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Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

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

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

There were numerous reports the government committed arbitrary and unlawful killings.

Defector reports noted instances in which the government executed political prisoners, opponents of the government, forcibly returned asylum seekers, government officials, and others accused of crimes. The law prescribes the death penalty for the most “serious” or “grave” cases of “antistate” or “antination” crimes, which include: participation in a coup or plotting to overthrow the state; acts of terrorism for an antistate purpose; treason, which includes defection or handing over of state secrets, broadly interpreted to include providing information about economic, social, and political developments routinely published elsewhere; suppression of the people’s movement for national liberation; and “treacherous destruction.” Additionally, the law allows for capital punishment in less serious crimes such as theft, destruction of military facilities and national assets, fraud, kidnapping, distribution of pornography, and trafficking in persons. The government reportedly executed individuals for sleeping during patriotic events. Defectors also reported that the government carried out infanticide in cases of political prisoners, persons with disabilities, and where the mother was repatriated from China.

NGOs and press reports indicated that border guards had orders to shoot to kill individuals leaving the country without permission, and prison guards were under orders to shoot to kill those attempting to escape from political prison camps.

In February the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) press reported that DPRK authorities executed five Ministry of State Security officials in a political purge.

It was widely reported that, on February 13, two women, working on behalf of the government, assassinated Kim Jong Nam, Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport using VX nerve agent, a chemical weapon banned under the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention.

The state also subjected private citizens to public executions. According to the Institute for National Security Strategy, the state held 340 public executions from 2012 to 2016, including executions of 140 government officials between 2013 and 2016. A 2016 survey found that 64 percent of defectors had witnessed public executions.

During the year a defector reported being pulled from school to witness the public execution of 11 musicians accused of making a pornographic video. The defector described a brutal process including antiaircraft artillery, used to kill the prisoners, and tanks, which were used to run over the bodies postmortem.

b. Disappearance

NGO, think tank, and press reports indicated the government was responsible for disappearances.

During the year there was no progress in the investigation into the whereabouts of 12 Japanese citizens believed to have been abducted by the DPRK. The DPRK suspended bilateral negotiations on the abductions issue in 2015, citing Japan’s move to raise the issue in a UN Human Rights Council resolution.

ROK government and media reports noted the DPRK also kidnapped other foreign nationals from locations abroad in the 1970s and 1980s. The DPRK continued to deny its involvement in the kidnappings. The ROK Ministry of Unification reported that an estimated 517 of its civilians, abducted or detained by DPRK authorities since the end of the Korean War, remained in the DPRK. South Korean NGOs estimated that during the Korean War the DPRK abducted 20,000 civilians who remained in the North or who had died.

According to The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), the state closed Hoeryong kwanliso (Camp 22) in late 2012 and demolished the Sirmchon/Kumchon-ri zone with Yodok kwanliso (Camp 15) in late 2014. The whereabouts of the former prisoners of these facilities remained unknown. During the year South Korean media reported that DPRK Ministry of State Security agents were dispatched to cities near the DPRK border in China to kidnap and forcibly return refugees. According to international press reports, North Korea may have also kidnapped defectors who relocated to South Korea and then were on travel in China. In some cases North Korea reportedly forced these defectors’ family members to encourage the defectors to return to China in order to capture them.

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

The penal code prohibits torture or inhuman treatment, but many sources reported these practices continued. Numerous defector accounts and NGO reports described the use of torture by authorities in several detention facilities. Methods of torture and other abuse reportedly included severe beatings; electric shock; prolonged periods of exposure to the elements; humiliations such as public nakedness; confinement for up to several weeks in small “punishment cells” in which prisoners were unable to stand upright or lie down; being forced to kneel or sit immobilized for long periods; being hung by the wrists; water torture; and being forced to stand up and sit down to the point of collapse, including “pumps,” or being forced to repeatedly squat and stand with the person’s hands behind their back. Mothers were in some cases reportedly forced to watch the infanticide of their newborn infants. Defectors continued to report many prisoners died from torture, disease, starvation, exposure to the elements, or a combination of these causes.

The White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea, published by the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), a South Korean government-affiliated think tank, and the 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) report stated that officials had in some cases prohibited live births in prison and ordered forced abortions as recently as 2013. Detainees in re-education through labor camps reported the state forced them to perform difficult physical labor under harsh conditions (see section 7.b.).

The KINU white paper found that, in some cases of live birth, the prison guards killed the infant or left the baby to die, and it reported cases of guards sexually abusing or exploiting female prisoners.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

NGO, defector, and press reports noted there were several types of prisons, detention centers, and camps, including forced labor camps and separate camps for political prisoners. NGO reports documented six types of detention facilities: kwanliso (political penal-labor camps), kyohwaso (correctional or re-education centers), kyoyangso (labor-reform centers), jipkyulso (collection centers for low-level criminals), rodong danryeondae (labor-training centers), and kuryujang or kamok (interrogation facilities or jails). According to the 2017 KINU white paper, the Ministry of State Security administered kwanliso camps and either it or the Ministry of People’s Security administered the other detention centers.

There were reportedly between 5,000 and 50,000 prisoners per kwanliso. Defectors claimed the kwanliso camps contained unmarked graves, barracks, worksites, and other prison facilities. NGOs reported the existence of five kwanliso facilities, including Gaecheon (Camp 14), Hwaseong/Myeonggan (Camp 16), Pukchang (Camp 18), and Cheongjin (Camp 25). During the year reports continued to indicate that areas of Yodok (Camp 15) in South Hamkyung Province were closed or operating at a reduced capacity.

Kwanliso camps consist of total control zones, where incarceration is for life, and “rerevolutionizing zones,” from which prisoners may be released. Reports indicated the state typically sent those sentenced to prison for nonpolitical crimes to re-education prisons where authorities subjected prisoners to intense forced labor. Those the state considered hostile to the government or who committed political crimes reportedly received indefinite sentencing terms in political prison camps. In many cases the state also detained all family members if one member was accused or arrested. The government continued to deny the existence of political prison camps.

Reports indicated conditions in the prison camp and detention system were harsh and life threatening and that systematic and severe human rights abuse occurred. Defectors noted they did not expect many prisoners in political prison camps and the detention system to survive. Detainees and prisoners consistently reported violence and torture. Defectors described witnessing public executions in political prison camps. According to defectors, prisoners received little to no food or medical care in some places of detention. Sanitation was poor, and former labor camp inmates reported they had no changes of clothing during their incarceration and were rarely able to bathe or wash their clothing. The South Korean and international press reported that the kyohwaso held populations of up to thousands of political prisoners, economic criminals, and ordinary criminals.

Both the kyohwaso re-education camps and kwanliso prison camps host extremely brutal conditions, according to HRNK’s 2016 report North Korea: Kyohwaso No. 12, Jongori. The report noted, “The brutality affects both those convicted of actual offenses and those sentenced for essentially political offenses.”

According to the Hidden Gulag IV report, since late 2008 Jongori (formerly referred to as Camp 12) in North Hamkyung Province was expanded to include a women’s annex, which held approximately 1,000 women, most of whom the state imprisoned after forcibly returning them from China. Satellite imagery and defector testimony corroborated the existence of this women’s annex. Defector testimony also cited food rations below subsistence levels, forced labor, and high rates of death due to starvation at Jongori.

According to HRNK’s 2016 report North Korea: Flooding at Kyohwaso No. 12, Jongori, the kyohwaso or re-education center No. 12, Jongori is located approximately 300 miles northeast of Pyongyang and 15 miles south of Hoeryong City. The report estimated the prison population at kyohwaso No. 12 had ranged from 1,300 in the late 1990s to approximately 5,000 in recent years.

Physical Conditions: Estimates of the total number of prisoners and detainees in the prison and detention system ranged between 80,000 and 120,000. Physical abuse by prison guards was systematic. Anecdotal reports from the NGO Database Center for North Korean Human Rights and the 2014 COI report stated that in some prisons authorities held women in separate units from men and often subjected the women to sexual abuse. The COI report added, “Cases of rape are a direct consequence of the impunity and unchecked power that prison guards and other officials enjoy.”

There were no statistics available regarding deaths in custody, but defectors reported deaths were commonplace as the result of summary executions, torture, lack of adequate medical care, and starvation. The COI report cited “extremely high rate of deaths in custody,” due to starvation and neglect, arduous forced labor, disease, and executions.

Defectors also reported that in Camp 14, prisoners worked 12 hours a day during the summer and 10 hours a day during the winter, with one day off a month. The camps observed New Year’s Day and the birthdays of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Children age 12 or older worked, and guards gave light duty to prisoners over 65 years of age. According to HRNK report Gulag, Inc., three political prison camps and four re-education camps contained mines where prisoners worked long hours with frequent deadly accidents. One prisoner reported suffering an open foot fracture and being forced to return to the mine the same day. Prisoners provided supervision over other prisoners and worked even when they were sick. Prisoners who failed to meet work quotas reportedly faced reduced meals and violence. Those caught stealing faced arbitrary and serious violence.

NGO and press reports estimated there were between 182 and 490 detention facilities in the country.

By law the state dismisses criminal cases against a person under age 14. The state applies public education in case of a crime committed by a person above age 14 and under age 17, but little information was available regarding how the law was actually applied. Authorities often detained juveniles along with their families and reportedly subjected them to torture and abuse in detention facilities.

Administration: There was little evidence to suggest prisoners and detainees had reasonable access to visitors. In past years refugees reported authorities subjected Christian inmates to harsher punishment if the prisoners made their faith public, but no information was available regarding religious observance. No information was available on whether authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of abuse.

Independent Monitoring: There was no publicly available information on whether the government investigated or monitored prison and detention conditions. The 2015 HRNK Imagery Analysis of Camp 15 noted officials, especially those within the Korean People’s Army and the internal security organizations, clearly understand the importance of implementing camouflage, concealment, and deception procedures to mask their operations and intentions. The government did not allow the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the DPRK into the country to assess prison conditions. The government did not permit other human rights monitors to inspect prisons and detention facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but reports pointed out that the government did not observe these prohibitions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The internal security apparatus includes the Ministries of People’s Security, State Security, and the Military Security Command. Impunity was pervasive. The security forces did not investigate possible security force abuses. The government did not take action to reform the security forces. In February the ROK Ministry of Unification announced that DPRK Minister of State Security Kim Won Hong was removed from his position after reports of human rights abuses in his ministry, but it remained unclear whether his dismissal was for that reason or merely part of a reorganization of leadership. These organizations all played a role in the surveillance of citizens, maintaining arresting power, and conducting special purpose nonmilitary investigations. A systematic and intentional overlap of powers and responsibilities existed between these organizations. Kim Jong Un continued to enforce this overlap to prevent any potential subordinate consolidation of power and assure that each unit provides a check and balance on the other.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Revisions to the criminal code and the criminal procedure code in 2004, 2005, and 2009 added shortened periods of detention during prosecution and trial, arrest by warrant, and prohibition of collecting evidence by forced confessions. Confirmation that the state applied these changes has not been verified.

Members of the security forces arrested and reportedly transported citizens suspected of committing political crimes to prison camps without trial. According to a South Korean NGO, beginning in 2008, the Ministry of People’s Security received authorization to handle criminal cases directly without the approval of prosecutors. Prosecutorial corruption reportedly necessitated the change. An NGO reported that investigators could detain an individual for the purpose of investigation for up to two months. No functioning bail system or other alternatives for considering release pending trial exists.

There were no restrictions on the government’s ability to detain and imprison persons at will or to hold them incommunicado. Family members and other concerned persons reportedly found it virtually impossible to obtain information on charges against detained persons or the lengths of their sentences. Judicial review or appeals of detentions did not exist in law or practice. According to an opinion adopted in 2015 by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, family members have no recourse to petition for the release of detainees accused of political crimes, as the state may deem any such advocacy for political prisoners an act of treason against the state. No known information on a bail system and no information on detainees receiving a lawyer was available.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrests reportedly occurred.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: According to defectors there was no mechanism for persons to challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution states courts are independent and that courts will carry out judicial proceedings in strict accordance with the law; however, an independent judiciary does not exist. According to the 2017 KINU white paper, there were many reports of bribery and corruption in the investigations or preliminary examination process and in detention facilities, as well as by judges and prosecutors in the trial stage.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Little information was available on formal criminal justice procedures and practices, and outside access to the legal system was limited to trials for traffic violations and other minor offenses.

The constitution contains elaborate procedural protections, providing that cases should be public, except under circumstances stipulated by law. The constitution also states that the accused has the right to a defense, and when the government held trials, they reportedly assigned lawyers. Some reports noted a distinction between those accused of political, as opposed to nonpolitical, crimes and claimed that the government offered trials and lawyers only to the latter. The Ministry of State Security (MSS) conducted “pretrials” or preliminary examinations in all political cases, but the court system conducted the trial. Some defectors testified that the MSS also conducted trials. There was no indication that independent, nongovernmental defense lawyers existed. According to the 2013 Hidden Gulag report, most inmates were sent to prison camps without trial, without knowing the charges against them and without having legal counsel. There were no indications authorities respected the presumption of innocence. According to the UN COI report, “the vast majority of inmates are victims of arbitrary detention, since they are imprisoned without trial or on the basis of a trial that fails to respect the due process and fair trial guarantees set out in international law.”

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

While the total number of political prisoners and detainees remained unknown, the 2017 KINU white paper reported the state detained between 80,000 and 120,000 in the kwanliso. Guards held political prisoners separately from other detainees. NGOs and media reported political prisoners were subject to harsher punishments and fewer protections than other prisoners and detainees. The government considered critics of the regime to be political criminals. The government did not permit access to persons by international humanitarian organizations or religious organizations resident in China. Reports from past years described political offenses as including attempting to defect to South Korea, sitting on newspapers bearing Kim Il Sung’s or Kim Jong Il’s picture, mentioning Kim Il Sung’s limited formal education, or defacing photographs of the Kims. The UN COI report noted that many “ordinary” prisoners are, in fact, political prisoners, “detained without a substantive reason compatible with international law.”

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

According to the constitution, “citizens are entitled to submit complaints and petitions. The state shall fairly investigate and deal with complaints and petitions as fixed by law.” Under the Law on Complaint and Petition, citizens are entitled to submit complaints to stop encroachment upon their rights and interests or seek compensation for the encroached rights and interests. Reports noted government officials did not respect these rights. Individuals and organizations do not have the ability to appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

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

The constitution provides for the inviolability of person and residence and the privacy of correspondence; however, the government did not respect these provisions. The regime subjected its citizens to rigid controls. The regime reportedly relied upon a massive, multilevel system of informants to identify those it sees as critics. Authorities sometimes subjected entire communities to security checks, entering homes without judicial authorization.

The government appeared to monitor correspondence, telephone conversations, emails, text messages, and other digital communications. Private telephone lines operated on a system that precluded making or receiving international calls; international telephone lines were available only under restricted circumstances.

A 2015 survey conducted by InterMedia found that 28 percent of respondents (recent defectors and North Korean businesspersons in China) had owned a domestic cell phone in North Korea. Citizens must go through a lengthy bureaucratic process to obtain a mobile phone legally, and authorities strictly monitored mobile phone use. Additionally, 14 percent of defectors reported owning a Chinese mobile phone. DPRK authorities frequently jammed cellular phone signals along the China-DPRK border to block the use of the Chinese cell network to make international phone calls. The Ministry of State Security reportedly engaged in real-time surveillance of mobile phone communications. Authorities arrested those caught using such cell phones with Chinese SIM cards and required violators to pay a fine or face charges of espionage or other crimes with harsh punishments, including lengthy prison terms. Testimonies recorded by NGOs indicated prisoners could avoid punishment through bribery of DPRK officials.

The government divided citizens into strict loyalty-based classes known as “songbun,” which determined access to employment, higher education, place of residence, medical facilities, certain stores, marriage prospects, and food rations.

Numerous reports noted authorities practiced collective punishment. The state imprisoned entire families, including children, when one member of the family was accused of a crime. Collective punishment reportedly can extend to three generations.

NGOs reported the eviction of families from their places of residence without due process.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Federated States of Micronesia

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: Authorities usually held pretrial detainees in the same facilities but in separate areas from convicted prisoners. Due to a lack of medical facilities or community-based support services for treating persons with mental disabilities, the government used separate jail cells to house persons with mental disabilities who had no criminal background.

There are no separate juvenile detention facilities, but two of the four states have designated cells for juveniles. The states seldom incarcerated juvenile offenders.

Administration: There was no prison ombudsperson to respond to complaints. Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions, but they rarely investigated such allegations.

Independent Monitoring: The government has the obligation to investigate and monitor prison and detention center conditions, but no information was available publicly on whether it did so. The government permits visits by independent human rights observers, but there was no information publicly available on whether independent monitoring occurred.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police are responsible for enforcing national laws, and the Department of Justice (Attorney General’s Office) oversees them. The four state police forces are responsible for law enforcement in their respective states and are under the control of the director of public safety for each state. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over national and state police forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving security forces during the year in Pohnpei, Yap, or Kosrae. The trial for a Chuuk security force member on charges of protecting clan members accused of assaulting a foreign resident remained pending at the end of the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Warrants are required for arrests, and authorities advised detainees promptly of the charges against them. Authorities must bring detainees before a judge for a hearing within 24 hours of arrest, a requirement generally observed. Courts released most arrested persons on bail or after they relinquished their passports. Detainees generally had prompt access to family members and lawyers. Not all detainees who requested help from the public defender’s office received adequate legal assistance due to an insufficient number of trained lawyers. Authorities held no suspects incommunicado.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Authorities allowed closed hearings for cases involving juveniles. Judges conduct trials and render verdicts. Defendants are presumed innocent, and they cannot be forced to testify or confess guilt. They have the right to counsel and to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. They also have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges; receive free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals; present witnesses and evidence; confront witnesses against them; and appeal. The law extends these rights to all persons. In some cases, however, state governments attempted to deport foreign workers who were victims of a crime before their cases came to trial.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations. The Supreme Court is responsible for hearing lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights abuses.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Germany

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, but there were a few reports that government officials employed them. According to Amnesty International, authorities did not effectively investigate allegations of mistreatment by police and failed to establish an independent complaints mechanism to investigate allegations. The June report of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) on its visit in 2015 stated that detained persons, particularly foreign nationals and persons suffering from a mental disorder, reported excessive use of force by police during arrest, such as punches or kicks after the person concerned had been brought under control or unduly tight handcuffing.

The CPT reported allegations at the Brandenburg Forensic Psychiatric Clinic that some vulnerable patients were repeatedly subjected to sexual harassment and exploitation. Some patients who had committed sexual offenses and who had been or were receiving antiandrogen treatment (so-called chemical castration) claimed the treating doctor had pressured them to accept the treatment and that they had been advised that otherwise they would have no realistic prospect of being released in the foreseeable future.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards.

Physical Conditions: The CPT found that mattresses were not provided to persons held in overnight custody at Donauwoerth police station in Bavaria and in the sobering-up cells in the Berlin South-West police station and the Magdeburg (Saxony-Anhalt) police headquarters. The CPT report also stated that particularly in the Kaisheim (Bavaria) and Tonna (Thuringia) prisons the administration repeatedly delayed transferring prisoners suffering from severe mental disorders to a hospital setting (either a prison hospital or a psychiatric clinic). The CPT also observed differences among prisons regarding opiate substitution treatment for drug-addicted prisoners. While the Celle (Lower Saxony) and Tonna prisons offered such treatment, it was as a matter of policy usually not offered to prisoners at Kaisheim prison, despite the fact it was generally available in the outside community.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. A delegation from the CPT visited the country in 2015.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Responsibility for internal and border security is shared by the police forces of the 16 states, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), and the federal police. The states’ police forces report to their respective interior ministries; the federal police forces report to the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (FOPC) and the state offices for the protection of the constitution (OPCs) are responsible for gathering intelligence on threats to domestic order and certain other security functions. Like the police, the OPCs report to their respective state ministries of the interior and the FOPC to the Federal Ministry of the Interior. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police and the OPCs, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving security forces during the year. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Amnesty International Germany stated there is no nationwide requirement for police to wear identity badges. Police are required to wear badges in the states of Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia, as are riot police in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, Bremen, and Schleswig-Holstein.

Following attacks against police and reports of police violence during the G20 summit in Hamburg on July 7-8, some persons complained about police actions. As of August citizens filed 16 criminal cases against the police, and the Hamburg Police Internal Affairs Department investigated an additional 56 cases. The Hamburg interior senator (interior minister) officially apologized and stated he was convinced of “reproachable behavior by officers that could face legal penalties.”

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Authorities may arrest an individual only with a warrant issued by a competent judicial authority unless police apprehend a suspect in the act of committing a crime or have strong reason to believe that the individual intends to commit a crime. The constitution provides that authorities must produce an apprehended person before a judge no later than the day after the suspect was taken into custody. At that time the judge must inform the suspect of the reasons for the detention and provide the suspect an opportunity to object. The court must then either issue an arrest warrant stating the grounds for detention or order the individual’s release. Authorities generally respected these rights.

Bail exists, but authorities granted it infrequently. Judges usually released individuals awaiting trial without requiring bail, except in cases where a court decided there was a clear risk that the individual might flee. In such cases authorities may hold detainees for the duration of the investigation and subsequent trial, subject to judicial review. Time spent in investigative custody applies toward any eventual sentence. If a court acquits an incarcerated defendant, the government must compensate the defendant for financial losses as well as for “moral prejudice” due to the incarceration.

The law entitles a detainee to prompt access to an attorney at any time, including prior to any police questioning. According to the law, before interrogations begin, authorities must inform suspects, arrested or not, of their right to consult an attorney. The CPT reported detained persons were not entitled to have a lawyer present during police questioning (as opposed to any questioning by a public prosecutor or a judge).

During the G20 Summit in Hamburg in July, police took a busload of 44 young Green party members, young members of the Social Democratic Party’s youth organization, and labor union activists to a G20 detention facility, where they allegedly strip-searched underage passengers. The organizations filed a legal complaint.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: A detainee has the right to appeal his or her detention at any point of the legal process, including pretrial detention. The regional court of appeals decides whether to grant the appeal. It must hear the detainee and other persons involved unless it is firmly convinced that this will lead to no new findings. If the court of appeals holds that detention is to be continued, the detainee has a further right to appeal to the Federal Court of Justice.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

The law does not allow courts to punish a person twice for the same crime. A court may, however, order an offender convicted of rape, homicide, or manslaughter to spend additional time in “subsequent preventive detention” after completing a sentence, if it determines that the offender suffers from a mental disorder or represents a continuing serious danger to the public. The law permits the imposition of such detention for an indefinite period, subject to periodic reviews.

Because the law does not regard such detention as punishment, authorities are legally required to keep subsequent “prevention” detainees in separate buildings or in special prison sections with better conditions than those of the general prison population. Authorities must also provide a range of social and psychological therapy programs. According to the Federal Statistics Office, 50 offenders, including one woman, were held under preventive detention as of the end of March.

In July the parliament of the state of Bavaria passed a law extending preventive detention from two weeks to three months for “Gefaehrder,” individuals formally designated by law enforcement agencies as posing a threat of serious, politically motivated crimes. The legislation also allows unlimited preventive detention subject to review by a judge every three months. First discussed as part of an “antiterror” law the Bavarian parliament passed in February, critics argued this law violates the constitution. Bavaria maintained that the constitution does not require states to set maximum limits on preventive custody.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them. The trial shall be fair, public, and held without undue delay. The law requires that defendants be present at their trials. Defendants have the right to consult with an attorney, and the government provides an attorney at public expense if defendants demonstrate financial need. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and an interpreter free of charge if the defendant wins the case or if he/she has no means to pay for an interpreter. They have access to all court-held evidence relevant to their cases. Defendants may confront and question adverse witnesses, and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have a right of appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens may file complaints about violations of their human rights with petition committees and commissioners for citizens’ affairs. Citizens usually referred to these points of contact as “ombudsmen.” In addition, an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters provides court access for lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. Persons who exhaust domestic legal remedies may appeal cases involving alleged government violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government has laws and mechanisms in place, and NGOs and advocacy groups reported it made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. Since the end of World War II through 2016, according to the Federal Ministry of Finance, the government paid approximately 74.5 billion euros ($89.4 billion) in Holocaust restitution and compensation. The country has also supported numerous public and private international reparation and social welfare initiatives to benefit Holocaust survivors and their families.

After World War II, the government adopted legislation, including the Federal Compensation Law (BEG) and the Federal Restitution Law, to resolve compensation claims stemming from Nazi atrocities and Holocaust-era property confiscation. In 1952 the government designated the U.S.-based Conference on Jewish Claims against Germany (also known as the Jewish Claims Conference or JCC) as its principal partner in handling restitution and compensation claims made by Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.

Before German reunification in 1990, in accordance with the Federal Restitution Law, West German authorities provided property restitution and compensation payments for real estate properties and businesses that were confiscated or disrupted by the Nazis. For confiscated Jewish property that was in the former East Germany, the JCC filed further claims under the 1990 Property Law adopted after reunification. Since 1990 authorities have approved and granted restitution in 4,500 cases and provided compensation in approximately 12,000 cases. The JCC assumed and auctioned off heirless properties and used the proceeds to fund the organization’s other efforts to support Holocaust survivors. There are only a few real estate property claims pending at the Federal Office for Central Services and Unsettled Property Issues (BADV).

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

The federal and state OPCs continued to monitor political groupings deemed potentially hostile to the constitution, including the Left Party and the right-wing extremist National Democratic Party (NPD). Authorities stated they employed monitoring as a last resort but only with approval of state or federal interior ministries and review by state or federal parliamentary intelligence committees. Authorities indicated they monitored the Left Party, which had seats in the Bundestag, because of their perception that it tolerated left-extremist groups within its ranks.

All OPC activities may be contested in court, including ultimately in the Federal Constitutional Court. Following a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling, the government indicated that the FOPC would no longer observe Bundestag members.

In February the magazine Der Spiegel reported that from 1999 the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) monitored at least 50 telephone and fax numbers or email addresses of journalists or newsrooms worldwide.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Grenada

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them, with the exception of flogging, a common form of punishment for petty crimes such as theft and traffic offenses.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards. Overcrowding was a serious problem.

Physical Conditions: In July there were 446 prisoners in the country’s sole penitentiary, which was designed for 198 persons. The Grenada Human Rights Organization (GHRO) claimed the prison often held up to six to eight prisoners per cell, exceeding the UN recommendation of no more than three per cell. In the male block, potable water normally was available in prison hallways but not in the cells.

There were two juveniles in the adult prison: one boy and one girl. Because of the severity of their crimes, the juveniles remained at the adult facility despite the existence of a new juvenile rehabilitation center opened in March 2016.

Administration: Prisoners may raise complaints directly with prison authorities, through their lawyers, or through the government’s prison visiting committee. While there was no specific prison ombudsman, prisoners relied on the prison welfare officer, a senior prison official, to process complaints and make contact with outside institutions.

Independent Monitoring: The prison visiting committee monitors prison conditions through monthly visits, and GHRO representatives visited the prison in May.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF), led by the police commissioner, maintains internal security. The country does not have a military force. The RGPF encompasses the coast guard, a special service unit, a firefighting unit, immigration and border control, and other specialized units. The RGPF is supplemented by 193 rural constables. The police force reports to the minister for national security, a portfolio held by the prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the RGPF, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution and law permit police to detain persons on suspicion without a warrant, but they must bring formal charges within 48 hours. Authorities generally respected this limit. Authorities granted detainees access to a lawyer of their choice and family members within 24 hours. The law provides for a judicial determination of the legality of detention within 15 days after arrest. Police must formally arraign or release a detained person within 60 days, and the authorities generally followed these procedures. There was a functioning system of bail, although persons charged with capital offenses are not eligible. Only upon recommendation from the governor general may a judge set bail for detainees charged with treason.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

There is a presumption of innocence, and the law protects persons against self-incrimination and requires the police to explain a person’s rights upon arrest. The accused has the right to remain silent and to seek the advice of legal counsel. The law allows a defense lawyer to be present during interrogation and to advise the accused on how to respond to questions. Defendants and their counsel generally had adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense as well as free assistance of an interpreter. Defendants have the right to a trial without undue delay, although case backlogs meant periods of several months to a year before many cases went to trial. Defendants have the right to confront their accusers, present evidence, call witnesses, and appeal. Trials are open to the public unless the charges are sexual in nature or a minor is involved.

The court appoints attorneys for indigents in cases of murder or other capital crimes. In criminal cases that reach the appellate stage, the court appoints a lawyer if the defendant is unable to afford counsel. According to the GHRO, many defendants did not have access to legal counsel, and the government lacked adequate legal aid resources to serve demand. With the exception of foreign-born drug crime suspects or persons charged with murder, the courts granted most defendants bail while awaiting trial.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary for civil matters including human rights violations. The civil court system encompasses a number of seats around the country at which magistrates preside over cases. All High Court decisions, including human rights decisions, may be appealed to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, in 2016 an estimated 55 percent of the population had internet access.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

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

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has no established formal channels for providing protection to refugees or asylum seekers. There were no reports of refugees attempting to enter the country in 2016.

Guatemala

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. As of August 31, the National Civil Police (PNC) and its Office of Professional Responsibility (ORP), the mechanism for investigating security force abuses, reported no complaints of homicide.

On August 16, Mara Salvatrucha criminal gang members entered one of the largest public hospitals and killed five civilian bystanders and two prison guards. The assailants freed a fellow gang member who was being treated at the hospital. The PNC arrested five suspects and the Public Ministry linked four to the case, which was under investigation at year’s end.

The case regarding the 2015 killing of Hector Donaldo Contreras Sanchez was in the intermediary pretrial phase at year’s end. In 2016 authorities arrested 13 members of the San Juan Sacatepequez military brigade for the alleged extrajudicial killing.

In January 2016 the Public Ministry arrested 14 high-ranking former military officers on charges of human rights violations for hundreds of extrajudicial killings during the 1960-96 internal armed conflict. The charges were based on the discovery of mass graves in Coban, Alta Verapa, at the Regional Training Command for Peacekeeping Operations (CREOMPAZ), formerly the Military Zone 2 base during the conflict. Known as the CREOMPAZ case, it was assigned to a special high-risk court created in 2009 with competence to hear cases that posed a serious risk to the security of judges, the prosecutor, the defense, or any other individual involved in the case. In 2016 the court found sufficient evidence to send eight individuals to trial, but the Public Ministry appealed the exclusion of a number of charges in the proceedings. At year’s end the trial was pending resolution of the various appeals by the Public Ministry, joint complainants in the case, and defense lawyers. In March the Supreme Court ruled to remove the immunity of Congressman Edgar Ovalle, one of the suspects in the case. Ovalle disappeared before authorities were able to arrest him and remained a fugitive at year’s end.

On October 13, two separate trials began against former head of state Efrain Rios Montt and former intelligence chief Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez in the case of genocide involving the Maya Ixil community. In 2013 Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity during his presidency (1982-83) and sentenced to 80 years in prison. The Constitutional Court later overturned the conviction on procedural grounds and returned the case to be retried. In 2015 a high-risk court determined Rios Montt was mentally unfit for public trial but ordered the trial be held behind closed doors and with a guardian present. It also ruled any verdict could be used only to determine reparations to the victims and that Rios Montt could not be sentenced to prison. In May the Center for Human Rights Legal Action filed a complaint against former constitutional court magistrates for breach of legal duty after obtaining videos of their deliberations during the decision to annul Rios Montt’s genocide sentence. At year’s end the Public Ministry had not moved the case forward for an initial hearing.

In 2016 a high-risk court dismissed a motion in the 1982 Dos Erres massacre case by the defense team to suspend criminal prosecution for genocide and crimes against humanity. The defense argued that Rios Montt was mentally unfit to stand trial. The case remained in the intermediary pretrial phase, and a date for the next hearing had not been set by year’s end.

As of August the government had paid approximately 23.9 million quetzales ($3.26 million) in individual reparations to families affected by the Chixoy hydroelectric dam. The government also appropriated 121.3 million quetzales ($16.5 million) for collective reparations, which government authorities believed could be delayed until early 2018 due to the fact the proposed community projects were undergoing feasibility studies. During the dam’s construction from 1975 to 1985, more than 400 individuals died and thousands were displaced. As part of a 2014 reparations agreement, the government agreed to pay 1.15 billion quetzales ($156 million) over 15 years in individual and community reparations.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports during the year of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. The government took actions to investigate and prosecute cases of forced disappearances from the internal armed conflict period. In 2016, four high-ranking retired army officers were arrested for the 1981 forced disappearance of minor Marco Antonio Molina Theissen. The Attorney General’s Office presented additional charges against retired army general Benedicto Lucas Garcia, who was also charged in the CREOMPAZ mass graves case. In July the final phase of the preliminary hearings concluded. The trial date for the case was set for March 2018.

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, there were credible reports of abuse and other mistreatment by PNC members.

On September 18, trial proceedings began for PNC agents Carlos Baten Perez, Rogelio Perez Hernandez, Nancy Evelia Rodriguez Alai, and Cesar Augusto Funes Morales for the torture and illegal detention of four suspects in 2015 in the Villa Nueva suburb of Guatemala City.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening, with multiple instances of inmates killing other inmates. Sexual assault, inadequate sanitation and medical care, and gross overcrowding placed prisoners at significant risk.

Physical Conditions: Prison overcrowding was a problem. As of August 25, according to the prison system registry, there were 22,660 inmates, including 2,240 women, held in facilities designed to hold 6,800 persons. Physical conditions including sanitation and bathing facilities, dental and medical care, ventilation, temperature control, and lighting were wholly inadequate. Prisoners had difficulty obtaining potable water, complained of inadequate food, and often had to pay for additional sustenance. Illegal drug sales and use was widespread. Prison officials reported safety and control problems, including escape attempts, gang fights, inability to control the flow of contraband goods into prisons, and the fabrication of weapons. Prisoners conducted criminal activity both inside and outside of prisons. From January through August 25, at least 13 inmates died of unnatural causes while in prison.

Media reported that transnational criminal gangs and drug trafficking groups controlled major prison centers. In 2016 prisoner Byron Lima Oliva, a former army captain charged with the murder of human rights defender Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi, was killed along with 13 others in the Pavon prison. On August 2, the PNC arrested six suspects. On November 23, a judge indicted 17 individuals arrested in the case. At year’s end the Public Ministry, with CICIG support, moved the case forward to preliminary hearings.

Conditions for male and female prisoners were generally comparable throughout the country. Media and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported female and juvenile inmates faced continuing physical and sexual abuse. Female inmates reported unnecessary body searches and verbal abuse by prison guards. Children under age four could live in prison with their mothers, although the penitentiary system provided inadequate food for young children and many suffered from illness. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights groups stated that other prisoners often sexually assaulted LGBTI individuals and that there were insufficient facilities to protect LGBTI individuals in custody. The Ministry of Government approved initial admittance procedures for LGBTI prisoners in 2015. NGOs claimed, however, the protocols were not being implemented and noted particular concern regarding admittance procedures for transgender individuals. Frequent leadership turnover in the prison system exacerbated these problems. Occasionally authorities held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners, juveniles with adults, and male with female detainees.

Media reported similar conditions of abuse and overcrowding at the four juvenile detention centers administered separately by the Secretariat of Social Welfare. Crowding led to nonviolent juvenile offenders being held with violent adult offenders. On July 3 and July 24, riots occurred at the Las Gaviotas juvenile detention facility, resulting in injuries to dozens of prisoners. The riots were sparked by the killing of two inmates. The facility received citations in 2016 for housing 460 inmates in a facility designed for 250 and for dangerous and inhuman conditions.

Administration: The government’s Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) and the National Office for the Prevention of Torture (NOPT), both independent entities, are responsible for prisoner rights, receiving complaints, and conducting oversight of the prison system. The PDH and NOPT may submit recommendations to the prison system based on complaints. No independent agency or unit, however, has a mandate to change or implement policy or to act on behalf of prisoners and detainees. Congress delayed the election of NOPT rapporteurs by more than six months, while the PDH and civil society reported former rapporteurs were inactive and ineffective in their oversight mandate.

While the law requires authorities to permit prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions, authorities failed to investigate most allegations of inhuman conditions and treatment or to document the results of such investigations in a publicly accessible manner.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by local and international human rights groups, the Organization of American States, public defenders, and religious groups. The PDH and the NOPT also periodically visited prison facilities. The PDH reported it was sometimes difficult to gain access to the juvenile detention centers administered by the Secretariat of Social Welfare.

Improvements: During the year authorities implemented a correctional model to address corruption and overcrowding as well as the lack of personnel, equipment, and infrastructure in the penitentiary system. The model provided opportunities for the rehabilitation, education, and social reintegration of inmates and improved recruitment, selection, and training of staff. In March the first model correction center opened; it housed 63 female inmates by year’s end.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but there were credible reports of extrajudicial arrests, illegal detentions, and denial of timely access to a magistrate and hearing as required by law. Suspects are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention. If successful, their release usually took several days. There was no compensation for those ruled unlawfully detained.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The PNC, which is overseen by the Ministry of Government and headed by a director general appointed by the ministry, is responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order in the country. The Ministry of National Defense oversees the military, which focuses primarily on operations in defense of the country, but the government also used the army in internal security and policing as permitted by the constitution.

Civilian authorities in some instances failed to maintain effective control over the PNC, and the government lacked effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. At times the PNC struggled to deploy its resources effectively across the country.

There were reports of impunity involving security forces. In cases involving police forces, the ORP is responsible for internal investigations and the Public Ministry is responsible for external investigations. Authorities arrested approximately 210 police officials from January through September, compared with 376 in all of 2016. A police reform commission, established by a previous administration, has a legal mandate to make necessary changes to reform police forces. The commission’s infrastructure unit provided design support for the establishment of model police precincts throughout the country.

The ORP reported that from January through August, there were 17 complaints of police extortion and 290 for abuse of authority, compared with 747 and 206, respectively, in all of 2016, according to the Public Ministry’s Strategic Planning Office. The PNC routinely transferred officers suspected of wrongdoing rather than investigating them.

Critics accused police of indiscriminate and illegal detentions when conducting antigang operations in some high-crime neighborhoods. For example, security officials allegedly arrested and imprisoned suspected gang members without warrants or on fabricated drug charges. The local press also reported police involvement in kidnappings for ransom.

In September, Guilber Josue Barrios, a soldier who allegedly drugged and raped a 14-year-old student at a civil military institute administered by the Ministry of Defense in March 2016, was captured in Mexico. On October 9, he was indicted.

The ORP conducted internal investigations of misconduct by police officers. During the first eight months of the year, the ORP reported receiving 1,222 complaints alleging misconduct by police.

All new PNC and soldiers receive some training in human rights and professional ethics. During the year the Ministry of Defense increased its Human Rights Directorate personnel from eight to 13 staff members and incorporated a gender integration unit.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires presentation of a court-issued warrant to a suspect prior to arrest unless police apprehend a suspect while in the act of committing a crime. Police may not detain a suspect for more than six hours without bringing the case before a judge. Authorities did not regularly respect this right and did not promptly inform some detainees of the charges against them. After arraigning suspects, the prosecutor generally has three months to complete the investigation if the defendant is in pre-trial detentions, and six months to complete the investigation if the defendant is granted house arrest. The law prohibits the execution of search warrants between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless the government has declared a state of siege. Judges may order house arrest for some suspects. The law provides for access to lawyers and bail for most crimes. The government provides legal representation for indigent detainees, and detainees have access to family members. A judge has the discretion to determine whether bail is permissible for pretrial detainees.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were no reliable data on the number of arbitrary detentions. Most accounts, however, indicated that police ignored writs of habeas corpus in cases of illegal detention, particularly during neighborhood antigang operations.

Pretrial Detention: As of August 25, prison system records indicated 50.6 percent of prisoners were in pretrial detention. The law establishes a one-year maximum for pretrial detention, regardless of the stage of the criminal proceeding, but the court has the legal authority to extend pre-trial detention without limits as necessary. Authorities regularly held detainees past their legal trial or release dates. Lengthy investigations and frequent procedural motions by both defense and prosecution often led to lengthy pretrial detentions, delaying trials for months or years. Authorities did not release some prisoners after completing their full sentences due to the failure of judges to issue the necessary court order or other bureaucratic delays.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and the law provide for an independent judiciary. The judicial system failed to provide fair or timely trials due to inefficiency, corruption, insufficient personnel, and intimidation of judges, prosecutors, and witnesses.

Judges, prosecutors, plaintiffs, and witnesses continued to report threats, intimidation, and surveillance, most often from drug trafficking organizations. By the end of August, the special prosecutor for crimes against judicial workers received 129 complaints of threats or aggression against workers in the judicial branch, compared with 192 through September 2016.

The CICIG assisted the Ministry of Government and Public Ministry with the investigation of cases including allegations of extrajudicial executions, extortion, trafficking in persons, improper adoptions, corruption, and drug trafficking.

The Supreme Court continued to pursue the suspension of judges and conduct criminal investigations of improprieties or irregularities in cases under its jurisdiction. From January through October 6, the Judicial Disciplinary Board investigated 573 complaints against judges of wrongdoing, held hearings on 105 complaints, and applied sanctions in 20 cases. During the same period, the Judicial Disciplinary Unit investigated 1,167 complaints of wrongdoing against technicians and judiciary administrative staff, held hearings on 519 complaints, and applied sanctions in 360 cases, including disciplinary suspension without pay (277 cases) and recommending dismissal (34 cases).

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, the presumption of innocence, the defendant’s right to be present at trial, and the right to legal counsel in a timely manner. The law requires the government to provide attorneys for defendants facing criminal charges if the defendant cannot find or afford an attorney. Defendants and their attorneys may confront adverse witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. The law provides for plea bargaining and the right of appeal. Three-judge panels render verdicts. The law provides for oral trials and mandates free language interpretation for those needing it; however, interpreters were not always available. Officials conduct trials in Spanish, the official language, although many citizens only speak one of the 23 officially recognized indigenous languages.

The Public Ministry, acting semi-independently of the executive branch, may initiate criminal proceedings on its own or in response to a complaint. Private parties may participate in the prosecution of criminal cases as plaintiffs.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations have access to administrative and judicial remedies to submit lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation or other alleged wrongs. While the judiciary was generally impartial and independent in civil matters, it suffered from inefficiencies, excessive workload, and a legal system that often permits time-consuming but spurious complaints.

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

The constitution and the law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. In September 2016 President Jimmy Morales dismissed Jorge Lopez, the secretary of administrative and security matters of the president, and his deputy, Cesar Sagastume, for alleged illegal surveillance. At year’s end the case was under investigation by the Public Ministry. Media sources reported that former presidential advisor and member of congress Herbert Melgar’s name also appeared in the criminal complaint filed with the Public Ministry. Melgar was not charged, however, and continued to serve in congress.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including of the press, and the government generally respected these rights. The intimidation of journalists resulted in significant self-censorship, however.

Press and Media Freedom: There were no legal restrictions on the editorial independence of the media. Reporters covering organized crime, including its links to corrupt public officials, acknowledged practicing self-censorship, recognizing the danger investigative journalism posed to them and their families. Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views.

Violence and Harassment: Members of the press continued to report violence and impunity impaired the practice of free and open journalism. Members of the press reported numerous threats by public officials, and criminal organizations increased journalists’ sense of vulnerability.

According to the Public Ministry, 40 complaints were filed for attacks or threats against journalists, and three journalists were killed from January through the middle of September, compared with 87 complaints and eight killings in all of 2016.

The investigation remained open at year’s end regarding the 2016 killing of radio journalist Alvaro Alfredo Aceituno Lopez.

On November 7, the Supreme Court lifted the parliamentary immunity of congressman Julio Antonio Juarez Ramirez based on allegations from the Public Ministry and CICIG that he ordered the killing of journalist Danilo Efrain Zapon Lopez in 2015 in Mazatenango, Suchitepequez. Journalist Federico Benjamin Salazar Geronimo was also killed in the attack and reporter Marvin Tunches was injured. On October 12, Sergio Waldemar Cardona Reyes and German Morataya were convicted and sentenced to 30 and two years in prison, respectively, for their involvement in the Lopez killing.

The Public Ministry employed a unit dedicated to the investigation of threats and attacks against journalists. The NGO Center for Reporting in Guatemala noted that the unit had few resources.

Civil society organizations reported that sexual harassment of female journalists was widespread but rarely reported.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Members of the press reported receiving pressure, threats, and retribution from various public officials regarding the content of their reporting. Some owners and members of media also accused the government of following a discriminatory advertising policy that penalized or rewarded print and broadcast media based on whether the government perceived the news or commentary as supportive or critical.

The online newsmagazine Nomada reported threats against individual reporters and magazine leadership. Editors used armored vehicles due to fear of attack. After reporting on undisclosed bonuses given by the Ministry of Defense to President Morales, Nomada’s website was targeted in a denial-of-service attack for several days. Nomada published the story on its Facebook account until service was restored. Nomada had experienced similar attacks previously.

Nongovernmental Impact: Organized crime exerted influence over media outlets and reporters, frequently threatening individuals for reporting on criminal activities.

INTERNET FREEDOM

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

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 35 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. An immigration law passed in September 2016 overhauled the country’s migration system and defined the term “refugee” as well as listing refugees’ rights in accordance with international instruments. The preparation of regulations to implement the law, including on the refugee application process and refugee rights, was underway at year’s end.

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

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

The country does not have laws in place to protect internally displaced persons in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. UNHCR expressed concern regarding violence against IDPs and strengthened its efforts to monitor the problem and provide assistance to the displaced. The country does not officially recognize the existence of IDPs within its borders, with the exception of those displaced by climate change. In June the government evicted an estimated 400 farmers for illegally settling within the Maya Biosphere Reserve. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) characterized the evictees as IDPs. Media and civil society reported that the evictees did not receive government assistance in a timely manner.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The country approved 39 refugee applications from January through September. The number of asylum applications from El Salvador increased between 2016 and 2017. UNHCR, however, reported that identification and referral mechanisms for potential asylum seekers were inadequate. Both migration and police authorities lacked awareness of the rules for establishing refugee status.

UNHCR reported that access to education for refugees was challenging due to the country’s sometimes onerous requirements for access to formal education, including documentation from the country of origin.

Guyana

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.

In July police shot and killed Charles Peters, a mentally ill man. Police alleged that Peters was acting in a suspicious manner and that he was killed as he reportedly attempted to escape custody. Police officials stated the incident would be investigated.

In the case of the killing of Winston Hinds by police in August 2016, police officials claimed the measure was warranted within the circumstances, and no further action was taken.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The law prohibits such practices. There were allegations, nonetheless, that prison officials mistreated inmates as well as claims that police abused suspects and detainees.

In March Winston Carlos Haynes, a former soldier of the Guyana Defense Force, was accused of raping a minor. Haynes was fired and prosecuted in a civilian court for the offense. His case was pending as of October.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and jail conditions, particularly in police holding cells, were reportedly harsh and potentially life threatening due to gross overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

Physical Conditions: In September the Guyana Prison Service reported there were 2,004 prisoners in five facilities with a combined design capacity of 1,179. As of July a total of 1,018 prisoners were in Georgetown’s Camp Street Prison, designed to hold 550 inmates. Overcrowding was in large part due to a backlog of pretrial detainees, who constituted approximately 30 percent of the total prison population. In July inmates at the Camp Street Prison were moved to Lusignan Prison after they rioted and started multiple fires that destroyed the prison. Prisoners reported unsanitary conditions and a lack of potable water. Prisoners also complained of lengthy confinement in their cells with limited opportunities for sunlight.

Officials held offenders 16 years of age and older with the adult prison population, but in most cases younger offenders were held in a juvenile correctional center that offered primary education, vocational training, and basic medical care.

