In many instances government and security officials did not adhere to this regulation without being bribed. Police held for interrogation individuals found in the vicinity of a crime for periods ranging from a few hours to several months, and after their release, authorities frequently asked the individuals to return for further questioning. The law requires an arresting officer to inform the accused of charges at the time of arrest, transport the accused to a police station for processing within a reasonable time, and allow the suspect to obtain counsel and post bail. Families were afraid to approach military barracks used as detention facilities. Police routinely detained suspects without informing them of the charges against them or allowing access to counsel and family members; such detentions often included solicitation of bribes. Provision of bail often remained arbitrary or subject to extrajudicial influence. Judges often set exceedingly stringent bail conditions. In many areas with no functioning bail system, suspects remained incarcerated indefinitely under investigative detention. Authorities kept detainees incommunicado for long periods. Numerous detainees alleged police demanded bribes to take them to court hearings or to release them. If family members wanted to attend a trial, police often demanded additional payment.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security force personnel arbitrarily arrested numerous persons during the year, although the number remained unknown. In the Northeast the military and members of vigilante groups, such as the CJTF, reportedly continued to round up individuals during mass arrests, often with no evidence against them.

Security services detained journalists and demonstrators during the year (see sections 2.a. and 2.b.).

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a serious problem. According to NPS figures from March, 72 percent of the prison population consisted of detainees awaiting trial, often for years. The shortage of trial judges, trial backlogs, endemic corruption, bureaucratic inertia, and undue political influence seriously hampered the judicial system. In many cases multiple adjournments resulted in years-long delays. Many detainees had their cases adjourned because the NPF and the NPS did not have vehicles to transport them to court. Some persons remained in detention because authorities lost their case files.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees can challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court and have the right to submit complaints to the NHRC. For example, in April an Abuja court ordered the EFCC to pay the sum of 10 million naira ($31,750) as damages to the former acting national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party after declaring his arrest and subsequent detention by the commission illegal.

Nevertheless, most detainees found this approach ineffective because, even with legal representation, they often waited years to gain access to court.

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judicial branch remained susceptible to pressure from the executive and legislative branches. Political leaders influenced the judiciary, particularly at the state and local levels. Understaffing, underfunding, inefficiency, and corruption prevented the judiciary from functioning adequately. Judges frequently failed to appear for trials. In addition, the pay for court officials was low, and they often lacked proper equipment and training.

There was a widespread public perception that judges were easily bribed and litigants could not rely on the courts to render impartial judgments. Citizens encountered long delays and received requests from judicial officials for bribes to expedite cases or obtain favorable rulings.

Although the Ministry of Justice implemented strict requirements for education and length of service for judges at the federal and state levels, no requirements or monitoring bodies existed for judges at the local level. This contributed to corruption and the miscarriage of justice in local courts.

The constitution provides that, in addition to common law courts, states may establish courts based on sharia or customary (traditional) law. Sharia courts functioned in 12 northern states and the FCT. Customary courts functioned in most of the 36 states. The nature of a case and the consent of the parties usually determined what type of court had jurisdiction. In the case of sharia courts in the North, the impetus to establish them stemmed at least in part from perceptions of inefficiency, cost, and corruption in the common law system.

The constitution specifically recognizes sharia courts for “civil proceedings,” but they do not have the authority to compel participation by non-Muslims. Non-Muslims have the option to have their cases tried in the sharia courts if involved in civil disputes with Muslims.

The constitution is silent on the use of sharia courts for criminal cases. In addition to civil matters, sharia courts also hear criminal cases if both complainant and defendant are Muslim and agree to the venue. Sharia courts may pass sentences based on the sharia penal code, including for “hudud” offenses (serious criminal offenses with punishments prescribed in the Quran) that provide for punishments such as caning, amputation, and death by stoning. Despite constitutional language supporting only secular criminal courts and the prohibition against involuntary participation in sharia criminal courts, a Zamfara State law requires that a sharia court hear all criminal cases involving Muslims.

Defendants have the right to challenge the constitutionality of sharia criminal statutes through the common law appellate courts. As of December no challenges with adequate legal standing had reached the common law appellate system. The highest appellate court for sharia-based decisions is the Supreme Court, staffed by common-law judges who are not required to have any formal training in the sharia penal code. Sharia law experts often advise them.


Defendants are presumed innocent and enjoy the rights to: be informed promptly and in detail of charges (with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals); receive a fair and public trial without undue delay; be present at their trial; communicate with an attorney of choice (or have one provided at public expense); have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; confront witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence; not be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and appeal. The law grants defendants the right to apply directly or through a lawyer for access to government-held evidence.

Authorities did not always respect these rights. Although accused persons are entitled to counsel of their choice, no law prevents a trial from going forward without counsel, except for certain offenses that carry the death penalty. Authorities held defendants in prison awaiting trial for periods well beyond the term allowed by law (see section 1.c.).

Human rights groups alleged the government denied terror suspects detained by the military their rights to legal representation, due process, and to be heard by a judicial authority. Despite announcements in 2015 that the government was preparing to prosecute 350 Boko Haram suspects in custody, as of December there were no reports of the government initiating their prosecutions. Thousands of other individuals suspected of association with Boko Haram remained in detention with no investigations or prosecutions initiated against them.

Under common law women and non-Muslims may testify in civil or criminal proceedings and give testimony that carries the same weight as testimony of other witnesses. Sharia courts usually accorded the testimony of women and non-Muslims less weight than that of Muslim men. Some sharia court judges allowed different evidentiary requirements for male and female defendants to prove adultery or fornication. Pregnancy, for example, was admissible evidence of a woman’s adultery or fornication in some sharia courts. In contrast, sharia courts could convict men only if they confessed or there was eyewitness testimony. Sharia courts, however, provided women some benefits, including increased access to divorce, child custody, and alimony.

Military courts tried only military personnel, but their judgments could be appealed to civilian courts. Members of the military are subject to the Armed Forces Act regarding civil and criminal matters. The operational commanding officer of a member of the armed forces must approve charges against that member. The commanding officer decides whether the accusation merits initiation of court-martial proceedings or lower-level disciplinary action. Such determinations are nominally subject to higher review, although the commanding officer makes the final decision. If the case proceeds, the accused is subject to trial by a four-member court-martial. The law provides for internal appeals before military councils as well as final appeal to the civilian Court of Appeals.

In May the NA announced a special court-martial to try two generals on unspecified charges. In September the court convicted one of them of indiscipline and reduced his rank. In August the NA convened a court-martial to try 16 soldiers and four officers for offenses allegedly committed during operations in the Northeast. Their cases were pending as of December.


There were no new reports of political prisoners or detainees. Persons arrested in previous years for alleged treason remained in detention at year’s end.


The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary in civil matters, but the executive and legislative branches, as well as business interests, exerted influence and pressure in civil cases. Official corruption and lack of will to implement court decisions also interfered with due process. The law provides for access to the courts for redress of grievances, and courts may award damages and issue injunctions to stop or prevent a human rights violation, but the decisions of civil courts were difficult to enforce.

The law prohibits arbitrary interference, but authorities reportedly infringed on these rights during the year, and police entered homes without judicial or other appropriate authorization. There were reports of warrantless arrests of young men in the Niger Delta region on suspicion of having links with militant groups. In their pursuit of corruption cases, law enforcement agencies reportedly carried out searches and arrests without warrants.

The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) continued to threaten to evict residents in communities not deemed in compliance with the Abuja city master plan. The FCDA typically claimed that demolished homes, businesses, or churches lacked proper permits (even if owners were able to produce documentation indicating the structures were built legally), were unsafe, or posed health hazards. Many civil society organizations and citizens claimed property developers with connections to government officials acquired vacated properties. No transparent legal process existed for deciding which homes the government would demolish. Persons who lost homes lacked recourse to appeal and received no compensation. Many observers viewed the demolitions as motivated primarily by corruption and discrimination based on socioeconomic class, since mostly lower- and middle-class persons lost their homes and property.

For example, the government of Kaduna State issued demolition notices in March to residents of Gbagyi Villa despite a court injunction against the planned demolition. Residents claimed the government had not consulted with them or offered alternative housing or compensation.

Killings: Units of the NA’s Seventh and Eight Divisions, the NPF, and the DSS continued to carry out operations against Boko Haram in the Northeast. Some military forces allegedly killed suspected members of the group and engaged in retaliatory tactics against civilians believed to have harbored or associated with the group. Security forces also committed mass arrests of men and boys and torture. NGOs and former detainees alleged that starvation and other forms of torture by the military resulted in detainee deaths at military detention facilities, including Giwa Barracks.

An AI report published in 2015 asserted that between 2013 and 2014, the military committed more than 1,200 extrajudicial killings in the course of operations against Boko Haram. In 2014 press and NGOs reported the NA illegally detained and killed suspected members of Boko Haram in Giwa Barracks, in one instance executing 622 prisoners following a Boko Haram attack on the installation. While President Buhari repeatedly reiterated his administration’s commitment to human rights, as of December there were no reports of investigations into or prosecutions for these incidents.

Boko Haram continued its campaign of violence against secular authority and anyone perceived as disagreeing with the group’s political or religious beliefs. While driven out of much of the territory it controlled in early 2015 and left only in control of some small towns and rural areas, the group was still capable of carrying out complex attacks and suicide bombings against civilian and military targets across the Northeast. Data compiled by an NGO based on media reports indicated approximately 2,900 persons (including civilians and fighters on both sides) died as a result of the conflict between Boko Haram and the government during the year.

The terrorist group continued to attack population centers in the states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe. It also carried out attacks in Gombe. Women and children carried out many of the attacks. According to a study by UNICEF, nearly one in five suicide attacks by Boko Haram used a child, and more than two-thirds of the children were girls. On February 10, for example, two female suicide bombers ages 17 and 20 blew themselves up at an internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camp in Dikwa, Borno State, killing 58 persons and wounding 78 others.

Abductions: Allegations by NGOs and activists of enforced disappearances by security forces in the Northeast remained uninvestigated by the government as of October. One civil society-compiled list alone contained the names of 1,200 persons arrested in Borno State between 2011 and 2014 whose whereabouts remained unknown.

Boko Haram continued to abduct men, women, and children, often in conjunction with attacks on communities. The group forced men, women, and children to fight on its behalf. Women and girls abducted by Boko Haram were subjected to physical and psychological abuse, forced labor, forced marriage, forced religious conversions, forced participation in military operations, and sexual abuse, including rape and sexual slavery. Boko Haram also used women and girls to lure security forces into ambushes, force payment of ransoms, and leverage prisoner exchanges.

While some NGO reports estimated the number of Boko Haram abductees at more than 2,000, the total count of the missing was unknown since abductions continued, towns had repeatedly changed hands, and many families were still on the run or dispersed in IDP camps. Many abductees managed to escape Boko Haram captivity, but precise numbers remained unknown. As of November the military claimed to have rescued more than one thousand persons kidnapped by Boko Haram.

Most of the 219 remaining students abducted by Boko Haram from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in 2014 remained in captivity. In May a vigilante group found one of the girls on the outskirts of Borno’s Sambisa Forest, along with her baby and the man to whom Boko Haram had given her in marriage. In October the government confirmed the release of 21 of the kidnapped girls.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Security services used excessive force in the pursuit of Boko Haram and other suspects, often resulting in arbitrary arrest, detention, or torture (see section 1.c.).

Arbitrary mass arrests continued in the Northeast, and authorities reportedly held many individuals there in poor and life-threatening conditions. At one military detention facility, an NGO documented evidence indicating the presence of more than 120 boys between five and 16 years of age held incommunicado in a single cell. In 2015 AI reported that since 2009 security forces arbitrarily arrested approximately 20,000 persons in the region. Of these, AI estimated more than 7,000 died of thirst, starvation, suffocation, disease due to overcrowding, lack of medical attention, the use of fumigation chemicals in unventilated cells, and torture.

Boko Haram engaged in widespread sexual violence against women and girls. Those who escaped or that security services or vigilante groups rescued faced ostracism by their communities and had difficulty obtaining appropriate medical and psychosocial treatment and care.

Child Soldiers: Youths under age 18 participated in Boko Haram attacks. The group paid, forcibly conscripted, or otherwise coerced young boys and girls to serve in its ranks and perpetrate attacks and raids, plant improvised explosive devices, serve as spies, and carry out suicide bombings. According to an April UNICEF report, the number of boys and girls used by Boko Haram in suicide attacks rose sharply from four in 2014 to 44 in 2015. The group also used abducted girls as sex slaves and forced them to work for the group. In April the United Nations reported it had verified the recruitment during the year of 225 children by Boko Haram. Boko Haram used children to conduct suicide attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad.

Although the government prohibited the recruitment and use of child soldiers, government security forces conducted on-the-ground coordination with vigilante groups, including the CJTF, some of which reportedly recruited and used children in hostilities. According to the United Nation’s April report, the CJTF recruited and used 53 child soldiers during the year. These children manned checkpoints and served as messengers and spies.

The Borno state government continued to provide financial and in-kind resources to some CJTF members. According to government officials, community members in the Northeast, and some international NGOs, only CJTF members who had been part of the Borno State Youth Empowerment Program–a state-sponsored training and employment program whose participants underwent vetting to establish they were more than 18 years of age–received any kind of support.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuses: As of August there were approximately 1.8 million persons internally displaced in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe. The Boko Haram insurgency was the main reason given for displacement by 97 percent of IDPs (see section 2.d.).


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

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

After taking office on July 28, the Kuczynski administration launched an investigation into allegations that members of the Peruvian National Police (PNP) committed the extrajudicial killings of more than 20 criminal suspects from 2012 to 2015 as part of a scheme to receive awards and promotions. These allegations first surfaced in August. According to press and Ministry of Interior accounts, an “irregular” group of nine PNP officers and sub-officers allegedly paid informants to entrap individuals and provide regular police units with false intelligence, setting the stage for deadly confrontations. As of November, the government had produced no evidence that policy-level officials directed the alleged killings or had knowledge of the scheme.

On September 1, a special tribunal found 10 former army officers and enlisted persons guilty of killing 71 villagers, including 23 children, in the 1985 “Accomarca Massacre” that occurred during the conflict with the Shining Path terrorist group. The tribunal sentenced five officers to prison terms ranging from 23 to 25 years, including general Wilfredo Mori, lieutenant colonels Nelson Gonzalez Feria and Carlos Pastor Delgado Medina, and lieutenants Juan Rivera Rondon and Telmo Hurtado. Five low-ranking soldiers also received 10-year sentences. The tribunal acquitted six others, including general Jose Williams Zapata, for lack of sufficient evidence.

The Shining Path conducted several terrorist acts during the year that resulted in deaths and injuries (see section 1.g.), including an April 9 attack on army officers carrying electoral materials the day before the first round of national elections.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances during the year. The government, however, continued to address disappearances that occurred during the internal conflict of 1980-2000. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated that more than 15,000 persons disappeared during this period.

The government approved a new law in July that requires the Ministry of Justice to oversee the recovery, identification, and return of the approximately 15,000 “disappeared” human remains from the internal conflict as a humanitarian priority. The law requires the government to simultaneously collect evidence and proceed with criminal investigations.

On September 27, a court found Vladimiro Montesinos, the intelligence chief and chief advisor to former president Alberto Fujimori, guilty of the disappearance and murder of two students and one professor in 1993. Both Fujimori and Montesinos were already serving 25-year prison sentences for human rights abuses. By law the decision did not add additional time to Montesinos’ prison sentence.

The law prohibits such practices. Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), however, reported that torture remained a problem, primarily within the police force and stated the government did not effectively prevent and punish those who committed such abuses.

According to the local NGO Human Rights Commission, many victims did not file formal complaints about their alleged torture, and those who did so purportedly had difficulty obtaining judicial redress and adequate compensation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions remained harsh for most of the country’s inmates, due to overcrowding, poor sanitation, inadequate nutrition and health care, and corruption among guards, which included guards smuggling weapons and drugs into the prisons. Guards received little to no training or supervision.

Physical Conditions: As of June the National Penitentiary Institute (INPE) reported that the national penitentiary system had 77,086 prisoners in 67 facilities originally designed for 32,890 prisoners. On July 10, the government opened a new prison in Cochamarca, which was built to hold 1,300 prisoners. As of January, the San Juan de Lurigancho men’s prison held 9,958 prisoners in a facility designed for 3,204. The Sarita Colonia prison in the Callao Region had a designed capacity of 572 persons but held 3,296 in January. Prisons for women also were overcrowded. The Santa Monica women’s prison in Chorrillos was designed for 450 inmates but held 823.

INPE operated 31 of the 68 active prisons, the PNP had jurisdiction over five, the PNP and INPE operated 31 prisons jointly, and INPE and the army jointly operated one prison. The judicial system used pretrial detention centers located at police stations, judiciary buildings, and the Palace of Justice to hold pretrial detainees temporarily.

Prison guards and fellow inmates reportedly abused prisoners, and inmates killed fellow inmates during the year. Inmates had intermittent access to potable water, bathing facilities were inadequate, kitchen facilities were unhygienic, and prisoners often slept in hallways and common areas for lack of cell space. Prisoners with money had access to cell phones, illegal drugs, and meals prepared outside the prison; prisoners who lacked funds experienced much more difficult conditions.

Most prisons provided access to basic medical care, but there was a shortage of doctors, and inmates complained of having to pay for medical attention. Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS reportedly remained at near-epidemic levels. The Ombudsman’s Office continued to report the incidence of tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS infections were significantly higher in prisons than in the general population. The Ombudsman’s Office also reported insufficient accessibility and inadequate facilities for prisoners with disabilities. Prisons lacked specialized medical equipment needed for prisoners with disabilities, such as wheelchairs and transferrable beds. Low accessibility to adequate psychological care for prisoners with mental disabilities was also reported.

Administration: Independent and government authorities investigated allegations of mistreatment in prisons and made the results of their investigations public.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights and international humanitarian law observers. Between January and October, International Committee of the Red Cross officials made 12 unannounced visits to inmates in 12 different prisons and detention centers and individually monitored approximately 95 individual prisoners. During the year, the Ombudsman’s Office representatives made 150 visits to Lima and provincial prisons and 30 visits to juvenile detention centers.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions. The government constitutionally suspended the right to freedom from arrest without warrant in designated emergency zones (see section 1.g.).


The PNP, with a force of approximately 114,830 personnel, is responsible for all areas of law enforcement and internal security, including migration and border security. The PNP functioned under the authority of the Ministry of Interior. The armed forces, with approximately 100,000 personnel, are responsible for external security under the authority of the Ministry of Defense but also have limited domestic security responsibilities, particularly in the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM) emergency zone.

Corruption and a high rate of acquittals in civilian courts for military personnel accused of crimes remained serious problems. The Public Ministry conducted investigations, although access to evidence held by the Ministry of Defense was not always forthcoming. The Ombudsman’s Office can also investigate cases and submit conclusions to the Public Ministry for follow-up. The Ministries of Interior and Defense employed internal mechanisms to investigate allegations of security force abuse. The Ministry of Interior’s Office of Inspector General reported that it disciplined approximately 7,400 police officers from January to August.

The Public Ministry is charged with witness protection responsibilities but lacked resources to provide sufficient training to prosecutors and police officers, conceal identities, or furnish logistical support to witnesses.

Police continued operating under a use of force doctrine adopted in 2015. When a police action causes death or injury, the law requires an administrative investigation and notification to the appropriate oversight authorities. The law is applicable to all police force members and defines the principles, rules, situations, and limitations for police use of force and firearms.


The law permits police to detain persons for investigations. The law requires a written judicial warrant based on sufficient evidence for an arrest, unless authorities apprehend the alleged perpetrator of a crime in the act. Only judges may authorize detentions. Authorities are required to arraign arrested persons within 24 hours, except in cases of terrorism, drug trafficking, or espionage, for which arraignment must take place within 15 days. In remote areas, arraignment must take place as soon as practicably possible. Military authorities must turn over persons they detain to police within 24 hours. The law requires police to file a report with the Public Ministry within 24 hours after an arrest. The Public Ministry, in turn, must issue its own assessment of the legality of the police action in the arrest, and authorities respected this requirement.

Judges have 24 hours to decide whether to release a suspect or continue detention, and the judiciary respected this provision. A functioning bail system exists, but many poor defendants lack the means to post bail. By law detainees are allowed access to family members and a lawyer of their choice. Police may detain suspected terrorists incommunicado for 10 days.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention continued to be a problem. In January authorities had sentenced only 38,198 of the 77,298 detainees held in detention facilities and prisons. Delays were due mainly to judicial inefficiency, corruption, and staff shortages. Under the criminal procedure code, the law requires the release of prisoners held more than nine months whom the justice system has not tried and sentenced; the period is 18 months for complex cases. In one prominent case, a judge released regional Governor Gregorio Santos, who was accused of corruption, from prison on July 27 after 23 months of pretrial imprisonment. During this time Santos was allowed to participate as a candidate in regional (2014) and national (2016) elections.

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

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. NGOs and other advocates alleged the judiciary often did not operate independently, was not consistently impartial, and was subject to political influence and corruption. Authorities generally respected court orders from the judiciary.


The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right, although reports of corruption in the judicial system were common. The government continued the implementation, begun in 2006, of a criminal procedure code designed to streamline the penal process. As of October, the government had introduced the code in 28 of the 31 judicial districts, although implementation in the largest judicial districts–Lima and Callao–remained pending. The code requires public hearings for each case and assigns investigative responsibility to public prosecutors and police.

The law presumes all defendants innocent. The government also must promptly inform defendants in detail of the charges against them and provide defendants a fair and public trail without undue delay. Defendants also have the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice or have one provided at public expense; however, state-provided attorneys often have poor training. Although the law grants citizens the right to trial in their own language, language services for non-Spanish speakers were sometimes unavailable. This deficiency primarily affected indigenous people living in the highlands and Amazon Regions. In a case from 2015, however, a court in Puno issued its decision in the Aymara indigenous language, which is prevalent in the region. As of October, the decision was on appeal to a court in Lima, and any additional court findings would use Aymara. The law also gives all defendants the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare for their defense.

Defendants generally had access to government-held evidence related to their cases. Exceptions reportedly occurred in some human rights abuse cases from the 1980-2000 period. In many of these cases, the government classified related documents as secret and subject to disclosure limitations under the law. Defendants have the right to confront adverse witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. The government cannot compel defendants to testify or confess to a crime. Defendants may appeal verdicts to a superior court and ultimately to the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Tribunal may rule on cases involving issues such as habeas corpus or the constitutionality of laws.


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


Citizens may seek civil remedies for human rights violations, but court cases often take years to resolve. Press reports, NGOs, and other sources continued to allege that persons outside the judiciary frequently corrupted or influenced judges.

The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. The government’s declaration of emergency zones in the VRAEM and Callao Region, due to drug trafficking and criminal activity, suspended the right to home inviolability.

The Shining Path terrorist organization was responsible for killings and other human rights abuses during the year.

Killings: The Shining Path terrorist organization conducted several terrorist attacks against military personnel in the VRAEM emergency zone. On April 9, the day before the first round of the national elections, Shining Path members ambushed and killed eight soldiers and two civilians.

The Public Ministry continued to investigate the killing of a pregnant woman that occurred during a 2014 counterterrorist operation in Uchuy Sihuis, Huancavelica Region.

Abductions: The government, NGOs, and journalists reported the Shining Path abducted persons, including children, to work for the terrorist organization.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: The government, NGOs, and journalists reported the Shining Path continued to use forced labor.

Child Soldiers: The government, NGOs, and journalists reported the Shining Path recruited and used child soldiers under forced labor conditions, and in combat and drug-trafficking activities, including crop production and chemical laboratories. The Shining Path kidnapped or recruited children from nearby towns, while others apparently were the children of Shining Path members.

