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Saint Kitts and Nevis

Executive Summary

Saint Kitts and Nevis is a multiparty parliamentary democracy and federation. In February 2015 national elections, Team Unity, a coalition of three opposition parties, defeated the previously ruling Saint Kitts and Nevis Labor Party and won seven of the 11 elected seats in the legislature. Team Unity leader Timothy Harris was elected prime minister. Independent observers from the Organization of the American States concluded that the election was generally free and fair, but they called for electoral reform, noting that procedural difficulties in the election process resulted in the slow transmission of results. The constitution provides the smaller island of Nevis considerable self-government under a premier.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included violence against women and girls, child abuse, and criminalization of same-sex sexual activity, although the law was not enforced during the year.

The government took steps to prosecute and convict officials who committed abuses, but some cases remained unresolved.

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

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

In contrast with 2016, no police shootings occurred during the year. Two police shootings from June 2016 were pending trial.

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 security forces consist of a police force, which includes a paramilitary Special Services Unit, a drug unit, a Special Victims Unit, the Office of Professional Standards, and a white-collar crimes unit. These forces are responsible for internal security, including migration and border enforcement. In addition, there is a coast guard and a small defense force. The governor general may authorize the defense force to patrol jointly with the police for periods of up to six months. The military and the police report to the Ministry of National Security, which is under the prime minister’s jurisdiction.

The police Criminal Investigation Department is responsible for investigating killings by police and works with the Violent Crime Unit and the Office of Professional Standards. Corruption and unprofessional behavior by police are investigated by the Office of Professional Standards. Senior police officers investigated complaints against members of the police force and, when warranted, referred complaints to an internal disciplinary tribunal for adjudication. Penalties included dismissal, warnings, or other administrative action.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police, coast guard, and defense force, and 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.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police may arrest a person based on the suspicion of criminal activity without a warrant. The law requires that persons detained be charged within 72 hours or be released. If detainees are charged, authorities must bring them before a court within 72 hours of the detention. There is a functioning system of bail. Authorities permitted family members, attorneys, and clergy to visit detainees regularly.

Authorities remand those accused of serious offenses to custody to await trial and release those accused of minor infractions on their own recognizance or on bail with sureties.

Pretrial Detention: Government officials stated that detainees commonly awaited trial for two years or more. Some detainees endured this lengthy process only to see charges dropped due to lack of evidence. The government reviewed its procedures for arrest, treatment, and documentation of detainees. There were several reported cases of pretrial detention during the year.

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. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with counsel in a timely manner. There is a presumption of innocence, and defendants may question or confront witnesses and communicate with an attorney of choice. Defendants also have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, to have a trial without undue delay, and to appeal. Free legal assistance was available for indigent defendants in capital cases only. Defendants had free access to an interpreter.

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 lawsuits regarding alleged civil rights violations. 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 constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. The defense force, however, may carry out stop-and-search operations without a warrant. A High Court judge can issue an order allowing interception of all telecommunication networks, including telephones and internet transmissions, when presented with evidence of criminal activities.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials.

Corruption: The media and many private citizens reported that government corruption was a problem. In particular, private citizens continued to express concern about the lack of financial oversight of both the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) and the Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP). The government continued to reform both programs during the year. By year’s end the government had not appointed permanent SIDF committee members. Officials continued to perform duties in an acting capacity. The government did not release publicly the number of passports issued and the nationalities of the holders of these passports under the CIP. The government did not publicly release details regarding the operations of the SIDF and CIP. NGOs also reported a general perception of corruption in the senior levels of the police force, which they alleged maintained ties with criminal groups. NGOs reported public mistrust of the police force led to hesitation to report crimes for fear of retribution and lack of justice.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials are not subject to financial disclosure laws. The Financial Intelligence Unit investigates reports on suspicious financial transactions, along with the police white-collar crime unit, but these reports were not available to the public.

Saint Lucia

Executive Summary

Saint Lucia is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy. In free and fair elections in June 2016 the United Workers Party (UWP) won 11 of the 17 seats in the House of Assembly, defeating the previously ruling Saint Lucia Labor Party. UWP leader Allen Chastanet became prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included violence against suspects and prisoners by police and criminalization of same-sex sexual activity, although the law was not enforced during the year.

Although the government took limited steps to prosecute officials and employees who committed abuses, the procedure for investigating police officers was lengthy, cumbersome, and often inconclusive.

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

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

On January 8, police officer Gilroy Gaston shot and killed Yves Rene during a police operation. On February 17, he was charged with “death caused by gross negligence or recklessness.” As of October, the case awaited a hearing.

An inquest was convened in 2015 to review five killings allegedly committed by the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force under Operation Restore Confidence in Vieux Fort in 2011. The inquest determined that in the case of three of the victims–John Baptiste McFarlane, Allan Louisy, and Mitchel Cadette–the killings were unlawful. In the case of Myron Dupal, the jury returned an open verdict, which permits the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to indict. In the case of Kevin Ferdinand, the jury found death “by misadventure.” The cases awaited the director of public prosecution’s (DPP) decision on whether to indict any of the unnamed police officers. In September the DPP brought in unnamed police officers for questioning related to the 2010-11 Operation Restore Confidence.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest 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

The Royal St. Lucia Police Force has responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country and reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Justice, and National Security. The Criminal Investigations Division investigates internal affairs and allegations against officers and refers cases to the DPP for review and, if authorities file charges, prosecution.

The Internal Police Complaints Unit and a Police Complaints Commission take complaints from members of the public. The Internal Police Complaints Unit is required by law to record complaints on all cases, and the officer in charge of discipline forwards a status report, which is published in the force orders for the information of all police officers. A special unit of three police officers assigned to assist the commission investigated criminal complaints. A team of seven police officers headed by the assistant superintendent investigated all other public complaints involving officers from the rank of inspector to constable. The Public Service Commission investigated public complaints about senior police officials.

There was limited progress in the inquests and other investigations into multiple killings during 2010 and 2011 that were allegedly committed by officers associated with an ad hoc task force as part of Operation Restore Confidence (see section 1.a.). The Caribbean Community’s Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) concluded an investigation into the killings in 2014, but its report was not released publicly. In 2015 former prime minister Kenny Anthony revealed that the report concluded that “the blacklist or death lists” referenced by media, human rights organizations, victims’ families, and citizens did exist; that “all the shootings reviewed were ‘fake encounters’ staged by the police to legitimize their actions”; that weapons were “planted on the scene of the shootings”; and that a number of the shootings were done by police officers but were listed in murder statistics as attributable to unknown assailants. He stated the task force operated in “an environment of impunity and permissiveness designed to achieve the desired results.” The former prime minister added, “The investigators also reported that, in the course of the investigation, some senior officers did not cooperate with them.” In response to the IMPACS report, the government established a “use of force” policy for the police force and conducted human rights training for officers.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police, but there were continued reports of impunity. Although there were government mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, the mechanisms were not effective in practice. For instance, although authorities referred many cases for investigation and inquests, prosecutions rarely resulted, and cases remained nominally under investigation for years. Victims’ families have six months to initiate civil proceedings in the case of unlawful killing by police, but many families were unaware of their rights or the limited timeframe. Lack of adequate staffing in the criminal justice system (prosecutors and judges), significant delays in the judicial system, the reluctance of witnesses to testify, the lack of a witness or victim protection program, and strong public and political support for police contributed to the overall inability of the government to address allegations in a timely or effective manner.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution stipulates that authorities must apprehend persons openly with warrants issued by a judicial authority and requires a court hearing within 72 hours of detention. Authorities allowed detainees prompt access to counsel and family. There is a functioning bail system.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention continued to be a problem. Those charged with serious crimes often spent from six months to six years in pretrial detention. The appointment of a director of public prosecutions in October 2016, an early guilty plea system, and the appointment of a case management judge decreased the backlog. From 2015 to 2016, there was a 64 percent increase in the number of criminal cases that were disposed of by authorities.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Defendants enjoy the right to: a presumption of innocence; prompt and detailed information about charges; a fair and public trial without undue delay; be present at their own trial; communicate with an attorney of their choice; adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; free assistance of an interpreter as needed; challenge of prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present one’s own witnesses and evidence; not be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and appeal. Attorneys are not provided at public expense to defendants who cannot pay unless the charge is murder.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent, impartial judiciary in civil matters where one can bring lawsuits seeking damages for a human rights violation. Individuals and organizations cannot appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights courts for a binding decision. Individuals and organizations may present petitions to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented these laws, but not always effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: There were no developments in the case regarding Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and allegations of breach of trust and misfeasance in public office. In July 2016 the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal reinstated a previously dismissed claim against Chastanet. A judge had dismissed the case in 2015 on the basis that the attorney general did not have standing to bring the claim. In 2013 the attorney general initially filed a claim against Chastanet, alleging that during the 2011 general elections as then government minister and candidate for the UWP, Chastanet was involved in the expenditure of more than 102,000 East Caribbean dollars ($38,000) of public funds for personal and political benefit.

Financial Disclosure: High-level government officials, including elected officials, are subject to annual disclosure of their financial assets to the Integrity Commission, a constitutionally established entity. While authorities did not make public the disclosure reports filed by individuals, the commission submitted a report to parliament each year. The commission lacked sanctions to compel compliance with the law, and as a result compliance was low.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Executive Summary

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy. Government control lies with the prime minister and his cabinet. In 2015 Vincentians returned Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to office for a fourth term. International observers assessed the election as generally free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included criminalization of libel and same-sex sexual activity, although those laws were not enforced during the year.

There were no reported instances during the year of the government investigating or prosecuting officials who committed abuses, and there was not a widespread perception of impunity for security force members. Government procedures exist to investigate violations, but few reports of violations occurred.

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.

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 Royal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police is the only security force in the country and is responsible for maintaining national security. Its forces include the Coast Guard, Special Services Unit, Rapid Response Unit, Drug Squad, and the Anti-Trafficking Unit. The police force reports to the minister of national security, a portfolio held by the prime minister. The Criminal Investigations Department investigated all police killings and referred them to coroner’s inquests.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. Citizens alleging police abuse could file complaints with the Complaint Department within the police force or an independent, government-operated oversight committee tasked with monitoring police activity and hearing public complaints against police misconduct. If a complaint is deemed to have merit, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions files charges. Authorities indicated 87 investigations into police misconduct occurred during the year, none of which resulted in convictions, sanctions, or dismissals. There were no verified reports of impunity involving security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires judicial authority to issue arrest warrants. Police apprehended persons openly. Detainees may seek judicial determinations of their status after 48 hours if not already provided. The bail system was generally effective. Authorities generally allowed detainees prompt access to a lawyer. For indigent detainees accused of a capital offense, the state provides a lawyer. For other crimes, the state does not provide a lawyer, and defendants represent themselves in court.

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 fair and public trials, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The court appoints attorneys only for indigent defendants charged with a capital offense. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, may be present at the trial, are informed promptly and in detail of the charges, and may confront and question witnesses. Defendants had access to free assistance of an interpreter as necessary. Defendants may also present their own witnesses and evidence. Although lengthy delays were reported prior to preliminary inquiries, government sources reported compliance with Court of Appeals guidelines, which require a preliminary hearing to be held within nine months of detention. There were approximately 20 detained defendants awaiting trial for more than two years. More than half of those cases were delayed pending psychiatric evaluations. Witnesses and victims sometimes refused to testify because they feared retaliation, which negatively affected prosecution of crimes. Defendants may appeal verdicts and penalties.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent, impartial judiciary in civil matters, where one can bring lawsuits seeking damages for a human rights violation. Individuals may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

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 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

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

Corruption: Allegations of political handouts and other forms of low-level corruption continued to plague both parties. The government stated there was no need to have a national anticorruption agency. The law provides the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions with the authority to prosecute the following offenses related to official corruption: extortion by public officers, public officers receiving property to show favor, false claims by officials, abuse of office, and false certification by public officers.

Financial Disclosure: There are no financial disclosure laws for public officials.

Samoa

Executive Summary

Samoa is a constitutional parliamentary democracy that incorporates traditional practices into its governmental system. In 2016 voters elected a new parliament, confirming Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in office. Although the unicameral parliament is elected by universal suffrage, members may only be “matai” (heads of extended families). The elections were free and fair on the day, but the matai requirement and the questionable disqualification of candidates caused some observers to question the fairness of the outcome.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: limits on non-matai rights to participate in political processes; domestic violence; child abuse; criminalization of sexual activity between men, although the law was not enforced; and child labor.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses. There were no reports of impunity.

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

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

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

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 Samoa Police Department, under the Ministry of Police and Prison Services, maintains internal security. Local councils enforce rules and security within individual villages. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving police. Insufficient capacity limited police effectiveness.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The Supreme Court issues arrest warrants based on compelling evidence. The law provides for the right to a prompt judicial determination of the legality of detention, and authorities generally respected this right. Officials informed detainees within 24 hours of the charges against them, or else released them. There was a functioning bail system. The government allowed detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice. The government provided indigent detainees with a lawyer upon request. The government did not hold suspects incommunicado or under house arrest.

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 the court finds authorities unlawfully detained them.

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 public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. A trial judge examines evidence and determines if there are grounds to proceed. Under the law, defendants are presumed innocent and may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Trials are public except for trials of juveniles; in such trials only immediate family members may attend. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial; have timely consultation with an attorney; receive prompt and detailed information of the charges, including interpretation services as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals; and to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants may confront witnesses, present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, access government-held evidence, and appeal a verdict. The law extends these rights to all citizens.

Village councils handled many civil and criminal matters, but the councils varied considerably in decision-making styles and the number of matai involved in decisions. The law recognizes the decisions of the local council and provides for limited appeal to the Lands and Titles Court and the Supreme Court. The nature and severity of a dispute determines which court receives an appeal. Defendants may make a further appeal to the Court of Appeal. A Supreme Court ruling stipulates that local councils may not infringe upon villagers’ freedom of religion, speech, assembly, or association. Village councils, however, consistently ignored this ruling.

An amendment to the law on village councils in January sought to ensure that the powers exercised by the village council are in line with the constitution. The amendment provides more detail on what is a punishable offense and steps to be taken to carry out a punishment.

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 the courts.

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

The laws prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. There was little privacy in villages, where there could be substantial societal pressure on residents to grant village officials access to their homes without a warrant. There were reports some village councils banished individuals or families from villages.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. The maximum penalty for corruption is 14 years’ imprisonment. There were reports of government corruption.

The law provides for an ombudsman to investigate complaints against government agencies, officials, or employees, including allegations of corruption. The ombudsman may require the government to provide information relating to a complaint. The Attorney General’s Office prosecutes criminal corruption cases on behalf of the Public Service Commission. The Ombudsman’s Office and the Public Service Commission operated effectively. The Ombudsman’s Office included academics and other members of civil society among the members of its commissions of inquiry.

Corruption: There was public discontent throughout the year at significant delays in the submission of annual audit reports to parliament and the lack of punitive action. For example the controller and auditor general’s reports to parliament from 2013 to 2016 were only submitted to parliament in December 2016.

Financial Disclosure: Although there are no financial disclosure laws, codes of ethics applicable to boards of directors of government-owned corporations encouraged public officials to follow similar disclosure.

San Marino

Executive Summary

The Republic of San Marino is a multiparty democracy. The popularly elected, unicameral Great and General Council (parliament) selects two of its members to serve as captains regent (co-heads of state). They preside over meetings of the council and the Congress of State (cabinet), which has no more than 10 other members (secretaries of state), selected by the council. Observers considered the parliamentary elections in 2016 to be generally free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included corruption charges against former senior elected officials.

The government took steps to investigate and punish officials accused of abuses.

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

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

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

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 Civil Police operate under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The captains regent control the gendarmerie and National Guard (military corps) when they are performing duties related to public order and security. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs exercises control over such administrative functions as personnel and equipment, and the court exercises control over the gendarmerie when it acts as judicial police. The Military Congress enforces military discipline.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Civil Police, the gendarmerie, and the National Guard, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The commissioner of the law investigated and prosecuted criminal activity in the country, including any killings by security forces. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by a duly authorized official are required for authorities to apprehend persons other than those whom they caught and arrested during the commission of an alleged crime. Authorities did not detain individuals without judicial authorization or in secret. Police promptly informed detainees of charges against them. There was a well functioning bail system. Authorities provided detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice and to family members. The state provided legal assistance to indigent persons, and there were no reports of limitations to this provision. The law provides for an apprehended person to be detained in prison or a treatment facility or under house arrest. The person may be ordered also to remain in the country while their case is pending trial. There were no reports that authorities detained or held persons incommunicado.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides a detainee the right to a judicial determination of the legality of the detention, and authorities generally respected this right. A person who is arrested or detained may appeal before the criminal judge of appeal within 10 days from notification or execution of the relevant measure. The decision of the criminal judge of appeal can be challenged within 30 days before the highest judge of appeal, who decides on the legitimacy of the measure. A person who has been arrested or detained may obtain prompt release if found to have been 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 and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law provides for the presumption of innocence and requires authorities to inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them. Defendants have the right to a fair, public trial without undue delay. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney during every stage of the investigation. Indigent defendants have the right to an attorney provided at public expense. A single judge presides over trials. Defendants have the right to adequate time to prepare a defense. Free language interpretation is provided throughout the legal process. Defendants may question witnesses against them, and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Authorities may not compel defendants to testify or to confess guilt. Defendants have the right to two levels of appeal. The law extends these rights to all persons, and no groups were denied these rights.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. Administrative as well as judicial remedies exist for alleged wrongs, including human rights violations. Citizens may appeal cases involving alleged violations by the government of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights after they have exhausted all routes for appeal in the 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 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively.

Corruption: There were some reports of government corruption during the year. On June 29, the Court of First Instance sentenced 17 persons, most of them former leading politicians (eight ministers and five heads of state) for corruption, bribery, money laundering, and similar crimes.

Financial Disclosure: There is no specific financial disclosure requirement for public officials. The law requires candidates running for an elected office to disclose their income from the previous year as well as any assets or investments in companies.

Sao Tome and Principe

Executive Summary

The Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe is a multiparty constitutional democracy. In August 2016 voters elected President Evaristo do Espirito Santo Carvalho as head of state. The Independent Democratic Action (ADI) party of Prime Minister Patrice Emery Trovoada won 33 of 55 National Assembly seats in legislative elections held in 2014. International observers deemed both elections free and fair. The government delayed local elections scheduled for 2017 until 2018 due to lack of funds.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included harsh prison conditions; police beating of arrestees; threats to freedom of expression, including for the press; official corruption; and child labor.

While the government took some steps to investigate and prosecute officials who committed abuses, authorities rarely punished those officials, and impunity was a problem.

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

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

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention. They provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court and obtain prompt release and compensation if unlawfully detained, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Defense and Internal Administration has responsibility for the military, which is composed of the army and coast guard. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for the national police, immigration service, and customs police. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights has responsibility for the criminal investigation police. Many citizens continued to view police as ineffective and corrupt.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over national police, customs and immigration authorities, and the military. While the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, impunity was a problem. There were reports of police mistreatment of persons upon arrest, although no reliable statistics were available.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires police to have arrest warrants issued by a judge to apprehend suspects, unless the suspect is caught committing a crime. The law also requires a legal determination within 48 hours of detention, and authorities generally respected this requirement. Authorities informed detainees promptly of charges against them and allowed them access to family members. Authorities allowed detainees prompt access to a lawyer and, if they could not afford one, the state provided one. During the year a nongovernmental organization (NGO) reported that authorities asked detainees if they paid taxes, and if they answered no, denied them access to a lawyer. The Human Rights Committee denied there were any restrictions on a detainee’s right to a state-provided lawyer if he/she was unable to afford one. There was a functioning bail system.

Pretrial Detention: According to the director of the prison, approximately 33 percent of inmates were pretrial detainees, three times the number in 2016. Lengthy pretrial detention continued to be a problem in some criminal cases. Due to overcrowding the prison held pretrial detainees together with convicted criminals.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judicial system was subject to political influence or manipulation. Prosecutors appeared not to pursue cases against politically well-connected individuals.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial. Under a judicial system based on the Portuguese model, a judge rather than a jury tries the accused. The constitution provides for the right of appeal, the right to legal representation, and, if a person is indigent, the right to an attorney provided by the state. The law presumes defendants to be innocent. They have the right to be present at their trial, confront their accusers, confront witnesses, and present evidence and witnesses on their own behalf. Defendants reportedly received adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. They were not compelled to testify or confess guilt. Authorities must inform defendants in detail of the charges against them within 48 hours of arrest and provide them with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals.

The law extends these rights to all citizens, and authorities generally respected these rights.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The same court considers both criminal and civil cases but uses different procedures depending on the type of case. Plaintiffs may bring lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations; there are also administrative remedies for alleged wrongs. There is no regional body, however, to which individuals and organizations may appeal adverse court rulings.

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 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, although the government generally did not implement the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: The World Bank’s most recent Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a problem. Many citizens viewed police as ineffective and corrupt. The court reportedly refused to consider a complaint against a government official alleging misuse of funds.

Financial Disclosure: The law does not require public officials to disclose their assets or income, but it permits such disclosures. Public disclosure of these financial statements, however, rarely occurred.

Saudi Arabia

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is both head of state and head of government. The government bases its legitimacy on its interpretation of sharia (Islamic law) and the 1992 Basic Law, which specifies that the rulers of the country shall be male descendants of the founder, King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud. The Basic Law sets out the system of governance, rights of citizens, powers and duties of the government, and provides that the Quran and Sunna (the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad) serve as the country’s constitution. In 2015 the country held municipal elections on a nonparty basis for two-thirds of the 3,159 seats in the 284 municipal councils around the country. Information on whether the elections met international standards was not available, but independent polling station observers identified no significant irregularities with the elections. For the first time, women were allowed to vote and run as candidates.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included unlawful killings, including execution for other than the most serious offenses and without requisite due process; torture; arbitrary arrest and detention, including of lawyers, human rights activists, and antigovernment reformists; political prisoners; arbitrary interference with privacy; restrictions on freedom of expression, including on the internet, and criminalization of libel; restrictions on freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, movement, and religion; citizens’ lack of ability and legal means to choose their government through free and fair elections; trafficking in persons; violence and official gender discrimination against women, although new women’s rights initiatives were announced; and criminalization of same sex sexual activity.

Beginning in November the government detained approximately 200 government officials, businesspersons, and royal family members ostensibly to investigate allegations of widespread corruption. According to media reports, members of the security forces coerced with relative impunity at least some of the detainees to the point of requiring medical care.

The country continued air operations in Yemen as leader of a military coalition formed in 2015 to counter the 2014 forceful takeover of the Republic of Yemen’s government institutions and facilities by Houthi militias and security forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen resulted in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure on multiple occasions, and the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, reported that some coalition airstrikes caused disproportionate collateral damage. Houthi-Saleh militias regularly conducted cross-border raids into Saudi territory and fired missiles and artillery into southern Saudi Arabia throughout the year, killing Saudi civilians. The coalition’s Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT), established by the Saudi government and based in Riyadh, investigated allegations of civilian casualties, published recommendations, and in some cases provided compensation to affected families, although no prosecutions occurred.

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 allegations the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. On February 26, Saudi police arrested 35 transgender Pakistanis at a party in Riyadh; one of them, Mohammed Amin, died while in police custody. A Pakistani transgender rights activist claimed Amin’s death was the result of torture. Riyadh police said the cause of death was a heart attack.

Under the country’s interpretation and practice of sharia, capital punishment can be imposed for a range of nonviolent offenses, including apostasy, sorcery, and adultery, although in practice death sentences for such offenses were rare and often reduced on appeal. The government, however, frequently implemented capital punishment for nonviolent drug trafficking offenses. According to the governmental Saudi Press Agency, the country carried out 141 executions during the year, 59 of which were for drug-related offenses. On June 1, the United Kingdom-based human rights group Reprieve reported that 41 percent of executions in the first five months of the year were for nonviolent crimes.

Since the country lacks a formal written penal code listing criminal offenses and the associated penalties for them (see section 1.e.), punishment–including the imposition of capital punishment–is subject to considerable judicial discretion in the courts. Defendants are able to appeal their sentences. The law requires a five-judge appellate court to affirm a death sentence, which a five-judge panel of the Supreme Court must unanimously affirm. Appellate courts may recommend changes to a sentence, including increasing a lesser sentence to the death penalty.

Defendants possess no right under the law to seek a pardon or commutation of a death sentence for all crimes. The law of criminal procedure states that a victim’s heirs may grant a pardon for private crimes but that the king may issue a pardon “on pardonable matters” for public crimes only. The king generally issues such pardons annually during the holy month of Ramadan, in advance of which the Ministry of Interior publishes a list of terms and conditions defining eligibility to receive a royal pardon (see section 1.d.). The stated conditions generally exclude specific criminal categories, such as those convicted of crimes involving state security.

Many of the executions implemented during the year applied to individuals whose trials did not meet international minimum fair trial standards, according to Amnesty International. Amnesty International also claimed that “those sentenced to death are often convicted solely on the basis of ‘confessions’ obtained under torture and other mistreatment, denied legal representation in trials which are held in secret, and are not kept informed of the progress of the legal proceedings in their case.”

On July 11, authorities executed four individuals–Amjad al-Moaibad, Yusuf al-Mushaikhas, Zaher al-Basri, and Mahdi al-Sayegh–on terrorism-related charges connected to the 2011-12 protests in the Eastern Province. Human rights organizations reported their convictions were based on confessions extracted through prolonged solitary confinement and torture. Local and international human rights organizations noted that the trial before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) lacked transparency and did not adhere to minimum fair trial standards.

On July 27, the SCC’s appellate division upheld the death sentences issued in December 2016 to 15 individuals accused of spying for Iran, according to Saudi newspaper Arab News. Human rights organizations claimed their trial was characterized by a lack of transparency and multiple due process violations.

The government also imposed death sentences for crimes committed by minors. According to numerous human rights organizations, at least nine individuals currently on death row were minors at the time they committed offenses. Other sources claimed some of these individuals may have been over the age of 18 according to the Hijri calendar, which Saudi courts use to determine dates and age. In August the Supreme Court upheld the SCC’s July 2016 death sentence for Abdulkareem al-Hawaj for crimes he allegedly committed in 2012 at age 16, including “throwing two Molotov cocktails,” “participating in riots that resulted in the shooting of an armored vehicle,” “participating in illegal gatherings,” “chanting against the state,” and using social media “to insult the leaders,” according to Amnesty International. Hawaj remained on death row.

In 2015 the Supreme Court affirmed the 2014 death sentence for Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, who was convicted of crimes he allegedly committed when he was 17. Al-Nimr was charged with protesting, making and throwing Molotov cocktails at police, aiding and abetting fugitives, attempting to attack security vehicles, encouraging others to participate in protests, and involvement with individuals who possessed and distributed ammunition. As of September the execution had not been carried out. Human rights organizations reported due process concerns relating to minimum fair trial standards, including allegations that authorities arrested al-Nimr without a warrant, obtained a confession using torture, and repeatedly denied him access to his lawyer during the sentencing and appeals process. Al-Nimr is the nephew of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was executed in 2016 after being convicted of criticizing officials, disobeying the ruler, inciting sectarian strife, and encouraging, leading, and participating in violent demonstrations.

There were terrorist attacks in the country during the year. For example, a judge in Qatif governorate, Mohammed al-Jirani, was kidnapped in December 2016 and later killed. Security forces found his body during a raid on December 19.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law provides that no entity may restrict a person’s actions or imprison a person, except under the provisions of the law. The law of criminal procedure provides that authorities may not detain a person for more than 24 hours, except pursuant to a written order from a public investigator. Authorities must inform the detained person of the reasons for detention. Regardless, the Ministry of Interior and the State Security Presidency (SSP), to which the majority of forces with arrest powers reported, maintained broad authority in law and in practice to arrest and detain persons indefinitely without judicial oversight, notification of charges against them, or effective access to legal counsel or family. Authorities held persons for months and sometimes years without charge or trial and reportedly failed to advise them promptly of their rights, including their legal right to be represented by an attorney. Under the law of criminal procedure, detentions can be extended administratively for up to six months at the discretion of the PPO.

Under the 2017 counterterrorism law, the PPO may order the detention of any person accused of a crime under that law for a period, or successive periods not exceeding 30 days each, and in total not more than 12 months. The SCC must authorize periods of detention of more than 12 months. In practice the United Nations and international human rights organizations documented numerous cases of detention that reportedly exceeded the maximum allowable period under the law.

By law defendants accused of any crime cited in the law are entitled to hire a practicing lawyer to defend themselves before the court “within an adequate period of time to be decided by the investigatory body.”

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

In June, King Salman issued two royal decrees that created the PPO (formerly the Bureau of Investigations and Public Prosecution or BIPP), established as its head Attorney General Saud bin Abdullah bin Mubarak al-Mu’jab, and directed the newly named agency to report directly to the king (rather than the Ministry of Interior, to which the BIPP had reported). Saudi officials said these changes would increase the independence and effectiveness of the lead prosecutorial office.

According to the law of criminal procedure, “no person shall be arrested, searched, detained, or imprisoned except in cases provided by law, and any accused person shall have the right to seek the assistance of a lawyer or a representative to defend him during the investigation and trial stages.” By law authorities may summon any person for investigation and may issue an arrest warrant based on evidence. In practice authorities frequently did not use warrants, and warrants were not required under the law in all cases.

The law requires authorities to file charges within 72 hours of arrest and hold a trial within six months, subject to exceptions specified by amendments to the law of criminal procedure and the counterterrorism law (see section 2.a.). Authorities may not legally detain a person under arrest for more than 24 hours, except pursuant to a written order from a public investigator. Authorities reportedly often failed to observe these legal protections, and there was no requirement to advise suspects of their rights. There were also reports that authorities did not allow legal counsel access to detainees who were under investigation in pretrial detention. Judicial proceedings begin after authorities complete a full investigation, which in some cases took years.

The law of criminal procedure specifies procedures required for extending the detention period of an accused person beyond the initial five days. Authorities may approve official detentions in excess of six months in “exceptional circumstances,” effectively allowing individuals to be held in pretrial detention indefinitely. Authorities may also extend from three months to six months the deadline for the PPO to gather evidence against the accused and issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest, summons, or detention.

There is a functioning bail system for less serious criminal charges. Detainees generally did not have the right to obtain a lawyer of their choice. The government provided lawyers to defendants who make a formal application to the Ministry of Justice to receive a court-appointed lawyer and prove their inability to pay for their legal representation. Detained human rights activists often did not trust the courts to appoint lawyers for them due to concern the lawyer would be biased. The law contains no provision for the right to be informed of the protections guaranteed under the law.

Incommunicado detention was sometimes a problem. Authorities reportedly did not always respect a detainees’ right to contact family members following detention, and the counterterrorism law allows the investigatory body to hold a defendant for up to 90 days in detention without access to family members or legal counsel, and the SCC may extend such restrictions beyond this period. Security and some other types of prisoners sometimes remained in prolonged solitary detention before family members or associates received information of their whereabouts, particularly for detainees in Mabahith-run facilities.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports of arbitrary arrest and detention. During the year authorities detained security suspects, persons who publicly criticized the government, Shia religious leaders, and persons who violated religious standards, without charge.

On June 1, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) issued an opinion finding that security services had detained Eastern Province resident Salim Abdullah Hussain Abu Abdullah without charge for more than two years and used torture to coerce him into confessing to crimes he did not commit.

On February 6, the WGAD issued an opinion expressing concerns over due process in the cases against Ali al-Nimr (see section 1.a.), Abdullah al-Zaher, and Dawood al-Marhoon (upheld by the Supreme Court in 2015). The statement noted that the WGAD “is alarmed by the fact that the three minors were prosecuted and sentenced based upon laws which were only enacted two years after the time of their arrest. Such a retroactive application of the law is in clear contravention of the principle of legality and depriving the three of liberty arbitrarily.”

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. In August the PPO found during inspections of prisons and detention centers across the kingdom that more than 2,000 individuals remained in detention without charge or trial since 2014. The attorney general ordered the cases be immediately examined, and the majority of detainees were reportedly released on bail. The attorney general also asked the courts to find an appropriate legal remedy for the affected individuals.

There was no current information available on the percentage of the prison population in pretrial detention or the average length of time held. Local human rights activists knew of dozens of cases and reportedly received regular reports from families claiming authorities held their relatives arbitrarily or without notification of charges.

During the year the SSP stated it had detained numerous individuals for terrorist acts. On January 31, local media reported there were 5,094 detainees in intelligence prisons across the kingdom, of whom 84 percent were Saudis.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Under the law detainees are not entitled to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court. In the case of wrongful detention, the law of criminal procedure, as well as provisions of the counterterrorism law, provide for the right to compensation if detainees are found to have been held unlawfully.

Amnesty: The law of criminal procedure stipulates that the king may issue a pardon “on pardonable matters” for public crimes only. The law of criminal procedure also states that a victim’s heirs may grant a pardon for private crimes. The Ministry of Interior publishes the conditions for royal pardons annually, and these generally exclude specific crime categories such as murder or drug smuggling, or those convicted of crimes involving state security. Under the country’s interpretation of sharia, there are three broad categories of offenses: (1) huddud or “boundary” crimes, which are explicitly enumerated in the Quran and whose corresponding punishments are also prescribed; these are considered crimes against God and thus not pardonable; (2) qisas or “legal retribution crimes,” which involve murder or intentional bodily harm and give the victim’s family or legal heirs the private right to legal retribution; the victim’s family or legal heirs may grant a pardon in exchange for financial compensation (diya or “blood money,); and (3) crimes that do not reach the level of huddud or qisas and which are left to the discretion of the state (judge). Ta’azir or “discretionary” punishments are issued for crimes against public rights; this is the most frequently used basis for conviction.

The king continued the tradition of commuting some judicial punishments. Royal pardons sometimes set aside a conviction and sometimes reduced or eliminated corporal punishment. The remaining sentence could be added to a new sentence if the pardoned prisoner committed a crime subsequent to release.

Authorities did not detain some individuals who had received prison sentences. The counterterrorism law allows the PPO to stop proceedings against an individual who cooperates with investigations or helps thwart a planned terrorist attack. The law authorizes the SSP to release individuals already convicted.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides that judges are independent and not subject to any authority other than the provisions of sharia and the laws in force. Nevertheless, the judiciary, the PPO, and the SSP were not independent entities, as they were required to coordinate their decisions with executive authorities, with the king and crown prince as arbiters. Although public allegations of interference with judicial independence were rare, the judiciary reportedly was subject to influence, particularly in the case of legal decisions rendered by specialized judicial bodies, such as the SCC, which rarely acquitted suspects. Human rights activists reported that SCC judges received implicit instructions to issue harsh sentences against human rights activists, reformers, journalists, and dissidents not engaged in violent activities. Activists also reported that judicial and prosecutorial authorities ignored due process-related complaints, including lack of access by lawyers to their clients at critical stages of the judicial process, particularly during the pretrial/investigation phase.

There were reports during the year of extrajudicial detentions of senior members of the royal family and businesspersons. On November 4, King Salman issued a royal decree forming a new Supreme Anti-Corruption Committee. The royal decree exempted committee members–which included the crown prince, attorney general, and head of the SSP–from “all laws, regulations, instructions, orders, and decisions” that would impede anticorruption efforts. During the course of the campaign, which was ongoing at year’s end, the government announced the detention of more than 200 individuals. Some of them reportedly negotiated financial settlements in exchange for their release, and it was expected that a number of others would instead elect to go to trial. At year’s end no public trials had taken place.

On July 19, King Salman ordered the arrest and interrogation of Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed bin Saud bin Abdulaziz after a video emerged purporting to show the prince beating another person. In 2016 authorities executed Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir after he was found guilty of murder.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

In the judicial system, there is no published case law on criminal matters, no uniform criminal code, no presumption of innocence, and no doctrine of stare decisis that binds judges to follow legal precedent. The law states that defendants should be treated equally in accordance with sharia. The Council of Senior Scholars (CSS), or the ulema, an autonomous advisory body, issues religious opinions (fatwas) that guide how judges interpret sharia.

In the absence of a penal code detailing all criminal offenses and punishments, judges in the courts determine many of these penalties through their interpretations of sharia, which varied according to the judge and the circumstances of the case. Because judges have considerable discretion in decision making, rulings and sentences diverged widely from case to case.

Several laws, however, provide sentencing requirements for crimes including terrorism, cybercrimes, trafficking in persons, and domestic abuse. In December 2016 the Ministry of Justice completed a compilation of previous decisions that judges could refer to as a point of reference in making rulings and assigning sentences.

According to law appeals courts cannot independently reverse lower court judgments; they are limited to affirming judgments or returning them to a lower court for modification. Even when judges did not affirm judgments, appeals judges in some cases remanded the judgment to the judge who originally authored the opinion. This procedure sometimes made it difficult for parties to receive a ruling that differed from the original judgment in cases where judges hesitated to admit error. While judges may base their decisions on any of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, all of which are represented in the CSS, the Hanbali school predominates and forms the basis for the country’s law and legal interpretations of sharia. Shia citizens use their legal traditions to adjudicate family law cases between Shia parties, although either party can decide to adjudicate a case in state courts, which use Sunni legal tradition.

While the law states that court hearings shall be public, courts may be closed at the judge’s discretion. As a result, many trials during the year were closed. Foreign diplomatic missions were able to obtain permission to attend some nonconsular court proceedings (that is, cases to which neither the host country nor any of its nationals were a party; diplomatic missions are generally allowed to attend consular proceedings of their own nationals), and they did so throughout the year. To attend, authorities required diplomats to obtain advance written approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the court administration, and the presiding judge. Authorities sometimes did not permit entry to such trials to individuals other than diplomats who were not the legal agents or family members of the accused. SCC officials sometimes prevented individuals from attending trial sessions for seemingly trivial reasons, such as banning female relatives or diplomats from attending due to the absence of women officers to conduct security inspections of the women upon entry to the courtroom. According to the Ministry of Justice, authorities may close a trial depending on the sensitivity of the case to national security, the reputation of the defendant, or the safety of witnesses.

Representatives of the HRC, the Ministry of Justice, and sometimes representatives of the media regularly attended trials at the SCC.

Amendments to the law of criminal procedure in 2013 strengthened provisions stating that authorities will offer defendants a lawyer at government expense. In August the Ministry of Justice stated that defendants “enjoy all judicial guarantees they are entitled to, including the right to seek the assistance of lawyers of their choosing to defend them, while the ministry pays the lawyer’s fees when the accused is not able to settle them.” Human rights activists, however, reported that the process for applying for a court-appointed lawyer was difficult and cumbersome. Many said they were not able or allowed to retain an attorney or consult with their attorneys during critical stages of the investigatory and trial proceedings.

The law provides defendants the right to be present at trial and to consult with an attorney during the trial. The counterterrorism law, however, authorizes the attorney general to limit the right of defendants accused of terrorism to access legal representation while under investigation “whenever the interests of the investigation so require.” There is no right to discovery, nor can defendants view their own file or the minutes from their interrogation. Defendants also have the right to call and cross-examine witnesses under the law; however, activists reported that SCC judges could decide to restrict this right in “the interests of the case.” The law provides that a PPO-appointed investigator questions the witnesses called by the defendant during the investigation phase before the initiation of a trial and may hear testimony of additional witnesses he deems necessary to determine the facts. Authorities may not subject a defendant to any coercive measures or compel the taking of an oath. The court must inform convicted persons of their right to appeal rulings.

The law does not provide for a right against self-incrimination.

The law does not provide free interpretation services, although they were often provided in practice. The law of criminal procedure provides that “the court should seek the assistance of interpreters,” but it does not obligate the court to do so from the moment the defendant is charged, nor does the law specify that the state will bear the costs of such services.

While sharia as interpreted by the government applies to all citizens and noncitizens, the law and practice discriminate against women, noncitizens, nonpracticing Sunni, Shia, and persons of other religions. For example, in most cases a woman’s testimony before a court counts as only half that of a man’s. Judges may discount the testimony of nonpracticing Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, or persons of other religions; sources reported that judges sometimes completely disregarded or refused to hear testimony by Shia.

Among many reports of abuses or violations of due process rights was that of Mohammed al-Otaiby, a founding member of the Union for Human Rights (known in Arabic as “al-Ittihad”). In December 2016 authorities began prosecuting Otaiby at the SCC for statements he allegedly made on social media and for his alleged role in the establishment of an unlicensed human rights organization, according to media and NGO reporting. NGOs argued that he was unable to receive a fair trial at the SCC because he could not challenge the competence of the terrorism court to hear his case. In May he reportedly fled to Qatar to seek political asylum in a third country. Norway reportedly granted him political asylum, but Qatari authorities detained him at Doha airport and deported him to Saudi Arabia. Otaiby’s case was pending before the SCC at year’s end.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The government maintained there were no political prisoners, including detainees who reportedly remained in prolonged detention without charge, while local activists and human rights organizations claimed there were “hundreds” or “thousands.”

In many cases it was impossible to determine the legal basis for incarceration and whether the detention complied with international norms and standards. Those who remained imprisoned after trial, including persons who were political activists openly critical of the government, were often convicted of terrorism-related crimes. During the year the SCC tried political and human rights activists for actions unrelated to terrorism, violence, or espionage against the state. UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and countering terrorism Ben Emmerson stated in May that he “received numerous reports about prosecution, on the basis of this [counterterrorism] law, of human rights defenders, writers, bloggers and journalists in connection with their expression of nonviolent views. Despite repeated requests and efforts from the special rapporteur, the [Saudi Arabian] government was unable to give access to any of the individuals whose names he provided to be interviewed.”