Administration: Prisoners often circumvented procedures for submitting complaints of inhuman conditions or mistreatment by passing letters addressed to government officials through family members. Authorities investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions, and committees prepared monthly reports on their visits.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted outside groups to monitor prison conditions independently, but authorities stated there were no requests to make such visits during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The police commissioner heads the Guyana Police Force, which reports to the Ministry of Public Security and is responsible for maintaining internal security. The Guyana Defense Force is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. The defense force, headed by a chief of staff, falls under the purview of the Defense Board, which the president of the country chairs.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police and military, and the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

An arrest requires a warrant issued by a court official unless an officer who witnesses a crime believes there is good cause to suspect a crime or a breach of the peace has been or will be committed. The law requires that a person arrested cannot be held for more than 72 hours unless brought before a court to be charged. Authorities generally observed this requirement. Bail was generally available except in cases of capital offenses and narcotics trafficking.

Although the law provides criminal detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice and to family members, authorities occasionally did not fully respect these rights. The state provides legal counsel for indigent persons only when such persons are charged with a capital offense. The Legal Aid Clinic, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), provides legal counsel at a reduced fee in certain circumstances, as determined by the clinic. Police routinely required permission from the senior investigating officer, who was seldom on the premises, before permitting counsel access to a client.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem, due primarily to judicial inefficiency, staff shortages, and cumbersome legal procedures. The average length of pretrial detention was three years for those awaiting trial at a magistrates’ court or in the High Court. This was often beyond the maximum possible sentence for the crime for which they were charged.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Delays and inefficiencies undermined judicial due process. Shortages of trained court personnel, postponements at the request of the defense or prosecution, occasional allegations of bribery, poor tracking of cases, and police sluggishness in preparing cases for trial caused delays.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. Cases in magistrates’ courts are tried without jury, while cases involving more-serious crimes are tried by jury in the High Court. The constitution provides that a person shall be informed in detail of the nature of the offense charged as soon as reasonably practicable. Defendants have the right to a timely trial and free assistance of an interpreter. The constitution also provides for persons charged with a criminal offense to be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of a defense. Authorities routinely granted trial postponements to both the defense and prosecution. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and may confront adverse witnesses, and they may present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right to appeal.

While the law recognizes the right to legal counsel, it was limited to those who could afford to pay, except in cases involving capital crimes. Although there is no formal public defender system, a defendant in a murder case that reaches the High Court receives a court-appointed attorney. The Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic, with government and private support, provided advice to persons who could not afford a lawyer, particularly victims of domestic violence and violence against women.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, and the government generally respected this provision. Individuals can access the court system to initiate lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. The magistrates’ courts deal with both criminal and civil matters. Delays, inefficiencies, and alleged corruption in the magistrates’ court system affected citizens’ ability to seek timely remedies in civil matters, and there was a large backlog of civil cases. Citizens have the right to appeal adverse domestic decisions to the Caribbean Court of Justice.

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

The law generally prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. Independent media were active and at times expressed a wide variety of views without restriction.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: A 2015 directive from the prime minister determines that all headlines in the state-owned print media be approved by the Office of the Prime Minister before publication. In April the minister of communities publicly admonished the editor of the state-owned newspaper for using a report on oil and gas as its lead article. The minister stated a report on a local government event should have been the lead article.

INTERNET FREEDOM

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

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 36 percent of citizens used the internet in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern. There were no known requests for assistance during the year.

In-country Movement: The law requires that local village councils grant permission in advance for travel to indigenous areas, but most individuals traveled in these areas without a permit.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees or asylum seekers and reportedly did not grant status to any person during the year. In the absence of national legislation and requisite government capacity, UNHCR assumed the main responsibility for determination of refugee status.

Iceland

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: Men were held in the Akureyri and Reykjavik prisons with women but in different cellblocks. With their mutual consent, men interacted with women only in common areas monitored by prison staff. The law states the government must accommodate juvenile offenders in establishments managed by the Government Agency for Child Protection unless there are special grounds for accommodating them in prison. Authorities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners.

Although overcrowding was generally not a problem, when it occurred in the prisons, authorities held pretrial detainees in jails in local police stations. As of September 28, there was a waiting list of approximately 595 persons convicted of crimes but unable to serve their sentences in prisons due to a lack of prison space. During the year the sentences of 18 convicted persons expired without their serving their sentences.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring of prison conditions by independent local and international human rights groups, the media, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and international bodies, but no such visits occurred during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police maintain internal security. In addition the Icelandic Coast Guard (ICG) carries out general law-enforcement duties at sea. The national police, the nine regional police forces, and the ICG fall under the purview of the Ministry of Justice.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police and the ICG, 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. In accordance with legislation passed in 2016, on January 1, the minister of justice established an independent supervisory commission for the investigation of allegations of police misconduct.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police may make arrests in a number of circumstances, such as when they believe a prosecutable offense has been committed, when they see a need to prevent further offenses or destruction of evidence, when they need to protect a suspect, or when a person refuses to obey police orders to move. The law explicitly requires warrants only for arresting individuals who fail to appear at court for a hearing or a trial, or at a prison to serve a sentence.

Authorities must promptly inform a person under arrest of his rights and bring him before a judge within 24 hours of arrest, and authorities respected this right. There is no functioning bail system. The judge determines whether a suspect must remain in custody during the investigation. The judge may grant conditional release, subject to assurances that the accused will appear for trial. Upon arrival at the police station, the law entitles detainees to legal counsel, which the government provides for the indigent. There were no reports that authorities held suspects incommunicado or under house arrest.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Arrested or detained persons are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis of their detention. If found to have been unlawfully detained, they may obtain release and compensation. A person may also appeal adverse decisions to the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants are presumed innocent. Authorities must inform them of the charges against them promptly and in detail. Trials took place without undue delay. They are generally public, but judges may close them at the defendant’s request or when minors are involved. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to have access to legal counsel of their own choosing. The government covers attorneys’ fees of defendants unable to pay, but the law requires defendants found guilty to reimburse the government. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, and they can avail themselves of the free assistance of an interpreter if they cannot understand or speak Icelandic. Defendants can confront the prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. At the discretion of the courts, prosecutors may introduce evidence that police obtained illegally. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right to appeal, and the Supreme Court handled appeals expeditiously.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals may seek damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation through domestic courts. They can appeal decisions involving alleged violations by the government of the European Convention on Human Rights to the ECHR. Administrative remedies are also available for alleged wrongs.

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

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

Immigration law allows authorities to conduct house searches without a prior court order when there is a significant risk that delay would jeopardize an investigation of immigration fraud. Immigration law also allows authorities to request DNA tests without court supervision in cases of suspected immigration fraud. As of September 30, no tests were requested.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Ireland

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

In August the UN Committee against Torture published its concluding observations following the country’s periodic hearing under the UN Convention against Torture. The committee recognized the country’s positive steps to improve prison facilities, create the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), create alternatives to prisons, and no longer imprison juveniles. The committee recommended that independent monitoring bodies as well as civil society organizations be allowed to make repeated and unannounced visits to all places of deprivation of liberty, to publish reports, and to have the country act on its recommendations.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The majority of prisons met international standards, but some failed to meet prisoners’ basic hygiene needs.

Physical Conditions: As of October 10, prisons overall had fewer inmates than the official capacity of the system, although five facilities exceeded capacity.

In 2016 there were nine reported deaths in the prison system.

At times authorities held detainees awaiting trial and detained immigrants in the same facilities as convicts. On March 30, the minister for children and youth affairs ended the sentencing of children to prison. Since that date courts commit children up to age 17 to the Children’s Detention Center at Oberstown. As of September 19, no juveniles were in the custody of the Irish Prison Service.

In November 2016 the Office of the Inspector of Prisons, an independent statutory body, released assessments of the prisoner complaints procedures and health care. The office found significant deficiencies related to the operation of the prisoner complaints procedures, notably that there was no external, independent appeal process. One of the key recommendations in the inspectors’ report was that prisoners’ complaints should be subject to review by the Office of the Ombudsman, who would also be able to deal with complaints directly in case of undue delay.

An August report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA–a government-funded agency that monitors the safety and quality of health care) highlighted shortcomings at the Oberstown facility. It found some residents were forced to spend a week or longer isolated from their peers and without access to fresh air. It also noted that fire safety policy was not fully implemented despite being identified by an HIQA inspection in 2015.

In June a security breach at Oberstown resulted in damage to the facility, physical threats to personnel, and the escape of two youths from the facility. Both youths were recovered and returned within one week.

A small number of prisoners in older facilities continued to lack sanitary facilities in their cells and had to use chamber pots in a practice known as “slopping out,” which national and international humanitarian organizations referred to as inhuman treatment. Human rights groups continued to criticize understaffing and poor working conditions at the Central Mental Health Hospital in Dundrum, the country’s only secure mental health facility.

Administration: The inspector of prisons has oversight of the complaints system. Prisoners can submit complaints about their treatment to the prison service. IHREC’s Human Rights Committee expressed concern in September in their Submission to UN Human Rights Committee that complaint procedures did not provide for a fully independent system to deal with all serious complaints. An August 2016 report by the inspector of prisons said that while the overall complaints system was reliable, it was lacking in several areas due to the failure of employees to observe the agreed protocol, a lack of independent oversight, and a general absence of accountability.

Independent Monitoring: The Office of the Inspector of Prisons, an independent statutory body, conducted multiple inspections and independent reviews of detention facilities and methods. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported that the prison inspector function was effective.

The government permitted visits and monitoring by independent human rights observers and maintained an open invitation for visits from UN special rapporteurs.

Improvements: On March 30, the minister for children and youth affairs ended the sentencing of children to prison. On April 7, the minister of justice and equality closed the St. Patrick’s Detention Center for Children, a facility with a history of violating detainee rights.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

An Garda Siochana (Garda) is the national police force. It maintains internal security under the auspices of the Department of Justice and Equality. The defense forces are responsible for external security under the supervision of the Department of Defense but are also authorized certain domestic security responsibilities in support of the Garda.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Garda and the defense forces. Controversies related to the oversight of police continued during the year. In 2015 parliament enacted legislation allowing police officers to disclose allegations of wrongdoing within the police service to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) on a confidential basis. By law the Garda ombudsman is responsible for conducting independent investigations, following referrals from the Garda, in circumstances in which police conduct might have resulted in death or serious harm to a person. In 2016 the ombudsman received 51 referrals, 12 of which involved fatalities. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.

In 2016 the GSOC received 1,758 complaints from the public, fewer than the previous year. The most common complaints involved investigations, arrests, road policing, customer service, and searches. The largest number of allegations against police related to abuse of authority or neglect of duty.

When the GSOC directly investigates or supervises investigations involving disciplinary breaches, it may recommend disciplinary proceedings to the Garda commissioner. In 2015 the GSOC made 16 recommendations for disciplinary proceedings. The GSOC refers other cases involving less serious breaches of discipline to the Garda for investigation. In 2015 the GSOC referred 544 cases concerning breaches of discipline to the Garda for investigation.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

An arrest typically requires a warrant issued by a judge, except in situations necessitating immediate action for the protection of the public. The law provides the right to a prompt judicial determination of the legality of a detention, and authorities respected this right. Authorities must inform detainees promptly of the charges against them and, with few exceptions, may not hold them longer than 24 hours without charge. For crimes involving firearms, explosives, or membership in an unlawful organization, a judge may extend detention for an additional 24 hours upon a police superintendent’s request. The law permits detention without charge for up to seven days in cases involving suspicion of drug trafficking, although police must obtain a judge’s approval to hold such a suspect longer than 48 hours. The law requires authorities to bring a detainee before a district court judge “as soon as possible” to determine bail status pending a hearing. A court may refuse bail to a person charged with a crime carrying a penalty of five years’ imprisonment or longer, or when a judge deems continued detention necessary to prevent the commission of another offense.

The law permits detainees and prisoners, upon arrest, to have access to attorneys. The court appoints an attorney if a detainee does not have one. The law allows detainees prompt access to family members.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants enjoy the right to the presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, to be present at their trial, and to be granted a fair, timely, and public trial except in certain cases. Defendants have the right to an attorney of their choice or one provided at public expense. They can confront witnesses and present their own testimony and evidence. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and free assistance of an interpreter. They have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. There is a right to appeal.

The law provides for a nonjury Special Criminal Court (SCC) when the director of public prosecutions certifies a case to be beyond the capabilities of an ordinary court, such as terrorist or criminal gang offenses. A panel of three judges, usually including one High Court judge, one circuit judge, and one district judge, hears such cases. They reach their verdicts by majority vote. The Irish Council on Civil Liberties, Amnesty International, and the UN Human Rights Committee noted that authorities expanded the jurisdiction of the SCC in recent years to cover most offenses related to organized crime. They expressed concern that the SCC used a lower standard for evidence admissibility, and there was no appeal against a prosecuting authority’s decision to send a case to the SCC. In 2015 the justice minister announced the establishment of a second SCC with seven judges appointed during the year to try terrorist and gang-related offenses. The minister cited long delays in processing cases as a reason for the second court. The first trial at Second Special Criminal Court opened in October 2016. Sixty new cases were received in the SCCs in 2016 and 67 were resolved. Most of the cases involved membership in an illegal organization or possession of firearms or explosives. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties and other national and international organizations criticized the move to expand the use of SCCs.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

An independent and impartial judicial system hears civil cases and appeals on civil matters, including damage claims resulting from human rights violations. Complainants may bring such claims before all appropriate courts, including the Supreme Court. Individuals may lodge a complaint or application with the European Court of Human Rights for alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the state if they have exhausted all available legal remedies in the Irish legal system, including an appeal to the Supreme Court.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

No immovable property was confiscated from Jews or other targeted groups in Ireland during World War II by the Irish government or Nazi Germany. According to the delegation of Ireland to the Holocaust Era Assets Conference, the country had experienced only one case where allegations concerning provenance were made and therefore had not enacted formal implementation mechanisms in this regard. The country’s policy is to monitor these issues as they may evolve in the future and to proceed on a case-by-case basis.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Italy

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. On July 4, parliament approved a law introducing the crime of torture into the penal code. Some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were concerned that the new crime can be proven only if violence or serious threats occur multiple times.

On May 18, a judge in Messina indicted two prison guards, Sebastiano Torre and Mario Pante, for the alleged assault on two detainees.

On August 24, during a police operation to evict squatters from a building in central Rome (see section 2.d.), the NGO Doctors without Borders-Italy stated that it treated 13 persons injured in the operation and had to call ambulances to take four women to a hospital.

On June 14, a prosecutor in Massa Carrara detained one Carabinieri officer and placed three more under house arrest as part of an investigation into alleged abuses of foreign and Italian arrestees, including the alleged rape of a sex worker. The officers were also accused of filing inaccurate reports of the crimes committed by their victims.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions mostly met international standards, but some prisons were significantly overcrowded and antiquated.

Physical Conditions: In some prisons overcrowding was severe: prisons in Como, Brescia, and Larino in the province of Campobasso were at 174 to 176 percent of capacity. The law requires the separation of pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners, but authorities sometimes held both in the same sections of prisons. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) expressed concern about the living conditions in some overcrowded facilities. It also reported mistreatment, mainly punches, slaps, kicks, and blows with batons, of detainees by prison guards.

All the prisons the CPT visited suffered from structural and material deficiencies. There were problems of water supply at Sassari Prison and evening meals to inmates on Sundays in the Marassi and Turin Prisons in Genoa. The CPT noted the range of purposeful activities remained limited (e.g., on average less than 20 percent of inmates were involved in a remunerated activity), and inmates often spent out-of-cell time circulating in wing corridors and communal rooms.

Administration: On July 4, the Ministry of Justice reported that 732 prisoners, mostly serving sentences related to organized crime or terrorism, were subject to special limitations on their interactions with other prisoners, as well as their own relatives.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent human rights organizations, parliamentarians, and the media to visit prisons and detention centers. The government also provided representatives of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and NGOs access to detention centers for migrants and refugees in accordance with UNHCR’s standard procedures. On June 7-13, a delegation from the CPT investigated the situation of detained migrants. As of year’s end, no report on this visit had been published.

Improvements: On February 22, the government announced the closure of the last judiciary psychiatric hospital and the establishment of 30 special centers hosting 569 patients with psychiatric disorders, of whom 245 were pretrial detainees.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Police and the Carabinieri national military police maintain internal security. Although it is also one of the five branches of the armed forces, the Carabinieri carry out certain civilian law enforcement duties. The Ministry of Interior coordinates between the National Police and nonmilitary units of the Carabinieri. The army is responsible for external security but also has specific domestic security responsibilities, such as guarding public buildings. The three other police forces are the Prison Police, which operates the prison system; the National Forestry Corps, which enforces the law in parks and forests; and the Financial Police, the customs agency under the Ministry of Economy.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the National Police and the Carabinieri, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year, although long delays by prosecutors and other authorities in completing some investigations reduced the effectiveness of mechanisms to investigate and punish police abuses.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

To detain an individual, police must have a warrant issued by a public prosecutor, unless a criminal act is in progress or there is a specific and immediate danger to which police officers must respond. The law requires authorities to inform a detainee of the reason for arrest. If authorities detain a person without a warrant, an examining prosecutor must decide within 24 hours of detention whether there is enough evidence to request the validation of the arrest. The investigating judge then has 48 hours to confirm the arrest and recommend whether to prosecute. In cases of alleged terrorist activity, authorities may hold suspects up to 48 hours before bringing the case to a magistrate. These rights were generally respected.

There is no provision for bail, but judges may grant provisional liberty to detainees awaiting trial. The government provides a lawyer at government expense to indigent persons. The law requires authorities to allow a detainee to see an attorney within 24 hours, or within 48 hours in cases of suspected terrorist activities. In exceptional circumstances, usually in cases of organized crime or when there is a risk that attorneys may attempt to tamper with evidence, the investigating judge may take up to five days to interrogate the accused before allowing access to an attorney. The law permits family members access to detainees.

According to the CPT report, several persons alleged delays in notifying a third party of their detention and in obtaining access to a lawyer prior to their court hearing. Detained foreign nationals did not systematically receive information on their rights in a language they understood. The confidentiality of medical examinations of detainees was not guaranteed.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention and trial delays were a problem. The maximum term of pretrial detention is two to six years, depending on the severity of the alleged crime. As of September, 34 percent of all prisoners were in either pretrial detention or awaiting a final sentence. According to independent analysts and magistrates, delays resulted from the large number of drug and immigration cases awaiting trial, the lack of judicial remedies, and the presence of more than 18,000 foreign detainees. In some cases these detainees could not be placed under house arrest because they had no legal residence, and there was an insufficient distribution of offices and resources, including shortages of judges and staff.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons who have been arrested or detained are entitled to challenge before a judge the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention. If the grounds on which they were arrested are found insufficient, they are granted prompt release. Persons found to have been unlawfully detained are able to request compensation. As a safeguard against unjustified detention, detainees may request a panel of judges (a liberty tribunal) to review their cases on a regular basis to determine whether to continue the detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. There were isolated reports that judicial corruption and politically motivated investigations by magistrates impeded justice. A significant number of court cases involved long trial delays.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants have the right to the presumption of innocence and to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them. Trials are fair and public, but they can be delayed. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials.

The law provides for defendants to have access to an attorney of their choice in a timely manner, or have one provided at public expense if they are unable to pay. Defendants had adequate time to discuss and prepare cases with their lawyers in appropriate facilities available in all prisons as well as access to interpretation or translation services as needed. All defendants have the right to confront and question witnesses against them and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants may not be forced to testify or confess guilt, and they have a right to appeal verdicts.

Domestic and European institutions continued to criticize the slow pace of the judicial process. On May 3, the Ministry of Justice reported that the first trial of civil cases lasted an average of 367 days. The country’s “prescription laws” (statutes of limitations) in criminal proceedings require that a trial must end by a certain date. Courts determine when the statute of limitations should apply. Defendants often took advantage of delays in proceedings in order to exceed the statute of limitations. By doing so they could avoid a guilty sentence at trial or gain release pending an appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

By law individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. Individuals may bring a case of alleged human rights violations by the government to the European Court of Human Rights once they exhaust all avenues for a remedy in the country’s court system. According to the Ministry of Justice, in 2016 the average length of civil judicial proceedings, including appeals, was 981 days. In the case of appeals to the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court), they lasted more than eight years on average.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Holocaust-era restitution is no longer a significant issue. The government has laws and mechanisms in place and is a signatory of the Terezin Declaration of 2009. The 2001 Anselmi report commissioned by the government found that private property had generally been returned, and that significant progress had been made in dealing with restitution of communal and heirless property, but did not give an exhaustive accounting of efforts regarding these latter two categories. NGOs and advocacy groups reported no significant outstanding Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens, and characterized the government as cooperative and responsive to community concerns in the area of protection and restoration of communal property. The government has not yet responded to the 2016 European Shoah Legacy Institute’s Immovable Property Restitution Study Questionnaire covering past and present restitution regimes.

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

The law prohibits such actions, but there were some reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. The Supreme Court’s lead prosecutor may authorize wiretaps of terrorism suspects at the request of the prime minister. According to independent observers, prosecutors did not always limit the use of wiretaps to cases of absolute necessity as the Supreme Court required. The law allows magistrates to destroy illegal wiretaps that police discover or to seize transcripts of recordings that are irrelevant to the judicial case.

The Ministry of Justice reported that authorities wiretapped 330,327 persons in 2016.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Jamaica

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 government security forces, mainly police, committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Government statistics indicated that through September, government security force-related fatalities increased by 44 percent over the same period in 2016, with 124 and 86 in the first three quarters of 2017 and 2016, respectively. Of the 124, 118 involved the police, and six involved the military.

The number of government security force-involved killings from January through September deemed to have occurred under suspicious circumstances increased over the same period in the prior year by 10 percent, from 29 to 32. Incidents in which police officers fatally shot two or more persons increased considerably, to 14 through the end of September, compared with eight in the same period of 2016. Police-involved fatalities during traffic stops along thoroughfares at night markedly increased. The proportion of victims of police-involved fatalities found to have been in possession of no weapon or only a knife or machete increased to approximately one-third.

On March 23, seven officers on mobile patrol shot and killed a person purportedly with mental health disabilities in the southeastern parish of St. Thomas. The only weapon investigators retrieved from the crime scene was a machete.

Authorities arrested two police officers on February 7 for a killing in 2013. Investigations and prosecutions into fatalities by government security forces from prior years continued slowly.

Financial fraud criminals known as “lotto scammers,” narcotics and gun traffickers, gangs, and other criminal groups engaged in widespread criminality and contributed to the country’s very high homicide rate and culture of lawlessness. Through the end of September, there were 1,193 homicides, which marked a 25.4 percent increase over the same period in 2016. Six police officers were killed through September.

Acting on a recommendation from the 2016 report released by the government’s West Kingston Commission of Enquiry, which examined the 2010 Tivoli Incursion that left 73 individuals dead, the government on December 6 officially apologized for the events of the incursion. As of December 7, the government compensated the estates of persons killed during the event, including those of all 16 persons allegedly killed extrajudicially according to the commission, with a total of 134 million Jamaican dollars (JMD) ($1.05 million).

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, although there is no legal definition of torture. Occasional reports of physical abuse of individuals in custody by security personnel continued. Independent commissions investigated all reports of abuse by prison officials, including those allegedly committed against juvenile offenders.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Inhuman conditions due to dilapidated infrastructure and overcrowding persisted in detention centers, called police “lock-ups.” In prisons, called correctional centers, ventilation and space improved in several facilities.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding and difficult conditions remained in many lock-ups. Cells often held up to 11 persons in a space designed for four. Cells were very dark, had subpar bathroom and toilet facilities, and limited ventilation. Detainees were given less than one hour per day out of the cell to use shower facilities and get food and water. Female inmates generally had better conditions than men.

Medical care for detainees in lock-ups was available only through the public medical system and was therefore limited and often delayed. Prisoners in correctional centers, however, had adequate access to medical care, provided through either the department of corrections system or the public medical system. The department of corrections employed three full-time and several part-time doctors, one full-time nurse, and one dentist, and it accessed the public medical system when necessary. Four part-time psychiatrists cared for at least 225 inmates diagnosed as having mental disabilities in 11 facilities across the island. Inmates could not obtain dentures, but correctional centers accommodated the dietary needs of those with dental impairments.

Administration: There was no corrections ombudsman, but independent authorities investigated allegations of inhuman conditions. Official complaints and investigations were infrequent. The Office of the Children’s Advocate investigated matters involving minors.

Independent Monitoring: Justices of the peace and representatives from the Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA) visited correctional centers and lock-ups regularly. The PCOA submitted reports to the Ministry of National Security with recommendations to improve conditions, although citizen groups complained the ministry rarely acted upon the recommendations.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest but permits the arrest of persons “reasonably suspected” to have committed a crime. The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Security forces conducted “cordon and search” operations, enforced curfews, and established blockades in enforcing two Zones of Special Operation.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has primary responsibility for internal security. The Jamaica Defense Force (JDF), including the Coast Guard, has responsibility for national defense and maritime narcotics interdiction. The government enforced a law, the Zones of Special Operations Act passed in July, which gave the JDF arrest authority and operational partnership alongside the JCF in domestic policing operations in the specified zones. In other areas the JCF continued to conduct joint operations with the support of the JDF.

The Ministry of National Security exercises the prime minister’s authority for oversight of the JCF and JDF. The JCF maintained divisions for community policing, special response, intelligence gathering, and internal affairs. The Passport, Immigration, and Citizenship Agency has responsibility for migration. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the JCF and JDF.

The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) investigates actions by members of the security forces and other agents of the state that result in death or injury to persons or the abuse of the rights of persons and, when appropriate, forwards cases to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for prosecution.

As of the end of November, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and INDECOM had active cases of criminal charges against 81 government security officials for their alleged involvement in unlawful killings or other abuses. Lengthy trials with numerous delays, including with respect to those cases involving police officers, continued to be a systemic problem.

INDECOM continued to be unable to execute arrest warrants for 19 police officers it sought to charge with murder and other offenses because the officers took advantage of a lengthy judicial review process through the courts afforded to them by law. Trial delays, the judicial review mechanism, and a perceived reluctance to discipline police officers for wrongdoing contributed to a sense of impunity with respect to suspected unlawful killings. On November 17, the Court of Appeal overturned the 2015 conviction of a police officer serving a 15-year sentence for wounding with intent and ordered a new trial. As an exception to this trend, on July 14, a court sentenced a former police officer to life imprisonment for murder, which he committed in 2013 while on duty in St. Ann.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police officers may arrest without warrant where a felony, treason, or breach of the peace is committed or attempted in the officer’s presence. Upon arrest, the officer is required to tell a suspect in clear language the offense(s) for which the individual is being arrested. Any officer may execute any warrant lawfully issued by a judge or justice of the peace for the apprehension of a person charged with any offense, without being in possession of the warrant. The officer must produce the warrant on demand of the suspect as soon as practical after the arrest. The decision to charge or release must be resolved within 48 hours, although a judge or justice of the peace may extend the period of custody.

The law provides for legal assistance for criminal cases if the detainee does not have sufficient means to pay for legal representation. A Ministry of Justice program increased legal assistance to defendants with mental health disabilities, providing 139 individuals with representation as of the end of September. The constitution provides for a right to bail, and there is a functioning bail system. Authorities allowed detainees prompt access to family members.

The law requires justices of the peace and judges to inquire at least once a week into the welfare of each person detained by the JCF.

Pretrial Detention: Lock-ups are intended for short-term detentions of 48 hours or less, but often detainees were held in these facilities without charge or awaiting trial for much longer periods.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trials often were delayed for many years, and at times cases were dismissed due to delay tactics, including no-shows by witnesses for a variety of reasons, not infrequently including death, challenges in impaneling juries, antiquated rules of evidence, and lack of equipment for collecting and storing evidence, among other reasons. Through the end of June, the parish court level had a 58-percent case disposal rate.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions attributed the worsening case backlog at the Supreme Court level to an increasing crime rate with a static number of courtrooms and judiciary personnel as well as to the Committal Proceedings Act’s burden on the judicial bureaucracy.

In an effort to lessen the backlog, the government passed the Criminal Justice (Plea and Negotiations) Act in June to increase the rate of plea bargaining, which accounted for less than 1 percent of case resolutions from 2011 to 2016. In September guilty pleas accounted for approximately 90 percent of cases disposed of at the parish court level. In addition, in October courts disposed of 57 cases during two Sentence Reduction Days.

In an increasing number of civil cases, the courts used mandatory alternative dispute resolution in place of traditional trials. Under its Reform Implementation Plan, the Ministry of Justice opened three justice centers, one in the parish of St. Ann on July 8 and two in West Kingston on July 13. The ministry also planned to open 11 more to facilitate restorative justice practices, child diversion, mediation, and an expanded justices of the peace program.

There is a witness protection program, but many eligible witnesses either refused protection or violated the conditions of the program. While the JCF reported that no participant in the witness protection program was ever killed, the program suffered from a number of problems. The government allocated approximately $1 million in additional funds for the program in February.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The constitution provides defendants a presumption of innocence and the right to counsel and to confront witnesses against them. Defendants have the right to be informed of the charges against them and the right to a fair public trial, within a reasonable time. The Supreme Court tries serious criminal offenses, including all murder cases. Citizens’ reluctance to serve as jurors resulted in a persistent problem of seating jurors, which contributed to the judicial backlog.

Defendants are provided ample time to prepare defense and are not compelled to confess guilt. They have the right to appeal. Public attorneys were available to defend the indigent, except those charged with certain offenses under the Proceeds of Crime Act or the Dangerous Drugs Act. The government provides free assistance of an interpreter for defendants who cannot speak or understand English.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial civil judiciary process. Complainants may bring human rights abuse cases to the courts for civil remediation, but awards are difficult to collect. The government is required to undertake pretrial negotiations or mediation in an attempt to settle out of court, but it often did not do so. When there are settlements, the government often lacks the funds to pay, resulting in a backlog of awards.

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

Although the constitution prohibits such actions, the law gives security personnel broad powers of search and seizure. The law allows search without a warrant of a person on board or disembarking from a vehicle, ship, or boat if a police officer has good reason to be suspicious. Police often conducted searches without warrants when there was a reasonable suspicion.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution guarantees freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, generally effective judicial protection, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression. Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 45 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom.

The Jamaica Broadcasting Commission bars certain lyrics and music videos, including songs referring to violent sex or violence against women, children, and other vulnerable persons, and expunges lyrics deemed inappropriate to broadcast.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution guarantees the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respects these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. Residents complained of the onerous requirement of having to furnish identification when coming in and out of two zones of operations during its September-November implementation.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: Neither the constitution nor the laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Although the government does not have a system or regulatory framework for processing and providing protection to refugees, it handles refugee and asylum cases administratively. The government provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened.

Japan

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

The government continued to deny death-row inmates advance information about the date of execution and notified family members of executions after the fact. The government held that this policy spared prisoners the anguish of knowing when they were going to die. Some respected psychologists supported this reasoning; others demurred.

Authorities regularly also hold prisoners condemned to death in solitary confinement until their execution. Authorities allow condemned prisoners visits by family, lawyers, and others. The length of such solitary confinement varies from case to case, and may extend for several years. Prisoners accused of crimes that could lead to the death penalty were also held in solitary confinement before trial, according to a nongovernmental organization (NGO) source.

National Public Safety Commission regulations prohibit police from touching suspects (unless unavoidable), exerting force, threatening them, keeping them in fixed postures for long periods, verbally abusing them, or offering them favors in return for a confession. An NGO asserted that authorities did not adequately enforce the regulations and continued in some cases to subject detainees to long interrogation sessions. In March 2016, the Osaka District Court ordered the Osaka Prefectural Police to pay damages to a suspect (who was eventually acquitted) for forcing a confession using coercive techniques during interrogations in 2013.

Hazing, bullying, corporal punishment, and sexual harassment continued in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) despite defense ministry guidelines meant to address these problems. The Ministry of Defense reported it continued to impose disciplinary actions for arbitrarily punishing subordinates on JSDF members.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions generally met international standards, although some lacked adequate medical care and sufficient heating in the winter or cooling in the summer and some facilities were overcrowded.

Physical Conditions: The Ministry of Justice reported that as of the end of 2015 (most recent data available) three of 77 prison facilities were beyond capacity; all three were prisons for women. Authorities held juveniles under age 20 separately from adults in prisons and regular detention centers.

In most institutions, extra clothing and blankets provided instead of heating were insufficient to protect inmates against cold weather, according to some local NGOs. Foreign prisoners in the Tokyo area continued to present chilblains-affected fingers and toes of varying severity resulting from long-term exposure to cold.

From April 2016 through March 2017, independent inspection committees documented inadequate medical treatment, including for detainees and prisoners with pre-existing medical conditions. According to the justice ministry, the number of doctors working for correctional institutions remained more than 20 percent short of the quota in 2016, despite a 2015 law designed to secure a stable and adequate number of doctors in the institutions. Police and prison authorities were slow in providing treatment for mental illness and have no protocol for offering psychiatric therapy. Foreign observers also noted that dental care was minimal, and access to palliative care was lacking.

Administration: While authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of allegations of problematic conditions, they provided the results of such investigations to prisoners in a letter offering little detail beyond a final determination. While there was no prison ombudsman, independent committees (see below, “Monitoring”) played the role of an ombudsman.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally allowed visits by NGOs and international organizations.

Prison management regulations stipulate that independent committees inspect prisons and detention centers operated by the Ministry of Justice and detention facilities operated by police. Authorities permitted the committees, which include physicians, lawyers, local municipal officials, and local citizens, to interview detainees without the presence of prison officers.

By law third-party inspection committees also inspected immigration detention facilities, and their recommendations generally were given serious consideration.

Domestic and international NGOs and international organizations continued to note that this process failed to meet international prison inspection standards. As evidence, they cited the Ministry of Justice’s provision of all logistical support for the inspection committees, the use of ministry interpreters during interviews with detainees, and a lack of transparency about the composition of the committees.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. In previous years credible NGOs and journalists reported that police in large cities employed racial profiling to harass and sometimes arrest “foreign looking” persons, particularly dark-skinned Asians and persons of African descent, without cause.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Public Safety Commission, a cabinet-level entity, oversees the National Police Agency (NPA), and prefectural public safety commissions have responsibility for local police forces. The government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year. Some NGOs criticized local public safety commissions for lacking independence from or sufficient authority over police agencies.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Authorities apprehended persons openly with warrants based on evidence and issued by a duly authorized official and brought detainees before an independent judiciary. Foreign and domestic observers continued to claim that warrants were granted at high rates, detention sometimes occurred notwithstanding weak evidentiary grounds, and multiple repeat arrests of suspects were used to facilitate case building by police.

The law allows detainees, their families, or representatives to request that the court release an indicted detainee on bail. Bail is not available prior to indictment. NGOs stated that, although the practice is illegal, interrogators sometimes offered shortened or suspended sentences to a detainee in exchange for a confession.

Suspects in pretrial detention are legally required to face interrogation. NPA guidelines limit interrogations to a maximum of eight hours and prohibit overnight interrogations. Pre-indictment detainees had access to counsel, including at least one consultation with a court-appointed attorney; counsel, however, is not allowed to be present during interrogations.

The law allows police to prohibit detainees from meeting with persons other than counsel if there is probable cause to believe that the suspect may flee or may conceal or destroy evidence (see section 1.d., “Pretrial Detention”). Many detainees, including most charged with drug offenses, were subject to this restriction before indictment, although some were permitted visits from family members in the presence of a detention officer. There is no legal connection between the type of offense and the length of time authorities may deny a detainee visits by family or others. Those detained on drug charges, however, were often denied such visits longer than other suspects, since prosecutors worried that communications with family or others could interfere with investigations.

Prosecutors’ offices and police increasingly recorded entire interrogations for heinous criminal cases, cases involving suspects with intellectual or mental disabilities, and other cases on a trial basis. There was no independent oversight. Recording was not mandatory. Local NGOs continued to allege that suspects confessed under duress, mainly during unrecorded interrogations.

Police inspection offices imposed disciplinary actions against some violators of interrogation guidelines, although the NPA did not release related statistics.

Pretrial Detention: Authorities usually held suspects in police-operated detention centers for an initial 72 hours prior to indictment. By law such detention is allowed only when there is probable cause to suspect that a person has committed a crime and is likely to conceal or destroy evidence or flee, but it was used routinely. After interviewing a suspect at the end of the initial 72-hour period, a judge may extend pre-indictment custody for up to two consecutive 10-day periods. Prosecutors routinely sought and received these extensions. Prosecutors may also apply for an additional five-day extension in exceptional cases, such as insurrection, foreign aggression, or violent public assembly.

Because judges customarily granted prosecutors’ requests for extensions, pretrial detention, known as daiyou kangoku (substitute prison), usually continued for 23 days. Nearly all persons detained during the year were held in daiyou kangoku. Reliable NGOs and foreign observers continued to report that access to persons other than their attorneys and, in the case of foreign arrestees, consular personnel was denied to some persons in daiyou kangoku.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides detainees the right to a prompt judicial determination of the legality of their detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, but credible NGOs and lawyers continued to question whether they were in fact presumed innocent during the legal process. According to NGOs, the majority of indicted detainees confessed while in police custody, although the government continued to assert that convictions were not based primarily on confessions and that interrogation guidelines stipulate that suspects may not be compelled to confess to a crime.

Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges. Each charged individual has the right to a trial without undue delay (though foreign observers noted that trials may be delayed indefinitely for mentally ill prisoners); to access to defense counsel, including an attorney provided at public expense if indigent; and to cross-examine witnesses. There is a lay-judge (jury) system for serious criminal cases, and defendants may not be compelled to testify against themselves. Authorities provided free interpretation services to foreign defendants in criminal cases. Foreign defendants in civil cases must pay for interpretation, although a judge may order the plaintiff to pay the charges in accordance with a court’s final decision.

Defendants have the right to appoint their own counsel to prepare a defense, present evidence, and appeal. The court may assist defendants in finding an attorney through a bar association. Defendants may request a court-appointed attorney at state expense if they are unable to afford one.

According to some independent legal scholars, trial procedures favor the prosecution. Observers said a prohibition against defense counsel’s use of electronic recording devices during interviews with clients undermined counsel effectiveness. The law also does not require full disclosure by prosecutors unless the defending attorney satisfies difficult disclosure procedure conditions, which could lead to the suppression of material favorable to the defense.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. Individuals have access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. There are both administrative and judicial remedies for alleged wrongs.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Kiribati

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. Traditional village practice permits corporal punishment for criminal acts and other transgressions.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: Convicted prisoners and pretrial detainees not granted bail were held together. Juvenile offenders age 17-18 were also held with the general prison population, but children under 16 years usually were not incarcerated. Juveniles age 16-17 generally were detained no longer than one month, although for more serious offenses, such as murder, they could be held in custody longer.

Administration: Community service-based sentences provided alternatives to incarceration for juvenile offenders. Although authorities permitted complaints by inmates about inhuman conditions, the complaints were subject to censorship. Authorities did not report receiving any such complaints or undertake any investigations during the year.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights observers, but there were no reported visits during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Police and Prisons Service, under the Office of the President, maintains internal security. The country has no military force.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

In some cases magistrates issued warrants before authorities made arrests. Authorities must bring persons taken into custody without a warrant before a magistrate within 24 hours, or within a reasonable amount of time when arrests take place in remote locations. Officials generally respected these requirements. Authorities released many individuals charged with minor offenses on their own recognizance pending trial and routinely granted bail for many offenses. The law requires that authorities inform arrested individuals of the charges against them and of their rights, including the right to legal counsel during questioning and the right not to incriminate themselves. Two police officers must be present at all times during the questioning of detainees, who also have the option of writing and reviewing statements given to police. Detainees received prompt access to legal counsel. Arrested persons facing serious charges and others needing legal advice but unable to afford a lawyer received free counsel from the Office of the People’s Lawyer. Suspects were not held incommunicado.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution protects persons from unlawful detention, and detainees are entitled to compensation and may apply to the High Court for redress.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Procedural safeguards include the presumption of innocence and provision of adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. They also have the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice, present witnesses and evidence, confront witnesses against them, and appeal convictions. Defendants facing serious criminal charges are entitled to free legal representation; interpretation, if needed, is not provided free and may be difficult to obtain. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. These rights apply to all suspects.

Extrajudicial, traditional communal justice, in which village elders decide cases and mete out punishment, remained a part of village life, especially on remote outer islands. Nonetheless, the incidence of communal justice continued to decline under pressure from the codified national law.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Kosovo

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.

EULEX and domestic prosecutors continued prosecuting war crimes cases arising from the 1998-99 conflict. As of August EULEX prosecutors were working on 37 war crimes cases. Under the understanding in effect, EULEX may be assigned new cases only in exceptional circumstances, with approval of the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council.

The Special Prosecution of the Republic of Kosovo (SPRK) office was, as of August, investigating approximately 104 war crimes cases, of which 44 had been suspended because the alleged perpetrators’ whereabouts were unknown.

In July, EULEX and Kosovo police arrested four persons in connection with the 2004 killing of a UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) police officer and a Kosovo police officer and the wounding of two others. Prosecutors sought a fifth suspect’s extradition from Germany. Citing police sources, the media identified two of the suspects as members of a major organized crime group involved in postwar political assassinations, terrorist attacks, and extortion.

In July a EULEX-majority panel at the Supreme Court overturned the 2016 conviction of Sami Lushtaku, mayor of Skenderaj/Srbica, on war crimes charges in the so-called Drenica I case. In late 2016 the Appellate Court overturned Lushtaku’s original conviction for murder and convicted him on command responsibility grounds for war crimes committed in a Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) detention center. The Supreme Court panel upheld a five-year sentence for Lushtaku’s codefendant, Jahir Demaku, former director of Kosovo Security Force (KSF) Intelligence and Security. On August 18, a EULEX-majority panel at the Supreme Court upheld the convictions of all 10 defendants in the Drenica II war crimes case. In August a retrial began for Kosovo Serb Oliver Ivanovic, sentenced in 2016 to nine years in prison for war crimes against ethnic Albanians committed in 1999. Ivanovic was released on bail pending retrial in April.

The Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) continued to investigate crimes committed during and after the 1999 conflict. The SPO and its predecessor, the EU Special Investigative Task Force, were established following the 2011 release of the Council of Europe report Inhuman Treatment of People and Illicit Trafficking in Human Organs in Kosovo, which alleged crimes by individual KLA leaders. A 2016 agreement providing the legal basis for the Kosovo Specialist Chambers to conduct proceedings in the Netherlands entered into force on January 1. On December 22, a group of parliamentarians from the governing coalition attempted to abrogate the law authorizing the SPO and Specialist Chambers. Some parliamentarians reported doing so under instruction from political leaders. The initiative stalled under pressure from opposition leaders and the international community, but supporters continued to push for abrogation through the end of the year. The SPO had not issued any indictments as of year’s end.

b. Disappearance

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

As of August the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) listed as missing 1,658 persons who disappeared during the 1998-99 conflict and the political violence that followed. Although the ICRC did not distinguish missing persons by ethnic background due to confidentiality restrictions, observers suggested that approximately 70 percent were ethnic Albanians and 30 percent were Serbs, Roma, Ashkalis, Egyptians, Bosniaks, or Montenegrins.

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

The constitution and laws prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

The Police Inspectorate of Kosovo (PIK), an independent body within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, was responsible for reviewing complaints about police behavior. As of July the PIK had reviewed 678 citizen complaints regarding police conduct. The PIK characterized 404 of the complaints as involving disciplinary violations and forwarded them to the Kosovo Police Professional Standards Unit; it judged another 264 complaints to be criminal cases. As of July, 124 police personnel were under investigation, and 135 cases from 2016 remained under investigation. Allegations of excessive use of force by police in dispersing a demonstration in 2015 did not result in criminal charges, although prosecutors continued to review information provided by the PIK.

On May 13, unknown assailants beat former Zeri editor in chief and noted human rights advocate Arbana Xharra. On April 10, Xharra had told police that unknown persons spray-painted red crosses on her front door. An investigation was underway. Xharra told media that religious radicals and activists of opposition parties had attacked her on social media throughout the year.

On June 22, a EULEX-majority panel at the Appellate Court partially amended a 2016 judgement by the Basic Court in Mitrovica against former KLA commander Xhemshit Krasniqi for the torture of civilians in 1999. The Appellate Court reduced the sentence from eight to seven years of imprisonment.

On August 28, two unknown persons attacked Vitore Stavileci, the wife of the Minister of Economic Development Blerand Stavileci, causing serious injuries. The attack came shortly after Minister Stavileci had publicly criticized Pristina’s municipal government as incompetent and corrupt, leading NGOs and other observers to suspect political motivation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions met some international standards, but significant problems persisted in penitentiaries, specifically, the lack of rehabilitative programs, prisoner-on-prisoner violence, corruption, exposure to radical religious or political views, and substandard medical care.

Former director of the Pristina Detention Center Emrush Thaci, indicted in 2016 for helping convicted war criminal Sami Lushtaku to avoid imprisonment, was still awaiting trial.

Physical Conditions: Physical conditions remained substandard in some parts of the Dubrava Prison, which were overcrowded in the first quarter of the year.

During the year the Kosovo Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims (KRCT) received complaints from prisoners regarding inappropriate behavior, verbal harassment, prisoner-on-prisoner violence, and in some cases physical mistreatment by correctional officers, mainly at the Dubrava Prison and the Detention center in Lipjan.

On February 19, three correctional officers assaulted a detainee at the Lipjan Detention Center. The officers involved were reprimanded but not dismissed.

On February 26, two female inmates were involved in a fight in Lipjan Detention Center that resulted in injuries. The KRCT reported the fight took place in the presence of correctional officers, who did not intervene.

National media reported that prisoners raped a fellow inmate at the Lipjan Detention Center on May 15. The victim reportedly received medical and psychiatric care, and prison officials transferred one of the perpetrators to another detention center. The case was under investigation.

As of August the KRCT had received 150 complaints from prisoners that correctional staff verbally or physically abused them in the Dubrava Prison and the High Security Prison.

Due to corruption or political interference, authorities did not always exercise control over the facilities or inmates. According to the KRCT, inmates complained that officials at the Dubrava and the Smrekovnica prisons unlawfully granted furloughs and additional yard time based on nepotism or bribery. The KRCT reported that mobile phones and illicit drugs were regularly smuggled into correctional facilities, with approximately 30 percent of inmates estimated to be addicted to drugs. There were no drug treatment programs.

The KRCT documented delays and errors in the delivery of medical care to prisoners as well as a lack of specialized treatment. In many instances these conditions forced prisoners to procure needed medications through private sources. The KRCT observed gaps in the prison health-care system at the Dubrava facility and reported an insufficient number of mental health professionals.

Facilities and treatment for inmates with disabilities remained substandard. The Kosovo Forensics Psychiatric Institute provided limited treatment and shelter for detained persons with mental disabilities. Advocates for persons with disabilities faulted the government for regularly housing pretrial detainees with diagnosed mental disabilities together with other pretrial detainees. Pretrial detainees were held separately from the convicted prisoner population.

The correctional service continued to operate an interdisciplinary team to address self-inflicted injuries and suicide attempts at correctional facilities, although prisoner advocates were not aware of improvements. The KRCT noted psychosocial services at the Dubrava Prison and High Security Prison were insufficient and unsuitable for the inmates’ needs, despite some improvements at the High Security Prison. There were no legal provisions or administrative instructions for the treatment of prisoners with disabilities. As of August the KCRT reported 21 attempted suicides and 100 self-inflicted injuries. Advocates cited frequent transfers and harsh treatment as contributing factors.