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


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

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

There were numerous reports that the PNP committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in connection with a government-directed campaign against illegal drugs. Killings of activists, judicial officials, local government leaders, and journalists by unknown assailants and antigovernment insurgents continued.

The PNP reported that 2,155 suspected drug dealers were killed in police operations under the government’s antidrug campaign, Operation Double Barrel, between July 1 and December 26. The PNP reported that 4,049 individuals with alleged links to illegal drugs died in vigilante killings by unknown assailants between July 1 and December 15. President Duterte campaigned on a platform against crime, specifically the widespread trafficking and abuse of illegal narcotics, which included numerous public statements suggesting that killing suspected drug traffickers and users was necessary to meet his goal of wiping out drug-related crime within three to six months of assuming office. Although the president and senior officials stated that police should follow the law, and that there was no tolerance for extrajudicial killings, authorities made promises of immunity from investigation and prosecution for officers involved in drug killings. The PNP’s Internal Affairs Service reported that manpower and resource limitations hampered the legally required investigations into deaths resulting from police operations, but asserted that 100 percent of the deaths in police shootings resulted from legitimate, lawful police operations.

On at least two occasions, President Duterte released lists of suspected drug criminals, including government, police, and military officials and members of the judiciary. The government has not revealed the source of this information and the accuracy and legitimacy of the lists has been questioned. Some individuals named on the lists were subsequently killed in either police operations or suspected vigilante killings.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an independent government agency responsible for investigating alleged human rights violations, investigated 227 new complaints of alleged extrajudicial or politically motivated killings involving 299 victims as of August. Some of these complaints involved police or vigilante killings associated with the antidrug campaign. The CHR also announced an investigation into President Duterte’s claims that he had personally killed several suspects during his earlier tenure as mayor of Davao. The CHR suspected personnel from the PNP or the Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency were involved in 112 of the complaints, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or paramilitary personnel in one, members of the communist/terrorist NPA in four, civilians in one, local government units in one, and unidentified persons in the remainder.

The PNP’s Task Force Usig, which was responsible for investigating and monitoring killings of media members, labor activists, and foreigners, reported no new cases from January to August.

The reported number of alleged extrajudicial killings during the year varied widely, as the government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) used different definitions. As of August 31, the NGO Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) documented six cases of state-perpetrated, politically motivated killings carried out by the AFP and/or the PNP. The TFDP noted that these cases were separate from killings in the antidrug campaign.

In one case, the November 5 killing of Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa in his prison cell by PNP officers executing a search warrant drew condemnation from the Commission on Human Rights and legislators. A one-day senate inquiry into the operation determined there was strong evidence that this was a premeditated killing of a suspect with links to the illegal drug trade by police officers in the line of duty.

In another case, two off-duty police officers were arrested in Mindoro in October after they shot and killed Zenaida Luz, regional chairperson of Citizens Crime Watch. The officers were out of uniform and not undertaking an official operation when they shot and killed Luz. The officers remained in detention as of November, but the trial had not begun.

Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The trial of retired Major General Jovito Palparan, Jr., arrested in 2014 for involvement in the 2006 disappearance of two students, continued.

According to the law, family members of alleged victims of disappearances may compel government agencies to provide statements in court about what they know of the circumstances surrounding a disappearance (or extrajudicial killing) and the victim’s status. Evidence of a kidnapping or killing requires the filing of charges, but in many cases, evidence and documentation were unavailable or not collected. Investigative and judicial action on disappearance cases was insufficient; a minority of previously reported cases were prosecuted.

The government did not respond to the 2012 request by the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances for a country visit. The Working Group closed in May, having reported 625 unresolved disappearance cases in the country since 1980.

The constitution and law prohibit torture, and evidence obtained through its use is inadmissible in court. Members of the security forces and police, however, allegedly routinely abused and sometimes tortured suspects and detainees. Common forms of abuse during arrest and interrogation reportedly included electric shock, cigarette burns, and suffocation.

As of August, the CHR investigated 33 cases of alleged torture involving 46 victims, with police suspected in 20 cases, the military in five, paramilitaries in three, jail guards in two, other government officials in six, and civilians in three. Some of these cases involved two or more categories of accused perpetrators. In the same period, the TFDP documented five cases of torture involving 11 victims. In 2014 Amnesty International gathered testimony from 55 persons who experienced torture at the hands of police officers since 2009.

In March, PNP officer Jerick Dee Jimenez was the first individual convicted under the 2009 Anti-torture Act for his involvement in the torture of Jerryme Corre. Jimenez was sentenced to two years and one month in prison and ordered to pay Corre damages of 100,000 pesos (PHP) ($2,130).

Mental abuse, including shaming–illegal under the Anti-torture Act–reportedly occurred, especially in drug cases. In May, Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan City, Batangas, ordered 11 suspected drug pushers to parade through town wearing t-shirts that read, “I’m a pusher. Don’t be like me.”

As part of the antidrug campaign, authorities called on drug criminals to turn themselves in to police to avoid more severe consequences. More than 980,000 persons turned themselves in to the PNP between July 1 and December 26. Documented as “surrenderees,” the majority were later released. Civil society and other observers claimed a climate of fear led many persons associated with drugs to surrender out of fear for their lives.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were often harsh and potentially life threatening and, in some cases, included gross overcrowding, inadequate sanitation and medical care, food shortages, and physical abuse.

Reports continued that prison guards physically abused inmates. TFDP reported that abuses by prison guards and other inmates were common, but stated that prisoners, fearing retaliation, declined to lodge formal complaints.

Physical Conditions: The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), under the Department of Justice (DOJ), administered seven prisons and penal farms nationwide for individuals sentenced to prison terms exceeding three years. During the year, BuCor facilities operated at roughly 2.5 times the official capacity of 16,010, housing 41,532 prisoners.

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the PNP, controlled 932 city, district, municipal, and provincial jails that held pretrial detainees, persons awaiting final judgment, and convicts serving sentences of three years or less. The DILG reported that BJMP jails operated at an average of more than four times their designated capacity. The Quezon City Jail, for example, had an official capacity of slightly more than 1,000 inmates, yet in September held 3,845 prisoners. Several NGOs observed that overcrowding was more severe in smaller cities, a condition that reportedly triggered violence among inmates and promoted gang rivalries. Although international media attention on jail conditions was raised by media coverage of the antidrug campaign, these conditions existed prior to the campaign’s start.

Approximately 98 percent of prisoners in BJMP and PNP jails were pretrial detainees; the balance were convicted criminals serving less than three-year sentences. Juveniles under the age of 18 were typically released by court order or following a petition by the Public Attorney’s Office, the inmate’s private lawyer, or through NGO-led appeals. Juveniles made up well under 1 percent of the prison population.

Prison authorities did not uniformly enforce BJMP and BuCor regulations that require holding male and female inmates in separate facilities and, in national prisons, overseeing them with guards of the same sex. In some facilities authorities did not fully segregate juveniles from adults. The BJMP and BuCor reported insufficient custodial and escort personnel, especially in large jails, with between 50 and 70 prisoners to each custodial staff member.

Reports continued to indicate that poor sanitation, ventilation, access to natural lighting, and a lack of potable water were chronic problems in correctional facilities and contributed to health problems. From January to July, BuCor and the BJMP reported 713 inmate deaths, a death rate of 0.45 percent. Most deaths were the result of illnesses, including pneumonia, pulmonary tuberculosis, and cardiopulmonary arrest. There was a process for inmates to receive medical treatment at their own expense from an outside doctor, but the Department of Justice restricted the program in 2015 due to allegations of abuse and corruption.

Opportunities for prisoner recreation, learning, and self-improvement remained scarce.

Administration: The BJMP helped expedite court cases to promote speedy disposition of inmates’ cases. Through this program, authorities released 25,089 inmates from BJMP jails as of July.

Authorities generally allowed prisoners and detainees to receive visitors, but local NGOs reported that authorities periodically restricted family visits for some political detainees. Prison officials noted that security concerns and space limitations at times also restricted prisoner access to visitors.

Muslim officials reported that, while Muslim detainees were allowed to observe their religion, Roman Catholic mass was often broadcast by loudspeaker to prison populations of both Catholic and non-Catholic prisoners and detainees.

Prisoners, their families, and lawyers may submit complaints to constitutionally established independent government agencies, and the CHR referred complaints it received to the applicable agency.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities permitted international monitoring groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, free and timely access to jails and prisons. The constitution grants the CHR authority to visit jails, prisons, or detention facilities to monitor the government’s compliance with international treaty obligations, but in August its access to New Bilibid Prison was limited to conducting interviews with only a few inmates in the visiting area, hampering its overall monitoring of human rights inside the facility.

Improvements: BuCor and BJMP attempted to decongest the inmate population in jails and prisons by constructing additional jails, cells, and dormitories and transferring inmates to less congested prisons and penal farms. Over 373 million PHP ($7.94 million) was allotted to BJMP for jail construction during the year.

As of August, the Office of the Ombudsman, an independent agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting charges of public abuse and impropriety, reported 72 arbitrary detention violations committed by law enforcement agencies or the AFP during the year.


The PNP is charged with maintaining internal security in most of the country and reports to the DILG. The AFP, which reports to the Department of National Defense, is responsible for external security but also carries out domestic security functions in regions with a high incidence of conflict, particularly in areas of Mindanao. The two agencies shared responsibility for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. The PNP is responsible, in particular, for urban counter-terrorism operations. On September 3, President Duterte declared a “state of national emergency on account of lawlessness” after a terrorist bombing in Davao City, allowing the military to supplement PNP efforts to prevent or suppress violence. On September 6, the government issued Presidential Proclamation 55, which clarified that the state of emergency did not suspend the writ of habeas corpus or other constitutional protections and that the declaration was indefinite.

Governors, mayors, and other local officials have considerable influence over local police units, including approval of top departmental and municipal police officers and the provision of resources, an arrangement that often resulted in graft and corruption.

The 168,000-member PNP’s institutional deficiencies and the public perception that corruption was endemic within the force continued. The PNP’s Internal Affairs Service, mandated to the police operate within the law, remained largely ineffective. Efforts continued to reform and professionalize the PNP through improved training, expanded community outreach, and salary increases. Human rights-based modules were, for example, included in all PNP career courses, and the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office conducted routine training nationwide on human rights responsibilities in policing.

The PNP came under criticism from domestic and international human rights groups for its role in Operation Double Barrel. Between January 1 and September 26, the PNP Internal Affairs Service opened 709 internal investigations into the 940 PNP killings reported in that period. As of late September, no administrative or criminal charges against PNP officers had resulted from the investigations.

Government mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption in the security forces remained largely ineffective. President Duterte publicly condemned corruption in government and security forces, but oversight mechanisms were poorly resourced and there was little effort to target corrupt security officials. From January to August, the Office of the Ombudsman received 181 complaints concerning 294 cases of alleged military and law enforcement involvement in human rights abuses, including killings, injuries, unlawful arrest, and torture. A large majority (92 percent) of the cases were against low-ranking officials. As of August, all cases remained open pending additional investigation. There were no convictions recorded against high-ranking police or military officials.

Between January and August, the PNP opened 12 administrative cases alleging grave misconduct involving 19 personnel.

The AFP Human Rights Office monitored and reviewed alleged human rights abuses involving members of the military. From January through August, the office identified and investigated six reported incidents, including homicide (one), torture (two), illegal detention and abuse of authority (one), violence against women and children (one), and arbitrary interference (one). As of August, the AFP had settled the homicide case when the victim’s family agreed not to pursue charges; the torture investigation was closed with the dishonorable discharge of one individual from the AFP. Four cases remained pending.

Police and the military routinely provided human rights training to their members, augmented by training from the CHR. The AFP used its revised Graduated Curricula on Human Rights/International Humanitarian Law for the Military to provide a uniform standard of training across service branches. The AFP adhered to a 2005 Presidential Memorandum requiring the incorporation of human rights and international humanitarian law into all AFP education and training courses. Successful completion of these courses is required to finish basic training and for induction, promotion, reassignment, and selection for foreign schooling opportunities.

The Commission on Appointments determines whether senior military officers selected for promotion have a history of human rights violations and solicits input from the CHR and other agencies through background investigations. The commission may withhold a promotion indefinitely if it uncovers a record of abuses. Negative findings, however, do not preclude promotion.

Staffing of the PNP’s network of human rights desk officers at the national, regional, provincial, and municipal levels decreased from 2,488 to 1,808 during the year. The PNP Human Rights Affairs Office included a human rights-based policing module in all PNP career officer training courses, distributed pocket cards bearing a Miranda warning and antitorture warning to all officers, and distributed posters explaining the rights of arrested persons to some PNP offices.

Human rights groups noted little progress in implementing and enforcing reforms aimed at improving investigations and prosecutions of suspected human rights violations. Potential witnesses often were unable to obtain protection through the witness protection program managed by the DOJ due to inadequate funding or procedural delays or failed to step forward because of doubts about the program’s effectiveness. The CHR operated a smaller witness protection program that was overburdened by witnesses to killings in the antinarcotics campaign. The loss of family income due to the relocation of a family member was also, in some cases, a barrier to witnesses’ testimony. The Office of the Ombudsman also reported that the lack of witnesses and victims’ failure to cooperate in the pursuit of police abuse or corruption cases sometimes followed pressure on them and their families and sometimes arose from an expectation of compensation for their cooperation.

Government-armed civilian militias supplemented the AFP and PNP. The AFP controlled Civilian Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGUs), while the Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) fell under PNP command. These paramilitary units often received minimal training and were poorly monitored and regulated. Some political families and clan leaders, particularly in Mindanao, maintained private armies and, at times, recruited CVO and CAFGU members into those armies.

Human rights NGOs linked state-backed militias and private armies with numerous human rights abuses, including the 2009 massacre of 58 civilians in Maguindanao Province. Prosecution of that case has moved slowly due to a dysfunctional justice system and the complexities of simultaneously trying more than 105 defendants. The prosecution rested its case, but the defense only began presenting its evidence in June. The chief suspect, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr., died in 2015. Such delays continued to reinforce the perception of impunity for national, provincial, and local government actors accused of human rights abuses.


Warrants issued by a duly authorized official based on sufficient evidence are required for an arrest unless the suspect is observed in the act of committing an offense, when there is probable cause that the suspect had just committed an offense, or when the suspect is an escaped prisoner. Authorities are required to file charges within 12 to 36 hours for arrests made without warrants, depending on the seriousness of the crime. In terrorism cases, the law permits warrantless arrests and detention without charges for up to three days.

Detainees have the right to bail, except when held for offenses punishable by a life sentence. The bail system largely functioned as intended, and suspects are allowed to appeal a decision to deny bail made by a judge. The law provides an accused or detained person the right to choose a lawyer and, if indigent, to have the state provide one. Due to an under-resourced Public Attorney’s Office, however, indigent persons had limited access to public defenders.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces continued to detain individuals, including juveniles, arbitrarily and without warrants on charges other than terrorism, especially in areas of armed conflict.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem due largely to the slow and dysfunctional justice system. The average pretrial detention time was 18 months. Large jails employed paralegals to monitor inmates’ cases, prevent detention beyond the maximum sentence, and assist decongestion efforts.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees have the right to a judicial review of the legality of their detention. The 1987 constitution contains severe financial penalties for law enforcement officers who are found to have unlawfully detained individuals. Some human rights observers have linked these penalties to extrajudicial killings, asserting that law enforcement officers often viewed killing a suspect as less risky than detaining him/her.

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right, although not in a timely manner. Corruption through nepotism, personal connections, and sometimes bribery continued to result in relative impunity for wealthy or influential offenders. Insufficient personnel, inefficient processes, and long procedural delays continued to hinder the judicial system. These factors contributed to widespread skepticism that the criminal justice system delivered due process and equal justice.

Trials took place as a series of separate hearings, often months apart, as witnesses and court time became available, contributing to lengthy delays. There was a widely recognized need for more prosecutors, judges, and courtrooms. Judgeship vacancy rates were approximately 19 percent. Courts in Mindanao and poorer provinces had higher vacancy rates than the national average. Sharia (Islamic law) court positions continued to be particularly difficult to fill because of the requirement that applicants be members of both the Sharia Bar and the Integrated Bar. Sharia courts do not have criminal jurisdiction. Although the Prosecutor General was given authority to hire hundreds of new prosecutors, training for them was short and considered inadequate.

The Supreme Court continued efforts to provide for speedier trials, reduce judicial malfeasance, increase judicial branch efficiency, and raise public confidence in the judiciary. It continued to implement guidelines to accelerate the resolution of cases in which the maximum penalty, if there is a conviction, would not exceed six years in prison. The judiciary instituted new court rules and procedures for case processing that limit postponements of hearings and made other procedural changes to expedite case processing.


The law requires that all persons accused of crimes be informed of the charges against them, and grants rights to counsel, adequate time to prepare a defense, and a speedy and public trial before a judge. The law presumes defendants are innocent. They have the right to confront witnesses against them, be present at their trial, present evidence in their favor, review government evidence, appeal convictions, and not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. The government generally implemented these requirements, except for the right to a speedy trial.

Although the law provides that cases should be resolved within three months to two years, depending on the court, trials effectively had no time limits. Government officials estimated it took an average of five to six years to obtain a conviction.

Authorities respected a defendant’s right to representation by a lawyer, but poverty often inhibited access to effective legal counsel. The Public Attorney’s Office, which reports to the DOJ, did not have the necessary resources to fulfill its constitutional mandate, and used its limited resources to represent indigent defendants at trial rather than during arraignments or pretrial hearings. During the latter, courts may appoint any lawyer present in the courtroom to provide on-the-spot counsel to the accused.

Sentencing decisions were not always consistent with legal guidelines, and judicial decisions sometimes appeared arbitrary.


Under law enacted in 1945, the government defines political prisoners as those who may be accused of any crime against national security. Using this definition, BuCor reported 216 political prisoners in its facilities as of September. Unlike in previous years, the BJMP indicated it no longer tracks political prisoners and only defines prisoners based on security risk.

Various human rights NGOs maintained lists of incarcerated persons they considered political prisoners. The TFDP was tracking 342 political detainees as of July. The majority of those tracked were pretrial detainees, 19 of whom had been arrested in the past year. The TFDP noted that, in the majority of cases, authorities mixed political prisoners with the general inmate population, except in the National Bilibid Prison, where they held the majority of political prisoners in maximum security facilities.

The government used NGO lists as one source of information in the conduct of its pardon, parole, and amnesty programs. The TFDP reported that 31 political prisoners had been released from prisons or detention centers as of July. None of these releases resulted from executive action (pardons or amnesties). In August the government temporarily released 19 individuals from detention to participate in peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed affiliates. Most of those detained had been arrested for violent crimes, but were considered “political consultants” by the CPP.

The government permitted regular access to alleged political prisoners by international humanitarian organizations.


The judiciary is independent and impartial in civil matters. Complainants have access to local trial courts to seek civil damages for, or cessation of, human rights abuses. There are administrative as well as judicial remedies for civil complaints, although overburdened local courts often dismissed these cases. There were no regional human rights tribunals that could hear an appeal from the country.

The government generally respected the privacy of its citizens, although leaders of communist and leftist organizations and rural-based NGOs alleged routine surveillance and harassment. Authorities routinely relied on informer systems to obtain information on terrorist suspects and for the antidrug campaign. Although the government generally respected restrictions on search and seizure within private homes, searches without warrants continued to occur. Judges generally declared evidence obtained illegally to be inadmissible. Human rights groups reported that the PNP arrested four farmers in Bulacan in October after illegally searching a residence with no warrant.

For decades the country has contended with armed Muslim separatist movements supported by paramilitary organizations such as the MILF and the MNLF, a communist insurgency supported by a nationwide NPA presence, and violence by smaller, transnational terrorist organizations (such as the ASG and the JI), and criminal syndicates. During the year there were continued complaints that the AFP, in confronting the ASG and NPA, illegally detained citizens and displaced residents. Additionally, interclan “rido” (feuds) violence continued in Mindanao, causing civilian deaths and displacement.

Killings: Unlike previous years, the AFP did not confirm any civilian deaths in military operations against insurgent groups, and there were similarly no media reports of civilian casualties.

Antigovernment groups were responsible for civilian deaths. The NPA and Muslim separatists, including the ASG, elements of the MILF, and the breakaway faction BIFF, used roadside bombs, ambushes, and other means to kill political figures and other civilians, including persons suspected of being military and police informers. On September 3, a bombing in a night market in Davao City killed 15 civilians and wounded many others. The attack was initially attributed to the ASG, which did not claim responsibility for the attack.

Antigovernment insurgents also menaced government offices and attacked or threatened businesses, power stations, farms, and private communication facilities to enforce collection of extortion payments, so-called revolutionary taxes.

Abductions: Various armed criminal and terrorist groups, including the ASG in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, continued to kidnap civilians. The NPA and some separatist groups were responsible for a number of arbitrary detentions, including kidnappings and hostage-taking for ransom.

Authorities facilitated ransom payments or attempted to rescue victims. From January to August, the PNP investigated 18 kidnap-for-ransom cases allegedly perpetrated by the ASG and other kidnap-for-ransom groups involving 26 victims.

In April and June, the ASG beheaded two Canadian hostages originally abducted in 2015. Two other persons abducted at the same time were released in July and September. The ASG also beheaded a Filipino hostage in August. Other Indonesian, Malaysian, and Filipino hostages were released following ransom payments, escaped, or were rescued by security forces.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Leftist and human rights activists continued to report harassment by local security forces, including abuse of detainees by police and prison officials. Rape was not generally used as a weapon of war.

Child Soldiers: The use of child soldiers, particularly by terrorist and antigovernment organizations, remained a problem. The United Nations, through its local UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) agency, monitored the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts and the release of child soldiers. UNICEF reported in December that the MILF implemented commitments to end the use of child soldiers and had released at least 175 child soldiers since January. Government reporting mechanisms on child soldiers were marred by inconsistencies between agencies and regions, especially in conflict-affected areas, which made it difficult to evaluate the problem’s scope. From January to August, the AFP Human Rights Office reported that 19 NPA child soldiers had either been rescued by or surrendered to the AFP.

The NPA continued to claim that it did not recruit children as combatants, but admitted that it recruited, trained, and used them for noncombat purposes.

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


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

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

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

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The constitution and law prohibit torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment; the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) investigated three allegations of torture and beatings by security forces in their last report but found no evidence to substantiate those claims.

The government interprets sharia as allowing corporal punishment for certain criminal offenses, including court-ordered flogging in cases of alcohol consumption and extramarital sex by Muslims. On past appeals, courts typically reduced this sentence to imprisonment or a fine. In June a court sentenced a Syrian man to 40 lashes for alcohol consumption and 100 lashes for illicit sex acts, although he eventually received only 50 lashes.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Aside from the Deportation Detention Center (DDC), prison conditions generally met international standards. The 2015 report of the NHRC stated that the committee paid 17 surprise visits to various detention and interrogation facilities across the country in 2015 and concluded that the facilities met international standards. The committee recommended that the Deportation Camp expand and undertake some health and safety improvements at the facility.

Physical Conditions: There were no reported serious shortcomings in the physical conditions provided to those incarcerated in the prison or detention centers.

Administration: No legal statute allows for ombudsmen to advocate for prisoners and detainees.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights observers and international bodies to all facilities except the state security prison. The government routinely provided foreign diplomats access to state security prisoners at separate locations and did so during the year. Representatives from the NHRC conducted regular visits to all facilities.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government usually observed these prohibitions. There were isolated reports that authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained some individuals. Authorities detained a group of Danish journalists while producing a news report on labor accommodations. Those detained alleged these detentions were arbitrary and intended to interfere with their investigations.

Authorities may detain individuals in the state security prison for indefinite periods under the Protection of Society Law and the Combating Terrorism Law. The government limited detention to two months, however, for all DDC detainees except those facing additional financial criminal charges. The processing time for deportations ranged from two days to 10 months. There were also reports that authorities delayed deportations up to 10 months in cases where detainees had to resolve financial delinquencies before they departed the country.