International NGOs, the United Nations, and others criticized the government for abusing its antiterrorism prerogatives to detain or arrest some dissidents or critics of the government or royal family on security-related grounds who had not espoused or committed violence. High-profile prisoners were generally treated well. Authorities restricted attorneys’ access to all detainees, and no international humanitarian organizations had access to them.

On July 31, the SCC’s appellate division upheld the eight-year prison sentence followed by an eight-year ban on using social media and a travel ban of equal duration imposed on Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) founding member Abdulaziz al-Shobaily, according to multiple human rights organizations. In May 2016 the SCC initially sentenced him on charges related to his role in establishing a human rights organization. According to Amnesty International and HRW, the charges included “inciting public opinion against the rulers of this country,” persisting in “not abiding by judicial decision to abolish ACPRA,” “describing the ruling Saudi state–unjustly and wrongly–as a police state,” and “communicating with foreign organizations” by providing Amnesty International with information for use in two of its reports.

At the end of the year, nonviolent activist and blogger Raif Badawi remained imprisoned in Jeddah. Authorities sentenced Badawi in 2014 to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes on charges related to insulting Islam (see section 2.a.).

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Complainants claiming human rights violations generally sought assistance from the HRC or the NSHR, which either advocated on their behalf or provided courts with opinions on their cases. The HRC generally responded to complaints and could refer cases to the PPO; domestic violence cases were the most common. Individuals or organizations may petition directly for damages or government action to end human rights violations before the Board of Grievances, except in compensation cases related to state security wherein the SCC handles remediation. The counterterrorism law contains a provision allowing detainees in Mabahith-run prisons to request financial compensation from the Ministry of Interior/SSP for wrongful detention beyond their prison terms.

In some cases the government did not carry out judicially ordered compensation for unlawful detentions in a timely manner.

In August the Ministry of Justice issued a press release stating that “[…] the accused enjoy all judicial guarantees they are entitled to, including the right to seek the assistance of lawyers of their choosing to defend them, while the Ministry [of Justice] pays the lawyer’s fees when the accused is not able to settle them. Security detainees held in accordance with the 2017 Counterterrorism Law (CT Law) are entitled “to seek the assistance of a lawyer or legal agent,” but the Attorney General may restrict this right during the investigation “whenever the interests of the investigation so require.” The UN and international NGOs reported that security detainees were denied access to legal counsel during pretrial detention during the reporting period.

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

The law prohibits unlawful intrusions into the privacy of persons, their homes, places of work, and vehicles. Criminal investigation officers are required to maintain records of all searches conducted; these records should contain the name of the officer conducting the search, the text of the search warrant (or an explanation of the urgency that necessitated the search without a warrant), and the names and signatures of the persons who were present at the time of search. While the law also provides for the privacy of all mail, telegrams, telephone conversations, and other means of communication, the government did not respect the privacy of correspondence or communications and used the considerable latitude provided by law to monitor activities legally and intervene where it deemed necessary.

There were reports from human rights activists of governmental monitoring or blocking of mobile telephone or internet usage before planned demonstrations. The government strictly monitored politically related activities and took punitive actions, including arrest and detention, against persons engaged in certain political activities, such as calling for a constitutional monarchy, direct public criticism of senior members of the royal family by name, forming a political party, or organizing a demonstration. Customs officials reportedly routinely opened mail and shipments to search for contraband. In some areas Ministry of Interior/SSP informants allegedly reported “seditious ideas,” “antigovernment activity,” or “behavior contrary to Islam” in their neighborhoods.

The counterterrorism law allows the Ministry of Interior/SSP to access a terrorism suspect’s private communications as well as banking information in a manner inconsistent with the legal protections provided by the law of criminal procedure.

The CPVPV monitored and regulated public interaction between members of the opposite sex.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

In 2015 Saudi officials announced the formation of a coalition to counter the 2014 attempted overthrow of the Yemeni government by militias of the Ansar Allah movement (also known colloquially as “Houthis”) and forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Membership in the coalition included the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, and Senegal. The Saudi-led coalition conducted air and ground operations in Yemen throughout 2015, 2016, and during the year.

Killings: The United Nations, NGOs, media, and humanitarian and other international organizations reported what they characterized as disproportionate use of force by all parties to the conflict in Yemen, including the Saudi-led coalition. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that between March 2015 and December 14, an estimated 5,558 civilians had been killed and 9,065 injured as result of the war in Yemen, without noting responsibility.

Coalition airstrikes resulted in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure on multiple occasions. An airstrike on a guesthouse in Arhab, Yemen, on August 23 killed at least 60 persons and another in Faj Attan, on August 25, killed at least 14, with dozens more wounded, according to international media reports.

The government established the JIAT in 2016 to identify lessons and corrective actions and to cue national accountability mechanisms, as appropriate. The Riyadh-based group consisted of military and civilian members from coalition member states who investigated allegations of civilian casualties as well as claims by international organizations that humanitarian aid convoys and infrastructure were targeted by the coalition.

On August 26, the JIAT released a statement concerning the August 25 incident in Faj Attan, stating, “implementation procedures and the presence of a technical mistake was the cause” of the incident. The JIAT had publicly announced the results of 15 investigations during the year.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Yemeni rebels conducted cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia, including launching more than 40,000 projectiles into Saudi territory since March 2015, destroying hospitals, schools, homes, and other infrastructure. On November 4 and December 19, Houthi militias launched ballistic missiles from Yemen that reached Riyadh. In response the Saudi-led coalition blocked all imports, including humanitarian aid, at all Yemini air and sea ports and land border crossings. On November 25, the coalition began opening some ports and all land border crossings to allow limited access to aid supplies. On December 20, the coalition announced it would allow the entry of ships carrying humanitarian and commercial cargo, including food and fuel vessels, to the key rebel-held port of Hudaydah for a period of 30 days.

There were continuing reports of restrictions on the free passage of relief supplies and of humanitarian organizations’ access to individuals most in need, perpetrated by all sides in the conflict, including the Saudi-led coalition. Some media reported the Yemeni government and/or the Saudi-led coalition delayed or denied clearance permits for humanitarian and commercial aid shipments bound for rebel-held Red Sea ports, particularly Hudaydah port. Aid agencies, including some affiliated with the United Nations, continued to advocate with the Saudi-led coalition for Sana’a International Airport to be reopened to commercial flights for the purposes of allowing patients to seek medical treatment abroad.

For additional details, including additional information on the Saudi-led coalition’s operations in Yemen, see the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights for Yemen.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption. Some officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and perceptions of corruption persisted in some sectors. Government employees who accept bribes face 10 years in prison or fines up to one million riyals ($267,000).

The National Anticorruption Commission (“Nazaha”), established by former king Abdullah in 2011, is responsible for promoting transparency and combating all forms of financial and administrative corruption. The relationship between Nazaha and the newly established Supreme Anti-Corruption Committee was unclear. Nazaha’s ministerial-level director reported directly to the king. In 2015 the Shura Council censured Nazaha for its failure to refer for investigation a sufficient number of corruption cases. The council also stated that the public did not believe Nazaha could handle its responsibility to investigate and punish corruption. The Control and Investigation Board remains responsible for investigating financial malfeasance, and the PPO has the lead on all criminal investigations. The HRC also responded to and researched complaints of corruption.

Provincial governors and other members of the royal family paid compensation to victims of corruption during weekly majlis meetings where citizens raised complaints.

Corruption: Nazaha continued operations and referred cases of possible public corruption to the PPO. It referred the Minister of Civil Service Khaled al-Araj for investigation over allegations of abuse of power and nepotism. In November 2016 Nazaha announced it found irregularities in the appointment of al-Araj’s son to the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials were not subject to financial disclosure laws.

Serbia

Executive Summary

The Republic of Serbia is a constitutional, multiparty, parliamentary democracy. The country held extraordinary parliamentary elections in 2016 and presidential elections in 2017. International observers stated that the elections were mostly free but that both campaign periods were tilted to benefit progovernment candidates. In April Aleksandar Vucic, chairman of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), was elected president, winning approximately 55 percent of the vote.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included lack of judicial independence; corruption; interference with privacy; trafficking in persons; and societal violence against LGBTI persons.

The legal framework for the right to reparation for victims of human rights violations committed during the 1990s remained inadequate, and the war crimes prosecutor made little progress on cases.

The government took steps to prosecute officials, both in the police force and elsewhere in the government, following public exposure of abuses. Nevertheless, many observers believed numerous cases of corruption, social and domestic violence, and other abuses went unreported and unpunished.

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.

Throughout the year, the government continued to discuss publicly the 1999 disappearance and murder of Ylli, Agron, and Mehmet Bytyqi, three Kosovar-American brothers taken into custody by Serb paramilitary groups. Senior Serbian officials made claims that new evidence was found in the case. Despite this, the government made no significant progress toward providing justice for the victims.

Related to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre (the Srebrenica-Kravica case), in 2015, the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office filed an indictment against eight former members of the Ministry of Interior of Republika Srpska for the alleged murder of more than 1,000 Bosniak civilians in Kravica, Bosnia, in 1995. The indictment was raised in January 2016, but on July 13, following the appeal of the defense attorney, the Appellate Court in Belgrade dismissed the indictment because it was filed when neither a new war crimes prosecutor (WCP) had been appointed, nor an acting prosecutor was in place. Former war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic retired in 2015 and the new prosecutor, Snezana Stanojkovic, was not appointed until May2017. The newly elected WCP, Stanojkovic, filed a motion on July 17 requesting the continuation of proceedings against the defendants, but on August 3, the Belgrade High Court War Crimes Department ruled that there were no procedural conditions (i.e., no new indictment) to continue the proceedings. The High Court’s ruling explained that the continuation request was filed under an indictment rejected by the Appellate Court in Belgrade, making the indictment a “formally nonexistent act.” The proceedings could not be continued unless a new indictment was filed.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions. Persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other charges, 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.

A television documentary series titled Dokaz discussed concerns about the presumption of innocence, alleging that more than 20,000 days of unfounded detention were imposed each year. The series was produced with the support of the EU and the Ministry of Culture and Information of Serbia.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The country’s approximately 32,000 police officers are under the authority of the Ministry of Interior. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the five main departments that supervise 27 regional police directorates reporting to the national government. Despite efforts by prosecutors and police to tackle corruption, abuse, and fraud, significant problems and abuses in these areas remained. There was no specialized governmental body to examine killings at the hands of the security forces. The police, the Security Information Agency (BIA), and the Directorate for the Enforcement of Penal Sanctions examined such cases through internal audits.

The effectiveness of the police force varied. While most officers were ethnic Serbs, the force included Bosniaks (Slavic Muslims), ethnic Hungarians, ethnic Montenegrins, a small number of ethnic Albanians, and other minorities, including Roma.

Police corruption and impunity were problems. During the year experts from civil society noted that the quality of police internal investigations continued to improve, primarily because of the implementation of the new criminal procedure code. In the first eight months of the year, the Ministry of Interior’s Sector of Internal Control filed four criminal charges against police officers due to reasonable suspicion that they had committed a crime of abuse and torture; three criminal charges were filed for illegal arrest; and one criminal charge for inflicting severe body injury. During the same period, the ministry’s Internal Control office filed 88 criminal charges against 107 individuals for 125 crimes; 81 were police officers and 26 were civilians.

After masked men illegally bulldozed residential and commercial buildings in Belgrade’s Savamala neighborhood in April 2016, then ombudsman Sasa Jankovic released a report that alleged police deliberately did not respond to witness requests for assistance and alleged other police misconduct. On July 7, the High Prosecution in Belgrade announced it had transferred the 2016 Savamala case to the First Basic Public Prosecution, stating that any potential criminal activity in the case would fall under the jurisdiction of the Basic Prosecutor’s Office. As of year’s end, there was no public report of progress in the investigation. On October 2, the Serbian Crime and Corruption Reporting Network published an in-depth article on the police investigation of Savamala, concluding that the investigation had not discovered those behind the demolition, and that those responsible remained unknown.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Authorities generally based arrests on warrants. The law requires a judge to approve any detention lasting longer than 48 hours, and authorities generally respected this requirement. Immediately after questioning, the prosecutor decides whether to release the arrested person or request that the judge, for preliminary proceedings, order pretrial detention.

Activists expressed concern over the practice of detaining subjects of an investigation longer than 48 hours without filing formal charges.

The law provides the possibility of pretrial release for some detainees. Nonetheless, pretrial release frequently was not used as an alternative to detention. There were instances when authorities used detention in questionable circumstances. The law allows bail, but detainees rarely used it.

The constitution provides that police must inform arrested persons immediately of their rights, and authorities generally respected this requirement. According to the law, police cannot question a suspect without informing the suspect of the right to have counsel present, and detainees can obtain access to counsel at government expense, if necessary. The prosecutor can elect to question directly the suspect or be present during police questioning. Authorities generally allowed family members to visit detainees.

The law prohibits excessive delays by authorities in filing formal charges against suspects and in conducting investigations. Authorities may hold suspects detained in connection with serious crimes for up to six months before indicting them. By law investigations should conclude within 12 months for cases of special jurisdiction (organized crime, high corruption, and war crimes). It was nonetheless possible for investigations to last longer than the prescribed time limits, as there was no clear consequence for not meeting the deadline.

The law allows for indefinite detention of prisoners deemed a danger to the public because of a mental disability.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention remained a problem. As of September 14, 15 percent of the country’s total prison population was in pretrial detention. The average length of detention was not reported and could not be reliably estimated. The court is generally obliged by the law to act with urgency when deciding on pretrial detention. The constitution and the law limit the length of pretrial detention to six months, but there is no statutory limit to detention once a trial begins. There is also no statutory limit for detention during appellate proceedings. Due to inefficient court procedures, some of which the law requires, cases often took extended periods to come to trial. Once begun, trials often took several months to many years to complete. The government used house arrest in some cases, which helped relieve overcrowding in pretrial detention centers.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the courts remained susceptible to corruption and political influence.

The European Commission’s 2016 Report on Serbia stated that there was undue political influence over the judiciary. The report stated that politicians exerted external pressure on the judiciary through public comments made about investigations and ongoing cases, some of them at the highest political levels, and without adequate protective measures being taken by the High Judicial Council and State Prosecutorial Council.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

The constitution and the law grant defendants the presumption of innocence. Authorities must inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary. Defendants have a right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, although authorities may close a trial if the trial judge determines it is warranted for the protection of morals, public order, national security, the interests of a minor, the privacy of a participant, or during testimony of a state-protected witness.

Lay judges sit on the trial benches in all cases except those handled by the organized crime and war crimes authorities. Defendants also have the right to have an attorney represent them at public expense for cases when a defendant lacks resources to acquire representation and either a) the crime is punishable for three or more years imprisonment or b) defense is legally mandatory. Defendants have the right to access government evidence, to question witnesses, and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Both the defense and the prosecution have the right to appeal a verdict.

The government generally respected these rights, although some defendants complained about not being able to present evidence at court and not being able to depose their witnesses. Poorer defendants struggled to get legal representation, as the country does not have a functional system of free legal aid for all situations. Free legal aid was granted only in more serious cases, where the law mandates representation.

Regional cooperation on war crimes prosecutions remained a problem for all the states involved in the conflicts of the 1990s, including Serbia. On May 15, the National Assembly elected Snezana Stanojkovic the new chief prosecutor for war crimes in Serbia. Stanojkovic attended the annual regional conference in Sarajevo on June 22-24 for state attorneys from former Yugoslav states aimed at improving cross-border cooperation in the prosecution of war crimes.

The legal framework and practice of respect for the right to reparation for victims of human rights violations committed during the 1990s remained inadequate. For example, according to the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), the majority of victims were forced to claim their right to reparation before the court in a civil litigation based on the provisions of the Law of Contracts and Torts. The proceedings are long, have limited chances of success, and do not conform with a number of human rights provisions of the constitution of Serbia and the European Convention on Human Rights. The courts in these proceedings often refused to accept statements given by victims, while accepting and privileging those given by police officers. The courts dismissed most of the compensation lawsuits, usually due to narrow interpretations of the provisions regulating the statute of limitations, despite the possibility of applying provisions extending the statute of limitations. The HLC also alleged the courts dismissed lawsuits to avoid making any connections between the state and the tortures committed. In cases in which the courts granted compensation, the amounts awarded were very low, according to activists.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The constitution grants individuals the right to appeal to the Constitutional Court regarding an alleged violation of human rights. In addition to ruling whether a violation occurred, the court can also issue a decision that can serve as grounds for seeking restitution. The government generally respected decisions rendered by the Constitutional Court. Once all avenues for remedy through domestic courts are exhausted, citizens may appeal cases involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

In accordance with the country’s participation in the Terezin Declaration, parliament adopted a law in 2016 on the restitution of heirless and unclaimed Jewish property seized during the Holocaust, allowing the Jewish Community to file restitution claims based on these seizures, while still allowing future claimants to come forward. The law defines “heirless property” as any property that was not the subject of a legitimate claim for restitution under the General Restitution Law. The community must prove the former owner of the property was a member of the Jewish Community, and that the property was confiscated during the Holocaust. The law also stipulates financial support from the state budget for the Jewish Community worth 950,000 euros ($1.1 million) per year for a 25-year period, which began with an initial payment in March.

According to the Serbian Agency for Restitution, by year’s end, it had received 277 claims from the Jewish Communities of Serbia and returned 54 heirless properties to the Jewish community.

The government has laws and/or mechanisms in place, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups reported that the government made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. The government, however, has not appointed its representative to a supervisory board, created under the 2016 Holocaust-era Heirless Property Restitution Law, designed to ensure accountability in the use of restituted property and financial compensation to Serbian Jewish communities.

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

While the constitution prohibits such actions, there were reports that the government failed to respect prohibitions on interfering with correspondence and communications. The law requires the Ministry of Interior to obtain a court order before monitoring potential criminal activity and police to obtain a warrant before entering property except to save persons or possessions. Police occasionally failed to respect these laws.

According to information released to the public by the BIA, the number of monitored individuals grew from 360 in 2015 to 405 in 2016, while the number of legal entities being monitored remained the same. According to the Institute for European Affairs (IEA), the Military Security Agency (MSA) claimed it did not have information on the number of individual and legal entities under special measures. The IEA told the media it had informal data from several different telecommunications companies that indicated that BIA and MSA had a direct link to users’ listings, locations, and correspondence.

According to SHARE Foundation research, approximately 100,000 citizens were monitored by the state bodies annually. Data from Telenor mobile operator indicated that the state accessed 70,000 telephones and other devices in 2016.

During the year former director of Military Security Agency and former member of parliament of the ruling SNS Momir Stojanovic told media that domestic security services wiretap journalists and opposition leaders.

Human rights activists and NGOs reported a lack of effective parliamentary control of security agencies.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. There was a widespread public perception that the government did not implement the law systematically and that officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. EU experts noted continuing problems with the overuse of the vague “abuse of office” charge for alleged private sector corruption schemes. Despite the government’s publicly stated commitment to fight corruption, both the Anticorruption Council and the NGO Transparency Serbia continued to point to a lack of governmental transparency.

In November 2016 the National Assembly amended two significant pieces of legislation: the Law on Asset Forfeiture and the criminal code. Amendments to the Law on Asset Forfeiture greatly expanded application of the law for new criminal offenses (e.g., intellectual property rights crimes, aggravated murder). Amendments to the criminal code expanded the set of criminal offenses pertaining to commercial crime and changed the tax evasion provision, so prosecutors no longer have to prove that income subject to the statute was legally acquired.

The Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office (OCPO) prosecuted cases of high-level corruption in the Belgrade Higher Court for Organized Crime; other corruption cases were prosecuted in the country’s regular court system. The Ministry of Interior generally handled internal corruption cases within the ministry and turned over the results of its investigation to the appropriate prosecutor’s office.

After approximately eight months with an interim director, the Anticorruption Agency (ACA) appointed Majda Krsikapa to be its new director on September 6. The ACA’s Board has been incomplete for two years–only two or three positions of the nine-member Board were filled. On July 20, the parliament elected four new members to the Board, filling six of nine seats, although the proposed candidate of the Association of Journalists of Serbia and the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia was not selected. The Serbian National Assembly did not consider the reports of the ACA, and the agency’s access to databases of other state organs continued to be very limited. The follow-up on its findings and recommendations by other state institutions and officials improved slightly compared with previous years.

In March the whistleblower organization Pistaljka requested information the ACA had compiled on the investigation of Belgrade Mayor Sinisa Mali. The ACA denied Pistaljka’s request; when the commissioner subsequently instructed the ACA to release the information, the ACA released only a heavily redacted version and subsequently resisted the commissioner’s efforts to investigate the redactions, citing confidentiality issues. NGOs noted that the commissioner is specifically authorized to review confidential information and is charged with inspecting confidential documents to determine whether they should be classified.

Corruption: In July 2016 the EU released its Accession Document for Chapter 23 (Judiciary and fundamental rights), which noted several concerns with corruption in the country.

To address these issues, the government had adopted a 2015-16 Financial Investigation Strategy, which called for the creation of specialized units of fraud and anticorruption prosecutors. The Ministry of Justice later drafted implementing legislation and in November 2016 the National Assembly adopted the Law on the Organization of State Bodies in the Fight against Organized Crime and Corruption. The law created specialized anticorruption units/departments of prosecutors, police investigators, and judicial courts within Serbia’s four principal appellate districts; mandated the use of law-enforcement task forces; and established liaison officers within the different state regulatory bodies, who can support criminal prosecution. Legislation mandated that the units be ready by March 2018.

There were no developments in the March and April 2016 arrests of those suspected of money laundering, bribery, and abuse of office (Operation Scanner I and II). Activists had raised concerns that the arrests were used for political purposes, as they coincided with the 2016 parliamentary elections.

On September 27, the Appellate Court reviewed the 2016 tax evasion conviction of Miroslav Miskovic, the owner of Delta Holdings. The court abolished part of the first instance verdict which sentenced him to five-and-a-half years in prison and a fine of eight million dinars ($69,000) and instructed the Special Court to retry the case in Belgrade because it found violations of criminal procedure. Some activists raised concerns about the possibility that the arrest and judicial process were politically motivated.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires income and asset disclosure by appointed or elected officials. Under the law, the ACA oversees the filing of disclosures and verifies their completeness and accuracy. Declarations are publicly available on the ACA website and upon request. Failure to file or to disclose income and assets fully are subject to administrative and/or criminal sanctions. Significant changes to assets or income must be reported annually. Officials also must file a disclosure form immediately after leaving office and must inform the ACA of any significant changes to their assets for two years after leaving office. In 2016 the ACA received 8,026 reports on the income and assets of elected or appointed officials. Since the beginning of the year, the ACA received 4,098 reports on the income and assets of elected or appointed officials.

The ACA continued to initiate administrative and criminal proceedings against several former and current government officials who failed to file or incorrectly filed asset disclosure forms. The ACA stated in its June report, covering the period from January to June, that out of 273 cases previously initiated, the ACA filed nine requests for misdemeanor proceedings for failing to report assets in a timely manner.

The June report also stated that between January and June, criminal charges were dismissed against five public office holders; two acquittals were confirmed by the higher courts following proceedings in basic court; two cases resulted in a misdemeanor court suspending the action; one case resulted in a misdemeanor sanction involving a warning; one case was dropped by the higher public prosecutor for insufficient evidence; two cases were submitted to the tax administration; one case was forwarded to minister of finance; and one criminal investigation against a public office holder was postponed.

According to the ACA report, there was only one first-instance conviction in basic court, which resulted in a six-month term of imprisonment (later converted to two years’ probation) for the crime of “failure to report property/income or reporting false information” to the ACA. For the same defendant, the basic court dismissed the related charge of “unlawful collection and payment” because the statute of limitations had expired on that charge.

In addition, the ACA issued public warnings in 19 cases against public officials and issued decisions concerning violations of law announced in three cases.

The ACA brought a case to the OCPO in 2015, alleging Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin had committed a criminal offense related to the purchase of a Belgrade apartment. The OCPO dropped the case in mid-August, citing insufficient evidence that the minister had committed a crime.

Seychelles

Executive Summary

Seychelles is a multiparty republic governed by a president, Council of Ministers, and National Assembly. In 2015 voters narrowly re-elected president James Michel of Parti Lepep in an election that international observers criticized for voter intimidation and vote buying. In September 2016 President Michel resigned and appointed his vice president, Danny Faure, president of the republic, as per constitutional provisions. President Faure was the Parti Lepep vice-presidential candidate, and after assuming the presidency, he declared he would not stand for the leadership of his party. On October 16, a year after he assumed office, Faure withdrew from Parti Lepep, marking the first time since independence that the head of state was not the head of a political party. Faure is serving the remaining four years of Michel’s mandate and has never stood as a presidential candidate. In September 2016 the opposition coalition Seychellois Democratic Union won the majority of seats in legislative assembly elections, which international and domestic observers called fair but not free due to lack of credibility of the election management body. This was the Seychellois Democratic Union’s first majority since the establishment of a multiparty system, and since then the government has been in a state of “cohabitation.”

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: prolonged pretrial detention; corruption; ineffective government enforcement of regulations concerning domestic violence against women and children; and forced labor.

The government took steps to punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government, but impunity existed.

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.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions. There were no reports of arbitrary arrests or detentions during the year. In 2016 individuals posted allegations of arbitrary arrest and detention on social media sites. Following the December 2015 presidential elections, Mauritian lawyer Sanjay Bhuckory was detained and deported. According to government officials, Bhuckory misled immigration officials regarding the purpose of his visit, while government opponents claimed the deportation was politically motivated. Police dismissed the case for lack of evidence.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The president maintained effective control over the security apparatus. This includes the Seychelles People’s Defense Forces (SPDF), Presidential Protection Unit, Coast Guard, and police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. The police commissioner, who reports directly to the minister for home affairs, commands the unarmed police, the armed paramilitary Police Special Support Wing, and the Marine Police Unit, which together have primary responsibility for internal security. When necessary, the SPDF assisted police on matters of internal security. On October 4, the National Assembly repealed the National Drug Enforcement Agency Act (NDEA), effectively transferring NDEA responsibilities to the police force.

Security forces were effective. There were no reports of police brutality during the year.

There were no developments in the April 2016 case involving two male police officers who allegedly sexually assaulted a female colleague while on patrol. The two male officers were suspended, charged with sexual assault, released on bail, and had their passports confiscated.

Authorities rarely used the enquiry board (a police complaint office) but instead established independent inquiry commissions to examine security force abuses. Private attorneys generally filed complaints with police or published them in Today in Seychelles or in opposition party newspapers, such as Seychelles Weekly and Le Seychellois Hebdo. Although respect for human rights was included as a core precept in police training, the course was only two to three hours long and did not comprehensively cover human rights.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires warrants, except for persons arrested under the Misuse of Drugs Act that allows police and National Drug Enforcement Agency officers to arrest and detain persons without a warrant. The law provides for detention without criminal charge for up to 14 days if authorized by court order. Persons arrested must be brought before a magistrate within 24 hours, with allowance made for travel from distant islands. Police did not always respect this requirement. Authorities generally notified detainees of the charges against them and, unlike in previous years, generally granted family members prompt access to them. Detainees have the right to legal counsel, and indigents generally received free counsel. Courts allowed bail in most cases.

Arbitrary Arrest: No official incident of arbitrary arrest was reported during the current year. In September 2016 the newspaper Today in Seychelles reported that police arrested political activist Bernard Sullivan for criminal trespass and held him for 24 hours. Sullivan was arrested in the course of researching an article about former president James Michel’s property holdings. In an office open to the public, authorities accused Sullivan of “unlawful trespassing” but filed no charges against him.

Pretrial Detention: The constitution provides that remand (pretrial) prisoners be released after six months of detention if their cases have not been heard, but prolonged pretrial detention has frequently been a problem. Prisoners sometimes waited more than three years for trial or sentencing due to case backlogs. Pretrial detainees made up approximately 16 percent of the prison population.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution provides the right of persons arrested or detained to challenge the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention in court and seek 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. Nevertheless, court processes were inefficient in that both civil and criminal court cases generally last for years.

The Supreme Court, appeals court, and magistrate court justices were either naturalized citizens or citizens of other Commonwealth countries. Judges were generally impartial. There were several unconfirmed reports that Chief Justice Mathilda Twomey was overzealous in dealing with certain attorneys and certain case files. For example, in October 2016 Supreme Court justice Durai Karunakaran, a naturalized citizen, was reported to the Constitutional Appointments Authority on the request of the chief justice and investigated for malpractice. The report of the tribunal set up to investigate Judge Karunakaran was given to President Faure after several months of trial for action. Chief Justice Twomey made public the contents of the report, calling for the dismissal of Judge Karunakaran before President Faure had announced the contents of the report. At least two lawyers reported Judge Twomey to the Constitutional Appointments Authority, the authority that appoints judges. The opposition claimed the suspension of Judge Karunakaran was politically motivated because he made several rulings in 2016 perceived to favor the opposition.

Authorities generally respected court orders. A report issued on September 13 by the National Assembly stated that the Supreme Court had served summons on three members of the National Assembly, an act that directly contravened the constitutional immunity afforded to members of parliament.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty and have the right to be present at their trials and to appeal. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary from the first court appearance through all appeals. Only cases involving charges of murder or treason use juries. The constitution makes provision for defendants to present evidence and witnesses and to cross-examine witnesses in court. Defendants have the right to access government-held evidence, although responses to such requests often were delayed. The law provides the right of defendants to consult with an attorney of choice or to have one provided at public expense in a timely manner and to be provided adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants have the right not to confess guilt, not to testify, nor to enter a plea. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

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

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. For example, on April 2, Today in Seychelles reported the Constitutional Court issued a ruling that called on the ruling Parti Lepep to transfer ownership of a building and land in Victoria back to its rightful owners, the Umarji family. The government acquired the land and building in 1984 allegedly in the public interest and later transferred the property to the ruling party. The court ruled the acquisition did not serve the public interest and noted the right to own and enjoy property is a constitutional right. On July 26, Seychelles Nation reported President Faure announced the establishment of a land commission to investigate claims of forced land acquisitions since the 1977 military takeover and to settle all claims. Individuals may also appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

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. Nevertheless, the public suspected that the government and the ruling party monitored conversations without legal process.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption. The World Bank’s most recent Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a problem. An act of parliament in March 2016 established an Anticorruption Commission. There were no prosecutions during the year.

Financial Disclosure: In addition to an existing law requiring senior public servants and board members of government agencies and parastatals to declare their assets in a sealed envelope deposited in the Seychelles Central Bank’s vault, a law passed during the year also requires government ministers and members of the National Assembly to declare their assets. The declaration of assets may be disclosed if a legal challenge is filed. The law requiring ministers and members of the National Assembly to declare their assets was not always enforced. In the past there were instances where a case could have been filed, but the law was never applied.

Singapore

Executive Summary

Singapore is a parliamentary republic where the People’s Action Party, in power since 1959, overwhelmingly dominated the political scene. There was no voting for the 2017 presidential election because only a single, ethnic minority Malay candidate qualified for the ballot, due to criteria specified in a 2016 constitutional amendment. On September 13, the Elections Department declared Halimah Yacob president. Observers considered the 2015 general election and a 2016 by-election open and free.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: caning as punishment imposed by the courts; preventive detention by government authorities under various laws without warrant, filing of charges, or normal judicial review; monitoring private electronic or telephone communications without a warrant; significant restrictions on freedoms of expression, including for the press and online, and assembly; the use of defamation laws to discourage criticism; laws and regulations significantly limiting freedom of association; and the criminalization of sexual activities between men, although the law was not enforced.

The government prosecuted officials who committed human rights abuses, although there were no instances of such prosecutions reported during the year. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.

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

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

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but some laws permit arrest and detention without judicial due process. The government generally observed the laws.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police, under the direction of the Ministry of Home Affairs, maintain internal security.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police. The Ministry of Home Affairs and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau had effective means and adequate resources 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 instances, the law requires the issuance of an authorized warrant for arrests, but some laws, such as the Internal Security Act (ISA), provide for arrest without warrant if the government determines the suspect acted in a manner prejudicial to the security of the country. The First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code specifies that offenses, such as robbery or rape, do not require an arrest warrant.

Those arrested according to regular criminal procedure must appear before a magistrate and be legally charged within 48 hours. The accused may not be held further without a magistrate’s approval. Authorities charged expeditiously and brought to trial the majority of those arrested. A functioning bail system existed.

Persons who faced criminal charges were allowed access to counsel at the completion of police questioning after investigations were complete or nearly complete. Any person accused of a capital crime is eligible to be assigned counsel by the state free of charge. The government also funded an expanded Criminal Legal Aid Scheme run by the Law Society that covers additional criminal offenses.

Arbitrary Arrest: Some laws, such as the ISA and the Criminal Law (temporary provisions) Act (CLA), have provisions for arrest and detention without a warrant and/or full judicial due process. ISA cases are subject to review by the courts to provide for strict compliance with its procedural requirements. Authorities invoked the ISA primarily against suspected security threats and employed the CLA mostly against suspected organized crime and drug trafficking.

Pretrial Detention: Pretrial detention was not excessively prolonged. Some individuals, however, were in prolonged detention without trial and with minimal judicial due process under laws that allowed for such detention.

The ISA and the CLA permit preventive detention without trial for the protection of public security, safety, or the maintenance of public order. The ISA authorizes the minister for home affairs, with the consent of the cabinet and with formal endorsement from the president, to order detention without filing charges if the minister determines that a person poses a threat to national security. The initial detention may be for up to two years, which the minister may renew for an unlimited number of additional periods of up to two years each. ISA detainees are permitted legal counsel. An independent advisory board consisting of a Supreme Court judge and two other presidential appointees reviews each detainee’s case within three months of initial detention and at intervals of not more than 12 months thereafter. If the advisory board recommends that the detainee be released but the minister disagrees, the president has discretion as to the detainee’s continued detention.

In May, Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, an auxiliary police officer who wanted to take up arms for the Free Syrian Army, became the first self-radicalized uniformed officer detained under the ISA. In June, Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah al-Ansari, an infant care assistant who intended to travel to Syria to join ISIS, became the first woman detained under the ISA. As of August there were active ISA orders of detention (ODs) against 18 persons for their involvement in terrorism-related activities.

In addition to ODs, the ISA allows for issuance of restriction orders (ROs) that require an individual to seek official approval for a change of address or occupation, overseas travel, or participation in any public organization or activity. RO subjects could be required to report regularly to authorities. In May, Mohamad Rizal Wahid, an auxiliary police officer who supported a colleague’s intention to undertake armed violence in Syria, was arrested under the ISA and was issued an RO in June. As of September, 28 persons were on ROs. This number included both released detainees and suspected terrorists who were never detained.

There is also a category of restriction called suspension direction (SD) that replaces an OD when suspended and may prohibit association with specified groups or individuals and overseas travel without prior written government approval. SDs also include reporting conditions. As of September no individuals were subject to an SD.

The CLA must be renewed every five years; the most recent renewal was in 2014. According to the CLA, the minister for home affairs may order preventive detention, with the concurrence of the public prosecutor, for an initial period of one year; the president may extend detention for unlimited additional periods of up to one year at a time. The minister must provide a written statement of the grounds for detention to the Criminal Law Advisory Committee (CLAC) within 28 days of the order. The CLAC then reviews the case at a private hearing. CLAC rules require that authorities notify detainees of the grounds of their detention at least 10 days prior to this hearing, during which detainees may represent themselves or be represented by a lawyer. After the hearing, the committee makes a written recommendation to the president, who may cancel, confirm, or amend the detention order. The government used the CLA almost exclusively against serious criminal activities involving narcotics, loan sharks, or criminal organizations; and not for political purposes.

The CLA allows for supervision within the community through means such as curfews, residence limitations, requirements to report regularly to authorities, and limitations on travel.

The Misuse of Drugs Act permits detention without trial in an approved institution for the purpose of the treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts. If a suspected drug abuser tests positive for an illegal drug, the director of the Central Narcotics Bureau may commit the person to a drug rehabilitation center for a six-month period, which a review committee of the institution may extend for a maximum of three years. According to the Intoxicating Substances Act, the bureau director may order treatment for up to six months of a person determined by blood test or medical examination to be an abuser of inhalant drugs.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: In regular criminal law, persons arrested have the right of habeas corpus. This right is upheld by the constitution.

Persons detained under the CLA have recourse to the courts via an application for a writ of habeas corpus, as confirmed in 2015 by the Court of Appeal in a soccer match-fixing case. Persons detained without trial under the CLA may challenge the substantive basis for their detention only to the CLAC.

Under the ISA, detainees may challenge their detention in the judicial system only by seeking judicial review of whether their detention complied with procedural requirements of the ISA. They are also allowed to make representations to an Advisory Board, headed by a Supreme Court justice, but have no right to challenge the substantive basis for their detention through the courts. The ISA specifically excludes recourse to the normal judicial system for review of a detention order made under its authority.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. Some observers expressed concern about undue government influence in the judicial system. Laws limiting judicial review, moreover, permitted restrictions on individuals’ constitutional rights.

Some commentators and representatives of international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) noted that the Legal Service Commission’s authority to rotate subordinate court judges and magistrates and the ability of both the commission and the chief justice to extend, at their discretion, the tenure of Supreme Court judges beyond the age of 65 could undermine the independence of the judiciary.

Some commentators recommended that the attorney-general’s dual roles as public prosecutor and legal adviser to the government should be separated, and that the prime minister should no longer be responsible for recommending the appointment of the public prosecutor. These changes would preclude the prime minister or cabinet from being accused of political interference in the legal system.

The ISA explicitly and CLA implicitly preclude normal judicial rule and empower the government to limit, on vaguely defined national security grounds, other fundamental liberties provided for in the constitution.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for a fair and public trial, except for persons detained under the ISA, CLA, and similar legislation. The judiciary generally enforced this right when applicable. Some commentators observed a small number of exceptions in cases involving direct challenges to the government or the ruling party. The judicial system generally provided those subject to it with an efficient judicial process.

In most circumstances, the criminal procedure code requires that charges be read and explained to a defendant as soon as the prosecutor or magistrate completes them. After the charges are filed in court, the accused may seek advice of counsel before deciding whether to plead guilty or ask for a trial. At a pretrial hearing no earlier than eight weeks after criminal charges have been made, a judge determines whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial and sets a court date.

Criminal defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence in most cases. The Misuse of Drugs Act is an exception; it stipulates that a person who possessed narcotics shall be assumed to be aware of the substance and places the burden on the defendant to prove otherwise, although not beyond a reasonable doubt. The same law also stipulates that if the amount of the narcotic is above set limits, the defendant must prove he or she did not have the drug for trafficking purposes.

Trials are public and heard by a judge; there are no jury trials. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and to have representation by an attorney. The Law Society administered a legal aid plan for persons facing criminal charges who could not afford an attorney. The state did so for anyone facing a capital charge. Defense lawyers generally had sufficient time and facilities to prepare an adequate defense. Criminal defendants who do not speak or understand English, or who have limited proficiency, are provided with translation services at no cost. Defendants have the right to question prosecution witnesses and to provide witnesses and evidence on their own behalf.

Defendants enjoy the right of appeal, which must be filed within 14 days in most cases. The criminal procedure code provides for an automatic appeal process for all death sentence cases. The courts may offer nonviolent offenders the option of probation or paying a fine in lieu of incarceration. Those sentenced to death may ask for resentencing under certain circumstances, and judges may impose life imprisonment instead.

Persons detained under the ISA or CLA are not entitled to a public trial. Proceedings of the advisory board under the ISA and CLA are not public.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is no differentiation between civil and criminal judicial procedures. Subordinate courts handled the majority of civil cases. Access to the courts is open, and citizens and residents have the right to sue for infringement of human rights. Individuals and organizations may not appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

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

The constitution does not address privacy rights; statutory or common law provide remedies for infringement of some aspects of privacy rights. The government generally respected the privacy of homes and families. Normally police must have a warrant issued by a court to conduct a search, but may search a person, home, or property without a warrant if they decide that such a search is necessary to preserve evidence or according to discretionary powers of the ISA, CLA, Misuse of Drugs Act, or Undesirable Publications Act.

Law enforcement agencies, including the Internal Security Department and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, had extensive networks for gathering information and conducting surveillance and highly sophisticated capabilities to monitor telephone, email, text messaging, or other digital communications intended to remain private. No court warrants are required for such operations.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government implemented these laws effectively.

Corruption: Two cases of official corruption were reported during the year. In July, Singapore Prison Service senior chief warder Kobi Krishna Ayavoo was charged with eight counts of attempting to obtain a bribe from an inmate, Chong Keng Chye, who had requested a transfer to a different prison. In November, two additional charges were filed against Kobi for seeking unauthorized access to data. Offenders convicted of corruption may be jailed for up to five years and fined up to S$100,000 ($74,000) for each charge.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires civil servants to declare their investments, properties, and indebtedness to their respective permanent secretaries. According to the code of conduct for ministers, ministers make financial disclosures to the prime minister. The salaries of senior officials were public information, and political parties are required to report donations.