On August 16, masked assailants beat Kosovo Correctional Service (KCS) acting director Sokol Zogaj with metal pipes in Pristina. The Justice Ministry issued a statement soon after the attack calling on authorities to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

The government, with the help of international forensics experts, continued to investigate the death of Vetevendosje party activist Astrit Dehari, who allegedly committed suicide in prison in 2016. In September the Kosovo chief state prosecutor announced that the Austrian Internal Affairs Ministry completed the analysis of the video footage of the surveillance cameras in the Prizren Detention Center at the time of Dehari’s death. The analysis found no sign of manipulation of the raw video surveillance footage. The State Prosecutor’s office stated it would further analyze evidence related to this case.

Administration: Authorities did not always conduct proper investigations of mistreatment. The KRCT noted the internal complaint mechanism mandated by law did not function, as inmates often did not report abuses due to lack of confidentiality and fear of retribution. The KRCT observed several cases where inmates who submitted complaints were merely transferred to other prison facilities. Prisoners in some wards at the Dubrava Prison and the High Security Prison lacked complaint forms, and prison management failed to address reported concerns. Prison authorities could not intervene when some pretrial detainees used ministry of justice connections to obtain transfers to more comfortable facilities, such as the University Clinical Center in Pristina, even when the prison could provide adequate medical services.

The KRCT also noted that authorities did not provide written decisions justifying solitary confinement or confirming transfer to another facility. According to prisoners, such decisions were implemented without notice or explanation. The KRCT noted that authorities’ failure to implement the law on penal sanctions resulted in a lack of clear procedures for leave and parole requests.

Both inmates and social workers characterized the conditional release panel as failing to address requests for early release in a timely fashion and for a lack of clarity in the justification of its denials. Prisoners with good behavior records criticized the panel’s lack of consideration of their individual circumstances. The KCS received seven complaints during the year.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers, but the national Ombudsperson Institution alone had continuous and unfettered access to correctional facilities. The KRCT and the Center for Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms were required to provide 24-hour advance notice of planned visits.

Improvements: In May the government opened an educational correctional center for juveniles at Lipjan Detention Center. Lipjan Detention Center’s existing management administered the center for juveniles, in apparent violation of the legal prohibition against managers running multiple institutions.

In March the government opened a new detention center with a 300-prisoner capacity in Gjilan. Some NGOs stated that the center did not meet basic safety standards, noting poor-quality surveillance systems and cell doors.

The government also renovated Dubrava Prison during the year, partially addressing deficiencies including poor lighting and ventilation, dilapidated kitchens and toilets, lack of hot water, inadequate or no bedding, and significant delay in repairs.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, and the government, EULEX, and Kosovo Force (KFOR), a NATO-led international peacekeeping force, generally observed these prohibitions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Local security forces included the Kosovo Police and the Kosovo Security Force, a lightly armed civil response force that provides disaster response and humanitarian relief, demining, search and rescue, and hazardous material containment. The law provides that police operate under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Police maintained internal security, with assistance from EULEX as a second responder for incidents of unrest and KFOR as a third responder. The border police, part of the Kosovo Police, were responsible for law enforcement related to border management. The Ministry for the Kosovo Security Force managed the KSF.

EULEX’s mandate is to monitor, mentor, and advise local judicial and law enforcement institutions. It also has some operational responsibilities, backing up the police force, including during raids and actions requiring crowd and riot control. Circumstances did not require EULEX to carry out this back-up function during the year. EULEX’s independent mandate for policing operations is limited to cases of organized crime, high-level corruption, war crimes, money laundering, terrorist financing, and international police cooperation. It also engaged in witness protection and in training police in this area. EULEX’s executive role gradually diminished as envisaged in the government’s exchange of letters with the EU in 2014 and as extended in 2016.

KFOR was responsible for providing a safe and secure environment and ensuring freedom of movement in the country. As of May the mission had 4,352 troops from 31 countries.

EULEX and KFOR personnel were not subject to the country’s legal system but were subject to their missions’ and their countries’ disciplinary measures.

The government sometimes investigated abuse and corruption, although mechanisms for doing so were not equally effective throughout the country. Security forces did not ensure compliance with court orders when local officials failed to carry them out. Numerous police officers were arrested on corruption charges during the year, and impunity was a problem.

On September 8, the media reported that the Kosovo Police terminated the contracts of 57 of the 59 officers arrested in 2016 for abuse of office and bribery. Most of them were members of the traffic and highway control unit from Mitrovice/a South and Mitrovice/a North, who reportedly were caught receiving bribes after the PIK installed hidden cameras within their official patrol vehicles.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

By law, except when a crime is in progress, police may apprehend suspects only with warrants based on evidence and issued by a judge or prosecutor. Within six hours, prosecutors must issue the arrested person a written statement describing the alleged offense and the legal basis for the charges. Authorities must bring arrested persons before a judge within 48 hours and must provide detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice or one provided by the state. There is a bail system, but courts seldom used it. They often released detainees without bail pending trial.

Suspects have the right to refuse to answer questions at all stages of an investigation, except those concerning their identity. Suspects have the right to free assistance of an interpreter and medical and psychiatric treatment. Police may not hold suspects incommunicado.

Following an initial ruling, a court may hold individuals in pretrial detention for 30 days from the date of their arrest and may extend pretrial detention for up to one year. After an indictment and until the conclusion of trial proceedings, only a trial judge or a trial panel can order or terminate detention. The law allows a judge to order house arrest, confiscation of travel documents, and the expanded use of bail as alternatives to pretrial detention.

Although in some instances police were masked or under cover, they generally carried out arrests using warrants. There were no confirmed reports that police abused the 48-hour rule, and prosecutors generally either provided arrested persons with documents describing the reasons for their detention or released them. While officials generally respected the requirement for prompt disposition of cases, the KRCT reported that detainees occasionally faced delays when attorneys were temporarily not available.

NGOs reported that authorities did not always allow detained persons to contact attorneys when initially arrested and in some cases permitted consultation with an attorney only when police investigators began formal questioning. In several cases detainees were allowed access to an attorney only after their formal questioning. Some detained persons complained that, despite requests for lawyers, their first contact with an attorney took place at their initial court appearance.

Arbitrary Arrest: On September 13, police raided offices of the Serbian Red Cross in seven municipalities across Kosovo. Police stated the raids were in response to what they called an illegal census operation, while Serbian Red Cross officials said their data gathering was in support of humanitarian aid delivery and monitoring. Media and international observers reported that in these raids, police relied on “oral warrants” from local prosecutors, in contravention of the law. Police detained a number of Serbian Red Cross employees temporarily. Prosecutors and police were unable to cite specifically any provision of the criminal code that the Serbian Red Cross offices had contravened.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy detention, both before and during judicial proceedings, remained a problem. The law allows judges to detain a defendant pending trial if there is a well grounded suspicion that the defendant is likely to destroy, hide, or forge evidence; influence witnesses; flee; repeat the offense; engage in another criminal offense; or fail to appear at subsequent court proceedings. Judges routinely granted pretrial detention without requiring evidentiary justification. Lengthy detention was also partly due to judicial inefficiency and corruption.

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.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary did not always provide due process. According to the European Commission, NGOs, and the Office of the Ombudsperson, the administration of justice was slow and lacked means of ensuring accountability by judicial officials. Judicial structures were subject to political interference, with disputed appointments and unclear mandates. Efficiency in case resolution improved during the year, but the courts were burdened by a case backlog. During the first six months of the year, the courts resolved 170,000 cases and received 130,000 new ones. According to the Kosovo Judicial Council, 358,135 civil and criminal administrative and commercial cases awaited trial as of July. In addition, 154,596 minor offenses awaited adjudication.

A mechanism for disciplinary proceedings against judges and prosecutors was in place, but it was ineffective. Authorities sometimes failed to carry out court orders, including from the Constitutional Court, particularly for rulings in favor of minorities.

Despite a Constitutional Court ruling confirming the Serbian Orthodox Church’s ownership of more than 24 hectares of land adjacent Visoki Decani Monastery, local authorities in Decan/Decani failed to implement the decision. The Serbian Orthodox Church referred the issue to the Kosovo Cadastral Agency, but the registration was pending. None of the officials involved in failing to carry out the court order was sanctioned.

EULEX prosecutors and judges worked within the country’s judicial system. The head of the SPRK, whose jurisdiction includes trafficking in persons, crimes against humanity, money laundering, war crimes, and terrorism, had a EULEX prosecutor as her deputy. In accordance with an exchange of letters between the government and the EU, EULEX prosecutors may act independently or together with domestic prosecutors in compliance with applicable law. Consequently, EULEX took on some new cases and processed continuing ones.

On October 24, the president issued a decree appointing 40 Kosovo Serb judges and 13 prosecutors as agreed under the Dialogue Agreement on the Judiciary. Courts in Mitrovice/a North, which had previously operated under the Serbian judicial system, were recognized as Kosovo courts and began implementing Kosovo law. A backlog of 8,000 civil and criminal cases from the four Serb-majority municipalities, which had been transferred to Vushtrri in 2016, was returned to Mitrovice/a North for processing

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for a fair and impartial trial, and while there were severe shortfalls in the judiciary system, it generally upheld the law. Trials are public, and the law entitles defendants to the presumption of innocence, the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges against them, to be present at their trials, to remain silent and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, to confront adverse witnesses, to see evidence, and to have legal representation. Defendants have the right to appeal. These rights extend to all citizens without exception. The country does not use jury trials.

The constitution guarantees the right to free legal aid, but international observers reported that the Agency for Free Legal Aid, mandated to provide free legal assistance to low-income individuals, was not adequately funded and not functioning as envisioned. The agency offers legal advice but does not represent cases before the court.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There are civil remedies for human rights violations, but victims were unable to avail themselves of this recourse due to complicated bureaucratic procedures and a large backlog of judicial cases. Individuals may appeal to courts to seek damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations.

Individuals may turn to the Constitutional Court for review of their rights to due process. The constitution incorporates obligations agreed to in numerous international conventions as binding. Individuals may bring alleged violations of these conventions as well as violations of due process under domestic law before the Constitutional Court.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

A confusing mix of laws, regulations, administrative instructions, and court practices, as well as the illegal reoccupation of properties and multiple claims for the same property, continued to hamper property restitution cases arising from the 1998-99 war. Private citizens and religious communities were largely unsuccessful in petitioning for the return of properties seized or confiscated during the Yugoslav era.

The Kosovo Property Comparison and Verification Agency (KPCVA) created in 2016 has authority to adjudicate claims through the resolution of discrepancies between cadastral documents taken to Serbia in 1999 and Kosovo’s current cadastral records. Claimants have the right to appeal decisions in the courts.

As of December 2016, the Kosovo Property Claims Commission, which falls under the KPCVA, adjudicated 42,114 registered claims, and authorities notified almost all claimants of results. The commission reported that the Kosovo Property Agency (KPA) authorities implemented 39,693 of its decisions. A total of 1,293 of the commission’s decisions were under appeal with the Supreme Court.

The KPA, a quasi-judicial body, had difficulty enforcing its decisions when evicting illegal occupants. The KPA also lacked funds to pay the 3.2 million euros ($3.8 million) compensation called for in the 143 claims decided in favor of persons who lost their properties in the early 1990s due to discriminatory housing practices erratically employed at that time. The agency similarly lacked funds to remove illegal structures constructed on land after claimants had their rights confirmed. As of August the agency submitted 416 criminal charges to the Prosecutor’s Office against illegal occupants who reoccupied properties after KPA evictions; 460 eviction warrants remained pending during this period. The area of the country with the highest proportion of pending evictions was Mitrovice/a, with 337, primarily affecting Kosovo Albanians.

The backlog of cases in municipal courts remained high, and approximately 50 percent of these were related to property claims. Approximately 9,000 claims remained outstanding as of December 2016, most involving compensation claims by Kosovo Serbs for uninhabitable war-damaged property. The country lacked an effective system to allow displaced Kosovo Serbs living outside the country to file property and other claims.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government, EULEX, or KFOR failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Kuwait

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but there continued to be reports of torture and ill-treatment by police and security forces during prolonged detention of persons in cases relating to terrorism, and against detained members of minority groups and noncitizens.

Several persons claimed police or Kuwait State Security (KSS) force members beat them at police checkpoints or in detention. In July a foreign national in long-term detention in the Kuwait Central Prison reported he was beaten by prison personnel, and diplomatic representatives confirmed the prisoner was denied medical treatment for his injuries for at least 11 days following the incident.

The government stated it investigates complaints against police officers and that disciplinary action is taken when warranted. Disciplinary actions resulted in fines, detention, and some officers being removed from their positions or terminated. The government did not make public all the findings of its investigations or all punishments it imposed. In one publicized case, the Court of Misdemeanors in March sentenced a police officer to one month in jail for illegally detaining and physically abusing an innocent citizen. Although government investigations do 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

According to the Parliamentary Committee Report on Central Prison Conditions, the prisons lacked the minimum standards of cleanliness and sanitation, were overcrowded, and suffered from widespread corruption in management leading to drug abuse and prisoner safety issues. An international organization that visited the Central Prison corroborated some of the findings from the report.

Government authorities were investigating a February attack by another inmate on former member of parliament (MP) and opposition leader Musallam al-Barrak, who had been convicted in 2015 on charges of insulting the emir. The attack prompted a review by parliament of the prison system, and the inmate accused of attacking the former MP reportedly committed suicide.

Physical Conditions: The Central Prison has a capacity of 2,302 inmates. Approximately 3,634 inmates were housed there. Cells in the male prison held four to 12 persons and cells in the female prison held six to eight; inmates reportedly lived in moderately overcrowded conditions. Although the total capacity of the women’s prison was not reported, both prison authorities and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that have visited the facility mentioned overcrowding at the women’s prison, which currently houses 192 inmates.

A nursery complex was provided for female inmates with children less than two years old. Officials stated the prison was not designed to accommodate prisoners with disabilities as, by law, any convict with a significant disability cannot be held in the Central Prison.

The number of inmates at the deportation center at Talha was close to 400 on an average day. Observers reported that up to 800 inmates could be housed in the facility for short periods of time. They also reported some overcrowding at the deportation center and poor sanitation as a consequence of the aging facility. Noncitizen women pending deportation were kept at the Central Prison due to lack of segregated facilities at the deportation center.

The Parliamentary Committee Report on Central Prison Conditions indicated there was discrimination between prisoners according to national origin and citizenship status. Bribery of prison workers and poor supervision resulted in a black market trading in drugs, cigarettes, cellphones, electronics, as well as makeshift weapons. Some prisoners complained of having cells raided by unidentified masked men.

Administration: There were some reports of corruption and lack of supervision by the administration of the prison and detention center system. While inmates lodged complaints against prison officials and other inmates, no information was available on the resolution of these complaints.

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 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 prisons upon approval from the ministry. The Kuwait Society for Human Rights and the Kuwait Association for the Basic Evaluation of Human Rights were allowed to visit prisons during the year. A government official stated that local and international NGOs visited prisons approximately 70 times during the year.

ICRC hosted training sessions on human rights standards related to arrest, detention, and interrogation procedures for judicial police from the DGSN and National Gendarmerie, as well as for judges.

Improvements: Authorities improved prison conditions to meet international standards. The Ministry of Justice’s Directorate of Penal Affairs and Pardons said that the government alleviated overcrowding by opening new detention centers during the year, including minimum-security centers that permitted prisoners to work. The DGSN announced the creation of a new human rights office in July; one of its functions is to ensure implementation of measures to improve detention conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. There were numerous reports, however, that police made arbitrary arrests, principally as part of sustained action against persons in the country illegally, regardless of their actual residency status.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

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 security forces, and the government has 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 criminal complaints seriously, especially those of foreigners, and of citizen and noncitizen victims of rape and domestic violence. Alleged crimes perpetrated by nationals against nonnationals rarely led to prosecution. Many cases reached an informal resolution through cash settlement. In cases of alleged police abuse, the district chief investigator is responsible for examining abuse allegations and refers cases to the courts for trial.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

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. There were cases of detainees, especially those held for drug crimes, who were detained for periods of one to two weeks, and who were unaware of the charges against them and not allowed access to an attorney.

Diplomatic representatives observed that in some detention cases, authorities permitted lawyers to attend legal proceedings but did not allow direct contact with their clients. Detainees were routinely denied access to their lawyers and translators in advance of hearings. Defendants who do not speak or understand Arabic often learned of charges against them after the trial as they did not have access to a translator when the charges were pressed against them. The law provides the detained person the right to a prompt judicial determination of 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. 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. Defendants in drug cases were usually held incommunicado for several days while their case was under investigation.

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: There were reports that police arbitrarily detained nonnationals during raids, including some who possessed valid residency permits and visas.

Pretrial Detention: Arbitrary lengthy detention before trial sometimes occurred. Authorities held some detainees beyond the maximum detention period of six months. The total staff of 600 judges and 300 prosecutors at the Ministry of Justice was reported as being inadequate to handle cases in a timely manner and was the main cause of delays in processing cases.

Excessive detention at the government-run Talha Deportation Center, in J’leeb al-Shyoukh, 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. Criminal lawyers reported that defendants were able to challenge their detention successfully, particularly in cases involving cases involving drug and alcohol use, by showing violation of the legal process by law enforcement officers at the time of arrest, resulting in acquittals in court.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law and the constitution provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. 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.

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.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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. There were cases where non-Arabic speaking defendants did not understand the charges against them due to language barriers and restrictions on communication between lawyers and their clients. Defendants were not always provided with interpreters as required by law. Criminal trials are public unless a court decides “maintenance of public order” or the “preservation of public morals” necessitates 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. The public did not have access to most court documents. The Ministry of Justice is required to provide defendants with an interpreter for the entire judicial process, but in practice this did not always occur.

Defendants have the right to confront their accusers, to confront witnesses against them, and to present their own witnesses, although these rights were not always respected in practice. 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.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were several instances of persons detained for their political views. Throughout the year the government arrested several individuals on charges such as insulting the emir, insulting leaders of neighboring countries, or insulting the judiciary. While authorities arrested and released some individuals after a few days, they held others for weeks or months pending trial. During the year sentences for insulting or speaking out against the emir or other leaders on social media ranged from a few months in prison to up to 10 years.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

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 such rulings for political reasons. 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.

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

The constitution and the law prohibit such actions, and the government respected these prohibitions. Cybercrime agents within the Ministry of Interior, however, 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.

In 2015 the government passed a DNA law requiring all persons entering the country, including citizens and noncitizens, to submit DNA samples for security purposes. In October the Constitutional Court ruled that the DNA Law was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the constitution’s articles on personal liberty, leading to the immediate revocation of the law.

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 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country’s diplomats were prohibited from marrying noncitizens.

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 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government restricted this right in the case of noncitizens. The law prohibits them from demonstrating or protesting.

Officials sometimes also restricted the location of planned protests to designated public spaces, citing public safety and traffic concerns. In April, however, hundreds of supporters of the prominent opposition leader Musallam al-Barrak celebrated his release from prison with an impromptu rally and procession from the Central Prison to his house without any government interference. In the past courts have tried and sentenced participants in unlicensed demonstrations to prison terms and deported noncitizens for participating in rallies.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

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

The government used its power to register associations as a means of political influence. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor can also reject an NGO’s application if it deems the NGO does not provide a public service. In May there were approximately 115 officially licensed NGOs in the country, including a bar association, other professional groups, and scientific bodies as well as 18 charities. Most charity closings resulted from improper reporting of fund raising activities, which included not getting permission from the ministry or failing to submit annual financial reports. Dozens of unlicensed civic groups, clubs, and unofficial NGOs had no legal status, and many of those chose not to register due to bureaucratic inconvenience or inability to meet the minimum 50-member threshold. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor rejected some license requests, contending established NGOs already provided services similar to those the petitioners proposed. Members of licensed NGOs must obtain permission from the ministry to attend international conferences as official representatives of their organization.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution generally provides for freedom of internal movement, but numerous laws constrain foreign travel.

The government generally cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other individuals of concern.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: There were widespread reports of abuse of migrant workers, especially domestic workers from Asia. Because there is no path to citizenship, all workers are considered expatriates and not labelled as migrants.

The law does not provide for granting asylum or refugee status. There is no system for providing protection to refugees, and the government did not grant refugee status or asylum during the year. According to UNHCR there were more than 3,000 registered asylum seekers and recognized refugees in the country. Most of these were from Syria, Iraq, and Somalia, and many were either employed with access to basic services or supported by human rights groups pending resolution of their UNHCR asylum requests and resettlement. Many were increasingly fearful of losing their jobs and/or residency status. Due to populist antiexpatriate sentiments in the country, the cabinet enacted policy making healthcare and education more expensive for foreign workers than for citizens. The immediate effect of this policy was witnessed by human rights organizations who reported that many foreign workers and their families that were receiving medical treatment chose to be discharged from hospitals rather than receive treatment they could no longer afford. Compounded by stagnant wages, higher cost of living, and a lack of job security, more persons–even legally employed workers, especially from conflict zones–began seeking asylum and resettlement in Europe, America, and Australia.

The law does not provide noncitizens, including bidoon, a clear or defined opportunity to gain nationality. The judicial system’s lack of authority to rule on the status of stateless persons further complicated the process for obtaining citizenship, leaving bidoon with no access to the judiciary to present evidence and plead their case for citizenship. According to 2016 government figures, there were approximately 96,000 bidoon in the country, while Human Rights Watch estimated the bidoon population at more than 105,000.

The naturalization process for bidoon is not transparent, and decisions appeared arbitrary. The Central Agency for Illegal Residents, tasked with monitoring bidoon affairs, had more than 96,000 bidoon citizenship requests under review. According to UNHCR the bidoon population can be broken down into 8,000 who have clear and legitimate claims to citizenship, 35,000 who could possibly be eligible, and the remainder who have little or no claim under current laws.

According to bidoon activists and government officials, many bidoon were unable to provide documentation proving ties to the country sufficient to qualify for citizenship. The government alleged that the vast majority of bidoon concealed their “true” nationalities and were not actually stateless. Agency officials have extended special benefits to bidoon to entice them disclose their true nationality. So far 10,000 bidoon have admitted holding other nationalities. They claimed benefits that include residency that can be renewed every five years, free healthcare and education services as well as ration cards. Other privileges to those that come forward to adjust their status include priority employment after local nationals and obtaining driving licenses.

According to UNHCR some bidoon underwent DNA testing to prove their Kuwaiti nationality. Bidoon are required to submit DNA samples confirming paternity in order to become naturalized, a practice critics said leaves them vulnerable to denial of citizenship based on DNA testing.

The government discriminated against bidoon in some areas. Some bidoon and international NGOs reported that the government did not uniformly grant some government services and subsidies to bidoon, including education, employment, medical care, and the issuance of civil documents, such as birth, marriage, and death certificates. Bidoon activists claimed many bidoon families were unable to obtain birth certificates for their children, which restricted the children’s ability to obtain government-issued identification cards, access adequate medical care, and attend school. The Court of Appeals affirmed court jurisdiction over bidoon complaints against the Central Agency including those related to certificate issuance. The Court of Appeals overturned the ruling issued by a first instance court that dismissed a complaint by a female bidoon against the agency that denied her the right to be issued some certificates over lack of jurisdiction. The agency attorneys pleaded that the agency work falls under the “sovereignty acts” that cannot be challenged in courts (such as citizenship issues).

The Ministry of Education partners with the Charity Fund for Education to pay for bidoon children to attend private schools, but the children must fall into one of seven categories to qualify for an education grant.

Many adult bidoon also lacked identification cards, preventing them from engaging in lawful employment or obtaining travel documents. This restriction resulted in some bidoon children not receiving an education and working as street vendors to help support their families. Many bidoon children who attended school enrolled in substandard private institutions because only citizens may attend public school.

The government allowed bidoon to work in some government positions, as dictated in the 2011 decree, including in the military. In April the government announced a new initiative that would allow the sons of soldiers who served in the military for 30 years and the sons of soldiers killed or missing in action to be eligible to join the military.

Since the government treats them as illegal immigrants, bidoon do not have property rights.

Foreign Travel: Bidoon and foreign workers faced problems with, or restrictions on, foreign travel. The government restricted the ability of some bidoon to travel abroad by not issuing travel documents, although it permitted some bidoon to travel overseas for medical treatment and education, and to visit Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj (Islamic pilgrimage). The Ministry of Interior has not issued “Article 17” passports (temporary travel documents that do not confer nationality) to bidoon except on humanitarian grounds since 2014.

The law also permits travel bans on citizens and nonnationals accused or suspected of violating the law, including nonpayment of debts, and it allows other citizens to petition authorities to impose one. This provision resulted in delays and difficulties for citizens and foreigners leaving the country.

Exile: While the constitution prohibits exile of citizens, the government can deport foreigners for a number of legal infractions.

Citizenship: By law the government is prohibited from revoking the citizenship of an individual who was born a citizen unless that individual has obtained a second nationality, which is against the law. The country does not give birthright citizenship based on the right of anyone born in the territory to nationality or citizenship. Additionally, the government can revoke the citizenship of naturalized citizens for cause, including a felony conviction and, subsequently, deport them. The government has justified the revocation of citizenship by citing a 1959 nationality law that permits withdrawal of citizenship from naturalized Kuwaitis who acquired citizenship dishonestly or threatened to “undermine the economic or social structure of the country.” Additionally, if a person loses citizenship, all family members whose status derives from that person also lose their citizenship and all associated rights. The Court of Cassation ruled that the courts had jurisdiction over citizen revocation cases. Persons who had their citizenship revoked, and any family members dependent on that individual for their citizenship status, became stateless individuals. Authorities can seize the passports and civil identification cards of persons who lose their citizenship and enter a “block” on their names in government databases. This “block” prevented former citizens from traveling or accessing health care and other government services reserved for citizens. In April the Council of Ministers created a committee presided over by emiri adviser and former speaker Ali al-Rashid to review complaints of citizenship revocations since 1991. The committee restored the citizenships of seven out of 184 families. There were no known revocations of citizenship during the year.

The law prohibits the granting of citizenship to non-Muslims, but it allows non-Muslim male citizens to transmit citizenship to their descendants. According to the law, children derive citizenship solely from the father; children born to citizen mothers and nonnational fathers do not inherit citizenship. Female citizens may sponsor their nonnational children (regardless of age) and husbands for residency permits, and they may petition for naturalization for their children if the mother becomes divorced or widowed from a noncitizen husband.

Kyrgyz Republic

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 purposefully committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The law prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. There were no prominent reports during the year of alleged torture by security force personnel; nonetheless, physical abuse, including inhuman and degrading treatment, reportedly continued in prisons. Police abuse reportedly remained a problem, notably in pretrial detention.

On September 25, local media reported that the ombudsman opened an investigation into torture allegations made by a detainee at a Bishkek pretrial detention facility. The detainee alleged that police officers assaulted him and applied psychological pressure to extract a confession.

As in 2016, defense attorneys, journalists, and human rights monitoring organizations, including Golos Svobody, Bir Duino, and the international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), reported incidents of serious abuse or torture by police and other law enforcement agencies. NGOs stated the government established strong torture-monitoring bodies but that the independence of these bodies was under threat.

Golos Svobody played a central role in monitoring allegations of torture and was the central organizer of the Antitorture Coalition, a consortium of 18 NGOs that continued to work with the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) to track complaints of torture.

The Antitorture Coalition also accepted complaints of torture and passed them to the PGO to facilitate investigations. According to members of the Antitorture Coalition, the cases it submitted against alleged torturers did not lead to convictions. In historical cases where police were put on trial for torture, prosecutors, judges, and defendants routinely raised procedural and substantive objections, delaying the cases, often resulting in stale evidence, and ultimately leading to case dismissal. During the year NGOs reported that courts regularly included into evidence confessions allegedly induced through torture.

Defense lawyers stated that, once prosecutors took a case to trial, a conviction was almost certain. According to Golos Svobody, investigators often took two weeks or longer to review torture claims, at which point the physical evidence of torture was no longer visible. Defense attorneys presented most allegations of torture during trial proceedings, and the courts typically rejected them. In some cases detainees who filed torture complaints later recanted, reportedly in the face of intimidation by law enforcement officers.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and sometimes life threatening due to food and medicine shortages, substandard health care, lack of heat, and mistreatment.

Physical Conditions: Pretrial and temporary detention facilities were particularly overcrowded, and conditions and mistreatment generally were worse than in prisons. Authorities generally held juveniles separately from adults but grouped them in overcrowded temporary detention centers when other facilities were unavailable. Convicted prisoners occasionally remained in pretrial detention centers while their cases were under appeal.

NGOs reported that in some cases prison gangs controlled prison management and discipline, since prison officials lacked capacity and expertise in running a facility. In some instances the gangs controlled items that could be brought into the prison, such as food and clothing, while prison officials looked the other way. According to NGOs, authorities did not try to dismantle these groups because they were too powerful and believed that removing them could lead to chaos. Some prisoners indicated that prison order and safety was left to the prison gangs or prisoners themselves, resulting in instances of violence and intimidation among inmates.

Administration: Persons held in pretrial detention often did not have access to visitors. Prisoners have the right to file complaints with prison officials or with higher authorities. According to the NGO Bir Duino, prison staff inconsistently reported and documented complaints. Many observers believed that the official number of prisoner complaints of mistreatment represented only a small fraction of the actual cases.

Independent Monitoring: NGO leaders reported that prison officials increased openness to allowing monitors into prison and detention facilities, and most monitoring groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), reported receiving unfettered access. Some NGOs, including Bir Duino and Spravedlivost, had the right to visit prisons independently as part of their provision of technical assistance, such as medical and psychological care.

The National Center to Prevent Torture and other Inhuman and Offensive Treatment and Punishment, an independent and impartial body, is empowered to monitor detention facilities. The center consists of 11 government employees spread across seven offices and empowered to make unannounced, unfettered visits to detention facilities. NGO representatives stated that center officials made progress monitoring and documenting some violations in detention facilities, but they stressed, as they had in previous years, that a standardized approach to identifying torture cases and additional resources and staff members, were necessary to conduct its work.

An NGO representative stated that as of this year, the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) would be responsible for handling torture investigations, working with the PGO to prosecute cases.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

While the law prohibits arbitrary arrest, it continued to occur. Human rights organizations in Osh reported arrests unfairly targeting ethnic Uzbeks for alleged involvement in banned religious organizations and for alleged “religious extremism activity.” Arrests for lack of proper identification documents were common. Attorneys reported that police frequently arrested individuals on false charges and then solicited bribes in exchange for release.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The investigation of general and local crimes falls under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, while national-level crimes fall under the authority of the GKNB, which also controls the presidential security service. The PGO prosecutes both local and national crimes.

Both local and international observers said the GKNB and law enforcement officers engaged in widespread arbitrary arrests, including some alleged to be politically motivated, detainee abuse, and extortion, particularly in the southern part of the country. Authorities dismissed most cases against Ministry of Internal Affairs officials for corruption or abuse of authority.

NGOs and other legal observers routinely noted the lack of women and ethnic minorities in the police force and in all government positions. Officially, women and ethnic minorities (nonethnic Kyrgyz) made up approximately 6 and 4 percent of the police force, respectively. According to UN statistics, ethnic minorities constituted approximately 27 percent of the population.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

According to the criminal procedure code, only courts have the authority to issue search and seizure warrants. While prosecutors have the burden of proof in persuading a judge that a defendant should be detained pending trial, activists reported detention without a warrant or in contravention of regulatory standards remained common. NGOs reported that police targeted vulnerable defendants from whom they believed they could secure a bribe. Observers alleged incidents in which police targeted ethnic Uzbeks by planting literature and then charging them with possession of banned religious materials. Authorities could legally hold a detainee for 48 to 72 hours before filing charges; authorities generally respected these limits. The law requires investigators to notify a detainee’s family of the detention within 12 hours, but officials inconsistently enforced this provision. Following official charges, the courts have discretion to hold a suspect in pretrial detention for as much as one year, depending on the severity of the charges, after which they are legally required to release the suspect. There is a functioning bail system, and there are no alternatives to the bail system under the law.

Persons arrested or charged with a crime have the right to defense counsel at public expense. By law the accused has the right to consult with defense counsel immediately upon arrest or detention, but in many cases, the first meeting did not occur until the trial. As in past years, human rights groups noted incidents in which authorities denied attorneys to arrested minors, often holding the minors without parental notification and questioning them without parents or attorneys present, despite laws forbidding these practices.

The law authorizes the use of house arrest for certain categories of suspects. Reports indicated that law enforcement officers selectively enforced the law by incarcerating persons suspected of minor crimes while not pursuing those suspected of ones that are more serious.

Arbitrary Arrest: As in previous years, NGOs and monitoring organizations, including Golos Svobody, Bir Duino, HRW, Spravedlivost, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the OSCE, recorded complaints of arbitrary arrest. Most observers asserted it was impossible to know the number of cases because the majority went unreported. According to NGOs in the southern part of the country, arrests and harassment of individuals allegedly involved in extremist religious groups–predominantly ethnic Uzbeks–continued.

On July 2, residents of Kara-Kul, Jalal-Abad Oblast took to the streets to demand the resignation of police chief Kalyk Aytbayev. The residents complained that under Aytbayev, local police frequently planted drugs and banned extremist literature on detainees to justify arrests. On July 13, the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced it started an investigation against Aytbayev, who remained in his post.

On September 21, police and intelligence authorities made several raids in the Chui Oblast. They arrested three individuals on charges related to extremist literature gathered at the scene and weapons that were confiscated. Authorities also found components to make improvised explosives. The arrests related to an unnamed extremist group. Government authorities alleged that those arrested were planning a terrorist attack related to the October presidential election.

There were reports of more than a dozen arrests of individuals suspected of involvement in the banned extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir; such arrests continued a trend that began to increase in 2014. According to Bir Duino, however, some arrests were driven by corruption within the law enforcement system. There were allegations police would enter a home falsely claiming to have a search warrant, plant banned Hizb ut-Tahrir material, and arrest the suspect in the hope of extracting a bribe to secure release.

Pretrial Detention: According to the penal code, authorities may hold a suspect at a pretrial detention facility during the official investigation. Depending on the facility, families may or may not have visitation rights with pretrial detainees. The general legal restriction on the length of investigations is 60 days. Political machinations, complex legal procedures, poor access to lawyers, and limited investigation capacity often lengthened defendants’ time in pretrial detention beyond the 60-day limit, with some being detained legally for as long as one year.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: According to the Kyrgyz Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), individuals may challenge the lawfulness of their detention at any point. The CPC also outlines instances in which restitution may be made to affected individuals or their heirs following a court’s determination of unlawful detention. These instances happened rarely.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but judges were subject to influence or corruption. Throughout the year there were multiple instances where the conduct and outcomes of trials appeared predetermined. Numerous sources, including NGOs, attorneys, government officials, and private citizens, asserted judges paid bribes to attain their positions. Many attorneys asserted that bribe taking was ubiquitous among judges. Authorities generally respected court orders.

Numerous NGOs described pervasive violations of the right to a fair trial, including coerced confessions, use of torture, denial of access to counsel, and convictions in the absence of sufficiently conclusive evidence or despite exculpatory evidence. International observers reported threats and acts of violence against defendants and defense attorneys within and outside the courtroom, as well as intimidation of trial judges by victims’ relatives and friends.

In August 2016 the president signed the Court Bailiffs Bill into law to enhance the security of the courts.

In the criminal corruption trial of presidential candidate and opposition member of parliament (MP) Omurbek Tekebaev, a number of observers noted that a series of procedural rulings against Tekebaev created an appearance of bias. In particular, rulings to halt the testimony of defense witnesses and prohibit the video broadcast of the trial raised questions regarding the impartiality of the proceedings. On August 16, a Bishkek district court sentenced Tekebaev to eight years’ imprisonment; however, the judge reduced the sentence to four and a half years, citing amnesty. Tekebaev’s lawyers appealed the sentence, and on October 2, the Bishkek city court upheld the lower court’s ruling.

Azimjon Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek human rights activist convicted of murder along with seven codefendants in the 2010 killing of a Bazar Korgon police officer, remained imprisoned at year’s end. In April 2016 the UN Human Rights Committee issued findings that Askarov had been arbitrarily detained, held in inhuman conditions, tortured and mistreated, and prevented from adequately preparing his defense. The committee called on the government to annul Askarov’s conviction, release him immediately, and, if necessary, conduct a new trial. Pursuant to the committee’s findings, the Supreme Court convened in July 2016 to reconsider Askarov’s case.

The government invited diplomats, journalists, representatives of international organizations, and human rights groups to attend the hearing. In July 2016 the Supreme Court overturned Askarov’s life sentence and remanded the case to the Chui district lower court for additional review. In October 2016 the Chui District Court commenced a retrial of the Askarov case, calling more than 20 witnesses to testify. Askarov actively participated in the courtroom during these proceedings. On January 24, the court upheld Askarov’s life sentence.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

While the law provides for defendants’ rights, the customs and practices of the judicial system regularly contradicted the constitutional presumption of innocence, and pretrial investigations focused on the collection of sufficient evidence to prove guilt. The law requires courts to inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them, and to provide interpreters as needed. Trials were conducted in the state language, Kyrgyz, or the official language, Russian. In a majority of trials, courtroom procedure required defendants to sit in caged cells. There is no protection against double jeopardy.

Defense attorneys complained that judges routinely returned cases to investigators if there was not enough evidence to prove guilt, during which time suspects could remain in detention. Judges, according to attorneys, typically gave defendants a suspended sentence regardless of how little evidence existed to sustain a prison term.

Trials were generally open to the public, unless they allegedly involved state secrets or privacy concerns of defendants, and courts announced verdicts publicly, even in closed proceedings. State prosecutors submit criminal cases to courts, while judges direct criminal proceedings. Criminal cases feature a single judge, while three-judge panels conduct appellate cases. Judges have full authority to render verdicts and determine sentences. A limited number of judges have clearance to access documents deemed secret, further circumscribing defendants’ access to impartial judicial review in cases purporting to relate to national security.

The law provides for unlimited visits between an attorney and a client during trial, but authorities occasionally did not grant permission for such visits. The government provided indigent defendants with attorneys at public expense, and defendants could refuse legal counsel and defend themselves. HRW, domestic NGOs, and local attorneys reported some state-provided criminal defense lawyers were complicit with prosecutors and did not properly defend their clients. Many observers, particularly in the southern part of the country, described these lawyers as “pocket attorneys” who would help secure bribes from their client to pass to police and judges, which would then secure the client’s eventual release. International observers reported the quality of representation was much worse in rural areas than in the capital. In many cases it was difficult for individuals accused of extremism-related crimes to find an attorney who was not closely connected to police.

The law permits defendants and their counsel to attend all proceedings, question witnesses, present evidence, call witnesses, and access prosecution evidence in advance of trial, but courts frequently did not follow these requirements. Witnesses typically were required to testify in person. Under certain circumstances courts allowed testimony via audio or video recording. Defendants and counsel, by law, have the right to communicate freely, in private, with no limitation on the frequency. Defendants and prosecutors have the right to appeal a court’s decision. An appellate court can increase a lower court’s sentence against a defendant.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Courts convicted opposition party members and ethnic Uzbeks of corruption and politically motivated actions related to violence. On August 16, Omurbek Tekebayev, a presidential candidate for the Ata Meken party, was sentenced to eight years in prison and confiscation of property on charges of corruption. On September 5, the GKNB started criminal proceedings citing perjury against another presidential candidate, Azimbek Beknazarov, who testified at Omurbek’s trial. In addition to the imprisonment verdict of Omurbek Tekebayev, former MP Sadyr Japarov was sentenced in early August on kidnapping charges dating back to the 2013 political unrest in the Issyk-Kul region. Officials reported that on April 2, Japarov attempted suicide in prison. His action reportedly was in protest of his family being allegedly detained and beaten. According to NGO observers and a statement by Tekebayev, the arrests appeared to be politically motivated ahead of the October 15 presidential election. In view of outstanding questions surrounding their connection to the violence and the fairness of the trials and appeals, some observers considered the above-mentioned individuals political prisoners.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The constitution and law provide for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. As with criminal matters, observers believed the civil judicial system was subject to influence from the outside, including by the government. Local courts address civil, criminal, economic, administrative, and other cases. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority. Among the many articles amended by the December 2016 constitutional referendum was Article 41 of the constitution, which guarantees citizens the right to apply to international human rights bodies seeking protection of violated rights and freedoms in accordance with international treaties. The amendment to Article 41 mandates that the decisions of international bodies are nonbinding and therefore not subject to enforcement by the government.

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

The law requires approval from the prosecutor general for wiretaps, home searches, mail interception, and similar acts, including in cases relating to national security. The law states officials should use wiretapping of electronic communications exclusively to combat crime and only with a court order. Eleven government agencies have legal authority to monitor citizens’ telephone and internet communications.

According to Vozdukh, in May 2016 approximately 20 court officers visited the home of Khadicha Askarova, wife of imprisoned human rights activist Azimjon Askarov, in Bazar-Korgon, Jalal-Abad Province. A court bailiff informed one of Askarova’s lawyers that the court had assigned the officers to make an inventory of the property and house in preparation for its confiscation later that month. According to Askarova, the court officers examined the property without providing documentation of the court order. On August 16, Askarov’s lawyers attended a hearing at the Bazar-Korgon District Court seeking the release of Askarov’s home from government seizure proceedings. The case was unresolved at year’s end. On September 5, the PGO admitted officials had violated procedures in the arrest and seizure of Askarova’s home, and the government released the property to Askarov’s family.

The Law on Defense and Armed Forces authorizes the military to confiscate private property for the purpose of state security.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press, and citizens generally were free to exercise these rights. NGO leaders and media rights advocates, however, asserted the situation worsened during the year, highlighting the increase in libel lawsuits against independent media outlets and journalists and forced closure of news agencies. Self-censorship was prevalent, and some journalists reported pressure from editors and political figures to bias their reporting on sensitive topics.

Freedom of Expression: As in earlier years, some journalists reported intimidation related to coverage of sensitive topics, such as interethnic relations, “religious extremism,” or the rise of nationalism. The trend was particularly salient against Uzbek-language media outlets. Others were prosecuted or felt threatened for reporting critically on public figures.

On March 18, local and foreign press reported that police disrupted a small rally in support of freedom of speech held in the center of Bishkek. Media rights activists, journalists, and opposition MPs participated in the march, several of whom were detained briefly by police for deviating from the march route and spilling onto the streets of the city. The event, led by a known activist and government critic, Edil Baisalov, was intended to raise awareness of the numerous libel lawsuits and criminal investigations targeting journalists and members of the independent media community.

On September 12, a Bishkek court sentenced journalist Zulpukar Sapanov to four years in prison for inciting “inter-religious strife.” The PGO initiated a criminal investigation of the journalist after representatives of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims filed a complaint in response to the publication of Sapanov’s book, entitled Kydyr’s Namesake. The Spiritual Administration of Muslims and the State Commission on Religious Affairs both publicly condemned the book, which analyzed the ethnic and pagan past of the Kyrgyz people. The court found the book contained content that “diminishes the role of Islam as a religion and creates a negative attitude toward Muslims.” On September 29, a Bishkek court reduced Sapanov’s initial sentence to two years’ probation and ordered his immediate release from prison.

Press and Media Freedom: In recent years there were attempts to proscribe independent media from operating freely in the country. Tight government controls over news content on state television was widely acknowledged. Media rights advocates noted increasing pressure on media outlets in advance of the October presidential elections. Such pressure included civil and criminal lawsuits filed against independent media and journalists in connection with their reporting.

On June 9, the GKNB initiated a criminal case against journalist Ulugbek Babakulov for “inciting ethnic hatred and enmity.” Babakulov published an online article entitled “People Are Like Beasts,” which described nationalist and anti-Uzbek statements of Kyrgyz users on social networks. In response to the article, MPs called for stripping Babakulov’s citizenship, and the journalist became the target of death threats, prompting him to flee the country. Access to the regional news site where the article was originally published, Fergananews.com, was subsequently blocked in the country (see Censorship or Content Restrictions below).

Media reported on February 10 that a Bishkek court terminated the PGO’s criminal case against journalist Dayirbek Orunbekov, which sought to collect two million som ($29,000) in damages for insulting the honor and dignity of the president. Local authorities, however, barred Orunbekov from leaving the country, and he remained legally liable for civil damages. On August 22, a Bishkek court ordered the closure of the opposition television station September for allegedly disseminating extremist material in connection with its airing of a 2016 corruption allegation against former prime minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov. The station broadcast an interview with a former police chief of Osh Oblast, who alleged that Jeenbekov had used state funds to promote interethnic clashes in 2010.

In March the Prosecutor General’s office pursued defamation charges against former member of parliament Cholpon Jakupova, and Zanoza Media (now called Kaktus.Media) co-founders, Dina Maslova and Naryn Aiyp, on behalf of President Atambaev. On November 30, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling requiring the defendants to pay approximately $430,000 in fines to former President Atambaev for “moral compensation.” Also on December 19, media reported that a court ordered an asset freeze on the television channel NTS, the largest private television channel in the country and widely believed to be affiliated with opposition politician Omurbek Babanov.

There was a small degree of foreign ownership of media through local partners. Nonetheless, on June 3, the president signed amendments to the law on mass media that prohibited a foreign entity from forming a media outlet and limited foreign ownership of television stations. Through local partners, Russian-language television stations dominated coverage and local ratings. A number of Russia-based media outlets operated freely in the country, and the government treated them as domestic media.

Violence and Harassment: Some journalists were subject to harassment and violence. As an example illustrative of several instances, on May 2, MP Zhyldyz Musabekova reportedly threatened journalist Ypel Ankrulova with violence over corruption allegations published by the journalist. On June 24, Ankrulova filed a complaint against Musabekova with the PGO. The complaint remained pending at year’s end.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: As in previous years, journalists and NGO leaders alleged some news outlets instructed their reporters not to report critically on certain politicians or government officials. The sources also reported some news outlets received requests from offices of the government to report in a particular way or to ignore specific news stories.

On June 8, in response to a petition from the PGO, a Bishkek court ruled to block access in the country to Fergananews.com for its decision to publish Babkulov’s “People Are Like Beasts” article.

NGO leaders and media contacts reported that state-owned broadcasters continued under pressure to run stories promoting government policies and initiatives and develop narratives critical of NGOs, opposition figures, and civil society activists.

Libel/Slander Laws: While libel is not a criminal offense except in narrowly prescribed instances, NGO leaders described the False Accusations Amendments, passed in 2014, as a practical “recriminalizing of libel.” Journalists noted the law exposed media to libel suits in civil courts that could bankrupt the outlets or journalists in their defense attempts. In 2015 the Supreme Court narrowed the reach of the law, holding that henceforth it would only apply in cases of knowingly making false statements in a police report but not to statements in media. A prominent libel case against the online media outlet Zanoza (see below), however, appeared to contradict the Supreme Court’s 2015 holding. Libel is not a criminal offense.

From March through April, the PGO filed five civil lawsuits against web-based news outlet Zanoza, and two against Azattyk, the Kyrgyz service of broadcaster Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty for “offending the honor and dignity” of the president. The suits stemmed from published articles pertaining to statements made by politicians and activists about the president. On May 12, the president requested that the PGO drop the lawsuits against Azattyk, but over the summer, Bishkek courts ruled against Zanoza in separate hearings, finding the outlet liable for damages in the amount of 27 million som ($391,000). One of the co-founders of Zanoza and a defendant in one of the suits, Naryn Ayip, stated that the court’s decisions were designed to force the site to close.

The OSCE’s International Election Observation Mission Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions after the October 15 presidential elections noted that television outlets, including public broadcasters, “failed to provide sufficient and unbiased news coverage of the campaign.” The OSCE also assessed that “defamation claims against media by the incumbent president and other candidates had an adverse effect on public debate and resulted in self-censorship among journalists.”