The national police and state security forces maintain internal security. State security forces address internal threats such as terrorism, political disputes, cyberattacks, or espionage while the national police are the regular law enforcement body. The army is responsible for external security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police under the Ministry of Interior, state security forces, which report directly to the emir, and military forces under the Ministry of Defense. The government employed effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption.

There were no reports of impunity of the security forces.


Criminal law requires that persons be apprehended openly with warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by a duly authorized official, be charged within 24 hours, and be brought before a court without undue delay, although the law empowers the judge investigating the case to extend the total detention period to six months before the case goes to court. The state security service may arrest and detain suspects for up to 30 days without referring them to the public prosecutor.

The law provides procedures that permit detention without charge for as long as 15 days, renewable for up to six months. The law permits an additional six months’ detention without charge with the approval of the prime minister, who may extend the detention indefinitely in cases of threats to national security. The law allows the Ministry of Interior to detain persons suspected of crimes related to national security, honor, or impudence; in these cases persons detained are generally released within 24 hours or brought before a court within three days of detention. Decisions under this law are subject to appeal to the prime minister only. A provision of this law permits the prime minister to adjudicate complaints involving such detentions. The law permits a second six-month period of detention with approval from the criminal court, which may extend a detention indefinitely with review every six months.

In most cases a judge may order a suspect released, remanded to custody to await trial, held in pretrial detention pending investigation, or released on bail. Although suspects are entitled to bail (except in cases of violent crimes), bail was infrequent.

Authorities were more likely to grant citizens bail than noncitizens. Noncitizens charged with minor crimes may be released to their employer, although they may not leave the country until the case is resolved.

By law in non-security-related cases, the accused is entitled to legal representation throughout the process and prompt access to family members. There are provisions for government-funded legal counsel for indigent prisoners in criminal cases, and authorities generally honored this requirement. Authorities usually did not afford suspects detained under the Protection of Society Law and the Combating Terrorism Law access to counsel and delayed access to family members. The NHRC reported it had evidence that authorities did not refer some individuals arrested under the Protection of Society Law to the public prosecutor.

By law all suspects except those detained under the Protection of Society Law or the Combating Terrorism Law must be presented before the public prosecutor within 24 hours of arrest. If the public prosecutor finds sufficient evidence for further investigation, authorities may detain a suspect for up to 15 days with the approval of a judge, renewable for similar periods not to exceed 45 days, before charges must be filed in the courts. Judges may also extend pretrial detention for one month, renewable for one-month periods not to exceed half of the maximum punishment for the accused crime. Authorities typically followed these procedures differently for citizens than for noncitizens.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government observed these prohibitions.

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

Amnesty: In March the emir pardoned poet Muhammad al-Ajami, aka Ibn-al-Dheeb, and released him from prison after serving five years. Al-Ajami received a life sentence in 2011 on charges of insulting the country’s former emir and inciting the public against the ruling family. A 2012 appeal reduced the penalty to 15 years.

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the emir, based on recommended selections from the Supreme Judicial Council, appoints all judges, who hold their positions at his discretion. In 2015 approximately 55 percent of the judges were foreign citizens dependent on residency permits. Foreign detainees had access to the legal system, although some complained of opaque legal procedures and complications mostly stemming from language barriers. Foreign nationals did not uniformly receive translations of legal proceedings. Some employers filed successful deportation requests against employees who had pending lawsuits against them, thus denying those employees the right to a fair trial.


The law provides for the right to a fair public trial for all residents, and the judiciary generally enforced this right, except for suspects held under the Protection of Society Law and Combating Terrorism Law.

The law provides defendants the presumption of innocence, and authorities generally inform defendants promptly of the charges brought against them, except for suspects held under the Protection of Society Law and Combating Terrorism Law. In its 2015 annual report, the NHRC called for more transparent trial procedures and highlighted in verdicts issued by various courts significant typographical errors that might mar the fairness and adequacy of these verdicts. Judges give verdicts, and trials are open to the public, but the presiding judge may close the courtroom to the public if the case is deemed sensitive. The defendant may be present at his or her trial.

Defendants are entitled to choose their legal representation or accept it at public expense throughout the pretrial and trial process. In matters involving family law, Shia and Sunni judges may apply their interpretations of sharia for their religious groups. In family law matters, a woman’s testimony or worth is not weighed equally with that of a man. In some cases a woman’s testimony is deemed half of a man’s, and in some cases a female witness is not accepted at all.

Defense attorneys have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases once the government files the case in court. Defendants usually have free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants have the right to confront and question witnesses against them and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have access to government-held evidence and have the right to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present one’s own witnesses and evidence. Defendants have the opportunity to give a statement at the end of their trial. Defendants have the right to appeal a decision within 15 days, and use of the appellate process was common.

The Court of Cassation requires a fee to initiate the appeals process. In some cases courts waived fees if an appellant demonstrated financial hardship.


There were no reports of authorities arresting or detaining individuals based upon political activity during the year.


Civil remedies are available for those seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations, but there were no cases reported during the year. The law specifies circumstances that necessitate a judge’s removal from a case for conflict of interest, and authorities generally observed these laws. Individuals and organizations may not appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

The constitution and the criminal procedures code prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. Police and security forces, however, reportedly monitored telephone calls, e‑mails, and social media posts. The government prohibits membership in political organizations.

Citizens must obtain government permission to marry foreigners, a matter generally not granted for female citizens. Male citizens may apply for residency permits and citizenship for their foreign wives, but female citizens may apply only for residency for their foreign husbands and children, not citizenship.

Saudi Arabia

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

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

There was one allegation that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings within the country. On March 3, Makki al-Orayedh died while in police custody after police detained him on March 1 at a checkpoint in Awamiya. On March 5, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) claimed police tortured al-Orayedh to death. According to ESOHR, authorities claimed al-Orayedh died due to “a psychological state of fear.” Local media did not report on whether authorities investigated his death.

Under the country’s interpretation and practice of sharia, capital punishment can be imposed for a range of nonviolent offenses, including apostasy, sorcery, and adultery, although in practice death sentences for such offenses were rare and often reduced on appeal. The law requires a five-judge appellate court to affirm a death sentence, which then must be unanimously affirmed by the Supreme Judicial Council; defendants are generally able to appeal their sentences. Closed court proceedings in some capital cases, however, made it impossible to determine whether authorities allowed the accused to present a defense or afforded minimum due process rights. Since the country lacks a written penal code listing criminal offenses and the associated penalties for them (see section 1.e.), punishment–including the imposition of capital punishment–is subject to considerable judicial discretion in the courts. In addition, there is no right under the law to seek a pardon or commutation of a death sentence for all crimes. The law of criminal procedure provides that the king may issue a pardon “on pardonable matters” for public crimes only. Such pardons are generally issued annually during the holy month of Ramadan, in advance of which the Ministry of Interior publishes a list of terms and conditions defining eligibility to receive a royal pardon (see also section 1.d.). The stated conditions generally exclude specific criminal categories, for example, those convicted of crimes involving state security. The law of criminal procedure states that a victim’s heirs may grant a pardon for private crimes.

On January 2, authorities executed 47 individuals. Among them was prominent Shia cleric and political activist Nimr al-Nimr, who was charged with inciting terrorism and sedition, interfering in the affairs of another country, disobeying the country’s guardians, attacking security personnel during his arrest, and meeting with wanted criminals. International human rights organizations claimed al-Nimr was executed because of his sermons criticizing authorities and calling attention to discrimination against Saudi Shia. Local and international human rights organizations noted that his trial before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) lacked transparency and did not adhere to minimum fair trial standards.

On December 6, the SCC handed down initial death sentences to 15 individuals and sentenced 15 others to prison terms for spying for Iran; two additional individuals were acquitted. As of year’s end, the sentences were under appeal. HRW issued a report in May that claimed there were multiple due process violations in the trials of the men, many of whom were reportedly Shia. HRW further claimed that they had been held incommunicado in pretrial detention for a prolonged period without access to legal counsel and that, before and throughout court proceedings, their legal counsel was not able to review the evidence against them.

The government also imposes death sentences for crimes committed by minors. According to accounts from local and international human rights organizations, family members, and local media, at least three individuals executed on January 2–Mustafa Abkar, Ali al-Ribh, and Amin al-Ghamidi–may have been minors when they allegedly committed the crimes for which they were convicted.

On July 27, the SCC in Riyadh sentenced Abdulkareem al-Hawaj to death for crimes he allegedly committed in 2012 at age 16, including “throwing two Molotov cocktails,” “participating in riots that resulted in the shooting of an armored vehicle,” “participating in illegal gatherings,” “chanting against the state,” and using social media “to insult the leaders,” according to a September 9 Amnesty International report. As of year’s end, the sentence was under appeal.

In September 2015 the Supreme Court affirmed the 2014 death sentence for Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, the nephew of Nimr al-Nimr, who was convicted of crimes he allegedly committed when he was 17. Al-Nimr was charged with protesting, making, and throwing Molotov cocktails at police, aiding and abetting fugitives, attempting to attack security vehicles, encouraging others to participate in protests, and involvement with individuals who possessed and distributed ammunition, according to some media sources whose accuracy could not be verified. Human rights organizations reported due process concerns relating to minimum fair trial standards, including allegations that authorities arrested al-Nimr without a warrant, obtained a confession using torture, and repeatedly denied him access to his lawyer during the sentencing and appeals process. In September and October 2015, the Supreme Court upheld death sentences for Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher, convicted of crimes allegedly committed when they were 17 and 15, respectively. As of year’s end, these executions had not been carried out.

Executions were sometimes conducted for nonviolent offenses. HRW reported that as of July 27, authorities had executed 13 persons for nonviolent crimes related to drug smuggling.

Suicide bombers conducted a number of attacks throughout the year, killing both civilians and government security forces; Da’esh claimed responsibility for some of those attacks. A January 29 attack on a Shia mosque in al-Ahsa left five dead and 18 wounded. An April 28 attack on a police station, also in al-Ahsa, injured one police officer. On July 4, suicide bombers conducted apparently coordinated attacks in Medina, Qatif, and Jeddah. In Medina a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt outside of the Prophet’s mosque, killing four persons and wounding five. In Qatif three suicide bombers detonated explosives belts outside a mosque but did not harm anyone else in the incident. In Jeddah a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt near a foreign consulate in Jeddah, injuring two police officers.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances (for information on detentions without prompt notification of charges or release, see section 1.d.).

The law prohibits torture and holds criminal investigation officers accountable for any abuse of authority. Sharia, as interpreted in the country, prohibits judges from accepting confessions obtained under duress. Statutory law provides that public investigators shall not subject accused persons to coercive measures to influence their testimony.

There were no confirmed reports of torture by government officials during the year, but numerous prisoners were serving sentences based on confessions they claimed were obtained through torture or mistreatment. Amnesty International, HRW, and other human rights organizations reported cases in which the SCC based its decisions on confessions allegedly obtained through torture and admitted as evidence. The UN Committee against Torture also noted that courts admitted coerced confessions as evidence. According to the committee, SCC judges “repeatedly refused to act on claims made by defendants facing terrorism charges that they were subjected to torture or ill-treatment during interrogations for the purpose of compelling a confession, including in the cases of Fadhel al-Manasif, Ali al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoun, and Abdullah al-Zaher” (see section 1.a.). In 2015 the Supreme Court upheld death sentences for al-Nimr, al-Marhoon, and al-Zaher (see section 1.a.), as well as other Shia activists who claimed that authorities tortured them to obtain confessions. Amnesty International reported that Ali al-Nimr said authorities obtained his confession under torture during interrogation sessions held during six months of pretrial detention in 2012.

The UN committee also reported that complaints of torture and mistreatment by members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) were rarely investigated, creating a climate of impunity. On April 10, the cabinet (or Council of Ministers) issued a decree stripping the CPVPV of authority to pursue suspects, ask for their identification, and arrest or detain them.

Former detainees in facilities run by the General Investigations Directorate (the country’s internal security forces, also known as “Mabahith”) alleged that abuse included sleep deprivation or long periods of solitary confinement for nonviolent detainees. Former detainees in Mabahith-run al-Ha’ir Prison claimed that, while physical abuse was uncommon in detention, Mabahith officials sometimes resorted to mental or psychological abuse of detainees, particularly during the interrogation phase. Ministry of Interior officials claimed that rules prohibiting torture prevented such practices from occurring in the penal system. The ministry installed surveillance cameras to record interrogations of suspects in criminal investigation offices, some police stations, and in prisons where such interrogations regularly occurred, such as the ministry’s General Investigations Directorate/Mabahith prison facilities.

Representatives from the governmental Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the quasi-governmental National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), supported by a trust funded by the estate of the late King Fahd, conducted prison visits to ascertain whether torture occurred in prisons or detention centers and maintained permanent branches in eight facilities. Independent institutions did not conduct regular, unannounced visits to places of detention, according to the UN Committee against Torture.

The courts continued to use corporal punishment as a judicial penalty, usually in the form of floggings, whippings, or lashings, a common punishment that government officials defended as dictated by sharia. According to local human rights activists, police conducted the floggings according to a set of guidelines determined by local interpretation of sharia. The police official administering the punishment must place a copy of the Quran under his arm that prevents raising the hand above the head, limiting the ability to inflict pain on the person subjected to the punishment, and instructions forbid police from breaking the skin or causing scarring when administering the lashes.

In February a Saudi appeals court returned a death sentence from the Abha General Court for Ashraf Fayadh, a Saudi resident of Palestinian origin, whom the court had found guilty of apostasy, spreading atheism, threatening the morals of Saudi society, and having illicit relations with women. He was sentenced to death for apostasy because of poetry he wrote was deemed offensive to Islam. The lower court then commuted his death sentence to an eight-year prison term and 800 lashes while maintaining the guilty verdict.

In February the Medina Criminal Court reportedly sentenced a 28-year-old man to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing his atheism on Twitter, according to the local newspaper al-Watan.

There were no reported cases of judicially administered amputation during the year.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions varied, and some did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: Juveniles constituted fewer than 1 percent of detainees and were held in separate facilities from adults, according to available information. Although information on the maximum capacity of the facilities was not available, overcrowding in some detention centers was reported to be a problem. Violations listed in NSHR reports following prison visits documented shortages of and improperly trained wardens and lack of prompt access to medical treatment when requested. Some detained individuals complained about lack of access to adequate health-care services, including medication. Some prisoners alleged that prison authorities maintained cold temperatures in prison facilities and deliberately kept lights on 24 hours a day to make prisoners uncomfortable.

Human rights activists reported that deaths in prisons, jails, or pretrial detention centers were infrequent. In May local media reported that two female inmates died at a rehabilitation center at the Malaz Prison, but the circumstances of their death were unclear.

Authorities held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners. They separated persons suspected or convicted of terrorism offenses from the general population but held them in similar facilities. Activists alleged that authorities sometimes detained individuals in the same cells as individuals with mental disabilities as a form of punishment and indicated that authorities mistreated persons with disabilities.

Administration: There were multiple legal authorities for prisons and detention centers. Local provincial authorities administered approximately 90 local jails, and the Ministry of Interior administered approximately 20 regional prisons and detention centers. Recordkeeping on prisoners was inadequate; there were reports authorities held prisoners after they had completed their sentences. A Ministry of Interior-run website provided detainees and their relatives access to a database containing information about the legal status of the detainee, including any scheduled trial dates.

Authorities differentiated between violent and nonviolent prisoners, sometimes pardoning nonviolent prisoners to reduce the prison population. Certain prisoners convicted on terrorism-related charges were required to participate in government-sponsored rehabilitation programs before being considered for release.

No ombudsmen were available to register or investigate complaints made by prisoners, although prisoners could and did submit complaints to the HRC and the NSHR for investigation. There was no information available on whether prisoners were able to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship or whether authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions and treatment and made them public.

Authorities generally permitted relatives and friends to visit prisoners twice a week, although certain prisons limited visitation to once every 15 days, and there were reports that prison officials denied this privilege in some instances. The families of detainees could access a website for the Ministry of Interior’s General Directorate of Prisons that contained forms to apply for prison visits, temporary leave from prison (generally approved around the post-Ramadan Eid holidays), and release on bail (for pretrial detainees). Family members of detained persons complained that authorities canceled scheduled visits with their relatives without reason.

Authorities permitted Muslim detainees and prisoners to perform religious observances such as prayers, but prison authorities in Mabahith prison facilities reportedly did not arrange for detainees to conduct Friday Islamic congregational prayer services.

HRW reported that activist Khalid al-Umair remained in prison following the completion of his eight-year sentence on October 5. Al-Umair was arrested in 2009 for attempting to protest against Israel’s military operations in Gaza. A Gulf-based NGO reported that, as of November 3, al-Umair was transferred from al-Ha’ir Prison to Mohammed bin Nayef Counseling and Care Center in preparation for his release; he remained there at year’s end.

Independent Monitoring: No independent human rights observers visited prisons or detention centers during the year. The government permitted foreign diplomats to visit prison facilities to view general conditions in nonconsular cases. In a limited number of cases, foreign diplomats visited individuals in detention, but the visits took place in a separate visitors’ center where conditions may have differed from those in the detention facilities holding the prisoners. The most recent prison visit conducted by an independent human rights organization was a 2006 visit by HRW. In August security officials stated they permitted foreign journalists to visit a security prison in Jeddah during the year. The government permitted the governmental HRC and domestic quasi-governmental organizations, such as the NSHR, to monitor prison conditions. The organizations stated they visited prisons throughout the country and reported on prison conditions. The NSHR monitored health care in prisons and brought deficiencies to the attention of the Ministry of Interior. In 2015 the NSHR documented 422 prison-related complaints, including lack of access to medical care, poor hygiene and sanitation, overcrowding, poor ventilation, and understaffing.

The law provides that no entity may restrict a person’s actions or imprison a person, except under provisions of the law. The law of criminal procedure provides that authorities may not detain a person for more than 24 hours, except pursuant to a written order from a public investigator. Authorities must inform the detained person of the reasons for detention. Regardless, the Ministry of Interior, to which the majority of forces with arrest powers reported, maintained broad authority in law and in practice to arrest and detain persons indefinitely without judicial oversight, notification of charges against them, or effective access to legal counsel or family. Authorities held persons for months and sometimes years without charge or trial and reportedly failed to advise them promptly of their rights, including their legal right to be represented by an attorney. Under the law detentions can be extended administratively for up to six months at the discretion of the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution.

The 2014 counterterrorism law provides that an investigatory body may detain an individual accused of any crime under that law for a period of six months and may extend the detention an additional six months. By law, defendants accused of any crime cited in the law are entitled to hire a practicing lawyer to defend themselves before the court “within an adequate period of time to be decided by the investigatory body.”


The king and the Ministries of Defense and Interior, in addition to the Ministry of National Guard, are responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order. The Ministry of Interior exercises primary control over internal security and police forces. The civil police and the internal security police have authority to arrest and detain individuals. Military and security courts investigated abuses of authority and security force killings. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces, and the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no confirmed reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year, although the UN Committee against Torture noted that the lack of frequent investigations into abuses created a climate of impunity (see section 1.c.).

The CPVPV, which monitors public behavior to enforce strict adherence to the official interpretation of Islamic norms, reports to the king via the Royal Diwan (royal court) and to the Ministry of Interior. In 2015 the CPVPV had 533 offices throughout the kingdom. In April the cabinet issued regulations severely curtailing the CPVPV’s enforcement powers. The new regulations prohibit CPVPV officers from investigating, detaining or arresting, or requesting the identification of any individual and limit their activities to providing counseling and reporting individuals suspected of violating the law to police or other authorities. Evidence available at year’s end indicated that CPVPV officers were less visibly present and active after implementation of the new strictures.

Ministry of Interior police and security forces were generally effective at maintaining law and order. The Board of Grievances (“Diwan al-Mazalim”), a high-level administrative judicial body that specializes in cases against government entities and reports directly to the king, is the only formal mechanism available to seek redress for claims of abuse. Citizens may report abuses by security forces at any police station, to the HRC, or to the NSHR. The HRC and NSHR maintained records of complaints and outcomes, but privacy laws protected information about individual cases, and information was not publicly available. During the year the Board of Grievances held hearings and adjudicated claims of wrongdoing, but there were no reported prosecutions of security force members for human rights violations. The HRC, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, provided materials and training to police, security forces, and the CPVPV on protecting human rights.

Officers of the Mabahith also have broad authorities to investigate, detain, and forward to judicial authorities “national security” cases–which ranged from terrorism cases to dissident and human rights activist cases–separate from the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIPP). A 2014 Ministry of Justice decree formalized and reaffirmed the role of the SCC, founded in 2008 to try terrorism offenses, following the promulgation of a counterterrorism law that year.

The BIPP and the Control and Investigation Board are the two units of the government with authority to investigate reports of criminal activity, corruption, and “disciplinary cases” involving government employees. These bodies are responsible for investigating potential cases and referring them to the administrative courts. Legal authorities for investigation and public prosecution of criminal offenses are consolidated within the BIPP; the Control and Investigation Board is responsible for investigation and prosecution of noncriminal cases. All financial audit and control functions are limited to the General Auditing Board.


According to the law of criminal procedure, “no person shall be arrested, searched, detained, or imprisoned except in cases provided by law, and any accused person shall have the right to seek the assistance of a lawyer or a representative to defend him during the investigation and trial stages.” By law, authorities may summon any person for investigation and may issue an arrest warrant based on evidence. In practice, however, authorities frequently did not use warrants, and warrants were not required in cases where probable cause existed.

The law requires that authorities file charges within 72 hours of arrest and hold a trial within six months, subject to exceptions specified by amendments to the law of criminal procedure and the counterterrorism law (see section 2.a.). Authorities may not legally detain a person under arrest for more than 24 hours, except pursuant to a written order from a public investigator. Authorities reportedly often failed to observe these legal protections, and there was no requirement to advise suspects of their rights. Judicial proceedings began after authorities completed a full investigation, which in some cases took years.

The law of criminal procedure specifies procedures required for extending the detention period of an accused person beyond the initial five days. As amended by royal decree in 2013, the law expands the number of individuals empowered to renew pretrial detentions for periods of up to six months to include the president of the BIPP and designated subordinates. The amended text allows authorities to approve official detentions in excess of six months in “exceptional circumstances,” effectively allowing individuals to be held in pretrial detention indefinitely. Another amendment extends from three months to six months the deadline for the BIPP to gather evidence against the accused and issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest, summons, or detention. This provision is also contained in the counterterrorism law, subject to the approval of the extension by the SCC. Another amendment explicitly allows an individual to represent himself in court.

There is a functioning bail system for less serious criminal charges. Detainees generally did not have the right to obtain a lawyer of their choice. In normal cases the government typically provided lawyers to defendants, although defendants must make a formal application to the Ministry of Justice to receive a court-appointed lawyer and prove their inability to pay for their legal representation. Human rights activists often did not trust the courts to appoint lawyers for them due to concern the lawyer would be biased. The law contains no provision for the right to be informed of the protections guaranteed under the law.