Slovakia

Executive Summary

The Slovak Republic is a multiparty parliamentary democracy led by a prime minister and a 150-member parliament (Narodna Rada or National Council). Prime Minister Robert Fico heads a three-party coalition that secured a majority of seats in parliament following free and fair parliamentary elections in March 2016. Voters elected Andrej Kiska to a five-year term as president and head of state in 2014.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included incidents of interference with privacy; corruption; widespread discrimination against Roma; and security force violence against ethnic and racial minorities government actions and rhetoric did little to discourage.

The government investigated reports of abuses by members of the security forces and other government institutions, although some observers questioned the thoroughness of these investigations. Some officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Two former ministers were convicted of corruption during the year.

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.

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 national police force has sole responsibility for internal and border security and reports to the Ministry of Interior. The head of the police force reports directly to the minister of interior, who has the authority to appoint and recall his subordinate. A special anticorruption police department, a special prosecution unit, and a specialized criminal court address corruption cases. The Bureau of Border and Alien Police (BBAP), which falls under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for external security, including border control and preventing illegal migration and people smuggling, and conducts investigations of related criminal activities. It also exercises limited powers in asylum proceedings.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the national police force and the BBAP. Government mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse, however, were weak, and impunity was a problem. In 2016, the most recent year for which data was available, authorities charged 109 police officers (0.49 percent of the total number of officers) for various criminal activities. In 58 percent of the cases in which police officers were found to be liable for misconduct, punishment consisted of a verbal reprimand. No police officers were dismissed for misconduct.

NGOs and the ombudsperson criticized the Police Inspection Service, which oversees police misconduct cases, for lacking independence, since it is subordinate to the minister of interior, who oversees the police force. According to human rights NGOs, the Police Inspection Service was not interested in thoroughly investigating most complaints of police brutality. In one example, an NGO and the ombudsperson cited cases of violent assault occurring at a police station in Moldava nad Bodvou in 2013 that were not reported until 2016. An NGO claimed that, based on its experience representing individuals in police brutality cases, the inspection service appeared to give more credibility to testimonies of police officers than to those of aggrieved parties and downplayed the importance of medical and psychological reports provided by aggrieved parties.

Human rights training was in the curriculum at police training facilities.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution and law stipulate that authorities may take a person into custody only for explicit reasons and must inform a detainee immediately of the reasons for detention. Persons are apprehended only with warrants issued by a judge or prosecutor based on evidence, and there were no reports of individuals detained without judicial authorization. Suspects in terrorism cases can be held for 96 hours. In other cases a court must grant a hearing to a person accused of a crime within 48 hours (or a maximum of 72 hours in “serious cases,” defined as violent crimes, treason, or other crimes carrying a sentence of at least eight years’ imprisonment) and either release or remand the individual into custody.

The bail system rarely was used. The law gives detainees the right to consult an attorney immediately after authorities submit charges, and authorities must inform them of this right. The law provides counsel to indigent detainees free of charge. The law allows attorneys to visit detainees as frequently as necessary and allows two-hour monthly family visits upon request. There were no reports of suspects detained incommunicado or held under house arrest.

In its 2014 report on the country, the CPT found shortcomings in the ways authorities informed detainees of their rights orally and in writing. Authorities did not always provide detainees prompt access to a lawyer after arrest. The CPT found that in very few cases did detained persons have an opportunity to consult an attorney from the outset of police detention or to request that an attorney be present during the interrogation or initial questioning.

In 2015 the ombudsperson reported that detention centers for foreigners isolated some detainees in a separate room with the lights continuously on, cameras directed towards the toilet, and with limited access to showers. The length of such detentions was unpredictable and not properly documented. Two foreigners reportedly spent three weeks in such a room. The ombudswoman concluded that such treatment was degrading and lacked procedural guarantees.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detained individuals are entitled to court proceedings that review the lawfulness of their detention and to prompt release and compensation if the court finds them to have been unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality, but alleged corruption, inefficiency, and a lack of integrity and accountability undermined public trust in the judicial system.

In 2014 parliament adopted a constitutional amendment that requires all sitting judges and candidates for judicial positions to receive security clearances from the government that attest to their suitability for public office. Proceedings to review the constitutionality of the law were pending. The measure was criticized by judicial associations, NGOs, and legal experts, who asserted the security clearance process was nontransparent, could be abused for political purposes, and would thereby limit judicial independence and jeopardize the foundations of a fair trial.

With the exception of the Constitutional Court, courts employed a computerized system for random case assignment to increase fairness and transparency. There were reports, however, that this system was subject to manipulation. The Constitutional Court confirmed that in several cases a former Supreme Court chairperson arbitrarily changed the composition of judicial panels contrary to fair trial guarantees.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The ombudsperson reported denial of the right to a speedy trial remained one of the most frequent concerns, recording 57 cases in 2015.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. They are also presumed innocent during the appeals process, and a person found guilty by a court does not serve a sentence or pay a fine until the final decision on appeal has been reached. Persons charged with criminal offenses have the right to be informed promptly of the charges against them with free interpretation as necessary. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to be present at their trial, consult in a timely manner with an attorney (at government expense if indigent), and to obtain free interpretation as necessary from the moment of being charged through all appeals. They can confront prosecution and plaintiff witnesses, and can present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Defendants have the right to refuse self-incrimination and may appeal adverse judgments. The law allows plea bargaining, which is often applied in practice.

Unpredictability of court decisions and inefficiency remained major problems in the country’s judiciary, leading to long trials, which in civil cases discouraged individuals from filing suit. European Commission statistics showed the average length of civil and commercial court cases in 2015 was more than 400 days, while economic competition cases took approximately 300 days. In a March report, the Constitutional Court stated that delays in court proceedings were one of the biggest problems facing the judiciary. The report highlighted extreme delays, which exceeded 16 years in 29 cases. Between 2010 and 2016, the Constitutional Court awarded 5.7 million euros ($6.8 million) in compensation for delays.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens had unrestricted access to courts to file lawsuits in civil matters, including human rights violations. Courts that hear civil cases, as with criminal courts, were subject to delays. Public trust in the judiciary continued to be low, although a 2016 survey by the NGO Via Iuris found that public trust in the judiciary increased from 22 percent to 33 percent over the previous year. The judiciary suffered from an apparent lack of accountability, and the public often perceived it as corrupt.

Administrative remedies were available in certain cases. The National Center for Human Rights has the authority to provide mediation for cases of discrimination and to represent claimants in court. Human rights organizations criticized the center for lack of activity and ineffectiveness. Individuals and organizations may appeal domestic court decisions to the ECHR.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Rent-control regulations for apartment owners whose property was restituted after the fall of the communist regime remained a problem. The state has regulated rents in these properties at below-market rates since 1992. In 2014 the ECHR concluded the regulations violated the property owners’ rights in 21 cases and in 2015 ordered the state to pay them 2.17 million euros ($2.6 million) in damages. In 2016 the ECHR awarded compensation of 476,800 euros ($572,000) in damages to other property owners. Although authorities took legislative steps to eliminate the discriminatory treatment of the owners, according to the ECHR, property owners should receive specific and clearly regulated compensatory remedies. The ombudsperson reported excessive delays in numerous property restitution proceedings that have remained unresolved since the fall of the communist regime.

Slovakia is a signatory to the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust restitution. The government has laws and/or mechanisms in place, and the Jewish community in Slovakia reported that the government made some progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. For individuals the law provides only for the restitution of immovable property, requires claims to be filed within a certain period, and requires claimants to be Slovak citizens and residents. In 2001 the Jewish community agreed to a blanket settlement with the government to accept 10 percent of the total estimated value as payment for unrestituted Jewish heirless property, which it uses to resolve claims and support the community.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions. There were reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions in some cases.

Police must present a warrant before conducting a search or within 24 hours afterwards. A report by the ombudsperson on a police raid in the Romani community in Vrbnica in 2015 concluded that officers violated residents’ right to privacy and property. The raid, which included house-to-house searches conducted without warrants, resulted in physical injuries to 19 residents. An official investigation into the raid remained pending.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. The government did not always implement the law effectively, and some officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. High-level officials rarely were prosecuted for corruption, despite a series of high-profile corruption cases involving government officials. There were also concerns, particularly in the business sector, about private-sector influence over judicial decisions, and some NGO governance experts reported court proceedings had become a contest between vested interests and persons with connections to the judicial powers. The World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption remained a problem. In 2015 Transparency International Slovakia released a survey showing that 96 percent of citizens believed that bribery or corruption existed in the health care sector, with 64 percent describing it as widespread and 22 percent admitting to having paid bribes for health services. A belief that corruption is widespread in the courts and Prosecution Service was reported by 62 percent of respondents.

Media and NGOs criticized Special Prosecutor Dusan Kovacik, whose office has the lead role in prosecuting public corruption cases, for not filing any charges in the 61 corruption cases he has supervised over the past eight years.

A lower court found former minister of construction and regional development Marian Janusek and his successor, Igor Stefanov, guilty of corruption. Both were fined 30,000 euros ($36,000). Janusek was sentenced to 12 years in prison and Stefanov was sentenced to nine years in prison for giving preferential treatment to a group of suppliers in a public procurement tender. The former ministers remained free during the appeals process.

Corruption: Between June and August, the Ministry of Education faced accusations of bribery linked to the allocation of EU funds for research and development. The ministry was criticized for its nontransparent evaluation of project proposals resulting in multimillion-dollar awards to private companies with no established record of research and development expertise. The scandal resulted in the resignation of education minister Peter Plavcan and the revocation of the funding decisions.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires income and asset disclosure by appointed and elected officials and mandates a parliamentary conflict of interest committee to monitor and verify such disclosures. The government made a general summary of the declarations publicly available, and there were penalties for noncompliance. NGOs and some politicians maintained that the financial disclosure forms were vague and did not clearly identify the value of the declared assets, liabilities, and interests.

Enforcement of financial disclosure violations was not effective and enabled members of parliament (MPs) to block sanctions against violators. Criminal sanctions for noncompliance were not applied in practice.

Slovenia

Executive Summary

Slovenia is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional republic. Power is shared among a directly elected president (head of state), a prime minister (head of government), and a bicameral parliament composed of the National Assembly (lower house) and the National Council (upper house). The country held parliamentary elections in 2014 and presidential elections on October 22, with a runoff election on November 12. Observers considered the elections free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

There were no reports of egregious human rights abuses.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government.

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.

The government continued to address extrajudicial killings and the uncovering of an estimated 581 mass graves from the period during and immediately after World War II. Some political and opinion leaders faulted the government for slow progress in identifying victims and clarifying the circumstances of the killings of those buried in the approximately 70 mass graves in the country.

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 detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Police performed the country’s basic law-and-order functions, including migration and border control, under the direct supervision of the Ministry of the Interior. The National Investigation Bureau and the Border Police fall under the general police administration in the Interior Ministry. The Slovenian Armed Forces are responsible for national defense and are under the supervision of the Ministry of Defense. The government, the Parliamentary Oversight Commission, the relevant district court, the ombudsman, the Court of Audits, and the Budget Supervision Office oversee the Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency. In June the newly established Government Office for the Care and Integration of Migrants began operations. Under the law this office is responsible for ensuring the country meets its international commitments to provide services and protection to refugees, migrants, and displaced persons by coordinating the efforts of national authorities, NGOs, and other organizations. The office provided material support and accommodation to assist refugees through its asylum center and branches, managed reception and support assistance programs, engaged with NGOs and international organizations to provide services and resettlement options to migrants, offered medical services and psychological counseling, oversaw integration services for refugees and immigrants, cooperated with legal representatives of unaccompanied minors, and assisted police in deportation proceedings for those whose asylum claims were denied.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Slovenian Armed Forces, police, and the Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency, 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

Police generally made arrests with warrants issued by a prosecutor or judge based on evidence. Authorities may detain suspects for 48 hours before charging them. The law requires authorities to inform suspects of their rights immediately after arrest and to advise detainees in writing within six hours (or within three hours for minor offenses) of the reasons for their arrest. Suspects must have prompt access to a judge to assess whether they qualify for release on bail or should remain incarcerated pending trial. Authorities generally released defendants on bail except in the most serious criminal cases. The law provides for prompt access to immediate family members and recognizes detention under house arrest.

Upon arrest, detainees have the right to contact legal counsel of their choice and the right to counsel during interrogations. While indigent defendants have the right to an attorney provided at public expense, the government did not establish a formal system for providing such legal counsel. The NGO Legal Information Center and the government’s Free Legal Aid Office made free counsel available to indigents. In its September 30 report, the CPT expressed concern that persons who were unable to pay for a lawyer could not, as a rule, benefit from the right of access to a lawyer from the very outset of their detention. The report noted, “ex officio lawyers would only be appointed if such an appointment was considered ‘in the interests of justice’ and, if they were appointed, they would meet the detainee only after police questioning, very briefly before the court hearing.”

Pretrial Detention: Although the law provides for the right to a trial without undue delay, NGO and advocacy groups reported court backlogs at times resulted in lengthy trial delays. Once authorities charge a suspect, pretrial detention may last up to four months, depending on the severity of the alleged crime. An investigative judge must certify the charges. After trials begin, judicial authorities may extend the total detention period for up to two years. Authorities must release persons detained more than two years while awaiting trial or pending conclusion of their trial.

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 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 public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy rights to a presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and to legal counsel.

Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence, not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and to appeal. The law also provides safeguards against self-incrimination. These rights extend to all defendants.

According to NGOs and advocacy groups, the judicial system was overburdened and lacked administrative support, at times resulting in delays in the judicial process. The government made progress in improving the efficiency of the judiciary, reducing the court backlogs and lowering the average processing time.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The constitution and law provide for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, including damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. Individuals may appeal court decisions involving alleged government violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) once they exhaust all avenues of appeal in domestic courts.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Some cases involving the restitution of property seized during World War II and the communist era remained unresolved. The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) continued to engage the government regarding a small number of outstanding claims.

The government has laws and mechanisms in place, but NGOs and advocacy groups reported the government did not make significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for former citizens who were required to renounce Yugoslavian citizenship as a condition for emigrating. The Denationalization Act requires claimants to have Slovenian citizenship and excludes property confiscated before 1945, which is another factor complicating the resolution of Holocaust-era claims. NGOs and advocacy groups expressed concern the government took a restrictive view of the scope and definition of research that would inform the subsequent restitution process for heirless properties, a position at odds with that of the WJRO.

In addition, some remaining non-Jewish confiscated properties appeared to be untouchable because the parties occupying the sites were politically influential and thwarted attempts to reach negotiated settlement. For example, since 1993 close ties between the local government’s administrative unit and Radenska d.d., a major mineral water producer, stymied a foreign family’s claims to the Radenci Spa property located on the family’s ancestral lands. Although the country’s Supreme Court rejected the family’s claim in 2015, the litigants appealed to the Constitutional Court, and the case remained open.

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

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

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal and civil penalties for corruption, conflicts of interest, and illegal lobbying by officials. The public widely viewed official corruption to be a problem. Although the criminal justice system continued its efforts to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate high-level corruption cases, the law lacked proper enforcement mechanisms, and the criminal justice system lacked adequate resources. In one instance, the National Assembly issued an interim report following a parliamentary inquiry into corruption in the country’s health-care system and referred the matter to law enforcement for further investigation. The inquiry accused Simon Vrhunec and Gregor Pivec, the heads of the Ljubljana and Maribor hospitals, respectively, and other health-care executives of abuse of office, receiving bribes, official misconduct, and fraud in the handling of public funds in the procurement of stents for hospitals.

Corruption: The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC) focused on the fight against systemic corruption as well as preventive anticorruption measures. In 2016 the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Working Group on Bribery noted concerns about the CPC and stressed the commission’s need for independence, adequate funding, and human resources. On September 12, one of the CPC’s deputy presidents resigned due to commission infighting. In her resignation letter, she called for a shakeup of the CPC’s leadership and staff, an external audit, and a more efficient legislative and systemic framework for the commission’s work.

Financial Disclosure: The highest-level officials in the government, the parliament, and the judiciary, or approximately 5,000 of the country’s 80,000 public employees, are subject to financial disclosure laws. There are administrative sanctions for failing to respect these provisions. The government did not make this information available to the public, but it can become part of the public record in other procedures (i.e., criminal, tax cases, etc.). The CPC may issue advisory opinions regarding prosecution.

Solomon Islands

Executive Summary

Solomon Islands is a constitutional multiparty parliamentary democracy. Observers considered the 2014 parliamentary election generally free and fair, although there were incidents of vote buying. Parliament elected Manasseh Sogavare as prime minister, and he formed a coalition government.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues in the country included: lengthy pretrial detention; government corruption; violence against women; sexual and physical abuse of children; criminalization of same-sex sexual activity, although the law was not enforced; and child labor.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses.

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

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

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

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 prohibitions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIP), and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish police corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year. A commissioner (normally a foreign resident), who reports to the minister of police, heads the RSIP force of 1,492 members, including 335 women. The RSIP completed the process of rearmament of selected units ahead of the withdrawal of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) forces in June. The two armed units are a dignitary protection unit and the Police Response Team, which responds to civil unrest. The RSIP conducted community consultations and public campaigns throughout the year to discuss the need for limited rearmament and the controls that would be in place.

With the departure of RAMSI in June, the governments of Australia and New Zealand committed resources to provide continued support to the RSIP. Under the Solomon Islands Police Development Program, 40 unarmed Australian Federal Police officers will provide capacity building and mentorship to the RSIP, but will not be involved in direct policing. New Zealand will provide eight New Zealand police officers, who will support community policing programs throughout the country.

The RSIP continued to lack capacity to conduct investigations and prepare reports despite increased recruitment of investigators. The police service has an inspection unit to monitor police discipline and performance. Officials who violate civil liberties are subject to fines and jail sentences.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Only a magistrate or judge may issue warrants, although police have power to arrest without a warrant if they have reasonable belief a person committed a crime. The law requires detainees be brought promptly before a judge. Authorities respected this right. Delays sometimes arose after the preliminary hearing, but authorities brought detainees to court as soon as possible following arrest, especially if they were held without bail.

Police generally informed detainees promptly of the charges against them. The Public Solicitor’s Office provided legal assistance to indigent defendants, and detainees had prompt access to family members and counsel. There was a functioning system of bail for less serious cases, and police and courts frequently granted bail.

During the year the Australian government provided 16 legal advisers under the Solomon Islands Justice Program. Two worked with correctional services, and 14 worked in the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, including in the National Judiciary and the Police Prosecution Unit. They included a chief magistrate, a High Court judge, lawyers, and training and finance advisers. Advisers helped develop the capacity of government lawyers and contributed to reducing the backlog of cases.

Pretrial Detention: Delays in adjudication of the large number of cases before the courts resulted in lengthy pretrial detention for some detainees. Pretrial detainees comprised 50 percent of the prisoner population. The average length of time held in pretrial detention was approximately two years.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained were entitled to challenge in court the legal basis of their detention and obtain prompt release if found unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Nonetheless, prisoners were not afforded timely trials due to a judicial backlog that resulted in long delays in bringing cases to trial.

Trial procedures normally operated in accordance with British common law, with a presumption of innocence and the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges. Detainees had access to attorneys of their choice and the right to be present at their own trial, access to free assistance of an interpreter, prepare a defense, confront witnesses, present witnesses and evidence, refrain from self-incrimination, and appeal convictions. The law extends these rights to all citizens. Judges conduct trials and render verdicts. The courts provided an attorney at public expense for indigent defendants facing serious criminal charges as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The constitution provides that any person whose rights or freedoms were contravened may apply directly to the High Court for redress. The High Court has taken a leading role in applying human rights principles in rulings.

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

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

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials and the government implemented the law effectively in some cases, though officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were reports of government corruption during the year.

Prime Minister Sogavare led efforts to formulate a National Anticorruption Strategy, but it is not yet operational pending approval by parliament. The RSIP and finance ministry launched “Taskforce Janus” to go after corruption in the civil service. Their investigations led to the arrests of 19 civil servants, including the permanent secretary of police. In August parliament passed the Ombudsman Bill, which is designed to increase the effectiveness and autonomy of the Office of the Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman is responsible for investigating public complaints of government maladministration.

The Public Accounts Committee is a permanent parliamentary committee established by the constitution with a mandate to examine and report to parliament on public accounts and national property.

Corruption: Corruption was a pervasive problem in the government, especially in the forestry and fishing sectors. Transparency International’s 2013 Global Corruption Barometer reported that one in three public servants had sought a bribe in exchange for a service. In April a government minister was arrested and charged with “conversion” after allegedly siphoning off Solomon Islands Dollars (SBD) 67,000 ($8,626) for personal use. He was released on bail but the court issued another warrant for his arrest in September after he failed to appear for a court appearance.

Police corruption was not a serious problem during the year. Some observers criticized the police for being more loyal to their respective ethnic group or extended family (wantok), than to the country as a whole.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials were subject to financial disclosure laws under the leadership code of conduct. The Office of the Leadership Code Commission (LCC) investigates misconduct involving members of parliament or senior civil servants. If the LCC finds conclusive evidence of misconduct, it sends the matter to the Department of Public Prosecution, which may proceed with legal charges. The LCC chair and two part-time commissioners constitute a tribunal with power to screen certain cases of misconduct and apply fines of up to SBD 5,000 ($644) for members of parliament or senior civil servants. In August the LCC chairperson said the LCC lacked adequate funds to carry out its mandate. In August the LCC fined a member of parliament SBD 12,000 ($1,545) for three different counts related to contracts he awarded to companies in which he had a personal interest while he was minister.

Somalia

Executive Summary

The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), formed in 2012, was led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo” following his election by a joint vote of the two houses of parliament on February 8. President Farmaajo succeeded President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who peacefully stepped down from power following his electoral defeat. Members of the two houses of parliament were selected through indirect elections conducted from October 2016 through January, with House of the People membership based on clan and Upper House membership based on state. The electoral process in both houses was widely viewed as deeply flawed and marred with corruption, but the two houses of parliament elected President Farmaajo in a process viewed as fair and transparent. The government of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland in the northwest and the regional government of Puntland in the northeast controlled their respective jurisdictions. As these administrations exercised greater authority in their areas, they were also more capable of infringing on the rights of citizens. The Interim Galmudug Administration (IGA), Interim Jubaland Administration (IJA), Interim South West Administration (ISWA), and Interim Hirshabelle Administration did not fully control their jurisdictions. The terrorist organization al-Shabaab retained control of the Juba River Valley and maintained operational freedom of movement in many other areas in the south-central part of the country. Conflict during the year involving the government, militias, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and al-Shabaab resulted in death, injury, and displacement of civilians. AMISOM and Somali security forces did not conduct any major offensive operations to liberate additional areas during the year.

Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control over the security forces and had limited ability to provide human rights protections to society.

The most significant human rights issues included killings of civilians by security forces, clan militias, and unknown assailants, but the terrorist group al-Shabaab committed the majority of severe human rights abuses, particularly terrorist attacks on civilians and targeted assassinations. Other major human rights abuses included disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; arbitrary and politically motivated arrest and detentions, including of journalists; use of child soldiers; restrictions on freedoms of speech and press, assembly and movement; forced eviction, relocation and sexual abuse of internally displaced persons (IDPs); disruption, diversion, and seizure of humanitarian assistance; civilians lack of ability to change their government through free and fair elections; trafficking in persons; widespread violence against women and girls with little government action for accountability, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct; and forced labor, including by children.

Impunity generally remained the norm. Government authorities took minimal steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed violations, particularly military and police officials accused of committing rape, killings, clan violence, and extortion.

Clan militias and al-Shabaab continued to commit grave abuses throughout the country, including extrajudicial and politically motivated killings; disappearances; cruel and unusual punishment; rape; and attacks on employees of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the United Nations. They also blocked humanitarian assistance, conscripted child soldiers, and restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement. AMISOM troops killed civilians (see section 1.g.).

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

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

Government security forces and allied militias, other persons wearing uniforms, regional security forces, al-Shabaab, and unknown assailants committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Government and regional authorities executed persons without due process. Armed clashes and attacks killed civilians and aid workers (see section 1.g.). Impunity remained the norm.

Military courts continued to try cases not legally within their jurisdiction and in proceedings that fell short of international standards. Federal and regional authorities sometimes executed those sentenced to death within days of the court’s verdict, particularly in cases where defendants directly confessed their membership in al-Shabaab before the courts or in televised videos. National figures on executions were unreliable, but the UN Mission to Somalia (UNSOM) tracked 21 executions across the country during the year, including four of alleged al-Shabaab members, 11 of armed forces members, and five of civilians. Human rights organizations questioned the military courts’ ability to enforce appropriate safeguards with regard to due process, the right to seek pardon, or commutation of sentence as well as to implement sentences in a manner that meets international standards.

Fighting among clans and subclans, particularly over water and land resources, occurred throughout the year, particularly in the cities of Merka and Galkayo and in Hiiraan Region (see section 6). Revenge killings occurred.

Al-Shabaab continued to kill civilians (see sections 1.g. and 6). The killings included al-Shabaab’s execution of persons it accused of spying for and collaborating with the FGS, Somali national forces, and affiliated militias.

Unidentified gunmen also killed persons with impunity, including members of parliament, electoral delegates, judges, National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) agents, Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers, and other government officials, as well as journalists, traditional elders, and international organization workers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Although the provisional federal constitution prohibits illegal detention, government security forces and allied militias, regional authorities, clan militias, and al-Shabaab arbitrarily arrested and detained persons (see section 1.g.). The law provides for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, but only politicians and business persons could exercise this right effectively.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The provisional federal constitution states that the armed forces are responsible for assuring the country’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity and that the national federal and state police are responsible for protecting lives, property, peace, and security. Police were generally ineffective and lacked sufficient equipment and training. In Mogadishu, for example, police lacked sufficient vehicles to transfer prisoners from cells to courts or to medical facilities. There were reports of police engaging in corrupt practices.

AMISOM and the SNA worked to maintain order in areas of the southern and central regions. The FGS regularly relied on NISA forces to perform police work, often calling on them to arrest and detain civilians without warrants. Some towns and rural areas in the southern and central regions remained under the control of al-Shabaab and affiliated militias. The Ministry of Defense is responsible for controlling the armed forces. Police forces fall under a mix of local and regional administrations and the government. The national police force remained under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Security, while regional authorities maintained police forces under their areas’ interior or security ministries.

Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control of security forces. Security forces abused civilians and often failed to prevent or respond to societal violence. Although authorities sometimes used military courts to try individuals believed to be responsible for abuse, they generally did not investigate abuse by police, army, or militia members; a culture of impunity was widespread.

The United Nations reported an increase in arbitrary arrests and detentions in Puntland during the year. A total of 121 individuals, including five women, were arrested in July during security operations and routine security screening, mostly in the towns of Garowe and Bosasso. The majority of those arrested were reportedly suspected of being al-Shabaab members, irregular migrants, youth accused of petty crimes, and one journalist. During the first half of the year, 1,226 arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions were recorded, mostly occurring in Puntland; 993 detainees were subsequently released.

The Ministry of Defense’s control over the army remained tenuous but improved somewhat with the support of international partners. At year’s end, the army consisted of 11,000 to 14,000 soldiers, according to estimates by international organizations. The bulk of forces were located in Middle Shabelle and Lower Shabelle Regions, as well as in the ISWA and IJA. The Ministry of Defense exerted some control over forces in the greater Mogadishu area, extending as far south as Lower Shabelle Region, west to Baidoa, Bay Region, and north to Jowhar, Middle Shabelle Region. Army forces and progovernment militia sometimes operated alongside AMISOM in areas where AMISOM was deployed. The federal police force maintained its presence in all 17 districts of the capital. AMISOM-formed police units complemented local and FGS policing efforts in Mogadishu. These police officers provided mentoring and advisory support on basic police duties, respect for human rights, crime prevention strategies, community policing, and search procedures. More than 300 AMISOM police officers worked alongside the formed units to provide training to national police.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The provisional federal constitution provides for arrested persons to be brought before judicial authorities within 48 hours. The law requires warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by authorized officials for the apprehension of suspects. The law also provides that arrestees receive prompt notification of the charges against them and judicial determinations, prompt access to a lawyer and family members, and other legal protections. Adherence to these safeguards was rare. The FGS made arrests without warrants and detained individuals arbitrarily. The government sometimes kept high-profile prisoners associated with al-Shabaab in safe houses before officially charging them. The law provides for bail, although authorities did not always respect this provision. Authorities rarely provided indigent persons a lawyer. The government held suspects under house arrest, particularly high-ranking defectors from al-Shabaab with strong clan connections. Security force members and corrupt judicial officers, politicians, and clan elders used their influence to have detainees released.

Arbitrary Arrest: Government and regional authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained numerous persons, including persons accused of terrorism and supporting al-Shabaab. Authorities frequently used allegations of al-Shabaab affiliation to justify arbitrary arrests (see section 1.g.).

Government and regional authorities arbitrarily arrested journalists.

Government forces conducted operations to arrest youths they perceived as suspicious without executing warrants.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was common, although estimates were unavailable on the average length of pretrial detention or the percentage of the prison population being held in pretrial detention. The large number of detainees, shortage of judges and court administrators, and judicial inefficiency resulted in trial delays.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The provisional federal constitution states, “The judiciary is independent of the legislative and executive branches of government.” The civilian judicial system, however, remained largely nonfunctional across the country. Some regions established local courts that depended on the dominant local clan and associated factions for their authority. The judiciary in most areas relied on a combination of traditional and customary law, sharia (Islamic law), and formal law. The judiciary was subject to influence and corruption and was strongly influenced by clan-based politics. Authorities did not respect court orders. Civilian judges often feared trying cases, leaving military courts to try the majority of civilian cases. In July the legislative branch attempted to exert authority over the judiciary by passing a motion annulling a Federal High Court decision requiring eight seats in parliament be recontested following allegations of corruption in the electoral process. President Farmaajo pressed the parliament to respect judicial independence, but the court decision was ultimately not enforced.

In Somaliland functional courts existed, although there was a serious shortage of trained judges, limited legal documentation upon which to build judicial precedent, and increasing allegations of corruption. Somaliland’s hybrid judicial system incorporates sharia, customary law, and formal law, but they were not well integrated. There was widespread interference in the judicial process, and government officials regularly intervened to influence cases, particularly those involving journalists. International NGOs reported local officials interfered in legal matters and invoked the public order law to detain and incarcerate persons without trial.

Puntland courts, while functional, lacked the capacity to provide equal protection under the law and faced similar challenges and limitations as courts in Somaliland.

Traditional clan elders mediated conflicts throughout the country. Clans frequently used and applied traditional justice practices swiftly. Traditional judgments sometimes held entire clans or subclans responsible for alleged violations by individuals.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The provisional federal constitution states, “Every person has the right to a fair public hearing by an independent and impartial court or tribunal, to be held within a reasonable time.” According to the provisional federal constitution, individuals have the right to a presumption of innocence. They also have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them in a language they understand, although the constitution is unclear on whether the right to translation applies through all appeals. Detainees have the right to be brought before a competent court within 48 hours of arrest, to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or have one provided at public expense if indigent), and to not be compelled to incriminate themselves. Authorities did not respect most rights relating to trial procedures. Clan politics and corruption often impeded access to a fair trial. The provisional constitution does not address confronting witnesses, the right to appeal a court’s ruling, the provision of sufficient time and facilities to prepare a defense, or the right to present one’s own evidence and witnesses.

Military courts tried civilians. Defendants in military courts rarely had legal representation or the right to appeal. Authorities sometimes executed those sentenced to death within days of the court’s verdict (see section 1.a.). Some government officials continued to claim that a 2011 state of emergency decree gave military courts jurisdiction over crimes, including those committed by civilians, in areas from which al-Shabaab had retreated. There was no clear government policy indicating whether this decree remained in effect, although the initial decree was for a period of three months and never formally extended.

In Somaliland defendants generally enjoyed a presumption of innocence and the right to a public trial, to be present at trial, and to consult an attorney at all stages of criminal proceedings. The government did not always inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them and did not always provide access to government-held evidence. The government did not provide defendants with dedicated facilities to prepare a defense but generally provided adequate time to prepare. The government provided defendants with free interpretation or paid for private interpretation if they declined government-offered interpretation from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants could question witnesses, present witnesses and evidence in their defense, and appeal court verdicts.

Somaliland provided free legal representation for defendants who faced serious criminal charges and could not afford a private attorney. Defendants had the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. A functioning legal aid clinic existed.

In Puntland clan elders resolved the majority of cases using customary law. The administration’s more formalized judicial system addressed cases of those with no clan representation. Defendants generally enjoyed a presumption of innocence, the right to a public trial, the right to be present and consult an attorney at all stages of criminal proceedings, and the right to appeal. Authorities did not always inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them. Defendants had the right to present their own witnesses and evidence. Authorities did not provide defendants with dedicated facilities to prepare a defense but generally provided adequate time to prepare. Puntland authorities provided defendants with free interpretation services when needed. The government often delayed court proceedings for an unreasonable period.

There was no functioning formal judicial system in al-Shabaab-controlled areas. In sharia courts defendants generally did not defend themselves, present witnesses, or have an attorney represent them.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The number of persons detained during the year for politically motivated reasons was unknown. Government and regional authorities arrested journalists as well as other persons critical of authorities, although arrests and harassment in Mogadishu substantially subsided following President Farmaajo’s election in February.

Somaliland authorities continued to detain Somaliland residents employed by the federal government in Mogadishu, sometimes for extended periods. Somaliland authorities did not authorize officials in Mogadishu to represent Somaliland within or to the federal Somali government and viewed such actions as treason, punishable under the constitution of Somaliland.

For example, on February 15, journalist Abdimalik Oldoon was arrested in Somaliland upon return from Mogadishu where he covered the presidential election and inauguration. Oldoon was sentenced to two years in prison for spreading antinationalist activities. In May Somaliland President Silanyo ordered his release and granted him amnesty.

On April 11 in Somaliland, two members of the Waddani opposition party–the youth wing leader and the sports secretary–were arrested for statements they made at a press conference. On May 21, the youth wing leader was acquitted and the sports secretary was sentenced to one year in prison. The youth wing leader’s release was blocked by the attorney general, but both were granted bail on May 29.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There were no known lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations in any region during the year, although the provisional federal constitution provides for “adequate procedures for redress of violations of human rights.”

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

In Mogadishu the government and nonofficial actors evicted persons, primarily IDP returnees, from their homes without due process (see section 2.d.).

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

According to the provisional federal constitution, “every person has the right to own, use, enjoy, sell, and transfer property” and the private home is inviolable. Nonetheless, authorities searched property without warrants.

For example, security forces conducted warrantless searches during and after Ramadan. In July security forces conducted security operations in the Hawo Tako neighborhood of the Wadajir district in Mogadishu, where they entered homes to search for weapons. While particular homes were reportedly targeted during the security operations, entire areas were subjected to security sweeps following security incidents or attacks.

During the year AMISOM and Somali forces retained control over several areas liberated from al-Shabaab in 2015, although it liberated no significant territory after that time. The return of IDPs to areas recently liberated continued to result in disputes over land ownership. There was no formal mechanism to address such disputes. In 2016 the Ethiopian National Defense Force contingent drew down from 4,000 to 3,000 troops and abandoned some positions in the regions of Bay, Bakool, and Hiiraan, opening some of these areas to reentry by al-Shabaab.

Government and regional authorities harassed relatives of al-Shabaab members.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Government officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices. The law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. In 2015 the SEMG noted the “apparent impunity enjoyed by those who have engaged in misappropriation of public finances perpetuates a culture of corruption in Somali politics.” President Farmaajo was elected on an anticorruption agenda but took few meaningful steps to address corruption and impunity by year’s end.

Corruption: In May 2016 government officials claimed a government-staffed internal review of the 2015 Soma Oil and Gas Company deal found no wrongdoing. A 2015 SEMG annex report documented that Soma paid more than one-half million dollars (equivalent to 286 billion Somali shillings) to senior civil servants in the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources under the rubric of “capacity building agreement.” According to the report, several ministry officials received salaries simultaneously from the FGS and Soma Oil and Gas. The government did not release the review, and none of the employees that received salaries from Soma or the government were dismissed. In February Soma’s former executive director for Africa, Hassan Ali Khayre, was appointed prime minister. He had publicly stated that he relinquished all of his shares in the company.

The Financial Governance Committee–an advisory body with no legal authority but responsible for reviewing all government contracts for more than 2.8 billion Somalia shillings (five million dollars)–consisted of FGS members from the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank, the Office of the President, and the Office of the Prime Minister, as well as the chair of the parliamentary finance committee and the state attorney general. Four delegates were funded by international financial institutions. Although compliance among government ministries, departments, and agencies continued to improve, some ministries bypassed the governance committee when negotiating important public contracts.

The SEMG continued to report on the export of charcoal in violation of a UN Security Council ban. Charcoal production and export continued in areas controlled by al-Shabaab, the IJA, and Kenyan AMISOM forces; most of the illegal export was from Kismayo, according to the SEMG.

Somaliland had a national auditor and a governance and anticorruption commission appointed by Somaliland’s president. Somaliland did not try any Somaliland officials for corruption.

Puntland’s Good Governance and Anticorruption Commission did not investigate any Puntland officials for corruption. Puntland’s parliament sacked President Abdiweli Gaas’s entire cabinet on July 18, citing increased corruption and worsening security, but later agreed to the return of the majority of the ousted ministers, strengthening allegations of widespread government corruption.

Al-Shabaab extorted high and unpredictable “zakat” (a Muslim obligation to donate to charity during Ramadan) and “sadaqa” (a voluntary charity contribution paid by Muslims) taxes in the regions it controlled. Al-Shabaab also diverted and stole humanitarian food aid.

Financial Disclosure: The law does not require income and asset disclosure by appointed or elected officials. Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre asked cabinet officials in March to declare their assets, but the government provided no details on the submission requirements or verification mechanisms.

South Sudan

Executive Summary

South Sudan is a republic operating under the terms of a peace agreement signed in August 2015. President Salva Kiir Mayardit, whose authority derives from his 2010 election as president of what was then the semiautonomous region of Southern Sudan within the Republic of Sudan, is chief of state and head of government. International observers considered the 2011 referendum on South Sudanese self-determination, in which 98 percent of voters chose to separate from Sudan, to be free and fair. President Kiir was a founding member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) political party, the political wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Of the 30 ministers in the government, 16 were appointed by Kiir, 10 by the SPLM in Opposition (SPLM-IO), two by a political faction known as the Former Detainees, and two by the group known as “other political parties” as provided for in the peace agreement. The bicameral legislature consists of a Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) with 400 seats (68 were added in accordance with the peace agreement), and a Council of States with 50 seats. SPLM representatives controlled the vast majority of seats in the legislature. Through presidential decrees, Kiir appointed most new governors. The constitution states that a gubernatorial election must be held within 60 days if an elected governor is relieved by presidential decree. As of year’s end, this had not happened.

Civilian authorities routinely failed to maintain effective control over the security forces.

In 2013 a power struggle within the ruling SPLM party erupted into armed conflict. President Salva Kiir accused then first vice president Riek Machar of plotting a coup. The two leaders appealed to their respective ethnic communities, and the conflict spread primarily to the northwest of the country. The parties signed several ceasefire agreements, culminating in the 2015 peace agreement. A ceasefire generally held from 2015 to July 2016, when fighting broke out between government and opposition forces in Juba leading to four days of intense conflict, during which government forces drove out Machar, who fled the country. A rump section of the SPLM-IO, led by current First Vice President Taban Deng Gai, remained in Juba as part of a transitional government that claimed to be committed to implementing the 2015 agreement. Following the 2016 violence, however, the government and the opposition resumed and expanded the geographic scope and scale of the conflict, which by year’s end had spread to all parts of the country.

The most significant human rights issues included conflict-related, ethnically based targeted killings of civilians; extrajudicial killings, abuse, and mass forced displacement of approximately four million civilians, displaced internally and as refugees; and intimidation and inhuman treatment of civilians such as arbitrary arrest and detention, abductions and kidnapping, recruitment and use of an estimated 17,000 child soldiers; and widespread sexual violence. Attacks on military and civilian targets often resulted in rape, destruction of villages, theft, looting, and revenge attacks on civilians. Human rights abuses also included torture, intimidation, and unlawful detention of civilians; harassment, intimidation, and violence against journalists, civil society organizations, and human rights defenders; government restriction of freedoms of privacy, speech, press, and association; and abductions related to intercommunal and interethnic conflict. Officials reportedly arrested, detained, and mistreated several ‎persons affiliated with the LGBTI community.

Security force abuses occurred throughout the country. Impunity was widespread and remained a major problem.

While government offensives during the year were responsible for the majority of the atrocities, resulting displacement, and consequent food insecurity, opposition forces also perpetrated serious human rights abuses.

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

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

The United Nations, human rights organizations, and media reported the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Security forces, opposition forces, armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition, and ethnically based groups were also responsible for extrajudicial killings in conflict zones (see section 1.g.).

There were numerous reported unlawful killings similar to the following example: On March 25, unidentified armed actors attacked a humanitarian aid convoy traveling from Juba to Pibor town, Jonglei State, resulting in the deaths of seven aid workers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The transitional constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention without charge. The government, however, arrested and detained individuals arbitrarily. The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention, but there were no known cases where an appellant successfully sought compensation for wrongful detention.