Freedom House noted “insult” and “insult of public officials” were criminal offenses and that the law is detrimental to the development of freedom of speech and mass media in the country. The head of the Media Policy Institute reported that the organization routinely defended journalists charged with libel and slander, and members of media regularly feared the threat of lawsuits.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government generally allowed access to the internet, including social media sites, and there were no public credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. Nonetheless, NGOs reported police regularly monitored lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) chat rooms and dating sites and arranged meetings with LGBTI users of the sites to extort money from them.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, the internet penetration rate was 34 percent.

According to the PGO, authorities had blocked 86 websites as of the beginning of the year. These sites involved groups that the government deemed to be terrorist or extremist, as well as sites advertising sexual services. Four of the sites involved the banned religious group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

In May 2016 parliament passed an amendment to the law on countering extremist activity that authorizes the Ministry of Transport and Communications to block internet websites spreading extremist and terrorist materials without a court order. During the year there were no reports the government utilized this law.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom. Institutions providing advanced religious education must follow strict reporting policies, but they reported no restrictions on academic freedom.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

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

According to media reports in August, a Bishkek court ruled to ban peaceful protests, meetings, and other public gatherings from July 27 to October 20 in certain parts of the capital city where protesters typically gather, including the central Ala-Too Square, the parliament, the Government House (Old Square), the Central Election Commission (CEC) buildings, and the Pervomaisky District Court. On August 9, police arrested a demonstrator at the CEC building for violating the ban.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

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

The government continued to maintain bans on approximately 21 “religiously oriented” groups it considered to be extremist, including al-Qaida, the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkistan, the Kurdish People’s Congress, the Organization for the Liberation of Eastern Turkistan, Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Union of Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Party of Turkistan, the Unification (Mun San Men) Church, Takfir Jihadist, Jaysh al-Mahdi, Jund al-Khilafah, Ansarullah At-Takfir Val Hidjra, Akromiya, ISIS, Djabhat An Nusra, Katibat al-Imam al-Buhari, Jannat Oshiqlari, and the Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. Authorities also continued the ban on all materials or activities connected to A. A. Tihomirov, also known as Said Buryatsky. On June 15, a Bishkek court added Yakyn Incar to the list of banned extremist groups.

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The law on internal migration provides for freedom of movement. The government generally respected this right, and citizens usually were able to move within the country with ease. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other organizations to provide some protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

A 2016 amendment to the law on combating terrorism and extremism revokes citizenship of anyone convicted of terrorist and extremist activities. The law was not used during the year.

Foreign Travel: The law on migration prohibits travel abroad by citizens who have or had access to information classified as state secrets until the information is declassified.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

As of October UNHCR reported there were 343 refugees in the country. There were continued reports of Uzbek refugees seeking refugee status due to fear of abuse by the Uzbek government.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The law on refugees includes nondiscrimination provisions covering persons who were not refugees when they left their country of origin and extends the validity of documents until a final decision on status is determined by a court.

Employment: UN-mandated refugees who lacked official status in the country do not have legal permission to work. They were therefore susceptible to exploitation by employers paying substandard wages, not providing benefits, and not complying with labor regulations. They could not file grievances with authorities. Refugees with official status in the country have legal permission to work.

Access to Basic Services: UN-mandated refugees and asylum seekers who lacked official status were ineligible to receive state-sponsored social benefits. Refugees with official status in the country have access to basic services.

STATELESS PERSONS

UNHCR officials stated the country’s stateless persons fell into several categories. As of October, 2,135 individuals were listed as stateless, a significant decrease from the approximately 11,700 stateless individuals in 2016, due in large part to a country-wide registration and documentation campaign conducted jointly by UNHCR, the government, and nongovernmental partners. As of 2015 there were an estimated 700 Uzbek women who married Kyrgyz citizens but never received Kyrgyz citizenship (many such women allowed their Uzbek passports to expire, and regulations obstructed their efforts to gain Kyrgyz citizenship). Other categories included Roma, individuals with expired Soviet documents, children born to one or both parents who were stateless, and children of migrant workers who renounced their Kyrgyz citizenship in the hope of becoming Russian citizens. The government denied access to social benefits and official work documents to stateless persons, who lacked sufficient legal standing to challenge exploitative labor conditions in court. The State Registration Service maintained its database of stateless persons based only on those who contacted it.

Laos

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention facility conditions varied widely and in some prisons were harsh due to minimal food supply, overcrowding, and inadequate medical care.

Physical Conditions: Cells were crowded. Some prisons reportedly held juveniles with adults, although no official or reliable statistics were available on the overall population or gender of prisoners countrywide. There was no information available on the prevalence of death in prisons or pretrial detention centers. Food rations were minimally adequate, and family members were responsible for bringing food to their relatives in prison. Some prisons required inmates to reimburse authorities upon release for the cost of food eaten during incarceration. Prisoners in the larger facilities in the capital generally fared better than did those in smaller, provincial prisons.

Although most prisons had some form of clinic, usually with a doctor or nurse on the staff, medical facilities were usually deficient. Prisoners had access only to basic medical care, and treatment for serious ailments was unavailable. For example, in a Vientiane prison there was a clinic with four sick beds and a staff of three for 700 inmates. Prisoners received vaccinations upon arrival; if sick, they had to pay for necessary medicine. In some facilities, prisoners could arrange for treatment in police hospitals, and authorities sent prisoners to these hospitals in emergencies.

Administration: The Ministry of Public Security is responsible for monitoring prison and detention center conditions. Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions, although there were no reports of prisoners, detainees, or their family members making such requests due to fear of exacerbating poor detention conditions. During the October 16-November 17 session of Laos’ National Assembly, the legislature’s Justice Committee raised–and the President of the Supreme Court acknowledged–concerns about deteriorating prison conditions, including overcrowding and the detention of suspects alongside convicted criminals.

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

Independent Monitoring: Government officials did not permit regular independent monitoring of prison conditions. During the June 18 Australia-Laos Human Rights Dialogue, Australian and EU diplomats and other foreign government officials were permitted to visit the only prison that housed foreign prisoners, as well as a drug treatment detention center in Vientiane.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

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

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

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

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

Arbitrary Arrest: Police continued to exercise wide latitude in making arrests, relying on a provision of the law that permits warrantless arrests in urgent cases. Police reportedly used the threat of arrest as a means to intimidate persons or extract bribes.

At times authorities detained prisoners after they completed their sentences, particularly if prisoners were unable to pay court fines. In some cases officials released prisoners if they agreed to pay fines upon their release. The government sometimes released offenders convicted of nonviolent crimes without formally sentencing them to prison. During the National Assembly’s fall session, legislators called on judicial bodies to investigate instances of arrests without warrants by local police, and to which public prosecutors had turned a blind eye.

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but corruption and judges acting with impunity continued to be problems. Some judges reportedly accepted bribes. The National Assembly may remove judges from office for impropriety but did not announce any such removals during the year. The legal framework provides for defense counsel, evidentiary review, and the presumption of innocence. Despite these provisions, the country was still developing a formal justice system. Judges usually decided guilt or innocence in advance of trials, basing their decisions on police or prosecutorial investigation reports. The preferred and widely used policy for resolving disputes continued to be the “Harmonious Village Policy” or “No Case Village Policy,” which discouraged villages from referring cases to the formal justice system and provided incentives to village leaders to resolve legal disputes within village mediation units. Village leaders are not lawyers or judges and do not receive training.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, although the judiciary did not always uphold this right. The law provides defendants a presumption of innocence. Most trials, including criminal trials, were primarily pro forma examinations of the accused and reviews of the evidence. Defendants do not have a legal right to know promptly and in detail the charges against them, but the law requires authorities to inform persons of their rights. Trials are public, except for those involving certain types of family law or related to national security, state secrets, or children younger than 16 years.

The law provides defendants the right to defend themselves with the assistance of a lawyer or other persons, but there remained a lack of qualified lawyers. Lawyers sometimes were unwilling to defend sensitive cases due to fear of retaliation by local authorities. A defense attorney may be present during a trial, but his role is passive, such as asking the court for leniency in sentencing or appealing a technical matter, not arguing the merits of the case, challenging evidence, or mounting a true defense for the client. Authorities provided defense attorneys at government expense only in cases involving children, cases likely to result in life imprisonment or the death penalty, and cases considered particularly complicated, such as ones involving foreigners. There is no legal right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense.

The government allows interpreters to provide explanations of laws and defendant’s rights to ethnic minority citizens and foreigners who cannot communicate in the Lao language. Interpreters receive payment based on the court fee system, which the court passes on to the defendant.

Defendants may have someone assist them in preparing written cases and accompany them at trial, but only the defendant may present oral arguments at a criminal trial. Defendants may question, present witnesses, and present evidence on their own behalf. Defendants may refuse to testify, although authorities sometimes imposed harsher penalties on defendants who did not cooperate. Defendants have the right to object to charges brought against them, and they have the right to appeal, but only in civil cases. The Court of Appeals is legally obligated to decide a case within 45 days from the time it receives the appeal; however, appeals often took longer than six months or remained pending indefinitely.

Litigants may select members of the Lao Bar Association to represent them at trial. The bar association was nominally independent but received some direction from the Ministry of Justice. For several reasons, including the general perception that attorneys cannot influence court decisions, most defendants chose not to have attorneys or trained representatives. The government made efforts to train more lawyers and improved the curriculum at the Faculty of Law at the National University. In 2016, 172 students attended the one-year program, and 166 new students enrolled during the year.

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

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no government statistics or reliable estimates available regarding the number of political prisoners, but the government confirmed it had three political prisoners. The criminal court convicted Somphone Phimmasone, Soukan Chaithad, and Lodkham Thammavong in March to 20, 16, and 12 years’ imprisonment respectively on multiple charges including treason, propaganda against the state, and gatherings aimed at causing social disorder.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

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

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

The law generally prohibits such actions, including privacy of mail, telephone, and electronic correspondence, but the government continued its broad use of security law exemptions when there was a perceived security threat.

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

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Latvia

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The law prohibits such practices, but there were a few allegations that government officials employed them.

During the year the ombudsman received from prison inmates two complaints of prison officials allegedly using violence against them. In the report on its visit to the country in April 2016, released on June 29, the Council of Europe’s (COE’s) Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) stated that it received from detained persons (including juveniles) allegations of excessive use of force during apprehension, such as punches, kicks, or truncheon blows after the detainee had been brought under control, and overly tight handcuffing. Patients transferred against their will to the Strenci Psychiatric Hospital made similar allegations. The CPT also heard some complaints of physical mistreatment and threats to inflict mistreatment during preliminary questioning by officers. In a few cases, medical evidence supported the allegations of physical mistreatment.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The prison system had an aging infrastructure, but mostly provided satisfactory conditions, meeting minimum international requirements. Some reports regarding prison or detention center conditions raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: The minimum standard of living space per prisoner in multiple-occupancy cells was raised to 43 square feet from as little as 27 square feet in some prisons. With few exceptions the CPT observed this standard in all visited establishments.

The CPT noted that most of the prisoner accommodation areas in the unrenovated Griva Section of Daugavgriva Prison were in poor condition and severely affected by humidity due to the absence of a ventilation system. It also found the Valmiera Police Station to be in a “deplorable state of repair.” In the Limbazi Police Station, according to the CPT, custody cells had no natural light due to opaque glass bricks in the windows. In addition, the in-cell toilets were not fully partitioned, and most of them were extremely dirty.

Health care in the prison system remained underfunded, leading to inadequate care and a shortage of medical staff. Prison officials reported that 9 percent of health-care positions were vacant.

Through August the ombudsman received 25 complaints from prisoners regarding living conditions and 11 complaints about health care in prisons. Most patients in the Psychiatric Unit (located in the Olaine Prison Hospital) were locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day.

Administration: Prison authorities generally investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions and documented the results of their investigations in a publicly accessible manner. In the first eight months of the year, 122 complaints were forwarded to the Internal Security Bureau for investigation.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by the CPT and independent nongovernmental observers.

Improvements: During the year the prison administration continued its sustained effort to improve prison conditions, most notably by renovating facilities to increase living space and improve ventilation and artificial lighting. Authorities released 50 low-risk prisoners under an electronic monitoring program in the first eight months of the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The State Police, Security Police, and State Border Guards are subordinate to the Ministry of Interior. Municipal police are under local government control. The armed forces, Military Counterintelligence Service, Protective Service, and National Guard are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense. The State Police and municipal police forces share responsibility for maintaining public order.

The State Police are generally responsible for conducting criminal investigations, but the Security Police, the financial police, military police, prison authorities, the Bureau for Preventing and Combating Corruption (KNAB), and other government institutions also have specified responsibilities. The Security Police are responsible for combating terrorism and other internal security threats.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the State Police, Security Police, State Border Guards, the armed forces, and other security forces, 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.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

In most cases officials require a warrant issued by an authorized judicial official to make an arrest. Exceptions, specifically defined by law, include persons caught committing a crime by officers or identified by eyewitnesses, or persons who pose a flight risk. The law gives prosecutors 48 hours either to release detainees or to charge and bring them before a judge. The CPT found that persons remanded to custody by courts were frequently held in police detention facilities well beyond the statutory limit of 48 hours, in one case for 29 days, pending their transfer to a remand facility.

Officials generally informed detainees promptly of charges against them. Detainees did not usually receive verbal information about their basic rights immediately upon arrest. As a rule detained persons received an information sheet explaining their rights and duties. Nongovernment organizations (NGOs) complained that the information sheet used legalistic language that was difficult for a nonlawyer to understand and was often only available in Latvian. While a bail system exists, judges used it infrequently and did so most often in cases involving economic crimes.

Detainees have the right to an attorney who may be present during questioning. The government generally provided attorneys for indigent defendants. There were no reports that authorities held suspects incommunicado or under house arrest.

Pretrial Detention: For the most serious crimes, the law limits pretrial detention to 15 months from the initial filing of a case. The maximum allowable detention including trial is 21 months. According to Ministry of Justice data, the average length of time between the initial filing and the first court procedure was nearly four months for a criminal case and 10 weeks for an appeal. NGOs continued to express concern about lengthy pretrial detention, hearing postponements, and prosecutorial actions that tended to prolong trials.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees have the ability to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court and to obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. Detainees successfully challenged their detention in the past.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Most final judgments were available online, although many other court documents were not published. Many of the documents published often included significant redactions (usually due to privacy concerns) that made it difficult to locate and review online court records. In individual cases the fairness of judges’ verdicts remained a concern, and allegations of judicial corruption were widespread, particularly in insolvency cases. Through August the ombudsman received eight complaints about lengthy proceedings, excessive pretrial detention, and detention without timely charges.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants are presumed innocent, and have the rights to be informed promptly of the charges against them, and to an expeditious and in most cases open trial, although officials may close trials to protect government secrets or the interests of minors. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial as well as to consult with an attorney in a timely manner and, if indigent, at government expense.

The law provides for the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants have the rights to the free assistance of an interpreter for any defendant who cannot understand or speak Latvian, to confront witnesses against them, to present witnesses and evidence in their defense, to refuse to testify or confess guilt, and to appeal.

Both the ombudsman and NGOs expressed concern that long judicial delays often prevented access to the justice system. According to the Ministry of Justice, the problem was especially acute in administrative courts, where up to five months could pass before an initial hearing on even minor matters. Through June the average civil case took eight months in Riga courts and four months in district courts. The average criminal case required six months in Riga courts and four months in district courts. NGOs expressed concern that defendants often exploited these legal protections in order to delay trials, including by repeatedly failing to appear for court hearings, forcing repeated postponement. Several high-profile public corruption trials have lasted nearly a decade, and NGOs were concerned that this contributed to a widespread public belief that high-level officials enjoyed impunity for corruption.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. It is possible to bring a lawsuit seeking damages or remedies for a human rights violation. After exhausting the national court system, individuals may appeal cases involving alleged government violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Jewish communal property restitution dating from the Holocaust era remained incomplete. While the Jewish community estimated that approximately 270 properties still required restitution, government ministries maintained the number was significantly lower. Some government officials asserted that the issue of restitution had been resolved by the return of five properties seized during World War II under legislation approved in 2016. The unrestituted properties identified by the Jewish community included cemeteries, synagogues, schools, hospitals, and community centers.

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

The constitution and the law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Lesotho

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

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

There were credible reports members of the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

For example, on July 28, Ha Mofoka police reportedly killed gang member Thelingoane Mota. According to the press, Mota was one of the gang members participating in a funeral procession who were beaten by police. Mota fled the scene with police in pursuit; his badly beaten body was discovered two days later.

There were no reports of arrests or prosecution in the 2016 case of Mamoleboheng Besele, who died after LDF members at Ha Molomo military base beat her, according to a report by the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Development for Peace Education.

On November 29, the LMPS arrested and charged eight LDF members in connection with the 2015 incident in which LDF members shot and killed former LDF commander Maaparankoe Mahao. At year’s end no one had been held accountable for the 2015 alleged torture to force mutiny confessions from 50 soldiers.

b. Disappearance

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

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

Although the constitution and law expressly prohibit such practices, there were reports of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the LDF and the LMPS. On September 5, the NGO Christian Council of Lesotho stated, “We are aware that some people are arrested and tortured.”

On September 4, former defense minister Mokhosi stated that he was tortured, given a “made up story” to present to the magistrate, and threatened with death if he did not admit to the “story.” He claimed police stripped him naked, beat him, and suffocated him. Police commissioner Holomo Molibel stated that a doctor who examined Mokhosi refuted his claim of torture.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening due to gross overcrowding; inmate-on-inmate violence occurred, including rape; there was physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions, medical care, ventilation, lighting, and heat. According to the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS), it had no facilities or staff with specialized training to deal with prisoners with disabilities. They depended on voluntary assistance from other prisoners. Prison buildings lacked ramps, railings, and other measures facilitating physical access for prisoners with disabilities.

Physical Conditions: Men and women, juveniles and adults, and pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were held separately. According to the Lesotho News Agency, Minister of Justice Mahali Phamotse attributed overcrowding at prisons holding men to high crime rates among the unemployed.

On March 1, authorities completed the release of all military prisoners accused of the 2015 mutiny.

According to the LCS, one inmate died from injuries incurred from fighting between two gangs at Maseru Central Correctional Institution. Eight inmates died of natural causes. In February an inmate was reportedly gang raped at the Leribe Correctional Institution.

Although prisons provided potable water, sanitation was poor in Mokhotlong, Berea, Quthing, and Qacha’s Nek, and facilities generally lacked bedding. Proper ventilation and heating/cooling systems did not exist, and some facilities lacked proper lighting. All prisons had a nurse and a dispensary to attend to minor illnesses, but health care was inadequate. Prisons lacked round-the-clock medical wards; as a result, guards confined sick prisoners to their cells from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Administration: In response to credible allegations of assaults and mistreatment of inmates at the Maseru, Butha Buthe, Qacha’s Nek, and Berea correctional institutions, authorities conducted investigations and took disciplinary measures against three Maseru officers and two Qacha’s Nek officers. Investigation of assault allegations at the Butha Buthe and Berea institutions continued at year’s end.

The Office of the Ombudsman stated it had received no complaints from prisoners during the year; however, prisoners were often unaware they could submit complaints to this office. Additionally, any complaints must go through prison authorities, creating the possibility of retaliation against complainants.

According to the LCS, prisoners and detainees have the right to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. The LCS referred no complaints to the magistrate court during the year.

Prisoners generally had reasonable access to visitors. According to families of those LDF soldiers detained on allegations of mutiny, however, visit schedules were sometimes changed or limited arbitrarily.

Independent Monitoring: The Crime Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration of Ex-prisoners Organization and benevolent groups made up of principal chiefs, church ministers, representatives of the business community, advocates of the court, and other citizens, visited prisons to provide toiletries, food, and other items. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) periodically visited a group of foreign nationals detained in the country.

Improvements: The LCS reported completion of the renovation of inmate cells at the Maseru Central Correctional Institution. The LCS in cooperation with the Ministry of Health improved prisoner access to antiretroviral and tuberculosis medication during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The security forces consist of the LDF, the LMPS, the National Security Service (NSS), and the LCS. The LMPS is responsible for internal security. The LDF maintains external security and may assist police when the LMPS commissioner requests aid. The NSS is an intelligence service that provides information on possible threats to internal and external security. The LDF and NSS report to the minister of defense, LMPS to the minister of police, and the LCS to the minister of justice and correctional service. Impunity in the LDF and LMPS was a problem.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the LMPS, NSS, and LCS. The extent of civilian control over the LDF remained unclear. For example, the killing of LDF commander Motsomotso on September 5 led to a government request for the deployment of a rapid-response SADC team. This was followed by a September 14 government request for additional SADC troops to foster stability as the new government moved forward with SADC-recommended reforms.

In general the public viewed the LDF and LMPS as institutions that did not hold officers accountable for their abuses, including killings, torture, and corruption. For example, no progress was reported in the investigation of the 2015 killing of former LDF commander Maaparankoe Mahao. Nevertheless, several LDF and LMPS members were arrested and charged with other abuses during the year, which some observers viewed as a step forward in addressing LDF and LMPS impunity. On September 28 and October 16, murder charges were filed against former LDF commander Tlali Kamoli, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane, and Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa for the killing of Subinspector Mokheseng Ramahloko in 2014. Kamoli was also charged with involvement in the 2014 bombings at the residences of the then prime minister’s girlfriend, her neighbor, and the police commissioner.

On August 4, the body of a police constable was exhumed from Lepereng cemetery. In March 2016 Mokalekale Khetheng disappeared following his arrest by police. On August 8, Prosecutor Lesaoana Mohale charged Senior Superintendent Thabo Tsukulu, Senior Inspector Mabitle Matona, Subinspector Haleokoe Taasoane, and Inspector Mothibeli Mofolo with his murder. The High Court denied Tsukulu’s bail application on October 19. On August 30, former defense minister Tseliso Mokhosi was also charged but released on bail. Except for Mokhosi, the accused remained in custody pending prosecution at year’s end.

The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) investigates allegations of police misconduct and abuse. The PCA was ineffective because it lacked authority to fulfill its mandate: It could only investigate cases referred to it by the police commissioner or minister for police and could act on public complaints only with their approval. The PCA also lacked authority to refer cases directly to the Prosecutor’s Office. The PCA did not publish its findings or recommendations.

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offenses (DCEO) investigates and prosecutes cases of corruption, including police corruption, referred to it by the government or based on substantiated public complaints. DCEO officials complained of insufficient staffing and resources to investigate all complaints received. The DCEO operated only in the capital since it did not have offices in the districts.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires police, based on sufficient evidence, to obtain an arrest warrant from a magistrate prior to making an arrest on criminal grounds. Police arrested suspects openly, informed them of their rights, and brought them before an independent judiciary. Police must inform suspects of charges upon arrest and present suspects in court within 48 hours. The law provides that authorities may not hold a suspect in custody for more than 90 days before a trial except in exceptional circumstances.

The law provides for bail, which authorities granted regularly and, in general, fairly. Defendants have the right to legal counsel. Authorities generally allowed detainees prompt access to a lawyer and provided lawyers for indigents in all civil and criminal cases. Free legal counsel was usually available, from either the state or an NGO. The Legal Aid Division under the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Service offered free legal assistance, but a severe lack of resources hampered the division’s effectiveness and resulted in a backlog. NGOs maintained a few legal aid clinics.

There were no reports of suspects detained incommunicado, held under house arrest, or reports of authorities ignoring court orders for their release this year.

Pretrial Detention: Pretrial detainees constituted 23 percent of the prison population. The average length of pretrial detention was 60 days, after which authorities usually released pretrial detainees on bail pending trial. Pretrial detention could last for months, however, due to judicial staffing shortages and unavailability of legal counsel.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides the right to a determination of the legality of the detention by a magistrate or judge. The judiciary generally respected this right and did so without undue delay.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. There were no reports that judicial officials, prosecutors, or defense attorneys were intimidated or corrupted. There were no instances in which the outcomes of trials appeared predetermined by government or other interference. Authorities generally respected court orders.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right, but trial delays were common.

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence. In most cases officials informed defendants promptly and in detail of the charges with free interpretation as necessary. In some cases interpreters were not readily available, resulting in delays in the filing of charges.

In civil and criminal matters, a single judge normally hears cases. In constitutional, commercial, and appeals cases, more than one judge is assigned. Trials are open to the public. A backlog of cases in the court system and the failure of defense attorneys to appear in court delayed trials.

Defendants have the right to be present at their trials, to consult with an attorney of their choice, to have an attorney provided by the state if indigent, and to have adequate time to prepare their case. Authorities provide free interpretation as necessary during proceedings at the magistrate and High Court levels but not at other points in the criminal justice process. By law the free assistance of an interpreter is not required for court of appeals cases.

Defendants may confront and question witnesses against them and present witnesses on their own behalf. The law allows defendants to present evidence on their own behalf at the Magistrate Court, but the High Court requires legal representation. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and may appeal a judgment. The law extends the above rights to all citizens.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary with jurisdiction over civil matters. Individuals and organizations may freely access the court system to file lawsuits seeking cessation of human rights violations and recovery of damages. There were no regional human rights bodies to which individuals and organizations could appeal adverse domestic decisions.

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

The constitution and laws prohibit arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. Although search warrants are required under normal circumstances, the law provides police with the power to stop and search persons and vehicles as well as enter homes and other places without a warrant if the situation is life threatening or if there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect a serious crime has occurred. Additionally, the law states any police officer of the rank of inspector or above may search individuals or homes without a warrant.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Liechtenstein

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns. Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards.

Physical Conditions: According to bilateral treaties with Austria and Switzerland, those two countries incarcerated Liechtensteiner prisoners sentenced to more than two years’ imprisonment. The country’s only prison had a 20-bed capacity (16 single and two double cells). Since the facility served primarily as a short-term prison, authorities asserted they could not always separate different categories of prisoners. Female prisoners had their own section with a total of four beds. Due to a lack of space and the generally very low number of juvenile offenders, authorities usually accommodated juveniles in the women’s ward so that any underage prisoners or detainees would not be socially isolated. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) called on the government to expand the prison’s range of recreational activities. The committee also criticized the lack of medical screening for newly arrived inmates.

There were no deaths in custody reported through October.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers and granted access to monitor prison conditions to the independent Corrections Commission, which organized at least one unannounced visit to the country’s prison each quarter. The country also in principle permitted prison visits by the CPT, which last visited the country in 2016.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police maintain internal security and report to the Office of Civil Defense. The country does not have an army. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the regular and auxiliary national police, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police arrest a suspect based on an arrest warrant issued by the national court. Within 48 hours of arrest, police must bring suspects before an examining magistrate, who must either file formal charges or order the suspect’s release. Authorities respected this right. The law permits the release of suspects on personal recognizance or bail unless the examining magistrate has reason to believe that the suspect represents a danger to society or will not appear for trial. Alternatives to bail include supervision by a probation officer and restrictions on movement. The law grants suspects the right to a lawyer of their own choosing during pretrial detention, and the government provided lawyers at its own expense to indigent persons. According to the criminal procedure code, every detainee must be informed of the reasons for the detention at the time of detention or immediately thereafter. Authorities also must advise detainees of their right to contact legal counsel and a relative. During investigative detention authorities may monitor visits to prevent tampering with evidence. The CPT expressed concern that police can question juveniles and request them to sign statements in the absence of a lawyer or trusted person, and that inmates, including juveniles, could be held in solitary confinement for disciplinary reasons for up to four weeks. The committee also criticized authorities’ ability to surveil conversations between detainees and their lawyers, and called on the government to re-establish a register at the police station for recording information related to a person’s incarceration.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Arrested or detained persons are entitled to challenge in court the legal or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release. The constitution provides for unlawfully detained persons and persons found innocent to appeal to the courts for compensation.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence and the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges. While most trials were public, some were closed proceedings. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial.

The law grants defendants the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice. The government provided attorneys at its own expense or pro bono for indigent persons. Defendants are allotted adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants have access to free interpretation as necessary from the moment they are charged through all appeals. Defendants may challenge witnesses and evidence and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right not to testify or confess guilt. Convicted persons have the right to appeal, ultimately to the Supreme Court.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. Individuals and organizations may appeal cases involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Lithuania

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Some prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: Prisoners complained of confined spaces, improper hygiene, inadequate medical care, poor food, substandard sanitary conditions, limited supplies of personal hygiene products, and overly limited hours of operation of shops located in prisons.

In September media reported that during the first half of the year the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court examined 1,022 complaints from prisoners about poor prison conditions and awarded inmates 284,876 euros ($341,851) in compensation. During the same period, this court received 622 new complains about prison conditions.

On July 18, Malta rejected the government’s request to extradite a wanted person, on the grounds of the risk of inhuman and degrading treatment in the country’s detention centers.

In its 2014 report, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) noted that access to natural light in most detention facilities and prisons was inadequate, and in-cell toilets were partitioned only partly or not at all.

Administration: The Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman generally investigated credible prisoner complaints and attempted to resolve them, usually by making recommendations to the institutions concerned and monitoring their implementation. The ombudsman’s office reported that institutions were responsive to all of its interventions. The ombudsman’s office found seven of 17 complaints investigated by September 1 to be justified. The parliamentary ombudsman visited prisons six times and detention facilities 46 times.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. As of year’s end, the report of the CPT’s visit to the country in September 2016 was not public.

Improvements: Between January and September, the government spent approximately 417,700 euros ($501,200) to renovate prison facilities. The improvements included renovations of housing, medical units, and food services in facilities in Marijampole, Alytus, Vilnius, and Kaunas.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The police and the State Border Guards Service are subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. The Special Investigative Service, the main anticorruption agency, reports to the president and parliament. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. The government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Except for persons arrested during the commission of a crime, warrants are generally required for arrests, and judges may issue them only upon the presentation of reliable evidence of criminal activity. Police may detain suspects for up to 48 hours before formally charging them. Detainees have the right to be informed of the charges against them at the time of their arrest or their first interrogation, and there were no complaints of failure to comply with this requirement.

Bail is available and was widely used. The law provides for access to an attorney, and the government provides one to indigent persons. In its 2014 report, the CPT noted that, while most of the detainees interviewed claimed they had legal counsel at the first investigative interview, it appeared that police rarely granted access to an attorney at earlier stages of police custody. Some detainees who had appointed attorneys complained that they met their attorney for the first time at the court hearing, even in instances when they requested an attorney shortly after their arrest. Detainees had prompt access to family members.

Pretrial Detention: The law permits authorities to hold suspects under house arrest for up to six months, a period that a judge may extend at his discretion. A pretrial judge may order that a suspect facing felony charges be detained for up to three months, but only to prevent the accused from fleeing, committing new crimes, or hindering the investigation; or to comply with extradition requests. In many cases the law permits detention to be extended to 18 months (six months for juveniles), subject to appeal to a higher court. Judges frequently granted such extensions, often based on the allegation that the defendant would pose a danger to society or influence witnesses. The maximum period authorities may detain a person charged with minor offenses is nine months and six months for juveniles.

In the first half of the year, the average length of pretrial detention was approximately 13 months. As of September 1, approximately 52 percent of incarcerated persons were pretrial detainees. The law allows defense attorneys access to the evidence prosecutors use to justify pretrial detention.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution provides the right to challenge the validity of a detention before a court and subsequent compensation for any damages resulting from the unlawful deprivation of liberty. Authorities respected this right.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants have the rights to a presumption of innocence, prompt and detailed information about the charges against them, a fair and public trial without undue delay and to be present at their trial. Defendants have the rights to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or have one provided at public expense), adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, and free assistance of an interpreter as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. They are entitled to confront witnesses against them, to present witnesses and evidence in their defense, and to be free of compulsion to testify or confess guilt. They enjoy the right of appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Plaintiffs may sue for legal relief or temporary protection measures from human rights violations. Persons alleging human rights abuses may also appeal to the parliamentary ombudsman for a determination of the merits of their claims. Although the ombudsman may only make recommendations to an offending institution, such institutions generally implemented the ombudsman’s recommendations. Individuals alleging that the government violated the European Convention on Human Rights can, after exhausting domestic legal remedies, appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government has laws and mechanisms in place, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups reported that the government made some progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. A philanthropic foundation created in 2011 to receive government compensation for Communist and Nazi seizures of Jewish community-owned property distributed funds to individuals and to Jewish educational, cultural, scientific, and religious projects. According to an agreement between the government and the Jewish community, the foundation was to disburse the equivalent of 128 million litas (then the national currency–$44 million) by 2023. The foundation distributed a one-time payment of three million litas ($1 million) to individual survivors in 2013 and 2014. The remaining funds were allocated to support Jewish educational, cultural, scientific, and religious projects, as decided by the foundation board. As in the previous year, the foundation received 3.62 million euros ($4.34 million) for this purpose, which brought the total received since 2011 to 19 million euros ($23 million). Jewish and ethnic Polish communities continued to advocate for private property restitution because there has been no opportunity to submit individual claims since 2001.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, but there were reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

The law requires authorities to obtain a judge’s authorization before searching an individual’s premises. It prohibits indiscriminate monitoring, including email, text messages, or other digital communications intended to remain private. Domestic human rights groups alleged that the government did not properly enforce the law. In the first nine months of the year, the State Data Protection Inspectorate investigated 435 allegations of privacy violations, compared with 189 such allegations in the first six months of 2016. Most complaints involved claims by individuals that their personal information, such as identity numbers, was collected without a legal justification.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Luxembourg

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: The country has one prison, Schrassig Prison, in addition to a state socioeducational center (CSEE) for juveniles with facilities at Schrassig and Dreiborn and a semi-open rehabilitation center in Givenich. The Givenich Prison Center is designed for prisoners nearing the end of their sentences or for those with short prison terms. Work is required, either at the facility’s workshops or outside the prison, for those who obtain employment contracts. These prisoners are allowed to leave the prison, go to their jobs, and return to the prison at night. The government also operated a detention center for rejected asylum seekers and undocumented migrants awaiting deportation.

In July the parliament authorized the opening of the National Socioeducational Center, a closed prison for minors. Judges still have the legal authority to place children in Schrassig Prison.

In a 2015 report on its visit to the country, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) noted a worrying problem of interprisoner violence at Schrassig Prison. The CPT also found that care for inmates suffering from serious psychiatric disorders was unsatisfactory and criticized the practice of holding detained minors at Schrassig Prison. The CPT observed problems of violence between minors at both the Schrassig and Dreiborn CSEE facilities. Subsequently, after the former director’s retirement, the government appointed a new director of Schrassig Prison with a background in prison reform.

In its 2015 report the CPT noted allegations of verbal abuse and excessively tight handcuffing. The CPT also criticized the police practice of handcuffing detainees to fixed points prior to or during questioning. For purportedly hygienic reasons, authorities at local police stations did not provide mattresses in cells reserved for intoxicated persons.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent human rights observers, including the CPT, through the country’s ombudsman.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Grand Ducal Police maintain internal security and report to the Ministry of Internal Security. The Luxembourg Army is responsible for external security and reports to the Directorate of Defense of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Grand Ducal Police and Luxembourg Army, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Warrants issued by a duly authorized official are required for arrests in most cases. Police must inform detainees of charges against them within 24 hours of their arrest and bring them before a judge for a determination of the detention’s legality. There is a functioning bail system, which judges regularly employed.

According to law, detainees must be provided access to an attorney immediately prior to their initial interrogation. In cases of indigent detainees the attorney is paid for by the government. A 2015 CPT report found that access to a lawyer had improved and that in most cases lawyers were able to consult with their clients before the initial interrogation by police. No suspects were detained incommunicado or held under house arrest.

Pretrial Detention: Approximately one-half of prisoners in the closed prison in Schrassig were awaiting trial. Trial procedures are lengthy because most cases involve collaboration with foreign authorities, as most detainees are noncitizens.

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 the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention in court and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence. A defendant has the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation as necessary). Defendants have the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay. Trials are public, except for those involving sexual or child abuse cases. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney of their choice in a timely manner. Defendants and their attorneys have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Persons who do not speak or understand the language of the proceedings are entitled to free assistance of an interpreter as soon as they are questioned as a suspect, whether in the course of an investigation or preliminary investigation, or are charged in criminal proceedings. Defendants may confront witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. They are not compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right of appeal.

The law extends the above rights to all citizens.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Magistrate courts serve as an independent and impartial judiciary in civil and commercial matters and were available to individuals who wished to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. Citizens may appeal cases involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the state to the European Court of Human Rights after exhausting all routes for appeal in the country’s court system.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

According to the Jewish community, all claims by Luxembourg citizens for Holocaust-era property restitution have been settled. Only citizens of Luxembourg were compensated. There are open questions about compensation for destroyed property owned by Holocaust survivors who were either citizens of a foreign country or had no citizenship at all. There are also open questions about bank accounts and insurance contracts of Holocaust survivors for banks and insurance companies based in the country.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Macedonia

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The law prohibits such practices, but there were reports that police abused detainees and prisoners and used excessive force. During the first six months of the year, the Ministry of Interior’s Sector for Internal Control and Professional Standards Unit reported receiving 11 complaints against police officers for use of excessive force. It took disciplinary action against two officers for those offenses. From January through September, the Ombudsman’s Office received nine complaints against police for unlawful or excessive use of force.

On October 12, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) released a report on its December 2016 visit to the country. During the visit the CPT reported receiving a number of consistent allegations of deliberate physical mistreatment of inmates by prison officers at Idrizovo Prison, the country’s largest penitentiary. The reported mistreatment consisted mainly of slaps, punches, kicks, and blows to various parts of the body and was reportedly used by prison staff as a disciplinary tool, as unofficial punishment for infractions, and as a reaction to inmate requests and complaints. The CPT also noted reports prison officers deliberately incited prisoners to mistreat convicted sex offenders and Romani individuals as well as allegations that prison officers themselves hit convicted sex offenders with batons (see Prison and Detention Center Conditions). The CPT also reported receiving a few allegations of mistreatment of inmates by officers at Stip Prison.

In its October 12 report, the CPT stated, “The violence at Idrizovo Prison is integrally linked to the endemic corruption that has pervaded the whole prison and implicates prison officers, including officers of all grades up to the most senior officers, and educators.” The report noted, “At Idrizovo Prison, every aspect of imprisonment is up for sale, from obtaining a place in a decent cell, to home leave, to medication, to mobile phones and drugs.” In one example of violence linked to corruption and payments to prison officers at Idrizovo Prison, prison officers severely beat an inmate in September 2016; the CPT confirmed the case was under investigation by the Skopje Public Prosecutor’s Office.

In July 2016, six of 37 defendants accused of participating in the 2015 armed clashes with police in Kumanovo that left 18 persons dead asked the court for medical assistance after claiming police brutality during their transport from detention facilities to the court. Lawyers for the defendants requested an indefinite postponement of the trial, claiming, “Torture of the defendants is evident and it has been happening from the first day they were arrested until the last hearing.” The court informed the suspects’ lawyers that a medical report confirmed the physical abuse of two defendants and recognized minor injuries. The former minister of interior, Mitko Chavkov, asserted an investigation into the claims found no evidence of torture and that no charges were filed against accused police and prison guards, despite repeated complaints and calls for action by defense counsel and the ombudsman. In December 2016 the Ministry of Interior announced it would reopen the investigation. As of September 1, there were 14 police officers and prison guards under investigation for the alleged abuses. In October the ombudsman confirmed allegations of torture perpetrated by Ministry of Interior employees in charge of transporting the defendants to court. An investigation continued into one defendant’s claim that a member of the “Tigers” police unit sexually assaulted him.

During the year the European Roma Rights Center, a human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO), alleged “institutional violence” was perpetrated against Romani individuals in prisons and that there were several cases of Romani individuals being mistreated in detention facilities, resulting in their deaths.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The country’s prisons and detention centers failed to meet international standards and in some cases, according to the CPT, conditions could be described as amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment. Endemic corruption, high rates of overcrowding, mistreatment by prison guards, interprisoner violence, unsafe and unhygienic conditions, insufficient staffing, and inadequate training of guards and personnel remained serious problems, particularly at Idrizovo Prison, which held more than three-fifths of the country’s prison population.

Physical Conditions: The country had 11 prisons and three juvenile correctional facilities; seven prisons also housed pretrial detainees. The prisons were designed to hold 2,036 adults, 43 juveniles, and 450 pretrial detainees. As of September 1, the system held 2,767 individuals–2,507 adults, 235 pretrial detainees, and 25 juveniles.

According to the Ombudsman’s Office, poor conditions gave rise to what it called the “inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners and detainees.”

In addition to mistreatment of inmates at Idrizovo Prison by prison staff (see section 1.c.), the CPT reported that interprisoner violence remained a serious problem at the prison. In one reported case, newly arrived prisoners sentenced for sexual offenses were repeatedly subjected to punches and blows with hard objects (such as brooms) by groups of inmates. Prison staff reportedly did not take any measures to protect these prisoners, and there were allegations that prison officers deliberately incited prisoners to mistreat sex offenders. Some prisoners claimed they were beaten by other inmates because they were unable to pay off debts incurred while in prison.

Prison authorities identified prison overcrowding as a core problem that gave rise to many secondary problems, including inadequate housing conditions for inmates, insufficient and substandard health care, difficult conditions for personal and general hygiene, and poor sanitation. Idrizovo Prison, which was built to hold 800 inmates but held more than 1,800, had especially bad conditions. In its October 12 report, the CPT noted sanitary annexes were in an “appalling state (filthy, foul-smelling, damaged, and leaking), many of the showers did not work and there was hardly any provision of hot water.” At the time of the December 2016 visit, the CPT reported that heating was working only a few hours a day. Provision of health care at Idrizovo and Skopje Prisons was inadequate. The CPT also observed that many prisoners were suffering from insect bites and infections such as scabies.

Insufficient staffing and inadequate training of prison guards and other personnel continued to be problems at all facilities.

Administration: In its October 12 report, the CPT noted it found no functioning internal complaint system in the three establishments it visited, including Idrizovo Prison. In general the ombudsman found that correctional authorities’ investigations into allegations of mistreatment and abuse of prisoners were ineffective. Most offenders continued to abuse with impunity and when criminal charges were filed, the cases were not handled promptly or efficiently. As of September the ombudsman received 157 complaints concerning treatment in correctional facilities and was investigating 44.

The Department for Enforcement of Sanctions received 14 notifications of the use of force against inmates by prison police. One case was under investigation at year’s end.

Independent Monitoring: The law allows physicians, diplomatic representatives, and representatives from the CPT and the International Committee of the Red Cross access to pretrial detainees with the approval of the investigative judge. The government usually only granted independent humanitarian organizations, such as the country’s Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, access to convicted prisoners upon the prisoners’ requests.

The ombudsman regularly visited the country’s prisons and investigated credible allegations of problematic conditions, although on some occasions prisons turned away the ombudsman’s staff because prison administrators were on vacation or medical leave. The UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture visited a variety of detention facilities in April. In a press release about the visit, it highlighted the under resourcing of the ombudsman’s office as a critical deficiency in the prevention of torture in correctional facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The army is responsible for external security, and the president is the supreme commander of the Army. The national police maintain internal security, including migration and border enforcement, and report to the Ministry of the Interior. Civilian authorities have not yet addressed gaps in oversight over law enforcement personnel, particularly in the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Security and Counterintelligence (UBK), which, without legal authorization, allegedly intercepted the communications of more than 20,000 individuals over a multiyear period (see section 1.f.). On September 12, Minister of Interior Oliver Spasovski announced plans to reform the UBK and improve its reputation and professionalism. Planned reforms include a system designed to reduce the chances of abusing the legal wiretap authorities. The ombudsman received nine complaints of unlawful or excessive use of force while performing official duties. International observers, embassies, and local NGOs cited corruption, lack of transparency, and political pressure within the ministry as hindering efforts to fight crime, particularly organized crime.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Army and the Ministry of Interior, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

The working group tasked with investigating the Ministry of Interior’s role in the April 27 attack on the parliament found legal and operational shortcomings within the ministry stemming from improper political and criminal influence over officials, including police officers. In response to the election of the new speaker of the parliament on April 27, approximately 200 demonstrators broke through a police cordon, entered the parliament building, and attacked journalists and parliament members. A Ministry of Interior investigation into the events of April 27 concluded that certain employees usurped their official position and failed to adequately protect members of the parliament and journalists. As a result of the investigation, 180 police officers were questioned, eight were dismissed, 43 were suspended, and 70 disciplinary procedures remained in progress.

In addition to investigating alleged police mistreatment, the Ministry of Interior’s Professional Standards Unit conducted all internal investigations into allegations of other forms of police misconduct. The unit has authority to impose administrative sanctions, such as temporary suspension from work, during its investigations. The unit cannot take disciplinary measures, which require a ruling from a disciplinary commission, nor can it impose more serious criminal sanctions, which require court action. During the first half of the year, the unit initiated disciplinary action against 175 police personnel and filed six criminal charges against ministry employees for criminal acts, including “abuse of official position,” “deceit,” and “mistreatment in performing a duty.”

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires that a judge issue warrants for arrest and detention of suspects based on evidence, and police generally followed this requirement. The law states that prosecutors must arraign a detainee within 24 hours of arrest. A pretrial procedure judge, at the request of a prosecutor, may order detention of suspects for up to 72 hours before arraignment. Police generally adhered to these procedures. Authorities generally informed detainees promptly of the charges against them. Detention prior to indictment may last a maximum of 180 days. Following indictment, pretrial detention may last a maximum of two years.

In the majority of cases, the courts adhered to the law for pretrial detention procedures. The selectivity and lack of transparency courts used when evaluating requests for pretrial detention or detention during trials were problematic. Government statistics indicated that prosecutors requested detention orders in 5 percent of all cases. The Skopje Criminal Court granted 80 percent of pretrial detention requests by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Organized Crime and Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. At the same time, the courts denied 89 percent of similar requests for detention and other precautionary measures submitted by the Special Prosecutor’s Office. Over the previous year, courts also rejected additional requests from the Special Prosecutor’s Office for precautionary measures, including house arrest and passport seizure. In some cases the court’s denials allowed high-profile suspects to evade prosecution.

On June 30, the Special Prosecutor’s Office requested a 30-day pretrial detention order for defendants in the “Target” and “Fortress II” cases, Goran Grujevski and Nikola Boshkovski. The Skopje Criminal Court denied the request on June 1. On June 17, the Skopje Appellate Court upheld the detention order pending a Supreme Court decision. On July 26, the Supreme Court upheld the appellate court’s ruling and issued an international arrest warrant against the two, which the Ministry of Interior disseminated through Interpol channels. On October 19, Greek police detained the defendants in Thessaloniki for possession and use of false Bulgarian passports and identification documents. On November 8, Grujevski was tried in absentia in the Fortress II case and sentenced to 18 months in prison. As of December both individuals were awaiting extradition.

The courts sometimes failed to provide appropriate justification for prolonging, substituting, or terminating pretrial detention.

On May 12, the Supreme Court reversed the Skopje Criminal Court’s detention order against Sead Kocan, which was originally requested by the Special Prosecutor’s Office. Media reported Supreme Court president Jovo Vangelovski delayed signing and transmitting the detention order to the Ministry of Interior, allowing the defendant to flee. Kocan, along with three other businessmen, was suspected of falsifying documents in 2011 to win a tender of 17 million euros ($20 million) from the state power company to extract coal from a mine near the city of Bitola.

There is an operating bail system. The law allows defendants to communicate with an attorney of their choice, but authorities did not always inform detainees properly of this right and did not always allow them to consult with an attorney prior to arraignment. Indigent detainees have the right to a state-provided attorney, and authorities generally respected this right. Judges usually granted permission for attorneys to visit their clients in detention. Police reportedly called suspects and witnesses to police stations for “informative talks” without notifying them of their rights and without the presence of legal counsel. Authorities did not practice incommunicado detention but sometimes held suspects under house arrest.