Incommunicado detention was sometimes a problem. Authorities reportedly did not always respect a detainees’ right to contact family members following arrest, and the counterterrorism law allows the Ministry of Interior to hold a defendant for up to 90 days in detention without access to family members or legal counsel. Security and some other types of prisoners sometimes remained in detention for long periods before family members or associates received information of their whereabouts, particularly for detainees in Mabahith-run facilities.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports of arbitrary arrest and detention. During the year authorities detained without charge security suspects, persons who publicly criticized the government, Shia religious leaders, and persons who violated religious standards. Saleh al-Ashwan, a member of the Saudi Association for Political and Civil Rights (ACPRA), was detained in 2012 and held without charge until 2016, when the SCC sentenced him to five years in prison and a five-year travel ban, according to human rights organizations. In November the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention renewed its call “for the immediate release of [nine] detainees and the provision of reparations for the harm caused” on the anniversary of the expert panel’s formal opinion that the detentions of human rights activists Sulaiman al-Rashudi, Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammed al-Qahtani, Abdulkareem Yousef al-Khoder, Mohammed Saleh al-Bajadi, Omar al-Hamid al-Sa’id, Raif Badawi, Fadhel al-Manasif, and Waleed Abu al-Khair were arbitrary. The statement also called for “other [unnamed] prisoners being held in similar circumstances” to be freed.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. In the past local unlicensed NGOs, such as ACPRA and the Adala Center for Human Rights, challenged the Ministry of Interior publicly and in court on cases considered to involve arbitrary arrest or detention. The two NGOs ceased operating in 2013 and 2014, respectively, after authorities ordered them disbanded. ACPRA claimed the ministry sometimes ignored judges’ rulings (see section 2.b.).

There was no information available on the percentage of the prison population in pretrial detention or the average length of time held. Local human rights activists knew of dozens of cases and reportedly received regular reports from families claiming authorities held their relatives arbitrarily or without notification of charges.

During the year the Ministry of Interior stated it had detained numerous individuals for terrorist acts. On September 29, local media reported there were 5,277 terror suspects detained by the Ministry of Interior in public security prisons.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees are not entitled under the law to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court. In the case of wrongful detention, the law of criminal procedure, as well as provisions of the counterterrorism law, provide for the right to compensation if detainees are found to have been held unlawfully.

Amnesty: The king continued the tradition of commuting some judicial punishments. Royal pardons sometimes set aside a conviction and sometimes reduced or eliminated corporal punishment. The remaining sentence could be added to a new sentence if the pardoned prisoner committed a crime subsequent to release.

Authorities did not detain some individuals who had received prison sentences. The counterterrorism law allows the interior minister to stop proceedings against an individual who cooperates with investigations or helps thwart a planned terrorist attack. The minister may also release individuals already convicted on such charges.

The law provides that judges are independent and not subject to any authority other than the provisions of sharia and the laws in force. Nevertheless, the judiciary was not independent, as it was required to coordinate its decisions with executive authorities, with the king as final arbiter. Although public allegations of interference with judicial independence were rare, the judiciary reportedly was subject to influence, particularly in the case of legal decisions rendered by specialized judicial bodies, such as the SCC, which rarely acquitted suspects. Human rights activists reported that SCC judges received implicit instructions to issue harsh sentences against human rights activists, reformers, journalists, and dissidents not engaged in violent activities.

There were some reports during the year of courts exercising jurisdiction over senior members of the royal family. In October multiple media reported that Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, a member of the royal family, was executed after having been found guilty of murder. In November, the Okaz newspaper reported that an unidentified prince was lashed in a Jeddah prison as part of a court-ordered sentence that also included time in prison.


In the judicial system, there is no case law (in the form of published judicial opinions), no uniform criminal code, and no doctrine of stare decisis that binds judges to follow a legal precedent. The law states that defendants should be treated equally in accordance with sharia. The Council of Senior Scholars (CSS), or the “ulema”, an autonomous advisory body, issues religious opinions (fatwas) that guide how judges interpret sharia.

In the absence of a penal code detailing all criminal offenses and punishments, judges in the courts determine many of these penalties through their interpretations of sharia, which varied according to the judge and the circumstances of the case. Because judges have considerable discretion in decision making, rulings and sentences diverged widely from case to case. Several laws passed in the last decade, however, provide sentencing requirements for crimes including terrorism, cybercrimes, trafficking in persons, and domestic abuse. In December the Ministry of Justice completed a compilation of previous decisions that judges could refer to as a point of reference in making rulings and assigning sentences.

According to judicial procedures, appeals courts cannot independently reverse lower court judgments; they are limited to affirming judgments or returning them to a lower court for modification. Even when judges did not affirm judgments, appeals judges in some cases remanded the judgment to the judge who originally authored the opinion. This procedure sometimes made it difficult for parties to receive a ruling that differed from the original judgment in cases where judges hesitated to admit error. While judges may base their decisions on any of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, all of which are represented in the CSS, the Hanbali school predominates and forms the basis for the country’s law and legal interpretations of sharia. Shia citizens use their legal traditions to adjudicate family law cases between Shia parties, although either party can decide to adjudicate a case in state courts, which use Sunni legal tradition.

According to the law, there is no presumption of innocence. While the law states that court hearings shall be public, courts may be closed at the judge’s discretion. As a result, many trials during the year were closed. Foreign diplomatic missions were able to obtain permission to attend nonconsular court proceedings (that is, cases to which neither the host country nor any of its nationals were a party; diplomatic missions are generally allowed to attend consular proceedings of their own nationals), and they did so throughout the year. To attend, authorities required diplomats to obtain advance written approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the court administration, and the presiding judge. Authorities sometimes did not permit entry to such trials to individuals other than diplomats who were not the legal agents or family members of the accused. SCC officials sometimes prevented individuals from attending trial sessions for seemingly trivial reasons, such as banning female relatives or diplomats from attending due to the absence of women officers to inspect the women upon entry to the courtroom. According to the Ministry of Justice, authorities may close a trial depending on the sensitivity of the case to national security, the reputation of the defendant, or the safety of witnesses.

Representatives of the HRC, the Ministry of Justice, and sometimes representatives of the media regularly attended trials at the SCC.

Amendments to the law of criminal procedure in 2013 strengthened provisions stating that authorities will offer defendants a lawyer at government expense. Human rights activists, however, reported that the process for applying for a court-appointed lawyer was difficult and cumbersome, and many said they did not trust the process due to concern that the lawyer would be biased.

The law provides defendants the right to be present at trial and to consult with an attorney during the investigation and trial. The counterterrorism law, however, limits the right of defendants accused of terrorism to access legal representation while under investigation and provides for that access only after an unspecified period of time, “before the matter goes to court within a timeframe determined by the investigative entity.” There is no right to discovery or inspection of government-held evidence, nor can defendants view their own file, the minutes from their interrogation, or all of the evidence against them. Defendants may request to review evidence, but the court decides whether to grant the request. Defendants also have the right to call and cross-examine witnesses. The law provides that a BIPP-appointed investigator questions the witnesses called by the defendant during the investigation phase before the initiation of a trial and may hear testimony of additional witnesses he deems necessary to determine the facts. Authorities may not subject a defendant to any coercive measures or compel the taking of an oath. The court must inform convicted persons of their right to appeal rulings.

The law does not provide for free interpretation services. The law of criminal procedure provides only that “the court should seek the assistance of interpreters,” but it does not obligate the court to do so from the moment the defendant is charged, nor does the law specify that the state will bear the costs of such services.

While sharia as interpreted by the government applies to all citizens and noncitizens, the law and practice discriminate against women, noncitizens, nonpracticing Sunni, Shia, and persons of other religions. For example, in most cases a woman’s testimony before a court counts as only half that of a man’s. Judges may discount the testimony of nonpracticing Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, or persons of other religions; sources reported that judges sometimes completely disregarded or refused to hear testimony by Shia.

Among many reports of abuses or violations of due process rights was that of Mohammed Saleh al-Bajady, a political dissident and founding member of ACPRA. Authorities originally arrested al-Bajady in 2011 for his leadership role in ACPRA and for publicly demanding political and legal reforms, including calls for a constitutional monarchy in the kingdom and protection for freedom of expression and association. During al-Bajady’s trial, the court denied observers access to hearings and refused to allow his lawyer access to the courtroom. In 2012 authorities sentenced him to four years’ imprisonment and a subsequent five-year international travel ban. He was released in 2013, but a week later, authorities reincarcerated him. In 2014 authorities announced they would retry al-Bajady before the SCC in relation to his human rights activities. In March 2015 the SCC sentenced al-Bajady to 10 years in prison; a court of appeals reportedly reduced the sentence to eight years, with four years suspended and including time served. In November 2015 al-Bajady was released from prison to a rehabilitation program, then to a Ministry of Interior “rest house,” and fully released on April 7, but with a travel ban until 2020.

On September 5, the SCC sentenced one of ACPRA’s members, Omar al-Sa’id, to seven years in prison, followed by a 10-year travel ban, on charges for which he had reportedly already been tried, convicted, and served time. In 2013 authorities detained al-Sa’id and the Buraydah Criminal Court initially sentenced him to 300 lashes and four years in prison for calling for a constitutional monarchy and criticizing the country’s human rights record. The case was returned on appeal to the issuing court and then transferred to the SCC, which ruled in November 2015 to reduce his sentence to two and one-half years, including time already served. He was released in December 2015 upon completion of the sentence. Following his release, the case was reopened, and the SCC subsequently issued the September 5 ruling that increased his sentence from two and one-half to seven years in prison; al-Said remained in detention at year’s end.

In 2014 authorities retried human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair before the SCC, and the court handed down a 15-year sentence, with a subsequent 15-year international travel ban after his release and a fine of 200,000 riyals ($53,300), upheld on appeal in January 2015. Previously, the Jeddah Criminal Court sentenced him to a three-month prison term on a virtually identical set of charges, all of which related to his human rights work, public calls for reform, criticisms of government policies and officials, and his role in founding an unlicensed NGO, the Monitor for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.


The number of political prisoners, including detainees who reportedly remained in prolonged detention without charge, could not be reliably ascertained.

In many cases it was impossible to determine the legal basis for incarceration and whether the detention complied with international norms and standards. Those who remained imprisoned after trial, including persons who were political activists openly critical of the government, were often convicted of terrorism-related crimes, and there was not sufficient public information about the alleged crimes to judge whether they had a credible claim to being political prisoners. The SCC tried political and human rights activists each year for actions unrelated to terrorism or violence against the state.

International NGOs criticized the government for abusing its antiterrorism prerogatives to arrest some members of the political opposition who had not espoused or committed violence and detain them on security-related grounds. High-profile prisoners were generally treated well. Authorities sometimes restricted legal access to detainees; no international humanitarian organizations had access to them.

On December 1, an SCC appellate court increased the initial sentence issued on April 24 for Eissa al-Hamid, a cofounder of ACPRA, from nine to 11 years in prison, followed by a travel ban of 11 years, and levied a fine of 100,000 riyals ($27,000) against him on charges that included “communicating false information to undermine the image of the state,” according to the Agence France-Presse. On May 29, the SCC sentenced ACPRA founding-member Abdulaziz al-Shobaily to eight years in prison, followed by an eight-year travel ban, on charges related to his membership in a human rights organization. On November 3, local media reported that the SCC in Qatif sentenced a citizen to 10 years’ imprisonment and a 50,000 riyals ($13,300) fine for joining ACPRA and sentenced another to 15 years’ imprisonment for sympathizing with Nimr al-Nimr and calling for demonstrations against the government.

In January 2015 authorities administered 50 lashes to Raif Badawi, a nonviolent activist and blogger sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes in 2014 on charges related to insulting Islam (see section 2.a.). As of year’s end, Badawi remained in Burayman Prison in Jeddah; authorities had not yet carried out the remainder of the lashing sentence.

In 2014 the SCC sentenced Shia activist Fadhel al-Manasif to 15 years in prison and a 15-year travel ban for breaking allegiance with the king and harming the country’s reputation, among other charges, according to media and NGO reporting.


Complainants claiming human rights violations generally sought assistance from the HRC or the NSHR, which either advocated on their behalf or provided courts with opinions on their cases. The HRC generally responded to complaints and could refer cases to the BIPP; domestic violence cases were the most common. Individuals or organizations may petition directly for damages or government action to end human rights violations before the Board of Grievances, except in compensation cases related to state security where the SCC handles remediation. The counterterrorism law contains a provision allowing detainees in Mabahith-run prisons to request financial compensation from the Ministry of Interior for wrongful detention beyond their prison terms.

In some cases the government did not carry out judicially ordered compensation for unlawful detentions in a timely manner.

The law prohibits unlawful intrusions into the privacy of persons, their homes, places of work, and vehicles. Criminal investigation officers are required to maintain records of all searches conducted; these records should contain the name of the officer conducting the search, the text of the search warrant (or an explanation of the urgency that necessitated the search without a warrant), and the names and signatures of the persons who were present at the time of search. While the law also provides for the privacy of all mail, telegrams, telephone conversations, and other means of communication, the government did not respect the privacy of correspondence or communications and used the considerable latitude provided by law to monitor activities legally and intervene where it deemed necessary.

There were reports from human rights activists of governmental monitoring or blocking mobile telephone or internet usage before planned demonstrations. The government strictly monitored politically related activities and took punitive actions, including arrest and detention, against persons engaged in certain political activities, such as direct public criticism of senior members of the royal family by name, forming a political party, or organizing a demonstration. Customs officials reportedly routinely opened mail and shipments to search for contraband. In some areas Ministry of Interior informants allegedly reported “seditious ideas,” “antigovernment activity,” or “behavior contrary to Islam” in their neighborhoods.

The counterterrorism law allows the Ministry of Interior to access a terrorism suspect’s private communications as well as banking information in a manner inconsistent with the legal protections provided by criminal procedure law.

The CPVPV monitored and regulated public interaction between members of the opposite sex. In May local media reported that police, acting on information from the CPVPV, arrested one unrelated couple for traveling together in the same car and another unrelated couple for traveling together on a motorcycle.

In March 2015, in response to a request from Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi for Arab League/Gulf Cooperation Council military intervention, Saudi officials announced the formation of a coalition to counter the 2014 overthrow of the legitimate government in Yemen by militias of the Ansar Allah movement (also known colloquially as “Houthis”) and forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Membership in the coalition included the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, and Senegal. The Saudi-led coalition conducted air and ground operations throughout 2015 and, to a more limited extent, between the months of April and August, as a result of a cease-fire agreement that limited air and ground operations during peace talks held in Kuwait. Following the suspension of the talks in August, the coalition resumed military operations.

Killings: NGOs, media, and humanitarian and international organizations reported on what they characterized as disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by all parties to the conflict in Yemen, including the Saudi-led coalition.

Coalition airstrikes resulted in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure on multiple occasions. For example, an airstrike on a funeral hall in Sanaa, Yemen, on October 8 killed at least 140 persons and wounded more than 500, including children, according to international media reports.

The UN high commissioner for human rights stated that between March 2015 and August 23, an estimated 3,799 civilians had been killed and 6,711 injured as result of the war in Yemen. His office released a report containing examples of possible violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by the coalition that had occurred through June, including those involving airstrikes on residential areas, marketplaces, and medical and educational facilities. On March 15, for example, coalition airstrikes allegedly killed 107 civilians, injured 37 civilians, and destroyed 16 shops in a market in Mustaba district of Hajjah Governorate.

The coalition’s Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT), established by the government, based in Riyadh, and consisting of military and civilian members from coalition member states, investigated some incidents of airstrikes that reportedly resulted in civilian casualties as well as claims by international organizations that humanitarian aid convoys and infrastructure were targeted by the coalition. On December 7, the JIAT released summaries of reports of five incidents, including the August 15 attack against a Doctors without Borders (MSF) facility in the Abs district of Hajjah Governorate. In August the JIAT released a press statement with summary findings of eight such investigations. The JIAT also issued a press statement on its initial investigation of the October 8 funeral hall airstrike, claiming that a Yemeni party passed the coalition information that inaccurately reported the funeral hall was a military target and recommending that action be taken against those who caused the incident. It recommended that the coalition review its rules of engagement and that families of the victims receive compensation. In addition, the JIAT recommended in two separate incidents an investigation into potential violations of the rules of engagement and accountability for those involved in two other incidents. The JIAT was established by the government to identify lessons and corrective actions and to cue national accountability mechanisms, as appropriate. The JIAT’s investigations had not led to any prosecutions as of year’s end.

Houthi militias and forces allied with former president Saleh fired long-range missiles into or towards Saudi Arabia nearly 30 times between January 1 and December 31, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies and media reports. Saudi media reported more than 40,000 projectiles had been launched into Saudi territory from Yemen since March 2015, destroying hospitals, schools, homes, and other infrastructure. In August media reported that authorities in Najran said Houthi-Saleh militias had partially or totally destroyed 1,074 homes and 108 commercial establishments since March 2015. More than 370 Saudi civilians were killed along the Saudi southern border in the same period, according to Saudi media reports.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: There were reports of restrictions on the free passage of relief supplies and of humanitarian organizations’ access to those individuals most in need, perpetrated by all sides in the conflict, including the Saudi-led coalition. Some media reported the Yemen government and/or the coalition delayed or denied clearance permits for humanitarian and commercial aid shipments bound for rebel-held Red Sea ports. Other sources reported the Houthi-Saleh militias’ forceful takeover and misadministration of Yemen government institutions led to dire economic consequences–the nonpayment of workers’ wages, unmaintained and unrepaired gantry cranes at ports where aid materiel was offloaded, and allegations of widespread corruption, including at checkpoints controlled by Houthi-Saleh militias–which severely impacted the distribution of food aid and exacerbated food insecurity.

According to an HRW report published in July, coalition airstrikes damaged many factories and structures used for humanitarian and economic purposes during the year. HRW reported that: an airstrike on January 6 damaged a hangar containing food products including rice and sugar at Hudaydah Port; on February 2 and 5, two airstrikes on a cement factory in Amran killed 15 civilians and damaged buildings around the factory; and on August 11 and 12, airstrikes destroyed Aldarejh Bridge, used by the World Food Program to transport approximately 90 percent of its food deliveries for the northern governorates, forcing it to use alternate supply routes. As a result of the conflict, the humanitarian situation in the country deteriorated significantly, with 14.1 million food insecure people and a reported 69 percent of the country’s population requiring humanitarian assistance by the end of the year, according to the UN.

On August 15, a coalition airstrike destroyed an MSF hospital in Hajjah Governorate, which MSF stated killed 19 persons, including one MSF staff member, and injured 24. Later that month MSF announced that it would evacuate its staff from six hospitals in northern Yemen because it could not receive assurances that its hospitals would not be bombed again.

For additional details, including additional information on the Saudi-led coalition’s operations in Yemen, see the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights for Yemen.


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

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

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

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The law prohibits such practices, and the government generally respected these prohibitions.

The law mandates caning, in addition to imprisonment, as punishment for approximately 30 offenses involving violence, such as certain cases of rape and robbery, and for nonviolent offenses, such as vandalism, drug trafficking, and violation of immigration laws. Caning is discretionary for convictions on other charges involving the use of force, such as kidnapping or voluntarily causing grievous hurt. Caning also may be used as a punishment for misbehavior while in prison; such punishment must be approved by the commissioner of prisons and reviewed by the Institutional Discipline Advisory Committee before being executed. Women, men over age 50 or under age 16, men sentenced to death whose sentences were not commuted, and persons determined medically unfit are exempt from punishment by caning. From January to October, the courts sentenced 1,257 persons to judicial caning, and authorities carried out 987 caning sentences, including on 373 foreigners. In 2014 authorities charged two German citizens with vandalism. In March 2015 they pleaded guilty to one count of vandalism and two counts of criminal trespassing. They each received sentences of nine months’ imprisonment and three strokes of the cane.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards. The government operated all prison facilities; there were no private detention facilities.

Administration: The category of the inmate determined the frequency and type of visitors allowed. In general authorities allowed family members and close relatives to visit inmates. Prison authorities must approve visits of nonrelatives. Authorities allowed most inmates two visits a month and up to three visitors in a visit session. They allowed up to four visits per week to detainees awaiting trial. A system exists under which prisoners may file complaints alleging mistreatment or misconduct. When called upon, the Provost Unit, which is located in the prison headquarters, investigates complaints.

Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. The Board of Visiting Justices, consisting of justices of the peace appointed by the minister for home affairs, is responsible for the basic welfare of the prisoners and conducts prison inspections. All inmates have access to the visiting justices.

Authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions and documented the results of such investigations in a publicly accessible manner. The government investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions. The Institutional Discipline Advisory Committee renders an opinion to the commissioner of prisons on whether corporal punishment was excessive.

Independent Monitoring: The government allowed the Singapore National Committee for UN Women and the Hong Kong Society of Rehabilitation and Crime Prevention to visit the prisons and gave diplomatic representatives regular, frequent consular access to citizens of their countries. Authorities also allowed members of the press to visit the prisons.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.


The national police, under the direction of the Ministry of Home Affairs, maintains internal security; the armed forces, under the direction of the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for external security.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police force and the armed forces, and the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.


In most instances the law requires the issuance of an authorized warrant for arrests, but some laws, such as the ISA, provide for arrest without warrant. Those arrested under a warrant must appear before a magistrate and legally charged within 48 hours. Authorities charged expeditiously and brought to trial the majority of those arrested. A functioning bail system existed. Authorities permitted individuals who faced criminal charges to have counsel, but only after investigations were complete or nearly complete. An accused individual may plead guilty or ask for a trial and seek advice of counsel before deciding what plea to enter. In criminal cases a preliminary hearing must occur no earlier than eight weeks after the initial plea. At this preliminary hearing, the judge determines whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial and sets a court date suitable to the prosecution and to the defense. Any person accused of a capital crime is eligible to be assigned a counsel by the state–free of charge. The government also funded an expanded Criminal Legal Aid Scheme run by the Law Society that covers additional criminal offenses.

Arbitrary Arrest: Some laws, such as the ISA and the Criminal Law (temporary provisions) Act (CLA), have provisions for arrest and detention without warrant. ISA cases are subject to review by the courts to ensure strict compliance with procedural requirements under the act. Authorities invoked the ISA primarily against suspected security threats and employed the CLA mostly against suspected organized crime and drug trafficking. The Misuse of Drugs Act (the drug act) and the Undesirable Publications Act (UPA) also allow 48 hours of detention without a warrant, after which the person must be brought before a magistrate.

Pretrial Detention: The ISA and the CLA permit preventive detention without trial for the protection of public security, safety, or the maintenance of public order. The ISA authorizes the minister for home affairs, with the consent of the cabinet and the president, to order detention without filing charges if the minister determines that a person poses a threat to national security. The initial detention may be for up to two years, which the minister may renew for an unlimited number of additional periods of up to two years each with the president’s consent.

As of October there were outstanding orders of detention (ODs) against 17 persons for their involvement in terrorism-related activities.

A religious rehabilitation program designed to wean detained terrorists from extremist ideologies remained in effect, and the government released a number of detainees under the program, subject to restriction orders (ROs).

As of October, 26 persons were on ROs. This number included both released detainees and suspected terrorists who were never arrested. A person subject to an RO must seek official approval for a change of address or occupation, travel overseas, or to participate in any public organization or activity. There is also a category of restriction called suspension direction (SD) that replaces an OD when it is suspended and is similar to an RO. It can also prohibit association with militant or terrorist groups or individuals as well as travel outside the country without the prior written approval of the government. As of October there was one person subject to a SD. Authorities monitored detainees released on ROs and SDs and required that they report to authorities on a regular basis.

The CLA comes up for renewal every five years; the most recent renewal was in 2014. Under the CLA, the minister for home affairs may order preventive detention, with the concurrence of the public prosecutor, for an initial period of one year, and the president may extend detention for additional periods of up to one year at a time. The minister must provide a written statement of the grounds for detention to the Criminal Law Advisory Committee (CLAC) within 28 days of the order. The CLAC then reviews the case at a private hearing. CLAC rules require that authorities notify detainees of the grounds of their detention at least 10 days prior to this hearing, during which detainees may represent themselves or be represented by a lawyer. After the hearing the committee makes a written recommendation to the president, who may cancel, confirm, or amend the detention order. The government used the CLA almost exclusively in cases involving narcotics, loan sharks, or criminal organizations and not for political purposes.

Persons who allege mistreatment while in detention may bring criminal charges against the government officials alleged to have committed the act; there were no reports of such cases during the year.