Since the start of the crisis in 2013, there were regular reports that security forces conducted arbitrary arrests, including of journalists, civil society actors, and supposed political opponents (see sections 1.a., 1.c., and 1.g.). While not legally vested with the power to arrest or detain civilians, the SPLA often did so. The NSS also routinely detained civilians. Security services rarely reported such arrests to police, other civilian authorities, or, in the case of foreigners arrested, diplomatic missions. Police also routinely arrested civilians based on little or no evidence prior to conducting investigations and often held them for weeks or months without charge or trial.

There were numerous reported arbitrary arrests or detentions similar to the following examples: On February 23, human rights activist Alison Mogga died after months in detention at NSS headquarters in Juba. The government arrested Mogga in July 2016 allegedly for supporting rebel forces in Kajo-Keji County. On March 14, the government released former Wau state governor Elias Waya Nyipuoch without charge after detaining him since June 2016.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The South Sudan National Police Service, under the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order. Consisting largely of former SPLA soldiers, it was poorly trained, corrupt, and widely distrusted. Authorities often based detentions on accusations rather than investigations. They rarely investigated complaints of police abuse. Police often went months without pay; they solicited bribes or sought compensation, often in the form of food or fuel, for services rendered to civilians.

The SPLA is responsible for providing security throughout the country and ostensibly operates under the Ministry of Defense and Veterans’ Affairs; current and former military personnel staffed the ministry. The SPLA does not have law enforcement authority, unless acting at the request of civil authorities. Nevertheless, the SPLA regularly exercised police functions, in part due to the limited presence and general ineffectiveness of law enforcement in many areas. It routinely detained persons, including in SPLA-run detention facilities to which monitors generally had little or no access. The SPLA’s approach to internal security and civilian disarmament was often unsystematic and disproportionate, contributing to conflict within and between communities while undermining the government’s legitimacy in conflict areas. The law requires cases of SPLA abuse of civilians to be heard in civilian courts, but there were no reports of cases being referred. For example, following the July 2016 attack on civilians at the Terrain Hotel compound in Juba, the government pursued a high-profile case against 12 SPLA soldiers in a court-martial. The law, however, requires crimes committed against civilians be tried in the civilian courts.

The NSS, which has arrest and detention authority only in matters relating to national security, often detained civil society activists, businesspersons, NGO personnel, journalists, and others to intimidate them, particularly if the NSS believed they supported opposition figures. Authorities rarely investigated complaints of arbitrary detention, harassment, excessive force, and torture.

Impunity of the security services was a serious problem. Although some internal investigations within the army and police were reportedly launched, no cases of security-sector abuse were referred to civilian courts. According to media reports, the SPLA court-martialed at least 60 soldiers accused of looting and other human right abuses in July in Juba. Undue command influence over the military justice system was a persistent problem.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

While the law requires police to bring arrested persons before a public prosecutor, magistrate, or court within 24 hours, there were no public prosecutors or magistrates available below the county level in most areas. Court dockets often were overwhelmed, and cases faced long delays before coming before a judge. Police may detain individuals for 24 hours without charge. A public prosecutor may authorize an extension of up to one week, and a magistrate may authorize extensions of up to two weeks. Authorities did not always inform detainees of charges against them and regularly held them past the statutory limit without explanation. Police sometimes ignored court orders to bring arrested persons before the court. Police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges were often unaware of the statutory requirement that detainees appear before a judge as quickly as possible. Police commonly conducted arrests without warrants, and warrants were often irregular, handwritten documents. Warrants were commonly drafted in the absence of investigation or evidence.

The code of criminal procedure allows bail, but this provision was widely unknown or ignored by justice-sector authorities, and they rarely informed detainees of this possibility. Because pretrial appearances before judges often were delayed far past statutory limits, authorities rarely had the opportunity to adjudicate bail requests before trial. Those arrested had a right to an attorney, but the country had few lawyers, and detainees were rarely informed of this right. The transitional constitution mandates access to legal representation without charge for the indigent, but defendants rarely received legal assistance if they did not pay for it. Authorities sometimes held detainees incommunicado.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces arbitrarily arrested opposition leaders, civil society activists, businesspersons, journalists, and other civilians due to ethnicity or possible affiliation with opposition forces. The SPLA and NSS often abused political opponents and others whom they detained without charge. Ignorance of the law and proper procedures also led to many arbitrary detentions. Many justice-sector actors, including police and judges, operated under a victim-centric approach that prioritized restitution and satisfaction for victims of crime, rather than following legal procedure. This approach led to many arbitrary arrests of citizens who were simply in the vicinity when crimes occurred, were of a certain ethnicity, or were relatives of suspects. For example, there were numerous reports women were detained when their husbands, accused of having unpaid debts, could not be located. In April, NSS officers arrested and detained National Public Broadcasters journalist Eyder Peralta, a foreign citizen, for four days in a detention facility in Juba. No charges were brought against him.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem, due largely to the lack of lawyers and judges; the difficulty of locating witnesses; misunderstanding of constitutional and legal requirements by police, prosecutors, and judges; and the absence of a strong mechanism to compel witness attendance in court. A five-month strike by judges also created a significant backlog of cases and increased pretrial detentions. The length of pretrial detention commonly equaled or exceeded the sentence for the alleged crime. Estimates of the number of pretrial detainees ranged from one-third to two-thirds of the prison population. The chronic lack of access to law enforcement officers and judicial systems became even more severe as armed conflict displaced officials (see section 1.g.).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The transitional constitution provides for an independent judiciary and recognizes customary law. While the law requires the government to maintain courts at federal, state, and county levels, lack of infrastructure and trained personnel made this impossible, and few statutory courts existed below the state level.

In the majority of communities, customary courts remained the principal providers of justice services. Customary courts maintained primary authority to adjudicate most crimes other than murder. Customary courts can deal with certain aspects of murder cases if judges remit the cases to them to process under traditional procedures and determine compensation according to the customs of the persons concerned. If this happens, the judge can sentence the individual who commits a killing to no more than 10 years. Government courts also heard cases of violent crime and acted as appeals courts for verdicts issued by customary bodies. Legal systems employed by customary courts varied, with most emphasizing restorative dispute resolution and some borrowing elements of sharia (Islamic law). Government sources estimated customary courts handled 80 percent of all cases due to the capacity limitations of statutory courts.

Political pressure, corruption, discrimination toward women, and the lack of a competent investigative police service undermined both statutory and customary courts. Patronage priorities or political allegiances of traditional elders or chiefs commonly influenced verdicts in customary courts. Despite numerous pressures, some judges appeared to operate independently.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Under the transitional constitution defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges (with free interpretation as necessary), be tried fairly and publicly without undue delay, be present at any criminal trial against them, confront witnesses against them, present witnesses and evidence, not be compelled to incriminate themselves, and to legal counsel.

Despite these protections, law enforcement officers and statutory and customary court authorities commonly presumed suspects to be guilty, and suspects faced serious infringements of their rights. Free interpretation was rarely, if ever, offered. Most detainees were not informed promptly of the charges against them. Prolonged detentions often occurred, and defendants generally did not have adequate access to facilities to prepare a defense. While court dates were set without regard for providing adequate time to prepare a defense, long remands often meant detainees with access to a lawyer had sufficient time to prepare. Magistrates often compelled defendants to testify, and the absence of lawyers at many judicial proceedings often left defendants without recourse.

Public trials were the norm both in customary courts, which usually took place outdoors, and in statutory courts. Some high-level court officials opposed media access to courts and asserted media should not comment on pending cases. The right to be present at trial and to confront witnesses was sometimes respected, but in statutory courts, the difficulty of summoning witnesses often precluded exercise of these rights. No government legal aid structure existed.

Defendants did not necessarily have access to counsel or the right of appeal, and discrimination against women was common. Some customary courts, particularly those in urban areas, had fairly sophisticated procedures, and verdicts were consistent. Some customary court judges in Juba kept records that were equal to or better than those kept in government courts.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were reports of political prisoners and detainees, which civil society groups estimated to number in the dozens at any given time. Authorities typically held them from a few hours to a few days or weeks prior to release, usually without charge, reportedly in an effort to intimidate or stifle opposition.

For example, James Gatdet Dak, the official spokesperson for SPLA-IO leader Riek Machar, was kidnapped in Nairobi and illegally deported to South Sudan in November 2016. According to human rights groups, Gatdet allegedly remained in an NSS detention facility throughout the year. Local media claimed a local court charged Gatdet in early September with insulting the president. The trial was not open to the public, and there was little information about charges and due process.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Statutory and customary courts provided the only options for those seeking to bring claims to address human rights violations, and these claims were subject to the same limitations that affected the justice sector in general.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government rarely provided proportionate and timely restitution for the government’s confiscation of property.

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

The transitional constitution prohibits interference with private life, family, home, and correspondence. Authorities, however, reportedly violated these prohibitions.

To induce suspects to surrender, officials at times held family members in detention centers.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

Since the conflict between the government and opposition forces began in 2013, security forces, opposition forces, armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition, and civilians committed conflict-related abuses and violations around the country. Despite an August 2015 peace agreement, patterns of abuse intensified after renewed fighting broke out in July 2016 and continued throughout the year. While both sides of the conflict committed abuses, the United Nations and international NGOs reported government forces were responsible for an increasing number of conflict-related abuses against civilians. As conflict spread to the central and east Equatorias region (which prior to 2016 had been mostly spared from violence), government soldiers reportedly engaged in acts of collective punishment and revenge killings against civilians assumed to be opposition supporters, often based on their ethnicity. The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, established by the Human Rights Council, reported on a pattern of ethnic cleansing and population engineering.

Atrocities included unlawful killings, rape and gang rape employed as a weapon of war, arbitrary detention and torture, enforced disappearances, explosive remnants of war, forced displacement, the mass destruction of homes and personal property, widespread looting, and use of child soldiers.

Casualty totals were difficult to estimate because the belligerents typically did not maintain accurate records. The number of IDPs and refugees increased to approximately four million at year’s end. Humanitarian aid workers were increasingly targeted, harassed, and killed.

Killings: Government forces and armed militias affiliated with the government, often prompted by opposition ambushes of government soldiers, engaged in a pattern of collective punishment of civilians perceived to be opposition supporters, often based on ethnicity. There were many instances of such killings similar to the following: NGOs reported government forces and armed militias affiliated with the government on April 10 went house to house in ethnic Fertit and Luo neighborhoods of Wau town, killing 16 civilians and injuring at least 10 others. Some Wau residents stated armed militias affiliated with the government blocked fleeing civilians from accessing the PoC sites during the April 10 fighting, according to international media. International observers noted the attack on civilians likely occurred in response to opposition forces killing two high-ranking SPLA soldiers.

In Mondikolok, a small town near the Ugandan border, government soldiers killed six persons on January 22 when they indiscriminately shot at civilians in a marketplace. According to a Human Rights Watch investigation, in January government soldiers allegedly shot and killed a man and his two children, ages five and 10, in their home in Romogi. Amnesty International reported government soldiers also allegedly killed six men in the village of Kudupi by locking them in a house and setting it on fire, shooting anyone attempting to escape. The United Nations reported government forces shot and killed an 18-year-old woman and wounded five other civilians when two soldiers began indiscriminately shooting at a funeral in Yei in early January. In Yei alone, the UNMISS Human Rights Division documented 114 cases from July 2016 to January 2017 where government forces and allied militias killed civilians perceived to be opposition supporters. The number of victims was presumed to be much larger, given limitations of access for human rights documenters.

Opposition forces also reportedly engaged in unlawful killings of civilians. On April 19, three civilians were injured after opposition forces attacked Raja, the capital of Lol state. On June 4, Human Rights Watch reported opposition soldiers near Nimule attacked a convoy of civilian cars and buses that were being escorted by SPLA vehicles.

Scorched earth tactics typical of the way all the armed forces conducted operations included: killing and raping civilians; looting cattle and goods; destroying property to prevent the return of those who managed to flee, followed by repeated incursions into an area to ensure those who fled did not return; and frequently obstructing humanitarian assistance. These actions multiplied the number of displaced civilians, who often were forced to travel great distances in dangerous circumstances to reach the shelter, food, and safety of UN-run PoC camps or to hide in marshes where they risked drowning or starvation. In January the United Nations documented evidence, including evidence gathered by satellite imagery, of more than 18,000 structures burned by government forces in Central Equatoria, causing thousands of civilians to flee across the border into Uganda. UN agencies and international NGOs that interviewed victims reported widespread killings and sexual violence, largely committed by government forces.

Remnants of war also led to the killing and maiming of civilians. According to the United Nations, children were killed or maimed in 12 incidents involving unexploded remnants of war from January to March. Remnants of war were often left behind in schools used by government and opposition forces, and armed actors affiliated with both. The United Nations reported in November an estimated six million citizens lived in areas of land mines and other explosive remnants of war.

Abductions: Abductions, particularly of women and children, took place in both conflict and nonconflict zones, as government and opposition forces and affiliated armed militia groups recruited children and women against their will. The United Nations and international NGOs reported multiple accounts of government soldiers or other security service members arbitrarily detaining or arresting civilians, sometimes leading to unlawful killings. For example, on May 21, government soldiers allegedly abducted nine civilians outside of Yei town. Police located all nine bodies in June and reported the victims were likely hacked to death by machetes.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Government, opposition forces, and armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition tortured, raped, and otherwise abused civilians in conflict areas. UNMISS reported finding six corpses, allegedly ethnic Zande, blindfolded and with hands tied alongside the road near Tambio town in Western Equatoria.

Sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence were widespread. Rape was used widely as a weapon of war. According to Amnesty International, some rapists also mutilated victims or raped them with foreign objects. Following the April 3 attack by SPLA soldiers in Pajok, during which 14 civilians were killed, the UNMISS Human Rights Division reported three incidents of sexual violence. For example, in April opposition soldiers abducted a young woman in Eastern Equatoria twice and allegedly repeatedly raped and beat her. Human rights groups noted most cases of sexual- and gender-based violence went unreported.

UN officials who interviewed survivors reported gang rape was common. Men were also victims of sexual violence, but on a far reduced scale. Amnesty International reported male survivors of sexual violence described rape, castration, and forms of torture. NGOs noted sexual violence against men was used to humiliate and terrorize victims.

Child Soldiers: Following the outbreak of conflict in 2013, forced conscription by government forces, as well as recruitment and use of child soldiers by both government and antigovernment forces, increased. During the year there were widespread reports government forces were recruiting child soldiers. Opposition forces and affiliated armed militias also recruited child soldiers. Girls were recruited to wash, cook, and clean for government and opposition forces.

International organization experts estimated 17,000 child soldiers had been recruited in the country since the conflict began in 2013 and blamed government, opposition, and militia forces.

The August 2015 peace agreement mandated specialized international agencies work with all warring parties to demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers from the SPLA, the SPLA-IO, the Nuer White Army, and other groups, usually those involved in community defense. UNICEF warned renewed fighting undermined the progress it had made in demobilizing and reintegrating child soldiers, and it acknowledged some of the children had been rerecruited.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Throughout the year the environment for humanitarian operations grew increasingly difficult and dangerous as the geographic scope of humanitarian need expanded. Armed actors, including government and opposition forces, continued to restrict the ability of the United Nations and other international and nongovernmental organizations to safely and effectively deliver humanitarian assistance to populations in need. Access was impeded by direct denials, bureaucratic barriers, and renewed fighting in areas of the country where humanitarian needs were highest. Despite repeated safety assurances, armed elements harassed and killed relief workers, looted and destroyed humanitarian assets and facilities, and imposed bureaucratic impediments on relief organizations. On multiple occasions fighting between armed forces put the safety and security of humanitarian workers at risk, prevented travel, forced the evacuation of relief workers, and jeopardized humanitarian operations, including forcing organizations to suspend operations entirely in areas of active conflict. During the year relief organizations reported more than 683 humanitarian access incidents, including 101 in August. Delayed flight safety assurances, insecurity, and movement restrictions often prevented relief workers from traveling to conflict and nonconflict areas. Humanitarian personnel, independently or through a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) access working group, negotiated with government and opposition forces and other armed groups to address access problems; however, these negotiations were often protracted and caused significant delays in the delivery of assistance.

The humanitarian operating environment became more volatile, increasingly jeopardizing the safety of humanitarian workers throughout the country. The most common forms of violence against humanitarian workers included robbery and looting, harassment, armed attacks, commandeering of vehicles, and physical detention. Since the start of the conflict in December 2013, the United Nations reported at least 85 humanitarian staff members had been killed in the country, 18 of them during the year. For example, unidentified armed actors on March 25 attacked a humanitarian convoy traveling from Juba to Pibor town, Jonglei, resulting in the deaths of seven aid workers–four South Sudanese and three Kenyans. The attack represented the single deadliest incident for aid workers since the conflict began. The aid workers were employees of a local NGO, the Grassroots Empowerment and Development Organization.

On April 10, unidentified armed actors killed three local World Food Program (WFP) workers in Wau, Western Bahr el Gazal State. The WFP reported two of the workers were hacked to death with machetes and one was shot and killed. As a result, the WFP temporarily suspended humanitarian operations in Wau, with the exception of relief activities in and near the PoC site.

Looting of humanitarian compounds and other assets was also common. During the week of July 17, unidentified armed actors looted a WFP warehouse in Tonj East that contained 245 metric tons of food commodities. The UN agency notified local authorities, who declined to take action to stop the attackers.

Restrictions on humanitarian operations took other forms as well. In early September staff from at least six NGOs and donor representatives with diplomatic passports reported NSS authorities operating at Juba International Airport denied them travel permission because they did not yet have work permits. Work permits often take up to six months to be issued, and previously NGOs had been permitted to travel with the receipt as evidence of a work permit in process. Diplomats were denied travel permission supposedly for lack of permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, although there was no requirement for diplomats to obtain permission to travel in the country. The South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) released a circular on September 5 requiring NGO staff whose work permits had not yet been issued as well as short-term visitors, such as consultants, to obtain a signed travel approval from the RRC 72 hours in advance of the planned travel. Relief actors reported the RRC released the circular without notice or consultation with NGOs, prompting confusion regarding the required travel procedures.

In addition to physical security challenges, bureaucratic access constraints seriously affected humanitarian workers’ ability to deliver timely aid to populations in need. The government raised annual international NGO registration fees in May from approximately 61,000 South Sudanese pounds (SSP) ($500) to 427,000 SSP ($3,500) due to the increasing demand of humanitarian needs in the country. Humanitarian organizations expressed concern that the registration fee increase extorted money from NGO workers and could hinder the response efforts of smaller relief organizations.

Humanitarian organizations also experienced delays in and denials of tax exemptions and were forced to purchase relief supplies on the local market, raising quality concerns. Government authorities began requesting international NGO staff pay income tax and threatened national staff into paying income tax at the state level.

Continuing conflict and access denial to humanitarian actors was the leading contributor to households facing famine conditions. It was difficult to accurately gather information and assess areas due to insecurity. For example, in August SPLA-IO forces detained two WFP-contracted volunteers conducting a food security and nutrition monitoring survey in Yei County’s Minyori town. The SPLA-IO detained the volunteers for more than a week on alleged charges of espionage and tortured them while in custody.

NGOs reported that government obstruction of impartial humanitarian assistance was greater in opposition-held areas, which, consequently, experienced a greater level of food insecurity. During the year, Amnesty International alleged the government was using food as a weapon of war.

Abyei is a disputed region between Sudan and South Sudan that, according to agreements between the two governments, is to be jointly administered until a referendum on the final status of the area is held. After South Sudanese independence, the United Nations established the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). The security situation in Abyei was calm but unpredictable throughout the year. UNISFA reported some progress in communities returning property/livestock or receiving compensation for stolen property/livestock. The mission also noted a peaceful reverse migration of Misseriya communities. Crime remained a problem, but there was a decrease in thefts and break-ins at UN and UNISFA compounds.

UNISFA and NGOs continued to provide humanitarian assistance to more than 130,000 vulnerable persons in Abyei. The conflict in South Sudan undercut the provision of aid, including by forcing the temporary relocation of international staff to Juba; looting of supplies procured in South Sudan and subsequent cost increases for those supplies; and delays in NGO activities. An estimated 1,000 displaced South Sudanese transited Abyei toward Sudan.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The transitional constitution provides for criminal penalties for acts of corruption by officials. The government did not implement the law, and officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: Corruption was endemic in all branches of government. Poor recordkeeping, lax accounting procedures, absence of strict procurement laws, a lack of accountability, and the pending status of corrective legislation compounded the problem.

The transitional constitution assigns responsibility for investigating and prosecuting corruption to the South Sudan Anticorruption Commission (SSACC). The commission has no authority to prosecute because the constitution did not repeal or amend previous laws vesting prosecutorial powers in the Ministry of Justice. The criminal code does not define corruption. A draft law to correct these issues had been pending since 2013.

The National Audit Chambers Act of 2011 established a National Audit Chamber (NAC) to be led by an auditor general to conduct independent audits of government ministries, state governments, and other entities. The NAC did not have authority to prosecute cases. The institution had not published any findings since early 2013.

Chapter IV of the 2015 peace agreement calls for the government to be transparent and accountable and for political leaders to fight against corruption. Chapter IV also calls for the establishment of an oversight mechanism to control revenue collection, budgeting, revenue allocation, and expenditures. The agreement mandates that both the SSACC and NAC be better protected from political interference.

In September 2016 the Ministry of Finance established a Cash Management Committee to review and regulate cash flow for the government on a daily basis. The Ministry of Finance took steps to follow an International Monetary Fund recommendation to create a National Revenue Authority. Oil revenue, however, which accounted for the majority of the national income, would not be collected by this entity. Oil revenue is officially reported as net income only to the government, often concealing corruption, waste, and abuse within the government entities that handled those funds.

Several investigations by international NGOs such as The Sentry detailed the lavish lifestyles enjoyed by high-ranking government officials even as the country suffered from armed conflict and economic turmoil.

Financial Disclosure: Government officials of director general rank and higher are required to submit financial declaration forms annually, although there is no penalty for failure to comply. The assets of spouses and minor children must also be declared. Although the SSACC received these forms and was responsible for monitoring compliance, no monitoring occurred by year’s end.

Sri Lanka

Executive Summary

Sri Lanka is a constitutional, multiparty republic with a freely elected government. In January 2015 voters elected President Maithripala Sirisena to a five-year term. The parliament shares power with the president. August 2015 parliamentary elections resulted in a coalition government between the two major political parties. Both elections were free and fair.

Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included unlawful killings; torture; sexual abuse; arbitrary arrest; lengthy detention; lack of property restitution by the military; and surveillance and harassment of civil society activists and journalists. Government discrimination toward and security forces harassment of Tamils and nondenominational Christian groups persisted. Same-sex sexual conduct was prohibited by law, though rarely prosecuted.

The military and police harassed civilians with impunity, and impunity for crimes committed during and since the armed conflict continued. The government, however, took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish some officials who committed human rights abuses. The president signed a gazette legally establishing the Office of Missing Persons. The government made limited progress toward establishing additional transitional justice mechanisms.

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

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

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

On October 22, two plainclothes members of the Police Special Task Force shot and killed a 24-year-old man on a motorcycle in Ariyalai in the Jaffna District. On November 3, the Criminal Investigation Division arrested the two officers, who remained incarcerated pending trial at year’s end.

Police continued to investigate the October 2016 case in which police shot and killed two Jaffna University students after they failed to obey orders to stop their motorbike at a checkpoint. The following day, authorities arrested five police officers in connection with the shooting. On September 14, the Jaffna High Court released the five police officers on bail after 11 months of incarceration.

The investigation moved ahead for the 2009 killing of prominent journalist and politician Lasantha Wickrematunge, chief editor of the Sunday Leader. On February 19, the police arrested five military intelligence officers in connection with the incident and for orchestrating attacks on journalists and dissidents during the Rajapaksa government. The suspects were released on bail pending the outcome of the investigation.

The attorney general appealed the acquittal of five suspects accused of assassinating former Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian Nadarjah Raviraj. A new hearing was set for December 12.

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 there were reports arbitrary arrest and detention occurred, although at a decreased rate compared with 2016, according to civil society and the HRCSL; under the PTA the ability to challenge detentions was particularly limited.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Police Service is responsible for maintaining internal security and falls under the Ministry of Law and Order. The military falls under the Ministry of Defense and is responsible for external security. According to the criminal procedure code, the military may be called upon to handle specifically delineated domestic security responsibilities. The president serves as the minister of defense, but the civilian secretary of defense had daily operational responsibility over the military. The nearly 6,000-member paramilitary Special Task Force falls under the Ministry of Law and Order but occasionally coordinates internal security operations with the military.

Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the security forces, but the military and police continued to harass civilians with impunity. The Ministry of Law and Order is responsible for determining whether security force killings were justifiable. According to civil society, military intelligence operatives conducted domestic surveillance operations and harassed or intimidated members of civil society in conjunction with, or independent of, police. In May police reportedly harassed a Catholic priest in Mullaitivu following his efforts to memorialize local family members who died during the armed conflict.

Impunity for conflict-era abuses also persisted, including military, paramilitary, police, and other security-sector officials implicated in cases involving the alleged targeted killing of parliamentarians, abductions, and suspected killings of journalists and private citizens. Civil society organizations asserted the government and the courts are largely reluctant to take action against security forces, although this situation improved compared with 2016. Prosecutions for abuses committed by the security forces and police are rare but increasing, as are prosecutions for government corruption and malfeasance. On April 4, police spokesperson Priyantha Jayakody stated that police and military officials could not be exempted from police investigations. The police said authorities prosecuted 26 officers for criminal offenses during the year.

Security forces had limited internal mechanisms to investigate abuses, but victims may bring cases directly to the Supreme Court. The HRCSL and criminal courts may also investigate such abuses, and the government has pursued prosecutions and secured convictions in multiple high profile cases against members of the security services. On May 3, the Jaffna High Court convicted and sentenced six police officers to 10 years of “rigorous” imprisonment for the torture of Sriskantharaja Sumanan in 2011. The court ordered them to pay compensation to Sumanan’s relatives.

The government implemented human rights training in the defense academy to increase respect for human rights and sponsored in-house training by the ICRC.

On September 26, Buddhist monks reportedly led a mob in attacking 31 Rohingya asylum seekers outside a refugee safe house near Colombo. Local police at the scene did not take immediate action against the mob but arrested the leaders of the demonstration in the days following it after the government made several statements condemning the apparent lack of police intervention (see section 2.d., Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons).

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The Criminal Procedure Code allows police to make an arrest without a warrant for offenses such as homicide, theft, robbery, and rape. Alternatively, police can make arrests pursuant to arrest warrants that judges and magistrates issued based on evidence. The law requires authorities to inform an arrested person of the reason for the arrest and arraign that person before a magistrate within 24 hours for minor crimes, 48 hours for some grave crimes, and 72 hours for crimes covered by the PTA. More time reportedly elapsed before some detainees appeared before a magistrate, particularly in PTA cases. For bailable offenses as characterized under the Bail Act, instead of arraignment in court, the police can release suspects within 24 hours of detention on a written undertaking and require them to report to court on a specified date for pretrial hearings. Suspects accused of committing bailable offenses are entitled to bail, administered by the police before seeing a magistrate, but for suspects accused of nonbailable offenses, bail is only awarded at a magistrate’s discretion, i.e., after appearing before a magistrate.

The Bail Act states no person should be held in custody for more than 12 months prior to conviction and sentencing without a special exemption. Under the PTA, detainees may be held for up to 18 months without charge, but in practice authorities often held PTA detainees for longer periods. After his July visit to the country, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism reported that of 81 prisoners in pretrial detention awaiting the police investigation to be completed and the Attorney General’s Department filing of charges for offenses under the PTA, 70 had been in detention without trial for more than five years, and 12 had been in detention without trial for more than 10 years. Judges require approval from the Attorney General’s Office to authorize bail for persons detained under the PTA, which the office normally did not grant. In homicide cases, regulations require the magistrate to remand the suspect, and only the High Court may grant bail. In all cases, suspects have the right to legal representation, although no provision specifically provides the right of a suspect to legal representation during interrogations in police stations and detention centers. The government provided counsel for indigent defendants in criminal cases before the High Court and courts of appeal but not in other cases; the law only requires the provision of counsel for cases heard at the High Court and courts of appeal.

In June 2016 President Sirisena issued a circular setting procedures for arrests made under the PTA. The circular, with suggestions from the HRCSL, called, among other matters, for detainees to have access to legal counsel and required authorities to inform detainees’ families of their arrests. The February suspension of the PTA largely mooted the circular, as all future cases will be governed by existing criminal procedures pending the approval of an expected replacement of the PTA (see section 1.d., Arbitrary Arrest or Detention).

Arbitrary Arrest: The HRCSL received 118 complaints of arbitrary arrest and detention during the year. According to human rights groups, the police and its Criminal Investigation and Terrorism Investigation Departments unlawfully detained individuals in police stations, army camps, and informal detention facilities on allegations of involvement in terrorism-related activities without bringing charges or arraigning detainees within the timeframe required by law. Police sometimes held detainees incommunicado, and lawyers had to apply for permission to meet clients, with police frequently present at such meetings. In some cases, unlawful detentions reportedly included interrogations involving mistreatment or torture. Authorities reportedly released detainees with a warning not to reveal information about their arrests or detentions under the threats of rearrest or death.

Dozens of Tamil prisoners across the country, including former LTTE fighters, undertook three hunger strikes in October. They demanded an immediate resolution to their protracted detention. As a majority of these prisoners were held under the PTA without charge, they asked the government either to indict them or to provide a pathway for their eventual release.

Pretrial Detention: Pretrial detainees composed one-half of the detainee population. The average length of time in pretrial detention was 24 hours, but inability to post bail, lengthy legal procedures, judicial inefficiency, and corruption often caused trial delays. Legal advocacy groups asserted that for those cases in which pretrial detention exceeded 24 hours, it was common for the length of pretrial detention to equal or exceed the sentence for the alleged crime.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Under the law a person can challenge an arrest or detention and obtain prompt release through the courts. The legal process takes years, and the Center for Human Rights Development (CHRD) indicated the perceived lack of judicial independence and minimal compensation discouraged individuals from seeking legal remedies. Under the PTA the ability to challenge detentions is particularly limited.

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 constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law presumes defendants are innocent until proven guilty. All criminal trials are public. Authorities inform defendants of the charges against them, and they have the right to counsel and the right to appeal. The government provided counsel for indigent persons tried on criminal charges in the High Court and the courts of appeal but not in cases before lower courts. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them and to present witnesses and evidence.

The law requires court proceedings and other legislation to be available in English, Sinhala, and Tamil. Most courts outside of Jaffna and the northern and eastern parts of the country conducted business in English or Sinhala. Trials and hearings in the north and east were in Tamil and English. A shortage of court-appointed interpreters limited the right of Tamil-speaking defendants to free interpretation as necessary. In several instances courts tried criminal cases originating in the Tamil-speaking north and east in Sinhala-speaking areas, which exacerbated the language difference and increased the difficulty in presenting witnesses who needed to travel. Few legal textbooks were available in Tamil. Defendants have the right to be present in court during trial and have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants also have the right not to testify or admit guilt.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The CHRD reports that authorities detained more than 130 political prisoners in the country, with an additional 24 released on bail. The government did not acknowledge any political prisoners and insisted these prisoners were detained for criminal acts. The government permitted access to prisoners on a regular basis by the HRCSL, magistrates, and the Prison Welfare Society, and allowed the ICRC access to monitor prison conditions. Authorities granted only irregular access to those providing local legal counsel.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens may seek civil remedies for alleged human rights violations through domestic courts.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Land ownership disputes continued between private individuals in former war zones and between citizens and the government. In April 2016 the parliament unanimously passed the Prescription (Special Provisions) Act, which outlines special legal provisions for persons who were unable to pursue their rights in court for the recovery of land due to the activities of a militant terrorist group during the period from May 1, 1983, to May 18, 2009. The act will remain in force for two years to resolve outstanding claims. Under previous legislation, landowners who had abandoned their land for more than 10 years forfeited their property rights, which happened to a large number of property owners displaced by the 27-year war.

The military seized significant amounts of land during the war to create security buffer zones around military bases and other high-value targets, known as high security zones (HSZs). According to the 1950 Land Acquisition Act, the government may acquire private property for a “public purpose,” but the law requires posting acquisition notices publicly and providing proper compensation to owners. The former government frequently posted acquisition notices for HSZ land that were inaccessible to property owners, many of whom initiated court cases, including fundamental rights cases before the Supreme Court, to challenge these acquisitions. According to the acquisition notices, most of the land acquired was for use as army camps and bases, but among the purposes listed on certain notices were the establishment of a hotel, a factory, and a farm. Throughout the year, lawsuits, including a 2016 Supreme Court fundamental rights case and numerous writ applications filed with High Courts, remained stalled. Although HSZs had no legal framework following the lapse of emergency regulations in 2011, they still existed and remained off limits to civilians. During the year the government returned approximately 686 acres of land.

With the amount of remaining land in dispute, many of those affected by the HSZs complained that the pace at which the government demilitarized land was too slow and that the military held lands it viewed as economically valuable. Some religious minority groups reported they had difficulty officially claiming land they had long inhabited after Buddhist monks placed a statue of Buddha or a boddhi tree on their property.

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

The PTA permits government authorities to enter homes and monitor communications without judicial or other authorization. Government authorities reportedly monitored private movements without appropriate authorization.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

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

Corruption: Corruption remained a continuing problem. For example, a parliamentary panel, the Committee on Public Enterprises, investigated former central bank governor Arjuna Mahendran amid allegations that Mahendran had given his son-in-law insider information and that they had both benefited from sovereign bond sales while he was central bank governor. In addition, Mahendran was accused of charging millions of rupees (thousands of dollars) to his government credit card. Mahendran has denied the allegations, and an earlier investigation cleared him. The government has yet to take action against Mahendran.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires all candidates for parliamentary, local government, provincial, and presidential elections to declare their assets and liabilities to the speaker of parliament. Some but not all candidates in parliamentary elections submitted their financial reports to the speaker, but authorities did not enforce compliance. By law members of the public may access records relating to the assets and liabilities of elected officials by paying a fee.

Suriname

Executive Summary

Suriname is a constitutional democracy with a president elected by the unicameral National Assembly. Elections for the National Assembly took place in May 2015, and in July 2015 the assembly elected Desire Delano Bouterse to a second consecutive term as president. International observers considered legislative elections to be free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included the unresolved trial of President Bouterse and 18 codefendants for the 1982 extrajudicial killings of 15 political opponents; arbitrary arrest of protest leaders; threats made against the judiciary; restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly; widespread government corruption; violence and abuse against women and children; trafficking in persons; police violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons as well as persons with HIV and other minorities; and worst forms of child labor, which the government made minimal efforts to eliminate.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. Observers nonetheless expressed concern that high public officials and security officers had impunity from enforcement.

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

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

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

There were developments in the trial of former military dictator and current President Bouterse and 18 codefendants for the 1982 extrajudicial killing of 15 political opponents. President Bouterse and defendants Stephanus Dedoe, Etienne Boerenveen, Arthy Gorre, Ernst Gefferie, and Iwan Dijksteel were each given sentence recommendations of 20 years’ imprisonment for planning and taking part in the murders. Defendant Roozendaal received a sentence recommendation of 10 years, as the prosecution took into account his cooperation and that he eventually showed remorse for his crimes. The prosecutor recommended the acquittal of four others. The remaining defendants were scheduled to hear their sentence recommendations in late November.

There was no progress made on establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as mandated by the amnesty law.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The armed forces are responsible for national security and border control, with the military police having direct responsibility for immigration control at the country’s ports of entry. All elements of the military are under the control of the Ministry of Defense. Civilian police bear primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order and report to the Ministry of Justice and Police. Police effectiveness was hampered by a lack of equipment and training and by low salaries. Police and military personnel continued to conduct regular joint patrols as part of the government’s overall efforts to combat crime, and both also served on special security teams.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the military and police. Although the government continued to take steps to prosecute abusers in the security forces, observers nonetheless expressed concern that high public officials and security officers had impunity from enforcement.

The Personnel Investigation Department (OPZ), an office within the Police Department, investigated complaints filed by citizens against members of the police force. The Internal Affairs Unit (ITZ) investigated allegations of misconduct by members of the police force. Military police and the judge advocate investigated offenses committed by soldiers.

As of September the OPZ received 142 complaints from private citizens against members of the police force, 40 of which contained allegations of abuse. By the same date, the ITZ conducted 11 internal investigations involving various forms of misconduct. Authorities imposed disciplinary sanctions in 187 cases. No police officers were fired as part of disciplinary action.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police apprehended individuals openly with warrants based on sufficient evidence and brought them before an independent judiciary. The law provides that detainees be brought before a judge within seven days to determine the legality of their arrest. Authorities promptly informed detainees of the charges against them. An assistant district attorney or a police inspector may authorize incommunicado detention. If additional time is needed to investigate the charge, a judge may extend the detention period for periods of 30 days, up to a total of 150 days. There is no bail system. Release pending trial is dependent on the type of crime committed and the judge handling the case. Detainees received prompt access to counsel of their choosing, but the prosecutor may prohibit access if the prosecutor believes access could harm the investigation. Legal counsel was provided at no charge for indigent detainees. Detainees were allowed weekly visits from family members.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police arbitrarily and forcibly detained three protest leaders in April after attempts to block different groups from protesting against the government failed. The three were held for several hours but released when lawful cause for arrest could not be found.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a serious problem, caused by an insufficient number of judges available to hear cases. While some progress was made in bringing criminal cases to trial, detainees often served the majority if not their entire sentence before trial was completed.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

While the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the unresolved trial of former military dictator and current President Bouterse and 18 codefendants suggested a lack of independence in practice (see section 1.a.). The executive continued to use legal maneuvers to delay, if not terminate, criminal proceedings against Bouterse and codefendants.

The independence and authority of the judiciary were directly threatened by members of the executive and legislature, as well as agents of the government, after the Appellate Chamber of the Court of Justice rejected a petition to end the December Murders Trial (DMT), and the prosecutor subsequently presented his closing arguments and sentence recommendation. After the prosecutor recommended a sentence of 20 years imprisonment for President Bouterse, President Bouterse sought to force the resignation of the attorney general through issuance of a government resolution, signed by the Council of Ministers, in which the government stated it had lost trust in the attorney general for failing to stop the further prosecution of the DMT as instructed in Resolution 568. The attack on the attorney general was widely criticized and deemed unconstitutional.

There were also threats made against the prosecutor after he presented his closing arguments and sentence recommendation against lead suspect Bouterse in the DMT. The independence and authority of the judiciary was repeatedly scrutinized and challenged by members of the legislature affiliated with the government and by members of the president’s party, who threatened violence if the president were to be convicted.

The dependence of the courts on the Ministry of Justice and Police and Ministry of Finance, both executive agencies, for funding also threatened judicial independence. Some progress was reportedly made towards financial independence of the Court of Justice, when the Ministries of Finance, and Justice and Police agreed to allow the court to manage a budget of its own for smaller expenditures.

Human rights activists complained that there was no effective remedy for constitutional violations, as a succession of governments failed to install a constitutional court as mandated by the constitution.

According to the interim president of the Court of Justice, the country had only 19 of the 45 judges needed for the proper functioning of the judicial system. Due to a shortage of judges, prisoners who appealed their cases often served their full sentences before completion of lengthy appeals.

The judiciary lacked sufficient professional court managers and case management systems to oversee the courts’ administrative functions. The opening of a new court building in April alleviated some of the physical space problems the Court of Justice had faced for years. The judiciary made some progress in the timely processing of criminal cases, although the processing of civil cases continued to lag.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants have the right to trial without undue delay and the right to counsel. There were court-assigned attorneys for both the civil and penal systems. All trials are public except for indecency offenses and offenses involving children. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have the right to appeal. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial. Defendants’ attorneys may question witnesses and present witnesses and evidence on the defendant’s behalf. The courts assign private-sector lawyers to defend indigent detainees. If necessary, free interpretation is also provided. The law protects the names of the accused, and authorities do not release those names to the public or the media prior to conviction.

Legal assistance to indigent detainees continued to come under pressure as lawyers threatened to cease legal assistance due to lack of payment by the government. Cases concerning non-Dutch-speaking detainees were postponed on numerous occasions as interpreters suspended their services to the court due to a backlog in payments by the government. There was no notable progress during the year to alleviate these problems.

There are parallel military and civilian court systems, and military personnel generally are not subject to civilian criminal law. The military courts follow the same rules of procedure as the civil courts. There is no appeal from the military to the civil system.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations have the right to seek civil remedies for human rights violations in local courts. Individuals and organizations have the right to appeal decisions to regional human rights bodies; most cases are brought to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The IAHCR has ruled against the country in several cases, but the government only sporadically enforced court rulings or took no action (see section 6, Indigenous People).

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 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

In August the National Assembly passed anticorruption legislation that strengthens measures to combat corruption, and it set forth a mechanism to prevent corruption. Despite numerous reports and allegations of corruption, one case proceeded to trial during the year.

Corruption: Allegations of corruption grew more prevalent as the economy deteriorated. Allegations included government contracting to political party insiders and supporters. There continued to be questions regarding the transparency of government decisions to issue mineral and timber concession rights. There was a continuing widespread perception that officials used public power for private gain. Civil society, media, and other nongovernmental parties particularly scrutinized and criticized the Ministries of Public Works, Social Affairs, Public Health, Finance, and Physical Planning, alleging widespread corruption and favoritism.