Arbitrary Arrest: The ombudsman received two complaints of arbitrary arrest, and a number of high-profile cases from previous years have not been resolved due to continuous trial postponements.

On November 28, the Criminal Court of Skopje ordered the arrest of 36 suspects for questioning in connection with investigations into the violent attacks in parliament on April 27. After initial questioning, the court ordered 21 individuals remanded to 30-day pretrial detention, including the former chief of public security and members of parliament (MPs). Due to their parliamentary immunity, the MPs were released pending a parliamentary decision on the immunity. On December 1, parliament lifted the immunity of the MPs at the court’s request, citing the nature of the alleged crime; on December 5, the Skopje Criminal Court ordered 30-day detentions of three VMRO-DPMNE MPs and house arrest for the other three. Opposition party VMRO-DPMNE called the detentions politically motivated and its supporters protested on multiple occasions over the course of several weeks. On December 28, in response to a petition by 33 VMRO-DPMNE MPs asking the ombudsman to determine whether the rights of the MPs were violated, the ombudsman announced police had violated the rights to parliamentary immunity and presumption of innocence of the six MPs. He recommended that the Ministry of Interior open an investigation into the conduct of the officers involved and questioned whether the court had authority to issue an arrest warrant for individuals with parliamentary immunity without their immunity being lifted beforehand. On December 29, the minister of interior stated, “during the detainment of the MPs, the police acted legally–upon an order issued by the court,” adding that he provided documentation on the case to the ombudsman. On December 27, the detentions of the MPs were renewed for another 30 days.

Detainees’ Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Arrested suspects, their attorneys, or close family members can petition the court to decide the lawfulness of their detention or obtain court-ordered release as well as to obtain compensation for persons unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for “autonomous and independent” courts, supported by an independent and autonomous Judicial Council. The judiciary failed to demonstrate independence and impartiality, however, and judges were subject to political influence and corruption. The outcomes of many judicial actions appeared predetermined, particularly in cases where the defendants held views or took actions in opposition to the government. Inadequate funding of the judiciary continued to hamper court operations and effectiveness. A number of judicial officials accused the government of using its budgetary authority to exert control over the judiciary.

According to the ombudsman’s annual report for 2016, the second greatest number of citizen complaints (577 or 15 percent) received by the ombudsman concerned the judicial system. As of September the ombudsman had received 363 complaints concerning the judicial system during the year. The ombudsman’s report stated citizens complained about long trials, bias, selective justice, and undue pressure on judges. A significant portion of court budgets reportedly went to paying damages for violations of citizens’ right to trial within a reasonable time. The report indicated court decisions were sometimes considerably delayed due to administrative deficiencies or judges exceeding the legally prescribed deadlines for issuing written judgments.

In a report released in 2015, the European Commission’s Senior Experts Group highlighted the “atmosphere of pressure and insecurity within the judiciary. Many judges believed that promotion within the ranks of the judiciary was reserved for those whose decisions favor the political establishment.” The update to this report, released September 14, noted that within the judiciary, “many of the practices denounced in the 2015 report have continued.” The report specifically asserted, “The control and misuse of the judicial system…to serve and promote political interests has not diminished by any significant respect.”

While there were strict rules regulating the assignment of cases to judges that were implemented through an electronic case management system, the European Commission’s Senior Experts Group’s September 14 report noted, “there are credible indications that this system has frequently been interfered with in order to ensure the allocation of sensitive files to particular judges.” In its 2016 annual enlargement progress report, the European Commission found allegations of direct interference by judicial authorities in the use of the Automated Court Case Management Information System (ACCMIS) to assign judges to handle specific procedures initiated by the special prosecutor. Initial findings of the government’s ACCMIS audit, released December 7, found the system had been manipulated, substantiating longstanding rumors of abuse. The Ministry of Justice indicated it would submit the results to the Judicial Council and Public Prosecutor for action.

On February 20, the president of the Skopje Criminal Court, Tatjana Mihajlova, transferred 20 (out of a total 67) judges presiding over high-level criminal cases to the misdemeanor and juvenile divisions of the court. Multiple members of the judiciary claimed the transfers were in retaliation for rulings favorable to the Special Prosecutor’s Office. Judges also alleged that Mihajlova and her successor, Stojance Ribarev, only assigned judges with a record of obstructing the special prosecutor to oversee the cases brought by the Special Prosecutor’s Office.

A 2015 report by the European Commission’s Senior Experts Group raised concerns about the fairness of the conviction of Zvonko Kostovski, a defendant in the “Coup” case. Kostovski, a counterintelligence officer in the Ministry of Interior, pleaded guilty to espionage and illegal interception of communications and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. Kostovski claimed he wiretapped compromising conversations for the opposition SDSM party leader, Zoran Zaev, in order to blackmail former prime minister Nikola Gruevski into including the SDSM in the government. In its report the Senior Experts Group expressed concern that it was impossible to know to what extent the facts supported the plea and whether the light sentence the judge conferred may have been a reward for participating in a cover-up of the involvement of others. In October 2016 the Special Prosecutor’s Office requested an extraordinary Supreme Court review of Kostovski’s plea bargain. On July 12, the special prosecutor obtained the original copy of Kotovski’s plea bargain and appealed the plea before the Supreme Court, citing substantive procedural violations. As of December 1, the Supreme Court’s review was pending.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair trial, although political interference in the work and appointment of the judiciary frequently undermined this right.

In 2015 a law took effect that contains updated sentencing guidelines designed to address inconsistent sentencing among different courts. Legal analysts expressed concern that the law seriously hampered judicial discretion to decide sentences according to the facts in individual cases and provided too much power to prosecutors to influence sentences.

The law presumes defendants innocent until proven guilty. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation as necessary), but authorities did not always respect this right. Trials were generally open to the public. High-profile trials were subject to frequent delays. The ombudsman cited delayed court proceedings as a violation of citizens’ rights and noted the number of complaints regarding delayed court proceedings increased during the year, compared with 2016.

Defense attorneys and human rights activists claimed that closing significant portions of high-profile trials to the public reduced transparency and contributed to declining public confidence in the courts, especially among the ethnic Albanian population. The defense in the “Monster” case and the Kumanovo trial, most of the proceedings of which were held behind closed doors, repeatedly raised such concerns.

For certain criminal and civil cases, judicial panels of three to five individuals, led by a professional judge, are used. Authorities did not always grant defendants adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Free assistance of an interpreter is provided. Defendants may question witnesses and present evidence on their own behalf. Authorities may not compel defendants to testify or confess guilt. Both the prosecution and defendants have the right to appeal verdicts.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

On July 14, journalist Zoran Bozinovski was released from detention after 15 months in custody. In April 2016 Serbian authorities approved his extradition to Macedonia on an Interpol arrest warrant accusing him of criminal association, espionage, and extortion amid allegations that he was part of a spy ring working for foreign governments. The Association of Journalists of Macedonia had called Bozinovski’s arrest and detention “politically motivated and aimed at silencing journalists who had the courage to expose scandals about the authorities.”

Bozinovski had reportedly moved to Serbia out of concern for his safety after posting articles critical of the former government, the VMRO-DPMNE party, and former prime minister Gruevski.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens had access to courts to bring lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations. Individuals may file human rights cases in the criminal, civil, or administrative courts, and the Constitutional Court, depending upon the type of human rights violation in question and its alleged perpetrator. Individuals also may appeal adverse decisions. The law provides the right to timely adjudication of cases and a legal basis for appealing excessive judicial delays to the Supreme Court. The government generally complied with civil decisions of domestic courts. Individuals may appeal cases involving alleged state violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after exhausting all domestic legal options.

The ombudsman’s 2016 annual report noted continuing problems regarding the right to trial in a reasonable time. According to the report, protracted civil and administrative court cases, as well as insufficient civil enforcement practices, resulted in violations of citizens’ rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The ability to apply for restitution of property confiscated during the Holocaust is limited to Macedonian citizens. Holocaust-era restitution is no longer a significant issue in the country, particularly after the 2000 Denationalization Law and 2007 compensation agreement.

The 2000 Denationalization Law accorded the right to denationalization of property seized after August 1944 to former owners and their successors, in accordance with the provisions related to the right to inherit. It required claimants to have Macedonian citizenship at the time of the law entering force.

The 2007 Compensation Agreement was between the government, the Holocaust Fund, and the Jewish Community and allowed for the payment of 21.1 million euros ($25 million) between June 2009 and June 2018. To date 15.6 million euros ($18.7 million) has been paid. One of its major results was the construction of the Holocaust Memorial Center of the Jews from Macedonia, which officially opened in 2011.

The government has no laws or mechanisms in place related to the resolution of Holocaust-era claims by foreign citizens.

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

The law prohibits such actions, although there were reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions during the year.

The government continued to deal with the repercussions of revelations of a widespread, illegal wiretapping campaign allegedly carried out over multiple years inside the UBK headquarters. The campaign was first reported by the then opposition SDSM party in February 2015. In its September 14 report, the European Commission’s Senior Experts Group stated, “Urgent measures to prevent illegal wiretapping have not been addressed” and noted that illegal interceptions may have continued after June 2015. According to the report, the UBK still holds a monopoly over interception of communications for both security purposes and criminal investigations, which interfered with the autonomy of police forces. The report also noted concerns remained regarding the lack of respect for basic human rights and data protection rules within the UBK. On October 31, the government established an expert working group to reform the system for legal interception, headed by deputy director of the UBK, Siljan Avramovski.

The European Commission’s Senior Experts Group criticized the Directorate for Personal Data Protection, the agency responsible for overseeing the government’s handling of personal information, for its delay in responding to the “apparent lack of data protection, the potential improper and uncontrolled registration of telephone numbers, as well as the invasion of the right to privacy through potentially unauthorized surveillance.” In late 2016 the directorate performed four inspections of the UBK and initiated a control inspection on July 24 to measure implementation of the 11 recommendations it made during 2016 inspections. A compliance report published by the directorate on November 24 stated that the Ministry of Interior fully complied with 10 recommendations and partially with one recommendation.

In May 2016 the ruling coalition passed, through an expedited procedure, amendments to the Law on the Protection of Privacy that prohibit the possession, processing, and publishing of any content, including wiretapped conversations, that violate the right to privacy with regard to personal or family life. The amendments, which entered into force in July, also prohibit the use of such materials in election campaigns or for other political purposes.

Lustration, the process of publicly identifying individuals who collaborated with the secret services during the communist era and prohibiting them from holding public office and receiving other government benefits, was discontinued during the year. On August 29, a report about the Lustration Commission’s activities from 2009 to 2017 was submitted to the parliament. On September 13, the parliament terminated the commission without debate. The ECHR has ruled twice, most recently in April, that the country’s lustration procedures violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Malaysia

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. According to the National Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), 521 individuals died in prison from 2015 through 2016, including more than 100 individuals in immigration detention centers. The government claimed that deaths in police custody, particularly those caused by police, were rare, but civil society activists disputed this claim.

In February a 44-year-old man died in police custody after responsible officers did not comply with a court order for the suspect to be released and taken to the hospital. Witnesses testified at a public inquiry held by the Enforcement Agencies Integrity Commission that police officers slapped, punched, and beat the detainee with a bamboo stick and rubber hose. The National Human Rights Commission described the individual’s treatment as “without reasonable and credible justification.” The government has taken no action to date.

Investigation into use of deadly force by a police officer occurs only if the attorney general initiates the investigation or if the attorney general 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, courts generally issued an “open verdict,” meaning that there would be no further action against police.

b. Disappearance

In February a group of highly organized individuals abducted Raymond Koh, a Christian pastor, from his vehicle on a suburban Kuala Lumpur highway. Despite closed-circuit television footage of the kidnapping, police investigation made little progress, leading to widespread public speculation, denied by police, that government officials were involved. The inspector general of police later announced that police would investigate reports that Koh was involved in proselytizing to Muslims, adding, “It would not be fair if we only investigated Raymond’s disappearance.”

Police made little progress in investigating the separate disappearances in November 2016 of Christian pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth, and of Amir Che Mat, a Muslim activist alleged to be linked to Shiite teachings. In May the United Nations said in a statement, “Enforced disappearances are rare in Malaysia and it is deeply concerning that little progress has been made into” the cases of the Kohs and Amir Che Mat. In October, SUHAKAM convened a public inquiry into the disappearances, but police witnesses refused to share key evidence and notes, although police did participate in the inquiry process. Police said that SUHAKAM should work through the attorney general’s chambers in order to compel testimony.

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

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

Civil and criminal law exempts 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.

Some states’ sharia provisions, which govern family issues and certain crimes under Islam and 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 July the state assembly of Kelantan voted to permit courts to sentence individuals to public caning for certain civil offenses.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in prisons and detention centers operated by the government’s Immigration Department were harsh. In August, SUHAKAM described the conditions at one police detention center as “cruel, inhumane, and degrading.”

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

In February inmates at the Sungai Buloh prison submitted a petition to the government detailing poor prison conditions, including contaminated food and water and widespread diseases due to lack of medical care. The government has not responded publicly to the allegations.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia, a human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO), documented 15 cases of custodial deaths in the year through October, eight of which occurred in police custody and five of which occurred in prisons.

In June a detainee collapsed in court, but police claimed he was well enough to proceed with the hearing. The suspect, however, died in court shortly after the proceedings. Police conducted a postmortem without informing the family, and pronounced the cause of death to be a congenital heart defect. Human rights groups challenged the government’s claims.

A May report in international media quoted refugees who claimed to have been beaten and forced to drink water from toilets out of desperation, although the government has called the allegations “grossly misleading.”

Administration: Law enforcement officers found responsible for deaths in custody do not generally face punishment. In April, four police officers who were charged with the 2013 murder of a 32-year-old man were acquitted, despite the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission concluding that the victim died from police use of physical force.

Rights to religious observance were restricted for members of Islamic sects the government bans as “deviant.”

Independent Monitoring: Authorities generally did not permit NGOs and media to monitor prison conditions; the law allows judges to visit prisons to examine conditions and ask prisoners and prison officials about conditions. The government provided prison access to the International Committee of the Red Cross and SUHAKAM, the government human rights commission, on a case-by-case basis.

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Police may use certain preventive detention laws to 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, for a maximum of five years, a suspect’s place of residence, travel, access to communications facilities, and use of the internet. Details on the numbers of those detained or under restriction orders were not generally available.

In other cases, 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.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over security services. 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 unrelated 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 SUHAKAM played a role in investigating alleged abuses committed by the security forces (see section 1.b. re: Koh investigation). 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, but convictions were infrequent. Police representatives reported disciplinary actions against police officers; 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.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law permits police to arrest and detain individuals for some offenses without a warrant, even outside situations of a crime in progress or other urgent circumstances. To facilitate investigations, police can hold a suspect for 24 hours, which can be extended for up to 14 days by court order under general criminal law provisions. NGOs reported the police practice of releasing suspects and then quickly rearresting them in order to continue investigative custody without seeking judicial authorization. In June human rights group Suaram alleged police arrested and rearrested a man suspected of gang activity six times, while also holding the suspect in different jurisdictions after courts denied the application to extend his detention. Police also arrested the suspect under different laws in order to extend his detention.

Some NGOs asserted that a police approach of “arrest first, investigate later” was prevalent, particularly in cases involving allegations of terrorism. By law a person must be informed of the grounds for arrest by the arresting officer.

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 to 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.

While authorities generally treated attorney-client communications as privileged, in August the Federal Court ruled that Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officials could question lawyers who accompanied their clients to MACC hearings (which are nonjudicial) about their interaction with their clients.

On occasion police did not allow prompt access to family members or other visitors.

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. Activists and government critics were often subject to late-night arrests, long hours of questioning, and lengthy remand periods, even if they were not ultimately charged with an offense. In June, Bersih, a coalition of NGOs campaigning for electoral reform, submitted a memorandum to SUHAKAM reporting that police conducted 119 arrests or investigations of Bersih-related activities between 2016 and May 2017.

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, although they are rarely successful, especially when charged under preventative detention laws.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Three constitutional articles provide the basis for an independent judiciary; however, other constitutional provisions, legislation restricting judicial review, and executive influence over the judicial appointments limited judicial independence and strengthened executive influence over the judiciary. The politicized judiciary frequently deferred to police or executive authority in cases those parties deemed as affecting their interests.

Members of the Malaysian Bar Council, 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 August the Malaysian Bar Council called the government’s extension of the term in office for the chief justice and president of the Court of Appeal “unconstitutional, null, and void” as the two judges had reached the constitutionally mandated retirement age. Critics alleged the extensions were politically motivated and were enacted to limit the independence of the judiciary.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Constitutional provisions enshrine the rights of citizens in a trial. The civil law system is based on English common law and defendants are presumed innocent 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 Mandarin, Tamil, and some other commonly used dialects from the moment charged through all appeals. Strict rules of evidence apply in court.

Defendants have the right to be present at their own trial. The right to confront witnesses is limited by provisions allowing the identity of prosecution witnesses to be kept secret from the defense before a trial, which inhibits cross-examination of those witnesses. Defendants may present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Limited pretrial discovery in criminal cases impeded defendants’ ability to defend themselves.

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 Malaysian Bar Council claimed these restrictions were excessive.

In cases related to terrorism or national security, the law allows police to hold persons even after acquittal against the possibility of appeal by the prosecution.

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

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim remained in prison, serving a five-year sentence for consensual sodomy, a charge he denied and many international observers and human rights organizations viewed as politically motivated. Authorities generally permitted Anwar’s lawyers and family to visit him. Family members have said officials sometimes limited Anwar’s access to medical treatment for a shoulder injury.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may sue the government and officials in court for alleged violations of human rights. In July the Federal Court upheld the decision to award an opposition Member of Parliament damages of ringgit (RM) 350,000 ($80,800) over her 2008 arrest under the Internal Security Act. 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.

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

Laws prohibit arbitrary interference with privacy rights; nevertheless, authorities sometimes infringed on citizens’ privacy. Under national security laws, police may enter and search the homes of persons suspected of threatening national security 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 to catch Muslims suspected of engaging in offenses such as gambling, consumption of alcohol, and sexual relations outside marriage.

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

In July the Court of Appeal ruled that the National Registration Division was not bound by an edict by the National Fatwa Committee that declared children illegitimate, and therefore unable to take their father’s name, if they were born fewer than six months after the parents’ marriage. The government, however, appealed the case and successfully applied for a stay of execution.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Malta

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.

On October 27, the court acquitted three detention service officials charged with the involuntary homicide of a Nigerian migrant in 2011.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and/or law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were some reports of substandard conditions in prisons or detention centers for the general population, and poor conditions in detention centers for some irregular migrants persisted.

Physical Conditions: In its most recent visit to the country’s prisons and detention centers in 2015, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) identified a number of prison divisions with generally poor living conditions, including cells that were hot and dirty, lacked ventilation, had unscreened and poorly functioning toilets, and had no direct inmate access to drinking water. The CPT found police detention areas generally adequate but noted deficiencies including lack of access to potable water, no in-cell call bells, and poor ventilation and lighting.

Life in detention centers or prefabricated housing units at open centers for irregular immigrants could be uncomfortable, particularly in the summer months, due to persistent heat.

Administration: Authorities allowed prisoners and detainees to submit uncensored complaints to judicial officials and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. Authorities investigated such complaints.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits to detention centers by independent domestic and international human rights observers and the media.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police, the intelligence services, and the Armed Forces of Malta fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs and National Security. The national police are responsible for maintaining internal security. The armed forces are in charge of external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the national police, the intelligence services, and the armed forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving police or security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

A magistrate may issue an arrest warrant to detain a person for questioning based on reasonable suspicion. According to the constitution, police must either file charges or release a suspect within 48 hours. In all cases authorities must inform detainees of the grounds for their arrest. Police generally respected these requirements. During the 48-hour detention period and prior to initial interrogation, authorities allowed arrested persons access to legal counsel but did not permit visits by family members. The law allows police to delay access to legal counsel for up to 36 hours after arrest in certain circumstances, such as when exercising this right could lead to interference with evidence or harm to other persons. After filing charges authorities granted pretrial detainees access to both counsel and family.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. Authorities occasionally confined foreign suspects for more than two years pending arraignment and trial, normally due to lengthy legal procedures. Approximately 20 percent of the prison population was in pretrial detention. The courts adjudicate applications for bail on a case-by-case basis and normally granted bail for citizens. The courts rarely granted bail to foreigners, whom the courts generally considered to be flight risks.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if it is found that they were detained unlawfully.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. There were no reports of instances in which the outcomes of trials appeared predetermined by government or other interference. Authorities respected and enforced court orders.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence, the right to a fair and public trial, and the right to be present at their trial. Defendants have the right to prompt and detailed information of the charges, with free interpretation if necessary, from the moment charged through all appeals. They can communicate with an attorney of their choice, or have one provided at public expense if they are unable to pay. Defendants and their lawyers receive adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants may confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. They are not compelled to testify to confess guilt and have the right to appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The constitution provides for an independent and impartial court in civil matters, including human rights issues. After exhausting their right of appeal in the national court system, individuals may apply to bring cases covered by the European Convention on Human Rights before the European Court of Human Rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Though Malta is a signatory to the Terezin Declaration, there have been no reports related to Holocaust-era property restitution. Malta remained a British colony and Allied naval stronghold throughout World War II. The Nazis never invaded or occupied Malta, and Maltese property was never seized.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Marshall Islands

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

A foreigner reported to local media that he observed a 19-year-old female prisoner held naked in the Ebeye jail and visible to any members of the general public who entered the jail. The government did not respond to requests for comment on the alleged mistreatment.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: No specialized prison facilities existed for juvenile or adult female prisoners at the jail in Majuro. Authorities did not hold women with men in the Majuro jail. Female prisoners in the capital were held under house arrest, which involved taking away their passports and confining them to their homes at night. One juvenile arrested for homicide in Majuro was kept apart from adult men in a makeshift cell lacking a toilet and drinking water. The juvenile prisoner relied on guards to take him to and from the toilet and a water cooler. Lighting and sanitation were inadequate.

The jail in Ebeye on Kwajalein Atoll, attached to the courthouse, is the only detention facility in the country other than the Majuro prison. According to High Court Judge Colin Winchester, who oversaw a case on the island in January, Ebeye’s jail is “horrible” and “degrading for anyone who must be confined in it.” According to the judge, he observed 10 individuals incarcerated there, and “if there are two or three people there, it is at its humane limit.” Following the trial, Winchester sentenced three men to jail terms but remanded them to Majuro jail due to the poor conditions at Ebeye jail. National Police officials commented that Ebeye is supposed to send all prisoners to Majuro jail but does not always do so because of the high cost of transportation.

Authorities allowed prisoners to leave facilities periodically on work details or for meals at home. Police escorted prisoners needing medical treatment to the Majuro Hospital where they received free treatment. One prisoner committed suicide after being arrested for beating his spouse to death.

Administration: Authorities permitted inmates to submit complaints about their treatment without censorship and investigated credible allegations of inhumane conditions. There were no complaints filed during the year. Other than the incident observed in Ebeye (above), there were no reported cases of physical abuse during the year.

Independent Monitoring: The government permits prison visits by independent human rights observers, but there were no requests for such visits during the year.

Improvements: Construction began on a new, larger, stand-alone correctional facility in Laura, at the western end of Majuro Atoll. The new facility will have separate areas for men, women, and juvenile offenders and, according to the Ministry of Justice, conditions at the new facility will meet international standards.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Police, local police forces, and the Sea Patrol (maritime police) maintain internal security. All national police forces report to the Ministry of Justice. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over security forces, and the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Under the constitution, a warrant issued by a court is required for an arrest if there is adequate time to obtain one. The courts interpret this requirement to exempt situations such as a breach of the peace or a felony in progress. The law provides detainees the right to a prompt judicial determination regarding the legality of the detention. Authorities generally respected this right and informed detainees promptly of the charges against them.

There was a functioning system of bail, and detainees may request bond immediately upon arrest for minor offenses. The constitution requires bail be set at a reasonable rate. Most serious offenses require the detainee to remain in jail until a hearing can be arranged, normally the morning after arrest. Detainees were allowed access to a lawyer of their choice and, if indigent, to one provided by the state. Families had access to detainees. There were no known cases of incommunicado detention.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: There were no reports of detention without judicial authorization. The constitution provides detainees the right to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain immediate release if found to have been unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

The majority of trials are bench trials; however, if the penalty for the alleged offense is three or more years in prison, defendants may select a bench trial or a four-member jury trial. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have the right to counsel. The government provides an attorney at public expense for indigent defendants facing criminal charges. By law, authorities must inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation between English and Marshallese as necessary. Defendants also have the right to a fair trial without undue delay and with adequate time to prepare a defense. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial.

Defendants may question witnesses and appeal convictions. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right to appeal. These rights apply equally to citizens and noncitizens.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is no separate judiciary in civil matters. There are administrative remedies for alleged wrongs, including human rights abuses, as well as judicial remedies within the general court system.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Mauritius

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.

Pursuant to the 2015 death in police custody of Iqbal Toofany, in 2016 the commissioner of police completed an investigation and referred the case to the office of the director of public prosecutions. During the year the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), an independent parastatal organization, conducted an independent inquiry and also referred the case to the office of the director of public prosecutions, recommending prosecution of the officers involved.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there continued to be widespread allegations of police abuse. For example, in February 2016 police arrested Fareenah and Hassenjee Ruhomally for a posting on a public media site (see section 1 d.). The Ruhomallys were stripped naked and forced to kneel on the floor during their detention. In September 2016 police officers of the Criminal Investigation Division of Quatre Bornes beat Arnaud Casquette upon his arrest. The physical abuse continued while he remained in police detention. During the year the Ruhomally and Casquette cases remained under investigation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions did not always meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: There were media reports of drug abuse in the country’s six prisons. For example, on April 27, prison officers at the Beau Bassin Central Prison (BBCP) caught an inmate in possession of cannabis, and on November 27, a BBCP officer was arrested for smuggling drugs hidden in his socks. There were reports that adequate medical assistance was not always provided. Lack of maintenance of sanitary equipment and the absence of readily available detergent generated hygiene problems in some of the prisons. Inmates’ relatives sometimes turned to private radio stations to denounce hygiene conditions or other problems in the prisons.

Administration: The NHRC has been active since 2001 and the organization claimed that every prisoner complaint was dealt with expeditiously. There were allegations of mistreatment, and the National Preventive Mechanism NPM Division of the NHRC noted an increase in assaults in prisons.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent nongovernmental observers, including the press, the NPM Division of the NHRC, independent local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS, the EU, and other foreign missions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court. The government generally respected these legal requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Police have responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order. The police commissioner heads the police and has authority over all police and other security forces, including the Coast Guard and Special Mobile Forces (a paramilitary unit that shares responsibility with police for internal security). The police commissioner reports directly to the prime minister. The NHRC and an independent ombudsman, appointed by the president in consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, are empowered to investigate security force abuses. Police have accepted public complaints and referred them to the NHRC since the government disbanded the Police Complaints Investigation Bureau in 2013. In July 2016 the Independent Police Complaints Act established a new commission that has the power to investigate allegations against police officers in the discharge of their duties. The law stipulates that the chairperson and members of the commission, who are not members of the police force, be appointed by the president following advice from the prime minister and consultation with the leader of the political opposition.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution and law require arrest warrants be based on sufficient evidence and issued by a magistrate. A provisional charge based on a reasonable suspicion, however, allows police to detain an individual up to 21 days with the concurrence of a magistrate. If authorities grant bail but the suspect is unable to pay, authorities detain the suspect in the Grand River North West Prison pending trial. Authorities must advise the accused of his or her rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The law requires that authorities arraign suspects before the local district magistrate within 48 hours of arrest. Police generally respected these rights, although they sometimes delayed suspects’ access to defense counsel. Detainees generally had prompt access to family members, but minors and those not advised of their rights were less likely to obtain such access. A magistrate may release an individual on bail the day of arrest, with or without police consent. Authorities may detain individuals charged with drug trafficking for up to 36 hours without access to legal counsel or bail. Courts grant bail for most alleged offenses. There was no report that any suspects were detained incommunicado or without access to an attorney.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrests occurred.

On September 25, police questioned the director of publications of La Sentinelle Ltd. media group, Nadarajen Sivaramen, as well as two of its journalists, Axcel Chenney and Yasin Denmamode, after they published a series of articles denouncing a money-laundering case that allegedly involved then attorney general Ravi Yerrigadoo. Police informed Sivaramen that he was under arrest for conspiracy to bring down Yerrigadoo but did not go through with the arrest procedure, which requires that the arrestee be brought before a court. Police informed the other two journalists that they were under arrest, but the charge was not provided. Police subsequently announced that the journalists were “unarrested,” a provision that does not exist in local law.

Pretrial Detention: According to data from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the National Human Rights Commission, and the Bureau of Prisons, due to a backlogged court system and detainees’ inability to post bail, a significant percentage of the prison population remained in pretrial detention. It was believed that prior year figures remained valid, and that approximately 40 percent of pretrial detainees typically remained in custody for at least three years before going to trial. Judges routinely credited time served in custody against sentences ultimately imposed.

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 basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release if found to have been unlawfully detained. The law provides for any wronged citizen to seek compensation. Few cases were brought, however, primarily because the process is costly and lengthy.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Criminal defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. Trials are typically not timely. Defendants have the right to prompt and detailed information on the charges against them (with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals). Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and to consult an attorney in a timely manner. An attorney is provided at public expense when indigent defendants face felony charges. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to confront or question prosecution or plaintiff witnesses against them, and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right also not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and to present an appeal. The law extends these rights to all citizens. The courts respected these rights, although the extensive case backlog significantly delayed the process.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary for civil matters. The law provides access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations. It also provides for individuals to seek civil remedies for such violations. As an alternative to the judicial system, the constitution provides for an ombudsman to investigate complaints from the public and members of the national assembly against government institutions, and to seek redress for injustices committed by a public officer or other authority acting in an official capacity. The ombudsman can make recommendations but cannot impose penalties on a government agency. After exhausting all local appeals, individuals or organizations can appeal decisions to the United Kingdom’s Privy Council, which is the highest court of appeal. The government respected courts’ decisions.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

On April 25, the government lifted the travel ban and provisional charges on Laina and Abeela Rawat, accused in the 2015 case against their father, Dawood Rawat, owner of the Bramer Bank. The bank’s assets were seized as a result of charges of mismanagement, and the bank’s license was revoked. Property restitution remained pending at year’s end.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, but the government did not always respect these prohibitions. In 2016 there were unsubstantiated claims that police tapped the mobile telephones and electronic correspondence of at least two chief editors of private media outlets.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Moldova

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.

The government made no progress in holding officials accountable for the security force crackdown on postelection demonstrations in 2009 that resulted in three deaths (see section 1.d.).

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

While the law prohibits such practices, reports continued of physical abuse and torture, mainly in detention facilities and psychiatric institutions. Cases of mistreatment in police stations and torture cases in detention facilities decreased due to a zero-tolerance policy, social campaigns promoted in law enforcement institutions and detention facilities, and more thorough monitoring by relevant international organizations and civil society. According to the human rights organization Promo-Lex, of the over 600 complaints of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment yearly received by the Prosecutor General’s Office, criminal proceedings were initiated in only 20 percent of the cases.

Under the criminal code, conviction for torture carries up to a 10-year prison sentence. Persons found guilty of torturing minors, pregnant women, or persons with disabilities or of committing acts of torture that lead to death or suicide may be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison without the possibility of amnesty. A deliberate act by a public official that leads to physical or psychological suffering is punishable by imprisonment for two to six years or a fine of 57,500 to 67,500 lei ($2,875 to $3,375) and a ban on holding public office. The law prohibits courts from granting suspended sentences to persons convicted of torture. A law on the rehabilitation of crime victims adopted in 2016 entered into force in March. Under the law, victims of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment receive free state legal aid, strengthening the procedural guarantees offered to them.

During the first half of the year, the Prosecutor General’s Office received 320 allegations of torture and mistreatment, 112 of which involved criminal police, 78 traffic police, 21 employees of the penitentiary system, and 56 other police units, including the Carabinieri (a special police force responsible for public order and infrastructure security) and customs officers. Prosecutors initiated 45 criminal cases and sent 15 cases to court. In most cases, police applied violence during detention as a means of intimidation or discrimination, to obtain evidence and confessions, and to punish alleged offenses. Most of the alleged incidents occurred on the street or in public places, followed by police stations and detention facilities. Military units registered nine cases of alleged torture, while psychiatric institutions registered three cases, and educational facilities registered eight. Most incidents involved beatings (168 allegations), followed by other methods, such as beatings using batons, water bottles, and books (89 allegations), threats or other forms of psychological abuse (33 allegations), and inhuman detention conditions (10 allegations). Despite a decrease in torture cases, psychological torture and humiliating treatment continued to be a problem in penitentiaries and psychiatric institutions. An independent assessment by local human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) determined that the decrease in torture cases was due to harsher penalties introduced into the criminal code, which served as a deterrent; more robust awareness-raising campaigns and training organized for prosecutors, judges, and police; and video surveillance equipment placed in police stations and detention facilities.

The human rights ombudsman reported that most allegations of torture and sub-standard detention conditions occurred at Penitentiary No. 13 in Chisinau, Penitentiary No. 11 in Balti, and Penitentiary No. 17 in Rezina. The ombudsman’s national anti-torture mechanism resumed its activity following the enactment of the new Law on the People’s Ombudsman adopted in 2016. During the first six months of the year, members of the national anti-torture mechanism made 14 preventative visits to prisons, pretrial detention facilities, psychiatric institutions, and psycho-neurological homes. Most of their observations concerned poor detention conditions, which in some cases contributed to inhuman and degrading treatment of inmates.

Despite a decrease in alleged torture cases, human rights experts noted that the number of cases was likely higher than reported due to individuals not reporting abuses because they lacked trust in the justice sector.

On August 26, Andrei Braguta was found dead at Penitentiary No.16 while held in pretrial detention. Prison authorities claimed Braguta died of pneumonia; however, following pressure from human rights experts, the media, and civil society, prosecutors initiated an investigation; forensic analysis indicated Braguta was beaten while in pretrial detention, directly leading to his death. According to preliminary information, while in detention, several inmates beat Braguta with the tacit approval of the prison guards, who ignored his pleas for help and medical assistance. The Prosecutor General’s Office detained five persons, including three police officers, on charges of torture, investigated an additional 10 officers suspected of mistreating detainees, and sued 13 police officers. Braguta was arrested August 15 for speeding, resisting arrest, and insulting police officers. He was then transferred several times between pretrial detention and the psychiatric ward. Braguta had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was under psychiatric monitoring since 2012.

Investigation of degrading treatment of patients in psycho-neurological institutions was deficient. In most cases, prosecutors refused to investigate complaints submitted by patients, questioning the accuracy of allegations made by persons with mental disabilities. According to the NGO Promo-Lex, most prosecutors and investigators lacked technical skills to investigate acts of violence or torture in psychiatric institutions. Another problem was the lack of a regulatory framework for the psychological assessment of victims of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment in psychiatric institutions.

According to the Moldovan Institute for Human Rights, residents of residential psychiatric facilities and psycho-neurological institutions were subject to rape, physical abuse, deprivation of liberty, and forced medication.

Legal proceedings continued in the case of a doctor at an institution in Balti arrested in 2013 for the serial rape, sexual assault, and abuse of patients. An investigation showed that the doctor performed 18 forced abortions on the victims of his sexual assaults, all patients with mental disabilities. In 2014 authorities found one of the 17 victims identified during the investigations dead; a second died under unknown circumstances that same year. The doctor remained under house arrest during the trial proceedings. In 2016 a court found the doctor guilty of numerous counts of rape and sentenced him to 13 years in prison. The defendant appealed the ruling and the case was pending at the Balti Court of Appeal at year’s end.

According to a report by the human rights NGO Promo-Lex, there was no mechanism to investigate alleged acts of torture in Transnistria. There were no criminal cases initiated for “providing statements under coercion by means of violence, humiliation, or torture” since the Transnistrian “investigation committee” was established in 2012. Promo-Lex noted that authorities perpetrated most inhuman and degrading treatment in the Transnistrian region in order to obtain self-incriminating confessions. Promo-Lex continued to receive complaints from alleged victims of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment by Transnistrian security forces.

Hazing and humiliating treatment in the de facto Transnistrian army continued during the year.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in most prisons and detention centers, including those in Transnistria, remained harsh and did not improve significantly.

Physical Conditions: Prisons and detention centers were overcrowded. Human rights NGOs noted a significant increase in arrests and a failure to apply alternative noncustodial measures, which increased overcrowding of detention facilities to a rate of 40 percent. As of January 9, the total number of prisoners and pretrial detainees was 7,656, with 5,550 inmates in prisons and 2,106 individuals in pretrial detention centers. The official maximum capacity was 6,274 inmates for prisons and 2,380 for pretrial detention centers, but human rights monitors asserted that the official maximum capacity exceeded required standards. The obsolete infrastructure in most prisons did not allow for a separation of prisoners according to minimum required standards, which led to continued violence among inmates.

During the year members of the antitorture section of the ombudsman’s office jointly with the newly created Council for Prevention of Torture conducted 51 preventive visits to 11 prisons, 32 pretrial detention facilities, four psychiatric institutions, three psycho-neurological homes, and to National Anticorruption Center. The main deficiencies found included overcrowding of prisons and detention facilities, insufficient lighting, poor sanitary conditions, failure to separate minor detainees from adults, insufficient food, deficient medical care for detainees, insufficient rooms for meetings with lawyers, and a lack of accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Penitentiary No.13 in Chisinau had the worst conditions. A number of high-profile detainees held in the penitentiary complained of detention in basement cells that did not meet national or international standards. In three cases during the year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that detention conditions in Penitentiary No. 13 were contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. Cells were overcrowded (in some cells, up to 16 inmates were placed in an area measuring 258 square feet), unhygienic (toilets separated from the sleeping area by only a curtain; mold and dirt on the walls), and lacked ventilation, natural light, or permanent access to water for personal hygiene. Despite numerous calls from the ombudsman and international organizations to close the Penitentiary due to inhuman detention conditions, the authorities reported they were not able to find an alternative detention facility due to financial constraints.

During its 2015 visit, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) noted that living space frequently failed to meet the national standard of at least 43 square feet per prisoner in most of the prisons it visited. In particular, the level of overcrowding at the Chisinau and Soroca prisons reached disturbing proportions. The detention conditions in the two prisons were inadequate, with very poor states of repair and hygiene, limited access to natural light, insalubrious sanitary facilities, infestation by vermin, and worn-out and filthy mattresses, which the CPT considered inhuman and degrading treatment. The CPT also found that the prison administration made insufficient contributions to the purchase of medication and that facilities often relied on humanitarian aid and support from the inmates’ families.

The ombudsman noted that “the situation in police station detention facilities did not change during the year and was alarming”. The office reported inadequate conditions for food distribution; inadequate sanitary conditions in the showers; inadequate health-care facilities; and a lack of pillows, mattresses, and clean bed linen and clothing. Detention facilities, located mostly in the basements of police stations, generally lacked access to natural light, adequate ventilation, and sewage systems. Inmates had a daily food budget of approximately 20 lei (one dollar). Human rights NGOs also noted facility staff did not provide pretrial detainees meals on the days of their court hearings–a potentially severe problem for detainees transported long distances to stand trial, which in some cases meant they received no food for a day. Transportation conditions for pretrial detainees were also deficient.

Health care was inadequate at most penitentiaries. Government regulations require authorities to separate individuals suspected of suffering from tuberculosis from the other detainees. Authorities often co-located individuals with various other diseases with persons with an unconfirmed diagnosis of tuberculosis, potentially exposing them to infection. Penitentiaries lacked appropriate facilities for persons with disabilities, which led to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Police mistreatment of detainees remained a major problem in Transnistria. Detention conditions in the region did not improve. The report of the Transnistrian ombudsmen noted a decrease in the number of complaints received from detainees in 2016 compared with 2015, although there were no independent reports confirming this finding.

Administration: Internal investigation procedures in the penitentiary system remained weak, and detainees continued to have restricted access to complaint mechanisms. While detainees generally had the right to submit complaints to judicial authorities, some detainees reported censorship and punishment by prison personnel or other inmates before or after filing complaints.

Prisoners in the initial period of their sentences and those serving life sentences did not have the right to long-term visits. Detainees and their relatives reported a burdensome process for obtaining visit permits, which often impeded such visits. Lawyers reported continued restrictions on access to clients in Penitentiary No. 13 due to artificially imposed barriers. Authorities reportedly applied random quarantine checks on and access restrictions to the families and attorneys of persons detained in connection with high-profile bank fraud cases.

Reliable information on the administration of prisons in the Transnistria region was generally not available. Transnistrian authorities reported approximately 3,000 persons were detained in the region.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some independent monitoring of prison conditions by local and international human rights observers, and prison officials generally allowed observers to interview inmates in private. Attempts by Amnesty International, the ombudsman, and human rights NGOs to visit detainees held in connection with the country’s bank fraud case were frequently unsuccessful.

There were no reports of any independent monitoring of detention facilities in the Transnistrian region during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, but authorities sometimes failed to respect these requirements.

According to Promo-Lex reports, police routinely detained persons sought by unrecognized Transnistrian authorities and transferred them to Transnistrian law enforcement agencies without due process. The country’s courts previously ruled the 1999 agreement establishing such cooperation to be unconstitutional, but the practice continued informally.

In Transnistria, authorities reportedly engaged in the arbitrary arrest and detention of individuals with impunity. There were cases of Transnistrian authorities detaining individuals on fabricated charges without due process.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police force is the primary law enforcement body and is responsible for internal security, public order, traffic, migration, and border enforcement. It is subdivided into criminal and public order police and is subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The agencies under the ministry are the General Police Inspectorate, Border Police, the Civil Protection Service, Carabinieri, and the Bureau for Migration and Asylum. The ministry made modest progress in implementing reforms to combat abuse and corruption.

A 2016 law reformed the structure of the Prosecutor General’s Office and governs the activity of two specialized prosecution offices: the anticorruption prosecution office and the prosecutor’s office on combatting organized crime and special cases (e.g., terrorism and torture). In line with the new law, parliament changed the process for appointing the prosecutor general: the Superior Council of Prosecutors nominates candidates for prosecutor general and the president appoints one of the candidates to a single seven-year mandate. Previously, parliament had this appointment authority.

The government made no progress in holding officials accountable for the security force crackdown on postelection demonstrations in 2009 that resulted in three deaths. In April the Prosecutor General’s Office presented statistics on cases related to the 2009 riots. Prosecutors opened 71 criminal cases, including 42 for alleged torture, 19 for abuse of power, and 10 for other offenses. The Prosecutor General’s Office finalized and sent to court 28 cases against 47 police officers. As of July, the judges issued irreversible decisions in 19 cases against 30 law enforcement employees. The courts acquitted 14 police officers, issued two administrative fines, 10 suspended sentences, and two imprisonment sentences against three police officers. Eleven criminal cases against 20 law enforcement employees were still pending in courts.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law allows judges to issue arrest warrants based on evidence from prosecutors. Authorities must promptly inform detainees of the reasons for their arrest and describe the charges against them. Authorities may detain suspects without charge for 72 hours. In its 2016-17 study on procedural guarantees in the pretrial stage of the criminal process, Amnesty International found serious violations of procedural norms during police apprehension and pretrial detention. According to the study, in most cases authorities summoned persons to the police station without a citation or took them into police custody without informing them of the charges against them. In many cases, authorities forced or intimidated detained individuals into providing confessions in the absence of a lawyer. In some cases, questioning in police custody exceeded the legally allowed three hours. Other violations included purposeful altering of protocols, detention in police custody that exceeded legal time limits, and denial of the right to a lawyer or communication with relatives.

Once charged, a detainee may be released pending trial. The law provides for bail, but authorities generally did not use it due to a lack of practical mechanisms for implementation. In lieu of confinement, the courts can also implement judicial controls in the form of house arrest or travel restrictions. The law provides safeguards against arbitrary use of pretrial detention and requires noncustodial alternatives wherever possible.

Detainees have the right to a defense attorney, but at times authorities restricted this right. In some cases, authorities did not grant detainees access to a lawyer until 24 hours after detention. The government required the local bar association to provide representation to indigent defendants, but the government frequently delayed reimbursements of legal fees. Indigent defendants often did not have adequate counsel.

Pretrial Detention: The law permits pretrial detention for up to 30 days. The courts may extend pretrial detention upon the request of prosecutors, submitted at the end of each 30-day period, for up to 12 months, depending on the severity of the charges. Pretrial detention lasting several months was common. In 2016 the Constitutional Court ruled that law enforcement agencies could not hold citizens in preventative detention for more than 30 days with a warrant or for more than 12 months cumulatively. The court also ruled that court decisions imposing 90 days of preventative arrest at a time were illegal.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides that persons who are arrested or detained are entitled to challenge the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention in court and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. Authorities sometimes failed to respect these provisions.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

While the law provides for an independent judiciary, instances of government officials failing to respect judicial independence remained a problem. Official pressure on judges and corruption in the justice sector continued to be serious problems. There were credible reports that local prosecutors and judges sought bribes in return for reducing charges or sentences. Judges sometimes failed to assign cases randomly or use recording equipment in the courtroom, as required by law. Very few courtrooms, however, actually used such equipment.

Selective justice was a growing problem. According to the 2016-17 Amnesty International report on the country, the case against the so-called Petrenco group (see “Political Prisoners and Detainees” below) and a number of other criminal prosecutions prompted concerns about political influence over the justice sector. The 2016 closed-door trial of former prime minister Vlad Filat, sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for passive corruption and influence peddling in connection to the 2014 bank fraud, raised questions about the impartiality of the prosecutor’s office and judiciary. Filat’s lawyers claimed there were a number of procedural violations during the trial proceedings.

According to the 2016 study Perceptions on Human Rights in Moldova conducted by the United Nations in partnership with the ombudsman’s office and the Council to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination and Ensure Equality, 68 percent of general public respondents believed that the right to a fair trial existed to a small extent or not at all. Many of the respondents also believed that justice was selective and affected by corruption.

During the year the public and the press did not have access to court proceedings in several high-profile cases involving a former prime minister, present and former government and city officials, and bank officials. Lawyers complained of violations of defendants’ rights to a fair public trial. In his opening statement at the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council in September, UN human rights commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein voiced concern over the country’s prosecution and harassment of lawyers representing opposition figures, human rights defenders, and journalists. According to the commissioner, reprisals against NGOs, the removal of a judge, and arrests of public officials on allegedly fabricated charges also raised concerns.

Inspector judges are responsible for enforcing a judicial code of ethics and investigating cases of judicial misconduct or ethical breaches. They report to the Superior Council of Magistrates. In 2016 the disciplinary board of the council initiated 86 disciplinary actions and applied 13 sanctions, including six reprimands and seven warnings. Despite a significant increase in disciplinary actions following reform of the council disciplinary board, most alleged violations were dismissed.

Limitations on access to data for much of the year on the single courts national portal developed by the Ministry of Justice’s Agency for Court Administration caused discontent among media representatives and NGOs. Civil society and journalists complained that, because there was no search option, they could not find the names of those involved in court cases, nor could they determine who adjudicated or prosecuted the case.

