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Afghanistan

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

There were reports that the pre-August 15 government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The Attorney General’s Office maintained a specialized office to investigate cases involving the Ministry of Interior and its agencies, including the Afghan National Police. The Ministry of Defense maintained its own investigation and prosecution authority at the primary and appellate level; at the final level, cases were advanced to the Supreme Court.

Pajhwok News reported that on April 9 security forces manning a checkpoint in Uruzgan Province shot and killed a 10-year-old boy as he passed through the area. The father called on authorities to arrest his son’s killers and bring them to justice. There was no indication that authorities investigated the crime or brought charges against the officers involved.

Media published videos of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) personnel allegedly killing a suspected Taliban sympathizer in Paktika on July 8 by forcing him to sit on an improvised explosive device (IED) and then detonating it. According to the reports, the suspected Taliban sympathizer was a local construction worker who was nearby when the IED was discovered. He was reportedly beaten by Afghan National Police and anti-Taliban militia members before being handed over to the ANDSF. According to the reports, a Defense Ministry spokesperson denied that the incident took place and called the videos “Taliban propaganda.”

After August 15, there were numerous reports of reprisal killings by Taliban fighters as they consolidated control of the country. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) received credible reports of more than 100 individuals associated with the previous administration and its security forces as being killed, tortured, or disappeared following the Taliban leadership’s August announcement of a general amnesty. Taliban leaders denied these incidents reflected an official policy and claimed many were attributed to personal disputes. According to BBC news, Taliban fighters executed two senior police officials – Haji Mullah Achakzai, the security director of Badghis Province and Ghulam Sakhi Akbari, security director of Farah Province.

A November report by HRW documented “the summary execution or enforced disappearance of 47 former members of the ANDSF – military personnel, police, intelligence service members, and paramilitary militia – those who had surrendered to or were apprehended by Taliban forces between August 15 and October 31, 2021.” Senior Taliban leaders declared a general amnesty and forbade reprisals, although reports persisted of local Taliban leaders engaging in such actions.

In November the Taliban conducted a crackdown in ISIS-K’s stronghold province of Nangarhar, reportedly sending more than 1,300 additional fighters. These fighters arrested, killed, or disappeared scores of suspected ISIS-K collaborators in the campaign. Sources in Nangahar reported observing dozens of decapitated bodies of alleged ISIS-K sympathizers in the crackdown’s aftermath.

Thousands of those who worked for or supported the pre-August 15 government or foreign entities, as well as members of minority groups, sought to flee the country on or after August 15 due to fear of reprisals. Others left their homes to hide from Taliban conducting house-to-house searches for government officials. Unknown actors carried out numerous targeted killings of civilians, including religious leaders, journalists, and civil society advocates (see section 1.g.).

In March, three women working for a television station in Jalalabad were killed in two incidents. Mursal Wahidi was killed as she walked home while Sadia Sadat and Shahnaz were killed in a separate incident on the same night, also while returning home from work. ISIS-K militants claimed responsibility for the attacks.

On May 8, a car bomb attack outside the Sayed ul-Shuhuda school in Kabul resulted in 300 casualties – mostly schoolgirls – including 95 killed. No group claimed responsibility. The attack occurred in a western district of the capital where many residents are of the mostly Hazara ethnic community.

On September 4, Taliban gunmen killed a pregnant policewoman in front of her family, according to the victim’s son. She had worked in Ghor prison and was eight months pregnant when she died. The Taliban spokesperson denied the accusation.

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

Although the 2004 constitution and law under the pre-August 15 government prohibited such practices, there were numerous reports that government officials, security forces, detention center authorities, and police committed abuses.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported that the security forces of the pre-August 15 government used excessive force, including torturing and beating civilians. Despite legislation prohibiting these acts, independent monitors including UNAMA continued to report credible cases of torture in government detention centers.

There were numerous reports of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment by the Taliban, ISIS-K, and other antigovernment groups. UNAMA reported that punishments carried out by the Taliban included beatings, amputations, and executions. The report showed that the Taliban held detainees in poor conditions and subjected them to forced labor.

On September 25, the Taliban hung a dead body in the central square in Herat and displayed another three bodies in other parts of the city. A Taliban-appointed district police chief in Herat said the bodies were those of four kidnappers killed by police that day while securing the release of two abductees.

On October 5, the Taliban hung the bodies of two alleged robbers in Herat, claiming they had been killed by residents after they attempted to rob a house.

Impunity was a significant problem in all branches of the pre-August 15 government’s security forces. Accountability of National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghan National Police (ANP), and Afghan Local Police (ALP) officials for torture and abuse was weak, not transparent, and rarely enforced. There were numerous reports that service members were among the most prevalent perpetrators of bacha bazi (the sexual and commercial exploitation of boys, especially by men in positions of power). In May the minister of justice and head of the Trafficking in Persons High Commission reported on government efforts to stop trafficking in persons and bacha bazi, providing a readout of investigations and prosecutions, but he listed no prosecutions of security officers. The pre-August 15 government did not prosecute any security officers for bacha bazi.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in prisons run by the pre-August 15 government were harsh due to overcrowding, lack of sanitation, and limited access to medical services despite the heightened risk of COVID-19. The General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Centers (GDPDC), part of the Interior Ministry, was responsible for all civilian-run prisons (for both men and women) and civilian detention centers. The Ministry of Justice’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Directorate was responsible for all juvenile rehabilitation centers. The NDS operated short-term detention facilities at the provincial and district levels, usually colocated with its headquarters facilities. The Ministry of Defense ran the Afghan National Detention Facilities at Parwan. There were credible reports of private prisons run by members of the ANDSF and used for abuse of detainees. The Taliban also maintained illegal detention facilities throughout the country prior to their takeover, with credible reports describing beatings at makeshift prisons.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding in prisons continued to be a serious, widespread problem under the pre-August 15 government. According to UNAMA, in April at least 30 of 38 prisons nationwide had exceeded full capacity, with an average occupancy rate close to 200 percent. After the Taliban took over Kabul, many prisons were emptied as nearly all prisoners escaped or were released. The two largest prisons – Pul-e-Charkhi in Kabul and Parwan at Bagram – remained largely empty as of December.