Both the ISA and the CLA allow for modified forms of detention such as curfews, residence limitations, requirements to report regularly to authorities, limitations on travel, and, in the case of the ISA, restrictions on political activities and association.

The drug act permits detention without trial in an approved institution for the purpose of the treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts. Under the act, if a suspected drug abuser tests positive for an illegal drug, the director of the Central Narcotics Bureau may commit the person to a drug rehabilitation center for a six-month period, which a review committee of the institution may extend for a maximum of three years. Under the Intoxicating Substances Act, the bureau director may order treatment for up to six months of a person determined by blood test or medical examination to be an abuser of inhalant drugs.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The ISA provides detainees the right to be informed of the grounds for their detention and the right to have legal counsel; however, they have no right to challenge the substantive basis for their detention through the courts. The ISA specifically excludes recourse to the normal judicial system for review of a detention order made under its authority. Instead, detainees may make representations to an advisory board, headed by a Supreme Court justice, which reviews each detainee’s case annually and must make a recommendation to the president within three months of the initial detention. The president may concur with the advisory board’s recommendation to release a detainee prior to the expiration of the detention order, but the president is not obligated to do so.

Persons detained under the CLA have recourse to the courts via an application for a writ of habeas corpus. Persons detained without trial under the CLA are entitled to counsel, but they may challenge the substantive basis for their detention only to the CLAC. In 2013 Dan Tan, the suspected mastermind behind a global football match-fixing syndicate, and several accomplices were detained under the CLA in the interest of public safety. Tan filed a court order in 2014 requesting judicial review of his detention, but the application was rejected by the High Court, and the detention order was extended another year. In 2015 the Court of Appeal freed Dan Tan from prison after it ruled that his detention was unlawful. Subsequently, the court reviewed the evidence against Tan’s accomplices and then revoked their detention orders and placed them on police supervision orders.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. Nevertheless, constitutionally authorized laws limiting judicial review continued to permit restrictions on individuals’ constitutional rights. The president consults with the prime minister but has discretion in appointing the chief justice and judges to the Supreme Court. The president appoints subordinate court judges on the recommendation of the chief justice. The Legal Service Commission, chaired by the chief justice, determines the term of appointment. Under the ISA and the CLA, the president and the minister for home affairs can exercise executive discretion, which explicitly (in the case of the ISA) or implicitly (in the case of the CLA) excludes normal judicial review. These laws empower the government to limit, on vaguely defined national security grounds, the scope of certain fundamental liberties that otherwise are provided for in the constitution.

Some commentators and representatives of international non-governmental organizations (NGO) noted that the Legal Service Commission’s authority to rotate subordinate court judges and magistrates and the ability of both the commission and the chief justice to extend, at their discretion, the tenure of Supreme Court judges beyond the age of 65 could undermine the independence of the judiciary.


The law provides all defendants with the right to a fair trial, and independent observers viewed the judiciary as generally impartial and independent, except in a small number of cases involving direct challenges to the government or the ruling party. The judicial system generally provided citizens with an efficient judicial process.

In most circumstances the criminal procedure code provides that a charge against a defendant must be read and explained to him as soon as the prosecutor or magistrate composes it. Trials are public and heard by a judge; there are no jury trials. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and to have representation by an attorney; the Law Society administered a legal aid plan for persons facing criminal charges who could not afford an attorney. Under the state-administered Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offenses, anyone facing a capital charge is eligible for state-assigned counsel; no eligibility criterion is imposed. The criminal procedure code provides for an automatic appeal process for all death sentence cases. Authorities may offer nonviolent offenders the option of probation or paying a fine in lieu of incarceration.

Defendants also have the right to question prosecution witnesses, provide witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, and review government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right of appeal in most cases. Defense lawyers believed they generally had sufficient time and facilities to prepare an adequate defense. Despite the general presumption of innocence, the drug act stipulates that a person who the prosecution proves possessed, had custody of, or controlled illegal narcotics shall be assumed to be aware of the substance and places the burden on the defendant to prove otherwise, although not beyond a reasonable doubt. The same law also stipulates that if the amount of the narcotic is above set limits, it is the defendant’s burden to prove he or she did not have the drug for the purpose of trafficking. Convictions for narcotics trafficking offenses carry lengthy jail sentences or the death penalty, depending on the type and amount of the illegal substance. Defendants have 14 days from the date of conviction to enter an appeal. Legislative amendments to abolish the mandatory imposition of the death penalty under certain circumstances of homicide and drug trafficking took effect in 2013. Under the new legal regime, those facing the death penalty have the opportunity to ask for resentencing under certain circumstances, and judges have discretion to impose life imprisonment instead.

Persons detained under the ISA or CLA are not entitled to a public trial. Proceedings of the advisory board under the ISA and CLA are not public.


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.


There is no differentiation between civil and criminal judicial procedures. The subordinate courts handled the majority of civil cases. Access to the courts is open, and citizens and residents have the right to sue for infringement of human rights. Individuals and organizations may not appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

The constitution does not address privacy rights; remedies for infringement of some aspects of privacy rights are available under statutory or common law. The government generally respected the privacy of homes and families. Normally police must have a warrant issued by a court to conduct a search, but they may search a person, home, or property without a warrant if they decide that such a search is necessary to preserve evidence or under the discretionary powers of the ISA, CLA, drug act, or UPA.

Law enforcement agencies, including the Internal Security Department and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, had extensive networks for gathering information and conducting surveillance and highly sophisticated capabilities to monitor telephone, e-mail, text messaging, or other digital communications intended to remain private. No court warrants are required for such operations. Most residents believed that authorities routinely monitored telephone conversations and the use of the internet. Most residents also believed that authorities routinely conducted surveillance of some opposition politicians and other government critics.


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

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

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

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, although there were sporadic reports of police using excessive force.

On February 17, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) released a report on its 2015 visit to the country in which it reported receiving some accusations, including from juveniles younger than 18, of police use of excessive force during apprehension. The allegations mainly concerned the unjustified use of pepper spray, truncheon blows, violent pushing of the apprehended person to the ground, tight handcuffing, and lifting a detainee by the handcuffs. The CPT also received one allegation of physical mistreatment (consisting of punches) while the person concerned was inside a police station. As a result, the person reportedly sustained injuries that required immediate hospitalization.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: During 2014, the latest year for which data were available, there were three reports of suicide by prisoners.

In its February 17 report, the CPT noted that many foreign nationals it interviewed at the Norrtalje Prison complained they were sometimes locked in their cells for 23 hours a day for two to three days in a row as unofficial collective punishment following a fight between two or more inmates.

While the CPT reported that conditions in cells at remand prisons were generally good, it noted that none of the cells at the Kronoberg Remand Prison and hardly any of the cells at the Falun Remand Prison had in-cell sanitation. While the majority of prisoners interviewed stated that they had ready access to a toilet facility (including at night), the CPT received a few complaints about delays (on occasion, up to three hours) in gaining access to the toilet, especially at Falun.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent, nongovernmental observers, including the CPT. While the national Red Cross and church associations may visit prisoners, they may not monitor or inspect the prisons.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.


The national police and the national criminal police are responsible for law enforcement and general order within the country. The Security Service is responsible for national security related to terrorism, extremism, and espionage. The Ministry of Justice provides funding and letters of instruction for police activities, but it does not control how they were performed. According to the constitution, all branches of the police are independent authorities.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the national police, the national criminal police, and the Security Service, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The CPT noted that the government had created an Internal Investigation Department within the police force and strengthened its independence. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the national police and the national criminal police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.


The law requires warrants based on evidence and issued by duly authorized officials for arrests. Police must file charges within six hours against persons detained for disturbing public order or considered dangerous and within 12 hours against those detained on other grounds. Police may hold a person six hours for questioning or as long as 12 hours, if deemed necessary for the investigation, without a court order. After questioning, authorities must either arrest or release an individual, based on the level of suspicion. If a suspect is arrested, the prosecutor has 24 hours (or three days in exceptional circumstances) to request continued detention. Authorities must arraign an arrested suspect within 48 hours and begin initial prosecution within two weeks unless there are extenuating circumstances. Authorities generally respected these requirements.

Although there is no system of bail, courts routinely released defendants pending trial unless authorities considered them dangerous or there was a risk the suspect would leave the country. Detainees may retain a lawyer of their choice. In criminal cases the government is obligated to provide an attorney, regardless of the defendant’s financial situation.

The law affords detainees prompt access to lawyers and to family members. A suspect has a right to legal representation when the prosecutor requests his detention beyond 24 hours (or three days in exceptional circumstances). Regarding access to a lawyer, the CPT observed that it was usually granted at the beginning of the first formal interview by the investigating officer, although the CPT received a few allegations of delayed access, including until the very end of the police custody period. The CPT stated that its observations suggested it was still highly exceptional for persons in police custody to benefit from access to a lawyer from the very outset of deprivation of liberty (i.e., from the moment they were obliged to remain with police). The type of crime that authorities accused a suspect of committing influenced the suspect’s access to family members. Authorities sometimes did not allow a suspect any contact with family members if police believed it could jeopardize an investigation.

Restrictive conditions for prisoners held in pretrial custody remained a problem, although the law includes the possibility of appealing a decision to impose specific restrictions to the Court of Appeals and ultimately to the Supreme Court. According to the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, during the year authorities subjected approximately 66 percent of pretrial detainees to extended isolation or to restrictions on mail delivery or exercise. Authorities stated they took this step when detainees’ contact with individuals outside the detention center could risk destroying evidence or changing witnesses’ statements, thereby imperiling a continuing investigation.

In its February 17 report, the CPT noted “a lack of progress” in correcting the problem of detention in isolation since its previous visit in 2009 and regretted “that despite 24 years of on-going dialogue between the CPT and the Swedish authorities on the matter, there are no real signs of progress as regards the widespread imposition of restrictions on remand prisoners.” It stated the number of remand prisoners subject to restrictions had dropped by only 2 percent in five years. The restrictions consisted of an almost total absence of organized activities, with most remand prisoners spending up to 23 hours per day alone in their cells, sometimes in an isolation cell, with hardly anything to occupy themselves. The report noted the deleterious psychological effect on detainees of prolonged curtailments on contact with the outside world. It recommended that remand prisons “spend a reasonable part of the day outside their cells, engaged in purposeful activities of a varied nature.”

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

Protracted Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: The Migration Board had five closed detention centers to hold foreign nationals deprived of their liberty under aliens legislation. The centers had a combined capacity of 255 persons. In August the centers held in custody 202 persons who were waiting to be deported.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence.


The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, have a right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them (with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals), and have a right to a fair, public trial without undue delay. Defendants may be present at their trial. Cases of a sensitive nature, including those involving children, rape, and national security, may be closed to the public. In other cases, judges or court-appointed civilian representatives decide guilt or innocence. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to consult an attorney in a timely manner. In criminal cases, the government is obligated to provide a defense attorney. Defendants generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. Defendants and their attorneys have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Defendants may confront or question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. They may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. If convicted, defendants have the right of appeal. The law extends the above rights to all defendants.


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.


Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations in the general court system. Citizens may appeal cases involving possible violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the government to the European Court of Human Rights.

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.


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

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

Reports continued, although less than in previous years, that security forces at times used excessive and lethal force against criminal suspects and committed or were involved in extrajudicial, arbitrary, and unlawful killings. According to the Ministry of Interior’s Investigation and Legal Affairs Bureau, from October 2015 to September, security forces–including police, military, and other agencies–killed eight suspects during the arrest process, a decrease of nearly 50 percent from the previous year.

There were no reports the government or its agents committed politically motivated killings during the year. There were reports of killings in connection with the conflict in the southernmost provinces (see section 1.g.).

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. Prominent disappearance cases from prior years remain unsolved. In October the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) announced suspension of its investigation into the presumed enforced disappearance of human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit, who went missing in 2004 while representing several clients who had accused security forces of torture.

As of September the government had not taken action on the 2011 request for a country visit by the UN working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances.

The interim constitution enacted following the 2014 coup protects “all human dignity, rights, [and] liberties,” but does not specifically prohibit torture. The 2016 constitution states, “Torture, acts of brutality, or punishment by cruel or inhumane means shall not be permitted.” The emergency decree and the interim constitution effectively provide immunity from prosecution to security officers for actions committed during the performance of their duties. As of September the cabinet had renewed the emergency decree in the southernmost provinces for consecutive three-month periods 45 times since 2005.

Representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and legal entities reported police and military officers sometimes tortured and beat suspects to obtain confessions, and newspapers reported numerous cases of citizens accusing police and other security officers of brutality. There were criminal actions pursued against Royal Thai Police (RTP) officers. From October 2015 to August, the RTP disciplinary division reported authorities subjected 3,139 police officers to disciplinary actions, an increase from 2015. Disciplinary offenses included misbehavior, dereliction of duty, harming people or suspects, drunkenness, drug use, embezzlement, gambling, illegal weapons possession, and dishonesty. The investigations resulted in dismissal of 221 officers and other disciplinary action against the remaining 2,918 officers. The RTP reported nine cases of “harming people or suspects” in 2015 but reported no such cases through October. In November police officials filed charges against seven police officers in Huai Kwang District accused of fatally beating the suspected head of a local gambling network.

In January a consortium of human rights groups published a report detailing 54 cases of alleged torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment committed by police and military officials in the country’s southernmost provinces during 2014-15. The report claimed the incidents occurred mainly at the Ingkayuthaborihan Military Camp in Pattani Province and the Southern Police Operations Center in Yala Province. In May military officials filed a criminal defamation complaint against three of the report’s authors (see section 2.a.). In September, Amnesty International released a report documenting 74 alleged cases of torture or mistreatment throughout the country, most occurring after the 2014 coup.

There were numerous reports of hazing and physical abuse by members of military units. In April the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that one private was killed and another seriously injured at Phayak Military Camp in Yala Province after fellow soldiers severely beat them in apparent retaliation for committing disciplinary offenses.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in prisons and various detention centers–including drug rehabilitation facilities and immigration detention centers (IDCs) where authorities detained undocumented migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers–remained poor, and most were overcrowded. The Ministry of Justice’s Department of Corrections is responsible for monitoring prison conditions, while the Ministry of Interior’s Immigration Department monitors conditions in IDCs.

The military government held some civilian suspects at military detention facilities.

Physical Conditions: As of September 1, authorities held approximately 306,000 persons in prisons and detention facilities with a maximum design capacity of 210,000 to 220,000 persons.

In some prisons sleeping accommodations were insufficient, and the lack of medical care was a serious problem. Authorities at times transferred seriously ill prisoners and detainees to provincial or state hospitals.

Unsatisfactory prison conditions contributed to prisoners rioting in at least one prison. On July 16, 200 inmates rioted in Pattani Central Prison to protest the prison’s strict rules and inmate transfer policy and to demand the transfer of the facility’s director. The riot resulted in three deaths and 10 injuries. Asvira Doloh, one of two prisoners accused of instigating the riot, was subsequently transferred to Songkhla Central Prison, where he was found dead in his cell from internal injuries on July 21.

Pretrial detainees comprised approximately 18 percent of the prison population. Prison officers did not segregate these detainees from the general prison population. The government often held pretrial detainees under the emergency decree in the southernmost provinces in military camps or police stations rather than in prisons.

NGOs reported that authorities occasionally held men, women, and children together in police station cells, particularly in small or remote police stations, pending indictment.

In IDCs authorities held male and female detainees together and placed juveniles older than 14 years with adults. Authorities can hold detainees and their children in IDCs for years unless they pay a fine and the cost of their transportation home, because by law “…the alien will have to pay the expense of deportation…[and] [t]he expense of detention shall be charged to the alien’s account.” NGOs urged the government to enact legislation and policies to end detention of children who are out of visa status and adopt alternatives, such as supervised release and noncustodial, community-based housing, while resolving their immigration status. Other NGOs reported complaints, especially by Muslim detainees in IDCs, of inadequate and culturally inappropriate food. There also were persistent reports of forced labor, extortion by guards, and poor facility ventilation.

Prison authorities sometimes used solitary confinement of not more than one month, as permitted by law, to punish male prisoners who consistently violated prison regulations or were a danger to others. The Department of Corrections reported that solitary confinement averaged approximately seven days. Authorities also used heavy leg irons on prisoners deemed escape risks or potentially dangerous to other prisoners.

According to the Ministry of Interior’s Investigation and Legal Affairs Bureau, 762 persons died in official custody from October 2015 to September, including eight deaths while in police custody and 728 in the custody of the Department of Corrections, a 15 percent decrease from the previous year. Authorities attributed most of the deaths to natural causes. Human rights groups reported deficiencies in official investigations into deaths in custody.

The law classifies drug users as patients rather than criminals, and the government may detain persons who use drugs in compulsory rehabilitation centers for either 120 or 180 days to convert drug addicts into “decent citizens.” These centers, a joint project of the Ministries of Justice, Interior, and Public Health as well as the armed forces and the RTP, were located in approximately 57 military camps and 29 civilian centers. The centers processed 10,000 to 15,000 persons as of September. Military personnel with no medical background operated most centers.

Department of Probation authorities contended the government periodically evaluated the effectiveness of its drug-cessation operations, and medical personnel or a medical team visited many military camps at least once a week. Prior to detention local authorities made no individual clinical assessments of the severity of drug dependence and afforded no due process. After release authorities typically did not offer patients follow-up treatment. Media reports catalogued abuses of addict detainees, including physical abuse. Health services, such as medically assisted detoxification; HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support; and evidence-based drug dependence treatment, were unavailable.

Administration: Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees or their representatives to submit complaints without censorship to ombudspersons but not directly to judicial authorities. Ombudspersons in turn could consider and investigate complaints and petitions received from prisoners and provide recommendations to the Department of Corrections, but they are not empowered to act on a prisoner’s behalf, nor may they involve themselves in a case unless a person files an official complaint. Authorities rarely investigated complaints and did not make public the results of such investigations.

IDCs, administered by the Immigration Police Bureau, which reports to the RTP, are not subject to many of the regulations that govern the regular prison system.

Independent Monitoring: The government facilitated monitoring of prisons by the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT), including meetings with prisoners without third parties present and repeated visits. According to human rights groups, no external or international inspection of the prison system occurred, including of military facilities, such as Bangkok’s 11th Military Circle. International organizations reported cooperating with military and police agencies regarding international policing standards and the exercise of police powers.

Representatives of international organizations generally had access to some detainees in IDCs across the country for service delivery and resettlement processing.

NCPO Order 2/2558 grants the military authority to detain persons without charge or trial for up to seven days. Military officials frequently invoked this authority. According to OHCHR the military government summoned, arrested, and detained approximately 1,500 persons since the 2014 coup. Prior to releasing detainees, military authorities often required them to sign documents affirming they were treated well, would refrain from political activity, and would seek authorization prior to travel outside the local area. According to human rights groups, authorities often denied access to detainees by family members and attorneys. Military authorities threatened those who failed to respond to summonses with prison and seizure of assets.

The emergency decree, which gives the government authority to detain persons without charge for a maximum of 30 days in unofficial places of detention, remained in effect in the southernmost provinces (see section 1.g.).

Emergency decree provisions make it very difficult to challenge a detention before a court. Under the decree detainees have access to legal counsel, but there was no assurance of prompt access to counsel or family members, nor were there transparent safeguards against the mistreatment of detainees. Moreover, the decree effectively provides broadly based immunity from criminal, civil, and disciplinary liability for officials acting under its provisions.


The law gives military forces authority over civilian institutions, including police, regarding the maintenance of public order. NCPO Order 13/2016, issued in March, grants military officers with the rank of lieutenant and higher power to summon, arrest, and detain suspects; conduct searches; seize assets; suspend financial transactions; and ban suspects from traveling abroad in cases related to 27 criminal offenses, including extortion, human trafficking, robbery, forgery, fraud, defamation, gambling, prostitution, and firearms violation. The order also grants criminal, administrative, civil, and disciplinary immunity to military officials executing police authority in “good faith.”

The Border Patrol Police have special authority and responsibility in border areas to combat insurgent movements.

There were reports police abused prisoners and detainees, generally with impunity.

Complaints of police abuse may be filed directly with the superior of the accused police officer, the Office of the Inspector General, or the police commissioner general. The NHRCT, the Lawyers’ Council of Thailand (LCT), the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), the Supreme Court of Justice, the Ministry of Justice, and the Office of the Prime Minister accepted complaints of police abuse and corruption, as did the Office of the Ombudsman. The complaint center of the Department of Rights and Liberties Protection of the Ministry of Justice reported it received 60 complaints of police abuse from October 2015 to September. The Office of the Ombudsman reported receiving 565 petitions alleging police abuse, a 20 percent increase from the previous year.

When police receive a complaint, standard procedures require an internal investigation committee to take up the matter, and it may suspend the officer involved in the complaint for the duration of the investigation. Various administrative penalties exist, and authorities may refer serious cases to a criminal court.

Few complaints resulted in punishment of alleged offenders, and there were numerous examples of investigations lasting years without resolution of alleged security force abuses. Human rights groups criticized the “superficial nature” of police and judicial investigations into incidents of alleged torture and other mistreatment by security forces.

Local police departments are obligated to investigate each case of security force killings and evaluate whether the killings occurred in the line of duty or were otherwise justifiable. The Ministry of Interior’s Investigation and Legal Affairs Bureau reported eight killings of civilians during police operations from October 2015 to September. The office also reported 34 deaths of persons in police custody during the same period.

Procedures for investigating suspicious deaths, including deaths occurring in police custody, require a prosecutor, forensic pathologist, and local administrator to participate in the investigation and that, in most cases, family members have legal representation at the inquests. Authorities often failed to follow these procedures. Families rarely took advantage of a provision of law that allows them to sue police for criminal action during arrests.

In August, Thawatchai Anukun, a former Ministry of Interior official, died while in the custody of the DSI. Officials initially reported Thawatchai hanged himself with his socks while inside a DSI detention cell, but an autopsy revealed he died due to “abdominal hemorrhaging and a ruptured liver from being struck by a blunt object, together with asphyxiation from hanging.”

The Ministry of Defense requires service members to receive human rights training. Routine training occurred at various levels, including for officers, noncommissioned officers, enlisted personnel, and recruits. Furthermore, military service members deploying in support of counterinsurgency operations in the southernmost provinces received specific human rights training, including training for detailed, situation-specific contingencies.


With few exceptions the law requires police and military officers exercising law enforcement authority to obtain a warrant from a judge prior to making an arrest. Issuance of arrest warrants was subject to a judicial tendency to approve automatically all requests for warrants. By law, authorities must inform persons of likely charges against them immediately after arrest and allow them to inform someone of their arrest.

The law provides for access to counsel for criminal detainees in both civilian and military courts, but lawyers and human rights groups claimed police often conducted interrogations without providing access to an attorney. In the southernmost provinces, lawyers reported that, under the emergency decree, authorities denied them adequate access to detained clients, and some persons reported authorities denied them permission to visit detained family members.

Authorities sometimes pressured foreign detainees, especially migrant workers and those in the country illegally, to sign confessions without the benefit of a competent interpreter/translator.

Through July the Ministry of Justice and the Court of Justice assigned volunteer attorneys at public expense in 14,068 legal cases for indigent detainees. Lawyers said fees offered for such service were often low.

The law provides defendants the right to request bail, and the government generally respected this right. Nevertheless, some human rights groups reported police frequently did not inform detained suspects of their right to request bail or refused to recommend bail after suspects submitted a request, particularly in drug arrests and cases involving violence in the southernmost provinces.

Arbitrary Arrest: Under NCPO order 3/2015, the military has authority to detain persons without charge for a maximum of seven days without judicial review. Under the emergency decree, authorities may detain a person for a maximum of 30 days without charge (see section 1.g.). Military officers invoked NCPO Order No. 3/2015 authority to detain numerous government officials, politicians, academics, journalists, and other persons without charge, although reportedly far fewer than in 2015. The military held most individuals briefly but held some for up to seven days.