In July appeals court judge Domnica Manole was dismissed by a presidential decree following a Superior Council of Magistrates decision declaring her unfit to serve, based upon an advisory opinion by the Security and Intelligence Service (SIS). Legal experts asserted that removal of a judge based upon a SIS opinion was illegal and a signal to judges that, if they opposed the government, they could be excluded from the judiciary. On December 5, the Constitutional Court ruled the dismissal of a judge based on an SIS opinion unconstitutional, but at year’s end the Supreme Court of Justice had not ruled on Manole’s reinstatement. In 2016 Manole faced criminal prosecution on charges of issuing an illegal ruling. She had overturned a Central Electoral Commission decision to block a referendum to amend the constitution. Legal experts criticized the case against her because it was solely based on her decision later being overturned by a higher court rather than any direct evidence of corruption. The Supreme Court of Justice denied Manole’s appeal and allowed the criminal case against her to continue.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Although the law presumes the innocence of defendants in criminal cases, authorities did not always respect this presumption. On occasion, judges’ remarks jeopardized the presumption of innocence.

Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them and to a fair and public trial without undue delay. Prosecutors present cases to a judge or panel of judges. Defendants have the right to a lawyer and to attend proceedings, confront witnesses, and present evidence. The law requires the government to provide an attorney to indigent defendants. The practice of appointing temporary defense lawyers without allowing them to prepare adequately was common and undermined the right to legal assistance.

The law prescribes high standards for free legal aid attorneys and defendants’ access to attorneys. Law enforcement, however, did not always enforce these provisions. In most cases, free legal aid-provided attorneys were poorly prepared and not motivated to work on cases. Defendants can request postponement of a hearing if attorneys need additional time for preparation. Interpretation is provided upon request and was generally available. Hearings can be delayed if more time is needed to find interpreters for certain uncommon languages. Defendants may refuse to provide evidence against themselves, unless they plead guilty and their guilty plea is reviewed and endorsed by a judge.

The law provides a right to appeal convictions to a higher court on matter of facts and law.

In Transnistria, there were credible reports that authorities disregarded trial procedures and denied defendants a fair trial.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

On June 28, the Riscani court found Grigore Petrenco, leader of the opposition Our Home Moldova Party, and five other activists guilty of organizing and leading mass disorder accompanied by violence. The court fined the defendants and issued them suspended sentences ranging from three to four-and-a-half years. The defendants declared the ruling was illegal and politically motivated because the court had qualified participation in peaceful antigovernment protests in 2015 as mass disorder. The group appealed the ruling at the Court of Appeals and remained under judicial control at year’s end. Amnesty International Moldova stated the court ruling was biased, violated the right to a free trial, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law allows citizens to seek damages in civil courts for human rights violations. Under the constitution, the government is liable when authorities violate a person’s rights by administrative means, fail to reply in a timely manner to an application for relief, or commit misconduct during a prosecution. Judgments awarded in such cases were often small and not enforced. Once all domestic avenues for legal remedy are exhausted, individuals may appeal cases involving the government’s alleged violation of rights provided under the European Convention on Human Rights to the ECHR. Citizens who have exhausted all available domestic remedies may also submit a written communication to the UN Human Rights Committee.

While the government declared a zero-tolerance policy toward torture, victims of alleged torture frequently lacked access to effective civil judicial remedies, especially in cases involving mistreatment in penal institutions.

A mediation law establishes an alternative mechanism for voluntarily resolving civil and criminal cases and sets forth rules for professional mediators, but the country lacked an implementation mechanism.

At the beginning of the year, there were 1,283 cases pending against the country in the ECHR. In 2016 the court delivered 23 judgments against the state and ordered the government to pay over 187,407 euros ($225,000) in damages. The government generally complied with ECHR orders promptly. The number of complaints submitted to the ECHR decreased in comparison to previous years.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The country endorsed the Terezin Declaration in 2009 and the Guidelines and Best Practices in 2010. Although the law provides for restitution of property confiscated during the successive fascist and Soviet regimes to politically repressed or exiled persons, it does not apply to property confiscated from minority groups. The government has not enacted any laws concerning restitution of communal property.

In September the Supreme Court of Justice ruled in favor of the Jewish community in dismissing an appeal by the Agency of Public Property and upholding a Court of Appeals decision which rejected the Agency’s claim on the Rabbi Tsirilson Synagogue and Magen David Yeshiva ruins, both purchased by the Jewish community in 2010.

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

The constitution prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence unless necessary to ensure state security, economic welfare or public order, or to prevent crimes. There were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Monaco

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns. Authorities usually sent noncitizens sentenced to long prison terms to France to serve their terms.

Physical Conditions: In 2013 the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) reported that persons detained in jail for longer than 24 hours lacked outdoor exercise space and that prisoners lacked access to sunlight for most of the day. Prisoners also had limited ability to receive and possess personal property.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers such as regularly scheduled visits by the CPT.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police are responsible for maintaining public order and the security of persons and property. The Palace Guard is responsible for the security of the prince, the royal family, and property. Both report to the Ministry of Interior.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the national police and the Palace Guards, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Arrest warrants are required. A detainee must appear before an investigating magistrate within 24 hours of arrest to be informed of the charges against him and of his rights under the law, and authorities generally respected this requirement. Authorities released most detainees without bail, but the investigating magistrate may order detention on grounds that the suspect might flee or interfere with the investigation of the case. Monaco and France worked cooperatively to return any fugitive who fled from Monaco into France. Detainees generally had prompt access to a lawyer, and the government provided one to indigent defendants. The investigating magistrate may extend indefinitely the initial two-month detention period in additional two-month increments. The investigating magistrate customarily permitted family members to see detainees.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: At any point a detainee may challenge the nature of his detention and appeal for release. The law provides guidelines for proper compensation for a detention deemed unlawful.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and are generally informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them. Except for cases involving minors, trials are conducted in public, usually before a judge or tribunal of judges. There were no undue delays. Defendants have a right to be present at their trial. Defendants have the right to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. An attorney is provided at public expense, if needed, when defendants face serious criminal charges. Defendants and their counsel have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and have access to free interpretation if necessary. Defendants are able to question the testimony of prosecution or plaintiff witnesses against them, and present witnesses and evidence in their defense. They may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have a right to appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The country has an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, and residents have access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. Plaintiffs regularly used available administrative remedies to seek redress for alleged wrongs. Persons may appeal court decisions involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights after they exhaust all avenues of appeal in national courts.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions. The law sets out the rules for the government collection and retention of confidential personal information in the country and for the government to share such information with foreign partners.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Mongolia

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The law prohibits such practices. Nevertheless, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported that the use of unnecessary force and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of some prisoners and detainees, particularly to obtain confessions, were problems.

According to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), individuals refused to pursue criminal charges in 21 of 25 complaints reported to the National Police Agency (NPA) on the use of force, pressure, or torture by a public official, police officer, or investigator as of August 2016. Two of the four remaining complaints were transferred to another jurisdiction, one was dismissed, and one remained under investigation as of September 2016. The NPA also received 24 complaints of the use of force against the health or body of an individual by a public official, police officer, or investigator. Of these, 15 remained under investigation and six were submitted to the Prosecutor General’s Office as of September 2016. The NPA reported that prisoners and detainees submitted 16 of these complaints of abuse as of June.

The NHRC, NGOs, and defense attorneys reported that, in an attempt to coerce or intimidate detainees, authorities sometimes threatened detainees’ families, transferred detainees repeatedly, or placed them in detention centers distant from their homes and families, making access to legal counsel and visits by family members difficult. Human rights NGOs reported obstacles to gathering evidence of torture or abuse. For example, although many prisons and detention facilities had cameras for monitoring prisoner interrogations, authorities often reported the equipment was inoperable at the time of reported abuses.

Local police are responsible for investigating allegations of abuse and torture. The NPA has a special division to investigate police officers accused of torture. The NHRC and NGOs expressed concerns about possible conflicts of interest in cases involving alleged police abuse or torture, which could undermine public confidence in investigations.

Under the new criminal code that came into effect on July 1, the scope of individuals subject to prosecution for official abuse or torture was expanded to include not just police detectives and investigators, but all public officials. This new code covers both physical and psychological abuse; however, the maximum punishment for torture decreased from a prison sentence of 15 years to five years. Although law enforcement officials are liable for intentional infliction of severe bodily injury, prosecutions of this crime were rare. The law states that prohibited acts do not constitute a crime when committed in accordance with an order by a superior in the course of duty. The law provides that the person who gave an illegal order is criminally liable for the harm caused, but prosecutions were rare. According to the NHRC, prosecutors, and judges, the law effectively provides immunity to law enforcement officials allegedly engaged in coercing confessions at the behest of investigators or prosecutors. The NHRC also indicated that authorities sometimes abandoned complaints of alleged psychological torture either for lack of evidence or because the degree of injury could not be determined. Moreover, witnesses were generally themselves detainees or prisoners and were under great pressure not to testify, including by threats against family and threats of additional charges with longer potential sentences.

As of September 2016, the NPA reported two complaints of rape by a public official. The NPA did not accept one as a criminal case; the other remained under investigation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Despite improvements in recent years, conditions remained poor and in some cases harsh in some prisons and pretrial detention centers administered by the General Executive Agency of Court Decisions (GEACD) as well as in a GEACD-administered detention facility for persons awaiting deportation.

Physical Conditions: Authorities assigned male prisoners a security level based on the severity of their crimes and housed them in a prison of the corresponding security level. There was only one prison for women, with separate facilities for different security levels, as well as a facility for female prisoners with infant children. Authorities held pretrial detainees in separate facilities from convicted prisoners.

The GEACD’s 24 prisons and 28 pretrial detention centers were generally not overcrowded. Nonetheless, NGOs and government officials reported that insufficient medical care, clothing, bedding, food, potable water, heating, lighting, ventilation, sanitary facilities, and accommodations for persons with disabilities were often problems in older prisons and pretrial detention centers. These problems were often worse in rural areas. New or newly renovated facilities generally had better conditions. Conditions in some police-operated alcohol detoxification centers were poor.

The GEACD reported 10 deaths in prisons and no deaths in pretrial detention facilities as of September. According to the GEACD, 34 prisoners contracted tuberculosis as of September. Correctional officials routinely released terminally ill patients shortly before death, which the Prison Fellowship of Mongolia alleged led to misleadingly low prisoner death statistics.

Administration: The Prosecutor General’s Office monitors prison and detention center conditions. The Prosecutor General’s Office and the NHRC conducted multiple scheduled, unplanned, and complaint-based inspections of prisons, pretrial detention centers, and police detention centers.

Independent Monitoring: The government allowed access by independent nongovernmental observers and the NHRC, but authorities sometimes limited the areas observers could visit.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law provides that no person shall be arrested, detained, or deprived of liberty except by specified procedures and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, and government agencies generally observed these prohibitions. The General Intelligence Agency (GIA) sometimes detained suspects for questioning without charge, but the new criminal code that went into effect July 1 required that a prosecutor supervise all detention.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The NPA and the General Authority for Border Protection, which operate under the MOJ, are principally responsible for internal security. The GIA, whose director reports to the prime minister, assists the aforementioned forces with internal security as well as foreign intelligence collection and operations.

The armed forces report to the Ministry of Defense and are responsible for national defense. The armed forces assist internal security forces in providing domestic emergency assistance and disaster relief.

Civilian authorities maintained control over both internal and external security forces, but mechanisms to investigate allegations of police abuses remained inadequate. There were reports police sometimes abused suspects.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

An evidence-based, prosecutor-approved warrant is generally required to arrest a suspect on criminal grounds. Within 24 hours of an arrest, a prosecutor must present a request stating the grounds and reasons for the arrest to a judge, who must decide within 48 hours whether to prolong the detention or release the suspect. The arresting authority must notify a suspect’s family within six hours of an arrest. A “pressing circumstances” exception in the law allows police to arrest suspects without a warrant. Examples of exceptions include murder or grave bodily injury, serious property damage, hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect, and suspicion that destruction of evidence would occur. In such cases a prosecutor must approve the arrest within 24 hours, and a judge must approve the arrest within the normal 48-hour period. If 72 hours pass after an arrest and a judge has not made a decision, police must release the suspect. Upon release authorities must inform the suspect of the reasons for the arrest and detention.

The NHRC reported that investigative agencies occasionally detained suspects without judicial authorization and sometimes secretly when conducting investigations, and police tended to detain such suspects despite the availability of other methods of restraint, including bail (with the approval of a prosecutor), another person’s personal guarantee (a signed note in which the suspect pledges not to depart), and military surveillance. The personal guarantee system allows relatives to vouch for an accused family member. Unlike bail, the system does not involve pledged security in exchange for release. This system is available for all crimes, although it was usually applied to those accused of less serious offenses.

Despite these problems authorities generally charged and informed detainees of the charges promptly, and informed them of their right to counsel. Maximum pretrial detention with a court order is 18 months. Detainees generally had prompt access to family members, although repeated transfers or detention in remote locations undermined this right. Nevertheless, in one case involving the 1998 murder of democracy leader S. Zorig, a defendant spent more than two years in pretrial detention before the Supreme Court convicted him in August.

A detainee has the right to an attorney during pretrial detention and all subsequent stages of the legal process, including after sentencing. If a defendant does not engage an attorney, the government must appoint one if the defendant suffers from a physical or mental disability that would hinder self-defense, is a minor, does not have command of the Mongolian language, or has a conflict of interest with existing defense counsel or other defendants. The law does not provide for the indigent status of a defendant. Detainees were reportedly more aware of their right to legal counsel than in the past, but misperceptions limited their use of this right. For example, detainees were frequently unaware they could exercise this right from the start of the legal process and frequently did not assert it unless and until their cases reached trial. Moreover, in some cases repeated transfers or detention in remote locations made access to legal counsel difficult.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but NGOs and private businesses reported that judicial corruption and third-party influence continued. Courts rarely entered not guilty verdicts or dismissed criminal charges over the objection of prosecutors, even when full trials had produced no substantial evidence of guilt. Courts often returned criminal cases to prosecutors when acquittal appeared more appropriate. As a result some serious criminal cases cycled for years between prosecutors and the courts without resolution.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to be informed of the charges against them. Courts provide free interpretation services as needed, including sign language interpretation, unless a court decides to recover procedural expenses from a defendant found guilty. The law also extends to all defendants the right to be present at their trial in the court of first instance (but not during appeals); to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or one provided at public expense); to receive adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; to confront witnesses; to present one’s own witnesses and evidence; to not be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and to appeal. NGOs and observers reported that authorities sometimes did not observe these rights and bribery of judges, prosecutors, and expert witnesses sometimes contributed to unwarranted convictions, dismissals, or reductions of sentences.

Procedural due process errors and inconsistencies often plagued trials. Although the number of government-provided defense lawyers was adequate, their quality and experience were uneven, so that many defendants lacked adequate legal representation. Judges often relied on confessions with little corroborating evidence. Furthermore, NGOs reported witness intimidation by government authorities and law enforcement officers, limited public access to trials (often due to lack of space), a lack of transparency in courts’ decision-making processes, and a low level of awareness regarding the effect of new criminal and procedural laws.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Administrative and judicial remedies are available for alleged human rights violations. The government sometimes failed to enforce court orders pertaining to human rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

According to Amnesty International, seminomadic herders reported some private and government-owned mining interests interfered with their access to traditional pasturelands. Some herders reported being forced to relocate after their pastureland was sold and mining companies denied them access to water wells.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Namibia

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but the law does not define “torture” or separately classify it as a crime. Torture is prosecuted under criminal provisions such as assault or homicide. Although the Ombudsman’s Office stated that it received some reports of police mistreatment of detainees, there were no complaints of torture.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions improved during the year, although some prison buildings remained dilapidated.

Physical Conditions: Conditions in detention centers and police holding cells remained poor. Conditions were often worse in pretrial holding cells than in prisons. Human rights bodies and government officials reported overcrowding in holding cells. Overcrowding was less of a problem in prisons. Five of the country’s 13 prisons were overcrowded, while the remaining eight had excess capacity. As of August prisons built to confine a maximum of 5,147 persons held 3,993 inmates. These included 100 women and eight juveniles.

In pretrial holding cells, sanitation remained insufficient, tuberculosis was prevalent, and on-site medical assistance was inadequate.

Prison and holding cell conditions for women were generally better than for men. Female prisoners were permitted to keep their babies with them until age two and received food and clothing for them from prison staff.

There were limited programs to prevent HIV transmission in prisons.

The law does not permit holding juvenile offenders with adults. Prison authorities reported they generally confined juvenile offenders separately, but police occasionally held juveniles with adults in rural detention facilities because of a lack of pretrial detainee facilities for juveniles.

Administration: The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent authority, investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions, and reported close cooperation with police in resolving complaints and responding promptly to inquiries.

Independent Monitoring: The government granted local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) access to prisons and prisoners but required them to obtain permission from the commissioner general of prisons. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited detainees of the Caprivi treason trial in both Windhoek Central Prison and Oluno Prison and helped arrange family visits.

Improvements: During the year police continued to improve detention conditions by refurbishing older facilities and by building additional holding cells. At year’s end prison holding capacity exceeded the prison population in eight of the country’s 13 prisons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Namibian Police Force (NamPol) has approximately 16,500 uniformed officers and operates under the Ministry of Safety and Security. The Namibian Defense Force, with an estimated 22,000 active duty members, is part of the Ministry of Defense. NamPol is responsible for internal security, while the defense force provides supplemental assistance in response to some natural disasters.

NamPol reported it had decentralized policing activities to make regional commands responsible for executing directives of the inspector general of police. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over NamPol, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. In contrast to prior years, there were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Arrest warrants are not required in all cases, including when authorities apprehend a suspect in the course of committing a crime. Authorities must inform persons arrested of the reason for their arrest, and police generally informed detainees promptly of the charges against them. Authorities must arraign arrested persons within 48 hours of their detention. The government did not always meet this requirement, especially in rural areas far from courts. The constitution stipulates the accused are entitled to defense by legal counsel of their choice, and authorities respected this right.

The state-funded Legal Aid Directorate (LAD) provided free legal assistance for indigent defendants in criminal cases and, depending on resource availability, in civil matters. The LAD provided assistance in approximately 70 percent of all criminal cases.

There was a functioning bail system. Officials generally allowed detainees prompt access to family members. The constitution permits detention without trial during a state of emergency but requires publication of the names of detainees in the government’s gazette within 14 days of their apprehension. An advisory board appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission (the constitutional body that recommends judges to the president for appointment) must review their cases within one month of detention and every three months thereafter. The constitution requires such advisory boards to have no more than five members of which at least three must be “judges of the Supreme Court or the High Court or qualified to be such.” The advisory board has the power to order the release of anyone detained without trial during an emergency.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a significant problem. A shortage of qualified magistrates and other court officials, the inability of many defendants to afford bail, the lack of a plea-bargaining system, slow or incomplete police investigations, the frequency of appeals, and procedural postponements resulted in a large backlog in the prosecution of criminal cases. Delays between arrest and trial could last for years. There were lengthy delays in criminal appeals as well. According to the Office of the Prosecutor General, however, pretrial detention did not exceed the maximum sentence of an alleged crime.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained 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.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the courts acted independently at times, making judgments and rulings critical of the government. Inefficiency and lack of resources, however, hampered the judicial system.

Customary courts hear many civil and petty criminal cases in rural areas. The law delineates the offenses the customary system may handle. Customary courts deal with infractions of local customary law among members of the same ethnic group. The law defines the role, duties, and powers of traditional leaders and states customary law inconsistent with the constitution is invalid. Cases resolved in customary courts were sometimes tried a second time in government courts.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair public trial, but long delays in courts hearing cases and the uneven application of constitutional protections in the customary system compromised this right. Defendants are presumed innocent. The law provides for defendants to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, in a language they understand, and of their right to a public trial.

All defendants have the right to be present at trial and to consult with an attorney of their choice in a timely manner. Defendants receive free interpretation as necessary from their first court appearance through all appeals. Although indigent defendants are entitled to a lawyer provided by the state in criminal and civil cases, this sometimes did not occur due to an insufficient number of public defenders, insufficient state funds to pay private lawyers to represent indigent defendants, or because the LAD did not accept the application for representation from an accused.

Defendants may confront witnesses, present witnesses and evidence on their behalf, and have the right of appeal. The law extends these rights to all citizens. The courts provided defendants adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. Defendants have the right not to testify against themselves or confess guilt.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides for access to a court to file lawsuits seeking damages for or cessation of human rights violations. The constitution provides for administrative procedures to correct, as well as judicial remedies to redress, wrongs. Civil court orders were mostly well enforced.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Nauru

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison conditions that raised human rights concerns. International human rights organizations criticized conditions for asylum seekers, especially for women and children refugees, at Australia’s Regional Processing Center operated by Australian contractors (see section 2.d.).

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

Administration: The government rejected several visa applications from journalists requesting access to the refugee community and the Regional Processing Center.

There is no formal legal provision for traditional reconciliation mechanisms. As a mitigating factor in sentencing, however, apologies and reconciliation frequently played an informal role in criminal proceedings.

Independent Monitoring: The government permits prison and detention center monitoring visits by independent human rights observers, and several such visits occurred.

The Regional Processing Center continued to attract substantial regional and international attention. International human rights NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch visited the center frequently. There were no reports of journalists from foreign media visiting the center during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The police force, under the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, maintains internal security and, as necessary, external security. The country has no military force. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the 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.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Authorities made arrests based either on warrants issued by authorized officials or for proximate cause by a police officer witnessing a crime. Police may hold a person for a maximum of 24 hours without a hearing before a magistrate. Authorities informed detainees promptly of the charges against them. The bail system functioned properly. The law provides for accused persons to have access to legal assistance, but qualified assistance was not always readily available.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution allows persons arrested or detained to challenge their detention in the Supreme Court, if there is a potential violation of fundamental rights and freedoms.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Some outside of government circles alleged instances of government pressure on the judiciary in cases related to a 2015 protest that turned violent.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

There continues to be criticism that government officials pressured the judiciary in cases related to a 2015 protest involving 16 persons that turned violent. In August a former cabinet minister who is one of those accused over the protest claimed that the government continued to pressure the courts not to issue subpoenas requested by the defense. Attorney-General David Adeang denied the claims and argued that the decision to recruit a foreign judge belies accusations of political interference.

English common law provides the basis for procedural safeguards. Safeguards include the presumption of innocence, the right to be present at one’s own trial, adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, and prohibitions on double jeopardy and forced self-incrimination. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly of charges and consult with an attorney or have one provided at public expense as necessary “in the interest of justice.” Defendants also have the right to confront witnesses, present evidence, not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and appeal convictions. In many cases officials used bail and traditional reconciliation mechanisms rather than the formal legal process, usually by choice but sometimes under communal pressure. The law extends these rights to all suspects.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, including access to a court by individuals or organizations to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations.

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

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press; however, the government owned all media and exercised editorial control over content.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Nepal

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. On March 6, five individuals were killed and dozens injured when the Armed Police Force (APF) intervened in a protest in Saptari district that became violent. The protesters, who had staged a rally to protest election-related campaigning by an opposition party, reportedly burned tires, threw Molotov cocktails, blocked road traffic, and vandalized vehicles outside the political program. According to human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI), the APF used indiscriminate and excessive force in attempting to subdue protestors. Reports also alleged that the APF failed to follow the Local Administration Act, which requires security forces to aim below the knee unless there is an imminent threat to human life, and other guidelines on escalating the use of force. In March the government appointed a three-member committee to investigate the killings and approved Nepali rupees (NRs) 1 million ($10,000) payments to the families of each of the victims, which the government declared as martyrs. As of October the committee, which had 15 days to complete its investigation, had not produced a report, nor had the government taken any action against those responsible. The government, however, had distributed the compensation to the victims’ families.

Human rights groups demanded the establishment of an independent commission to investigate allegations of excessive use of force by the Nepal Police and APF against civilians during months of unrest related to the promulgation of the constitution in 2015. In response the government formed the High Level Enquiry Commission (HLEC) in August 2016. Between December 2016, when the HLEC began accepting complaints, and August, the HLEC received 3,031 complaints.

There were developments in a few emblematic conflict-era cases. As an illustrative example, in April the Kavre District Court convicted in their absence three of the four Nepal Army (NA) officers accused of killing 15-year-old Maina Sunuwar in 2004 and sentenced them to life in prison (in the country, a “life sentence” is considered 20 years). Lieutenant Colonel Niranjan Basnet, the only convicted officer still serving with the NA, was acquitted. Although human rights groups praised the court’s decision, which they stated was a partial victory for conflict victims and justice, they also said the district attorney’s decision not to appeal Basnet’s acquittal represented a failure to pursue criminal accountability. They also questioned the willingness or ability of the government to implement the court’s decision, particularly because some of those convicted may no longer reside in the country. As of August the government did not take action to pursue the return of the three convicted persons from their presumed location abroad.

The government did not enforce a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that overturned the 2011 pardon of Bal Krishna Dhungel, a Maoist politician convicted of killing Ujjan Kumar Shrestha in 1998. Despite the Supreme Court decision and order for his apprehension, Dhungel had remained free and was observed attending social functions and publicly criticizing Supreme Court justices. In response to a contempt of court case filed against Dhungel, on April 13, the Supreme Court had ordered the Inspector General of Police to arrest Dhungel within one week. Dhungel was arrested on October 31.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities during the year. The new criminal code, which parliament passed in July but will not come into effect until 2018, criminalized disappearance. In 2016 the government faced accusations of involvement in the disappearance of Kumar Tamang, a laborer temporarily living in Tatopani. An investigation initiated by police in March 2016 had not reached a conclusion as of October.

The fate of most of those who disappeared during the 1996-2006 civil conflict remained unknown. According to the National Human Rights Commission, approximately 840 unresolved cases of disappearances remain unresolved, 594 of which may have involved state actors. As of August the government did not prosecute any government officials, current or former, for involvement in conflict-era disappearances, nor had it released information on the whereabouts of the 606 persons the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) identified as having been disappeared by state actors. The NHRC reported that Maoists were believed to be involved in 149 unresolved disappearances during the conflict. As of August the government had not prosecuted any Maoists for involvement in disappearances.

In June the CIEDP formed five teams to begin investigating complaints of disappearances filed by conflict-era victims. The commission has before it 2,769 registered cases. By contrast the International Committee of the Red Cross listed 1,335 names of missing persons in August.

Human rights organizations expressed concern over flaws related to the CIEDP. According to the International Commission of Jurists, CIEDP investigations suffer from inadequate human and financial resources to handle the large number of cases, opaque appointment processes of investigators, and a lack of measures to ensure confidentiality and security of victims and witnesses. Victims also have expressed concern that investigators in many districts have asked about their interest in reconciliation.

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

Contrary to requirements in the 2015 constitution, torture is not explicitly criminalized, and the law does not have clear guidelines for punishing offenders. The Torture Compensation Act provides for compensation for victims of torture. The victim must file a complaint and pursue the case through the courts.

According to human rights activists and legal experts, police resorted to severe abuse, primarily beatings, to force confessions. Local human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) Advocacy Forum (AF) reported no evidence of major changes in police abuse trends across the country, but AF stated that police increasingly complied with the courts’ demand for preliminary medical checks of detainees, in part because the courts refused to extend the period of legal police custody without such medical checks.

The Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance (THRDA), another local NGO, stated that torture victims often were hesitant to file complaints due to police or other official intimidation and fear of retribution. In some cases victims settled out of court under pressure from the perpetrators. According to THRDA the courts ultimately dismissed many cases of alleged torture due to a lack of credible supporting evidence, especially medical documentation. In cases where courts awarded compensation or ordered disciplinary action against police, the decisions were rarely implemented according to THRDA and other NGOs. In one noteworthy case in Banke district in March, however, the Chief District Officer compensated two torture victims in line with a district court award in 2013.

According to AF’s latest report on torture published in 2016, 17.2 percent of the 1,212 detainees AF interviewed in 2015 were subjected to some form of physical abuse compared with 16.2 percent in 2014. The same study indicated a slightly higher rate of reported torture among detainees identified as “indigenous.” In a separate study, THRDA reported that 24 percent of detainees in police detention centers in 19 districts in the country’s southern Terai belt had been subjected to some form of physical and/or mental abuse. According to the Nepal Police Human Rights Commission, the vast majority of alleged incidents were not formally reported or investigated.

There have been no cases brought to the criminal justice system of torture committed during the civil conflict.

In February 2016 the UN reported one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse against a Nepali peacekeeper in South Sudan for an incident that reportedly involved three adult victims. The complainants accused the peacekeeper of sexual assault and transactional sex. The government continues to investigate the allegation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions, especially those in pretrial detention centers, were poor and did not meet international standards according to human rights groups.

Physical Conditions: There was overcrowding in the prison system. During the year a monitoring report by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) indicated that in 51 of the 75 districts, 47 prisons designed to hold 5,594 inmates held 9,592 convicted prisoners. THRDA stated that overcrowding also remained a serious problem in detention centers. According to the OAG report, most prisons and detention centers had sufficient windows, daylight, and air, with a few exceptions.

Authorities generally held pretrial detainees separately from convicted prisoners. Due to a lack of adequate juvenile detention facilities, authorities sometimes incarcerated pretrial detainee children with adults or allowed children to remain in jails with their incarcerated parents.

The OAG report indicated that of 76 detention centers the OAG monitored, 14 lacked separate facilities for women. According to THRDA most prisons lacked separate facilities for women, children, and persons with disabilities.

According to AF and THRDA, medical examinations for detainees generally were perfunctory. AF also reported medical care was poor for detainees with serious conditions. According to the OAG, the government did not implement a 2016 Supreme Court decision ordering it to provide more than 700 grams of rice and 45 NRs (45 cents) per day to each prisoner. According to AF some detainees slept on the floor due to lack of beds and had access only to unfiltered and dirty water and inadequate food, and many detention centers had poor ventilation, lighting, heating, and bedding.

According to the NGO Child Workers in Nepal, minors housed in adult facilities often faced bullying from adult detainees and received poor treatment by police. Hygiene was poor, and police and adult detainees often made minors clean the toilets.

Administration: There were no alternatives to imprisonment or fines, or both, for nonviolent offenders.

Independent Monitoring: There was no official institutional mechanism to monitor prisons or detention centers. The government generally allowed prison and pretrial detention center visits by the OAG, NHRC, the National Women’s Commission, and the National Dalit Commission as well as by lawyers of the accused. THRDA and AF reported that while they and some other NGOs were often prevented from meeting with detainees or accessing detention facilities, some independent human rights observers, including the United Nations and international organizations, were given such access. Media had no access to prisons or detention centers. The NHRC could request government action, but authorities often denied such requests.

Improvements: In May the Department of Prison Management launched the Prison Management Information System software. The new system aimed to better track prisoner biodata, sentencing details, and other records. According to the NHRC, however, implementation of the new system was ineffective during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but security forces reportedly conducted arbitrary arrests during the year. The law gives chief district officers wide latitude to make arrests, and human rights groups contended that police abused their 24-hour detention authority by holding persons unlawfully, in some cases without proper access to counsel, food, and medicine, or in inadequate facilities.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Nepal Police is responsible for enforcing law and order across the country while the APF is responsible for combating terrorism, providing security during riots and public disturbances, assisting in natural disasters, and protecting vital infrastructure, public officials, and the borders. In 2015 the government gave the APF the authority to issue warrants to suspects they detain before turning them over to the Nepal Police. Generally, the Nepal Police and the APF executed search and arrest warrants without any prosecutorial or judicial review.

The Nepal Police and APF have human rights commissions (HRCs) and the NA has a human rights directorate (HRD). The NAHRD and Nepal Police HRC have independent investigative powers. The NA’s investigations were not fully transparent according to human rights NGOs. NA HRD representatives stated that nearly all of its cases derived from the Maoist insurgency, and that full transparency could come only in the context of a functioning TRC. The Nepal Police also proposed that conflict-era allegations of abuse should be handled in the context of a functioning TRC.

In contrast with prior years, the Nepal Police did not provide statistics on how many complaints of human rights violations it received. The Nepal Army HRC stated it received no complaints of human rights violations during the year. All security forces received human rights training prior to deployments on UN peacekeeping operations. The NA incorporated human rights training into professional military education, and conducted ongoing training in all units. Each brigade has a designated human rights officer, and divisions have larger human rights staff. At the Army headquarters, a brigadier general, who reports directly to the Chief of Staff, heads the HRD. Similarly, the Nepal Police and APF incorporated training on human rights into their overall training curricula for security forces. The APF and Nepal Police HRCs issued booklets outlining human rights best practices to most police officers.

Police corruption and lack of punishment or accountability for police abuses remained problems.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law stipulates that, except in cases involving suspected security and narcotics violations, or when the crime’s punishment would be more than three years’ imprisonment, authorities must obtain an arrest warrant and present the suspect to a court within 24 hours of arrest (not including travel time). THRDA reported that illegal and arbitrary arrests were prevalent, with police failing to bring 14 percent of detainees to court within 24 hours. According to AF, however, there was significant progress in courts demanding to see an initial medical examination before extending the period of remand.

If the court upholds a detention, the law generally authorizes police to hold the suspect for up to 25 days to complete an investigation. In special cases (such as for suspected acts of corruption), a suspect can be held for up to six months. The constitution provides for access to a state-appointed lawyer or one of the detainee’s choice, even if charges have not been filed. Few detainees could afford their own lawyer, and the justice system does not receive sufficient funding to provide free and competent counsel to indigent defendants.

Detainees have the legal right to receive visits by family members, but family access to prisoners varied from prison to prison. Authorities routinely denied defense attorneys access to defendants in custody. AF, which provides legal assistance to detainees, reported an increase in restrictions on access to pretrial detention facilities. While a system of bail exists, bonds are too expensive for most citizens. The accused have the option of posting bail in cash or mortgaging their property to the court. Unless prisoners are released on recognizance (no bail), no alternatives to the bail system exist to assure a defendant’s appearance in court.

Arbitrary Arrest: Leaders of the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N) claimed that security personnel arrested hundreds of their party cadres in various districts–including Nawalparasi, Dhanusha, Kailali, Kanchanpur, Bardiya, Banke, Kapilvastu, Sunsari, Siraha, and Morang–for participating in public protests before the second round of local elections in June. According to THRDA police released all the protesters within a few days of arrest. THRDA also reported that four individuals associated with the RJP-N were seriously injured in Nawalparasi district when police fired rubber bullets into a crowd of protestors on June 17. In response to both reports, the NHRC issued a public statement urging the government to exercise restraint and refrain from arresting individuals without cause.

Pretrial Detention: Time served is credited to a prisoner’s sentence, but pretrial detention occasionally exceeded the length of the ultimate sentence following trial and conviction.

Under the Public Security Act, security forces may detain persons who allegedly threaten domestic security and tranquility, amicable relations with other countries, or relations between citizens of different castes or religious groups. The government may detain persons in preventive detention for as long as 12 months without charging them with a crime as long as the detention complies with the act’s requirements. The court does not have any substantive legal role in preventive detentions under the act.

Other laws, including the Public Offenses Act, permit detention without charge for as long as 25 days with extensions. This act covers crimes such as disturbing the peace, vandalism, rioting, and fighting. Human rights monitors expressed concern that the act vests too much discretionary power in the chief district officer.

According to human rights groups, in some cases detainees appeared before judicial authorities well after the legally mandated 24-hour limit, allegedly to allow injuries from police mistreatment to heal. AF estimated in a 2015 report that 41 percent of detainees did not appear before judicial authorities within 24 hours of their arrests. THRDA stated police frequently circumvented the 24-hour requirement by registering the detainee’s name only when they were ready to produce the detainee before the court.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Those arrested or detained are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention through habeas corpus. According to human rights lawyers, however, no individuals received compensation for an illegal or arbitrary arrest or detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but courts remained vulnerable to political pressure, bribery, and intimidation. The Supreme Court has the right to review the constitutionality of laws.

Authorities did not consistently respect and implement court orders, including Supreme Court decisions, particularly decisions referring to conflict-era cases as discussed above.

In April the two ruling parties, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center), filed an impeachment motion against Supreme Court Chief Justice Sushila Karki soon after the court overturned the government’s choice for Inspector General of Police, the country’s top police officer. According to HRW the move violated the principle that an independent judiciary should be free from political interference. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated the attempt to remove Karki raised concerns about the government’s commitment to the rule of law. The parties withdrew the impeachment case on May 29, just as Karki was due to retire upon reaching the age limit for the position.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to counsel, equal protection under the law, protection from double jeopardy, protection from retroactive application of the law, public trials, and the right to be present at one’s own trial, but these rights were not always applied. Defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence, except in some cases, such as human trafficking and drug trafficking, where the burden of proof is on the defendant. The law provides detainees the right to legal representation and a court-appointed lawyer, a government lawyer, or access to private attorneys. The government provided legal counsel to indigent detainees only upon request. Persons who are unaware of their rights, in particular lower-caste individuals and members of some ethnic groups, are thus at risk of being deprived of legal representation. Defense lawyers reported having insufficient time to prepare their defense. A 2016 Supreme Court directive ordered that the courts must provide free interpretation services to those who do not speak Nepali (the 2011 national census lists 123 languages spoken as a mother tongue). Defense lawyers may cross-examine accusers. All lower-court decisions, including acquittals, are subject to appeal. The Supreme Court is the court of last resort.

Military courts adjudicate cases concerning military personnel under the military code, which provides military personnel the same basic rights as civilians. The Army Act requires that soldiers accused of rape or homicide be transferred to civilian authorities for prosecution. Under normal circumstances the army prosecutes all other criminal cases raised against soldiers under the military justice system. Nevertheless, the NA has told the government it is willing to cooperate with the TRC and CIEDP and will not “hide” behind the Army Act. Military courts cannot try civilians for crimes, even if the crimes involve the military services; civilian courts handle these cases.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

THRDA reported that 25 civilians charged in connection with the killing of eight security personnel and a child during protests in Tikapur, Kailali district in 2015 remained in detention. According to THRDA and some political parties, several of the 25 were targeted because they were political leaders and activists of the ethnic Tharu community. On May 19, the government announced its plan to withdraw cases filed against a number of the detained individuals. The government did not specify the number of individuals it planned to release, but it stated it would withdraw “false cases” against those who did not have a connection to the Tikapur incident while continuing to pursue criminal action against those responsible. Indigenous rights groups welcomed the decision to withdraw cases against activists promoting indigenous rights. Legal and human rights experts, however, questioned the government’s decision to circumvent the judicial process. The NHRC stated the government’s decision promoted impunity and politicized a criminal incident. It urged the government to investigate, take legal action against the culprits, and provide compensation to the victims. Separately, in response to a writ petition filed at the Supreme Court against the decision, the court ordered the government to explain its decision. As of August the government had taken no action to implement its plan to withdraw cases.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations could seek remedies for human rights violations in national courts.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The Maoists and their affiliate organizations have returned some previously seized property as required by the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord that ended the civil conflict, but they kept other illegally seized lands and properties. According to the Asia Foundation’s report this year, a significant number of conflict-era land disputes remained outstanding.

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

The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence. The government generally respected these prohibitions.

The law allows police to conduct searches and seizures without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, in which case a search may be conducted as long as two or more persons of “good character” are present. If a police officer has reasonable cause to believe that a suspect may possess material evidence, the officer must submit a written request to another officer to conduct a search, and there must be another official present who holds at least the rank of assistant subinspector. Some legal experts claimed that by excluding prosecutors and judges from the warrant procedure, there are relatively few checks against police discretion.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights. In some cases the government failed to enforce the law effectively. Human rights lawyers and some journalists stated that the 2015 constitution enables the government to restrict freedom of speech and press in ways they considered vague and open to abuse. For example, the constitution lists a number of circumstances under which laws curtailing freedom of speech and press may be formulated. These include acts that “jeopardize harmonious relations between federal units” and acts that assist a foreign state or organization to jeopardize national security. The constitution prohibits any acts “contrary to public health, decency, and morality” or that “disturb the public law and order situation.” The same provision of the constitution also prohibits persons from converting other persons from one religion to another or “disturbing the religion” of others.

Freedom of Expression: Citizens generally believed they could voice their opinions freely and often expressed critical opinions in print and electronic media without restriction. In July the government limited freedom of expression for the members of Kathmandu’s Tibetan community by rejecting requests from the Tibetan Buddhist community to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday publicly. Although Tibetan Buddhists were allowed to hold small private events in homes or monasteries, police asked celebrants at one site to remove photos of the Dalai Lama and printed banners from public view.

Press and Media Freedom: The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction, with a few exceptions. Several editors and journalists reported they faced intimidation by police and the Election Commission of Nepal in their coverage of the first two phases of local elections in May and June.

Journalists also stated they increasingly received vague threats and retribution from officials in response to their investigative reporting on corruption. For example, on August 17, the managing director of the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) Gopal Khadka filed a defamation case against Nagarik, a leading Nepali daily, for its reporting on allegations of corruption by the NOC in its procurement of land for storage depots.

Violence and Harassment: According to the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), the government did not make sufficient efforts to preserve the safety and independence of the media and rarely prosecuted individuals who attacked journalists. The FNJ also stated that some members of the security forces and the Election Commission of Nepal attempted to prevent the press from freely covering the local elections.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The constitution prohibits prior censorship of material for printing, publication or broadcasting, including electronically. The constitution also provides that the government cannot revoke media licenses, close media houses, or seize material based on the content of what is printed, published, or broadcast. The constitution, however, also provides for “reasonable restrictions” of these rights for acts or incitement that “may undermine the sovereignty, territorial integrity, nationality of Nepal, or harmonious relations between the federal units or harmonious relations between the various castes, tribes, religions, or communities.” Speech amounting to treason, defamation, or contempt of court is also prohibited.

Media professionals expressed concern regarding an additional provision in the constitution that allows the government to formulate laws to regulate media. They argued that such laws could be used to close media houses or cancel their registration. The constitution also includes publication and dissemination of false materials as grounds for imposing legal restrictions on press freedom. Media experts reported, however, that these provisions have not been enforced against any media houses.

Although by law all media outlets, including government-owned stations, operate independently from direct government control, indirect political influence sometimes led to self-censorship. This was particularly true of stories that could be considered politically provocative.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. The 2008 Electronic Transaction Act prohibits publication in electronic form of material that may be “contrary to the public morality or decent behavior,” may “spread hate or jealousy,” or may “jeopardize the harmonious relations subsisting among the peoples of various castes, tribes and communities.” There were several incidents in which authorities took action under the Electronic Transaction Act in response to material posted on social media. According to press reports, on August 2, police arrested Nirab Gyawali for allegedly posting defamatory remarks on Facebook against Renu Dahal, the daughter of former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Gyawali, whose father was running against Dahal in the Bharatpur municipality mayoral election, was charged under the Electronic Transactions Act for an insulting Facebook posting about Dahal. On August 3, the Kathmandu District Court released Gyawali on bail of NRs 25,000 ($250) pending further judicial proceedings.

On March 20, the government issued an amended Online Media Operation Directive, which requires all country-based online news and opinion websites to be registered. The directive gives the government the authority to block websites based on content if it lacks an “authoritative source,” creates “a misconception,” or negatively affects international relationships. The government also has the authority to block content that threatens the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, nationality, or harmonious relations. Online sedition, defamation, contempt of court, or indecent and immoral content may also be blocked. The new version makes the registration, license renewal, and content production provisions for online platforms more complicated, including by requiring a copy of a site’s Value Added Tax or Permanent Account Number registration certificate. Renewals now require online platforms to provide updated human resource and payroll records annually. The FNJ expressed concern that the directive’s vague language gives the government power to censor online content. On March 26, Prabesh Subedi, a journalist, filed a writ petition against the directive at the Supreme Court requesting its repeal for its violation of the right to freedom of expression. As of August the Supreme Court had not heard the case.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The law provides for the freedom to hold cultural events. Government permits are required to hold large public events. During the year the Tibetan community did not request permission for a number of small events confined to their settlements or within monasteries; they did not face repercussions although they faced restrictions (see section 2.b.). Authorities granted approval to the Tibetan community to organize a ceremony for the third day of the Tibetan New Year on February 11, but in July government officials rejected requests from the Tibetan Buddhist community to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday publicly. With the exception of the Dalai Lama’s birthday, Tibetans attended such events with minimal reports of restrictions on movement.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

Freedom of assembly generally was respected for citizens and legal residents, but there were some restrictions. The law authorizes chief district officers to impose curfews when there is a possibility that demonstrations or riots could disturb the peace.

In March security forces opened fire on a crowd of protestors in Saptari district, killing five and injuring dozens (see section 1.a.). Human rights organizations also reported that in June police arbitrarily arrested and detained and, in some cases, used excessive force against those who were protesting against the second round of elections in the Terai (see section 1.d.).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. NGOs, however, stated the existing legal framework does not adequately recognize the independence of civil society and opens the door to the exercise of excessive discretion by the government. They added that the registration process for civil society organizations (CSOs) is restrictive and cumbersome, the government has wide discretion to deny registration, and requirements vary among various registration authorities, with some entities requiring documents not mentioned in existing laws on an ad hoc basis. Additionally, the Association Registration Act empowers the government to give directions to associations and to terminate associations if they refuse to follow directions. To receive foreign or government resources, CSOs must seek separate and additional approval from the Social Welfare Council (SWC), the government entity responsible for overseeing CSOs. The SWC requires that CSOs allocate at least 80 percent of their budgets for hardware or tangible development outputs by placing undue restrictions on CSOs that focus on advocacy issues.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, except for most refugees, whose freedom of movement within the country is legally limited. Constraints on refugee movements were enforced unevenly. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.

Some political groups attempted to restrict freedom of movement, including through forced general strikes known locally as “bandhs,” to pressure the government and civil society. Terai-based Madhesi political parties in particular used strikes throughout the year to draw attention to, and gain support for, their political demands. For example, in June the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal launched a multiday strike to protest the second round of local elections. Although the protests were largely peaceful, protesters reportedly threw rocks at vehicles to enforce a ban on movement. The protests resulted in the closure of schools, businesses, and roads in some areas.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Police reportedly conducted checks of identity documents of Tibetans, including monks and nuns, at checkpoints.

In-country Movement: The government has not issued personal identification documents to Tibetan refugees in more than 20 years, leaving the majority of this refugee population without recourse to present required documents at police checkpoints or during police stops. Some refugees reported being harassed or turned back by police at checkpoints.

Foreign Travel: In an attempt to protect women from being trafficked or abused, the government maintained a minimum age of 24 for women traveling overseas for domestic employment. NGOs and human rights activists viewed the age ban as discriminatory and counterproductive because it impelled some women to migrate through informal channels across the Indian border.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

The 2015 earthquake and its aftershocks caused widespread devastation and displaced millions of individuals, particularly in the 14 most-affected districts. According to Oxfam International, as of May 31, 83 active sites were hosting 13,594 individuals (3,063 households) in eight districts, including 1,463 children under age five.

It is not known what proportion of this population is unable or unwilling to return to their homes. Many remained in camps or informal settlements because they did not hold a title to land and were occupying it illegally when the earthquake occurred. Others stayed because their homes remained vulnerable to or were destroyed by subsequent landslides. In May the government approved a policy to provide approximately NRs 200,000 ($2,000) for the purchase of new land for landless households and those that required relocation due to natural hazards. As a medium-term solution, the government began building community shelters to house multiple families of earthquake-displaced populations. As of August the Ministry of Urban Development and the NA had constructed 82 such structures. Humanitarian agencies expressed concern that housing multiple families in the same unit could exacerbate many challenges faced by IDPs, particularly a lack of privacy and security for women and girls; insufficient access to toilets and bathing and changing areas; complicated family sleeping arrangements; and difficulties dealing with menstruation and pregnancy. Other common challenges faced by IDPs included insufficient protection from the weather, limited access to water and food, emotional stress, and elevated vulnerability to trafficking.

In a report published in April, AI stated the government’s reconstruction policies, which require persons to provide land ownership documents to qualify for assistance, have reinforced the marginalization of women, the disadvantaged, and landless groups.