The Attorney General’s Office showed a willingness to investigate claims of corruption throughout the year. One case, which investigators launched in 2015, involving corruption at the state owned Electricity Company Suriname proceeded to court for prosecution in January. Five persons were on trial as of November.

Financial Disclosure: The newly approved anticorruption legislation includes financial disclosure requirements for certain groups of government officials.

Sweden

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a freely elected multiparty parliamentary form of government. Legislative authority rests in the unicameral parliament (Riksdag). Observers considered the national elections in 2014 to be free and fair. In the same year, the king announced that the center-left coalition led by Stefan Lofven of the Social Democratic Party had taken office. The king is largely a symbolic head of state. The prime minister is the head of government and exercises executive authority.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included anti-Semitic threats of violence and attempted bomb attacks on immigrants, which the authorities investigated and prosecuted.

Authorities generally prosecuted officials who committed abuses in the security services or elsewhere in the government.

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.

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 and the national criminal police are responsible for law enforcement and general order within the country. The Security Service is responsible for national security related to terrorism, extremism, and espionage. The Ministry of Justice provides funding and letters of instruction for police activities, but it does not control how they were performed. According to the constitution, all branches of the police are independent authorities.

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

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires warrants based on evidence and issued by duly authorized officials for arrests. Police must file charges within six hours against persons detained for disturbing public order or considered dangerous and within 12 hours against those detained on other grounds. Police may hold a person six hours for questioning or as long as 12 hours if deemed necessary for the investigation, without a court order. After questioning, authorities must either arrest or release an individual, based on the level of suspicion. If a suspect is arrested, the prosecutor has 24 hours (or three days in exceptional circumstances) to request continued detention. Authorities must arraign an arrested suspect within 48 hours and begin initial prosecution within two weeks unless there are extenuating circumstances. Authorities generally respected these requirements.

Although there is no system of bail, courts routinely released defendants pending trial unless authorities considered them dangerous or there was a risk the suspect would leave the country. Detainees may retain a lawyer of their choice. In criminal cases the government is obligated to provide an attorney, regardless of the defendant’s financial situation.

The law affords detainees prompt access to lawyers and to family members. A suspect has a right to legal representation when the prosecutor requests his detention beyond 24 hours (or three days in exceptional circumstances). In 2015 the CPT observed that access to a lawyer was usually granted at the beginning of the first formal interview by the investigating officer, although it received a few allegations of delayed access, including until the very end of the police custody period. The CPT suggested it was still highly exceptional for persons in police custody to benefit from access to a lawyer from the very outset of deprivation of liberty (i.e., from the moment they were obliged to remain with police). The type of crime that authorities accused a suspect of committing influenced the suspect’s access to family members. Authorities sometimes did not allow a suspect any contact with family members if police believed it could jeopardize an investigation.

Restrictive conditions for prisoners held in pretrial custody remained a problem, although the law includes the possibility of appealing a decision to impose specific restrictions to the court of appeals and ultimately to the Supreme Court. According to the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, during the year authorities subjected approximately 70 percent of the estimated 9,500 pretrial detainees to extended isolation or restrictions on mail delivery or exercise. Authorities stated they took this step when detainees’ contact with individuals outside the detention center could risk destroying evidence or changing witnesses’ statements, thereby imperiling a continuing investigation.

Pretrial Detention: In serious criminal cases, a prisoner could be held for several years while the investigation continues.

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

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 and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, have a right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, and have a right to a fair, timely, public trial without undue delay. Defendants may be present at their trial. Cases of a sensitive nature, including those involving children, rape, and national security, may be closed to the public. In other cases judges or court-appointed civilian representatives decide guilt or innocence. Defendants have the right to consult an attorney in a timely manner. In criminal cases the government is obligated to provide a defense attorney. Defendants generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants may confront or question prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. They may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. If convicted, defendants have the right of appeal.

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 in the general court system. Citizens may appeal cases involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the government to the European Court of Human Rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government did not confiscate property belonging to Jews, Roma, or other groups targeted by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust era, and Jewish and human rights nongovernmental organizations report no disputes related to restitution.

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 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: At the end of 2016, the newspaper Dagens Nyheter published a series of revelations about the National Audit Office. The agency’s three national auditors resigned after being confronted with corruption accusations, such as tailoring the authority’s recruitment process to favor former colleagues and letting third parties influence audits. Parliament’s Constitutional Committee acted promptly, initiating an investigation scheduled for completion at year’s end.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officials and political parties to disclose income and assets. The declarations are available to the public, and there are criminal and administrative sanctions for noncompliance.

Switzerland

Executive Summary

The Swiss Confederation is a constitutional republic with a federal structure. Legislative authority resides in a bicameral parliament (Federal Assembly) consisting of the 46-member Council of States and the 200-member National Council. Federal elections in 2015 were generally considered free and fair. Parliament elects the executive leadership (the seven-member Federal Council) every four years, and did so in 2015. A four-party coalition made up the Federal Council.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

There were no reports of egregious human rights abuses.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed violations, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government.

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.

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 federal police maintain internal security. The army is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. Police report to the Federal Department of Justice and Police, while the army reports to the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection, and Sport. The State Secretariat for Migration is responsible for granting immigrant visas and residence/work permits, evaluating asylum and refugee applications, and managing deportations; it reports to the Federal Department of Justice and Police. The Swiss Border Guard is responsible for registering asylum seekers and fighting illegal migration and transborder crime; it reports to the Federal Department of Finance.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police, the army, and the Swiss Border Guard, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year. Cantonal state prosecutors and police generally investigated security force violence, although in some cantons the ombudsman’s office investigated such cases. In addition to its coordination and analytical responsibilities, the Federal Office of Police may pursue its own investigations under the supervision of the attorney general in cases of organized crime, money laundering, and corruption.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

By law police must apprehend criminal suspects based on warrants issued by a duly authorized official unless responding to a specific and immediate danger. In most instances authorities may not hold a suspect more than 24 hours before bringing the suspect before a prosecutor or investigating magistrate, who must either formally charge a detainee or order release. Immigration authorities may detain asylum seekers and other foreigners without valid documents up to 96 hours without an arrest warrant.

There is a functioning bail system, and courts granted release on personal recognizance or bail unless the magistrate believed the person charged to be dangerous or a flight risk. Alternatives to bail include having suspects report to probation officers and imposing restraining orders on suspects. Authorities may deny a suspect legal counsel at the time of detention or initial questioning, but the suspect has the right to choose and contact an attorney before being charged. The state provides free legal assistance for indigents charged with crimes carrying a possible prison sentence. According to the CPT’s 2016 report, detainees often did not have access to a lawyer for several hours after arrest. Authorities may restrict family members’ access to prevent evidence tampering, but authorities require law enforcement officials to inform close relatives promptly of the detention. The CPT also reported that the right to inform the families of arrests “was not always recognized” and that “it was not uncommon” for the delay to last several hours. It condemned the denial of contacts, including visits and telephone calls, for up to several months for prisoners awaiting judgment.

The law allows police to detain minors between the ages of 10 and 18 for a “minimal period” but does not explicitly state the length. Without an arraignment or arrest warrant, police may detain young offenders for a maximum of 24 hours (48 hours during weekends).

Arbitrary Arrest: There were occasional reports of arbitrary arrest. In July the federal court overturned a 2015 ruling by Zurich’s high court that suspended proceedings against three police officers accused of beating, kicking, and temporarily chaining up a gay man at a police station in 2011 after the man complained about not being able to bring harassment charges against two youths. The police officers allegedly also prevented the man from contacting his partner about bringing him his HIV medication while in custody. The federal court resubmitted the case to Zurich’s public prosecutor, where it was pending as of November.

Pretrial Detention: The NGO Humanrights.ch noted that lengthy pretrial detention was a problem, as it was in the previous year. In 2016 approximately 24 percent of all prisoners were in pretrial detention. The country’s highest court ruled pretrial detention must not exceed the length of the expected sentence for the crime for which a suspect is charged. Humanrights.ch commented that authorities often used pretrial detention to pressure suspects into admitting guilt.

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.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Trials are public and held without undue delay. Defendants are entitled to be present at their trial. They have the right to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, and the courts may provide an attorney at public expense if a defendant faces serious criminal charges. Defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. They have the right to confront and question witnesses, and to present witnesses and evidence. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. They have the right to appeal, ultimately to the Federal Tribunal, the country’s highest court. Sentences for youths up to age 15 may be for no longer than one year. For offenders between the ages of 16 and 18, sentences may be up to four years. Authorities generally respected these rights and extended them to all citizens.

Military courts may try civilians charged with revealing military secrets, such as classified military documents or classified military locations and installations. There were no reports that military courts tried any civilians during the year.

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. Citizens have access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for or cessation of a human rights violation. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to the European Court of Human Rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government reported that Holocaust-era restitution is no longer a significant 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. The Jewish communities in Switzerland confirmed that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration were pending before authorities.

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 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: Investigating and prosecuting government corruption is a federal responsibility. In its fourth interim report, published on August 25, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption rated the government’s progress on fighting corruption as “globally unsatisfactory.” The report criticized the government’s continued lack of statutory regulations on political party financing.

In June a new whistleblower platform of the Federal Audit Office became operational. It permits anonymous reports of corruption or other inappropriate or illegal conduct. In 2016 federal police and public prosecutors also adopted an anonymous whistleblower hotline for members of the public to report suspicious activities to state authorities.

In February authorities arrested an employee of the Ticino migration office on the suspicion of human trafficking, theft, blackmail, and violating the foreigners’ law, for allegedly collaborating with a former owner of a local construction firm illegally to issue cantonal residence permits to ineligible foreign workers. Authorities also temporarily detained a second staff member of the Ticino migration office and an additional cantonal official accused of breaching professional confidentiality in connection with the case. Investigations were ongoing as of November.

Financial Disclosure: Each year members of the Federal Assembly must disclose their financial interests, professional activities, supervisory board or executive body memberships, and activities as consultants or paid experts. A majority of cantons also required members of cantonal parliaments to disclose their financial interests. While parliamentary salaries were publicly disclosed, the salaries for parliamentarians’ separate, professional activities may not be disclosed, as outlined in the Federal Act.

Syria

Executive Summary

President Bashar Assad has ruled the Syrian Arab Republic since 2000. The constitution mandates the primacy of Baath Party leaders in state institutions and society, and Assad and Baath party leaders dominate all three branches of government. An uprising against the government that began in 2011 continued throughout the year. The 2014 presidential election and the April 2016 parliamentary elections resulted in the election of Assad and 200 People’s Council (Syrian parliament) seats for the Baath Party-led National Progressive Front, respectively. Both elections took place in an environment of widespread government coercion, and many Syrians residing in opposition-held territory did not participate in the elections. Observers did not consider the elections free or fair.

The government maintained control over its uniformed military, police, and state security forces, but it did not maintain effective control over foreign and domestic military or paramilitary organizations. These included Russian armed forces; Hizballah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps; nonuniformed progovernment militias, such as the National Defense Forces; and the Bustan Charitable Association, or “shabiha.”

The most significant human rights abuses included unlawful and arbitrary killings by the government and its allies resulting from atrocities they committed during the conflict, including the repeated use of chemical weapons, including sarin and chlorine, against civilians, widespread “barrel bombing” of civilians and residential areas, systematic attacks on civilian infrastructure, attacks on medical facilities, extrajudicial executions, rape, including of children, as a weapon of war; massacres, starvation and displacement of local civilian populations; mass forced disappearances; thousands of cases of torture, including sexual violence; harsh and life threatening conditions in prisons and detention centers, including deliberate denial of medical care; widespread arbitrary arrest and detention; tens of thousands of political prisoners; pervasive interference with privacy; recruitment and use of child soldiers; severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, including internet access, assembly, association, and movement; denial of humanitarian access to civilians, including displaced persons; rampant corruption; criminalization of same sex sexual activity and violence against LGBTI persons by government and extremist forces; and severe restrictions on workers’ rights.

The government took no steps to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed human rights violations or abuses. Impunity was pervasive and deeply embedded in the security forces and elsewhere in the government.

Government-linked paramilitary groups reportedly engaged in frequent violations and abuses, including massacres, indiscriminate killings, kidnapping of civilians, arbitrary detentions, and rape as a war tactic. Government-affiliated militias, including the terrorist organization Lebanese Hizballah, supported by Iran, repeatedly targeted civilians. Armed terrorist groups, such as the al-Qa’ida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), also committed a wide range of human rights abuses, including massacres, bombings, and kidnappings; unlawful detention; torture; unlawful killings; and forced evacuations from homes based on sectarian identity. While the government and its allies were responsible for most of the killings, the Islamic State extremist group ISIS committed massive abuses in territories it controlled in the Raqqa and Deir al-Zour Governorates. Human trafficking and the forcible recruitment and use of children in the conflict increased. There were reports of systematic rape and forced marriages of women and girls for sexual slavery among ISIS fighters. On August 15, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that “ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in areas it controls or has controlled. ISIS is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups, and in some cases against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.”

There also were reports of Kurdish forces displacing Arab residents after liberating areas from ISIS. During the year reports from local media and Syrian human rights groups indicated that Kurdish authorities arrested local civil council leaders, journalists, and other civilians. There were reports alleging that some members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Syrian Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and other minorities that included members of the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG), engaged in forced conscription, to include limited conscription of children, as well as reports alleging isolated incidents of torture and at least one incident of extrajudicial killing of persons suspected of ISIS affiliation by those who appeared to belong to the SDF based on their statements or their uniforms.

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

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

There were numerous reports the government and its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in relation to the conflict (see section 1.g.).

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), as of March the conflict had killed at least 207,000 civilians. The government continued its use of helicopters and airplanes to conduct aerial bombardment and shelling. The SNHR reported that government helicopters dropped at least 5,318 barrel bombs from January through October, resulting in the deaths of at least 110 civilians. Amnesty International (AI) reported that authorities killed between five thousand and 13,000 persons at the Sednaya military prison between September 2011 and December 2015, with no indication that the killing had ceased. In May a foreign government announced that it assessed the Syrian government had probably installed a crematorium within the Sednaya compound to permit its forces to dispose of prisoners’ bodies with little evidence. On October 26, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism issued its seventh report, which concluded that the Assad regime used the chemical weapon sarin in the April 4 attack that killed scores of persons in Khan Shaykhun. The report also determined that ISIS was responsible for using ‎the chemical weapon sulfur mustard in September 2016 in Um-Housh.

Government and progovernment forces reportedly attacked civilians in hospitals, residential areas, schools, and settlements for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugee camps; these attacks included bombardment with improvised explosive devices, commonly referred to as “barrel bombs.” The government continued the use of torture and rape, including of children. It used the massacre of civilians, as well as their forced displacement, rape, starvation, and protracted sieges that occasionally forced local surrenders, as military tactics.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, although a 2011 decree allows the government to detain suspects for up to 60 days without charge if suspected of “terrorism” and other related offenses. The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, but the government did not observe this requirement. Arbitrary arrests increased according to local news sources, and several human rights organizations reported detentions in the tens of thousands. In September the SNHR documented more than 85,000 persons forcibly disappeared since March 2011, reporting that the government disappeared 90 percent of them. In February 2016 the COI published a report entitled, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Deaths in Detention in the Syrian Arab Republic.” The report stated that “since March 2011, a countrywide pattern emerged in which civilians, mainly males above the age of 15, were arbitrarily arrested and detained by the Syrian security and armed forces or by militia acting on behalf of the government during mass arrests, house searches, at checkpoints, and in hospitals. Arrests targeted civilians perceived to be either supporting the opposition or insufficiently loyal to the government.”

HRW reported the government continued to use counterterrorism law to arrest and convict nonviolent activists on charges of aiding terrorists in trials that violated basic due process rights. Although authorities reportedly brought charges under the guise of countering violent militancy, allegations included peaceful acts such as distributing humanitarian aid, participating in protests, and documenting human rights abuses.

National security forces failed to respond to or protect large regions of the country from violence. AI reported that armed groups detained suspected government supporters, local activists, foreign journalists, aid workers, and others. The COI’s 2016 report also noted that nonstate armed groups, including Ahrar al-Sham and the HTS, took hostages, especially women and children, to force prisoner exchanges with the government or other armed groups or for ransom (see section 1.g.).

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The government’s multiple security branches traditionally operated autonomously with no defined boundaries between their areas of jurisdiction. Military Intelligence and Air Force Intelligence reported to the Ministry of Defense, the Political Security Directorate reported to the Ministry of Interior, and the General Intelligence Directorate reported directly to the Office of the President. The Interior Ministry controlled the four separate divisions of police: emergency police, traffic police, neighborhood police, and riot police.

Government-affiliated shabiha forces reorganized and in 2013 rebranded themselves as the National Defense Forces (NDF). These groups engaged in armed conflict and arrested, detained, and tortured those suspected of supporting the opposition. The NDF integrated with government-affiliated forces. There also were other progovernment militias in addition to the NDF.

Impunity continued to be a widespread problem. The General Command of the Army and Armed Forces may issue arrest warrants for crimes committed by military officers, members of the internal security forces, or customs police during their normal duties; military courts must try such cases. Security forces operated independently and generally outside the control of the legal system. There were no known prosecutions or convictions of police and security force personnel for abuse or corruption and no reported government actions to reform the security forces or police.

Opposition forces established irregularly constituted courts and detention facilities in areas under their control, which varied greatly in organization and adherence to judicial norms. Some groups upheld the country’s law, others followed a 1996 draft Arab League Unified Penal Code based on sharia (Islamic law), while others implemented a mix of customary law and sharia. The experience, expertise, and credentialing of opposition judges and religious scholars also varied widely, and dominant armed militias in the area often subjected them to their orders.

ISIS claimed that it based administration of justice in the territory it controlled on religious law. ISIS purportedly authorized its police forces, known as “hisbah,” to administer summary punishment for violations of ISIS’s morality code.

Local media sources and human rights groups such as Syrians for Truth and Justice reported that, in areas under its control, the YPG, considered to be the military wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), arrested journalists, human rights activists, opposition party members, and persons who refused to join Kurdish armed forces groups. In some instances the location of the detainees remained unknown.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law generally requires a warrant for arrest in criminal cases, but police often cited emergency or national security justifications for acting without a warrant, permitted under the law. Police usually brought arrested individuals to a police station for processing and detention until a trial date was set. The law stipulates that the length of time authorities may hold a person without charge is limited to 60 days, but according to various NGOs, activists, and former detainees, police held many individuals for longer periods or indefinitely. Civil and criminal defendants have the right to bail hearings and possible release from detention on their own recognizance. The legal system inconsistently applied this right, particularly with pretrial detainees. At the initial court hearing, which can be months or years after the arrest, the accused may retain an attorney at personal expense or the court may appoint an attorney, although authorities did not assure lawyers access to their clients before trial. According to local human rights organizations, denial of access to a lawyer was common.

In cases involving political or national security offenses, authorities reportedly often made arrests in secret with cases assigned in an apparently arbitrary manner to military, security, or criminal courts. The government reportedly detained suspects incommunicado for prolonged periods without charge or trial and denied them the right to a judicial determination of their pretrial detention. In most cases authorities reportedly did not inform detainees of charges against them until their arraignment, often months after their arrest. Security detainees did not have access to lawyers before or during questioning or throughout preparation and presentation of their defense. The number of suspects accused of political and national security offenses reportedly increased compared with previous years.

The government often reputedly failed to notify foreign governments when it arrested, detained, released, or deported their citizens, especially when the case involved political charges. The government also failed to provide consular access to foreign citizens known to be in its prisons and, on numerous occasions, claimed these individuals were not in its custody or even in the country.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces continued their previous practices and reportedly increased arbitrary arrests, but detainees had no legal redress. Reports continued of security services arresting relatives of wanted persons to pressure individuals to surrender. Police rarely issued or presented warrants or court orders before an arrest. According to reports the security branches secretly ordered many arrests and detentions. Activists and international humanitarian organizations stated that government forces continued to conduct security raids in response to antigovernment protests throughout urban areas. In areas under government control, security forces engaged in arbitrary arrests. The COI reported that authorities arbitrarily arrested men and boys over age 12 at some checkpoints. Often authorities cited no reason for arresting civilians.

Checkpoints operated by the government were a commonly reported location for arbitrary arrests, sometimes resulting in transfer to a long-term detention facility or disappearance. Government military and security forces reportedly arrested men at checkpoints solely for being of military age. According to the COI, there continued to be frequent accounts of enforced disappearances following arrest at checkpoints.

Multiple reports from local and international NGOs stated that the government prevented the majority of those detained from contacting their relatives or obtaining a lawyer. When authorities occasionally released detainees, it was often without any formal judicial procedures. Hundreds of detainees interviewed by human rights groups stated that they had been arrested, detained, questioned, and released after months of detention without seeing a judge or being sentenced.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a serious problem. Authorities reportedly held many detainees incommunicado for years before bringing them to trial. A shortage of available courts and lack of legal provisions for speedy trial or plea bargaining also contributed to lengthy pretrial detentions. There were numerous reported instances when the length of detention exceeded the sentence for the crime. Percentages for prison/detainee population held in pretrial detention and the length of time held were not available during the year.

Syrian human rights groups continued to highlight the plight of detainees and advocate for their release.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: By law persons arrested or detained regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and any delay in obtaining judicial process. If the court finds persons to have been detained unlawfully, they are entitled to prompt release and/or compensation. Not all detainees, however, had the ability to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court or obtain prompt release and compensation even if found to have been unlawfully detained.

Amnesty: The March 2016 Cessation of Hostilities statement called for the United Nations to form a committee to monitor the release of detainees periodically; however, there was no progress made on release of detainees.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but authorities regularly subjected courts to political influence, and outcomes of cases with political context appeared predetermined.

Government authorities detained without access to fair trial tens of thousands of individuals, including those associated with NGOs, human rights activists, journalists, relief workers, religious figures, and medical providers. Government authorities rigorously denied citizens the right to a fair public trial and the ability to exercise civil liberties and freedoms of expression, movement, peaceful assembly, and association.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, but the government did not respect judicial independence.

The law presumes defendants innocent. Defendants have the right to prompt, detailed notification of the charges against them with interpretation as necessary, although authorities did not verifiably enforce this right, and a number of detainees’ families mentioned that the accused were unaware of the charges facing them. Trials are public, except for those involving juveniles or sexual offenses. The law entitles defendants before civil and criminal courts to representation of their choice; the courts appoint lawyers for indigents. It was unknown if attorneys had adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Human rights lawyers noted, however, that in some politically charged cases, the government provided prosecution case files to defense lawyers that did not include any evidence. Defendants may present evidence and confront their accusers. Defendants may not legally be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but family members and NGOs reported that torture or intimidation from judges and prosecutors sometimes elicited false confessions. Convicted persons may appeal verdicts to a provincial appeals court and ultimately to the Court of Cassation.

Not all citizens enjoyed these rights equally, in part because interpretations of religious law provide the basis for elements of family and criminal law and discriminate against women. Some personal status laws applied sharia law regardless of the religion of those involved. Additionally, news media and NGO reports suggested the government denied some, and in certain cases all, of these protections to those accused of political crimes or violence against the government. Sentences for persons accused of antigovernment activity tended to be harsh, with violent offenders and nonviolent offenders receiving similar punishments. The Violations Documentation Center reported that the number of cases referred to the CTC exceeded 80,000 by April 2016, two and one-half years after it began accepting cases. According to the SNHR, the majority of those tried received five- to 20-year prison sentences. The government did not permit defendants before the CTC to have legal representation, although activists reported individuals charged under the counterterrorism law could retain attorneys to move their trial date.

In opposition-controlled areas, legal or trial procedures varied by locale. Local human rights organizations reported that local governing structures assumed these responsibilities. HRW reported that civilians administered these processes employing customary sharia laws in some cases and national laws in others. Sentencing by opposition sharia councils sometimes resulted in public executions, without an appeals process or visits by family members.

According to local NGOs, opposition-run sharia councils continued to discriminate against women, not allowing them to serve as judges or lawyers or to visit detainees.

In July the HTS cemented its power in Idlib by defeating Ahrar al-Sham forces and monopolizing key assets in the province, including many of the local sharia courts. Following its military gain in Idlib, the HTS carried out arbitrary arrests of media activists and relief workers who had criticized the HTS’s policy on social media, according to the SNHR. The HTS also subsequently arrested protesters and members of rebel groups at odds with the HTS, and as of December, their status was unknown. The HTS also targeted humanitarian organizations, claiming these organizations were affiliated with rebel groups at odds with the HTS. According to the SNHR, the HTS arrested dozens of their staff and interrogated them before eventually releasing them. The HTS denied those arrested the opportunity to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention. The HTS also dissolved local councils in Idlib that were not supporting its objectives.

In the territory it controlled, ISIS purported to establish courts to preside over its interpretation of religious law headed by judges with unknown credentials based on an unknown selection process.

In the territories it controlled (the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria), the Kurdish authorities created a legal code based on the “Social Charter.” Reports described the Social Charter as a mix of Syrian criminal and civil law with laws concerning divorce, marriage, weapons ownership, and tax evasion drawn from EU law. The justice system consisted of courts, legal committees, and investigative bodies. There were reports that the system was robust, well funded, and supported by police in the region. There were also reports that it lacked experienced staff, was too closely aligned with the PYD, and was biased in favor of Kurds.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Under the Assad government, and specifically since the advent of the conflict, the government’s violations against detainees increased dramatically. AI reported the systematic arrest of tens of thousands of citizens since 2011. At greatest risk were those perceived to oppose the government, including peaceful demonstrators, human rights activists, and political dissidents. The four intelligence agencies–Air Force Intelligence, Military Intelligence, Political Security, and General Intelligence–largely conducted the arrests.

AI reported that the total number of political prisoners and detainees was difficult to determine in view of the lack of government information and absence of government transparency. Authorities continued to refuse to divulge information regarding numbers or names of persons detained on political or security-related charges. As of September the Violations Documentation Center listed more than 65,000 political prisoners arrested since 2011. AI reported that authorities held them generally without charge or trial and did not inform their families.

Prison conditions for political or national security prisoners, especially accused opposition members, reportedly continued to be much worse than those for common criminals. According to local NGOs, authorities deliberately placed political prisoners in crowded cells with convicted and alleged felons and subjected them to verbal and physical threats and abuse. Political prisoners also reported they often slept on the ground due to lack of beds and faced frequent searches. According to reports from families, authorities refused many political prisoners access to family and counsel. Some former detainees and human rights observers reported the government denied political prisoners access to reading materials, including the Quran, and prohibited them from praying in their cells.

Many prominent civilian activists and journalists detained or forcibly disappeared following the 2011 protests reportedly remained in detention. There were no known developments in the majority of cases of reported disappearances from prior years, including the following persons believed forcibly disappeared by government forces: Abdel Aziz Kamal al-Rihawi; Alawite opposition figure Abdel Aziz al-Khair; Kurdish activist Berazani Karro; Yassin Ziadeh, brother of dissident Radwan Ziadeh; human rights lawyer Khalil Ma’touq and his assistant, Mohamed Zaza; human rights activist Adel Barazi; and peace activist and theater director Zaki Kordillo and his son, Mihyar Kordillo. (See section 1.b. for information on Bassel Khartabil.)

There were no updates in the kidnappings of the following persons believed to have been abducted by ISIS, armed opposition, or unidentified armed groups: activists Razan Zaitouneh, Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil, and Nazim Hamadi; religious leaders Bolous Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim; and peace activist Paulo Dall’Oglio. These individuals were among the estimated thousands of disappearances reported by activists and media.

HRW reported that courts continued to detain activists under the counterterrorism law implemented following the lifting of the Emergency Law in 2011. The government established the CTC under the Ministry of Justice to apply the law. Authorities held some detainees under this law at Adra central prison in Damascus pending trial. The amnesties enacted in 2014 and 2015 included some detainees held under counterterrorism charges, but NGOs and activists reported the government released very few such individuals under the amnesties. Authorities later rearrested many of those released.

Local NGOs reported ISIS detained and harassed domestic human rights activists, humanitarian aid workers, and religious figures. The COI reported that in Raqqa Governorate ISIS detained hundreds of persons, including women and community activists, who opposed its rule.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Government civil remedies for human rights violations were functionally nonexistent. In areas under their control, opposition groups did not organize consistent civil judicial procedures. ISIS and other extremist groups had no known civil judicial mechanisms in the territories they controlled.

In the Kurdish-administered parts of northeastern Syria, civilian peace and reconciliation committees reportedly resolved civil disputes before elevating them to a court.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Security forces routinely seized detainees’ property and personal items. With the onset of civil unrest, authorities increased confiscation of personal telephones, computers, and electronics. Security forces did not catalog these items in accordance with the law, and although detained individuals had the right to retrieve their confiscated belongings after release, authorities often did not return the property. According to media reports and activists, government forces also seized property left by refugees or internally displaced persons.

The COI reported that the government implemented legislative measures to dispossess of their property persons who opposed the government, including by impeding displaced persons from registering or retaining private property. For example, recent presidential decrees require in-person registration and contestation of land titles, making it all but impossible for the displaced to retain their property.

According to humanitarian aid workers, ISIS seized property from international and local aid workers at checkpoints that ISIS controlled throughout the country.

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

The law prohibits such actions, but they occurred routinely. Police frequently bypassed search warrant requirements in criminal cases by citing security reasons or emergency grounds for entry into private property. Random home raids occurred in large cities and towns of most governorates where the government maintained a presence, usually following large antigovernment protests or opposition attacks against government targets.

The government continued to open mail addressed to both citizens and foreign residents and routinely monitored internet communications, including email (see section 2.a.).

The government continued to bar membership in some political organizations, including Islamist parties, and often arrested their members (see section 3).

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

The government, opposition groups, the SDF, and ISIS continued to participate in armed combat throughout the year. The most egregious human rights violations and abuses stemmed from the state’s widespread disregard for the safety and well-being of its citizens. This manifested itself in a complete denial of citizens’ ability to choose their government peacefully, a breakdown in the ability of law enforcement authorities to protect the majority of citizens from state and nonstate violence, and the use of violence against civilians and civilian institutions. Reports indicated that the government arbitrarily and unlawfully killed, tortured, and detained persons on a wide scale. Attacks against schools, hospitals, mosques, churches, water stations, bakeries, markets, civil defense force centers, and houses were common throughout the country.

As of October there were more than 5.2 million Syrian refugees registered with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in neighboring countries and 6.3 million IDPs. The government frequently blocked access for humanitarian assistance and removed items such as medical supplies from convoys headed to civilian areas, particularly areas held by opposition groups.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that more than 250,000 persons had died since the start of protests in 2011, but the office stopped recording this statistic in 2014. Media sources and human rights groups estimated up to 470,000 persons had been killed since the beginning of the conflict, with estimates of more than 200,000 civilians killed.

In January media outlets widely reported that the government used “surrender or starve” tactics in hard-to-reach and besieged areas of the country. Soldiers surrounding besieged areas set up checkpoints to profit from the limited supply of goods, prices for which rose multiple times in besieged areas. The COI stated that the use of siege warfare “has affected civilians more tragically than any other tactic employed by warring parties in the conflict.” In November in a report called, “We Leave or We Die: Forced Displacement Under Syria’s ‘Reconciliation’ Agreements,” AI reported that the government and its allies offered “reconciliation” agreements to communities “after prolonged sieges and bombardment” that led to “the mass displacement of civilians.” AI claimed some of the sieges amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The report stated that some armed opposition groups also besieged populations, which in many cases amounted to war crimes. According to the United Nations, as of the end of September, nearly 420,000 Syrian men, women, and children countrywide remain trapped in besieged locations, with the government responsible for besieging approximately 95 percent.

Government forces, ISIS, and opposition forces reportedly attacked civilian institutions, including schools, hospitals (although the opposition attacked these less frequently), religious establishments, and bakeries.

Killings: The government reportedly committed the majority of killings throughout the year (see section 1.a.).

Government killings and the use of lethal tactics reportedly increased in the beginning of the year but declined subsequently due to de-escalation agreements. The SNHR reported 8,802 civilian deaths from January through October. Government forces killed the plurality of civilians.

Reports from NGOs, including reports cited by the United Nations, indicated that summary killings of civilians took place in the city of Aleppo in December 2016 as government forces retook opposition-held areas. The COI reported that daily Syrian and Russian air strikes “claimed hundreds of lives and destroyed vital civilian infrastructure.” Reports also indicated that government and allied forces targeted members of first-responder groups and that men between the ages of 30 and 50 were either detained by the government or immediately conscripted into the army. Reports cited by the United Nations also indicated that armed rebel groups prevented some civilians from escaping.

Progovernment militias reportedly continued to carry out mass killings. According to the SNHR, government-affiliated sectarian militias perpetrated massacres in the cities of Homs and Aleppo.

The COI reported that in February the armed group Liwa al-Aqsa shot and killed or beheaded at least 128 armed group fighters it had detained near Khazanat Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib. Later that month civilians in the area discovered two mass graves containing corpses of armed group fighters, including at least two of which had been minors.

Extremist and terrorist groups also reportedly committed a large number of abuses and violations. Multiple media outlets reported that ISIS shelled the al-Qusour neighborhood of Deir al-Zour in October, killing at least nine civilians, including five children. The COI reported that in January a fuel truck blast in Azaz believed to be carried out by ISIS killed at least 48 persons and injured another 60. The COI reported ISIS’s continued executions of those perceived to violate its strict religious rules, including the death penalty applied to women accused of adultery and men accused of sodomy. There were isolated allegations that the SDF tortured and in one case killed persons accused of affiliation with ISIS. A video available at the website of the SNHR shows three individuals shooting and apparently killing a handcuffed man. According to the SNHR, one of the shooters speaks to the camera and says this is the fate of anyone who stands in the way of the YPG or sides with ISIS. An SDF statement in July said the SDF would investigate the allegations and hold accountable those found responsible. There were reports suggesting that the SDF generally adheres to its responsibilities under the Law of Armed Conflict.

Abductions: The government was reportedly responsible for the majority of disappearances during the year. Armed extremist groups not affiliated with the government also reportedly kidnapped individuals, particularly in the northern areas, targeting religious leaders, aid workers, suspected government affiliates, journalists, and activists. In September the SNHR documented more than 85,000 persons still forcibly disappeared since March 2011, reporting that the government disappeared 90 percent of them.

According to reliable NGO reports, government forces as well as ISIS routinely kidnapped and detained aid providers and severely restricted humanitarian access to territories under their respective control. Activists reported aid workers in ISIS-controlled territory were at high risk of abduction or violence.

In 2014 ISIS abducted thousands of Yezidi women from Iraq, as well as several Christians, and brought them to Syria for sale as sex slaves in markets or as rewards for ISIS fighters. Fighters held the women as slaves and subjected them and other captured women and girls to repeated sexual violence, systematic rape, forced marriages, and coerced abortions. In interviews with the COI, the women described multiple rapes by several men, including incidents of gang rape. Numerous NGOs and activists also reported that ISIS fighters raped women in ISIS-held areas or forced them to marry ISIS fighters. Thousands of abducted girls and women, however, remained missing.

In June 2016 the COI issued a report called, “They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis” that concluded, “ISIS has committed the crime of genocide as well as multiple crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Yezidis, thousands of whom are held captive in the Syrian Arab Republic where they are subjected to almost unimaginable horrors.”

The location and status of Khalil Arfu and Sukfan Amin Hamza from Derek, al-Hasakah Governorate, and members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party remained unknown. Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi, kidnapped in 2013, remained unaccounted for at year’s end.

The COI reported that a dramatic rise in hostage taking, which was often sectarian in nature, triggered reprisals and fueled intercommunal tension. Opposition armed groups abducted civilians and members of government forces to enable prisoner exchanges and for ransom money to purchase weapons.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: According to reliable NGO reports, the government and its affiliated militias consistently engaged in physical abuse, punishment, and torture of both opposition fighters and civilians. Government agents allegedly targeted individuals with previous ties to foreign governments that favored the opposition; it also targeted family members and associates of such individuals. Government officials reportedly abused prisoners and detainees, as well as injured and sick persons, and raped women and men as a tactic of war. Activists reported that government detention centers did not provide medical care to women during pregnancy or birth. Additionally, according to the COI, the “Caesar photographs” smuggled out of the country in 2014 by a former government photographer documented the torture and severe malnourishment of more than 11,000 deceased detainees between 2011 and 2013.

AI’s research into the Sednaya military prison determined that the government executed thousands of detainees, mostly Sunni, held in Sednaya. The organization’s report stated that the government tried and sentenced Sednaya prisoners in one of two military field courts in the al-Qaboun neighborhood of Damascus. Prison staff transported detainees to and from court in trucks, where their trials lasted between one and three minutes. AI reported that judges used forced confessions obtained by subjecting prisoners to torture. Prisoners sentenced to death were subsequently transported to an execution room, where they were met by an execution panel that included the director of Sednaya, the military prosecutor of the Military Field Court, and a representative from the intelligence agencies.

According to the report, guards subsequently led blindfolded detainees onto platforms, where prison staff placed nooses around their necks and immediately hanged them. Prison staff left the executed detainees to hang for approximately 15 minutes. Then, AI reported, a doctor determined if any of the detainees exhibited signs of life. Prison assistants pulled downward those believed to be alive to break the necks of the detainees.

According to multiple sources, the government killed as many as 50 detainees per day at Sednaya. In May a foreign government released information indicating that the government probably installed a crematorium within the Sednaya military prison complex to provide the ability to dispose of prisoners with little evidence.

The SNHR, and Lawyers and Doctors for Human Rights reported that authorities forced prisoners to witness the rape of other prisoners, threatened them with the rape of family members (in particular female family members), forced them to undress, and insulted their beliefs. According to the COI, the government and affiliated militias systematically perpetrated rape and other attacks on civilian populations in Deir al-Zour, Dara’a, Hama, Damascus, and Tartus Governorates. Detention centers were the most common location for reported abuse, but attacks also occurred during military raids and at checkpoints. Reports included instances in which multiple attackers, usually soldiers and shabiha, gang-raped women in their homes, sometimes in front of family members. Observers believed sexual violence was widespread and underreported. The SNHR noted an increased use by authorities of sexual violence against women before granting permission to depart besieged areas or to return with medical supplies and food.

There were widespread reports that ISIS also engaged in abuses and brutality. According to the COI, ISIS increased brutal treatment of those it captured in Raqqa, Deir al-Zour, and Aleppo Governorates. ISIS frequently punished victims publicly and forced residents, including children, to watch unlawful killings and amputations. Activists, NGOs, and media reported numerous accounts of women in ISIS-held territory facing arbitrary and severe punishments, including execution by stoning. ISIS also committed abuses systematically against captured Free Syrian Army (FSA) and YPG fighters. ISIS fighters reportedly beat captives (including with cables) during interrogations and killed those held in its detention centers in Raqqa and Aleppo Governorates. ISIS also beat persons because of their dress; several sources reported ISIS members beat women for not covering their faces. ISIS justified its use of corporal punishment, including amputations and lashings, under religious law.

The COI also reported in previous years that armed groups, under the banner of the FSA, tortured and executed suspected government agents, members of the shabiha, and collaborators. The COI noted that some opposition groups subjected detainees suspected of being members of progovernment militias to severe physical or mental pain and suffering to obtain information or confessions, or as punishment or coercion. The report also noted instances in which the HTS and ISIS arbitrarily detained and tortured individuals passing through checkpoints along the country’s northern border.

Child Soldiers: Several sources documented the continued recruitment and use of children in combat. The COI reported that progovernment militias enlisted children as young as 13. The COI reported the government sometimes paid children between the ages of six and 13 to be informants, exposing them to danger. In the earlier years of the conflict, most of the children recruited by armed forces and groups were boys between 15 and 17 years old and served primarily in support roles away from the front lines.

HRW reported opposition forces used children under the age of 18 as fighters. According to HRW and the COI, numerous groups and factions failed to prevent the enlistment of minors, while ISIS and the HTS actively recruited children as fighters. The COI reported that armed groups “recruited, trained, and used children in active combat roles.” In Raqqa Governorate, according to the COI, ISIS recruited and enlisted children as young as 10 years old. In March the COI received a report that a 14-year-old boy approached an SDF recruitment center in Tal Abyad voluntarily, was accepted by authorities, and was killed in combat in the Raqqa countryside in early June. Several humanitarian organizations and NGOs working in areas recently liberated from ISIS by the SDF, as well as media organizations including Reuters, alleged that elements of the SDF and the YPG were engaged in forced conscription. There were reports that, in some areas, the SDF worked with tribes and local councils to negotiate approval of and voluntary compliance with local conscription laws in support of the fight against ISIS.

In September the international NGO Geneva Call reported it had conducted training for more than 100 SDF commanders, which included the law of armed conflict and the topic of children in armed conflict. The COI reported in 2014 that the YPG had demobilized child soldiers from its ranks and began monitoring adherence to its commitments to eliminate children from fighting. In March the COI reported that the YPG continued to conscript men and boys forcibly.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuses: The September COI report documented 25 incidents of chemical weapons use between 2013 and March, of which government forces perpetrated 20 primarily against civilians. The COI reported that during the year government forces further used chemical weapons against civilians in the towns of al-Latamneh and Khan Shaykhun and in eastern Ghouta.