Pretrial Detention: Under normal conditions the law allows police to detain criminal suspects for 48 hours after arrest for investigation. Lawyers reported police rarely brought cases to court within the 48-hour period. Laws and regulations place offenses for which the maximum penalty for conviction is less than three years under the jurisdiction of district courts, which have different procedures and require police to submit cases to public prosecutors within 72 hours of arrest. According to the LCT, pretrial detention of criminal suspects for as long as 60 days was common.

Before charging and trial, authorities may detain individuals for a maximum of 84 days (for the most serious offenses), with a judicial review required for each seven-day period. After formal charge and throughout trial, depending on prosecution and defense readiness, court caseload, and the nature of the evidence, detention may last for one to two years before a verdict and up to six years before a Supreme Court appellate review. The time a defendant spent in detention prior to sentencing occasionally equaled or exceeded the sentence for the alleged crime.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained by police are entitled to judicial review of their detention within 48 hours in most cases. Persons detained by military officials acting under authority granted by NCPO Order 3/2015 are entitled to judicial review of their detention within seven days. Detainees found by the court to have been detained unlawfully (more than 48 hour or seven days) are entitled to compensation.

Protracted Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: Authorities detained asylum seekers and refugees without legal status. NGOs alleged the detentions were protracted and that detention conditions failed to meet satisfactory standards.

Amnesty: The Department of Corrections’ Pardon Section reported an August 8 Royal Pardon Decree, issued in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of King Bhumibol’s ascension to the throne and Queen Sirikit’s 84th birthday, granted amnesty to approximately 30,000 convicted persons and reduced the sentences of another 70,000 prisoners. A December 10 royal pardon, issued in conjunction with the ascension of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, granted amnesty to approximately 30,000 additional convicted persons and reduced the sentences of another approximately 70,000 prisoners.

Both the interim constitution and the 2016 constitution provide for an independent judiciary, although the NCPO issued orders that prohibited members of the judiciary from making any negative public comments against the NCPO. Moreover, the interim constitution provides the NCPO power to intervene “regardless of its effects on the legislative, executive, or judiciary” to defend the country against national security threats.

Human rights groups remained concerned about the NCPO’s influence on independent judicial processes, particularly the practice of prosecuting some civilians in military courts. According to these groups, the lack of progress in several high-profile cases involving alleged police and military abuse diminished public trust in the justice system and discouraged some victims of human rights abuses (or their families) from seeking justice.


The law provides for the presumption of innocence. A single judge decides trials for misdemeanors; regulations require two or more judges for more serious cases. Prior to its suspension, the 2007 constitution provided for a prompt trial, although a large backlog of cases remained in the court system. Most trials are public; however, the court may order a closed trial, particularly in cases involving national security, the royal family, children, or sexual abuse.

In ordinary criminal courts, defendants enjoy a broad range of legal rights, including access to a lawyer of their choosing, prompt and detailed information of the charges against them, free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, the right to be present at trial, and have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. They also have the rights not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, to confront witnesses, and to present witnesses. Authorities did not automatically provide indigent defendants with counsel at public expense, and there were allegations authorities did not afford defendants all the above rights, especially in small or remote provinces.

In a 2014 order, the NCPO redirected prosecutions for offenses against the monarchy, insurrection, sedition, weapons offenses, and violation of its orders from civilian criminal courts to military courts. On September 12, the NCPO ordered an end to the practice, directing that offenses committed by civilians after that date would no longer be subject to military court jurisdiction. At the time of the order, the NCPO explained that approximately 500 pending civilian cases would continue in military courts, as would any other cases in which the alleged crimes were committed before September 12. According to government and NGO sources, from May 2014 to May, military courts initiated at least 1,546 cases against civilians involving at least 1,811 persons, most commonly for violations of Article 112 (lese majeste, defaming or insulting the king, queen, heir-apparent, or regent); failure to comply with an NCPO order; and violations of the law controlling firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

Military courts do not provide the same legal protections for civilian defendants as do civilian criminal courts. Military courts do not afford civilian defendants rights outlined by the interim constitution or the 2016 constitution to a fair and public hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal. Prior to May 2015, civilians had to seek private counsel from among the limited number of lawyers who were able and willing to take their cases in military court. Civilians facing trial for offenses allegedly committed from May 2014 to April 2015–the period of martial law–have no right of appeal.

In civilian court cases, the government provided legal aid on an intermittent, voluntary basis, but the aid reportedly was of low quality. The LCT budget remained the same as in previous years, approximately 50 million baht ($1.40 million). Some NGOs reported that legal aid lawyers pressured their clients to pay additional fees directly to them, but the LCT’s lawyer etiquette division explained clients must pay certain expenses, such as travel, incurred by their attorney. The law requires the court to appoint an attorney in cases where the defendant disputes the charges, is indigent, or is a minor, and in cases where the possible punishment is more than five years’ imprisonment or death. Most free legal aid came from private groups, including the LCT and the Thai Women Lawyers’ Association.

There is no pretrial discovery process; consequently, lawyers and defendants do not have access to evidence prior to trial. The law provides for access to courts or administrative bodies to appeal or seek redress, and the government generally respected this right.

Several NGOs expressed concern about the lack of adequate protection for witnesses, particularly in cases involving alleged police wrongdoing. The Office of Witness Protection of the Ministry of Justice had limited resources and primarily played a coordinating role. In most cases police provided witness protection, but six other state agencies also participated in the program: the Ministry of Defense; the Office of the Narcotic Control Board; and the departments of special investigations, provincial administration, juvenile observation and protection, and corrections.

Police forced pretrial criminal suspects to re-enact their alleged crimes in the presence of media, victims and their families, and the public. Media widely published and broadcast images from these re-enactments on an almost daily basis. Police often ordered suspects to perform certain actions consistent with the crime’s circumstances. Police conducted thousands of re-enactments during the year. Although police regulations require suspects to “confess” before re-enactments, police often obtained these “confessions” by coercion, including physical assault. Persons present at re-enactments physically assaulted or attempted to physically assault suspects on at least six separate occasions during the first eight months of the year. Human rights organizations criticized forced re-enactments because they violated the presumption of innocence and encouraged violence against suspects.


The NCPO routinely detained those who expressed political views (see section 1.d.). As of March the Department of Corrections reported there were 103 persons detained or imprisoned in the country under lese majeste laws that outlaw criticism of the monarchy (see section 2.a.). Human rights groups claimed the prosecutions and convictions of several lese majeste offenders were politically motivated. Police arrested student activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa in December for “liking” and sharing on Facebook a link to a Thai-language BBC profile of the new king that allegedly contained defamatory information. On December 22, a court revoked Jatupat’s bail and rearrested him on charges he continued to use social media to taunt officials.


The law provides for access to courts and administrative bodies to sue for damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. The government generally respected this right, but the emergency decree in force in the southernmost provinces expressly excludes administrative court scrutiny or civil or criminal proceedings against government officials. Victims may seek compensation from a government agency instead.

Prior to the 2014 coup, the constitution prohibited such actions with some exceptions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. Following the coup the NCPO repealed the constitution and implemented martial law, which it later rescinded and replaced with NCPO Order No. 3/2015, issued under Article 44 of the NCPO-imposed interim constitution. These provisions, along with the emergency decree, give government security forces authority to conduct warrantless searches that they used routinely in the southernmost provinces and other border areas. There were complaints during the year from persons who claimed security forces abused this authority.

There were reports military officers harassed family members of those suspected of opposing the NCPO, including parents of students involved in anti-NCPO protests and the families of human rights defenders. For example, in July the RTP raided the home of the Thai wife of a foreign journalist who published an article critical of the monarchy. Officials arrested the wife and subjected her to six hours of interrogation before releasing her. In another case, human rights groups claimed military officials arrested and charged the mother of a prominent anti-coup activist with violating lese majeste provisions to try to pressure her son to stop his political activity.

Security services monitored persons, including foreign visitors, who espoused highly controversial views.

Internal conflict continued in the ethnic Malay-Muslim-majority, southernmost provinces. Because of frequent attacks by suspected insurgents as well as government security operations, tension between the local ethnic Malay-Muslim and ethnic Thai-Buddhist communities remained high, alongside the local population’s persistent distrust of security officers.

The emergency decree in effect in the southern border provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and parts of Songkhla, provides military, police, and civilian authorities significant powers to restrict some basic rights and delegates certain internal security powers to the armed forces. The decree also provides security forces broad immunity from prosecution. Moreover, martial law–imposed in 2006–remained in effect and significantly empowered security forces in the southernmost provinces (see section 1.d.).

Killings: According to NGO Deep South Watch, there were 16 reported cases of government-affiliated forces conducting extrajudicial killings in the southernmost provinces as of December.

According to Deep South Watch, violence resulted in 212 deaths and 441 injuries in 593 incidents as of August, more than in 2015. It also reported that, as of August, violence caused 6,486 deaths and injured 11,793 persons in 15,968 incidents in the region since 2004, but the organization did not differentiate among violence caused by insurgents, security forces, or criminal elements. As in previous years, suspected insurgents frequently targeted government representatives, including district and municipal officials, military personnel, and police, with bombings and shootings. Deep South Watch noted a recent trend of violence, most likely perpetrated by insurgents, against soft targets such as businesses, medical institutions, and schools. According to media reports, suspected insurgents killed one teacher and one student, a decrease from 2015. Insurgents also killed and injured both Buddhist and Muslim civilians from many other occupations.

Some government-backed civilian defense volunteers received basic training and weapons from security forces. Human rights organizations continued to express concerns about vigilantism by these defense volunteers and other civilians.

Abductions: The Muslim Attorney Center received one report of an enforced disappearance by government security forces in the southern border provinces. Other human rights organizations noted difficulties in collecting information amid widespread government summonses and detentions.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: The government arrested suspected insurgents, some of them juveniles, and in some cases held them for a month or more under emergency decree and martial law provisions. As of September 20, the Muslim Attorney Center received 18 complaints from insurgent suspects alleging torture by the military. The Cross Cultural Foundation reported the death of one prisoner in the southernmost provinces that occurred during a prison transfer. Human rights organizations maintained the detention of suspects continued to be arbitrary, excessive, and needlessly lengthy and criticized overcrowded conditions at detention facilities.

Martial law allows detention for a maximum of seven days without charge and without court or government agency approval in the southernmost provinces. The emergency decree in effect in the same areas allows authorities to arrest and detain suspects for a maximum of 30 days without charge. After this period expires, authorities may begin holding suspects under normal criminal law (see section 1.d.). Unlike under martial law, detentions under normal criminal law require court consent, although human rights NGOs complained courts did not always exercise their right of review. In some cases authorities held suspects first under martial law for seven days and then detained them for an additional 30 days under the decree. The Southern Border Provinces Operation Center reported through September authorities arrested 79 persons via warrants issued under the emergency decree. The government did not use military courts to try civilian defendants in the southernmost provinces.

Child Soldiers: Regulations prohibit formal recruitment of children younger than 18 years to serve as Territorial Defense Volunteers, and volunteers generally joined at age 21 years or older. The Cross Cultural Foundation noted some children younger than 18 years were observed working with their fathers or relatives at village defense checkpoints. As recently as 2015, there were reports insurgent groups recruited children younger than 18 years to commit acts of arson or serve as scouts.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuses: After several years of declining violence against civilians, human rights groups noted an increase in insurgent activity affecting civilians. On March 13, a group of approximately 50 armed men, who authorities believed were insurgents, seized a hospital building in Narathiwat and exchanged gunfire with a government paramilitary base located adjacent to the hospital. Seven government rangers were wounded in the attack, although no casualties were reported among patients and hospital personnel, and the facility suffered extensive damage. On August 11-12, a series of coordinated bombings and arson attacks targeting tourist sites outside of the southernmost provinces killed four and injured at least 20. On August 23, a bomb placed inside a stolen ambulance detonated outside a hotel in Pattani, killing one and injuring 29 predominantly civilian victims.

The Ministry of Public Health reported attacks on only one public health facility as of August, but there were no deaths or injuries. According to the Ministry of Education, as of August there were no deaths of students, teachers, or other education personnel, although media reported insurgents killed one teacher and one student as of September. The government frequently armed both ethnic Thai-Buddhist and ethnic Malay-Muslim civilian defense volunteers, fortified schools and temples, and provided military escorts to monks and teachers.


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

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

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

According to media reports, police in Kryve Ozero allegedly beat a man to death on August 24, after responding to a domestic violence call. Authorities detained four police officers on suspicion of murder. In response, the chief of the National Police disbanded a police station where the killing occurred. On October 2, the detained officers were released on bail; the pretrial investigation continues.

There were also reports of killings by government and Russian-backed separatist forces in connection with the conflict in Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts (see section 1.g.).

There were reports of politically motivated killings by nongovernment actors.

On July 20, a car bomb in Kyiv killed Belarusian-born journalist, Pavel Sheremet, as he drove in a car belonging to his partner, Olena Prytula. Sheremet, a Russian citizen, worked for Ukrainska Pravda newspaper and Vesti radio station, where he had been critical of Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian authorities. Authorities released a video of two individuals placing the device under the car. As of year’s end, the investigation remained open and authorities had made no arrests.

On March 9, Yuriy Hrabovsky, a lawyer representing a detained Russian special forces soldier, Aleksandr Aleksandrov, disappeared in Odesa. On March 25, his body was found in a shallow roadside grave. The killing remained under investigation at year’s end, and authorities had made no arrests.

Human rights organizations and media reported deaths in prisons or detention centers due to torture or negligence by police or prison officers (see section 1.c., Prison and Detention Center Conditions).

Law enforcement agencies continued to investigate killings and other crimes committed during the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv in 2013-14. Human rights groups were critical of the low number of convictions despite considerable evidence. Human rights groups also criticized prosecutors for focusing on low-ranking officials while taking little action to investigate government leaders believed to have been involved. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, as of mid-November, courts had convicted 45 persons investigated for Euromaidan-related crimes, 152 were on trial, and 190 remained under investigation.

Law enforcement agencies also continued their investigation into the events in Odesa in 2014 in which 48 persons died, including six government supporters and 42 persons who supported more autonomy for regions. Those who supported autonomy died in a fire at the Trade Union Building; authorities largely failed to investigate these deaths, focusing on alleged crimes committed by individuals seeking more autonomy. A Council of Europe report in 2015 found the government’s investigation lacked independence and that the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs failed to conduct a thorough, coordinated investigation. On January 15, a group of civil society activists and journalists released a statement expressing their lack of confidence in the investigation by the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, accusing the authorities of sabotaging the investigation to prevent the perpetrators from being brought to justice. On May 4, Odesa police chief, Petro Lutsiuk, was fired from his position, and the Prosecutor General’s Office later charged him with abuse of authority in connection with the events at the trade union building. Court hearings continued through the year’s end.

There were multiple reports of politically motivated disappearances, particularly in relation to the conflict between the government and combined Russian and separatist forces in the Donbas region and by Russian occupation authorities in Crimea (see section 1.g., Crimea subsection).

Although the constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel punishment, there were reports that law enforcement authorities engaged in such abuse. While courts cannot legally use as evidence in court proceedings confessions and statements under duress made to police by persons in custody, there were reports that police and other law enforcement officials abused and, at times, tortured persons in custody to obtain confessions.

In the Donbas region, there were reports that government and progovernment forces engaged in military operations at times committed human rights abuses, including torture. There were reports that Russian-backed separatist forces in the self-proclaimed “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk systematically committed numerous abuses, including torture, to maintain control or for personal financial gain. According to international organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), abuses included beatings, forced labor, psychological and physical torture, public humiliation, and sexual violence (see section 1.g.).

In a July joint report, Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlighted allegations of the use of torture at SBU detention sites, including beatings, starvation, and electric shocks.

In its March report, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU), under the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave an undated account of a “profederalism” activist who was allegedly tortured and pressured to sign a confession at an SBU facility in Odesa. The government asserted that such “profederalist” messaging was used by Russia to weaken Ukraine’s central government. The man reported that during interrogation the SBU suffocated him with a plastic bag and beat him. Afterwards, the SBU brought the man to the lobby of the SBU building to witness that authorities had also arrested his son. His son was then brought to a neighboring cell, where the father could hear his son scream as he was abused.

Abuse of prisoners and detainees by police and prison authorities remained a widespread problem. For example, on August 23, 15 staff members of the Chernihiv pretrial detention facility reportedly beat 25-year-old Viktor Kravchenko. After the beating, facility staff placed him in a disciplinary cell and denied his request for medical help. The facility’s administration denied any wrongdoing.

There were reports of hazing in the military. On August 4, the country’s human rights ombudsman sent a letter to the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Defense expressing concern about military hazing following the suicide of Vlad Khaisuk, a young soldier serving in a unit stationed in Stanytsia Luhanska. After Khaisuk’s suicide, his parents found videos on Khaisuk’s smartphone of him being hazed and humiliated by other soldiers. The Luhansk Department of the Military Prosecutor’s Office investigated and found no signs of military hazing. At year’s end, however, police in Stanytsia Luhanska were investigating the accident as a homicide.

In its September report, the HRMMU noted that it “continued to document cases of sexual violence, amounting to torture, of conflict-related detainees, both men and women. It includes cases of rape, and threats of rape or other forms of sexual violence towards victims and/or their relatives.” In one example, the HRMMU described a case in March where unidentified members of the security services detained a man, took him to an abandoned building, and interrogated him about the positions of armed groups. When he could not provide information, the perpetrators chained him to a metal cage, took a ramrod, and inserted it into the man’s urethra, causing him severe pain.

During the first nine months of the year, the Prosecutor General’s Office forwarded for prosecution 35 cases specifically alleging torture or degrading treatment involving law enforcement officers.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, during the first nine months of the year, authorities opened 133 criminal cases against police officers for crimes including torture, illegal arrests and searches, and illegal confiscation of property. Of these alleged cases of abuse, five were for alleged torture. Authorities imposed disciplinary actions against 20 officers and fired 10.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions remained poor, did not meet international standards, and at times posed a serious threat to the life and health of prisoners. Physical abuse, lack of proper medical care and nutrition, poor sanitation, and lack of adequate light were persistent problems. The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union maintained that life sentences amounted to slow executions of prisoners because of the poor conditions of their imprisonment.

Physical Conditions: Authorities generally held adults and juveniles in separate facilities, although there were reports that juveniles and adults were not separated in some pretrial detention facilities.

Conditions in police temporary detention facilities and State Penitentiary Service pretrial detention facilities were harsher than in low- and medium-security prisons. Despite a reduction in the number of inmates, overcrowding remained a problem in pretrial detention facilities. Temporary detention facilities often lacked adequate sanitation and medical facilities.

Physical abuse by guards was a problem. For example, according to the Ombudsman’s Office, the staff of the Kryzhopil Correctional Center Number 113 in Vinnytsia Oblast systematically violated prisoners’ rights during the year. Inmates complained to the Ombudsman’s Office about illegal actions of the administration, including systematic beatings, forced and unpaid labor, and lack of medical care. The monitoring team found that a convicted person kept in one of the disciplinary cells tried to commit suicide, which he claimed was due to fear of physical violence by the prison administration. The local prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into the actions of the correctional facility administration.

There were reports of prisoner-on-prisoner violence. For example, on June 6, an inmate of the Shepetivka correctional facility in Khmelnytskyi Oblast died of a traumatic brain injury inflicted by his fellow inmates. The penitentiary service conducted an investigation of the incident.

According to the Association of Independent Monitors and the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, authorities failed to protect the lives and human rights of prisoners in areas close to the zone of operation against combined Russian and separatist forces in eastern Ukraine adequately and failed to evacuate staff and inmates in a timely fashion. As of September 1, under the auspices of the Ombudsman’s Office, 17 prisoners incarcerated in territories seized by Russian-backed separatist forces were transferred to penal facilities on government-controlled territory.

The condition of prison facilities and places of unofficial detention in areas held by Russian-backed separatist forces was very poor. According to the Justice for Peace coalition, there was an extensive network of unofficial places of detention in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts located in basements, sewage wells, garages, and industrial enterprises. In most cases the places of detention were not suitable for even short-term detention. There were reports of shortages of food, water, heat, sanitation, and proper medical care.

According to October press reports citing information from the Eastern Human Rights Group, abuse of prisoners was widespread in areas not controlled by the government. Prior to the conflict, more than 5,000 prisoners were held in the part of Luhansk Oblast under the control of Russian-backed separatists. According to the group, prison conditions had deteriorated severely. The groups reported systemic abuses, such as torture, starvation, denial of medical care, and solitary confinement, as well as the extensive use of prisoners as slave labor to produce goods that, when sold, provided a direct source of personal income to Russian-backed separatist leaders.

Administration: Authorities kept records of prisoners in detention, but they were occasionally incomplete. In areas controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces, authorities lacked central record keeping, leading to difficulties for prisoners and arbitrarily held detainees. Human rights groups reported instances in which authorities confiscated prisoners’ identification cards and failed to return them upon their release. Prisoners released by Russian-backed separatists often had no identification. There was no prison ombudsman.

In government-controlled areas, prisoners could file complaints with the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman for Human Rights. As of October 1, the ombudsman’s office received 1,114 complaints from prisoners and their relatives throughout the country. The most common complaints were regarding a lack of appropriate living and sanitary conditions; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; public humiliation; limited communication with family members and relatives; unjustified punishment; denial of the right to legal consultation; and denial of the right to submit a complaint about actions of the administration. Prisoners also complained about inadequate medical treatment and precautions. For example, authorities did not isolate prisoners with contagious tuberculosis from other patients.

Although prisoners and detainees may file complaints about conditions in custody with the human rights ombudsman, human rights organizations noted prison officials continued to censor or discourage complaints and penalized and abused inmates who filed them. Rights groups reported that legal norms did not always provide for confidentiality of complaints.

Officials generally allowed prisoners to receive visitors, with the exception of those in disciplinary cells. Prisoner rights groups noted some families had to pay bribes to obtain permission for prison visits to which they are entitled by law.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted independent monitoring of prisons and detention centers by international and local human rights groups. On May 25, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) suspended its visit to the country after being denied access to places in several parts of the country where it suspected the SBU was illegally depriving individuals of their liberty. On September 5, the SPT resumed its visit and was granted access to the facilities. During the year the Ombudsperson’s Office together with representatives of civil society conducted monitoring visits to penitentiary facilities in 15 oblasts.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but serious problems remained.

AI and HRW reported details of arbitrary secret detentions by the SBU that emerged following the release of 13 persons from an SBU facility in Kharkiv (see section 1.b.). One of those detained, Viktor Ashykhin, was kidnapped from his hometown of Ukrainsk in 2014 and released in July. He told AI that he was moved three times during his 597-day illegal detention to hide him from independent monitors.

The HRMMU, AI, HRW, and other international groups reported numerous unauthorized detentions in areas of Donbas controlled by Russian-backed separatists (see section 1.g.).


The Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for maintaining internal security and order. The ministry oversees police and other law enforcement personnel. The SBU is responsible for all state security, nonmilitary intelligence, and counterintelligence matters. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reports to the Cabinet of Ministers, and the SBU reports directly to the president. The State Fiscal Service exercises law enforcement powers through the tax police and reports to the Cabinet of Ministers. The State Migration Service under the Ministry of Internal Affairs implements state policy regarding border security, migration, citizenship, and registration of refugees and other migrants.

Civilian authorities generally had control over law enforcement agencies but rarely took action to punish abuses committed by security forces.

Impunity for abuses by law enforcement remained a significant problem frequently highlighted by the HRMMU in its reports and by other human rights groups. In its September report, the HRMMU attributed the problem to “pressure on the judiciary, [and] inability and unwillingness of the Office of the Prosecutor General and Office of the Military Prosecutor to investigate” abuses. The HRMMU also noted that authorities were unwilling to investigate allegations of torture, particularly when victims were detained on grounds related to national security or were seen as proseparatist.