Although the government and the Maoists agreed to support the voluntary return in safety and dignity of conflict-displaced IDPs to their homes following the 10-year civil war, the agreement has not been fully implemented. The Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction estimated that 78,700 persons were displaced from 1996 to 2006, but an estimated 50 thousand were unwilling or unable to return home. The reasons included unresolved land and property issues, lack of citizenship or ownership documentation, and security concerns since the land taken from IDPs by Maoists during the conflict was often sold or given to landless or tenant farmers.

The government provided relief packages for the rehabilitation and voluntary return of conflict-era IDPs. Many of those still displaced preferred to integrate locally and live in urban areas, mostly as illegal occupants of government land along riversides or together with the landless population. The absence of public services and lack of livelihood assistance also impeded the return of IDPs.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the determination of individual refugee or asylum claims or a comprehensive legal framework for refugee protection. The government recognized large numbers of Tibetans as refugees and supported resettlement to foreign countries of certain refugees claiming Bhutanese citizenship. The government does not provide for local integration as a durable solution.

The government officially restricted freedom of movement and work for the approximately 10,000 refugees asserting claims to Bhutanese citizenship residing in the two remaining refugee camps in the eastern part of the country, but those restrictions were largely unenforced for this population. The government officially does not allow these refugees to work or have access to public education or public health clinics, but it allows UNHCR to provide parallel free education and health services to refugees in the camps. In 2007 the government agreed to permit third-country resettlement for these refugees. Since resettlement began more than 109,000 refugees claiming Bhutanese citizenship have been resettled in foreign countries.

The government does not recognize Tibetans who arrived in the country after 1990 as refugees. Most Tibetans who arrived since then transited to India although an unknown number remained in the country. The government has not issued refugee cards to Tibetan refugees since 1995. UNHCR estimated more than half of the 15,000 to 20,000 resident Tibetan refugees remained undocumented. After China heightened security in 2008 along its border and increased restrictions on internal freedom of movement for ethnic Tibetans, the number of Tibetans who transited through the country dropped significantly. UNHCR reported that 120 Tibetans transited the country in 2016, and 23 from January through July. The government issued UNHCR-facilitated exit permits for recent arrivals from Tibet who were transiting while traveling to India.

Access to Basic Services: Most Tibetan refugees who lived in the country, particularly those who arrived after 1990 or turned 16 after 1995, did not have documentation, nor did their locally born children. Even those with acknowledged refugee status had no legal rights beyond the ability to remain in the country. The Nepal-born children of Tibetans with legal status often lacked documentation. The government allowed NGOs to provide primary- and secondary-level schooling to Tibetans living in the country. Tibetan refugees had no entitlement to higher education in public or private institutions and were denied the right to work officially. They were unable legally to obtain business licenses, driver’s licenses, bank accounts, or to own property, or consistently document births, marriages, and deaths. Some in the Tibetan community resorted to bribery to obtain these services. While Nepal-based Tibetans with refugee certificates were eligible to apply for travel documents to leave the country, the legal process was often arduous, expensive, and opaque. A 2016 government directive authorized chief district officers to skip the verification step, which required witnesses and a police letter, for Tibetans who had previously been issued a travel document.

More than 500 refugees and asylum seekers from other countries, including Pakistan, Burma, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, lived in the country. The government continued to deny these groups recognition as refugees, even when recognized as such by UNHCR, and levied prohibitive fines $5 per day out of status–and a discretionary penalty of up to NRs 50,000 (approximately $500) to obtain an exit permit. The government waived the fines for 41 individuals in July, but it did not change its policy to enable other registered refugees destined for resettlement or repatriation to obtain exit permits without paying these fines. The government allowed UNHCR to provide some education, health, and livelihood services to these refugees, but the refugees lacked legal access to public education and the right to work.

STATELESS PERSONS

An estimated 5.4 million individuals (24 percent of the population age 16 and over) lacked citizenship documentation. Citizenship documents, which are issued at age 16, are required to register to vote, register marriages or births, buy or sell land, appear for professional exams, open bank accounts, or gain access to credit and receive state social benefits. Prior to the 2013 constituent assembly election, the government deployed citizenship/voter registration mobile teams to remote areas to issue citizenship cards and register new voters. The Home Ministry reported issuing more than 600,000 new citizenship cards during the exercise.

Constitutional provisions, laws, and regulations governing citizenship discriminated by gender, which contributed to statelessness. The constitution states that citizenship is derived from one Nepali parent, but it also stipulates that a child born to a Nepali mother and a non-Nepali father may obtain citizenship only through naturalization. Mothers faced extreme difficulties in securing citizenship papers for children of Nepali parents, even when they possessed Nepali citizenship documents, except in cases in which the child’s father supported the application. These difficulties persisted despite a 2011 Supreme Court decision granting a child Nepali citizenship through the mother if the father was unknown or absent.

The constitution states that the children of unidentified fathers may obtain citizenship through their mothers, but if it is later determined that the father is a foreign citizen, the child will lose citizenship by descent and be eligible for naturalization. In practice many single women face difficulties registering their children as citizens by descent. The Supreme Court ruled in May that government authorities must not deny the registration of birth and citizenship of children of Nepali mothers and fathers who cannot be traced. According to human rights lawyers, although this provision applies to the children of single mothers, including rape and trafficking victims, it does not address situations in which the father is known but refuses to acknowledge paternity. The legal and practical restrictions on transferring citizenship imposed particular hardships on children whose fathers were deceased, had abandoned the family, or (as was increasingly common) departed the country to work abroad.

Since naturalization is not a fundamental right under the constitution, although it could be an option for those not eligible for citizenship by descent, it is subject to state discretion. Although they lack specific data, human rights lawyers reported that the government has processed few applications for naturalization of children in recent years.

For women and girls to obtain citizenship by descent for themselves, regulations require a married woman to submit a formal attestation from her husband, father, or husband’s family (if widowed) that she qualifies for citizenship and has his or their permission to receive it. This requirement makes a woman’s right to citizenship contingent on her father’s or husband’s cooperation. In many cases husbands refused to provide their wives this attestation. Preventing women from obtaining citizenship documentation precludes their access to the courts and thus their ability to make legal claims to land and other property, which permits the husband or male relatives free to stake their own claims.

While stateless persons did not experience violence, they experienced discrimination in employment, education, housing, health services, marriage, birth registration, identity documentation, access to courts and judicial procedures, migration opportunities, land and property ownership, and access to earthquake relief and reconstruction programs.

Netherlands

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions in the Netherlands that raised human rights concerns. According to a 2015 report by the Council of Europe’s Committee to Prevent Torture (CPT), the most recent independent assessment available, prison conditions in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten were substandard due to insufficient medical care and physical conditions. The report documented beatings of detainees after arrest, delays in accessing legal counsel, and unsanitary conditions of detention in some facilities.

Physical Conditions: According to the CPT report, medical resources at facilities in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten were limited. The report started that in Aruba authorities did not meet the dietary requirements of prisoners, and prisoners with mental health problems and other vulnerable prisoners were housed in poor conditions.

Administration: Agencies that make up the national preventive mechanism in the Netherlands investigated credible allegations of mistreatment.

Detainees held on terrorism charges at two maximum-security facilities at Vught and Rotterdam in the Netherlands protested the terms of their confinement, including lack of privacy, constant observation, and frequency of full-body searches. In response the authorities implemented a more individualized approach to address some of their grievances. Amnesty International and Open Society Justice Initiative published a report on October 31 echoing the same grievances and concluding measures the government has taken did not fully address the human rights concerns in terrorism prisons.

Independent Monitoring: The kingdom’s governments permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers, such as human rights groups, the media, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as by international bodies such as the CPT, UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, and UN Working Group for People of African Descent.

Improvements: In response to the CPT report, authorities on Aruba and Curacao opened new police holding cells facilities that met CPT requirements.

Aruba continued its prison guard training plan as proposed in the CPT report. International prison standards were part of the curriculum.

Authorities in Curacao implemented additional measures, such as new observation cameras, the use of a drone, and additional detection ports, to suppress illegal activities among inmates and to ensure the safety of inmates and staff. Renovation and upgrade projects at the Curacao Center for Correction and Detention continued, including renovation of toilet facilities, changing locks of the cells, and renovation of the roof and kitchen.

In Sint Maarten authorities provided an infirmary and qualified nurses. They also contracted medical doctors to provide care in the prison facilities. The prison authorities started to provide in-house dental care, and the Mental Health Foundation provided psychological care on a weekly basis.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

In the Netherlands the Ministry of Justice and Security oversees law enforcement organizations, as do the justice ministries in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. The military police (Marechaussee) are responsible for border control in the Netherlands. The Border Protection Service (immigration), police, and the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard share the responsibility for border control in Sint Maarten, Aruba, and Curacao.

Civilian authorities in the entire kingdom maintained effective control over the security forces, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

A prosecutor or senior police officer must order the arrest of any person, other than one apprehended on the spot, for alleged crimes. Arrested persons have the right to appear, usually within a day, before a judge, and authorities generally respected the right. Authorities informed detainees promptly of charges against them. The kingdom’s law also allows persons to be detained on the order of a judge pending investigation. In these cases no charges are filed. There is no bail system.

In the Netherlands in terrorism-related cases, the examining magistrate may initially order detention for 14 days on the lesser charge of “reasonable suspicion” rather than “serious suspicion” required for other crimes.

In all parts of the kingdom, the law provides suspects the right to consult an attorney. In March an EU directive on the right to access a lawyer became part of national law. It grants all criminal suspects the right to have their lawyers present at police interrogation. Previously, with some exceptions, suspects could consult with their lawyers only prior to first police questioning. In Aruba and Curacao, any criminal suspect is entitled to consult his or her lawyer only prior to the first interview on the substance of the case. In the case of a minor, the lawyer can be present during interviews but cannot actively participate.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: By law persons arrested or detained are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and any delay in obtaining judicial ruling. If the court finds persons to have been detained unlawfully, they are entitled to prompt release and/or compensation.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the governments generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence, and the right to be informed promptly of the charges. Trials take place without undue delay in the presence of the accused. The law provides for prompt access of defendants to attorneys of their choice, including at public expense if the defendant is unable to pay. Defendants generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare for a defense. If required, the court provides interpreters throughout the judicial process free of charge. The accused is not present when the examining magistrate examines witnesses, but an attorney for the accused has the right to question them. In most instances defendants and their attorneys may present witnesses and evidence for the defense. In certain cases involving national security, the defense has the right to submit written questions to witnesses whose identity is kept confidential. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right to appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals may bring lawsuits for damages for human rights violations in the regular court system or specific appeal boards. If all domestic means of redress are exhausted, individuals may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Citizens of Sint Maarten and Curacao may also seek redress through the ombudsperson if the government is accused of human rights violations.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The Netherlands has laws and/or mechanisms in place, and NGOs and advocacy groups reported that the government made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. The Dutch comply with the goals of the Terezin Declaration. A legal process exists for claimants to request the return of property looted during the Holocaust, although some advocates say that bureaucratic procedures and poor record keeping have been key barriers to restitution efforts. In 2016 Amsterdam allocated $11 million to Jewish causes–an estimate of the total taxes paid by survivors following the war. In February, The Hague’s executive board advised the city government to offer $2.75 million for property tax restitution to Holocaust survivors and heirs. As of July the national railway company Nederlandse Spoorwegen has not paid restitution for the equivalent of $2.7 million it received from the Nazis to transport Jews to a concentration camp.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

New Zealand

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports government officials employed them. The Ombudsman’s Office inspects places of detention such as prisons and mental health facilities to prevent cruel and inhuman treatment, in line with national standards and the country’s international obligations.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Civil society and government watchdog groups highlighted the disproportionate rates of incarceration of indigenous peoples, excessive restraint and other treatment of prisoners who risked self harm, and prisoner-on-prisoner violence (see section 6, Indigenous People).

Physical Conditions: Persons accused of a crime who are 17 years or older are tried as adults and, if convicted, sent to adult prisons. Authorities held male prisoners younger than 17 years in four separate detention facilities operated by the national Child and Youth Welfare Agency. There was no separate facility for juvenile female prisoners because there were very few such prisoners. In March the Ombudsman’s Office reported that the Department of Corrections had breached national legislation and the Convention Against Torture in restraining at risk prisoners by excessive use of tie-down beds and waist cuffs. As a result, the Department of Corrections is undertaking a review of its At Risk Prisoner program.

Transgender prisoners who had the gender on their birth certificates changed to reflect their preferred gender were generally housed in accordance with their preferred gender and may begin gender reassignment treatment/surgery while incarcerated.

Administration: Inmates could make uncensored complaints to statutory inspectors or the ombudsperson. The Ombudsman’s Office reports to parliament annually on its findings about prison conditions. The law provides for specified rights of inspection, including by members of parliament and justices of the peace, and information was publicly available on complaints and investigations, subject to the provisions of privacy legislation.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights observers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The New Zealand Police, under the Ministry of Police, is responsible for internal security, and the armed forces, under the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for external security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police and the armed forces, 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.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police may arrest a suspect without a warrant if there is reasonable cause; however, a court-issued warrant is usually required. Police officers may enter premises without a warrant to arrest a person if they reasonably suspect the person committed a crime on the premises or found the person committing an offense and are in pursuit. Police must inform arrested persons immediately of their legal rights and the grounds for their arrest.

After arresting and charging a suspect, police may release the person on bail until the first court appearance. Except for more serious offenses, such as assault or burglary, bail is normally granted and frequently does not require a deposit of money. Suspects have the right to appear promptly before a judge for a determination of the legality of the arrest and detention. After the first court appearance, the judge typically grants bail unless there is a significant risk the suspect would flee, tamper with witnesses or evidence, or commit a crime while on bail. Authorities granted family members timely access to detainees and allowed detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice and, if indigent, to a lawyer provided by the government. The government did not detain suspects incommunicado.

Pretrial Detention: Approximately 25 percent of prisoners were held in custody on remand, while they await trial or sentencing. The number of prisoners held on remand increased three-fold in 20 years, primarily due to increased time required to complete cases, and stricter bail restrictions. The median duration of prisoners’ time held in remand is approximately two months.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Arrested persons have additional legal protections, including the right to initiate habeas corpus proceedings to decide the lawfulness of their detention, to be charged and tried without “undue delay,” and to obtain compensation if unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to counsel. By law authorities must inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges, and provide adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but they have the right to be present at their trial. Defendants also have the right to present witnesses and evidence, confront witnesses against them, appeal convictions, and receive free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. The government provides a lawyer at public expense if the defendant cannot afford counsel. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil judicial remedies for human rights violations, including access to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. There are also administrative remedies for alleged wrongs through the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the Office of Human Rights Proceedings.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Norway

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

While prisons and detention centers generally met international standards, reports regarding conditions at the Trandum detention center raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: NGOs, including Amnesty International Norway and the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS), reported concerns with conditions for migrant families and children at the Trandum detention center. The parliamentary civilian ombudsman, who visited the center in March, expressed concerns with the use of solitary confinement and alleged unnecessary force at the center. The center’s manager responded that such force was necessary in specific cases.

Spot counts by prison authorities revealed an average of almost 200 prisoners in solitary confinement (in an average prison population of 3,700). As of June 2016, the latest data available, the Correctional Services Directorate received five reports of cases where the total period of solitary confinement for a prisoner exceeded 42 days (after which authorities must evaluate the status every 14 days).

NGOs criticized the government for leasing Norgerhaven Prison in the Netherlands for convicts from Norway because prisoners there did not have access to the same educational resources and opportunities for visits from family members as in Norway.

On June 8, the Supreme Court rejected the final appeal by convicted murderer Fjotolf Hansen (formerly Anders Breivik) that his treatment in prison violated the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting inhuman and degrading treatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits, including unannounced visits, by independent human rights observers, including the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police have primary responsibility for internal security. Police may call on the armed forces for assistance in crises. In such circumstances the armed forces operate under police authority. The National Police Directorate oversees the police force.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the national 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.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires warrants authorized by a prosecutor for arrests. The police may make an arrest without a warrant if any delay would entail risk to the police. If police arrest a person without a warrant, a prosecutor must consider as soon as possible whether to uphold the arrest. Detainees must be informed of the charges against them immediately after an arrest, and, if the prosecutor wishes to detain suspects, he or she must arraign them no later than three days after arrest. The arraigning judge determines whether the accused should be held in custody or released pending trial. There is a bail system, but it was rarely utilized. Officials routinely released defendants accused of minor crimes pending trial, including nonresident foreigners. Defendants accused of serious or violent crimes usually remained in custody until trial. Before interrogation, authorities allowed arrested persons access to a lawyer of their choice or, if the requested lawyer was unavailable, to an attorney appointed by the government. The government pays the attorney fees in all cases. Authorities usually allowed arrested persons access to family members.

The law mandates that detainees be transferred from a temporary police holding cell to a regular prison cell within 48 hours. Authorities did not always observe this time limit.

The law provides that a court must supervise whether and how long a detainee may be held in solitary confinement during pretrial detention.

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and the law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to be informed promptly of the charges against them. Trials are held without undue delay. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials. Defendants also have the right to counsel at public expense, to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, to confront and question adverse witnesses, to present their own evidence and witnesses, and to appeal. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or to confess guilt.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. They may appeal cases alleging violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the government to the European Court of Human Rights after exhausting all avenues of appeal in domestic courts.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government, the Holocaust Center, and the Jewish Community report that Holocaust-era restitution has not been an issue and that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration, to which the government is signatory, were pending before authorities.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits “threatening or insulting anyone, or inciting hatred or repression of or contempt for anyone because of his or her: a) skin color or national or ethnic origin; b) religion or life stance; c) sexual orientation or lifestyle; or d) disability.” Violators are subject to a fine or imprisonment not to exceed three years. According to the government ombudsman for equality and discrimination (LDO), hate speech on the internet against ethnic minorities, religious groups, women, and LGBTI persons continued to be a problem. Beginning in 2017, hate crime statistics were to include prosecuted cases and final convictions.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. The prohibitions against hate speech applied also to the print and broadcast media, the publication of books, and online newspapers and journals.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 97 percent of the population used the internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

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

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

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: Authorities deported unsuccessful asylum seekers and others who had no legal right to stay in the country to Russia, Nigeria, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, and other countries. NGOs criticized the government for returning some unsuccessful asylum seekers to areas in their home countries different from where they originated, as frequently occurred for returnees to Afghanistan. NGOs also criticized the government for rejecting a high percentage of the asylum claims for Afghans.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government continued to implement regulations associated with a more restrictive immigration policy pursuant to parliament’s 2016 amendment of immigration laws.

NOAS reported there is no system for automatically reassessing cases of unaccompanied minors granted temporary residence after they turn 18. It noted that many of these unaccompanied minors, fearing their applications would be denied, “disappeared” rather than apply for permanent residency. NOAS also criticized the government for lacking a fully independent appeals system for asylum seekers whose applications are rejected.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country is party to the EU’s Dublin III regulation, which allows the government to transfer asylum seekers to the European country determined to be responsible under the regulation for adjudicating the case. As of August the government requested other countries within the Schengen area to accept 344 persons under the regulation, including 22 to Greece and 67 to Italy.

Freedom of Movement: The law permits detention of migrants to establish their identity or to affect their removal from the country if authorities deem it likely the persons would evade an order to leave.

Asylum seekers residing in an asylum reception center may not be absent from the center for more than three days without potentially losing their place at the center and all concomitant financial support from the government. Centers were often located in remote areas of the country, and long travel times and a lack of money to pay for public transport effectively limited asylum seekers’ ability to move freely. Residents may apply for permission to live away from the reception center temporarily. Rejected asylum seekers were generally permitted to remain in asylum centers while awaiting voluntary return, assisted return, or deportation.

Employment: Asylum seekers may not work while their cases are under evaluation unless their identity can be documented through a valid travel document or a national identification card. NOAS and other NGOs reported that few asylum seekers possessed these documents, and thus relatively few were allowed to work.

Durable Solutions: The government also offered resettlement for refugees in cooperation with UNHCR. The government’s Directorate of Immigration (UDI) had several programs to settle refugees permanently in the country. According to the UDI, as of August the country accepted 1,923 refugees for resettlement.

Through the International Organization for Migration and other government partners, the government assisted the return of unsuccessful asylum seekers to their countries of origin through voluntary programs that offered financial and logistical support for repatriation. Identity documents issued by either the Norwegian or the returnee’s government are required in order to use this program. The government continued routinely to offer migrants cash support in addition to airfare to encourage persons with weak or rejected asylum claims to leave the country voluntarily.

Individuals granted refugee status can apply for citizenship when they meet the legislative requirements, that include a minimum length of residence of seven out of the last 10 years, completion of language training, and successful completion of a Norwegian language test and a course on Norwegian society.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary humanitarian protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees and provided it to 337 individuals through the end of August. The permits may be renewed and become permanent. The government also provided temporary protection to 360 unaccompanied minors, who were granted residence permits in the country until the age of 18.

STATELESS PERSONS

According to authorities, 2,424 stateless persons lived in the country at the end of 2016; they were not counted as refugees. According to the UDI, at the end of August, an additional 306 stateless asylum seekers lived in receiving centers, a decrease of 38 percent from the same period in 2016. Of these, 101 persons had permission to stay, and 56 were under orders to leave the country. The remainder continued the asylum application process.

Citizenship is derived from one’s parents, and children born in the country do not automatically become citizens. The government effectively implemented laws and policies to provide stateless persons the opportunity to gain nationality on a nondiscriminatory basis.

Oman

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The country’s law prohibits such practices; however, some prisoners occasionally reported sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, beatings, and solitary confinement.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards.

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

Administration: There was no established prison authority to which prisoners could bring grievances concerning prison conditions. There is no ombudsman to serve on behalf of prisoners and detainees; this responsibility falls under the Public Prosecutor’s jurisdiction. Prisoners and detainees did not always have regular access to visitors.

Independent Monitoring: The Oman Human Rights Commission (OHRC), a quasi-independent government-sanctioned body, investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions through site visits. OHRC authorities investigated claims of abuse but did not publish the results of their investigations, purportedly to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. The law permitted visits by independent human rights observer groups, yet none existed in the country, and there were no reports of independent, nongovernmental observers from abroad requesting to visit the country. Consular officers from some embassies reported difficulties in meeting with prisoners, or delayed notification about detained citizens.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but the law permits the government to detain suspects for up to 30 days without charge. Persons arrested or detained are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis of their detention.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of the Royal Office controls internal and external security and coordinates all intelligence and security policies. Under the Royal Office, the Internal Security Service (ISS) investigates all matters related to domestic security. The Royal Oman Police (ROP), including the ROP Coast Guard, is also subordinate to the Royal Office and performs regular police duties, provides security at points of entry, and serves as the country’s immigration and customs agency. The Ministry of Defense, particularly the Royal Army of Oman (RAO), is responsible for securing the borders and has limited domestic security responsibilities. The Sultan’s Special Force (SSF) facilitates land and maritime border security in conjunction with the ROP, including rapid reaction anti-smuggling and anti-piracy capabilities. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the ISS, the SSF, the RAO, and the ROP. There were no reports of judicial impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law does not require the ROP to obtain a warrant before making an arrest, but it stipulates that police must either release the person or refer the matter to the public prosecution within specified timeframes. For most crimes, the public prosecutor must formally arrest or release the person within 48 hours of detention; however, in cases related to security, which is broadly defined, authorities can hold individuals for up to 30 days without charge. The law requires those arrested be informed immediately of the charges against them. There was a functioning bail system. Detainees generally had prompt access to a lawyer of their choice. The state provided public attorneys to indigent detainees, as required by law. Authorities generally allowed detainees prompt access to family members. In cases involving foreign citizens, police sometimes failed to notify the detainee’s local sponsor or the citizen’s embassy.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, individuals can be held for up to 30 days without charge.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the sultan may act as a Court of Final Appeal and exercise his power of pardon as chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council, the country’s highest legal body, which is empowered to review all judicial decisions. Principles of sharia (Islamic law) inform the civil, commercial, and criminal codes. The law allows women to serve as judges. Civilian or military courts try all cases. There were no reports judicial officials, prosecutors, and defense attorneys faced intimidation or engaged in corruption.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair trial and stipulates the presumption of innocence. Citizens and legally resident noncitizens have the right to a public trial, except when the court decides to hold a session in private in the interest of public order or morals; the judiciary generally enforced this right. While the vast majority of legal proceedings were open to the public, authorities sometimes closed cases concerning corruption, especially cases involving senior government officials and members of the royal family. The government did not uniformly provide language interpretation for non-Arabic speakers.

Defendants have the right to consult with an attorney. Courts provide public attorneys to indigent detainees and offer legal defense for defendants facing prison terms of three years or more. The prosecution and defense counsel direct questions to witnesses through the judge. Defendants have the right to be present, submit evidence, and confront witnesses at their trials. There is no known systemic use of forced confession or compulsion to self-incriminate during trial proceedings in the country. Those convicted in any court have one opportunity to appeal a jail sentence longer than three months and fines of more than 480 rials ($1,250) to the appellate courts. The judiciary enforced these rights for all citizens; some foreign embassies claimed these rights were not always uniformly enforced for noncitizens, particularly migrant workers.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no corroborated public reports of political prisoners or detainees; however, in an interview with Saudi newspaper Okaz in October 2016 and in response to a question on the number of political detainees, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi stated that the government held a “small number.”

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Civil laws govern civil cases. Citizens and foreign residents could file cases, including lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations, but no known filings occurred during the year. The Administrative Court reviews complaints about the misuse of governmental authority. It has the power to reverse decisions by government bodies and to award compensation.

Appointments to this court are subject to the approval of the Administrative Affairs Council. The court’s president and deputy president are appointed by royal decree based on the council’s nomination. Citizens and foreign workers may file complaints regarding working conditions with the Ministry of Manpower for alternative dispute resolution. The ministry may refer cases to the courts if it is unable to negotiate a solution.

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

The law does not require police to obtain search warrants before entering homes, but they usually obtain warrants from the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The government monitored private communications, including cell phone, email, and internet chat room exchanges. The government blocked most voice-over internet protocol sites, such as Skype and FaceTime. Authorities blocked the import of certain publications, e.g., pornography and religious texts without the necessary permit. Shipping companies claimed that customs officials sometimes confiscated these materials.

The Ministry of Interior requires citizens to obtain permission to marry foreigners, except nationals of Gulf Cooperation Council countries, whom citizens may marry without restriction; authorities do not automatically grant permission, which is particularly difficult for Omani women to obtain. Citizen marriage to a foreigner abroad without ministry approval may result in denial of entry for the foreign spouse at the border and preclude children from claiming citizenship and residency rights. It also may result in a bar from government employment and a fine of 2,000 rials ($5,200).

Despite legal protections for women from forced marriage, deeply embedded tribal practices ultimately compel most citizen women towards or away from a choice of spouse.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for limited freedom of speech and press, but authorities did not always respect these rights. Journalists and writers exercised self-censorship.

Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits criticism of the sultan in any form or medium, as well as any “material that leads to public discord, violates the security of the state, or abuses a person’s dignity or his rights;” “messages of any form that violate public order and morals or are harmful to a person’s safety;” and “defamation of character.” Therefore, it is illegal to insult any public official or private citizen. Authorities have prosecuted individuals for writing about the sultan in a way the government perceived to be negative.

Press and Media Freedom: Media did not operate freely. Authorities tolerated limited criticism in privately owned newspapers and magazines; however, editorials generally were consistent with the government’s views. Although mainstream social debate occurred in media, the government and privately owned radio and television stations did not generally broadcast political material criticizing the government.

In October the Supreme Court upheld previous court rulings and permanently shut down al-Zaman, an independent newspaper. In September 2016 a court had temporarily shut down the publication after it published an article detailing alleged corruption in the Supreme Court. The court sentenced the managing editor, Yousef al-Hajj to one year in prison and chief editor Ibrahim al-Maamari to six months. Journalist Zaher al-Abri was acquitted on appeal. Al-Maamari was released in April, and al-Hajj was released in October.

Authorities required journalists to obtain a license to work; freelance journalists were ineligible for a license.

Violence and Harassment: Some journalists reported near-daily harassment by high-level government officials for printing stories perceived as critical of their particular ministries.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Headlines in both public and private media print outlets were subject to an official, nontransparent review and approval process before publication. Journalists and writers exercised self-censorship. The law permits the Ministry of Information to review all media products and books produced within or imported into the country. The ministry occasionally prohibited or censored material from domestic and imported publications viewed as politically, culturally, or sexually offensive. In May a court sentenced a local author to three years in prison for “insulting the Sultan,” and “undermining the status of the country” in books published in 2014 and 2016 on the country’s history. Some books were not permitted in the country. There is only one major publishing house in the country, and publication of books remained limited. The government required religious groups to notify the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs before importing any religious materials and submit a copy for the ministry’s files.

Libel/Slander Laws: The government used libel laws and national security concerns as grounds to suppress criticism of government figures and politically objectionable views. Libel is a criminal offense, which allows for a heavy fine and prison sentence.

National Security: The government prohibited publication of any material that “violates the security of the state.”

INTERNET FREEDOM

The law restricts free speech exercised via the internet, and the government enforces the restrictions. The government’s national telecommunications company and private service providers make internet access available for a fee to citizens and foreign residents. Internet access is available via schools, workplaces, wireless networks at coffee shops, and other venues, especially in urban areas.

Authorities monitored the activities of telecommunications service providers and obliged them to block access to numerous websites considered pornographic, or culturally or politically sensitive. The criteria for blocking access to internet sites were not transparent or consistent. Authorities sometimes blocked blogs as well as most video and audio chat technologies, such as Skype.

The Law to Counter Information Technology Crimes allows authorities to prosecute individuals for any message sent via any medium that “violates public order and morals.” The law details crimes that take place on the internet that “might prejudice public order or religious values” and specifies a penalty of between one month and a year in prison and fines of not less than 1,000 rials ($2,600). Authorities also applied the law against bloggers and social media users who insult the sultan.

The government placed warnings on websites informing users that criticism of the sultan or personal criticism of government officials would be censored and could lead to police questioning, effectively increasing self-censorship. During times of regional turmoil, the government also shared posters in social media encouraging users to report others who sought to disturb the peace.

Website administrators or moderators were cautious concerning content and were reportedly quick to delete potentially offensive material in chat rooms, on social networking fora, and on blog postings. Some website administrators posted warnings exhorting users to follow local laws and regulations.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 70 percent of individuals used the internet in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The government restricted academic freedom and cultural events. Academics largely practiced self-censorship. Colleges and universities were required to have permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Higher Education before meeting with foreign diplomatic missions or accepting money for programs or speakers. In June a Western diplomatic mission sought permission to host a college fair for students but was told by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that interaction with students was forbidden. In October the Ministry allowed foreign diplomatic missions to participate in a government-hosted college fair.

The government censored publicly shown films, primarily for sexual content and nudity, and placed restrictions on performances in public venues. Dancing in restaurants and entertainment venues without a permit also was forbidden by law.

In August 2016 the government closed the AMIDEAST Muscat office, which had prepared local students for education abroad. The office had also facilitated cultural exchange.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The law provides for limited freedom of assembly, but the government restricted this right. Government approval more than one month in advance was necessary for all public gatherings of more than nine persons, although the mechanism to obtain approval for public demonstrations was unclear. Authorities enforced this requirement sporadically. A 2014 report from the UN special rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly expressed concern with government attempts to limit assembly and association rights and stated individuals seeking reform were “afraid to speak their minds, afraid to speak on the telephone, afraid to meet.”

Private-sector employees in the energy and industrial manufacturing sectors threatened strikes in isolated cases. However, company leadership used incentives like promises of job security and other material benefits to persuade organizers to call off strikes (see section 7.a.).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association for undefined “legitimate objectives and in a proper manner.” Examples of such associations include registered labor unions and social groups for foreign nationalities, such as the Indian Social Group. The Council of Ministers limited freedom of association in practice by prohibiting associations whose activities it deemed “inimical to the social order” or otherwise inappropriate. A royal decree in 2014 promulgated a new nationality law that stipulates citizens joining groups deemed harmful to national interests could be subject to revocation of citizenship.

Associations must register with their corresponding ministries, which approve all associations’ bylaws and determine whether a group serves the interest of the country. The time required to register an association ranged from two months to two years. Approval time varied based on the level of preparedness of the applying organization, the subject matter of the organization, its leadership, and the organization’s mission. Formal registration of nationality-based associations was limited to one association for each nationality.

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of movement within the country and repatriation and the government generally respected these rights. Citizens could generally travel freely outside the country, although that right is not codified. Citizens related to citizens living abroad who criticized the government reportedly were told not to leave the country. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) occasionally visited the country but did not maintain an office or personnel locally.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Oman has a large number of female migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, many of whom are employed as domestic workers. NGOs based outside of Oman, such as Human Rights Watch, and embassies of labor-sending countries allege that domestic workers face discrimination, to include physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. The country criminalizes slavery and trafficking, but enforcement is weak. Although forced labor is punished under the country’s labor law, domestic workers are excluded from that law’s protections. Authorities prosecuted six individuals for forced labor, but it was unclear whether any of those cases involved domestic workers.

The government did not allow refugees to remain in the country. Refugees escaping conflict areas, such as Yemen, were allowed to remain in a border camp for a few days and then returned to their country of citizenship, where they could face persecution or torture. In the case of Syrians fleeing conflict in Yemen, the government allowed them to choose a third country as a destination.

In-country Movement: There are no official government restrictions on internal travel for any citizen. The government must approve official travel by foreign diplomats to the Dhofar and Musandam regions. There were reports of many migrant domestic workers having their passports confiscated by employers, who sponsor the foreign workers.

Employers have a great amount of control over these workers. The country’s visa-sponsorship system (kafala) ties migrant workers to their employers and prevents them from changing jobs without their sponsor’s consent. Migrant workers cannot work for a new employer in Oman within a two-year period without the permission of their current employer, even if they complete their contract and the current employer is abusive. Employers can have a worker’s visa canceled arbitrarily. Workers who leave their jobs without the consent of their employer can be punished with fines, deportation, and/or reentry bans.

Foreign Travel: Some foreigners must obtain an exit visa from their employer prior to leaving the country. Exit visas may be denied when there is a dispute over payment or work remaining, leaving the foreign citizen in country with recourse only through local courts. Courts provided recourse to workers denied exit visas, but the process was opaque. In a few cases in 2016, travel bans–through confiscation of passports–were imposed on citizens involved in political activism.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: The government did not provide protection to refugees from involuntary returns to countries where their lives or freedom could be threatened. Tight control over the entry of foreigners effectively limited access to protection for refugees and asylum seekers. Authorities apprehended and deported presumed economic migrants from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea who sought to enter the country illegally by land and sea from the south. Afghans and Pakistanis generally came to the country by boat via Iran. Authorities generally detained these persons in centers in Salalah or the northern port city of Sohar, where they were held an average of one month before deportation to their countries of origin.

Access to Asylum: The laws provide for the granting of asylum or refuge for internally displaced persons, and the government has established a system for providing protection. The ROP’s system for granting asylum and resettlement is not transparent, and the law does not specify a timeframe in which the ROP must adjudicate an asylum application. It is current policy not to recognize refugees from conflict zones, such as Yemen, although temporary medical care to certain Yemeni citizens was provided by the government.

Access to Basic Services: Without an official sponsor, it was difficult for economic migrants to access basic services, such as health care. Many applied to their embassies for repatriation. Some asylum seekers developed strong relationships within their community that informally provided for them while they sought new employment.

Palau

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards, but the Ministry of Justice continued efforts to improve them.

Physical Conditions: The country’s only jail in Koror with a capacity of 58 housed 82 inmates. A new jail on the island of Babeldaob was under construction. Authorities detain male and female prisoners in separate areas, but permit them to mingle together during daylight hours.

There were no reports of deaths in prison.

Administration: Authorities investigated allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Justice maintained effective control over the national police and marine police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving security forces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires warrants for arrests, and officials observed the law. The Office of the Attorney General prepares warrants and a judge signs them. The law provides for a prompt judicial determination of the legality of detention, a requirement authorities observed. Authorities informed detainees promptly of charges against them and provided prompt access to family members and lawyers. If a detainee could not afford a lawyer, the public defender or a court-appointed lawyer was available. There is a functioning system of bail.

An arrested person has the right to remain silent and to speak to and receive visits from counsel, a family member, or employer. Authorities must release or charge those arrested within 24 hours, and authorities must inform detainees of these rights.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: A person arrested and detained is entitled to challenge in court the legal basis for arrest or detention. The person could also file a civil lawsuit for unlawful arrest or damage to private property.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Judges conduct trials and render verdicts. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges, to a fair and public trial without undue delay, to be present at their trial, to consult with an attorney of choice (or have one provided at public expense), and to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants are entitled to free interpretation services as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants may question witnesses and present evidence on their own behalf. They cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right to appeal. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Panama

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution prohibits such practices. In July media reported the government was investigating the possible use of excessive force after 14 civilian correctional officers used batons and tear gas to control inmates who refused to be transported. The Ombudsman’s Office described the event as torture and said it was an uncommon use of force from correctional officers.

In August, four members of the UN Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) visited for the first time after the country’s 2011 ratification of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. After the visit SPT members publicly exhorted the government to implement the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture according to international standards. In response the government opened the application process to hire the first National Mechanism director, who was to be embedded in the Ombudsman’s Office with an independent budget and staff.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions remained harsh, due primarily to overcrowding, a shortage of prison guards, a lack of adequate medical services, and inadequate sanitary conditions. There were no private detention facilities.

Physical Conditions: As of August the prison system, with an intended capacity of 14,167 inmates, held 16,114 prisoners, down from approximately 17,000 prisoners in 2016. Pretrial detainees shared cells with convicted prisoners due to space constraints. Prison conditions for women were generally better than for men, but conditions for both populations remained poor, with overcrowded facilities, poor inmate security, poor medical care, and a lack of basic supplies for personal hygiene. Older facilities located in the provinces of Cocle and Veraguas lacked potable water and adequate ventilation and lighting. Women inmates had access to more rehabilitation programs than male inmates.

In adult prisons inmates complained of limited time outside cells and limited access for family members. Authorities acknowledged that staff shortages limited exercise time for inmates on certain days. Juvenile pretrial and custodial detention centers also suffered from a lack of prison officials.

One prison, Punta Coco, falls under the control of the Ministry of Public Security rather than the Ministry of Government’s National Directorate of the Penitentiary System (DGSP). In March the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reiterated its request to close Punta Coco due to the lack of appropriate medical attention for inmates. Lawyers and relatives of the inmates had to travel 66 miles by boat to reach the island. In August authorities transferred 12 inmates temporarily from the Punta Coco facility to a Panama City prison while they upgraded it to international prison standards. The government did not have plans to close down the facility permanently.

During the year the Ministry of Health conducted vaccination campaigns in most prisons. Inmates received vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria, influenza, measles, rubella, and chickenpox. Hypertension, diabetes, dermatitis, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and respiratory illnesses continued to be the most common diseases among the prison population.

Prison medical care overall was inadequate due to the lack of personnel, transportation, and medical resources. As of August there were only 55 medical staff (including physicians, dentists, nurses, and technical staff) assigned to all prisons nationwide. Sixty percent of complaints received by the Ombudsman’s Office from January through August related to the lack of access to medical attention and medications. Officials complained that juvenile detention centers lacked medicines even after the Ministry of Government disbursed large sums to the Ministry of Health for their procurement. Authorities permitted relatives of inmates to bring medicine, although some relatives paid bribes to prison personnel, including Panama National Police (PNP) members, to bypass the required clearances. Authorities transferred patients with serious illnesses to public clinics, but there were difficulties arranging inmate transportation. Because the DGSP did not have ambulances, inmates were transported in police vehicles or in emergency services ambulances when available.

As of August, 10 male inmates had died in custody: four of heart attacks, two of HIV, one from cancer, one from tuberculosis, and one from a stroke. One inmate died in prison because of inmate-on-inmate violence. No information about medical care in these cases was available.

Administration: Prisoners could submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions, but authorities did not make the results of such investigations public. The Ombudsman’s Office negotiated and petitioned on behalf of prisoners and received complaints about prison conditions. The Ombudsman’s Office continued to conduct weekly prison visits to prisons in Panama City and Colon and twice a year to prisons elsewhere in the country. The government generally did not monitor its meetings with prisoners.

There were 1,264 prison guards nationwide, including 207 new guards hired during the year. DGSP officials estimated, however, the system required 1,400 guards to staff the prisons adequately. In April all monthly salaries for correctional officers increased from $460 and $690 to $800 (one Panamanian balboa is equal in value to one U.S. dollar).

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. The Roman Catholic nongovernmental organization (NGO) Justice and Peace visited a prison once between January and July. The NGO reported overcrowding and corrupt behavior by prison officials, which included smuggled weapons, cigarettes, and cell phones for the inmates. Human rights NGOs wanting access to prisons during visiting hours must send a written request to the DGSP 15 days in advance.

Improvements: After the September 2016 implementation of the new accusatorial penal system and sentencing reduction arrangements, the adult penitentiary population decreased during the year from 17,000 to approximately 16,000 prisoners. As of August, 247 inmates were granted reduced sentences and 41 were granted conditional releases. For largely similar reasons, the juvenile prison population decreased by almost 50 percent, compared with the previous year.

In September the DGSP began implementing Law 42, which provides a career path for civilian prison officials, technicians, and administrative personnel. The DGSP also opened a new Administrative Career Directorate and inaugurated new facilities for its academy for correctional officers in the central province of Cocle. The La Joyita prison’s 60-bed clinic was remodeled and better equipped, but it operated with limited hours.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Panama has no military forces. The PNP is principally responsible for internal law enforcement and public order. Civilian authorities in the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of the Presidency maintained effective control over all police, investigative, border, air, maritime, and migration services in the country. The government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, but information on the process and results of investigations were rarely made public. Due to the lack of prison guards, the PNP was sometimes responsible for security both outside and inside of the prisons. Its leadership expressed concern over insufficient training and equipment.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires arresting officers to inform detainees immediately of the reasons for arrest or detention and of the right to immediate legal counsel. Detainees gained prompt access to legal counsel and family members, and the government provided indigent defendants with a lawyer.

The country completed its transition to an accusatory justice system in 2016, but cases opened prior to September 2, 2016, continued to be processed under the previous inquisitorial system, known for its inefficiencies and bureaucratic hurdles.

Under the accusatorial system, bail exists but is rarely granted. Under the inquisitorial system, a functioning bail procedure existed for a limited number of crimes but was largely unused. Most bail proceedings were at the discretion of the Prosecutor’s Office and could not be independently initiated by detainees or their legal counsel.

The law prohibits police from detaining adult suspects for more than 48 hours but allows authorities to detain minor suspects for 72 hours. In the accusatorial system, arrests and detention decisions were made on a probable cause basis.

Pretrial Detention: Under the inquisitorial system, the government regularly imprisoned inmates for more than a year before a pretrial hearing, and in some cases pretrial detention exceeded the minimum sentence for the alleged crime. According to the director of the DGSP, 54 percent of inmates were pretrial detainees as of September, compared with 66 percent in 2016. Some criticized the judiciary for applying unequal pretrial restrictive measures for individuals facing substantially similar charges. Prosecutors also reported internal pressure from the Public Ministry to prevent release of those accused of crimes pending trial. In an attempt to clear the backlog of thousands of inquisitorial system cases, in June the Supreme Court announced a decision allowing active inquisitorial system cases that had not started investigation by January 1, 2018, to be processed under the accusatory system.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

While the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judicial system was inefficient and susceptible to corruption as well as internal and outside influence, and it faced allegations of manipulation by the executive branch.

Courts proceedings for cases in process under the inquisitorial system were not publicly available, while accusatory system cases were. As a result nonparties to the inquisitorial case proceedings did not have access to these proceedings until a verdict was reached. Under the inquisitorial system, judges could decide to hold private hearings and did so in high-profile cases. Consequently the judiciary sometimes faced accusations, particularly in high-profile cases, of procedural irregularities. Since most of these cases had not reached conclusion, however, the records remained under seal. Interested parties generally did not face gag orders, but because of this mechanism, it was difficult to verify facts.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right. The law provides that all citizens charged with crimes enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence. They have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation as necessary for non-Spanish speaking inmates), to a trial without undue delay, to have counsel of their choice, to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to refrain from incriminating themselves or close relatives, and to be tried only once for a given offense. The accused may be present with counsel during the investigative phase of proceedings.

During the year all new criminal cases were tried under the accusatory system. Under the accusatory system, trials were open to the public. Judges may order the presence of pretrial detainees for providing or expanding upon statements or for confronting witnesses. Trials are conducted based on evidence presented by the public prosecutor. Defendants have the right to be present at trial and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Defendants may confront or question adverse witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants have a right of appeal. The judiciary generally enforced these rights.

The judiciary complained that many hearings were canceled due to inmates’ failure to appear, especially those involving inmates processed under the old inquisitorial system. This was usually for administrative shortcomings, such as a dearth of PNP agents to transfer the inmates to the courts. Authorities were also aware that available correctional officers and PNP agents focused more on inmates tried under the new accusatory system because the law fines police and correctional officers 100 balboas for failing to deliver an inmate to a hearing.

The judiciary continued to promote videoconference hearings. Judges were increasingly receptive to using this tool, and during the year the government continued to add video conference and hearing rooms to prison facilities.

Judicial response times generally decreased under the new accusatory system. As of June, 104,626 cases were tried under the accusatorial system. During the same period, judicial response time nationwide decreased from an average of 296 days under the inquisitorial system to 42 days under the accusatory system.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no credible reports of political prisoners or detainees. Some individuals detained under corruption charges claimed their charges were politically motivated because they had served in former president Ricardo Martinelli’s administration.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens have access to the courts to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations, although most do not pursue such lawsuits due to the length of the process. There are administrative and judicial remedies for alleged wrongs, and authorities often granted them to citizens who followed through with the process. The court can order civil remedies, including fair compensation to the individual injured. Individuals or organizations may initiate cases involving violations of an individual’s human rights by submitting petitions to the IACHR.

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

The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. The law also sets forth requirements for conducting wiretap surveillance. It denies prosecutors authority to order wiretaps on their own and requires judicial oversight.

The investigation of the 2015 illegal wiretapping case against former president Martinelli, as well as against Alejandro Garuz and Gustavo Perez, two former intelligence directors in his administration, continued during the year.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press. Some journalists complained of harassment, intimidation, and threats when covering stories of impropriety, corruption, or other crimes involving members of the Ministry of Public Security or members of the public security forces.

Press and Media Freedom: During the year media outlets owned by political and business leaders facing legal proceedings claimed those proceedings limited their freedoms of expression. Media outlets continued to publish and broadcast freely throughout the year. There were anecdotal reports of the government discouraging journalists from publishing stories critical of the administration.

Television channels owners and radio directors linked to opposition parties claimed to be victims of government retaliation for their political views through the opening of corruption investigation against them. In 2016 police arrested NexTV president and former president of the board of directors of the government-run national savings bank Caja de Ahorros, Riccardo Francolini, and former Caja de Ahorros board member and current NexTV anchor and news director Fernando Correa on embezzlement charges unrelated to their media activities.

Violence and Harassment: In 2016 the Ministry of Government submitted a bill that would fine media outlets that published material promoting violence against women. Several journalist unions condemned the bill as an attempt to censor and regulate media content. Pressure from civil society stalled the National Assembly’s approval of the bill. In March the National Assembly approved a revised version of the bill, which transfers responsibility for the fines from the Ministry of Government to the judicial branch.