The COI investigated the April 4 attack by government forces on Khan Shaykhun, which the COI determined involved the use of sarin gas or a sarin-like substance, that killed dozens of civilians and injured hundreds more. In addition to its own fact-finding mission, the COI took into account the findings of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The COI reported that Russian and Syrian officials denied Syrian forces used chemical weapons in this incident, claiming that air strikes conducted by Syrian forces struck a terrorist chemical weapons depot.

The COI report stated that a Sukhoi 22 (Su-22) aircraft conducted four air strikes in Khan Shaykhun at approximately 6:45 a.m. Only Syrian forces operated such aircraft. The commission identified three conventional bombs and one chemical bomb. The COI documented that the chemical bomb killed at least 83 persons, including 28 children and 23 women, and injured another 293 persons, including 103 children. The extensive information independently collected by the commission on symptoms suffered by victims was consistent with sarin exposure. Based on the evidence and testimonies collected, the COI found reasonable grounds to believe that Syrian forces committed the war crimes of using chemical weapons and indiscriminate attacks in a civilian inhabited area.

In its August 2016 report, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (established to attribute responsibility for already confirmed chemical warfare incidents) determined responsibility at a “sufficient” level for three of the nine attacks it reviewed. These attacks were a mustard gas attack by ISIS in Marea, Aleppo Governorate (August 2015), and two instances of chlorine used as a weapon by the government, specifically the Syrian Arab Air Force, in Talmenes, Idlib Governorate (April 2014), and Sarmin, Idlib Governorate (March 2015). A report from the Joint Investigative Mechanism in October 2016 found that the government also used weaponized chlorine in 2015 in Qmenas.

Both the government and opposition forces reportedly impeded the flow of humanitarian assistance. According to the UN Office for Humanitarian Assistance, by August approximately 3.47 million persons were living in hard-to-reach and besieged locations.

The COI stated that government forces, opposition forces, and ISIS employed sieges, deliberately restricting the passage of relief supplies and access by humanitarian agencies. According to reports, government forces were responsible for the majority of such activity. According to the United Nations, as of the end of September, nearly 420,000 men, women, and children countrywide remain trapped in besieged locations, with the government responsible for besieging approximately 95 percent. Acute restrictions on food and medicine reportedly caused malnutrition-related deaths, as well as outbreaks of hepatitis, cutaneous leishmaniosis, typhoid, and dysentery.

De-escalation zone agreements reached under the auspices of Iran, Russia, and Turkey called for improved humanitarian access; however, an October report from a humanitarian organization operating on the ground concluded that Astana de-escalation areas had not yet translated into increased cross-line humanitarian access. To the contrary the report recorded a slight reduction in cross-line assistance in northern rural Homs.

In Eastern Ghouta the report noted an increase in interagency cross-line humanitarian convoys, including four convoys successfully reaching previously besieged areas. The four convoys, however, were directed toward areas held by Jaish al-Islam, the opposition group that agreed to the original ceasefire agreement with the government. The convoys did not deliver aid to areas held by Faylaq Ar-Rahman, which at the time was not a signatory to the agreement. The government, with the support of its partners, continued to besiege Faylaq Ar-Rahman-held areas until the opposition group agreed to join the ceasefire agreement on August 18. The report concluded that the government’s refusal to allow for the delivery of aid to Faylaq Ar-Rahman-held territory until it agreed to cease all hostilities against the government was evidence that the government continued to use the denial of humanitarian aid as a weapon of war.

The COI found that the government detained many Red Crescent volunteers and medical staff on the pretext of “having supported terrorists.” According to reliable NGO reports, the government’s continued bombardment, which they characterized as indiscriminate, destroyed and damaged health-care facilities in opposition-held areas, such as the Hama Governorate and Aleppo City. In September 2016 aircraft bombed a UN convoy escorted by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) traveling to Orem al-Kubra in rural Aleppo, killing more than 20 civilians and aid workers. A UN investigative panel concluded in December 2016 that it was highly likely the Syrian air force perpetrated the attack.

Observers and international aid organizations reported that the government specifically targeted health-care workers, medical facilities, ambulances, and patients and restricted access to medical facilities and services to civilians and prisoners, particularly in the Syrian and Russian assault on Aleppo City in 2016. Physicians for Human Rights reported that, from 2011 to July, combatants attacked 478 medical facilities, killing 830 medical personnel throughout the country. The COI also reported that government sniper fire and military assaults on medical facilities intentionally targeted sick and injured persons, including pregnant women and persons with disabilities. According to credible NGO and COI reports, the government deliberately obstructed the efforts of sick and injured persons to obtain help, and many such individuals elected not to seek medical assistance in hospitals due to fear of arrest, detention, torture, or death.

In October 2016 Russian forces in support of the government reportedly dropped cluster bombs on M10, the largest opposition-supported hospital in eastern Aleppo City. It had already suffered heavy bombardment three days earlier, in an assault that former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon denounced as a war crime.

The frequency and location of Russian and Syrian airstrikes on the same hospitals raised questions regarding the intended targets of the attacks and Russian claims that they were not deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure. Between November 2016 and April, for example, observers recorded repeated airstrikes on the Kafr Zeita Specialty Hospital in northern Homs. The hospital was eventually destroyed on April 29 after being targeted in three separate incidents by Russian and Syrian strikes within a 24-hour timespan. The attacks injured one staff member.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that infrastructure damage reduced the number of facilities and health personnel able to provide pregnant women with antenatal and postnatal care and skilled attendance at delivery.

Female victims subjected to sexual violence lacked access to health care. Violence throughout the country made accessing medical care both costly and dangerous, and the COI reported that the government and armed extremists sometimes denied pregnant women passage through checkpoints, forcing them to give birth in unsterile and often dangerous conditions, without pain medication or adequate medical treatment. In January 2016 UNFPA estimated that approximately 540,000 women in the country and in nearby refugee camps were pregnant and needed care. It also estimated that 70,000 would likely experience complications related to pregnancy or delivery. According to numerous sources, government forces deliberately denied medical care to persons in areas controlled by the opposition.

The COI noted mass displacements of communities under ISIS control, where ISIS officials warned residents to conform to ISIS standards or leave. Communities experienced discriminatory sanctions, including specialized religious taxes (“jizya”), forced religious conversions, destruction of religious sites, and expulsion of minority communities. In January 2016 the SNHR reported that YPG forces forcibly displaced tens of thousands of Arab residents in areas liberated by Kurdish forces. When the SDF, which included members of the YPG, began moving to liberate areas from ISIS in August 2016, human rights groups, humanitarian actors, and other observers expressed concern that the forces established local governing bodies not representative of or credible with local communities and hindered the work of independent civil society and humanitarian organizations. SDF-influenced areas were relatively stable and secure in 2017.

The United Nations reported in October that nearly 270,000 persons fled Raqqa due to the SDF’s campaign to defeat ISIS. Earlier, in September the United Nations reported that some humanitarian organizations operating in Raqqa continued to assert concerns about IDP screening procedures carried out by the SDF. According to the allegations, SDF screening procedures in some areas prevented freedom of movement for IDPs, in some instances requiring IDPs to obtain ‘sponsorship’ in order to move further into areas controlled by the Kurdish Autonomous Administration. There were allegations that the SDF used checkpoints to forcibly conscript males into service. Some analyses suggested that SDF measures to restrict movement were most likely due to the continued presence of ISIS, the high threat from IEDs, and the need to direct civilian evacuees away from combat zones.

International media reported widely on government and nongovernment forces attacking and destroying religious as well as UNESCO-listed world heritage sites. The American Academy for the Advancement of Science noted many instances of visible damage to cultural heritage sites. In Aleppo the academy found massive destruction throughout the city, especially within the World Heritage site of the ancient city. Government forces also pillaged and destroyed property, including homes, farms, and businesses of defectors and opposition figures.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Although the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Corruption continued to be a pervasive problem in police forces, security services, migration management agencies, and throughout the government.

Corruption: Due to the lack of free press and of opposition access to instruments of government and media, there was almost no detailed information about corruption, except petty corruption. Human rights lawyers and family members of detainees stated that government officials in courts and prisons solicited bribes for favorable decisions and provision of basic services.

Financial Disclosure: There are no public financial disclosure laws for public officials.

Taiwan

Executive Summary

Taiwan is a democracy governed by a president and a parliament selected in multiparty elections. In 2016 voters elected President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party to a four-year term in an election considered free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included corruption and exploitation of foreign workers including forced labor.

Authorities enforced laws prohibiting human rights abuses and prosecuted officials who committed them. There were no reports of impunity.

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

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

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and authorities generally observed these prohibitions. By law defendants may challenge the lawfulness of their detention in court, and the government generally observed this requirement.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Police Administration (NPA) of the Ministry of the Interior has administrative jurisdiction over all police units, although city mayors and county magistrates appoint city and county police commissioners. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the NPA, and authorities had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption.

By legislative amendment to the Organic Act of Courts, the Special Investigation Division (SID) of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office was abolished effective January 1. The SID previously drew criticism for being politically motivated in its handling of cases.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires a warrant or summons, except when there is sufficient reason to believe the suspect may flee, or in urgent circumstances, as specified in the code of criminal procedures. Courts have judicial discretion to release indicted persons on bail. Prosecutors must apply to the courts within 24 hours after arrest for permission to continue detaining an arrestee. Authorities generally observed these procedures, and trials usually took place within three months of indictment. Prosecutors may apply to a court for approval of pretrial detention of an unindicted suspect for a maximum of two months, with one possible two-month extension. Courts may request pretrial detention in cases in which the potential sentence is five years or more and when there is a reasonable concern the suspect could flee, collude with other suspects or witnesses, or tamper with or destroy material evidence.

In April the Legislative Yuan (legislative branch of the administration) approved amendments, effective January 1, 2018, to the Code of Criminal Procedure, which allow defendants and their lawyers’ access to case files and evidence while in pretrial detention. Under existing law, the accused and defense lawyers can only examine case files during the trial and are unable to obtain detailed information about the legal grounds of a pretrial detention. The amended law also stipulates that defendants must be assisted by a lawyer while in detention. For those who cannot afford to hire one, a public defender will be appointed. Another amendment specified that suspects may no longer be interrogated late at night.

The judicial branch (Judicial Yuan) and the NPA operated a program to provide legal counsel during initial police questioning to qualifying indigent suspects who have a mental disability or have been charged with a crime punishable by three or more years in prison. Detained persons may request the assistance of the Legal Aid Foundation (LAF), a publicly funded independent statutory organization that provides professional legal assistance through its 22 branch offices to persons who might not otherwise have legal representation. During regular consultations with police and when participating in police conferences, LAF officials remind police of their obligation to notify suspects of the existence of such counseling and the new amendments mentioned above were designed to address such concerns about access to counsel. Authorities can detain a suspect without visitation rights other than by legal counsel or hold a suspect under house arrest based on a prosecutor’s recommendation and court decision. The law affords the right of compensation to those whom police have unlawfully detained.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Taiwan enacted a Habeas Corpus Act in 2014 and authorities have generally implemented the law effectively.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, some political commentators and academics publicly questioned the impartiality of judges and prosecutors involved in high-profile and politically sensitive cases. Judicial reform advocates pressed for greater public accountability, reforms of the personnel system, and other procedural improvements.

President Tsai convened a National Congress on Judicial Reform in August to consider reform recommendations on issues of most concern to the public. These included: protecting the rights of crime victims and disadvantaged and marginalized groups; promoting a credible, fair, and professional judicial system; improving judicial accountability and efficiency; and enhancing judicial transparency and public participation.

A 2016 survey by the Crime Research Center of National Chung Cheng University found 85 percent of respondents distrusted the objectivity and fairness of judges, a 7 percent increase from the same survey conducted in 2015 and a record high. The same survey found that 77 percent of respondents did not trust the objectivity and fairness of prosecutors.

A constitutional interpretation in July granted the right to a second appeal to defendants in misdemeanor cases who are found not guilty at the first trial, but receive guilty verdicts at the second trial. Previously, offenses with a maximum penalty of no more than three years’ imprisonment, detention, or a fine were not appealable to the court of third instance.

The judicial system included options, beyond appeal, for rectifying a miscarriage of justice. Lin Chin-gui was freed in April after serving 10 years in jail. Based on eyewitness testimony, he was sentenced to life in prison for the shooting death of a taxi driver in 2007. The Taiwan Innocence Project petitioned for a retrial and presented crucial new evidence to prove his innocence.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

By law when any authority arrests or detains a person without a court order, any person, including the arrestee/detainee, may petition a court of justice having jurisdiction for a writ of habeas corpus, and the case must be brought before a judge within 24 hours. The law also requires agencies to inform detainees of their right to see a judge for a writ of habeas corpus. Detaining authorities who violate the law may face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of up to NT$100,000 ($3,280).

All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. They also have the right to an attorney and to be present at trial. Trials are public, although court permission may be required to attend trials involving juveniles or potentially sensitive issues that might attract crowds. Judges decide cases; all judges receive appointments from and answer to the Judicial Yuan. A single judge, rather than a defense attorney or prosecutor, typically interrogates parties and witnesses. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly of charges, hire an attorney of their choice or have one provided, prepare a defense, confront witnesses against them, and present witnesses and evidence. Defendants have the right to free interpretation service, if needed, from the moment charged through all appeals.

The law states a suspect may not be compelled to testify and that a confession shall not be the sole evidence used to find a defendant guilty. All convicted persons have the right to appeal to the next two higher court levels. The law extends the above rights to all suspects/convicted persons.

In January a judge was fined the equivalent of 10 months’ salary, NT$1.5 million ($49,200), for intimidating defendants in court. The Judicial Yuan’s Court of the Judiciary found that the Taoyuan District Court judge’s poor attitude and verbal abuse of defendants in court had been detrimental to the image of the judicial system.

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. Administrative remedies are available in addition to judicial remedies for alleged wrongdoing, including 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.

In July the Taiwan High Court confirmed a district court ruling that ordered former prosecutor-general Huang Shih-ming to pay Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming NT$620,000 ($20,300) in compensation as the victim of illegal wiretapping. The High Court reduced the amount of compensation awarded to prosecutor Lin Hsiu-tao in the same case from NT$300,000 ($9,830) to NT$100,000 ($3,280) (see section 4).

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and authorities generally implemented the law effectively. There were reports of official corruption during the year. As of June, 12 ranking officials, 93 mid-level, 96 low-level, and 20 elected people’s deputies had been indicted for corruption.

Corruption: The Ministry of Justice and its subordinate Agency Against Corruption are in charge of combating official corruption. The ministry received sufficient resources and collaborated with civil society within the scope of the law. Some legal scholars and politicians said the justice ministry was insufficiently independent and conducted politically motivated investigations of politicians. The Control Yuan is responsible for impeachment of officials in cases of wrongdoing.

In January, in one prominent case, prosecutors charged former Academia Sinica president Wong Chi-huey with corruption and insider trading related to a biotech company. The Control Yuan in July agreed in a 9-0 vote to impeach Wong and forwarded the case to the Public Functionary Disciplinary Sanction Commission. Approximately 70 academicians issued a joint statement criticizing the impeachment and the judicial authorities’ handling of the case. The Control Yuan and prosecutors dismissed the criticism.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires specific appointed as well as elected officials to disclose their income and assets to the Control Yuan, which makes the disclosures public. Those failing to declare property are subject to a fine ranging from NT$200,000 ($6,560) to NT$4.0 million ($131,000) and may be punished with a maximum prison term of one year for repeatedly failing to comply with the requirement. The law also requires civil servants to account for abnormal increases in their assets and makes failure to do so a punishable offense, and there are criminal and administrative sanctions for noncompliance.

The amended Money Laundering Control Act, which became effective in June, stipulates 18 categories of politically exposed persons (PEPs) subject to strict oversight for money laundering activities. The PEPs include the president, vice president, heads of the central and local governments, legislators, and leadership of state-owned enterprises, as well as family members and close associates of PEPs.

Tajikistan

Executive Summary

Tajikistan is an authoritarian state dominated politically by President Emomali Rahmon and his supporters. The constitution provides for a multiparty political system, but the government has historically obstructed political pluralism and continued to do so during the year. Constitutional amendments approved in a 2016 national referendum outlawed nonsecular political parties and removed any limitation on President Rahmon’s terms in office as the “Leader of the Nation,” allowing him to further solidify his rule.

Civilian authorities only partially maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included torture and abuse of detainees by security forces; arbitrary arrest or detention, including of family members; harsh prison conditions; politically motived prosecutions of human rights lawyers; restrictions on freedoms of expression, media, and the free flow of information, including through the repeated blockage of several independent news and social networking websites; freedom of association, including repression, harassment, and incarceration of civil society and political activists; poor religious freedom conditions; restrictions on political participation; nepotism and corruption throughout the government; violence and discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation and gender identity; and forced labor.

There were very few prosecutions of government officials for human rights abuses. Officials in the security services and elsewhere in the government acted with impunity.

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

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

While the law prohibits extrajudicial killings by government security forces, there were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

On July 26, Tolibjon Dustov, a 50-year-old resident of Shahrituz District, died following his arrest by police officers. According to official reports, Dustov died of a heart attack. Dustov had been detained on suspicion of drug trafficking by officers of the Interior Ministry in Dusti. A few hours after his arrest, relatives found him dead in a hospital. Despite initial police claims Dustov died of a heart attack, his mother believed that he died after police mistreatment. “We think he was beaten on the way, and when he was taken to the hospital, he was already dead,” she claimed. In late December, the local prosecutors’ office charged a Dusti police officer with excessive force, resulting in Dustov’s death.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law does not explicitly prohibit arbitrary arrests, which were common. The law states that police must inform the Prosecutor’s Office of an arrest within 12 hours and file charges within 10 days. The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, but use of this provision was limited. Few citizens were aware of their right to appeal an arrest, and there were few checks on the power of police and military officers to detain individuals.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, Drug Control Agency, Agency on State Financial Control and the Fight against Corruption (Anticorruption Agency), State Committee for National Security (GKNB), State Tax Committee, and Customs Service share civilian law enforcement responsibilities. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is primarily responsible for public order and manages the police. The Drug Control Agency, Anticorruption Agency, and State Tax Committee have mandates to investigate specific crimes and report to the president. The GKNB is responsible for intelligence gathering, controls the Border Service, and investigates cases linked to alleged extremist political or religious activity, trafficking in persons, and politically sensitive cases. The Customs Service reports directly to the president. The Prosecutor General’s Office oversees the criminal investigations that these agencies conduct.

Agency responsibilities overlap significantly, and law enforcement organizations defer to the GKNB. Law enforcement agencies were not effective in investigating organized criminal gangs, reportedly because the gangs maintained high-level connections with government officials and security agencies. A tacit understanding among law enforcement that certain individuals were untouchable prevented investigations.

Official impunity continued to be a serious problem. While authorities took some limited steps to hold perpetrators accountable, reports of torture and mistreatment of prisoners continued, and the culture of impunity and corruption weakened investigations and prosecutions. In some cases, during pretrial detention hearings or trials judges dismissed defendants’ allegations of abuse and torture during detention. Victims of police abuse may submit a formal complaint in writing to the officer’s superior or the Office of the Ombudsman. Most victims reportedly chose to remain silent rather than risk official retaliation. The Office of the Ombudsman made few efforts to respond to complaints regarding human rights violations and rarely intervened, claiming it did not have the power to make statements or recommendations regarding criminal cases.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

By law police may detain an individual up to 12 hours before authorities must file criminal charges. If authorities do not file charges after 12 hours, the individual must be released, but police often did not inform detainees of the arrest charges. If police file criminal charges, they may detain an individual 72 hours before they must present their charges to a judge for an indictment hearing. The judge is empowered to order detention, house arrest, or bail pending trial.

By law family members are allowed access to prisoners after indictment, but officials often denied access to attorneys and family members. The law states that a lawyer is entitled to be present at interrogations at the request of the detainee or lawyer, but in many cases authorities did not permit lawyers timely access to their clients, and initial interrogations occurred without them. Detainees suspected of crimes related to national security or extremism were held for extended periods without being formally charged.

Arbitrary Arrest: The government generally provided a rationale for arrests, but detainees and civil society groups frequently reported that authorities falsified charges or inflated minor incidents to make politically motivated arrests. For example, tens of family members of exiled activists were punished for alleged offenses committed by their relatives in an effort to convince them to cease their activities abroad. Human rights organizations alleged the father of a political opposition activist was detained prior to the September Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw. Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee also reported in July that authorities detained, interrogated, and threated the relatives of tens of peaceful opposition activists attending an opposition gathering in Germany to mark the 20th anniversary of the peace agreement that ended Tajikistan’s civil war.

Some police and judicial officials regularly accepted bribes in exchange for lenient sentencing or release. Law enforcement officials must request an extension from a judge to detain an individual in pretrial detention after two, six, and 12 months.

Pretrial Detention: Defense advocates alleged prosecutors often held suspects for lengthy periods and registered the initial arrest only when the suspect was ready to confess. In most cases pretrial detention lasted from one to three months, but it could extend as long as 15 months.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained, regardless of charge, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention. Despite such rights to challenge detention, the decrease in the number of lawyers licensed to take on criminal cases and the general apprehension with which lawyers take on sensitive cases limited the use of this entitlement for those arrested on cases suspected to be politically motivated.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the executive branch exerted pressure on prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges. Corruption and inefficiency were significant problems.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Defendants legally are afforded a presumption of innocence, but the presumption did not exist in practice. The courts found nearly all defendants guilty.

Defendants were not always promptly informed of the criminal charges against them or granted a trial without undue delay. Courts generally allowed defendants to be present at their trial and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner during trials but often denied defendants the right to an attorney during the pretrial and investigatory periods, particularly in politically sensitive cases. Authorities continued to level politically motivated criminal charges against some defense lawyers to obstruct detained political opposition figures’ access to legal counsel and dissuade other lawyers from taking the cases.

The government provided attorneys at public expense when requested, but defendants and civil society complained the government sometimes appointed attorneys as a means to deny defendants’ access to the legal counsel of their choice. Defendants and private attorneys said government-appointed attorneys often provided a poor and counterproductive defense. In addition, due to changes in the law on advocates and the establishment of a legal bar, all lawyers were required to retake the bar exam by June 2016 in order to renew their licenses. Many lawyers were unable to take the exam in time, in part because there were a limited number of locations offering the exam. Moreover, the government abolished a grandfather clause that would have allowed experienced lawyers to continue to practice. As a result, the number of lawyers accepting criminal defense cases in the country shrank from approximately 2,000 to only 532. International observers of court cases stated there were criminal cases in which defendants did not have legal representation.

Defendants may present witnesses and evidence at trial with the consent of the judge. Defendants and attorneys have the right to confront and question witnesses and to present evidence and testimony. An interpreter is provided for defendants who do not speak Tajik, the official language used for court hearings. No groups are barred from testifying, and in principle all testimony receives equal consideration. Courts, however, generally gave prosecutorial testimony far greater consideration than defense testimony.

Low wages for judges and prosecutors left them vulnerable to bribery, a common practice. Government officials subjected judges to political influence.

Although most trials are public, the law also provides for secret trials when there is a national security concern. Civil society members faced difficulties in gaining access to high-profile public cases, which the government often declared secret. During the year the government conducted politically motivated court cases behind closed doors. Three trials involving human rights attorney Buzurgmehr Yorov, the defense attorney for members of the banned Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), were held in Dushanbe. All the trials were closed to the public because they were classified “secret.” Major international human rights organizations raised concerns over Yorov’s court hearings, which they alleged failed to ensure due process protections. He was convicted in October 2016 of issuing public calls for the overthrow of the government and inciting social unrest and initially sentenced to 23 years in prison. In January the court prolonged the same sentence by three years and in March sentenced him to two additional years in a subsequent closed-door trial for contempt of court and insulting a government official.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

While authorities claimed there were no political prisoners or politically motivated arrests, opposition parties and local and international observers reported the government selectively arrested and prosecuted political opponents. Although there was no reliable estimate of the number of political prisoners, the government reported 239 prisoners who were members of banned political parties or movements.

In January the Khatlon Regional Court sentenced Said Ziyoyev, a resident of Qubodiyon District, to seven years’ imprisonment for participating in a meeting of the banned movement “Group-24.” The court ruled that Ziyoyev participated in a meeting organized by “Group-24” in Ekaterinburg, Russia, in November 2014, relying on a video as evidence. Ziyoyev’s lawyer argued that the video was shot on September 30, 2014, while the movement “Group-24” was a legal group. Ziyoyev was charged with two violations of the criminal code: illegal possession of computer information and organization of extremist community. Ziyoyev appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, but there were no new developments at year’s end.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Civil cases are heard in general civil courts, economic courts, and military courts. Judges may order monetary compensation for victims in criminal cases. No separate juvenile justice system exists, although there were some courts that provide a separate room for children linked to the courtroom by video camera.

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

The constitution states that the home is inviolable. With certain exceptions, it is illegal to enter the home by force or deprive a person of a home. The law states that police may not enter and search a private home without the approval of a judge. Authorities may carry out searches without a prosecutor’s authorization in exceptional cases, “where there is an actual risk that the object searched for and subject to seizure may cause a possible delay in discovering it, be lost, damaged, or used for criminal purposes, or a fugitive may escape.” The law states that courts must be notified of such searches within 24 hours. Police frequently ignored these laws and infringed on citizens’ right to privacy, including personal searches without a warrant.

According to the law, “when sufficient grounds exist to believe that information, documents, or objects that are relevant to the criminal case may be contained in letters, telegrams, radiograms, packages, parcels, or other mail and telegraph correspondence, they may be intercepted” with a warrant issued by a judge. The law states that only a judge may authorize monitoring of telephone or other communication. Security offices often monitored communications, such as social media and telephone calls, without judicial authorization.

In May and June, teams of officials from various security agencies went from house to house in Dushanbe searching for “undesirables” as part of a security campaign labeled “Operation Order” by the government. According to media reports, official government documents defined the “undesirables” as ranging from religious extremists or potential terrorists, to electricity thieves and anyone using the wrong type of light bulb. The searches were conducted without proper authorization from the courts, and authorities issued no public notices about the sweeps. In many instances Dushanbe residents learned of the inspections only when teams arrived at their front doors. These reports did not extend beyond the city of Dushanbe and did not include businesses or other organizations.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. Officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of corruption, nepotism, and regional hiring bias at all levels of government throughout the year.

Corruption: On May 30, the government adopted amendments to the Law for the Fight Against Corruption, which gives the state Anticorruption Agency the authority to inspect the financial activities of political parties, international organizations, and local public associations. Previously, the agency had the authority only to check and audit governmental bodies. According to the new requirements, political parties must submit corruption risk assessment reports to the Anticorruption Agency annually. Political parties and in-country political experts raised concerns that empowering the Anticorruption Agency to investigate the activities and budget of political parties would tighten control over their activities.

Corruption in the Education Ministry was systemic. Prospective students were required to pay thousands of somoni (hundreds of dollars) in bribes to enter the country’s most prestigious universities, and provincial colleges reportedly required several hundred somoni. Students reportedly often paid additional bribes to receive good examination grades.

Many traffic police retained fines they collected for violations. Traffic police posted at regular intervals along roads arbitrarily stopped drivers to ask for bribes. The problem was systemic in part due to the low official wages paid to traffic police. Many traffic police reportedly paid for their jobs, an expense they tried to recoup by extracting bribes from motorists.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, Anticorruption Agency, and Prosecutor General’s Office are responsible for investigating, arresting, and prosecuting suspected corrupt officials. The government acknowledged a problem with corruption and took some steps to combat it, including putting lower-level officials on trial for taking bribes.

Both the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Anticorruption Agency submit cases to the Prosecutor General’s Office at the conclusion of their investigations. In some instances the agency collaborated with the Prosecutor General’s Office throughout the entire process.

In April several officials and investigators from the Anticorruption Agency were arrested for corruption. The head of the agency, Sulaimon Sultonzoda, told media that information related to the arrests was classified. On July 17, the chairman of the Supreme Court stated that 13 individuals, including 10 anticorruption officers, would stand trial for bribery and fraud. Among the defendants were high-ranking anticorruption officials, including Davlatbek Hairzoda, the agency’s former deputy head, and Firdavs Niyozbadalov, who was involved in the investigation of Zaid Saidov, a former government insider-turned-opposition figure and presidential hopeful who was serving a 26-year sentence for fraud, polygamy, extortion, and abuse of office. On August 1, media reported that the Supreme Court sentenced Hairzoda to 10.5 years in prison. On the same day, the court convicted Fariddun Benazirzoda, former deputy head of the Sughd customs service, of taking bribes and sentenced him to 10.5 years in prison. The trials were held behind closed doors, and further information regarding convictions or sentencing was not available.

In December authorities arrested independent journalist Khayrullo Mirsaidov of Sughd Region and charged him with embezzlement, forgery, false reporting, and inciting ethnic and religious hatred. The arrest came not long after he had published an open letter to President Rahmon, the general prosecutor, and the governor of Sughd, asking them to crack down on corrupt local authorities and alleging that a sports and youth department head from the region requested a $1,000 bribe. He faced a sentence of 21 years in prison.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials are not subject to financial disclosure laws.

Thailand

Executive Summary

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, with a king serving as head of state. King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun ascended to the throne in December 2016, following the death of his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In a 2014 bloodless coup, military and police leaders, taking the name National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and led by then army chief general Prayut Chan-o-cha, overthrew the civilian government administered by the Puea Thai political party, which had governed since 2011 following National Assembly lower house elections that were generally considered free and fair. The 2017 constitution sets a framework for a return to elected government, but as of year’s end, no elections had been formally scheduled, and the NCPO and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha continued to govern the country.

The military-led NCPO maintained control over the security forces and all government institutions.

An interim constitution, promulgated by the NCPO in 2014, was in place until April, when the king promulgated a new constitution, previously adopted by a popular referendum in August 2016. The 2017 constitution stipulates the NCPO remain in office and hold all powers granted by the interim constitution until establishment of a new council of ministers and its assumption of office following the first general election under the new charter. The 2017 constitution also stipulates that all NCPO orders are “constitutional and lawful” and are to remain in effect until revoked by the NCPO, an order from the military-appointed legislative body, the prime minister, or cabinet resolution. The interim constitution granted immunity to coup leaders and their subordinates for any coup or post-coup actions ordered by the ruling council, regardless of the legality of the action. The immunity remains in effect under the 2017 constitution. Numerous NCPO decrees limiting civil liberties, including restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and the press, remained in effect during the year. NCPO Order No. 3/2015, which replaced martial law in March 2015, grants the military government sweeping power to curb “acts deemed harmful to national peace and stability.”

In addition to limitations on civil liberties imposed by the NCPO, the other most significant human rights issues included: excessive use of force by government security forces, including harassing or abusing criminal suspects, detainees, and prisoners; arbitrary arrests and detention by government authorities; abuses by government security forces confronting the continuing ethnic Malay-Muslim insurgency in the southernmost provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani, and parts of Songkhla; corruption; sexual exploitation of children; and trafficking in persons.

Authorities took some steps to investigate and punish officials who committed human rights abuses. Official impunity, however, continued to be a problem, especially in the southernmost provinces, where the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in the State of Emergency (2005), hereinafter referred to as “the emergency decree,” and the 2008 Internal Security Act remained in effect.

Insurgents in the southernmost provinces committed human rights abuses and attacks on government security forces and civilian targets.

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

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

Reports continued that security forces at times used excessive and lethal force against criminal suspects and committed or were involved in extrajudicial, arbitrary, and unlawful killings. According to the Ministry of Interior’s Investigation and Legal Affairs Bureau, from October 2016 to September, security forces–including police, military, and other agencies–killed 16 suspects during the arrest process, double the number killed in the previous year.

On March 17, soldiers operating a military checkpoint in Mueng Na Subdistrict of Chiang Mai Province shot and killed Chaiyaphum Pasae, a prominent ethnic Lahu student activist, claiming he possessed drugs and had attempted to attack the soldiers with a hand grenade. Community members and local human rights activists questioned the military’s account of the killing and called for a full, transparent investigation into the incident.

There were reports of killings by both government and insurgent forces in connection with the conflict in the southernmost provinces (see section 1.g.).

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

NCPO Order 2/2015 grants the military authority to detain persons without charge or trial for up to seven days. Military officials frequently invoked this authority. According to the OHCHR, the military government summoned, arrested, and detained approximately 2,000 persons since the 2014 coup. Prior to releasing detainees, military authorities often required them to sign documents affirming they were treated well, would refrain from political activity, and would seek authorization prior to travel outside the local area. According to human rights groups, authorities often denied access to detainees by family members and attorneys.

The emergency decree, which gives the government authority to detain persons without charge for a maximum of 30 days in unofficial places of detention, remained in effect in the southernmost provinces (see section 1.g.).

Emergency decree provisions make it very difficult to challenge a detention before a court. Under the decree detainees have access to legal counsel, but there was no assurance of prompt access to counsel or family members, nor were there transparent safeguards against the mistreatment of detainees. Moreover, the decree effectively provides broadly based immunity from criminal, civil, and disciplinary liability for officials acting under its provisions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The law gives military forces authority over civilian institutions, including police, regarding the maintenance of public order. NCPO Order 13/2016, issued in March 2016, grants military officers with the rank of lieutenant and higher power to summon, arrest, and detain suspects; conduct searches; seize assets; suspend financial transactions; and ban suspects from traveling abroad in cases related to 27 criminal offenses, including extortion, human trafficking, robbery, forgery, fraud, defamation, gambling, prostitution, and firearms violation. The order also grants criminal, administrative, civil, and disciplinary immunity to military officials executing police authority in “good faith.”

The Border Patrol Police have special authority and responsibility in border areas to combat insurgent movements.

There were reports police abused prisoners and detainees, generally with impunity. Complaints of police abuse may be filed directly with the superior of the accused police officer, the Office of the Inspector General, or the police commissioner general. The NHRCT, the Lawyers’ Council of Thailand, the Office of the National Anticorruption Commission (NACC), the Supreme Court of Justice, the Ministry of Justice, and the Office of the Prime Minister also accepted complaints of police abuse and corruption, as did the Office of the Ombudsman. Few complaints alleging police abuse resulted in punishment of alleged offenders, and there were numerous examples of investigations lasting years without resolution of alleged security force abuses. Human rights groups criticized the “superficial nature” of police and judicial investigations into incidents of alleged torture and other mistreatment by security forces.

In August the Bangkok Criminal Court ruled that Thawatchai Anukul, a former provincial land official who died in a Department of Special Investigation detention center in August 2016, did not commit suicide as officials initially claimed, but died as the result of internal bleeding and suffocation. Police officials continued to investigate the matter.

The Ministry of Defense requires service members to receive human rights training. Routine training occurred at various levels, including for officers, noncommissioned officers, enlisted personnel, and recruits. Furthermore, military service members deploying in support of counterinsurgency operations in the southernmost provinces received specific human rights training, including training for detailed, situation-specific contingencies. The Royal Thai Police requires all cadets at its national academy to complete a course in human rights law.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

With few exceptions the law requires police and military officers exercising law enforcement authority to obtain a warrant from a judge prior to making an arrest, although NCPO Order 2/2015 allows the detention of any individual for up to seven days without an arrest warrant. Issuance of arrest warrants was subject to a judicial tendency to approve automatically all requests for warrants. By law authorities must inform persons of likely charges against them immediately after arrest and allow them to inform someone of their arrest.

The law provides for access to counsel for criminal detainees in both civilian and military courts, but lawyers and human rights groups claimed police often conducted interrogations without providing access to an attorney.

Both the Court of Justice and the Justice Fund of the Ministry of Justice assign lawyers for indigent defendants. According to the most recent figures from fiscal year 2016, the Court of Justice assigned attorneys to 25,095 adult and 11,550 juvenile defendants. From October 2016 to September, the Ministry of Justice provided lawyers for 545 defendants.

The law provides defendants the right to request bail, and the government generally respected this right except in cases considered to involve national security, which included violations of the country’s lese majeste (royal insult) law.

Arbitrary Arrest: Under NCPO order 3/2015, the military has authority to detain persons without charge for a maximum of seven days without judicial review. Under the emergency decree, authorities may detain a person for a maximum of 30 days without charge (see section 1.g.). Military officers invoked NCPO Order No. 3/2015 authority to detain numerous politicians, academics, journalists, and other persons without charge, although reportedly fewer than in 2016. The military held most individuals briefly but held some for the maximum seven days.

Pretrial Detention: Under normal conditions the law allows police to detain criminal suspects for 48 hours after arrest for investigation. Lawyers reported police rarely brought cases to court within the 48-hour period. Laws and regulations place offenses for which the maximum penalty for conviction is less than three years under the jurisdiction of district courts, which have different procedures and require police to submit cases to public prosecutors within 72 hours of arrest. According to the Lawyers’ Council of Thailand, pretrial detention of criminal suspects for as long as 60 days was common.

Before charging and trial, authorities may detain individuals for a maximum of 84 days (for the most serious offenses), with a judicial review required for each seven-day period. After formal charges and throughout trial, depending on prosecution and defense readiness, court caseload, and the nature of the evidence, detention may last for one to two years before a verdict and up to six years before a Supreme Court appellate review.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained by police are entitled to judicial review of their detention within 48 hours in most cases. Persons detained by military officials acting under authority granted by NCPO Order 3/2015 are entitled to judicial review of their detention within seven days. Detainees found by the court to have been detained unlawfully (more than 48 hours or seven days) are entitled to compensation.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Both the interim constitution and the 2017 constitution provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality, notwithstanding NCPO orders that prohibited members of the judiciary from making any negative public comments against the NCPO. Moreover, the interim constitution in place through April provided the NCPO power to intervene “regardless of its effects on the legislative, executive, or judiciary” to defend the country against national security threats.

Human rights groups continued to express concern about the NCPO’s influence on independent judicial processes, particularly the practice of prosecuting some civilians in military courts.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The 2017 constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right, except in certain cases involving national security, including lese majeste cases. The interim constitution, in effect until April, also provided this right.

The law provides for the presumption of innocence. A single judge decides trials for misdemeanors; regulations require two or more judges for more serious cases. Most trials are public; however, the court may order a closed trial, particularly in cases involving national security, the royal family, children, or sexual abuse.

In ordinary criminal courts, defendants enjoy a broad range of legal rights, including access to a lawyer of their choosing, prompt and detailed information of the charges against them, free assistance of an interpreter as necessary, the right to be present at trial, and the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. They also have the rights not to be compelled to testify or to confess guilt, to confront witnesses, to present witnesses, and to appeal. Authorities did not always automatically provide indigent defendants with counsel at public expense, and there were allegations authorities did not afford defendants all the above rights, especially in small or remote provinces.

In a 2014 order, the NCPO redirected prosecutions for offenses against the monarchy, insurrection, sedition, weapons offenses, and violation of its orders from civilian criminal courts to military courts. In September 2016 the NCPO ordered an end to the practice, directing that offenses committed by civilians after that date would no longer be subject to military court jurisdiction. According to the Judge Advocate General’s Office, military courts initiated 1,886 cases involving at least 2,408 civilian defendants since the May 2014 coup, most commonly for violations of Article 112 (lese majeste); failure to comply with an NCPO order; and violations of the law controlling firearms, ammunition, and explosives. As of October approximately 369 civilian cases involving up to 450 individual defendants remained pending before military courts.

Military courts do not provide the same legal protections for civilian defendants as do civilian criminal courts. Military courts do not afford civilian defendants rights outlined by either the interim constitution or the 2017 constitution to a fair and public hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal. Civilians facing trial for offenses allegedly committed from May 2014 to March 2015–the period of martial law–have no right of appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The NCPO routinely detained those who expressed political views (see section 1.d.). As of August the Department of Corrections reported there were 135 persons detained or imprisoned in the country under lese majeste laws that outlaw criticism of the monarchy (see section 2.a.). Human rights groups claimed the prosecutions and convictions of several lese majeste offenders were politically motivated. Police arrested student activist Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa in December 2016 for “liking” and sharing on Facebook a link to a Thai-language BBC profile of the new king that allegedly contained defamatory information. Human rights groups reported that approximately 2,000 other Thai social media users shared or liked the same BBC article and were not charged. In August Jatupat pled guilty to one count of violating the lese majeste law and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, reduced to two and one-half years by the court in consideration of his guilty plea. From his arrest until his guilty plea, the court denied Jatupat’s request for bail 12 times.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides for access to courts and administrative bodies to sue for damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. The government generally respected this right, but the emergency decree in force in the southernmost provinces expressly excludes administrative court scrutiny or civil or criminal proceedings against government officials. Victims may seek compensation from a government agency instead.

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

NCPO Order No. 3/2015, along with the emergency decree, gives government security forces authority to conduct warrantless searches. Security forces used this authority routinely in the southernmost provinces and other border areas. There were complaints during the year from persons who claimed security forces abused this authority.

There were reports military officers harassed family members of those suspected of opposing the NCPO, including parents of students involved in anti-NCPO protests and the families of human rights defenders. For example, human rights groups reported intimidation of close associates of Chaiyaphum Pasae, the Lahu activist killed by soldiers in Chiang Mai Province (see section 1.a.).

Security services monitored persons, including foreign visitors, who espoused highly controversial views. In May officials from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society made an announcement warning citizens not to “follow” or correspond on social media with three prominent critics of the military government and monarchy living overseas, namely academics Somsak Jeamterrasakul and Pavin Chachavalaphongpun and journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption by officials. Government implementation of the law increased under the NCPO, although officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: Corruption remained widespread among police. Authorities arrested police officers and convicted them of corruption, drug trafficking, and smuggling; police reportedly also committed intellectual property rights violations.