While authorities sometimes brought charges against members of the security services, cases often remained under investigation without being brought to trial, while authorities allowed alleged perpetrators to continue their work. Additionally, human rights groups criticized the lack of progress in investigations of alleged crimes in areas retaken by Ukraine from Russian-backed separatists, resulting in continuing impunity for these crimes. In particular, investigations of alleged crimes committed by Russian-backed separatist forces in Slovyansk and Kramatorsk in 2014 appeared stalled. Human rights groups believed that many of the local law enforcement personnel in both cities collaborated with Russian-backed separatists when they controlled these cities.

Under the law members of the Verkhovna Rada have authority to conduct investigations and public hearings into law enforcement problems. The human rights ombudsman may also initiate investigations into abuses by security forces.

Security forces generally prevented or responded to societal violence. At times, however, they used excessive force to disperse protests and, in some cases, failed to protect victims from harassment or violence. For example, on September 1, approximately 100 persons attacked a camp of peaceful demonstrators near the Odesa City Council on Dumska Street. The attackers pushed protesters from the square using fire extinguishers and tear gas and destroyed their camp. A few protesters were injured and hospitalized. According to witnesses, police watched and did nothing to prevent the clashes.


By law authorities may detain a suspect for three days without a warrant, after which time a judge must issue a warrant authorizing continued detention. Authorities in some cases detained persons for longer than three days without a warrant.

Prosecutors must bring detainees before a judge within 72 hours, and pretrial detention should not exceed six months for minor crimes and 12 months for serious ones. Persons have the right to consult a lawyer upon their detention. According to the law, prosecutors may detain suspects accused of terrorist activities for up to 30 days without charges or a bench warrant. Under the law citizens have the right to be informed of the charges brought against them. Authorities must promptly inform detainees of their rights and immediately notify family members of an arrest. Police often did not follow these procedures. Police at times failed to keep records or register detained suspects, and courts often extended detention to allow police more time to obtain confessions. Authorities kept suspects under house arrest and occasionally held them incommunicado, in some instances for several weeks.

Under the law the government must provide attorneys for indigent defendants. Compliance was inconsistent because of a shortage of defense attorneys or because attorneys, citing low government compensation, refused to defend indigent clients. According to the Ministry of Justice, 60,500 persons received free legal aid. As of September 1, there were 550 points of access to free legal aid throughout the government-controlled areas of the country.

The law provides for bail, but many defendants could not pay the required amounts. Courts sometimes imposed travel restrictions as an alternative to pretrial confinement. Under the criminal procedure code, prosecutors need a court order to impose travel restrictions on persons awaiting trial. Prosecutors must prove the restrictions are the minimum needed to ensure that suspects will appear at hearings and not interfere with criminal proceedings.

Arbitrary Arrest: The HRMMU reported a pattern of arbitrary detention by authorities. In its September report, the HRMMU reported that the SBU apprehended a married couple in Odesa and reportedly held the couple incommunicado at an SBU compound for 20 hours before recording their detention. SBU also reportedly subjected them to threats, sleep deprivation, interrogation without a lawyer present, and denied requests for legal counsel.

The HRMMU expressed concern over mass arrests in government-controlled portions of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. These oblasts are subject to the Law on Combatting Terrorism, which allows authorities to make arrests with a lower standard of proof than allowed under the criminal procedure code, leading in some cases to arbitrary arrest. For example, in its March report, the HRMMU cited SBU raids, conducted in December 2015 in Krasnohorivka and Avdiivka in Donetsk oblast, in which authorities detained hundreds of persons for several hours for questioning about alleged affiliation with armed groups. Authorities subsequently released most detainees.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Under the law citizens have the right to challenge an arrest in court or by appeal to a prosecutor to obtain prompt release in cases of unlawful detention.

Protracted Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: Authorities frequently detained asylum seekers for extended periods without court approval. They also regularly detained asylum seekers prior to their deportation (see section 2.d.).

While the constitution provides for an independent judiciary and the Verkhovna Rada passed a judicial reform package in June, courts were inefficient and remained vulnerable to political pressure and corruption. Confidence in the judiciary remained low.

On June 2, parliament adopted amendments to the constitution regarding the judiciary. The amendments give new powers to the High Council of Justice, stipulate that the majority of High Council members must be judges, and authorize the High Council to make decisions on the election, dismissal, transfer, promotion, and immunity of judges. Parliament and the president no longer have decisive roles in these processes, which limit potential interference with the judiciary. Certain provisions will be implemented gradually. For example, the president retains the right to decide on the transfer of judges for two years.

On September 30, the Law on Judiciary and Status of Judges came into effect, facilitating the implementation of the above constitutional amendments. The law introduces a three-tier system of courts, with the Supreme Court as the highest judicial body, holding the authority to rescind lower courts’ judgments. The law provides for wider civil society engagement in the selection and assessment of judges through a new consultative body called the Public Integrity Council. The law allows anyone to initiate disciplinary proceedings against a judge before the High Council of Justice and imposes anticorruption measures on judges.

As of October 1, the Prosecutor General’s Office had brought 16 criminal cases against judges to court.

Judges continued to complain about weak separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches of government. Some judges claimed that high-ranking politicians pressured them to decide cases in their favor, regardless of the merits. Other factors impeded the right to a fair trial, such as lengthy court proceedings, particularly in administrative courts, inadequate funding, and the inability of courts to enforce rulings. According to the human rights ombudsman, authorities fully executed only 40 percent of court rulings.

There were reports of intimidation and attacks against lawyers representing defendants considered “pro-Russian” or “proseparatist.” For example, on January 26 in Kharkiv, an unoccupied car belonging to lawyer Oleksandr Shadrin exploded. Shadrin had been working on a number of high-profile cases involving “proseparatist” defendants. On January 29, the Ukrainian Bar Association issued an open letter of concern about the incident involving Shadrin’s car as well as other cases in which the safety of attorneys was threatened. In a similar incident on February 2 in Kyiv, an unoccupied car belonging to another lawyer, Andriy Fedur, exploded. Fedur had been defending the accused murderers of journalists Oles Buzyna and Heorgiy Gongadze.


A single judge decides most cases, although two judges and three public assessors who have some legal training hear trials on charges carrying the maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The law provides for cross-examination of witnesses by both prosecutors and defense attorneys and for plea bargaining.

The law presumes defendants are innocent, and they cannot be legally compelled to testify or confess, although high conviction rates called into question the legal presumption of innocence. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with interpretation as needed; to a public trial without undue delay; to be present at their trial, to communicate privately with an attorney of their choice (or one provided at public expense); and to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. The law also allows defendants access to government-held evidence, to confront witnesses against them, to present witnesses and evidence, and the right to appeal. The law applies to all defendants regardless of ethnicity, gender, or age.

Trials are open to the public, but some judges prohibited media from observing proceedings. While trials must start no later than three weeks after charges are filed, prosecutors seldom met this requirement. Human rights groups reported that officials occasionally monitored meetings between defense attorneys and their clients.


On May 12, an Ivano-Frankivsk court sentenced blogger Ruslan Kotsaba to three-and-a-half years in prison, on charges that he had impeded the work of the armed forces with his calls to ignore the military draft. Authorities arrested Kotsaba in 2015, and human rights groups deemed him a political prisoner. The court dropped a more serious charge of treason. On July 24, an appeals court overturned the conviction, freeing Kotsaba after 18 months in detention.


The constitution and law provide for the right to seek redress for any decisions, actions, or omissions of national and local government officials that violate citizens’ human rights. An inefficient and corrupt judicial system limited the right of redress. Individuals may also file a collective legal challenge to legislation they believe may violate basic rights and freedoms. Individuals may appeal to the human rights ombudsman at any time and to the European Court of Human Rights after exhausting domestic legal remedies.

The constitution prohibits such actions, but there were reports authorities generally did not respect the prohibitions.

By law the SBU may not conduct surveillance or searches without a court-issued warrant. In practice, however, law enforcement agencies sometimes conducted searches without a proper warrant. In an emergency authorities may initiate a search without prior court approval, but they must seek court approval immediately after the investigation begins. Citizens have the right to examine any dossier in the possession of the SBU that concerns them; they have the right to recover losses resulting from an investigation. Because there was no implementing legislation, authorities generally did not respect these rights, and many citizens were not aware of their rights or that authorities had violated their privacy.

On October 28, the newspaper Ukrainska Pravda published an open appeal to the president and heads of the SBU, the National Police, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The appeal concerned recordings the newspaper received from an anonymous source, which indicated that its journalists and editors had been under SBU surveillance at the request of high-level officials in late 2015 and possibly beyond. The newspaper demanded to know why, how, and on whose authority the surveillance had taken place. The official SBU response said that national security legislation prohibited the disclosure of information sought by Ukrainska Pravda.

Russia controls the level of violence in eastern Ukraine, intensifying the conflict when it suits its political interests, while largely ignoring the September 2014 ceasefire and subsequent attempts to reestablish the ceasefire agreed to by all sides. Russia has continued to arm, train, lead, and fight alongside separatists, and Russian-backed separatists have methodically obstructed and threatened international monitors throughout the conflict, who do not have the access necessary to record systematically ceasefire violations or abuses committed by separatist authorities or combined Russian-separatist forces.

International organizations and NGOs, including AI, HRW, and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) issued periodic reports of human rights abuses committed in the Donbas region by combined Russian-separatist and by government forces. As of August 17, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) fielded 1,102 persons supporting a special monitoring mission, which issued daily reports on the situation and conditions in most major cities.

As of September 15, the HRMMU reported that fighting had killed at least 9,578 persons, including civilians, government armed forces, and members of armed groups. This figure included the 298 passengers and crew on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17, which was shot down in 2014 over the Donbas region. Additionally, more than three million residents have left areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts controlled by Russian-backed separatists since the start of the conflict. As of November 15, the Ministry of Social Policy had registered 1.7 million IDPs, although civil society groups believed the actual number to be lower. According to UNHCR there were approximately 1.4 million Ukrainian refugees in other countries, including approximately one million in the Russian Federation.

Media and human rights groups continued to report widespread human rights abuses in areas held by Russian-backed separatist forces. The HRMMU noted a “collapse of law and order” in such areas as well as “serious human rights abuses,” including killings and torture.

Killings: A May 4 special HRMMU report on “extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions” occurring in the context of the conflict in eastern Ukraine expressed strong concern about both sides’ use of “inherently indiscriminate weapons, such as cluster munitions and landmines.” The HRMMU noted in its September report the “widespread practice” by both sides of “engaging in hostilities from residential areas, with civilians suffering the impact of return fire.” For example, on August 24, in the government-controlled area of Donetsk Oblast, a woman in the village of Zolote-4 died while lying in bed, when Russian-backed separatist forces fired on the village.

The HRMMU, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, and human rights groups did not report any extrajudicial killings by government forces during the year in connection with the conflict. Several cases from previous years remained under investigation.

There were no reports by the HRMMU or human rights organizations of extrajudicial killings of civilians by combined Russian-separatist forces during the year, although the press reported several instances. The HRMMU identified unreported cases of extrajudicial killings from previous years that authorities had not yet investigated.

According to press reports, on July 20, three drunken members of the Russian-backed separatist “7th separate motorized rifle brigade” robbed, then shot and killed a resident of the village of Komsomolsk, Luhansk Oblast. Russian-backed separatist authorities reportedly dismissed the men from their positions to conceal their involvement in the killing.

On February 17, a video appeared on the internet showing a Russian fighter code-named “Olkhon” whipping Donbas resident, Alexei Frumkin, with an electrical cord while Frumkin was tied to a post. The combined Russian and separatist battalion that released the video claimed that “Olkhon” killed Frumkin immediately after the video was shot. According to press reports, Frumkin had supported Russian-backed separatists but had vanished in the autumn of 2014, and his fate had been unknown until the video was released. It is unknown when the video was recorded.

In its June report, the HRMMU noted that “since mid-April 2014, up to 2,000 civilians have been killed in armed hostilities, mostly as a result of indiscriminate shelling of populated areas…. Dozens of individuals were subjected to summary executions and killings, or died of torture and ill-treatment in custody. Hundreds of persons remained missing–either in secret detention or, most likely, killed–with their bodies pending recovery or identification.” According to Iryna Herashchenko, Ukrainian representative to the humanitarian subgroup of the Trilateral Contact Group, 498 persons, including 347 civilians, were missing in Donbas in August. Human rights groups criticized the government for not keeping an effective database of missing persons. Russian-backed separatists had no such system and no effective means of investigating missing persons cases. According to human rights groups, approximately 1,000 bodies in government-controlled cemeteries and morgues, both military and civilian, remained unidentified as a result of fighting, mostly from 2014. According to the HRMMU, government authorities lacked coordination among law enforcement bodies in determining the whereabouts of missing persons and the identification of remains.

Abductions: Government forces, Russian-backed-separatist forces, and criminal elements engaged in abductions. The HRMMU noted a pattern of arbitrary and incommunicado detention by government law enforcement bodies (mainly by the SBU) and by military and paramilitary units, first and foremost by the former volunteer battalions now formally incorporated into the security services.

In its reports, the HRMMU repeatedly expressed concern about reports of enforced disappearances and “unacknowledged detention” practiced by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). On July 21, HRW and AI released a report, You Don’t Exist, which documented nine alleged cases of enforced disappearances by the SBU at alleged secret detention facilities in Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Izyum, and Mariupol. The report highlighted the case of Konstantin Beskorovayni, a local official from the town of Konstantinovka, Donetsk Oblast. Beskorovayni was allegedly subjected to enforced disappearance by the SBU, beaten and threatened during an interrogation, and held incommunicado for 15 months at an SBU facility in Kharkiv before being released on February 24 on the condition that he not speak about his detention. During his detention SBU officials repeatedly denied to Beskorovayni’s family and human rights organizations that he was in SBU custody.

On August 28, HRW and AI released a statement in which they said that, since their initial report in July, 13 individuals had been released from the SBU facility in Kharkiv. The NGOs believed that at least five persons remained confined at the site. They noted that, once individuals had been released, local police simply closed their “missing persons” cases without further investigation.

Human rights groups reported that Russian-backed separatists routinely kidnapped persons for political purposes, to settle vendettas, or for ransom. HRW reported the arbitrary detentions of civilians by Russian-backed separatist forces, “which operate without any checks and balances.” The HRMMU noted in its September report that these kidnappings were “spreading fear among civilians, in particular because of the arbitrary nature of abductions.” The HRMMU also documented an increase in disappearances at checkpoints controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. For example, on May 27, a former armed group member went missing in Novoluhanske, while travelling from government-controlled territory, where he had been detained by government forces. His mother later found that Russian-backed separatists had detained him at a checkpoint, transported him to Horlivka, and later transferred him to “police custody” in Donetsk. On July 4, “police” told her that they no longer held her son. She has since been unable to ascertain his fate or whereabouts.

On January 27, Russian-backed separatists abducted religious historian and president of the Center for Religious Studies and International Spiritual Relations, Ihor Kozlovsky, allegedly in retaliation for his pro-Ukrainian postings on social media. According to Kozlovsky’s wife, the abductors confiscated keys to his apartment, which they then searched twice, removing equipment, documents, and a valuable collection of antique objects. According to local media, as of late November, Kozlovsky was being held in one of the separatists’ informal detention centers in Donetsk.

Russian-backed separatists also abducted journalists attempting to cover the conflict. On March 3, they released abducted pro-Ukrainian journalist, Maria Varfolomeyeva, in a prisoner exchange after 14 months of captivity in Luhansk.

The politically motivated trial in Russia of Nadiya Savchenko, a military pilot and member of the Verkhovna Rada abducted from eastern Ukraine in 2014, ended in March with a guilty verdict and a 22-year prison sentence. On May 25, after almost two years of detention, Russian authorities exchanged Savchenko for two Russian soldiers (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees, of the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia).

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Government and Russian-backed separatist forces reportedly abused and tortured civilians and soldiers in detention facilities. Reported abuses included beatings, physical and psychological torture, mock executions, sexual violence, deprivation of food and water, refusal of medical care, and forced labor.

The HRMMU received reports that government forces committed human rights violations, allegedly including forced deprivation of liberty and torture.

In its September report, the HRMMU noted that in the three-month reporting period reflected in the report, approximately 70 percent of cases documented by OHCHR contained allegations of torture, mistreatment, and incommunicado detention by SBU and other security forces prior to transfer into the criminal justice system. The September report did not provide data on the total number of such cases.

There were reports that Russian-backed separatist forces systematically committed numerous abuses, including torture, in the territories under their control. According to international organizations and NGOs, abuses included beatings, forced labor, psychological and physical torture, public humiliation, and sexual violence.

The HRMMU expressed repeated concern about reports of torture taking place in detention facilities controlled by Russian-backed separatists, to which they did not have access, and noted that reports of torture often surfaced long after the abuses had allegedly taken place. For example, the HRMMU’s June report documented multiple new accounts of mock executions, severe beatings, and intentional deprivation of medical care from 2015. On September 23, in connection with the SPT’s second visit to Ukraine, the SBU published a set of interviews with 11 individuals who alleged that they had been tortured while in the custody of Russian-backed separatists. The SBU also published a list of eight alleged torture sites in Donbas that it reported were controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

The HRMMU continued to document cases on both sides of the line of contact of sexual and gender-based violence of conflict-related detainees, both men and women. In its December report, the HRMMU noted: “In addition to a continuing pattern of sexual violence occurring in conflict-related detention, OHCHR documented cases that indicate the sexual violence and harassment of young women at government-controlled entry/exit checkpoints along the contact line.”

According to the Justice for Peace in Donbas human rights coalition, individuals held in illegal detention facilities in territories controlled by Russian-backed separatists reported cases of gender-based violence, in particular rape, attempted rape, and sexual abuse.

The HRMMU was unable to obtain first-hand accounts of sexual violence in such areas but reported that it had received multiple secondary accounts. For example, a man detained by militants between March and April in an area of Donetsk controlled by Russian-backed separatists told the HRMMU about two women who were reportedly abducted at a checkpoint when coming from government-controlled territory and incarcerated in a room next to his. The detainee heard armed men harassing the women and attempting to rape them; two days later the women were relocated. Their identities or whereabouts were unknown to the interviewee.

Both sides employed land mines without measures to prevent civilian casualties. The HRMMU reported in June that “mines contaminate large areas of agricultural land in east Ukraine, often in areas which are poorly marked, near roads and surrounding civilian areas. This has resulted in civilians being killed and maimed, often while walking to their homes and fields. These risks are particularly acute for persons living in towns and settlements near the contact line, as well as the 23,000 people” who crossed the contact line every day between February and May.

According to the NGO Donbas SOS, approximately 27 square miles of territory in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts were in need of humanitarian demining. According to the Ministry of Defense, since the start of the conflict, 150 civilians have been killed and 500 injured by mines and other ordnance in the conflict zone.

Child Soldiers: There were no media reports of child soldiers serving with government forces, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) could not confirm the presence of child soldiers in the country. There were media reports that government authorities had detained 17 persons between the ages of 15 and 18 who had fought with Russian-backed separatist forces since the beginning of the conflict in 2014. Russian-backed separatist news sources continued to cite the voluntary recruitment of children as young as 12 into the armed groups. In a January 22 interview in the newspaper Dzerkalo Tizhdnya, the head of the SBU’s Antiterrorism Center, Vitaliy Malykov, described the Russian-backed separatist St. George the Victor battalion, in which he alleged that children between the ages of 12 and 16 were serving.

A three-month-long study by the Justice for Peace in Donbas coalition found that Russian aggression in Donbas has significantly increased the risk of children participating in armed conflict. The group’s analysis of open sources and interviews revealed 41 individual cases of recruitment of children into armed formations. Of these, most were boys 16 to 17 years old participating in armed formations in territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

Other Conflict Related Abuses: On September 28, a team of prosecutors from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, and Ukraine presented the results of their investigation of the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17. The Dutch-led investigation concluded that the surface-to-air missile system used to shoot down the airliner over Ukraine, killing all 298 persons on board, was trucked in from Russia at the request of Russian-backed separatists and returned to Russia the same night. The report largely confirmed the already widely documented Russian government role in the deployment of the missile system, a Buk or SA-11, and the subsequent cover-up. In the report Dutch prosecutors traced Russia’s role in deploying the missile system into Ukraine and its attempt to hide its role after the disaster.

In 2015 government authorities introduced measures to expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid to areas controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk Oblast, however, sharply restricted government humanitarian aid as well as aid from international humanitarian organizations. As a result persons remaining in territories held by Russian-backed separatists experienced large price increases for everyday consumables, especially meat and fresh vegetables. Human rights groups reported severe shortages of medicine and medical supplies in territory not controlled by the government.

Russian-backed separatists continued to receive convoys of Russian “humanitarian aid,” which Ukrainian government officials believed contained weapons and supplies for combined Russian and separatist forces.

On February 11, HRW released a report, Studying under Fire, documenting “attacks on schools on both sides of the line of contact and the use of schools by both sides for military purposes, which has turned schools into legitimate military targets.” The report also described 15 attacks on operating schools that were not being used as positions by the military.

Treatment for persons living with HIV and tuberculosis was disrupted in the east of the country where fighting interrupted crucial medical supplies. More than 6,000 persons living with HIV in the region struggled with a shortage of medicine and doctors.

Ukraine (Crimea)

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

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

Russian occupation authorities did not adequately investigate cases of abductions and killings of Crimean residents from 2014 and 2015. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12 Crimean residents who had disappeared during the occupation were later found dead. Occupation authorities did not investigate other suspicious deaths and disappearances, occasionally categorizing them as suicide. Human rights observers reported that families frequently did not challenge findings in such cases due to fear of retaliation.

According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, as of October 1, 28 persons had disappeared since the occupation of Crimea, including 12 later found dead. Russian occupation authorities did not adequately investigate the deaths and disappearances. Human rights groups reported that police often refused to register reports of disappearances and intimidated and threatened with detention those who tried to report a disappearance. Ukrainian government and human rights groups believed Russian security forces kidnapped the individuals for opposing Russia’s occupation to instill fear in the population and prevent dissent.

On May 24, a group of uniformed men kidnapped Ervin Ibragimov, a member of the Bakhchisaray Mejlis and of the Coordinating Council of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars, after stopping his car on a road outside Bakhchisaray. Footage from a closed-circuit television camera showed the men forcing Ibragimov into a car and departing. According to the Crimea Human Rights Group, the men wore uniforms of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ traffic police. According to the HRMMU, on May 25, Ibragimov’s father went to the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Simferopol to file a complaint and provide the television footage. The FSB officers allegedly refused to file the complaint and told him to send it by mail. A week before he disappeared, Ibragimov told friends that he had noticed a car waiting outside his house that later followed him during the day. Ibragimov had planned to travel to the town of Sudak on May 25 to attend the court hearing of a group of Crimean Tatars charged for holding an “unauthorized” gathering on May 18 to mark Crimean Tatar Deportation Remembrance Day. On June 1, Ibragimov’s employment record book and passport were found near a bar in Bakhchisaray. While occupation authorities opened an investigation into the case, according to the Crimea Human Rights Group, they specifically excluded the possibility of a political motivation for the disappearance or of state involvement.