In April the National Assembly passed a law regulating sexual content in classified advertisements of newspapers, forbidding the publication of sex-work advertisements, in an effort to prevent sex trafficking. Some critics viewed it as a form of censorship.

New media journalists often faced challenges similar to their traditional media counterparts. For example, ClaraMente (a platform launched from Facebook, with a widespread audience) reporters Mauricio Valenzuela and Hugo German reportedly received death threats over the telephone regarding their publications critical of anti-immigration right-wing groups and religious organizations.

INTERNET FREEDOM

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

The government provided free, wireless internet in public spaces that, when working, reached 86 percent of the population. According to government statistics, two million persons had fixed internet access, representing 50 percent of the population.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, persons under temporary humanitarian protection, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The process of obtaining refugee status generally took three to four years, during which asylum seekers did not have the right to work and could not access basic services.

As of July the National Office for the Attention of Refugees (ONPAR) received 2,613 refugee applications, compared with 2,619 in 2016. In 2016 ONPAR reviewed 784 cases for admission and admitted 10 into the asylum process. Approximately 77 percent of the applicants were from Venezuela, and the remaining 23 percent were Colombians, Salvadorans, and Nicaraguans.

In August, following a separate process not involving ONPAR, the country granted asylum to three Venezuelan judges and a consul of the Venezuelan embassy. In September the government approved the asylum request of a Venezuelan Supreme Court alternate justice.

As of September the National Border Protection Force had apprehended 4,833 irregular migrants in the Darien region. Apprehensions were down from 17,306 in 2016 and 31,749 in 2015. Cuban nationals accounted for 716 of the migrants, compared with 5,083 in 2016. In March the government announced it would deport hundreds of Cuban migrants, and in August the government stated that 76 Cuban migrants accepted the offer and would receive 1,600 balboas and a Panamanian tourist visa once back in Cuba. In September authorities began arranging repatriation flights for Cuban migrants. The government continued to manage camps in the Darien region to provide food, shelter, and medical assistance to the migrants. The government reported continued migrations of persons from South Asia and Africa.

According to UNHCR and its NGO implementing partners, thousands of persons living in the country might be in need of international protection. These included persons in the refugee process, persons denied refugee status, and persons who did not apply for refugee status due to lack of knowledge or fear of deportation.

Employment: Refugees recognized by authorities have the right to work, but recognized refugees complained that they faced discriminatory hiring practices. In an effort to prevent this discriminatory practice, ONPAR removed the word “refugee” from recognized refugees’ identification cards.

All foreigners seeking a work contract must initiate the process through a lawyer and pay a government fee of 700 balboas to obtain a work permit that expires upon termination of the labor contract or after one year, whichever comes first.

Access to Basic Services: Education authorities sometimes denied refugees access to education, while refusing to issue diplomas to others if they could not present school records from their country of origin. The Ministry of Education continued to enforce the government’s 2015 decree requiring schools to accept students in the asylum process at the grade level commensurate with the applicants’ prior studies.

Durable Solutions: The law allows persons legally recognized as refugees or with asylum status who have lived in the country for more than three years to seek permanent residency.

STATELESS PERSONS

The government worked with Colombia to recognize approximately 200 stateless persons on the border. In July the governments of Panama and Costa Rica, with the cooperation of UNHCR, set up a mobile registry office on the border with Costa Rica to register indigenous Ngabe and Bugle seasonal workers who travel between Costa Rica and Panama and who had never registered their births in either country.

Papua New Guinea

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 there were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In May police officers shot and killed a man near his home in West New Britain Province. The four officers involved alleged the victim was involved in an armed robbery but provided no evidence. All four officers were charged with murder and remained in detention pending a court date.

Public concern about police and military violence against civilians and about security forces’ impunity persisted.

b. Disappearance

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

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

Although the constitution prohibits torture, individual police officers frequently beat and otherwise abused citizens or suspects before or during arrests, during interrogations, and in pretrial detention. There were numerous press accounts of such abuses, particularly against young detainees. In May drunk police officers from the Waigani police station in Port Moresby beat a prominent doctor. The Police Internal Affairs Unit suspended the officers involved after the National Doctors Association threatened to go on strike in protest of widespread police brutality. In June, four of the officers involved in the incident were arrested, and in October, one of them was charged.

There were reports that police raped and sexually abused women while in detention. In December 2016 a police officer and male detainees in a Port Moresby police station raped a woman who was in detention. Authorities terminated the officer, while most of the detainees remained at large after breaking out of the police station immediately after the incident.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Despite minor physical improvements and increased attention to rehabilitation programs, prison conditions remained poor, and the prison system continued to suffer from serious underfunding, inadequate medical facilities, and overcrowding in some facilities.

Physical Conditions: The country’s prisons were overcrowded. Infrequent court sessions, slow police investigations, and bail restrictions for certain crimes exacerbated overcrowding. The Correctional Service Commissioner also suggested that the difficulty and high cost of transporting detainees between provinces could lead to overcrowding. Two prisons, in Wabag, Enga Province, and Tari, Hela Province, remained closed due to tribal conflicts and unresolved land disputes. Facility closures forced the relocation of prisoners to other facilities, which the National Court considered a human rights concern. The Mukurumanda Correctional Institution in Enga could not open during the year because of a dispute between the court and Correctional Services. The court alleged that Correctional Services was unable to meet the basic human rights of prisoners by providing them with water and sanitation, adequate space, and sufficient food.

Pretrial detainees frustrated by the slow processing of their cases were the leaders of prison breaks, which were common. Authorities held pretrial detainees in the same prisons as convicted prisoners but in separate cells. In eight prison breaks throughout the year, 177 persons escaped, and prison guards shot and killed 19 of the escapees. The largest breakout was from Buimo jail in Lae, where 58 persons escaped and prison guards shot and killed 17 of the escapees. A Correctional Services report on the incident concluded that the officers were acting in self-defense, and no disciplinary action was taken against the officers. In May after the Buimo prison escape, data obtained by a news agency revealed that many of the pretrial detainees who escaped had been waiting up to nine years for a trial.

All of the operating prison facilities had separate accommodations for juvenile offenders. The Department of Justice and attorney general operated four juvenile facilities, and the Roman Catholic Church operated three juvenile reception centers to hold minors awaiting arraignment prior to posting of bail. Human Rights Watch reported authorities routinely held juveniles with adults in police detention cells, where older detainees often assaulted the younger detainees. In February, seven inmates physically and sexually assaulted two juvenile detainees in Buimo jail. Police sometimes denied juvenile court officers access to detainees. Authorities usually held male and female inmates separately, but some rural prisons lacked separate facilities.

Sanitation was poor, and prisoners complained that rations were insufficient. In August the national court ruled that food provided at the country’s largest prison did not meet nutritional standards set out by law. The court ordered Correctional Services to provide more nutritionally balanced meals in all prisons. A number of prisons experienced problems with inadequate ventilation and lighting.

The Manus Island regional refugee processing center, paid for by the Australian government, officially closed on October 31. On November 20, approximately 350 men remained in the RPC and refused to leave. Immigration authorities stopped providing water, electricity, and food services to the RPC when it closed on October 31, leaving those that remained with dwindling supplies. The government continued to encourage the holdouts to transfer voluntarily to newer facilities, the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Center (ELRTC), which had been built for refugees, and Lorengau West, which had been constructed primarily to house rejected asylum seekers.

In June the Australian government reached a court settlement with the nearly 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers who had been held on Manus Island starting in 2012 for illegally detaining them in dangerous and hostile conditions. Australia claimed that the settlement was not an admission of liability, but media and independent reports revealed those in the RPC were often subjected to physical abuse by security forces and were living in overcrowded and substandard accommodations for prolonged periods. Furthermore, detainees had inadequate access to basic services throughout the duration of their time in the RPC, including water and hygiene facilities, education, and health services, including for mental health.

Administration: The government mandated the Ombudsman Commission to visit prisons, but the commission lacked adequate resources to effectively monitor and investigate prison conditions. Their most recent prison visit was in 2015, funded by the government of Australia. Authorities generally allowed family visits, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) assisted family visits to Bougainville prisoners held in Kerevat Correctional Institution in East New Britain Province and Bekut Correctional Institution on Buka Island.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring visits by independent observers. During the year the ICRC and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) visited facilities in the country.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but police frequently detained citizens arbitrarily without evidence. In some cases police detained family members of suspects to force their surrender. In April, six reserve police officers arrested a mother and daughter who were selling food and drink on the street. The officers stole their items and sexually assaulted the mother. Police arrested the six officers after the woman’s husband filed a formal complaint. Persons have the right to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, but the government did not always respect this right.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) is responsible for maintaining internal security in all regions of the country. The RPNGC commissioner reports to the minister of police. The Autonomous Region of Bougainville maintains its own police force and minister of police with authority to enforce local law, but the RPNGC retains authority over the Bougainville police in enforcement of national law. The Papua New Guinea Defense Force (PNGDF) is responsible for maintaining external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. Clan rivalries and a serious lack of resources and discipline diminished police effectiveness and hampered internal security activities throughout the country. Societal violence, particularly among tribes, was commonplace, and in many cases police lacked sufficient personnel or resources to prevent attacks or respond effectively to them. Warring tribal factions in rural areas often were better armed than local police, and authorities often tolerated intertribal violence in isolated rural areas until the tribes themselves agreed to a negotiated settlement. Security for national elections was the responsibility of police with limited additional funding or manpower.

Civilian authorities maintained control over the RPNGC and PNGDF, although impunity was a serious problem. In February police assaulted a man who was at a police station to report an incident. He was physically and verbally abused, locked up for eight hours, and later released. The case was reported to the RPNGC Internal Affairs Office, but no action was taken against the officers, according to media reports.

The RPNGC Internal Affairs Office investigates, and a coroner’s court reviews, police shootings of suspects and bystanders. If the court finds the shooting was unjustifiable or otherwise due to negligence, authorities may try the officers involved. Families of persons killed or injured by police may challenge the coroner’s finding in the National Court, with the assistance of the Office of the Public Solicitor. Investigations remained unresolved in many cases, largely due to a lack of funding and resources to complete investigations, especially in rural areas where such shootings often occurred. Additionally, police officers’ reluctance to give evidence against one another and witnesses’ fear of police retribution undermined investigations.

The Ombudsman Commission deals with public complaints and concerns regarding police officers. In January the Police Internal Affairs unit established a partnership with the State Solicitor, Ombudsman Commission, and Transparency International to address police conduct and allegations of police brutality. During the launch police told media that in 2016 more than 100 officers were referred to the unit for disciplinary action and 54 were terminated as a result. The other 46 were dealt with administratively through suspension and/or demotion.

To improve the RPNGC’s professional capacity, it accepted training, including on human rights, from a number of foreign governments and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). As part of the Papua New Guinea-Australia Policing Partnership, Australian Federal Police officers provided advisory support to the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption unit and national police training through the Bomana Police College. All training provided under the partnership applied human rights principles. The Australian Federal Police also provided advisory officers to police in Port Moresby and Lae to improve law enforcement capacity. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) had an agreement to provide training for new police recruits on human rights, human trafficking, and exploitation. The ICRC facilitated workshops on international human rights law and policing standards for officers from the RPNGC in Port Moresby, Mount Hagen, and Bougainville. The OHCHR developed human rights modules and delivered them to police mobile response units in seven provinces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

By law police must have reason to believe that a crime was, is being, or is expected to be committed before making an arrest. A warrant is not required, but police, prosecutors, and citizens may apply to a court for a warrant. Police normally do so only if they believe it would assist them in carrying out an arrest. Judicial authorization is usually provided promptly but is not requested in the majority of cases. There were numerous reports of persons detained for weeks without charges or judicial authorization. These suspects may be charged with minor offenses and released after bail is paid. Only national or Supreme Court judges may grant bail to persons charged with murder or aggravated robbery. In all other cases, police or magistrates may grant bail. If bail is denied or prolonged, suspects are transferred to prisons and can wait for years before they appear before a judge. Arrested suspects have the right to legal counsel and to be informed of the charges against them; however, the government did not always respect these rights. Detainees may have access to counsel, and family members may have access to detainees.

Pretrial Detention: Approximately 40 percent of the prison population was in pretrial detention. Due to very limited police and judicial resources and a high crime rate, authorities often held suspects in pretrial detention for lengthy periods. According to correctional services data, detainees waited up to three years before trial, sentencing, or release, but there were media reports of detainees waiting up to nine years. Although pretrial detention is subject to strict judicial review through continuing pretrial consultations, the slow pace of police investigations, particularly in locating witnesses, and occasional political interference or police corruption frequently delayed cases for years. In addition, there were delays due to infrequent circuit court sittings because of shortages of judges and travel funds.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for a presumption of innocence and due process, including a public trial, and the court system generally enforced these provisions. Judges conduct trials and render verdicts. Defendants have the right to an attorney, to be informed promptly and in detail of charges against them, to be present at their trial, to free interpretation services if desired, and to not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. The Public Solicitor’s Office provides legal counsel for those accused of “serious offenses” (charges for which a sentence of two years or more is the norm) who are unable to afford counsel. Defendants and their attorneys may confront witnesses, present evidence, plead cases, and appeal convictions. The shortage of judges created delays in both the trial process and the rendering of decisions.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary for individuals and organizations to seek civil remedies for human rights violations. The national court established a human rights track to fast-track cases of alleged human rights abuses. Through this track the national court may award civil remedies in cases of human rights abuses. District courts may order “good behavior bonds,” commonly called “protection orders,” in addition to ordering that compensation be paid for violations of human rights. Courts had difficulty enforcing judgments. In addition, largely unregulated village courts adjudicated many human rights matters. Village and district courts often hesitated to interfere directly in domestic matters. Village courts regularly ordered payment of compensation to an abused spouse’s family in cases of domestic abuse rather than issuing an order to detain and potentially charge the alleged offender.

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

Although the constitution prohibits such actions, there were instances of abuse. Police raids, searches, and forced evictions of illegal squatter settlements and suspected criminals often were marked by a high level of violence and property destruction. In June police in Port Moresby forcefully evicted settlers using firearms and allowed bulldozers to demolish homes to make way for a commercial project. The operation destroyed 218 homes, 10 stores, and five chicken farms. In March a human rights association made up of persons living close to the Porgera Mine alleged that police working for the mining company carried out forced evictions, burning up to 50 homes. The company denied any involvement with the raid, and police claimed the homes were illegal.

Police units operating in highland regions sometimes used intimidation and destruction of property to suppress tribal fighting. Police threatened and at times harmed family members of alleged offenders.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Paraguay

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.

On March 31, police officer Gustavo Florentin shot and killed Liberal Party official Rodrigo Quintana in a police raid on the party’s headquarters following protests and the burning of the national congress building. The protests stemmed from an extra-official senate session on March 31 to advance a public referendum on a constitutional amendment that would have permitted President Cartes and former presidents to run for re-election. The UN Committee against Torture declared Quintana’s death an extrajudicial execution in its seventh periodic review of the country on August 11. Florentin was in custody, charged with homicide, and the case was pending as of October 5.

On May 29, the court of appeals in Salto del Guaira upheld the sentences of all 11 defendants found responsible for the 2012 Marina Cue confrontation near Curuguaty that resulted in the death of 11 farmers and six police officers. Authorities did not prosecute any members of the police. The defendants’ appeal was pending with the Supreme Court as of October 13.

According to press reports, on July 3 Diego Bertolucci, head of a Senate-appointed independent commission to investigate the role of the police in the Marina Cue events, formally submitted his findings to Senate President Fernando Lugo. The document criticized the prosecution’s lack of objectivity, irregularities associated with the initial eviction action, the lack of a credible investigation into police action, and insufficient evidence, suggesting the state sought to close the case quickly and find the farmers guilty. Senate President Lugo did not follow up on the report as of October 13.

b. Disappearance

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

The Special Human Rights Unit in the Attorney General’s Office investigated cases of forced disappearance and kidnapping.

On August 21 and September 1, respectively, the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) reportedly kidnapped Franz Hiebert Wieler and Bernhard Blatz Friessen, both farmers residing in San Pedro Department. An eyewitness reported five armed assailants wearing military-style uniforms, including one woman, kidnapped Wieler from his tractor. Authorities arrived later to find the tractor burned and an EPP pamphlet claiming responsibility. In the case of Blatz, the press and government authorities reported armed individuals opened fire on his truck and seized him as his father watched from another vehicle. Additionally, the government alleged the EPP still held Eladio Edelio Morinigo (a police officer kidnapped in 2014), Abraham Fehr (a Paraguayan-Mexican farmer kidnapped in 2015), and Felix Urbieta (a rancher kidnapped in 2016). The abductees’ whereabouts and conditions were unknown as of October 5.

On February 25, the EPP released Franz Wiebe Boschman, a farmer from San Pedro Department, after 214 days in captivity. Press reports and government statements indicated that as part of the EPP’s demands, Wiebe’s family and community provided approximately 137 million guaranies (Gs.) ($24,400) worth of food and basic supplies to 14 indigenous communities in the northeastern part of the country.

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

The law prohibits such practices, and the government generally respected these provisions, but there were credible reports that some government officials employed such practices. The Attorney General Office’s Special Human Rights Unit opened torture investigation cases during the year, but there were no convictions, and all investigations were pending as of October 13. Unlike criminal cases not involving torture, torture charges do not have a statute of limitations or a defined period within which charges, an investigation, or the oral trial must be completed. The unit was investigating more than 100 open cases as of October 13, including many from the Stroessner dictatorship and that of the farmers detained after the fatal confrontation in Curuguaty/Marina Cue in 2012.

Several civil society groups publicly criticized, and called for, the disbandment of, the Joint Task Force (FTC) for human rights violations in the northeastern region of the country. The FTC operated in northeast with the principal goal of eliminating the EPP and included personnel from the armed forces, National Police, and National Anti-Narcotics Secretariat (SENAD).

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and, at times, life-threatening due to inmate violence, mistreatment, overcrowding, poorly trained staff, deteriorating infrastructure, and unsanitary living conditions. Government authorities in the northeastern region of the country along the border with Brazil reported inmate recruitment within the prisons there by members of the Brazilian First Capital Command gang.

Physical Conditions: According to the government’s quasi-independent watchdog agency, the National Mechanism to Prevent Torture (NMPT), prisons were overcrowded, with inmates at some facilities forced to share bunks, sleep on floors, and sleep in shifts. As of August 11, the Ministry of Justice reported the country’s 18 penitentiaries housed 37 percent more inmates than their design capacity allowed. The NMPT also reported that three of the 11 facilities for juveniles had exceeded their design capacity during the same period. Penitentiaries did not have adequate accommodations for inmates with physical disabilities.

The justice ministry’s Directorate for the Care of Convicted Juveniles assigned minors convicted of juvenile crimes to one of 11 youth correctional facilities in the country, one of which was dedicated to young women. Some juvenile offenders served their sentences in separate youth sections in adult prisons, such as the women’s penitentiary in Ciudad del Este.

Prisons and juvenile facilities generally lacked adequate temperature control systems, of particular concern during the exceedingly hot summer months. Some prisons had cells with inadequate lighting, in which prisoners were confined for long periods without an opportunity for exercise. Although sanitation and medical care were generally considered adequate, some prisons lacked sufficient medical personnel. Adherence to fire prevention norms was lacking.

Administration: Visitors reportedly needed to offer bribes frequently to visit prisoners, hindering effective representation of inmates by public defenders. During the year the justice ministry’s Internal Affairs Office continued random, unannounced visits to several prisons. Although married and unmarried heterosexual inmates were permitted conjugal visits, the Ministry of Justice prohibited such visits for homosexual inmates.

Independent Monitoring: The government granted the media, independent civil society groups, and diplomatic representatives access to prisons with prior coordination. Representatives of the media and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) conducted regular prison visits. Government agencies, such as the NMPT, the Public Defender’s Office, and representatives of the Judicial Branch, also conducted independent visits. By law the Judicial Branch is responsible for overseeing the funds it transfers annually to the Ministry of Justice.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, but the government did not always observe these requirements. The law stipulates that persons detained without a judge-ordered arrest warrant must appear before a judge within 24 hours for an initial hearing. Police may arrest a person apprehended in the act of committing a crime and detain the suspect for up to six hours, after which the Attorney General’s Office may detain persons up to 24 hours. In some cases police ignored requirements for a warrant by citing obsolete provisions that allow detention if individuals are unable to present personal identification upon demand (although the law does not obligate citizens to carry or show identity documentation).

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Police, under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior, are responsible for preserving public order, protecting the rights and safety of persons and entities and their property, preventing and investigating crimes, and implementing orders given by the judiciary and public officials. The constitution charges military forces with guarding the country’s territory and borders. By law civilian authorities are in charge of the security forces.

The law authorizes the president to mobilize military forces domestically against any “internal aggression” endangering the country’s sovereignty, independence, or the integrity of its democratic constitutional order. The law requires the president to notify congress within 48 hours of a decision to deploy troops. By law the president’s deployment order must define a geographic location, be subject to congressional scrutiny, and have a set time limit. As of October 13, the government deployed more than 700 personnel from the FTC to the departments of Concepcion, San Pedro, and Amambay in accordance with the law that allows military mobilization domestically.

The Ministry of National Defense, also under the president’s authority but outside the military’s chain of command, handles some defense matters. The ministry is responsible for the logistical and administrative aspects of the armed forces, especially the development of defense policy.

The law authorizes SENAD and units within the National Police, all under the president’s authority, to enforce the law in matters related to narcotics trafficking and terrorism. The law provides for SENAD to lead operations in coordination with the Attorney General’s Office and the judiciary. To arrest individuals or use force, SENAD must involve members of the National Police in its operations, but reportedly it often did not do so.

The Special Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General’s Office and the Disciplinary Review Board of the National Police are responsible for determining whether police killings legitimately occurred in the line of duty. The military justice system has jurisdiction over active military personnel.

Several human rights NGOs and the media reported incidents of police involvement in homicides, rape, arms and narcotics trafficking, soliciting bribes, robbery, extortion, and kidnapping, with reported abuses particularly widespread in Ciudad del Este and other locations on the border with Brazil, where authorities dismantled a major bribery scheme by a network of corrupt police.

During the year the Special Human Rights Unit in the Attorney General’s Office investigated hundreds of cases of excessive use of force, torture, and other abuses by security forces. No information was available whether any of these cases resulted in convictions or penalties.

Although the National Police reportedly struggled with inadequate training, funding, and widespread corruption, it continued to investigate and punish members involved in crimes and administrative violations.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police may arrest individuals with a warrant or with reasonable cause. The law provides that after making an arrest, police have up to six hours to notify the Attorney General’s Office, at which time that office has up to 24 hours to notify a judge if it intends to prosecute. The law allows judges to use measures such as house arrest and bail in felony cases. According to civil society representatives and legal experts, in misdemeanor cases judges frequently set bail too high for many poor defendants to post bond, while they set minimal or no bail for the wealthy or for those with political connections.

The law grants defendants the right to hire counsel, and the government provides public defenders for those who cannot afford counsel. According to the NGO Paraguayan Human Rights Coordinator (CODEHUPY) and the NMPT, heavy caseloads adversely affected the quality of representation by public defenders. Detainees had access to family members.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. During the year NGOs reported several cases of arbitrary arrest and detention of persons without a warrant.

On April 1, police arrested 213 individuals for alleged involvement in the March 31 protests that set fire to the national congress building. Detainees included individuals at the central protest site and in other locations around the capital including gas stations and office buildings. Authorities released all 213 within days of their detentions, with some minor reports of abuse and mistreatment.

Pretrial Detention: The law permits detention without trial for a period equivalent to the minimum sentence associated with the alleged crime, a period that could range from six months to five years. Some detainees were held in pretrial detention beyond the maximum allowed time. According to the Ministry of Justice and the NMPT, 78 percent of the total number of prisoners continued to await trials and sentencing as of July 17.

The NMPT alleged the high number of prisoners in pretrial detention was principally a result of legislation that disproportionately affects low-level drug offenders. Specifically, it claimed the legislation prohibits judges from applying alternative measures to pretrial detentions for crimes with a potential sentence of five or more years. It also said the legislation sets overly strict guidelines on preventive detention for suspects in drug cases. As of August 11, 21 percent of inmates awaiting trial and 65 percent of all women in jail were low-level drug offenders.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and any delay in obtaining judicial rulings.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Undue external influence, however, often compromised the judiciary’s independence. Interested parties, including politicians, routinely attempted to influence investigations and pressure judges and prosecutors. Judicial selection and disciplinary review board processes were often politicized. The law requires that specific seats on the board be allocated to congressional representatives, presidential nominees, lawyer’s union representatives, law professors, and Supreme Court justices.

Courts were inefficient and subject to corruption, and NGOs and government officials alleged that some judges and prosecutors solicited or received bribes to drop or modify charges against defendants. Authorities generally respected court orders.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, which the judiciary nominally provided, albeit through a lengthy trial process exacerbated by legal defense tactics that remove or suspend judges and prosecutors working on cases. Impunity was common due to politicization of and corruption within the judiciary and regular manipulation of the judicial process by defense attorneys that pushed statutes of limitations to expire before trials reach conclusion.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and a right of appeal. Both defendants and prosecutors may present written testimony from witnesses and other evidence. Defendants may confront adverse witnesses, except in cases involving domestic or international trafficking in persons, in which case victims may testify remotely or in the presence of the defendant’s lawyers, in lieu of the defendant. Defendants have the right to prompt information and detail of the indictments and charges they face, but some defendants received notification only when they faced arrest charges or seizure of their property.

Defendants have the right to access free interpretation services as necessary, including translation to Guarani–the country’s second official language. Defendants have the right to a fair trial without undue delay, although trials were often protracted, as well as the right to be present at the trial. Defendants have the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice or one provided at public expense. Defendants have the right to a reasonable amount of time to prepare their defense and to access their legal files. Defendants may confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants are not compelled to testify or confess guilt and may choose to remain silent.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens have access to the courts to file lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. There are administrative and judicial remedies for alleged wrongs, and authorities generally granted them to citizens. The court may order civil remedies, including fair compensation to the injured party; however, the government experienced problems enforcing court orders in such cases. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government generally enforced court orders with respect to seizure, restitution, or compensation for taking private property. Systemic inadequacies within the land registry system, however, prevented the government from compiling a reliable inventory of its landholdings. Registered land far exceeded the size of the country, and there were allegations of corruption within local government and National Institute for Rural Development and Land, the government agency charged with implementing land reform, and reports of forced evictions.

On June 10 and 12, private security contractors allegedly fired rifles and pistols to intimidate small-scale farming families occupying disputed land in Colonia Guahory, Caaguazu Department. The incident followed a May 22 presidential veto of a law that would have allowed the state to expropriate the land for distribution under larger land reform efforts, as well as a violent encounter on January 3 between farming families and police that resulted in rubber bullet injuries to 20 individuals. Seventy Brazilian-Paraguayan families claimed title to the 555,436 acres of land, and alleged the farming families began occupying 222,965 acres of it in 2014 and were renting it to local and national political figures. From September to December 2016, police conducted three separate eviction operations. Legal counsel for the small-scale farming families alleged the Brazilian-Paraguayan families illegally purchased land titles. The case brought by the 70 families regarding ownership of the land was pending as of October 5.

Despite the government’s acceptance of the donation of the disputed land on which the 2012 Curuguaty/Marina Cue confrontation occurred, the Public Registry refused to register the property. Officials explained they could not act until lawsuits establishing previous ownership were resolved.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions, but there were reports that members of the security forces failed to respect the law in certain instances. NGOs, local Roman Catholic church organizations, and some national legislators alleged FTC personnel in the departments of Concepcion, San Pedro, and Amambay searched homes and schools without warrants. The Special Human Rights Unit in the Attorney General’s Office investigated several cases of unlawful interference with private correspondence during the year.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law and constitution provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of speech and press for the most part, although widespread corruption in the judiciary hindered protections in court.

Violence and Harassment: Journalists occasionally suffered harassment, intimidation, and violence, primarily from drug-trafficking gangs and criminal groups, but also from politicians and police. The media and international NGOs reported several such incidents against journalists.

On September 2, citing lack of evidence, Judge Leongino Benitez released Brazilian drug trafficker, Felipe “Baron” Escurra Rodriguez, who had reportedly planned to kill well known journalist Candido Figueredo Ruiz. In 2012, Brazilian police intercepted a call involving Escurra in which he discussed killing Figueredo for reporting on Escurra’s illicit activities along the Paraguay-Brazil border. Escurra had been in custody since his arrest after a shootout with SENAD agents in August 2016. An appeal against Escurra’s release was pending as of October 13.

On June 23 and July 1, President Cartes publicly called for the imprisonment of radio journalists Mercedes Menchi Barriocanal and Oscar Acosta, accusing them of inciting the March 31 protests that resulted in the burning of the national congress building. Barriocanal and Acosta had been critical of Cartes’ legislative push to amend the constitution to allow for presidential re-election. The push for re-election sparked the March 31 protests.

On December 14, a Paraguayan court found Vilmar “Neneco” Acosta, former mayor of Ypejhu, guilty of ordering the assassination of ABC Color journalist Pablo Medina and his assistant Antonia Chaparro in 2014. On December 19, Acosta was sentenced to 39 years in prison. Authorities continued to search for Acosta’s brother, Wilson Acosta Marques, whom they accused of participating in the assassination, but Flavio Acosta Riveros, the alleged assassin (nephew of Wilson and Vilmar), remained in a Brazilian prison awaiting extradition.

INTERNET FREEDOM

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

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) reported 51 percent of inhabitants used the internet in 2016. This did not reflect the existing and growing number of individuals who had access to the internet at work or through mobile phones. According to the ITU, there were 105 cell phones for every 100 citizens in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation and the government generally respected these rights. The government’s National Commission of Refugees cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. The NGO Committee of Churches for Emergency Aid acted as the local legal representative of the UNHCR.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Durable Solutions: As of August 15, the government received 29 asylum requests, with 18 pending review. Authorities permitted persons whose asylum or refugee status cases were refused to seek other migration options, including obtaining legal permanent residency in the country or returning to the most recent point of embarkation. The government did not assist in the safe, voluntary return of refugees to their homes, but rather relied on UNHCR assistance to facilitate such returns.

Philippines

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 government security agencies and their informal allies committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in connection with the government-directed campaign against illegal drugs. Killings of activists, judicial officials, local government leaders, and journalists by antigovernment insurgents and unknown assailants also continued.

From July 2016 through October 25, 2017, law enforcement agencies reported that 3,967 “drug personalities” died in connection with antidrug operations. In one case, on June 30, police killed Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, his wife, and 10 others in a series of predawn antidrug raids. The operation drew condemnation from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) as well as some legislators, but the Senate did not launch an inquiry on the grounds that the mayor was not detained in a government facility.

In killings attributed to vigilantes, many victims were found adorned with cardboard signs, plastic wrap, garbage bags, or other markers designating them as drug dealers.

The reported number of alleged extrajudicial killings varied widely, as government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) used different definitions. The CHR, an independent government agency responsible for investigating alleged human rights violations, investigated 139 new complaints of alleged extrajudicial or politically motivated killings involving 174 victims as of August. The rising death toll from the government’s antidrug campaign compelled the CHR to separate politically motivated killings from drug-related cases in its reporting. From January to June, the CHR investigated 44 cases of drug-related extrajudicial killings involving 56 victims. The CHR suspected PNP or Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) involvement in 112 of these new complaints and AFP or paramilitary personnel in one case. The CHR attributed many of the remaining cases to insurgent/terrorist forces.

The PNP’s Task Force Usig, responsible for investigating and monitoring killings of media members, labor activists, and foreigners, reported no new cases from January to August. Police also changed the language they used with respect to deaths outside official police actions, to refer to them uniformly to as “homicide cases.” Previously, the police had used the term “deaths under investigation” to refer to deaths outside police operations but which appeared connected to the antidrug campaign. Beginning in May, government data on the antidrug campaign were provided through #RealNumbersPH, operated by the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs.

As of June 30, the NGO Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) documented four cases of state-perpetrated, politically motivated killings carried out by unspecified security forces. The TFDP noted that these cases were separate from killings in the antidrug campaign. The increase in cases of alleged drug-related extrajudicial killings resulted in the expansion of TFDP documentation, which began to include drug-related killings. As of June 30, the TFDP had documented 55 drug-related killings involving 67 victims.

President Duterte continued his anticrime campaign, specifically targeting the widespread trafficking and abuse of illegal narcotics. President Duterte made numerous public statements suggesting that killing suspected drug traffickers and users was necessary to meet his goal of wiping out drug-related crime. On October 10, the president issued a memorandum designating the PDEA as the sole agency for conducting operations in the government’s war on drugs, sidelining the police in antidrug operations and prompting a drop in reported extrajudicial killings. President Duterte publicly challenged the CHR’s authority to investigate allegations of police abuse without his approval. The PNP’s Internal Affairs Service reported that manpower and resource limitations hampered the legally required investigations into deaths resulting from police operations, but it asserted that 100 percent of the deaths in police shootings resulted from legitimate, lawful police actions. In specific cases, President Duterte commented that if police were found guilty, they should go to jail. Some civil society organizations accused police of planting evidence, tampering with crime scenes, unlawfully disposing of the bodies of drug suspects, and other actions to cover up extrajudicial killings.

President Duterte stated publicly, for example in an August 16 speech on the anniversary of the founding of “Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption,” that he continued to maintain lists of suspected drug criminals, including government, police, and military officials and members of the judiciary. The government did not reveal the source of this information, leading some to question its accuracy and the legitimacy of the lists.

b. Disappearance

As reported by the AFP Human Rights Office, there was one report of a forced disappearance by or on behalf of government authorities (see section 1.g.).

The law allows family members of alleged victims of disappearances to compel government agencies to provide statements in court about what they know regarding 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 past 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.

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

The constitution and law prohibit torture, and evidence obtained through its use is inadmissible in court. According to the CHR, however, members of the security forces and police 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 25 cases of alleged torture involving 58 victims; it suspected the police in a majority of the cases. The CHR investigated four cases of torture and mistreatment by prison guards. Some of these cases involved two or more categories of accused perpetrators. In the same period, the TFDP documented two cases of torture involving 11 victims. There were reports that AFP soldiers detained and interrogated children and in one instance tortured a child suspected of associating with armed groups.

There were no convictions during the year, but a few cases continued under the antitorture law.

According to NGOs and press reports, mental abuse, including shaming–illegal under the Anti-Torture Act–reportedly occurred, especially in drug cases. In March local media published photographs of hundreds of prisoners at the Cebu provincial jail sitting naked while being searched for contraband. In a predawn operation dubbed “Operation Greyhound,” prisoners were awakened and forced to remove their clothes while officials searched their jail cells. Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the search, conducted in the open and publicized, was inhumane and violated the prisoners’ right to privacy.

As part of the antidrug campaign, authorities called on drug criminals to turn themselves in to police to avoid more severe consequences. As of July the government social media campaign #RealNumbersPH reported 1,308,078 surrenders facilitated, although civil society actors questioned the official figures. Civil society and other observers claimed a climate of fear led many persons associated with drugs to surrender due to 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 sanitary conditions and medical care, food shortages, and physical abuse.

NGOs reported that abuses by prison guards and other inmates were common, but they stated that prisoners, fearing retaliation, declined to lodge formal complaints.

Physical Conditions: The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), under the Department of Justice, administered seven prisons and penal farms nationwide for individuals sentenced to prison terms exceeding three years. During the year BuCor facilities operated at approximately 2.5 times the official capacity of 16,010, holding 41,244 prisoners.

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), under the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the PNP, controlled 926 city, district, municipal, and provincial jails that held pretrial detainees, persons awaiting final judgment, and convicts serving sentences of three years or less. The BJMP reported its jails operated at an average of more than four times their designated capacity. The Quezon City Jail, for example, had an official capacity of 261 inmates, yet as of July held 2,916 prisoners, approximately 70 percent of whom were detained on drug charges, according to international media sources. Several NGOs observed that overcrowding was more severe in smaller cities, a condition that reportedly triggered violence among inmates and promoted gang rivalries. The prison population increased by 22 percent between July 2016 and September 2017.

At the Manila Police District in Tondo in April, the CHR discovered 12 individuals detained in a secret cell hidden behind a bookshelf. The cell had inadequate lighting, sanitation, food, and water. According to media reports, several detainees said they were tortured and beaten while detained, and some were subjected to extortion in exchange for release. A May 26 CHR visit found the cell vacant. As of September 13, nine of the detainees were released on bail; the remaining three were transferred to the Manila City Jail Male and Female Dormitory.

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. As of July, juveniles made up less than 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 60 to 70 prisoners to each custodial staff member.

Reports indicated that poor sanitation, inadequate ventilation, poor 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 804 inmate deaths, a death rate of 0.42 percent. Most deaths were the result of illness. Authorities provided BuCor inmates with medical care; however, some medical services and treatments were not available. In such cases, authorities referred inmates to an outside hospital. Inmates received a medicine allowance of 10 Philippine pesos ($0.20) per day.

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 27,396 inmates from BJMP jails as of July.

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

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 Roman Catholic and non-Roman Catholic prisoners and detainees. BuCor has a rehabilitation program that focuses on inmates’ moral and spiritual concerns.

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. The Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center denied prompt access to a team from the CHR in March and required the commission to write a letter to provincial authorities before the visit could proceed. The CHR Region VII team visited the facility to investigate the forced stripping incident during the antidrug-focused Operation Greyhound.

Improvements: The BJMP launched the Revised Time Allowance Manual for Persons Deprived of Liberty. This entitles inmates to reductions in their sentences based on good conduct. More than 18,300 inmates benefited from this program. BuCor had a tie-in project with the Department of Justice to digitize inmates’ records for ease of access and preservation.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements. As of July, the Office of the Ombudsman, an independent agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting charges of public abuse and impropriety, reported 75 arbitrary detention violations committed by law enforcement agencies or the AFP. Investigations into 74 of these cases were pending, while the remaining case was dismissed. One case involved a high-ranking official.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The PNP is charged with maintaining internal security in most of the country and reports to the Department of the Interior and Local Government. 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 share responsibility for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations. The PNP Special Action Force is responsible, in particular, for urban counterterrorism operations. President Duterte’s May declaration of martial law for the entire region of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago remained in effect as of October, giving the military expanded powers. Human rights groups expressed concern about the potential for human rights abuses, recalling the period of martial law for the entire country during the Marcos regime.

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

The 176,000-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 ensure police operate within the law, remained largely ineffective.

Despite criticism from domestic and international human rights groups for its role in the antidrug campaign, as of October no criminal complaints had been filed by the Public Attorney’s Office or the National Bureau of Investigation against PNP officers accused of unlawful killings.

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 133 complaints concerning 229 cases of alleged military and law enforcement involvement in human rights abuses, including killings, injuries, unlawful arrest, and torture. A majority (97 percent) of the cases were against low-ranking officials. As of September all cases remained open pending additional investigation. There were no convictions recorded against high-ranking police or military officials.

From January to June, the PNP recorded a total of 2,112 administrative cases involving 3,704 officers, including both uniformed and nonuniformed personnel. Of these, 778 were resolved with various penalties. From January to July, the PNP recorded 203 criminal cases involving 212 PNP personnel, of which 67 were filed in court, 126 were referred to the Prosecutor’s Office, and five remained under investigation.

In a prominent example of police abuse and misconduct, on September 15, National Capital Region Police Chief Oscar Albayalde ordered the reassignment or retraining of more than 1,200 police officers following rising concerns about corruption within the Caloocan police force. This included unsanctioned drug raids, evidence mismanagement, and the August 18 killing of 17-year-old Kian de los Santos at the hands of plainclothes police officers in Caloocan City. The Caloocan City police received additional scrutiny on September 14 when a closed-circuit video of 13 Caloocan police officers robbing a house during a September 7 drug raid became public.

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 four reported incidents, including an indiscriminate discharge of a weapon, two murders, and a forced disappearance. As of August, the AFP had settled the indiscriminate weapon case when the suspect was found guilty. The three other cases remained pending.

Efforts continued to reform and professionalize the PNP through improved training, expanded community outreach, and salary increases. Human rights-based modules were included in all PNP career courses, and the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office conducted routine training nationwide on human rights responsibilities in policing.

The military also routinely provided human rights training to its 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. From January to August, various AFP service units conducted a total of 55 human rights-related training programs, seminars, or workshops.

The Congressional 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. Violations, however, do not preclude promotion.

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 Department of Justice due to inadequate funding or procedural delays or failure 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 antidrug 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 witnesses often failed to come forward, or failed to cooperate, in police abuse or corruption cases. This problem sometimes followed pressure on witnesses and their families or arose from an expectation of compensation for their cooperation.

The government continued to support and arm civilian militias. The AFP controlled Civilian Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGUs), while 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 to numerous human rights abuses. The trial of 105 suspects in the 2009 massacre of 58 civilians in Maguindanao Province continued. As of July, three of the remaining suspects were acquitted of 58 counts of murder for lack of evidence. The chief suspect, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr., died in 2015.

Such delays reinforced the perception of impunity for national, provincial, and local government actors accused of human rights abuses.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by an authorized official are required for an arrest unless the suspect is observed in the act of committing an offense, there is probable cause that the suspect had just committed an offense, or 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 judge’s decision to deny bail. 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 underresourced 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 ineffectual 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 with 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 constitution contains severe financial penalties for law enforcement officers found to have unlawfully detained individuals. Some human rights observers linked these penalties to extrajudicial killings, asserting that law enforcement officers often viewed killing a suspect as less risky than detaining him/her.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial. 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 30 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 for sharia courts, training for them was short and considered inadequate.

The Supreme Court continued efforts to provide 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 would not exceed six years in prison. In 2016 the judiciary instituted new court rules and procedures for case processing that limit the postponement of hearings and made other procedural changes to expedite case processing. The most significant part of the reform, Revised Guidelines for Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases in Pilot Courts, was approved in May for nationwide rollout as part of the Supreme Court’s efforts to decongest court dockets. Implementation began in September.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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. No criminal proceeding goes forward against a defendant without the presence of a lawyer. 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, appeal convictions, and not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. The court may appoint an interpreter if necessary. If the court’s interpreter makes serious mistakes, a party can challenge the interpretation. 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 decision.

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 Department of Justice, 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 pretrial hearings 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.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

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 162 political prisoners in its facilities as of August. The BJMP does not track political prisoners and defines prisoners based only on security risk.

Various human rights NGOs maintained lists of incarcerated persons they considered political prisoners. The TFDP was tracking 337 political detainees as of June. The majority of those tracked were pretrial detainees, 14 of whom were arrested from January to June. 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 14 political prisoners had been released from prisons or detention centers as of July. None of these releases resulted from executive action (pardons or amnesties).

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

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Most analysts regard the judiciary as 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.

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

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 informant 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.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Poland

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. There were problems, however, with police misconduct and corrections officers’ abuse of prisoners. The law lacks a clear legal definition of torture, which authorities did not report as a separate crime, but all actions that could be considered “torture” are prohibited and penalized in criminal proceedings under other provisions of the law that directly apply the country’s obligations under international treaties and conventions prohibiting torture. The law outlines disciplinary actions for police, including reprimand, demotion in rank, and dismissal. Civil society groups noted cases of police misconduct against persons in custody.

On September 12, the Poznan regional prosecutor’s office charged four former police officers with abuse of power and physical and psychological violence against a 25 year-old man who died in police custody in Wroclaw in May 2016. Video footage shows police beating and using a stun gun on the man who was handcuffed in a jail cell. In May the interior and administration minister dismissed the Lower Silesia regional police commander, deputy commander, and the Wroclaw city police chief in response to the incident. As of September 30, the case against the officers was pending.

As of October 1, prosecutors had charged 18 police officers in Olsztyn with the use of violence and threats to extract testimony from 35 detainees in 2015.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were adequate. Vacancies in the prison medical staff and limited prisoner access to specialized medical treatment continued to be problems.

Physical Conditions: While authorities generally separated juveniles from adults, the law allows shared housing in prisons and detention centers in exceptional cases. Juveniles were at times held together with adult prisoners. Authorities usually sent juveniles between the ages of 17 and 21 accused of serious crimes to pretrial detention.

Authorities often held pretrial detainees in prisons pending trial, but in areas separate from convicts.

In 2013 the CPT found that authorities at the Municipal Police Department in Lublin, the Metropolitan Police Department in Warsaw, and the Warsaw-Bialoleka Police Department did not respect the privacy of communal toilets and showers. At the Bydgoszcz Municipal Police Department, the closed-circuit television coverage included the in-cell toilets. These problems persisted. The criminal code authorizes prison directors to install cameras if the directors determine the cameras are required to prevent criminal activity in the prison.

In May the Helsinki Human Rights Foundation published a report describing systemic problems with medical care in prisons. These included inadequate medical services, including a lack of specialized medical care, too few doctors to handle the workload, and poor medical infrastructure.

According to a July 2016 report by the human rights defender, most prisons and detention facilities did not meet the needs of persons with disabilities. Although prisoners with disabilities may be placed in cells modified for their disability, prisoners with disabilities had limited access to shower rooms, community rooms, and walking areas.

The law permits authorities to commit prisoners to the National Center for the Prevention of Dissocial Behaviors who have served their prison sentences and undergone a custodial therapy program, but who have mental disabilities believed to create a high probability they would commit another serious crime against a person. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights pointed out that mandatory detention after completion of sentence may violate the person’s freedom and be retroactive. In November 2016 the Constitutional Court ruled the law constitutional.

Administration: Authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions and made their findings publicly accessible. The human rights defender may join proceedings in civil and administrative courts on behalf of prisoners and detainees, either when these file a complaint or when information otherwise leads to an allegation of inhuman conditions. The human rights defender administers the national preventive mechanism, an independent program responsible for monitoring conditions and treatment of detainees in prisons and detention facilities. During the first nine months of the year, the National Preventive Mechanism team visited five prison and detention facilities, including pretrial detention centers and prison facilities. The human rights defender’s office separately visits prisons, including in response to individual prisoner complaints. During the first nine months of the year, the defender’s team visited 10 detention facilities. The National Preventive Mechanism and the human right’s defender’s office published their findings and recommendations to relevant authorities in annual reports.

Independent Monitoring: The government allowed independent monitoring of prison conditions and detention centers on a regular basis by local human rights groups as well as by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). The Helsinki Human Rights Foundation and other local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) made occasional visits to prisons.

Improvements: On January 1, a new prison administration modernization law entered into force, allocating 1.5 million zloty ($409,000) to improve the security of detention facilities, prison infrastructure and working conditions for prison guards from 2017 to 2020.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The police force is a national law enforcement body with regional and municipal units overseen by the Ministry of the Interior and Administration. The border guard is responsible for border security and combating irregular migration; it reports to the Ministry of the Interior and Administration. The Internal Security Agency (ABW) has responsibility for investigating and combating organized crime, terrorist threats, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) is responsible for combating government, business, and financial corruption. The prime minister appoints the head and deputy heads of the CBA and supervises the bureau, which may investigate any matter involving public funds. The prime minister supervises the heads of both ABW and CBA, which also report to parliament.

The 2016 counterterrorism law designates the ABW as the primary authority for combatting terrorism and increased its law-enforcement powers. The human rights defender referred the law to the Constitutional Court, arguing it violates the right to privacy and freedom of communication and was not sufficiently clear on the legal grounds for collecting data on individuals, making arrests, banning demonstrations, disconnecting citizens from the internet, and for surveillance of non-Polish nationals without a court order. The case remained pending before the Constitutional Court at year’s end.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police force, the border guard, the ABW, and the CBA, 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.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution and the law require authorities to obtain a court warrant based on evidence to make an arrest, and authorities generally complied with the law. The constitution and the law allow detention of a person for 48 hours before authorities must file charges and an additional 24 hours for the court to de