In 2015 the attorney general filed criminal charges against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and 28 other officials in her administration related to alleged malfeasance in her government’s handling of a rice-pledging program. In August the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions found 20 defendants guilty of crimes related to corruption, sentencing former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom to 42 years in prison for malfeasance in administering government-to-government deals involving Chinese companies as part of the rice-pledging program. In September the same court found Yingluck Shinawatra guilty of dereliction of duty in absentia for failing to address the corruption of Boonsong and other officials in her government and sentenced her to five years in prison. Prior to the verdict, Yingluck reportedly departed the country. Following the conviction, the court issued a warrant for her immediate arrest.

The government continued to enforce the 2009 arrest warrant against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who faced two and one-half years in prison after being convicted of malfeasance by the Supreme Court of Justice for Persons Holding Political Positions for his involvement with a government bank loan to Burma. He continued to reside outside the country.

Financial Disclosure: Financial disclosure laws and regulations require elected and appointed public officials to disclose assets and income according to standardized forms. The law penalizes officials who fail to submit declarations, submit inaccurate declarations, or conceal assets. Penalties include a five-year political activity ban, asset seizure, and discharge from position, as well as a maximum imprisonment of six months, a maximum fine of 10,000 baht ($306), or both.

The NACC financial disclosure rules do not apply to NCPO members, although NCPO members who serve in cabinet positions must comply with the rules. Likewise authorities also exempted members of the NCPO-appointed 200-member National Reform Steering Assembly, which was dissolved in July.

Timor-Leste

Executive Summary

Timor-Leste is a multiparty, parliamentary republic. Following free, fair, and peaceful parliamentary elections in July, Mari bin Amude Alkatiri became prime minister of a two-party coalition government. In a March presidential election, also judged as free and fair, voters elected Francisco Lu Olo Guterres. The government conducted free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections. In contrast with previous years, elections were conducted without extensive support from the international community. Security forces maintained public order with no reported incidents of excessive use of force.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: extended pretrial detention, delayed trials and lack of due process; gender-based violence; and child abuse including sexual abuse.

The government took some steps to prosecute members and officials of the security services who used excessive force, but public perceptions of impunity persisted according to security sector-focused NGOs.

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.

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

The law does not fully clarify the particular authority of the national police (PNTL), the judicially mandated Scientific Police for Criminal Investigations, or the military (F-FDTL). Security sector experts also said that the operational roles and relationship between the PNTL and the F-FDTL were unclear.

The PNTL is legally responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country. It has several specialized units, including border, maritime, and immigration units.

The F-FDTL is legally responsible for external security, and may play a role in internal security only in “crisis” or “emergency” situations declared by the government and president. The F-FDTL, however, may support police in joint operations if requested by a “competent entity.” The president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, but the chief of defense, the F-FDTL’s senior military officer, exercised day-to-day command over the armed forces. F-FDTL military police responded occasionally to incidents involving only civilians.

Civilian oversight of the PNTL and the F-FDTL improved, in comparison with previous years. Various bilateral partners continued efforts to strengthen the development of the police, especially through community policing programs and technical assistance efforts, including work to improve disciplinary and accountability mechanisms within the PNTL.

The PNTL’s internal accountability mechanisms remained somewhat ineffective, but improved. Rates of reported cases closed without investigation decreased, but the office responsible for internal affairs (the PNTL Department of Justice) did not have sufficient resources to investigate and respond to all cases brought to its attention. The office increased its use of disciplinary measures, including demotions, written admonitions, and fines. Nonetheless, especially outside the capital, municipality commanders at times do not fully engage in the disciplinary process, perhaps due partly to lack of familiarity with disciplinary procedures.

The PNTL internal affairs office may recommend that the commander general refer cases to the Office of the Prosecutor General for investigation. The office reported 35 investigations during the year, including some from the previous year, of which 21 were still under investigation, 13 had been closed, and one had been transferred to the Prosecutor General’s Office for criminal investigation.

F-FDTL regulations permit referral of disciplinary incidents amounting to crimes to the prosecutor general (misconduct is processed internally). One security sector NGO assessed the F-FDTL’s disciplinary system as strong but not entirely free of political influence.

Citizens reported obstacles to reporting complaints about police behavior, including repeated requests to return later or to submit their complaints in writing.

There was a widespread belief that members of the security forces enjoyed substantial for illegal or abusive actions.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires judicial warrants prior to arrests or searches, except in exceptional circumstances or in cases of flagrante delicto.

The law requires a hearing within 72 hours of arrest. During these hearings the judge may determine whether the suspect should be released because conditions for pretrial detention had not been met, released conditionally (usually after posting some form of collateralized bail or on condition that the suspect report regularly to police), or whether the case should be dismissed due to lack of evidence. Though the government’s 2014 decision to rescind visas for international legal advisors, who had filled critical roles as judges, prosecutors, and investigators, continued to affect the justice system, backlogs decreased during the year, particularly in courts outside of Dili. Justice sector monitoring organizations reported that the system adhered much more closely to the 72-hour timeline than in past years.

Time in pretrial detention may be deducted from a final sentence, but there is no remedy to make up for pretrial detention in cases that do not result in conviction.

The law provides for access to legal representation at all stages of the proceedings and provisions exist for providing public defenders for all defendants at no cost (see section 1.e.). Due to a lack of human resources and transportation, however, public defenders were not always able to attend to their clients and sometimes met clients for the first time during their first court hearing.

Pretrial Detention: The law specifies that a person may be held in pretrial detention for up to one year without presentation of an indictment, two years without a first-instance conviction, or three years without a final conviction on appeal. If any of these deadlines are not met, the detained person may file a claim for release. Exceptionally complex cases can also provide justification for the extension of each of those limits by up to six months with permission of a judge. Pretrial detainees composed approximately 20 percent of the total prison population. Procedural delays and staff shortages were the most frequent causes of trial delays. In many cases, the length of pretrial detention equaled or exceeded the length of the sentence upon conviction.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: While persons arrested or detained may challenge the legal basis of their detention and obtain prompt release, justice sector monitoring organizations reported that such challenges rarely occur, likely due to limited knowledge of the provision allowing such challenges.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides that judges shall perform their duties “independently and impartially without improper influence” and requires public prosecutors to discharge their duties impartially. Many legal sector observers expressed concern about the independence of some judicial organs in politically sensitive cases, a severe shortage of qualified personnel, and the complex legal regime influenced by legacies of Portuguese, Indonesian, and UN administration, and various other international norms. An additional problem is that all laws and many trial proceedings and court documents are in Portuguese, a language spoken by approximately 10 percent of the population. Nonetheless, observers noted that citizens generally enjoyed a fair, although not always expeditious, trial and that the judiciary was largely independent.

Administrative failings involving the judge, prosecution, and/or defense led to prolonged delays in trials. Moreover, the law requires at least one international judge on a panel in cases involving past human rights abuses. There have been no new such cases since 2014; however, the absence of international judges has meant that pre-2014 cases were pending indefinitely with no clear timeline for coming to trial.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Under the criminal procedure code, defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, access to a lawyer, and rights against self-incrimination and to attend their trial. Trials are held before judges or judicial panels; juries are not used. Defendants can confront hostile witnesses and present other witnesses and evidence. Defendants have a right of appeal to higher courts. The government provides interpretation, as necessary, into local languages. Observers noted that the courts made progress in providing interpretation services during court proceedings; however, interpretation services were still not available for all defendants.

Justice sector NGOs expressed concern that judges did not provide clear information or take the time to explain and read their decisions. Observers also noted that in many cases judges did not follow the Law on Witnesses, which provides important protections for witnesses. Additionally, the country has not passed juvenile justice legislation, leaving many juveniles in the justice system without protections and perhaps subject to vigilante justice by frustrated communities seeking justice.

The constitution contemplates a Supreme Court, but it has not been established due to staffing and resource limits. The Court of Appeals carries out Supreme Court functions in the interim.

Mobile courts based in Dili, Baucau, Covalima, and Oecusse operated in areas that did not have a permanent court. These courts processed only pretrial proceedings.

For crimes considered “semi-public,” some citizens utilized traditional (customary) systems of justice that did not necessarily follow due process standards or provide witness protection, but provided convenient and speedy reconciliation proceedings with which the population felt comfortable.

The public defender’s office, concentrated in Dili, was too small to meet the need, and many defendants relied on lawyers provided by legal aid organizations. A number of defendants who were assigned public defenders reported they never saw their lawyers, and some observers noted that public defenders were confused about their duties to the client versus the state and that few viewed their role as client advocates. Public defenders did not have access to transportation to visit clients in detention, so sometimes met their clients for the first time in court.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

As there is no separate civil judicial system in the country, civil litigation experienced the same problems encountered in the criminal justice system. No regional human rights body has jurisdiction in Timor-Leste.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government promulgated land tenure legislation in June. Supplemental legislation was needed to address issues of eviction and community property, among others. The formation of a new government delayed full implementation of the new law. Community concerns over inadequate compensation for government expropriation of land continued during the year. A community near the new airport and highway in Suai organized a protest in September. According to the village leader, who spoke on behalf of the community to the national media, the new houses the government provided as compensation were too small, and were in an area without sufficient space to grow vegetables. Community members also complained that the new highway blocked access to their gardens and farms.

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

Although the law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, observers noted a general lack of privacy protections throughout the government, particularly in the health sector.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The penal code provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. The government faced many challenges in implementing the law, and the perception that officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity was widespread. The Anticorruption Commission (CAC) is legally charged with leading national anticorruption activities and has the authority to refer cases for prosecution. Although the CAC is independent, the government controls its budget, making the CAC vulnerable to political pressures. To fight corruption, the government undertook surprise inspections of government-run programs and increased pressure to implement asset management and transparency systems.

Corruption: During the year the CAC addressed several corruption cases. Anecdotally, corruption was widespread among government officials. There were accusations of police, including border police, involvement in corruption–most commonly bribery and abuse of power. Allegations of nepotism in government hiring were common. The customs service was under scrutiny for alleged corruption related to incoming goods, but no cases were filed. The 2016 National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing called corruption endemic.

A case against former president of the National Parliament Vicente Guterres for “crimes of economic participation” involving the sale of cars for parliamentarians was stalled because the Dili District Court was still waiting to see if the parliament would grant a waiver of immunity.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires that the highest members of government declare their assets to the Court of Appeals, but the declarations do not have to be made public and there are no criminal penalties for noncompliance. President Lu Olo made a public asset disclosure after taking office in May.

Tonga

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of Tonga is a constitutional monarchy. King Tupou VI, popularly elected parliamentary leaders, the nobility and their representatives, prominent commoners, and democratic reform figures dominated political life. The most recent parliamentary election occurred on November 16. Observers characterized the election as generally free and fair. On December 18, parliament re-elected Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva to serve as prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: government corruption; domestic violence; and the criminalization of same-sex sexual activities, although the law was not enforced.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses.

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

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

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

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 force maintains internal security. His Majesty’s Armed Forces (HMAF) is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. The police and HMAF report to the Ministry of Police and the Ministry of Defense, respectively. Civilian authorities maintained control over the HMAF and 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

Police may arrest suspects without a warrant during the commission of a crime; otherwise, authorities apprehend suspects with warrants issued by a local magistrate. In either case, authorities brought those arrested before a local magistrate within 24 hours, including on weekends and holidays, for judicial determination of the legality of the detention. Authorities promptly informed arrested persons of charges against them. The law provides for a functioning bail system. The constitution provides the right to initiate habeas corpus proceedings. Access to arrested persons by counsel, family, and others may be restricted, but authorities generally facilitated access. No legal aid framework existed to provide services for the indigent. Accused persons must generally represent themselves if they cannot afford legal counsel, although in cases that are more serious, the judge may, but is not required to appoint a lawyer pro bono.

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 public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Although unavailability of judges, witnesses, or lawyers could delay cases, legal authorities processed most cases without undue delay. Defendants are presumed innocent and cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Authorities inform them promptly and in detail of charges, and free interpretation is available if necessary. Defendants may present witnesses and evidence, confront witnesses against them, and appeal convictions. They have the right to be present at their trials, consult with an attorney of their choice in a timely manner, and have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. There is no provision for public defenders, but local lawyers occasionally accepted pro bono cases.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens may seek redress through domestic courts for any violation of a human right provided for in the law.

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 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. Although officials reportedly engaged in corrupt practices, the government generally implemented the law effectively.

Corruption: In April the government terminated the contract of Rizvi Jurangpathy, Tonga Communications Corporation’s chief executive officer, for gross misconduct. The government alleged he deliberately and incorrectly declared the company’s net profit for 2014-15 and failed to declare the company’s outstanding debt, which allowed him to receive a bonus. Jurangpathy filed a suit for wrongful dismissal.

There were media reports of bribery of custom employees, police officials, and members of parliament. In response to accusations, the Police Professional Standards Unit initiated 54 investigations (16 criminal and 38 disciplinary) of police officers, and suspended at least nine officers.

The Office of the Auditor General reports directly to parliament. The Office of the Anti-Corruption Commissioner is empowered to investigate official corruption. Both entities actively collaborated with civil society, but they neither operated effectively or independently, nor were they sufficiently resourced.

Financial Disclosure: No law requires income and asset disclosure by appointed and elected officials.

Trinidad and Tobago

Executive Summary

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary democracy governed by a prime minister and a bicameral legislature. The island of Tobago’s House of Assembly has some administrative autonomy over local matters. In elections in2015, which observers considered generally free and fair, the opposition People’s National Movement, led by Keith Rowley, defeated the ruling People’s Partnership, led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and the political transition was smooth.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included police and prison officials’ mistreatment of detainees; refoulement of refugees due to poor training of officials; official corruption; laws that criminalize same-sex sexual activity, although such laws were not enforced during the year; and continued criminalization of the status or conduct of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.

The government took some steps to punish security force members and other officials charged with killings or other abuse, but open-ended investigations and the generally slow pace of criminal judicial proceedings created a climate of impunity.

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

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

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. According to official figures, police shot and killed 33 persons through September 26, more than double the 16 persons police shot and killed in 2016. Officials from the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) reported receiving more cases of police killings of mentally challenged persons than in previous years; the police killed three mentally challenged persons for the year. Analysts speculated that police shootings had increased in tandem with the rise in violent crime committed by an increasingly well-armed criminal element. Police acknowledged the shooting deaths. There were occasional discrepancies between the official reporting and the claims made by witnesses regarding who fired the first shot and whether the officers fired in self-defense.

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. Reports of abuses by police remained under investigation at year’s end.

The Anti-Gang Act bans membership in criminal gangs and gang-related activities and permits authorities to hold suspects detained under the law without being charged for up to 120 days, after which the suspect may apply to a judge for bail if the case has not yet reached trial. Authorities continued to arrest many individuals pursuant to the anti-gang law but subsequently released most arrestees.

Three men charged under the Anti-Gang Act during the 2011 state of emergency won their malicious prosecution lawsuits in September and received TT$220,000 ($32,000) in compensation. Many lawsuits filed by some of the approximately 450 other suspects remained pending before the courts.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of National Security oversees the police service, immigration division, and defense force, which includes the coast guard. The police service maintains internal security, while the defense force is responsible for external security but also has certain domestic security responsibilities. The coast guard is the main authority responsible for border security along the coastlines where there are no official ports of entry. The Customs and Excise Division and the Immigration Division are responsible for security at the ports. Members of the defense force often joined police officers in patrolling high-crime neighborhoods. Defense force members do not have arrest authority, apart from the coast guard, which can arrest in territorial waters and the Southern Caribbean.

The independent Police Service Commission, in consultation with the prime minister, appoints a commissioner of police to oversee the police force, although there has not been a permanent commissioner assigned since 2012. The commission also makes hiring and firing decisions in the police service, and the ministry typically has little direct influence over changes in senior positions. The Police Service Commission has the power to dismiss police officers, the commissioner of police can suspend officers, and the police service handles the prosecution of officers. Municipal police under the jurisdiction of 14 regional administrative bodies supplement the national police force. Public confidence in police was very low because of high crime rates and perceived corruption.

The PCA is a civilian oversight body that investigates complaints about the conduct of police officers, including fatal police shootings; however, it received insufficient funding and had limited investigative authority. By law the PCA is free from the direction or control of any other person in the performance of its functions. The PCA had 22 investigators, and from October 1, 2016, through September 30, the unit received 283 complaints, 211 of which were pending as of November. Through investigations by the PCA and other bodies, authorities charged police officers with a number of offenses, including attempted murder and corruption. The Police Professional Standards Unit and the Police Complaints Division, both nonindependent bodies within the police service, also investigate complaints against police.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

A police officer may arrest a person based on a warrant issued or authorized by a magistrate, or without a warrant if the officer witnesses the commission of an offense. Detainees, as well as those summoned to appear before a magistrate, must appear in court within 48 hours. In cases of more serious offenses, the magistrate either commits the accused to prison on remand or allows the accused to post bail, pending a preliminary inquiry. Authorities granted detainees immediate access to a lawyer and to family members.

Ordinarily, bail was available for minor charges. Persons charged with murder, treason, piracy, kidnapping for ransom, and hijacking, as well as persons convicted twice of violent crimes, are ineligible for bail for a period of up to 120 days following the charge, but a judge may grant bail to such persons under exceptional circumstances. When authorities denied bail, magistrates advised the accused of their right to an attorney and, with few exceptions, allowed them access to an attorney once they were in custody and prior to interrogation.

The minister of national security may authorize preventive detention to preclude actions prejudicial to public safety, public order, or national defense, in which case the minister must state the grounds for the detention.

Arbitrary Arrest: False arrest, although infrequent, occurred. Victims may pursue legal redress and the right to a fair trial through an independent judiciary.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention resulting from heavy court backlogs and inefficiencies in the judicial system continued to be a problem. Pretrial detainees or remand prisoners represented approximately 63 percent of the prison population. Most persons under indictment waited seven to 10 years for their trial dates in the High Court, although some waited much longer. Officials cited several reasons for the backlog, including an understaffed and underfunded prosecutorial office, a shortage of defense attorneys for indigent persons, and the burden of the preliminary inquiry process. Additionally, the law requires anyone charged and detained to appear in person for a hearing before a magistrate’s court every 10 days, if only to have the case postponed for an additional 10 days, resulting in further inefficiency.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and the law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Although the judicial process was generally fair, it was slow due to backlogs and inefficiencies. Prosecutors and judges stated that witness and jury intimidation remained a problem.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and the law provide all defendants with the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Magistrates try both minor and more serious offenses, but in the latter cases, the magistrate must conduct a preliminary inquiry. Defendants have the rights to be present, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and to appeal. Authorities inform them promptly and in detail of all charges. All defendants have the right to consult with an attorney in a timely manner and have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Authorities provide an attorney at public expense to defendants facing serious criminal charges, and the law requires provision of an attorney to any person accused of murder. Although the courts may appoint attorneys for indigent persons charged with serious crimes, an indigent person may refuse to accept an assigned attorney for cause and may obtain a replacement. Defendants can confront or question adverse witnesses and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. The government provides free foreign language as well as sign-language interpreters as necessary in court cases.

Both civil and criminal appeals may be filed with the Court of Appeal and ultimately with the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations are free to file lawsuits against civil breaches of human rights in both the High Court and petty civil court. The High Court may review the decisions of lower courts, order parties to cease and desist from particular actions, compel parties to take specific actions, and award damages to aggrieved parties. Court cases may be appealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices. There were reports of government corruption during the year, and the 2016-17 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report ranked corruption as the second-most problematic factor for doing business in the country. There were no documented instances of individuals receiving a criminal punishment for corruption.

Corruption: Corruption in the police and immigration services continued to be a problem, with senior officials acknowledging that officers participated in corrupt and illegal activities. There were allegations that some police officers had close relationships with gang leaders and that police, customs, and immigration officers often accepted bribes to facilitate drug, weapons, and human smuggling and trafficking. There is no internal affairs unit responsible for investigating incidents of professional misconduct attributed to law enforcement officials.

In February a Trinidad and Tobago Police Service officer was convicted and fined TT$40,000 ($5,925), for soliciting and accepting money from a driver to forgo charges in an accident. The officer was on suspension from duty.

There were continued allegations that some ministers used their positions for personal gain.

Financial Disclosure: The law mandates that public officials disclose their assets, income, and liabilities to the Integrity Commission, which monitors, verifies, and publishes disclosures. Officials and candidates for public office were reluctant to comply with asset disclosure rules, primarily because of the perceived invasiveness of the process. The act stipulates a process when public officials fail to disclose assets and provides criminal penalties for failure to comply. The law clearly states which assets, liabilities, and interests public officials must declare.

While the commission undertook numerous investigations, it seldom referred cases to law enforcement authorities, and prosecution of those officials who refused to comply with asset disclosure rules was very limited.

Turkmenistan

Executive Summary

Although the 2016 constitution declares Turkmenistan to be a secular democracy, the country has an authoritarian government controlled by the president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, and his inner circle. Berdimuhamedov has been president since 2006 and remained president following a February 2017 presidential election. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights determined that the election involved limited choice between competing political alternatives. In May the country conducted interim parliamentary elections that were not subject to international observation, to replace two parliamentary members. The 2016 constitution extended the presidential term in office from five to seven years, cancelled a maximum age limit of 70 years, and failed to reintroduce earlier term limits.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

There most significant human rights issues included torture; arbitrary arrest and detention; involuntary confinement; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, political prisoners; arbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion, and movement; restrictions on access to the internet; and citizens’ inability to choose their government through free and fair elections that include real political alternatives; and endemic corruption. There was also trafficking in persons, including use of government-compelled forced labor during the annual cotton harvest; restrictions on the free association of workers; and forced destruction of domiciles of Ashgabat residents. Same-sex sexual conduct between men remained illegal.

Officials in the security services and elsewhere in the government acted with impunity. There were no reported prosecutions of government officials for human rights abuses.

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

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

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year, nor were there reports of killings by narcotics traffickers or similar criminal groups.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but both remained serious problems. Persons arrested or detained are not entitled to challenge the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention while detained or obtain prompt release if unlawfully detained.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Internal Affairs directs the criminal police, which works closely with the Ministry of National Security on matters of national safety and security. The security ministry plays a role in personnel changes in other ministries, often dictating assignments, and enforces presidential decrees. There were continued reports both the security ministry and criminal police operated with impunity in the prosecution of criminal cases and in the harassment of unregistered religious groups and persons perceived to be critical of the regime. No information was available on whether the presidential commission created in 2007 to review citizen complaints of abuse had conducted any inquiries that resulted in accountability of any members of the security forces for abuses. There was no national strategy to reform the police or security apparatus.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

A warrant is not required for arrest when officials catch a suspect in the act of committing an offense. The prosecutor general must issue an authorization for arrest within 72 hours of detention. If investigating authorities do not find evidence of guilt and issue a formal indictment within 10 days of detention, they must release the detainee; however, authorities did not always comply with this requirement. If they find evidence, an investigation may last as long as two months. A provincial- or national-level prosecutor may extend the investigation period to six months. The national prosecutor general or deputy prosecutor general may extend the investigation period to a maximum of one year. Following the investigation, the prosecutor prepares a bill of indictment and transfers the case to the court. Courts generally followed these procedures, and the prosecutor promptly informs detainees of the charges against them.

The criminal procedure code provides for a bail system and surety; however, authorities did not implement these provisions. The law entitles detainees to immediate access to an attorney of their choice after a formal accusation. For a number of reasons, however, detainees may not have had prompt or regular access to legal counsel–they may have been unaware of the law; security forces may have ignored the entitlement to counsel; or the practice of seeking formal legal counsel was not a cultural norm. Authorities denied some detainees visits by family members during the year. Families sometimes did not know the whereabouts of detained relatives. Incommunicado detention was a problem. The extent to which authorities failed to protect due process in the criminal justice system was unclear.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law characterizes any opposition to the government as treason. Persons convicted of treason faced life imprisonment and were ineligible for pardoning. In the past, the government arrested and filed charges on economic or criminal grounds against those expressing critical or differing views instead of charging its critics with treason.

There were reports of arbitrary arrests and detentions. Authorities frequently singled out human rights activists, journalists, members of religious groups, ethnic minorities, and dissidents, as well as members of NGOs who interacted with foreigners.

In October Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported the arrest of an education official in Dashoguz Province. The government charged the official with organizing a rebellion against the government over an increase in kindergarten fees. Prior to his arrest, an unidentified group of women approached the official with their complaints about the kindergarten fee increase. The official directed the women to complain to the provincial governor’s office. Following his arrest, the individual’s wife, who worked in a local kindergarten, was dismissed from her job.

According to Forum 18, Jehovah’s Witness member Bahram Hemdemov has been imprisoned since March 2015 and was serving a four-year sentence in Seydi prison for allegedly inciting religious hatred during a peaceful Jehovah’s Witness meeting. Another Jehovah’s Witness, Mansur Masharipov, was freed as part of a general amnesty in May. Masharipov had been serving a one-year sentence for allegedly assaulting a police officer following his 2014 detention after police raided his home and confiscated religious material.

Mansur Mingelov, an activist for the rights of Baloch minorities, has remained in prison since his arrest in 2012. According to AI reports, he conducted a hunger strike in 2014 in an attempt to have his case reviewed. The authorities reportedly reviewed his case during the year, but did not release him. No updated information was available.

Pretrial Detention: In most cases, the law permits detention of no more than two months, but in exceptional cases, it may be extended to one year with approval of the prosecutor general. For minor crimes, a much shorter investigation period applies. Consistent with recent trends, authorities rarely exceeded legal limits for pretrial detention. In the past chronic corruption and cumbersome bureaucratic processes contributed to lengthy trial delays; however, the government’s anticorruption efforts and the establishment of the Academy of State Service to Improve State Employees’ Qualifications generally eliminated such delays. Forced confessions also played a part in the reduction of time in pretrial detention. Accused persons are entitled to challenge the court, but were unlikely to do so for fear of retribution.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained are not entitled to challenge the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention while detained or obtain prompt release if unlawfully detained. There were no reports of prompt release or compensation of unlawfully detained persons. According to Turkmenistan’s Criminal Code, law enforcement authorities may detain a person for 72 hours without charge. Persons arrested or detained unlawfully, however, may seek reimbursement for damages following release. Law enforcement authorities found guilty of unlawful detention or arrest may be punished by demotion or suspension for five years, correctional labor service for up to two years, or imprisonment for up to eight years.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was controlled by and subordinate to the executive. There was no legislative review of the president’s judicial appointments and dismissals. The president had sole authority to dismiss any judge. The judiciary was widely reputed to be corrupt and inefficient.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for due process for defendants, including a public trial; the right to attend the trial; access to accusatory material; the right to call witnesses; the right to a defense attorney, including a court-appointed lawyer if the defendant cannot afford one; and the right to represent oneself in court. Authorities, however, often denied these rights. Defendants frequently did not enjoy a presumption of innocence. The government permits the public to attend most trials, but it closed some, especially those considered politically sensitive. There were few independent lawyers available to represent defendants. The criminal procedure code provides that defendants be present at their trials and consult with their attorneys in a timely manner. The law sets no restrictions on a defendant’s access to an attorney. The court at times did not allow defendants to confront or question a witness against them and denied defendants and their attorneys access to government evidence. In some cases courts refused to accept exculpatory evidence provided by defense attorneys, even if that evidence might have changed the outcome of the trial. Courts did not offer interpreters to defendants who did not speak Turkmen.

Even when the courts observed due process, the authority of the government prosecutor far exceeded that of the defense attorney, making it difficult for the defendant to receive a fair trial. Court transcripts frequently were flawed or incomplete, especially when there was a need to translate defendants’ testimony from Russian to Turkmen. Defendants could appeal a lower court’s decision and petition the president for clemency. There were credible reports that judges and prosecutors often predetermined the outcome of the trial and sentence.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Opposition groups and some international organizations stated the government held political prisoners and detainees. The precise number of these persons, which included those charged with involvement in the 2002 alleged attack on then-president Niyazov, remained unknown. According to one international representative, however, the government asserted in 2014 it imprisoned 104 persons in the wake of the coup attempt and released 32. In 2016 external news outlets reported two of these prisoners died. No updated information was available. Those convicted of treason faced life imprisonment and were ineligible for amnesty, although they could receive reductions of sentence from the president. The government continued to assert that none of these persons were political prisoners.

In January ANT reported that former deputy chief of Turkmenistan’s Committee for National Security, Tirkish Tyrmyev, died in prison. Tyrmyev was arrested in April 2002 for abuse of power. He was imprisoned for 10 years and in 2012, 10 days prior to the end of his sentence, he was charged with “a fight with a guard” and was sentenced to an additional seven years and 11 months.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The civil judiciary system was neither independent nor impartial, as the president appointed all judges. According to the law, evidence gathered during a criminal investigation can serve as the basis for a civil action in a process called “civil lawsuit in criminal justice.” In the past, there were reports of bribes in the civil court system to ensure a particular outcome. In cases in which the state had interests regarding an individual citizen, it used the judiciary to impose court orders. In 2016 ANT reported that the most commonly enforced court orders were eviction notices. Persons and organizations may appeal adverse decisions to regional human rights bodies, but local courts were unlikely to reverse decisions in light of successful appeals.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government failed to enforce the law consistently with respect to restitution or compensation for confiscation of private property. The government continued to demolish private homes as part of an urban renewal program without adequately compensating owners. Housing offered as compensation to displaced homeowners was often smaller than housing lost, because gardens and outbuildings surrounding a house were not considered “useful living space.” There were credible reports some residents received no compensation. If housing offered as compensation had more living space than the demolished home, the displaced homeowner could be forced to pay up to 4,200 manat ($1,200) per square meter (10.7 square feet) for the additional space. Although a process existed for displaced homeowners to file complaints and appeals, it was not possible to determine how the process worked in practice.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but authorities frequently did not respect these prohibitions. Authorities reportedly searched private homes without judicial or other appropriate authorization.

The law does not regulate surveillance by the state security apparatus, which regularly monitored the activities of officials, citizens, opponents and critics of the government, and foreigners. Security officials used physical surveillance, telephone tapping, electronic eavesdropping, and informers. Authorities frequently queried the parents of students studying overseas and sometimes threatened state employees they would lose their jobs if they maintained friendships with foreigners.

The government reportedly intercepted surface mail before delivery, and letters and parcels taken to the post office had to remain unsealed for government inspection.

Persons harassed, detained, or arrested by authorities, as well as their family members, reported the government caused family members to be fired from their jobs or expelled from school. Authorities sometimes also detained and interrogated family members.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

While the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials reportedly often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Corruption existed in the security forces and in all social and economic sectors. Factors encouraging corruption included the existence of patronage networks, low government salaries that in the latter half of the year were paid as much as three months behind schedule, a lack of fiscal transparency and accountability, the absence of published macroeconomic data, and the fear of government retaliation against citizens who choose to highlight corrupt acts. According to Freedom House and the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators, the country had a severe corruption problem.

Corruption: One regional governor, one deputy minister, and two deputy chairpersons of the Cabinet of Ministers were dismissed from their positions during the year over allegations of corruption.

In May during a Security Council meeting, President Berdimuhamedov criticized Prosecutor General Amanmyrat Hallyyev for his failure to prevent bribery and corruption among his subordinates. Parliament dismissed the prosecutor general shortly thereafter. The official daily newspaper Neytral’nyy Turkmenistan published a list of 15 names of convicted prosecutors charged with bribery and corruption. It was also reported that several high-level employees of the TurkmenGas State Concern were imprisoned along with a former deputy minister of industry, heads of the Baharly Turkmen Cement plant, and the Bayramaly Cotton Seed plant.

Financial Disclosure: The law does not require elected or appointed officials to disclose their incomes or assets. Financial disclosure requirements are neither transparent nor consistent with international norms. Government enterprises are not required to publicize financial statements, even to foreign partners. Local auditors, not internationally recognized firms, often conducted financial audit

Tuvalu

Executive Summary

Tuvalu is a constitutional parliamentary democracy. The parliamentary election held in 2015 was generally free and fair, with three new members elected into the 15-member parliament. There were no formal political parties. Parliament selected Enele Sopoaga for a second term as prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included the criminalization of sexual activities between men, although the law was not enforced.

Government officials took steps to investigate abuses, and impunity was not a problem.

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

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

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

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

The national police service, under the Office of the Prime Minister, maintains internal security. In addition to law enforcement, it maintains separate units for customs, immigration, maritime surveillance, and prisons. The country has no military force. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the national police service, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish police abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving security forces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law permits arrests without a warrant if a police officer witnesses the commission of an unlawful act or has “reasonable suspicion” an offense is about to be committed. Police estimated the majority of arrests were without warrant. Police may hold a person arrested without a warrant for a maximum of 24 hours without a hearing before a magistrate. When a court issues an arrest warrant, the warrant states the maximum permissible detention time before the court must hold a hearing, which is normally one to two weeks. Authorities did not hold suspects incommunicado or under house arrest.

Authorities generally informed arrested persons promptly of the charges against them, although bureaucratic delays sometimes occurred because persons charged with serious offenses must await trial at a semiannual session of the High Court. There was a functioning system of bail. A people’s lawyer was available free of charge to arrested persons and for other legal advice. Persons living on outer islands did not have rapid access to legal services because the people’s lawyer, based on the main island of Funafuti, traveled infrequently to the outer islands. The country had only one attorney in private practice.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution protects persons from unlawful detainment and detainees may apply to the High Court for redress if they believe they were 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 and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law provides for a presumption of innocence. Judges conduct trials and render verdicts. Defendants have the right to be promptly informed in detail of the charges against them, including free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals; consult with an attorney in a timely manner; and have access to the people’s lawyer and adequate time and resources to prepare a defense. They also have the right to be present at their trial, confront witnesses, present witnesses and evidence, and appeal any convictions. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have a right to appeal a judge’s decision. 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 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 the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for some forms of corruption by officials, such as theft, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were no reports that officials engaged in corrupt practices this year.

The Office of the Attorney General, police force, ombudsperson, auditor-general, Public Service Commission, and the Central Procurement Unit were responsible for the government’s anticorruption efforts.

Financial Disclosure: The Leadership Code Act requires income and asset disclosure by “leaders,” a term covering public servants and politicians. Enforcement of the code was weak.

United Arab Emirates

Executive Summary

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven semiautonomous emirates with a resident population of approximately 9.3 million, of whom an estimated 11 percent are citizens. The rulers of the seven emirates, respectively, constitute the Federal Supreme Council, the country’s highest legislative and executive body. The council selects a president and a vice president from its membership, and the president appoints the prime minister and cabinet. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi emirate, is president, although Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi exercises most executive authority. The emirates are under patriarchal rule with political allegiance defined by loyalty to tribal leaders, leaders of the individual emirates, and leaders of the federation. A limited, appointed electorate participates in periodic elections for the partially elected Federal National Council (FNC), a consultative body that examines, reviews, and recommends changes to legislation and may discuss topics for legislation. The FNC consists of 40 representatives allocated proportionally to each emirate based on population; half are elected members while the remainder are appointed by the leaders of their respective emirates. There are no political parties. The last election was in 2015, when an appointed electorate of approximately 224,000 citizens, making up one-fifth of the total citizen population, elected 20 FNC members. Citizens may express their concerns directly to their leaders through traditional consultative mechanisms such as the open majlis (forum).

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included allegations of torture in detention; arbitrary arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention; government interference with privacy rights; limitations on the freedoms of speech and press, including criminalization of libel and arrests and detentions for internet postings or commentary; restrictions on assembly and association; the inability of citizens to choose their government in free and fair elections; and criminalization of same sex sexual activity, although no cases were publicly reported during the year. The government did not permit workers to join independent unions and did not effectively prevent physical and sexual abuse of foreign domestic servants and other migrant workers.

The government investigated, prosecuted, and brought to conviction cases of official corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving security forces during the year. There was, however, no publicly available information on whether the government investigated allegations of abuses committed by authorities.

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

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

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. The government, however, reportedly often held persons in custody for extended periods without charge or a preliminary judicial hearing. The law permits indefinite detention, including incommunicado detention, without appeal. In some cases, authorities did not allow detainees contact with attorneys, family members, or others for indefinite or unspecified periods.

In cases of foreign nationals detained by police, which in view of the country’s demographic breakdown were the vast majority of cases, the government often did not notify the appropriate diplomatic missions. For state security detainees, notification was exceptionally rare and information about the status of these detainees was very limited.

Authorities treated prisoners arrested for political or security reasons differently from other prisoners, including placing them in separate sections of a prison. A specific government entity, the State Security Department, handled these cases, and in some cases held prisoners and detainees in separate undisclosed locations for extended periods prior to their transfer to a regular prison.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Each emirate maintained a local police force called a general directorate, which was officially a branch of the federal Ministry of Interior. All emirate-level general directorates of police enforced their respective emirate’s laws autonomously. They also enforced federal laws within their emirate in coordination with each other under the federal ministry. The federal government maintained federal armed forces for external security.

There were no public reports of impunity involving security forces, but there was also no publicly available information on whether authorities investigated complaints of police corruption or other abuses including prison conditions and mistreatment (see section 1.c., Administration).

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police stations received complaints from the public, made arrests, and forwarded cases to the public prosecutor. The public prosecutor then transferred cases to the courts. The law prohibits arrest or search of citizens without probable cause. Within 48 hours, police must report an arrest to the public prosecutor, and police usually adhered to the deadline.

Police investigations can regularly take up to three months, during which time detainees are often publicly unaccounted for. The law requires prosecutors to submit charges to a court within 14 days of the police report and to inform detainees of the charges against them. Judges may grant extensions to prosecutors, sometimes resulting in extended periods of detention without formal charges. Multiple detainees complained that authorities did not inform them of the charges or other details of their case for months at a time. Noncitizen detainees reported that when the prosecutor presented the charges, they were written in Arabic with no translation, and no translator was provided. There were also reports of authorities pressuring or forcing detainees to sign documents before they were allowed to see attorneys.

Public prosecutors may order detainees held as long as 21 days without charge and this can be extended by court order. Judges may not grant an extension of more than 30 days of detention without charge; however, with charge, they may renew 30-day extensions indefinitely. As a result, pretrial detention sometimes exceeded the maximum sentence for the crime charged. Public prosecutors may hold suspects in terrorism-related cases without charge for six months. Once authorities charge a suspect with terrorism, the Federal Supreme Court may extend the detention indefinitely.

There is no formal system of bail. Authorities may temporarily release detainees who deposit money, a passport, or an unsecured personal promissory statement signed by a third party. Law enforcement officials often held detainees’ passports. Authorities may deny pretrial release to defendants in cases involving loss of life, including involuntary manslaughter. Authorities released some prisoners detained on charges related to a person’s death after the prisoners completed diya (blood money) payments. Once an accused is found guilty of death under criminal procedure, judges may grant diya payments as compensation to the victim’s family in an amount determined to be in accordance with sharia. In October a Sharjah court commuted death sentences of five Indian nationals convicted of murder to three years’ imprisonments after a diya payment was made to the victim’s family in exchange for the family’s consent to pardon the accused.

A defendant is entitled to an attorney after authorities complete their investigation. Authorities sometimes questioned the accused for weeks without permitting access to an attorney. The government may provide counsel at its discretion to indigent defendants charged with felonies punishable by imprisonment of three to 15 years. The law requires the government to provide counsel in cases in which indigent defendants face punishments of life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Authorities held some persons incommunicado, particularly in cases involving state security. Jordanian citizen and UAE resident Tayseer al-Najjar was arrested in December 2015 and was held incommunicado and without charge until January 2017. He was accused of creating social media accounts that defamed the UAE and publishing false information about the country in connection with a comment posted on his Facebook account in 2014. In March a court sentenced al-Najjar to three years in prison and fined him 500,000 Dirham (AED) ($136,000).

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports the government committed arrests without informing the individual of the charge, notably in cases of alleged violations of state security regulations. In these cases, authorities did not give notice to the individual or to family members regarding the subject of the inquiry or arrest.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention occurred, especially in cases involving state security. The speed at which these cases were brought to trial increased during the year with a higher number of State Security Court acquittals and convictions in comparison with the previous year. There was no estimate available of the percentage of the prison population in pretrial status. According to numerous human rights organizations, citizen and human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor was arrested at his family home in Abu Dhabi on March 20, charged with violating cybercrimes laws by “promoting false information” and “spreading hatred and sectarianism.” As of October, Mansoor was still believed to be detained and his whereabouts unconfirmed. According to human rights organizations, Mansoor was being held in solitary confinement without access to lawyers.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: There were reports authorities sometimes delayed or limited an individual’s access to an attorney, and did not give prompt court appearances or afford consular notification, both for the average prisoner and in state security cases. The law permits indefinite detention without appeal in state security-related cases. There were no reports of courts finding individuals to have been unlawfully detained and eligible for compensation.

Osama al-Najjar, convicted in 2014 of making unlawful postings on social media and having links to al-Islah, an organization with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and designated by the government as a terrorist organization, was scheduled to be released on March 17 after completing a three-year prison sentence and paying a 500,000 AED ($136,000) fine. The Federal Supreme Court, however, issued an order to keep him in detention on grounds that he still represented a danger to society and required additional guidance.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, court decisions remained subject to review by the political leadership. Authorities often treated noncitizens differently from citizens. The judiciary consisted largely of contracted foreign nationals subject to potential deportation, further compromising its independence from the government.