There were widespread reports that Russian authorities in Crimea abused residents who opposed the occupation. Human rights monitors reported that Russian occupying forces subjected Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians in particular to physical abuse. For example, on June 11, Ukrainian blogger and activist, Yuri Ilchenko, escaped from house arrest in Sevastopol and fled across the administrative boundary to government-controlled Ukraine. Ilchenko had been awaiting trial on extremism charges from February 2015 for his online writings expressing his opposition to the occupation of Crimea. Ilchenko and his parents claimed to be the first individuals in Sevastopol formally to decline taking Russian citizenship. In August he gave several accounts to the press describing his mistreatment during detention in a pretrial facility in Simferopol that lasted from February 2015 through June 2. Ilchenko claimed that security officials had repeatedly beaten him and collaborated with other inmates to continue beatings and threats while he was in detention, to coerce him explicitly into taking Russian citizenship, and to punish him for speaking Ukrainian. He claimed they forced him to remain awake for days and beat him when he fell asleep in retaliation for refusing to wear a “St. George’s ribbon,” a Russian military symbol. Ilchenko claimed occupation authorities denied him clothing, bedding, and medical care.

Occupation authorities demonstrated a pattern of using punitive psychiatric incarceration as a means of pressuring detained individuals, including in the case of Ilmi Umerov (see section 1.d.). For example, on November 3, authorities ordered that six Crimean Tatar defendants accused of belonging to Hizb-ut-Tahrir be subjected to psychiatric evaluation and confinement against their will without apparent medical need (see section 1.d.).

Human rights monitors reported that occupation authorities also threatened individuals with violence or imprisonment if they did not testify in court against individuals that authorities believed were opposed to the occupation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Physical Conditions: Prison and detention center conditions reportedly remained harsh and overcrowded. In June the director of the Russian Federal Prison System stated that Crimea lacked sufficient prison facilities and that there were twice as many inmates as there were cells necessary to house them. Human rights groups reported that prisons suffered from overcrowding and poor conditions.

According to a 2015 report on Crimea by the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, health care in prisons had deteriorated since the occupation began. Yuri Ilchenko reported that prisoners in the Simferopol pretrial detention facility lacked proper food, sanitation, and health care. On March 1, the Crimea Human Rights Group reported that a group of four Crimean Tatars detained in February on politically motivated “terrorism” charges were living in cells in a Simferopol pretrial facility that were infested with fleas and bedbugs, were forced to sleep in shifts on a single filthy bed, and given food that contained cockroaches.

Administration: According to the 2015 OSCE/ODIHR report, persons incarcerated during the Russian occupation did not have the opportunity to retain Ukrainian citizenship. Russian authorities compelled all individuals who were in prison or pretrial facilities when the occupation began to accept Russian citizenship. As of August the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Offices of Ukraine and Russia were working on a solution that would allow some prisoners to return to Ukraine.

Independent Monitoring: Occupation authorities did not permit monitoring of prison or detention center conditions by independent nongovernmental observers or international organizations. Occupation authorities permitted “human rights ombudsman,” Ludmila Lubina, to visit prisoners, but human rights activists regarded Lubina not as an independent actor but as representing the interests of the occupation authorities.

Occupation authorities arbitrarily detained protesters, activists, and journalists for opposing the Russian occupation.


Russian government agencies, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the FSB, the Federal Investigative Committee, and the Office of the Prosecutor General applied and enforced Russian law in Crimea. The FSB also conducted security, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism activities and combatted organized crime and corruption. A “national police force” operated under the aegis of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

In addition to abuses committed by Russian forces, “self-defense forces,” largely consisting of former Ukrainian Ministry of Interior officers allegedly linked to local organized crime, reportedly continued to operate and commit abuses. These forces often acted with impunity in intimidating perceived occupation opponents and were involved in extrajudicial detentions and arbitrary confiscation of property. While the “law” places the “self-defense forces” under the authority of the “national police,” their members continued to commit abuses while receiving state funding for their activities as well as other rewards, such as beachfront property and service medals. For example, on December 8, members of “self-defense” forces allegedly beat two residents of the village of Shchelkino. Police arriving at the scene declined to arrest members of the self-defense forces. An investigation into the incident continued.


Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports that Russian occupation authorities made arbitrary arrests, in particular targeting Crimean Tatars.

On May 12, police arrested Ilmi Umerov, a member of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, accusing him of “undermining the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation” for stating that Crimea remains part of Ukraine. Umerov, who suffered from health problems, has since been taken from court hearings in poor health. On August 18, Umerov was forcibly subjected to psychiatric hospitalization, ostensibly for an examination, exacerbating his health problems. On September 7, occupation authorities released him from the hospital following international publicity over the case. At year’s end his case remained in pretrial investigation.

As of October 25, occupation authorities had arrested 19 Crimean residents, mostly Crimean Tatars, accusing them of belonging to Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a pan-Islamic organization prohibited in Russia but not Ukraine. Human rights groups believed occupation authorities intended to intimidate Crimean Tatars, discredit the Mejlis leadership, and instill fear in the local population to prevent dissent through the arrests.

Russian authorities continued to detain Akhtem Chiygoz, the deputy leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis. Russian authorities arrested Chiygoz in January 2015 and charged him with “inciting a mass riot” during protests he organized at the Crimean parliament in 2014 that were disrupted by pro-Russian activists, resulting in clashes between the groups. Subsequently, occupation authorities prosecuted individuals alleged to have participated in the protest, although Russia did not exercise control over Crimea at the time. Human rights groups reported that authorities reviewed video of the incident and selectively brought charges against leading Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian individuals who subsequently opposed the occupation, in particular members of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis. Video footage shows Chiygoz and other Crimean Tatar leaders working to defuse tensions in the hopes of avoiding clashes with counterprotesters. Occupation authorities refused to investigate acts of violence committed by pro-Russian “protesters,” who were likely working for Russian security services according to independent observers. On December 12, authorities extended Chiygoz’s detention until April 2017.

Throughout the year Russian authorities conducted mass arrests designed to humiliate and intimidate Crimean Tatars. On April 1, Russian security forces detained 35 men, mostly Crimean Tatars, in Pionierske, took them to a “center to combat extremism,” and collected DNA samples from them. Human rights groups claimed that Russian security forces attempted to recruit some as police informants. On May 6, Russian security forces detained more than 100 Crimean Tatars at a mosque in Molodizhne. On May 7, Russian security forces detained another 35 Muslims, many of whom were Crimean Tatars, at a market in Simferopol.

Under the Russian occupation regime, the “judiciary” was neither independent nor impartial.


See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant Russian laws and procedures that the Russian government applied and enforced in occupied Crimea.


Russian occupation authorities routinely detained and prosecuted individuals for political reasons (see section 1.d.). They also transferred Crimean cases to Russia’s legal system and changed the venue of prosecution for some detainees. Human rights groups identified several dozen Crimean residents as political prisoners held in either Crimea or Russia. These included: Oleg Sentsov, Oleksander Kolchenko, Oleksiy Chirniy, Oleksander Kostenko, Ilmi Umerov, Akhtem Chiygoz, Ali Asanov, Mustafa Dehermedzhy, Mykola Semena, Andrii Kolomiets, Ruslan Zaytullaev, Rustam Vaytov, Nuri Primov, Ferat Sayfullaev, Enver Bekirov, Vadim Siruk, Muslim Aliev, Emir-Ussein Kuku, Refat Alimov, Arcen Dzhepparov, Enver Mamutov, Remzi Memetov, Zevri Abseitov, Rustem Abultarov, and others.

According to Mejlis member Gayana Yuksel, as of October 26, occupation authorities have deprived 67 Crimean Tatar children of a parent because of politically motivated imprisonment since the start of the occupation.

Occupation authorities and others engaged in electronic surveillance, entered residences and other premises without warrants, and harassed relatives and neighbors of perceived opposition figures.

Russian occupation authorities routinely conducted raids on homes to intimidate the local population, particularly Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, ostensibly on the grounds of searching for weapons, drugs, or “extremist literature.” In its June report, the HRMMU expressed concern about “the growing number of large scale ‘police’ actions conducted with the apparent intention to harass and intimidate Crimean Tatars and other Muslim believers.” On February 11 and 12, Russian occupation authorities raided Crimean Tatar villages in the Yalta and Bakhchisaray regions. According to the Crimea Human Rights Group, men with guns and in balaclavas burst into homes and in some cases broke through doors or windows, despite encountering no resistance from the residents. Between April 16 and 20, authorities conducted several raids on Crimean Tatar homes in the Alyushta region. According to press reports, police entered Crimean Tatar homes and demanded to know how many persons lived in the house, where they went shopping, where their children studied, and who sold drugs in the village. They also demanded to inspect gardens and greenhouses.

Human rights groups reported that Russian authorities had widespread authority to tap telephones and read electronic communications and had established a network of informants to report on suspicious activities. According to Mejlis members, Russian authorities had invited hundreds of Crimean Tatars to “interviews” where authorities played back the interviewees’ telephone conversations and read their e-mail aloud. Media reported that in July the FSB interviewed a doctor in a Feodosia hospital after a colleague had denounced him for privately expressing pro-Ukrainian views. The doctor stated that posters in the hospital hallways advertised an FSB hotline. The eavesdropping and visits by security personnel create an environment in which persons are afraid to voice any opinion contrary to the occupation authorities, even in private.

According to press reports, on January 22, the Russian FSB sent a notice to all post offices in Crimea containing a list of individuals deemed “extremist,” but which was in fact a list of individuals known to oppose the occupation, with instructions to report to the FSB any correspondence sent or received by these individuals.

Occupation authorities harassed family members of a number of political opponents. On February 2, Russian migration and security officials questioned Erol Abdulzhelilov, grandson of Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Jemilev, demanding his passport and summoning him to a police station. On February 18, Russian authorities summoned Yevgeny Kostenko, the brother of Oleksander Kostenko, imprisoned on political grounds, and threatened him with a forced psychiatric examination when he refused to answer questions. On September 26, occupation authorities pressured the young children of imprisoned Crimean Tatar activist, Emir-Ussein Kuku, to make statements about Kuku that could be used to strip him of his parental rights.

Following the sabotage of electrical lines from government-controlled territory to occupied Crimea, Russian officials cut power and natural gas to the homes of Crimean Tatar Mejlis members in retaliation.

United Arab Emirates

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

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

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

There were reports of disappearances of individuals allegedly involved in state security cases. For example, according to human rights organizations, Emirati citizen Abdulrahman Bin Sobeih disappeared in December 2015 after authorities in Indonesia arrested him and handed him over to UAE authorities. The status of Bin Sobeih, who had previously been convicted in absentia for membership in a group affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, was unknown until he appeared before the National Security Court of the Federal Supreme Court in March. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported that on November 14, Bin Sobeih was sentenced to 10 years in prison and three years of administrative control subsequent to the completion of his sentence for belonging to a secret organization. Additionally, several persons were arrested in 2015 and their whereabouts were unknown until the following year. Examples include Nassir bin Ghaith and Tayseer al-Najjar (see sections 1.d. and 2.a. respectively).

The constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports of instances. There were reports in previous years that some individuals imprisoned for suspected state security violations were subjected to severe abuse or mistreatment. Human rights groups alleged this mistreatment took place during interrogations and to induce a prisoner to sign a confession. For example, in 2015 Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported allegations from prisoners that authorities used techniques including beatings, forced standing, and threats to rape or kill, including by electrocution. Two Libyan-Americans arrested on security-related grounds in August 2014 said they were tortured while in detention. In some cases, judges ordered investigations, to include medical examinations by state-appointed doctors, into allegations of torture or mistreatment. The government-sanctioned Emirates Human Rights Association, which monitors prisons, reported in December that it had not found any human rights violations related to treatment of detainees during the year.

Sharia (Islamic law) courts, which adjudicate criminal and family law cases, may impose flogging as punishment for adultery, prostitution, consensual premarital sex, pregnancy outside marriage, defamation of character, and drug or alcohol abuse, although this was rare and tended to be confined to only a few jurisdictions. Multiple Western consulates reported courts imposed flogging as a punishment in some of the northern emirates.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions varied widely among the individual emirates and between regular prisons and state security detention facilities.

Physical Conditions: The government did not release statistics on prison demographics and capacity. Some prisoners reported poor sanitary conditions, poor temperature control, and overcrowding.

There were reports in prior years that individuals within state security detention facilities were mistreated.

There was no information available on whether prisoners with HIV/AIDS received appropriate health care. Medical care was generally adequate in regular prisons, although some prisoners reported extended delays in receiving medical treatment and difficulty obtaining necessary medication. Most prisons had nurses or other medical professionals on duty, although reportedly prison doctors were often reluctant to issue anything other than nonprescription pain medication. In addition, media reports stated some detainees in State Security Department custody did not receive adequate access to medical care.

Prisons attempted to accommodate persons with disabilities based on their specific needs, such as by placing a wheelchair user on a lower floor. Some reports alleged inconsistencies in providing support for prisoners with mental disabilities. In Dubai and to some extent Abu Dhabi, prison officials worked with mental health professionals to provide support and administer needed medication. Training and capabilities to accommodate prisoners with mental health disabilities were allegedly less well developed in the other emirates. Reportedly it was common for authorities to grant a humanitarian pardon in cases where a person with a disability had been convicted of a minor offense.

Administration: Some state security detainees did not have access to visitors or had more limited access than other prisoners. Although prisoners had a right to submit complaints to judicial authorities, details about investigations into complaints were not publicly available and there were no independent authorities to investigate allegations of poor conditions. There was also no publicly available information on whether or not authorities investigated complaints about prison conditions. Dubai Emirate maintained a website where individuals could obtain basic information about pending legal cases including formal charges and upcoming court dates.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted charitable NGOs to visit prisons and provide material support on a limited basis. Members of the government-sanctioned Emirates Human Rights Association (EHRA) met with prisoners during regular visits to detention facilities and reported their findings to federal Ministry of Interior officials. Their reports were not publicly available. Authorities did not grant regular consular access for State Security Department detainees.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the government reportedly often held persons in custody for extended periods without charge or a preliminary judicial hearing. The law permits indefinite detention, including incommunicado detention, without appeal. In some cases authorities did not allow detainees contact with attorneys, family members, or others for indefinite or unspecified periods.

In cases of foreign nationals detained by police, which in view of the country’s demographic breakdown were the vast majority of cases, the government often did not notify the appropriate diplomatic missions. For state security detainees, notification was exceptionally rare and information about the status of these detainees was very limited.

Authorities treated prisoners arrested for political or security reasons differently from other prisoners, including placing them in separate sections of a prison. A specific government entity, the State Security Department, handled these cases, and in some cases held prisoners and detainees in separate undisclosed locations for extended periods prior to their transfer to a regular prison.

In May, two Libyan-Americans accused of state security violations were acquitted following a Federal Supreme Court trail. The individuals were originally arrested in August 2014, but formal charges were not filed until January 2016. Also authorities did not inform their families or relevant consular missions at the time of the arrest; they were denied access to legal counsel; and they reported that they were tortured while in detention.


Each emirate maintained a local police force called a general directorate, which was officially a branch of the federal Ministry of Interior. All emirate-level general directorates of police enforced their respective emirate’s laws autonomously. They also enforced federal laws within their emirate in coordination with each other under the federal ministry. The federal government maintained federal armed forces for external security.

There were no public reports of impunity involving security forces, but there was no publicly available information on whether or not authorities investigated complaints of police corruption or other abuses including prison conditions and mistreatment (see section 1.c., Administration).


Police stations received complaints from the public, made arrests, and forwarded cases to the public prosecutor. The public prosecutor then transferred cases to the courts. The law prohibits arrest or search of citizens without probable cause. Unlike the previous year, there were no reports security forces failed to obtain warrants. Police must report an arrest within 48 hours to the public prosecutor, and police usually adhered to the deadline.

The law requires prosecutors to submit charges to a court within 14 days of the police reporting the case to them and to inform detainees of the charges against them; however, judges may grant extensions to prosecutors, sometimes resulting in extended periods of detention without formal charges. Multiple detainees complained authorities did not inform them of charges until several days after they had been detained. Noncitizen detainees reported that when the prosecutor presented the charges, they were written in Arabic with no translation, and that authorities pressured detainees to sign a statement saying they understood the charges placed against them.

Public prosecutors may order detainees held as long as 21 days without charge; this can be extended by court order. Judges may not grant an extension of more than 30 days of detention without charge; however, they may renew 30-day extensions indefinitely. As a result, pretrial detention sometimes exceeded the maximum sentence for the crime charged. Public prosecutors may hold suspects in terrorism-related cases without charge for six months. Once authorities charge a suspect with terrorism, the Federal Supreme Court may extend the detention indefinitely.

There is no formal system of bail. Authorities may temporarily release detainees who deposit money, a passport, or an unsecured personal promissory statement signed by a third party. Authorities may deny pretrial release to defendants in cases involving loss of life, including involuntary manslaughter. Authorities released some prisoners detained on charges related to a person’s death after the prisoners completed diya (blood money) payments.

A defendant is entitled to an attorney after authorities complete their investigation. Authorities sometimes questioned the accused for weeks without permitting access to an attorney. The government may provide counsel at its discretion to indigent defendants charged with felonies punishable by imprisonment of three to 15 years. The law requires the government to provide counsel in cases in which indigent defendants face punishments of life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Authorities held some persons incommunicado, particularly in cases involving state security. For example, according to human rights groups the location and status of Emirati activist Nassir bin Ghaith remained unknown from the time of his arrest in August 2015 until April, when prosecutors announced charges of defaming a foreign country (Egypt), ridiculing the UAE’s decision to grant land for a Hindu temple, and having ties to Islamist groups. Bin Ghaith, who remained in prison as of year’s end, was convicted in 2011 of insulting the country’s leadership, incitement, and endangering national security. On December 5, his case was transferred from the State Security chamber of the Federal Supreme Court to the Federal Court of Appeal.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports the government committed arrests without informing the individual of the charge, notably in cases of alleged violations of state security regulations. In these cases, authorities did not give notice to the individual or to family members regarding the subject of the inquiry or arrest.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention occurred, especially in cases involving state security; however, the speed at which these cases were brought to trial increased during the year with a higher number of State Security Court acquittals and convictions in comparison to the previous year. There was no estimate available of the percentage of the prison population in pretrial status.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: There were reports that authorities sometimes delayed or limited an individual’s access to an attorney, and did not give prompt court appearances or afford consular notification, particularly in state security cases. The law permits indefinite detention without appeal in state security-related cases. There were no reports of courts finding individuals to have been unlawfully detained and recommending compensation.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, court decisions remained subject to review by the political leadership. Authorities often treated noncitizens differently from citizens. The judiciary consisted largely of contracted foreign nationals subject to potential deportation, further compromising its independence from the government.


The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right.

The law presumes all defendants innocent until proven guilty. By law a defendant enjoys the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges. The law requires all court proceedings be conducted in Arabic. Despite the defendant’s procedural right to an interpreter, there were reports authorities did not always provide an interpreter or that quality was sometimes poor.

The constitution provides the right to a public trial, except in national security cases or cases the judge deems harmful to public morality. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and have a right to legal counsel in court. While awaiting a decision on official charges at the police station or the prosecutor’s office, a defendant is not entitled to legal counsel. In cases involving a capital crime or possible life imprisonment, the defendant has a right to government-provided counsel after charges have been filed. The government may also provide counsel, at its discretion, to indigent defendants charged with felonies punishable by imprisonment of three to 15 years. The law provides prosecutors discretion to bar defense counsel from any investigation. Defendants and their attorneys may present witnesses and question witnesses against them, and defense counsel has the right to access relevant government-held evidence. Defendants may not to be compelled to testify or confess. Some defendants said they did not have adequate time to prepare a defense and requested additional time, which judges typically granted.

Both local and federal courts have an appeals process; cases under local jurisdiction are appealed to the Court of Cassation and federal cases to the Federal Supreme Court. Convicted defendants may also appeal death sentences to the ruler of the emirate in which the offense was committed or to the president of the federation. In murder cases, the victim’s family must consent to commute a death sentence. The government normally negotiated with victims’ families for the defendant to offer diya in exchange for forgiveness and a commuted death sentence. The prosecutor may appeal acquittals and provide new or additional evidence to a higher court. An appellate court must reach unanimous agreement to overturn an acquittal.

Prior to November, state security cases were heard exclusively at the Federal Supreme Court and were therefore not subject to appeal by a higher court; however, in November the law was amended so that state security cases are now heard at the Federal Court of Appeal, and as a result can be appealed to the higher Federal Supreme Court.

When authorities suspected a foreigner of crimes of moral turpitude, authorities sometimes deported the individual without recourse to the criminal justice system. At the judge’s discretion, foreigners charged with crimes may be permitted to defend themselves while on bail.

The penal code also requires all individuals to pay diya to victims’ families in cases where accidents or crimes caused the death of another person, and media reported multiple cases of courts imposing this punishment. In some cases sharia courts imposed more severe penalties during the month of Ramadan. There were also reports courts applied these punishments more strictly to Muslims.

Women faced legal discrimination because of the government’s interpretation of sharia law (see section 6).


During the year there were reports of persons held, typically incommunicado and without charge, for their political views or affiliations, often because of alleged links to Islamist organizations.

According to news reports, prosecutors brought approximately 200 state security cases to court since 2013, including about 70 during the first half of the year. Most convictions were for terrorism-related crimes or membership in banned organizations. Human rights organizations alleged that some of these cases involved individuals advocating nonviolent change, and they criticized the government for using overly broad antiterrorism laws to arrest and detain those with suspected ties to nonviolent, political Islamist movements.

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the government restricted the activities of organizations and individuals allegedly associated with Dawat al-Islah, a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, and others critical of the government. Media reported two Emiratis were convicted and jailed on November 14 with 10- and seven-year jail sentences for being leading members of al-Islah.

As part of its security and counterterrorism efforts, the government issued or updated restrictive laws–such as the 2014 antiterrorism law–governing activities, including the use of the internet and social media. Numerous observers criticized these laws as extending beyond security concerns by also outlawing activities and speech of a political nature.


Citizens and noncitizens had access to the courts to seek damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. The civil courts, like all courts, lacked full independence. In some cases courts delayed proceedings.

The constitution prohibits entry into a home without the owner’s permission, except when police present a lawful warrant. Officers’ actions in searching premises were subject to review by the Ministry of Interior, and officers were subject to disciplinary action if authorities judged their actions irresponsible.

The constitution provides for freed and confidential correspondence by mail, telegram, and all other means of communication. There were reports, however, that the government monitored and in some cases censored incoming international mail and wiretapped telephones and monitored outgoing mail and electronic forms of communication without following appropriate legal procedures. A May 29 study by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab reported that since 2012, Emirati journalists, activists, and dissidents have been targeted by sophisticated spyware attacks, which the researchers found may be linked to the Emirati government (see also section 2.a., Internet Freedom).

Local interpretation of sharia prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims and Muslim men from marrying women “not of the book,” generally meaning adherents of religions other than Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

The country employs judicial supervision for individuals considered at risk from relatives committing honor crimes against or otherwise harming them. Judicial supervision typically included housing individuals to provide for their well-being and for family mediation and reconciliation.

In March 2015, in response to a request from Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi for Arab League/Gulf Cooperation Council military intervention, Saudi officials announced the formation of a coalition to counter the 2014 overthrow of the legitimate government in Yemen by militias of the Ansar Allah movement (also known colloquially as “Houthis”) and forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Saudi-led coalition, which also includes the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, and Senegal, conducted air and ground operations that continued throughout the year. UAE forces continued an active military role in Yemen, including conducting ground operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Mukalla.

The UN and NGOs such as HRW and Amnesty International (AI) and some Yemeni sources have voiced human rights concerns about coalition activities in Yemen, claiming some Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have been disproportionate or indiscriminate, and appeared not to sufficiently minimize collateral impact on civilians. UAE forces have not been specifically accused of carrying out such strikes. Some Yemeni opposition-aligned press reports have also alleged coalition forces and local Yemeni forces have abducted, arbitrarily detained, and mistreated individuals, including those without apparent ties to terrorist organizations, as part of their counterterrorism efforts in the Mukalla area.

For additional details, see the Department of State’s Country Report on Human Rights for Yemen.