According to human rights groups, the location and status of activist Nassir bin Ghaith remained unknown from the time of his arrest in August 2015 until April 2016, when prosecutors formally announced charges of defaming a foreign country (Egypt), criticizing the UAE’s decision to grant land for a Hindu temple, and having ties to Islamist group al-Islah. In December 2016 bin Ghaith’s case was transferred from the State Security chamber of the Federal Supreme Court to the Federal Court of Appeal. In March authorities sentenced bin Ghaith to 10 years in prison for promoting “false information in order to harm the reputation and stature of the state and one of its institutions.” Bin Ghaith called into question the fairness of his trial, noting an Egyptian judge was assigned to adjudicate a case that involved charges of bin Ghaith defaming Egyptian figures.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

The law presumes all defendants innocent until proven guilty. By law a defendant enjoys the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges. The law requires all court proceedings be conducted in Arabic. Despite the defendant’s procedural right to an interpreter, there were reports authorities did not always provide an interpreter or that quality was sometimes poor.

Defendants’ rights were circumscribed in national security cases or cases the judge deems harmful to public morality. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and have a right to legal counsel in court. While awaiting a decision on official charges at the police station or the prosecutor’s office, a defendant is not entitled to legal counsel. In cases involving a capital crime or possible life imprisonment, the defendant has a right to government-provided counsel after charges have been filed. The government may also provide counsel, at its discretion, to indigent defendants charged with felonies punishable by imprisonment of three to 15 years. The law provides prosecutors discretion to bar defense counsel from any investigation. Defendants and their attorneys may present witnesses and question witnesses against them. Defendants may not to be compelled to testify or confess. Some defendants said they did not have adequate time to prepare a defense, sometimes due to limited phone access, and requested additional time, which judges typically granted.

Both local and federal courts have an appeals process; cases under local jurisdiction are appealed to the Court of Cassation and federal cases to the Federal Supreme Court. Dubai has its own Court of Cassation. With the additional exception of Ras al-Khaimah, appeals in all other emirates are heard before the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi. Convicted defendants may also appeal death sentences to the ruler of the emirate in which the offense was committed or to the president of the federation. In murder cases, the victim’s family must consent to commute a death sentence. The government normally negotiated with victims’ families for the defendant to offer diya payment, compensation in accordance with sharia, in exchange for forgiveness and a commuted death sentence. The prosecutor may appeal acquittals and provide new or additional evidence to a higher court. An appellate court must reach unanimous agreement to overturn an acquittal.

State security cases are heard at the Federal Court of Appeal and may be appealed to the higher Federal Supreme Court.

When authorities suspected a foreigner of crimes of “moral turpitude,” authorities sometimes deported the individual without recourse to the criminal justice system. At the judge’s discretion, foreigners charged with crimes may be permitted to defend themselves while on bail.

The penal code also requires all individuals to pay “diya” to victims’ families in cases where accidents or crimes caused the death of another person, and media reported multiple cases of courts imposing this punishment. In some cases, sharia courts imposed more severe penalties during the month of Ramadan. There were also reports courts applied these punishments more strictly to Muslims.

Women faced legal discrimination because of the government’s interpretation of sharia (see section 6).

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

During the year there were reports of persons held incommunicado and without charge because of their political views or affiliations, which often involved alleged links to Islamist organizations.

According to news reports, prosecutors brought more than 200 state security cases to court since 2013. Most convictions were for terrorism-related crimes or membership in banned organizations. Human rights organizations alleged that some of these cases involved individuals advocating nonviolent change, and the organizations criticized the government for using overly broad antiterrorism laws to arrest and detain those with suspected ties to nonviolent, political Islamist movements.

Since 2011 the government has restricted the activities of organizations and individuals allegedly associated with al-Islah, a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate and government-designated terrorist organization, and others critical of the government. The media reported in May that a Gulf Cooperation Council national was sentenced to five years in jail for participation in al-Islah, including administration, fundraising, and recruiting membership. Similar restrictions were placed on Osama al-Najjar and Nassir bin Ghaith (see sections 1.d. and 1.e., respectively).

As part of its security and counterterrorism efforts, the government issued or updated restrictive laws–such as the 2014 antiterrorism law–and monitored and blocked activities, including the use of the internet and social media. Numerous observers criticized these laws as extending beyond security concerns by also outlawing activities and speech of a political nature.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens and noncitizens had access to the courts to seek damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. The civil courts, like all courts, lacked full independence. In some cases, courts delayed proceedings.

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

The constitution prohibits entry into a home without the owner’s permission, except when police present a lawful warrant. Officers’ actions in searching premises were subject to review by the Ministry of Interior, and officers were subject to disciplinary action if authorities judged their actions irresponsible.

The constitution provides for free and confidential correspondence by mail, telegram, and all other means of communication. There were reports, however, that the government monitored and in some cases censored incoming international mail, wiretapped telephones, and monitored outgoing mail and electronic forms of communication without following appropriate legal procedures. A 2016 study by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab reported that since 2012, local journalists, activists, and dissidents were targeted by sophisticated spyware attacks, which the researchers found may be linked to the government (see also section 2.a., Internet Freedom).

Local interpretation of sharia prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims and Muslim men from marrying women “not of the book,” generally meaning adherents of religions other than Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

The country employs judicial supervision for individuals considered at risk from relatives committing honor crimes against or otherwise harming them. Judicial supervision typically included housing individuals to provide for their well-being and for family mediation and reconciliation.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

In March 2015 in response to a request from Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi for Arab League/Gulf Cooperation Council military intervention, Saudi officials announced the formation of a coalition to counter the 2014 overthrow of the legitimate government in Yemen by militias of the Ansar Allah movement (also known colloquially as “Houthis”) and forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Saudi-led coalition, which also includes the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, and Senegal, conducted air and ground operations that continued throughout the year. UAE forces continued an active military role in Yemen, including conducting ground operations against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State (ISIS-Y) in southern Yemen.

The UN, NGOs such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI), and some Yemeni sources voiced human rights concerns about coalition activities in Yemen, claiming some Saudi-led coalition air strikes have been disproportionate or indiscriminate, and appeared not to sufficiently minimize collateral impact on civilians. HRW called for the UAE to clarify its role in an alleged coalition attack in March on a boat off the western coast of Yemen that was carrying 145 Somalian civilians; government sources denied carrying out the attack.

Some press reports and human rights organizations alleged that UAE and UAE-supported local Yemeni forces abducted, arbitrarily detained, and tortured individuals as part of counterterrorism efforts in southern Yemen. HRW claimed the UAE maintained secret prisons in Yemen, estimated at 18 by the Associated Press, including at the Riyan airport in the south, allegedly detaining hundreds in counter AQAP and ISIS-Y operations. Former detainees and family members of prisoners reported cramped and unhygienic living conditions, beatings, electrical shocks and other abuses, including sexual assault. The UAE government denied that it maintained any secret prisons in Yemen or that it tortured prisoners there.

For additional details, see the Department of State’s Country Report on Human Rights for Yemen.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption.

Nepotism and conflict of interest in government appointments and contract allocations existed. The Ministries of the Interior and Justice and the state audit institutions are responsible for combating government corruption.

Corruption: In May, two former senior officials from the Ras al-Khaimah Investment Authority were sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison for embezzlement of public funds.

Authorities also prosecuted cases of police corruption. In May a Sharjah police officer was sentenced to three years in prison and a 3,000 AED ($816) fine for charges of bribery and aiding the escape of a prisoner.

Financial Disclosure: There are no financial disclosure laws, regulations, or codes of conduct requiring officials to disclose their income and assets. The operating instructions for the Federal National Council elections did require all candidates to disclose sources of funding for their campaigns.

United Kingdom

Executive Summary

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK) is a constitutional monarchy with a multiparty, parliamentary form of government. Citizens elect representatives to the House of Commons, the lower chamber of the bicameral Parliament. They last did so in free and fair elections in June 2017. Members of the upper chamber, the House of Lords, occupy appointed or hereditary seats. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Bermuda each have elected legislative bodies and devolved administrations, with varying degrees of legislative and executive powers. The UK has 14 overseas territories, including Bermuda. Each of the overseas territories has its own constitution, while the UK government is responsible for external affairs, security, and defense.

Civilian authorities throughout the UK and its territories maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included violence motivated by anti-Semitism and against members of minorities on racial or ethnic grounds. Authorities generally investigated, and where appropriate prosecuted, such cases.

The government investigated, prosecuted, and punished allegations of official abuse, including by police, with no reported cases of impunity.

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

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

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

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 routinely observed these requirements.

Stop-and-search in the country has declined from 1.2 million to 380,000 during the last five years. Three-in-four black, Asian, or minority ethnic Britons, however, feel that their communities are targeted by stop-and-search policies.

In January the Scottish government published new guidelines regarding the appropriate use of stop-and-search actions. Under the new guidelines, which came into force in May, police are able to stop and search persons only when they have “reasonable grounds.”

In Bermuda there were approximately 1,123 stop-and-search actions in the first half of the year, a significant decrease from a high of approximately 5,500 at the end of 2012, when gang violence was at its height. Civil rights groups stated the stop-and-search law unfairly targeted blacks.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

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.

The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 came into effect in 2017 granting intelligence and police forces greater investigatory powers, including new powers for interception and collection of communications.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government implemented the law effectively. There were no reports of government corruption during the year.

Financial Disclosure: All members of Parliament (MPs) are required to disclose their financial interests. The Register of Members Interests was available online and updated regularly. These public disclosures include paid employment, property ownership, shareholdings in public or private companies, and other interests that “might reasonably be thought to influence” the member in any way. The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the Bermudian Parliament have similar codes of conduct for members. Under the ministerial code issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, ministers must follow standards of conduct, including the disclosure of gifts and travel. The national government publishes the names, grades, job titles, and annual pay rates for most civil servants with salaries greater than 150,000 pounds ($196,500). Government departments publish the business expenses of and hospitality received by their most senior officials.

Uruguay

Executive Summary

The Oriental Republic of Uruguay is a constitutional republic with an elected president and a bicameral legislature. In 2014 in a free and fair runoff election, Tabare Vazquez won a five-year presidential term, and his Frente Amplio coalition won a majority in parliament.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included poor and potentially life-threatening conditions in some prisons, widespread use of extended pretrial detention, and violence against women and children.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses, and there were no reports of impunity during the year.

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.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law and constitution 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, under the Ministry of Interior, maintain internal security. The National Directorate for Migration, also under the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for migration and border enforcement. The armed forces, under the Ministry of National Defense, are responsible for external security and have some domestic responsibilities as guardians of the outside perimeter of six prisons. 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.

The judiciary continued to investigate human rights violations committed during the 1973-85 military dictatorship, which the law classifies as crimes against humanity. In April retired army colonel Rodolfo Gregorio Alvarez Nieto, nephew of the late dictator Gregorio Alvarez Armelino, was indicted for torture and abuse of authority during the dictatorship. Alvarez’s victim was Gerardo Riet Bustamante, a member of the Partido por la Victoria del Pueblo (Party for the Victory of the People) and a union leader. Alvarez was a captain and military tribunal judge at the time of Riet’s arrest in 1980. Alvarez took Riet’s statement at the same location where Riet was physically and psychologically tortured. Riet was forced to sign his deposition, and after he experienced a simulation of his sister’s death, he suffered a nervous breakdown. According to press reports, the court decision was the first indictment in the country for a crime against humanity. Alvarez’s lawyers appealed the decision. The Court of Appeals subsequently dismissed the torture charge but confirmed the prosecution for physical coercion against detainees.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police apprehended suspects with warrants issued by a duly authorized official and brought them before an independent judiciary. Arrests may be made without a judge’s order when persons are caught in the commission of a crime. The law provides detainees with the right to a prompt judicial determination of the legality of detention and requires that the detaining authority explain the legal grounds for the detention. For a detainee who cannot afford a defense attorney, the court appoints a public defender at no cost to the detainee. The apprehended suspect must be brought before a judge within 24 hours so the judge can determine whether a formal investigation must be conducted and whether precautionary measures, including preventive detention, are warranted. If no charges are brought, the case is filed, but the investigation may continue and the case reopened if new evidence emerges.

The possibility of bail exists but was not used. Most persons facing lesser charges were not jailed. Officials allowed detainees prompt access to family members. Confessions obtained by police prior to a detainee’s appearance before a judge and without an attorney present are not valid. A prosecutor leads the investigation of a detainee’s claim of mistreatment.

Pretrial Detention: The new criminal procedure code, which the government began implementing in November, aims to lessen the problem of pretrial detention, since cases were processed with greater speed. Observers believed the new system was effective in reducing the rates of pretrial detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Judicial officials received threats from organized crime groups, and the government assigned police protection to them.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges brought against them, to have a trial without undue delay, to be present at their trial, to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or have one provided at public expense if they are unable to afford one), to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to receive free assistance of an interpreter, to not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present one’s own witnesses and evidence, and to appeal.

Juries are not used; under the previous criminal procedural code, trial proceedings usually consisted of written arguments to the judge and were not normally made public. Only the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney had access to the written record. Individual judges could elect to hear oral arguments, but most judges chose to rule on a case solely based on an examination of written documents, a major factor slowing down the judicial process.

During the year the government prepared a transition from an inquisitorial system to an accusatory system of criminal justice to address inefficiency, opacity, and the overuse of pretrial detentions, as well as to establish a more fair and transparent judicial system that provides greater advocacy to victims. Parliament approved the reform of the criminal procedure code in 2014 and passed two laws to begin to put the new code into practice. The government trained police, prosecutors, and judicial personnel throughout the year. The government also carried out numerous interagency training sessions, with support from civil society and international organizations, to train legal and judicial officials on the new code.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There are transparent administrative procedures to handle complaints of abuse by government agents. An independent and impartial judiciary handles civil disputes, but its decisions were sometimes ineffectively enforced. Local police lacked the training and staff to enforce restraining orders, which often were generated during civil disputes related to domestic violence. Cases involving violations of an individual’s human rights may be submitted through petitions filed by individuals or organizations to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, which in turn may submit the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The court may order civil remedies including fair compensation to the individual injured.

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 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. While officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices, authorities addressed them with appropriate legal action, and the country was considered to have a low level of corruption.

Corruption: In September, Vice President Raul Sendic resigned from office amid investigations into acts of corruption and complaints of mismanagement surrounding him. Sendic was under investigation for allegedly making personal expenditures on an official credit card and mismanaging state-owned oil company ANCAP.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires income and asset disclosure by appointed and elected officials. Each year the presidentially appointed Transparency and Ethics Board lists the names of government officials expected to file a declaration on its website and informs the individuals’ organizations of those expected to comply. The government official, the judiciary, a special parliamentary committee, or the board may access the information in the declarations (by majority vote of the board). The board may direct an official’s office to withhold 50 percent of the employee’s salary until the declaration is presented, and it may publish the names of those who fail to comply in the federal register. There is a requirement for filing, but there is no review of the filings absent an allegation of wrongdoing.

Uzbekistan

Executive Summary

Uzbekistan is a constitutional republic with a political system dominated by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and his supporters. On December 4, 2016, former prime minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev won the presidential elections with 88 percent of the vote. The Organization for Security and Cooperation’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODHIR), in its final election observation report, noted, “the campaign lacked competitiveness and voters were not presented with a genuine choice of political alternatives,” with OSCE/ODIHR observers “citing serious irregularities inconsistent with national legislation and OSCE commitments, including proxy voting and indications of ballot box stuffing.” At the same time, the report also identified positive changes, such as the election’s increased transparency, service to voters with disabilities, and unfettered access for more than 500 international observers. Parliamentary elections took place in December 2014. According to the OSCE’s observer mission, those elections did not meet international commitments or standards.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces, but security services permeated civilian structures, and their interaction was opaque, making it difficult to define the scope and limits of civilian authority.

The most significant human rights issues included torture and abuse of detainees by security forces, arbitrary arrest, and incommunicado and prolonged detention. Prison conditions were harsh and sometimes life-threatening. Authorities subjected human rights activists, journalists, and others who criticized the government, as well as their family members, to physical abuse and politically motivated prosecution and detention. There were restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, including through the enforcement of repressive criminal libel laws; restrictions on assembly, association; and restrictions on civil society; widespread restrictions on religious freedom, including imprisonment of believers of all faiths; and restrictions on freedom of movement. Citizens were unable to choose their government in free, fair, and periodic elections, and corruption was endemic. Human rights problems also included human trafficking, including government-compelled forced labor, and incarceration of LGBTI individuals based on laws criminalizing same-sex sexual conduct.

Government prosecutions of officials were rare, selective, but often public, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

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

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

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including by torture.

In July Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the government to investigate the enforced disappearance and death in prison of human rights activist and opposition party member Nuraddin Jumaniyazov, initially arrested in 2014 on alleged political motivations. His trial and arrest had numerous procedural shortcomings, according to HRW and his lawyer, Polina Braunerg. In speaking with HRW, Braunerg stated Jumaniyazov had been tortured and that she was barred from communicating with him after October 2014. Jumaniyazov and his lawyer had made an appeal to the courts to seek medication for his aliments. In 2015 the UN Human Rights Committee called on the government to produce information regarding Jumaniyazov, but nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported no reply from the government. In February officials informed Braunerg she could meet with Jumaniyazov in a prison hospital, but she was not informed of his death. Jumaniyazov allegedly died in prison in December 31, 2016, from tuberculosis and diabetes-related issues.

In January Asiaterra.info, an independent website, reported that Muradilla Omonov, a businessman, died in Jarkurgan District of Surkhandarya Region after he was detained with no legal explanation and brought to the police department in Jarkurgan. Omonov’s family demanded exhumation of his body, and medical examiners found the body bore signs of physical abuse inconsistent with the official cause of death, heart attack. Police later revised the cause of death to suicide. On October 20, family members received a letter from the Prosecutor General’s Office that stated a special task force of investigators reviewed the case and concluded that there was no evidence that contradicted the official version of suicide.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and the law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but authorities continued to engage in such practices. During the year several prominent political prisoners were released from prison. Nonetheless, arbitrary arrest on political grounds continued amidst such releases.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The government authorizes three different entities to investigate criminal activity. The Ministry of Interior controls the police, who are responsible for law enforcement, maintenance of order, and the investigation of general crimes. The Prosecutor General’s Office investigates violent crimes such as homicide as well as corruption by officials and abuse of power. The NSS, headed by a chairman who reports directly to the president, deals with national security and intelligence problems, including terrorism, corruption, organized crime, border control, and narcotics. When jurisdictions overlap, the agencies determine among themselves which takes the lead.

Impunity was a pervasive problem. The Ministry of Interior is officially charged with investigating and disciplining officers accused of human rights violations. There were no cases resulting in discipline in practice. The Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, affiliated with parliament, also has the power to investigate cases, although its decisions on such investigations have no binding authority.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

By law a judge must review any decision to arrest accused individuals or suspects. Judges granted arrest warrants in most cases. Defendants have the right to legal counsel from the time of arrest. State-appointed attorneys are available for those who do not hire private counsel. Officials did not always respect the right to counsel and occasionally forced defendants to sign written statements declining the right. Authorities’ selective intimidation and disbarment of defense lawyers produced a chilling effect that also compromised political detainees’ access to legal counsel. The law authorizes the use of house arrest as a form of pretrial detention.

The law allows detainees to request hearings before a judge to determine whether the detainees remain incarcerated or may be released before trial. In practice authorities rarely granted these hearings. The arresting authority is required to notify a relative of a detainee about the detention and to question the detainee within 24 hours of arrest. There were complaints authorities tortured suspects before notifying either family members or attorneys of their arrest to gain confessions.

Suspects have the right to remain silent and must be informed of the right to counsel. Detention without formal charges is limited to 48 hours, although a prosecutor can request an additional 48 hours, after which the person must be charged or released. Authorities typically held suspects after the allowable period of detention, according to human rights advocates. After formal charges are filed, the prosecutor decides whether a suspect is released on bail (or on the guarantee of an individual or public organization acting as surety), stays in pretrial detention, or is kept under house arrest. The judge conducting the arrest hearing is allowed to sit on the panel of judges during the individual’s trial.

The law requires authorities at pretrial detention facilities to arrange a meeting between a detainee and a representative from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office upon the detainee’s request. Officials allowed detainees in prison facilities to submit confidential complaints to the Ombudsman’s Office and the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Once authorities file charges, suspects may be held in pretrial detention for up to three months while investigations proceed. The law permits an extension of the investigation period for as much as one year at the discretion of the appropriate court upon a motion by the relevant prosecutor, who may also release a prisoner on bond pending trial. According to human rights advocates, authorities frequently ignored these legal protections. Those arrested and charged with a crime may be released without bail until trial on the condition they provide assurance of “proper behavior” and that they will appear at trial.

A decree requires that all defense attorneys pass a comprehensive relicensing examination. As in past years, several experienced and knowledgeable defense lawyers who had represented human rights activists and independent journalists lost their licenses after taking the relicensing examination or because of letters from the bar association under the control of the Ministry of Justice claiming that they violated professional ethical norms. As a result several activists and defendants faced difficulties in finding legal representation. Journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev was arrested on September 27 and held in detention for four days before his family was contacted and notified about his imprisonment; Abdullayev was denied access to legal representation until November 13, six weeks after his arrest. The delay was in part due to official pressure on attorneys not to take up the case, as reported by human rights activists following the case. The delay was also in part due to investigators’ warning the family not to hire legal counsel or provide press interviews.

Although unlicensed advocates cannot represent individuals in criminal and civil hearings, courts have the discretion to allow such an advocate if he or she belongs to a registered organization whose members are on trial.

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities continued to arrest or detain persons arbitrarily on charges of extremist sentiments or activities and association with banned but previously legally registered religious groups. Local human rights activists reported that police and security service officers frequently detained and mistreated family members and close associates of registered religious and banned religious groups. Allegations of coerced confessions and testimony in such cases were commonplace.

In June the government began to phase out the use of blacklists, which contained the names of those convicted for religious crimes or crimes against the regime. Inclusion on such lists required regular visits to police for interrogation, denied issuance of passports and travel visas, and, in some cases, prohibited the purchase and use of smartphones. NGOs reported that the government was removing individuals from the blacklist after a government panel examined them for suitability to reintegrate into society. There were reports that other high-profile former prisoners and journalists, such as Muhammad Bekjanov and Khayirula Khamidov, had been removed from these blacklists.

Pretrial Detention: Prosecutors generally exercised discretion over most aspects of criminal procedures, including pretrial detention. In practice detainees had no access to a court to challenge the length or validity of pretrial detention, despite the right to do so granted by law. Even when authorities did not file charges, police and prosecutors frequently sought to evade restrictions on the length of time persons could be held without charges by holding them as witnesses rather than as suspects. Human rights defenders noted incidents where security personnel used pretrial detention from one to three months without formal charges or a court hearing. The government did not provide information regarding the number of persons held in pretrial detention centers.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: By law detainees or former detainees are able to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court. Appeals are sometimes open to the public by request of the applicant. New evidence is rarely heard. Appeal courts generally review previous trial records and ask applicants to declare for the record their innocence or guilt. Appeals rarely result in the courts overturning their original decisions.

Amnesty: Authorities annually grant amnesty and release individuals imprisoned for religious extremism or political grounds.

For example, in February Mukhammad Bekjanov, a former editor of the opposition newspaper Erk, was released after 18 years in prison. Additionally in February Rustam Usmanov, a political activist and government critic, was released after 19 years in prison. In March independent journalist (and cousin of the late president Karimov), Jamshid Karimov, was released from custody after 10 years of confinement without charges. In August Erkin Musaev, former director of international cooperation at the Ministry of Defense, was released after 10 years behind bars.

In October the government released five political prisoners. On October 3 and 4, the government released activist Agzam Farmonov, who served 11 years in prison, and journalist Solijon Abdurahmonov, who spent nine years in prison. On October 7, opposition and human rights activist Agzam Turgunov was released after serving nine years in prison. Later, on October 16 and October 18, respectively, human rights activists Ganihon Mamathonov and Muhammadali Qoraboev were released after spending eight and 11 years in prison.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, there were some instances in which the judiciary did not operate with complete independence and impartiality. Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, members of the judiciary reportedly rendered verdicts desired by the Prosecutor General’s Office or other law enforcement bodies.

The president appoints all judges for renewable five-year terms. Removal of Supreme Court judges must be confirmed by parliament, which generally complied with the president’s wishes.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The criminal code specifies a presumption of innocence. Most trials were officially open to the public, although access was sometimes restricted. Judges may close trials in exceptional cases, such as those involving state secrets or to protect victims and witnesses. Judges generally permitted international observers at proceedings without requiring written permission from the Supreme Court or court chairmen, but judges or other officials arbitrarily closed some proceedings to observers, even in civil cases. Authorities generally announced trials only one or two days before they began, and hearings were frequently postponed.

A panel of one professional judge and two lay assessors, selected by committees of worker collectives or neighborhood committees, generally presided over trials. Lay judges rarely speak, and the professional judge usually accepts the prosecutors’ recommendations on procedural rulings and sentencing.

Defendants have the right to attend court proceedings, confront witnesses, and present evidence, but judges declined defense motions to summon additional witnesses or to enter evidence supporting the defendant into the record. In the overwhelming majority of criminal cases brought to trial, the verdict was guilty. Defendants have the right to hire an attorney although some human rights activists encountered difficulties finding legal representation. The government provided legal counsel and interpreters without charge when necessary. According to credible reports, state-appointed defense attorneys routinely acted in the interest of the government rather than of their clients because of their reliance on the state for a livelihood and fear of possible recriminations.

By law a prosecutor must request an arrest order from a court, and courts rarely denied such requests. Prosecutors have considerable power after obtaining an arrest order: They direct investigations, prepare criminal cases, recommend sentences to judges, and may appeal court decisions, including the sentence. After formal charges are filed, the prosecutor decides whether a suspect is released on bail, stays in pretrial detention, or is kept under house arrest. Although the criminal code specifies a presumption of innocence, a prosecutor’s recommendations generally prevailed. If a judge’s sentence does not correspond with the prosecutor’s recommendation, the prosecutor may appeal the sentence to a higher court. Judges often based their verdicts solely on confessions and witness testimony, which authorities allegedly were thought to extract through abuse, threats to family members, or other means of coercion. This was especially common in religious extremism cases. Lawyers may, and occasionally did, call on judges to reject confessions and investigate claims of torture. Judges often did not respond to such claims or dismissed them as groundless. Courts failed to investigate properly allegations of torture. Judicial verdicts frequently alleged that defendants claimed torture to avoid criminal responsibility.

Legal protections against double jeopardy were not applied.

The law provides a right of appeal to defendants, but appeals rarely resulted in reversals of convictions. In some cases, however, appeals resulted in reduced or suspended sentences.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

International and domestic human rights organizations estimated that authorities held hundreds of prisoners on political grounds, and some groups asserted the number was in the thousands. These claims were not statistically and independently verifiable. The government denied it held political prisoners and maintained that these individuals are criminals who broke the law. The government does not permit access to such persons by human rights or humanitarian organizations such as the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

On October 15, Malohat Eshonqulova and Elena Urlaeva were detained for up to five hours in Samarkand for their monitoring of labor in the cotton harvest. On November 12, police raided Eshonqulova’s home and confiscated some of her belongings, fined her, and threatened her with internal deportation.

On September 27, Fergana News and others reported journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev had been secretly arrested. Several NGOs reported he was held incommunicado from family members and that his lawyer was not permitted to speak to him. Fergana reported that, on September 29, the NSS searched Abdullayev’s house and that several media and data items were taken by officials. Abdullayev reappeared in court on October 2; Reporters without Borders, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch called for his release. Abdullayev, under the pseudonym Usman Khaknazarov, was charged with disseminating propaganda “aimed at overthrowing the constitutional order.” The case continued at year’s end.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens may file suit in civil courts for alleged human rights violations by officials, excluding investigators, prosecutors, and judges. There were reports that bribes to judges influenced civil court decisions.

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

Although the constitution and law forbid arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, authorities did not respect these prohibitions. The law requires that prosecutors approve requests for search warrants for electronic surveillance, but there is no provision for judicial review of such warrants.

There were reports that police and other security forces entered the homes of human rights activists and members of religious groups without a warrant. According to Forum 18, a Norwegian NGO that reports on religious freedom, members of Baptist, Protestant, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other minority churches holding worship services in private homes reported that armed security officers raided services and detained and fined church members for religious activity deemed illegal. Among such incidents were raids in Almalyk in February, in Tashkent in March and April, and in Nukus in April. Baptist congregants reported home intrusions by authorities even when they gathered to celebrate important occasions such as birthdays. They also reported harassment and interference by authorities when publicly reading the Bible.

Human rights activists and political opposition figures generally assumed that security agencies covertly monitored their telephone calls and activities.

The government continued to use an estimated 12,000 neighborhood (mahalla) committees as a source of information on potential “extremists.” The committees provided various social support functions, but they also functioned as an informational link from local society to government and law enforcement. Mahallas in rural areas tended to be more influential than those in cities.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

In December 2016 parliament approved a new law to fight corruption. The law strengthens criminal penalties for official corruption. Despite some high-level corruption-related arrests, corruption remained endemic, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: On June 13, President Mirziyoyev announced that in the first six months of the year seven judges were “brought to justice,” including the chairperson of the Andijon Regional Economic Court, and arrested for receiving a bribe of 1.2 billion soms ($150,000).

In July the Office for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the General Prosecutor’s Office published details on criminal cases being brought against Gulnara Karimova, daughter of the first president of the country, Islam Karimov. According to published reports, a Tashkent court sentenced her to five years in prison in August 2015. The investigation of additional criminal charges continued. The total amount of damage to the interest of the state and its citizens in the two specified criminal cases reportedly was more than 3.7 trillion soms ($457 million). The government initiated measures to seek the return of assets from other countries.

Financial Disclosure: Government officials are required to disclose only income from outside employment, and such disclosures were not publicly available.

Vanuatu

Executive Summary

Vanuatu is a multiparty parliamentary democracy with a freely elected government. The president is head of state. Parliament elected Tallis Obed Moses president in July after the former president died in June. Following a snap election in 2016, which observers considered generally free and fair, parliament elected Charlot Salwai as prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: police abuses; violence against women; and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.

The government made efforts to prosecute and punish abuses by officials, although a degree of police impunity persisted.

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.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, authorities did not always observe these prohibitions. The Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) did not respond to multiple requests for numbers of complaints filed against police for arbitrary arrest or detention and/or the disposition of such complaints.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The VPF maintains internal security, and the Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF), a paramilitary police unit, makes up the country’s defense force. The commissioner of police heads the police force, including the Police Maritime Wing, Immigration Department, National Disaster Management Office, and National Fire Service.

Civilian authorities did not have effective mechanisms to punish police abuse or corruption but exercised overall control of the force. Allegations of police impunity, particularly in the VMF, continued. Political instability and a series of legal cases in previous years exacerbated divisions within the police force and undermined policing capacity. These political and legal battles have settled, and a permanent commissioner was appointed in May.

The law mandates the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate complaints of security force abuses. Additionally, the police Professional Standards Unit (PSU) investigates allegations of ethics violations and misuse of force. In 2016 the PSU received 108 complaints against 80 officers, leading to 61 criminal charges and 47 internal disciplinary actions. The VPF had 574 officers in total.

Foreign assistance designed to address some of the problems confronting the security forces continued. Assistance projects included recruitment of new officers, establishment of additional police posts on outer islands and in rural areas, and repair and maintenance of police buildings. Under the Vanuatu-Australia Police Project, three Australian Federal Police advisers worked full-time with the VPF.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

A warrant issued by a court is required for an arrest, although police made a small number of arrests without warrants. Authorities generally observed the constitutional provision to inform suspects of the charges against them.

The criminal procedure code outlines the process for remanding alleged offenders in custody. To remand a person in custody requires a valid written warrant from a magistrate or a Supreme Court justice. Warrants typically are valid for 14 days in the first instance, and the court may extend them in writing. In general the Correctional Services Department’s practice was not to accept any detainee into custody without a valid warrant. A system of bail operated effectively, although some persons not granted bail spent lengthy periods in pretrial detention due to judicial inefficiency. Authorities allow detainees prompt access to counsel and family members. The Public Defender’s Office provides free legal counsel to indigent defendants, defined as those who earn less than 50,000 vatu ($464) per year.

Pretrial Detention: Pretrial detainees constituted approximately 24 percent of the prison population. Judges, prosecutors, and police complained about large case backlogs due to a lack of resources and limited numbers of qualified judges and prosecutors. The average length of time spent in remand before a case went to trial was approximately 12 weeks, although it could be longer in the outer islands.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: There were no reports of persons arrested or detained who were not allowed to challenge the legality of their detention and obtain prompt release if a court found them detained unlawfully.

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 judicial system derives from British common law. Judges conduct trials and render verdicts. The courts uphold constitutional provisions for a presumption of innocence, a prohibition against double jeopardy, a right to counsel, a right to free assistance of an interpreter, a right to question witnesses, a right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, a right to be present, and a right of appeal. The constitution also states that if the accused does not understand the language used in court proceedings, an interpreter must be provided. The law extends these 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 for civil matters, including for human rights violations. The government, including police, generally complied with court decisions on human rights violations. There continue to be some reports that police did not promptly enforce court orders related to domestic violence (see section 6, “Women”). There was no mechanism to appeal adverse domestic decisions to a regional human rights body.

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 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and there were isolated reports of government corruption.

The Ombudsman’s Office and Auditor General’s Office are key government agencies responsible for combating government corruption.

Corruption: The law provides for the appointment of public servants based on merit, but political interference at times hampered effective operation of the civil service.

In January the Ombudsman Commission recommended that current member of parliament and former minister of education Bob Loughman be prosecuted for breaching the leadership code by trying to exercise undue influence over the selection process for the Vanuatu Institute of Teacher Education. The commission also recommended that member of parliament Hosea Nevu be referred for criminal charges of assault on a driver for the Public Solicitor’s Office. As of September the Public Prosecutor’s Office had not yet acted on these referrals.

Financial Disclosure: Members of parliament and elected members of provincial governments are subject to a leadership code of conduct that includes financial disclosure requirements. They must submit annual financial disclosure reports to the clerk of parliament, who then publishes a list of elected officials who did not comply. The Office of the Ombudsman, which investigates those who do not submit reports, confirmed that some officials did not comply with these requirements. Reports are not made available to the public, and the ombudsperson only has access for investigative purposes.

Western Sahara

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of Morocco claims the territory of Western Sahara and administers the estimated 85 percent of that territory that it controls. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO), an organization that seeks the territory’s independence, disputes Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over the territory. Moroccan and POLISARIO forces fought intermittently from 1975, when Spain relinquished colonial authority over the territory, until a 1991 cease-fire and the establishment of a UN peacekeeping mission. Since 1991, UN-facilitated negotiations on the territory’s status have been inconclusive. The sides have not met face-to-face since 2012.

Morocco administers the territories in Western Sahara by the same laws and structures governing the exercise of civil liberties and political and economic rights as in internationally recognized Morocco. In 2011 Morocco adopted a constitution that it also applies to its administration of the territory. Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary national legislative system under which ultimate authority rests with King Mohammed VI, who presides over the Council of Ministers. The king shares executive authority with the head of government (prime minister) Saadeddine El Othmani. According to the constitution, the king appoints the head of government from the political party with the most seats in parliament and approves members of the government nominated by the head of government. International and domestic observers judged the 2016 parliamentary elections, held in both internationally recognized Morocco and the Western Sahara, credible and relatively free from irregularities.

Moroccan civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces.

The most significant human rights issues were predominantly the same as those in internationally recognized Morocco, including allegations that there were political prisoners; limits on freedom of expression, including criminalization of certain political and religious content; limits on freedom of assembly and association; and corruption.

The lack of reports of investigations or prosecutions of human rights abuses by Moroccan officials in Western Sahara, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government, contributed to the widespread perception of impunity.

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

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

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Moroccan law and practice apply. Moroccan law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge in court the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention. Observers indicated that police did not always respect these provisions or consistently observe due process, particularly during and in the wake of protests. According to local NGOs and associations, police sometimes arrested persons without warrants or while wearing civilian clothing.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Moroccan law and practice apply. For more information, see the Department of State’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights for Morocco.

Human rights organizations continued to track alleged abusers who remained in leadership positions or who had been transferred to other positions. International and domestic human rights organizations claimed that authorities dismissed many complaints of abuse and relied only on police statements. Government officials generally did not provide information on the outcome of complaints. The CNDH and the Prison Administration reported human rights training for prison officials and members of the security forces in Western Sahara.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Moroccan law and practice apply. For more information, see the Department of State’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights for Morocco.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces often detained groups of individuals, took them to a police station, questioned them for several hours, and released them without charge.

NGOs reported several cases of alleged arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly following proindependence demonstrations, although there were fewer allegations than in previous years. Authorities argued that such temporary detentions without charges were not arbitrary but legal under Moroccan law, which allows detention of suspects without charge for preliminary investigations for up to six days for non-terrorism-related crimes, and 12 days for terrorism-related crimes. Detentions noted by local NGOs were generally less than six days.

Pretrial Detention: Conditions generally were similar to those in Morocco, with large proportions of detainees in pretrial detention; the government of Morocco does not disaggregate statistics for Western Sahara. For more information, see the Department of State’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights for Morocco.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Moroccan law and practice apply. For more information, see the Department of State’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights for Morocco.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Moroccan law and practice apply. The Moroccan constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and, as in previous years, NGOs asserted that corruption and extrajudicial influence weakened judicial independence. On April 6, the king of Morocco formally appointed the elected and pro-forma members of the Supreme Judicial Council, a new government body whose creation and composition was mandated by the 2011 constitution to manage the courts and judicial affairs directly in place of the Ministry of Justice. While the government of Morocco stated its aim of creating the council was to improve judicial independence, its effect on judicial independence was not clear by the end of the year. The outcomes of trials in which the government had a strong political stake, such as those touching on Islam as it related to political life and national security, the legitimacy of the monarchy, and the Western Sahara, sometimes appeared predetermined. For more information, see the Department of State’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights for Morocco.

On July 19, the civilian Rabat Court of Appeals issued new verdicts ranging from time served to life imprisonment for 23 Sahrawi individuals arrested during the 2010 dismantling of the Gdeim Izik Camp and subsequent violence in Laayoune, which resulted in the death of 11 members of the security forces. The individuals had been previously convicted in a military trial in 2013. A 2015 revision of the Code on Military Justice eliminated military trials for civilians, and in 2016 the Court of Cassation ruled on appeal that the group should receive a new civilian trial. Two received reduced sentences (from 25 years to 4.5 years and 6.5 years) and were released, joining two others whose 2013 sentences of time served were confirmed by the civilian court. Two other individuals also received reduced sentences (from 30 years to 25 years and from 25 years to 20 years). Until the retrial, the Gdeim Izik prisoners constituted the highest-profile group of civilians still serving sentences imposed by a military court.

In December 2016 the UN Committee against Torture issued a decision finding that Morocco had violated its treaty obligations in the case of Gdeim Izik detainee Naama Asfari, who alleged he was convicted by the military court based on a confession obtained under torture and that no adequate investigation was conducted. In 2017 the civilian court, as part of the new trial, offered medical exams in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol to look for residual signs of torture to the 21 individuals who remained in detention from the group’s 2010 arrests and interrogations; however, Asfari declined to participate. Reports on the 15 detainees who willingly participated in the exams were admitted as evidence at the trial and did not find a link between the detainees’ complaints and the alleged torture.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Moroccan law and practice apply. For more information, see the Department of State’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights for Morocco.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Moroccan law and practice apply. Moroccan law does not define or recognize the concept of a political prisoner. The Moroccan government did not consider any of its prisoners to be political prisoners and stated it had charged or convicted all individuals in prison under criminal law. For more information, see the Department of State’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights for Morocco.

Human rights and proindependence groups considered a number of imprisoned Sahrawis to be political prisoners. This number included the Gdeim Izik prisoners (see section 1.e.) as well as members of Sahrawi rights or proindependence organizations.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Moroccan law and practice apply. For more information, see the Department of State’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights for Morocco.

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

Moroccan law and practice apply. For more information, see the Department of State’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights for Morocco.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Moroccan law and practice apply. Moroccan law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. Officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. For more information, see the Department of State’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights for Morocco.

Corruption: Substantial development spending and military officers’ involvement in private business created susceptibility to corruption, as well as opportunities for impunity, in Western Sahara. Some military officers reportedly relied on government connections to gain preferential access to fishing licenses or lucrative contracts for sand and other quarries on state lands. The government and state-owned enterprises were the territory’s principal employers, and residents sought civil service jobs and taxi licenses through official contacts.

On March 31, a Moroccan captain of a fishing boat died after setting himself on fire in front of the local office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Maritime Fisheries in Dakhla, Western Sahara, to protest the lack of response to a complaint regarding corruption. The sailor’s widow alleged that her husband had been pressured to falsify a report submitted to the Royal Moroccan Navy about the sinking of his ship last year to ensure the ship’s owners received insurance money. Authorities denied that the captain submitted a complaint alleging corruption but have since referred the case to the regional office of the CNDH for investigation. There has been no publicly announced result of the investigation.

Financial Disclosure: Moroccan law and practice apply. For more information, see the Department of State’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights for Morocco.