Pre-August 15 government authorities generally lacked the facilities to separate pretrial and convicted inmates or to separate juveniles according to the seriousness of the charges against them. Local prisons and detention centers did not always have separate facilities for female prisoners.

According to NGOs and media reports, pre-August 15 government authorities held children younger than age 15 in prison with their mothers, due in part to a lack of capacity of separate children’s support centers. These reports documented insufficient educational and medical facilities for these minors.

Access to food, potable water, sanitation, heating, ventilation, lighting, and medical care in prisons varied throughout the country and was generally inadequate under the pre-August 15 government. The pre-August 15 GDPDC’s nationwide program to feed prisoners faced a severely limited budget, and many prisoners relied on family members to provide food supplements and other necessary items.

Pre-August 15 authorities were not always able to maintain control of prisons. Dozens of prisoners escaped a Badghis central prison in July when the Taliban breached the province’s capital city. The Taliban reportedly paid off prison employees to facilitate the escape of inmates. An estimated 5,000 Taliban militants were imprisoned in provincial capitals before the Taliban took over in July and August, all of whom were released by August 15. In addition to their own imprisoned fighters, the Taliban released thousands more from prisons like Parwan and Pul-e-Charkhi, including members of ISIS-K and al-Qa’ida.

The ISIS-K suicide bomber who carried out an attack at Kabul airport in late August killing dozens of local citizens (and 13 U.S. service members) was among the thousands of prisoners released by the Taliban from Parwan Prison at Bagram Air Base just 11 days before the bombing.

Administration: In the pre-August 15 government, authorities conducted some investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment. The law provides prisoners with the right to leave prison for up to 20 days for family visits. Most prisons did not implement this provision, and the law is unclear in its application to different classes of prisoners.

Independent Monitoring: The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), UNAMA, and the International Committee of the Red Cross monitored pre-August 15 government ministries, including the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defense, and NDS detention facilities. The NATO Resolute Support Mission monitored the NDS, the ANP, and Defense Ministry facilities until the start of the drawdown of NATO forces early in the year. Security constraints and obstruction by authorities occasionally prevented visits to some places of detention. UNAMA and the AIHRC reported difficulty accessing NDS places of detention when they arrived unannounced. The AIHRC reported NDS officials usually required the AIHRC to submit a formal letter requesting access at least one to two days in advance of a visit. NDS officials continued to prohibit AIHRC and UNAMA monitors from bringing cameras, mobile phones, recording devices, or computers into NDS facilities, thereby preventing AIHRC monitors from documenting physical evidence of abuse, such as bruises, scars, and other injuries.

After the Taliban takeover, the UN Security Council unanimously agreed on September 17 to renew the UNAMA mandate for another six months in an effort to continue its in-country activities, including strengthening capacity in the protection and promotion of human rights such as the protection of children affected by armed conflict and prevention of child soldier recruitment.

On September 18, the AIHRC stated their facilities and assets had been commandeered by Taliban forces, thereby rendering the commission unable to fulfill its duties to protect and monitor human rights in the country’s prisons.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: A citizen father transmits citizenship to his child. Birth in the country or to a citizen mother alone does not bestow citizenship. Adoption is not legally recognized.

Education: Under the pre-August 15 government, education was mandatory up to the lower secondary level (six years in primary school and three years in lower secondary), and the law provides for free education up to and including the college level. UNICEF reported that approximately 3.7 million children, 60 percent of them girls, were not in school due to discrimination, poverty, lack of access, continuing conflict, and restrictions on girls’ access to education in Taliban-controlled areas, among other reasons. Under the pre-August 15 government, only an estimated 16 percent of the country’s schools were for girls, and many of them lacked proper sanitation facilities. Key obstacles to girls’ education included poverty, early and forced marriage, insecurity, a lack of family support, lack of female teachers, and a lack of nearby schools.

An education director in Jawzjan Province said in March that Taliban militants stopped an estimated 20,000 female students from studying beyond sixth grade. Even before their takeover of Kabul, in Taliban-controlled districts within the provinces of Kunar, Helmand, Logar, and Zabul, the Taliban had largely prohibited women and girls from attending school as provincial education officials attempted in vain to negotiate with the Taliban for girls to have access to education.

Violent attacks on schoolchildren, particularly girls, hindered their access to education, particularly in areas controlled by the Taliban. The Taliban and other extremists threatened and attacked school officials, teachers, and students, particularly girls, and burned both boys’ and girls’ schools. In February Taliban militants set fire to a girls’ school in Takhar Province, burning all equipment, books, and documents.

There were reports that both insurgent groups and government forces used school buildings for military purposes. School buildings were damaged, and students were injured in Taliban attacks on nearby government facilities.

Following their takeover, the Taliban severely restricted or prohibited female education across all age levels, citing a need to ensure proper facilities were in place for segregated education in line with the Taliban’s interpretation of sharia.

The Taliban’s lack of a clear education policy regarding women’s ability to teach and girls’ ability to attend schools, combined with nonpayment of teachers’ salaries, led to low enrollment rates even where schools were open.

In September the Taliban stated that girls would be able to go to school in line with Islamic law, without further clarifying how it would respect their access to education. According to UNICEF, the Taliban instructed primary schools in late August to reopen for both girls and boys.

On September 18, the new Taliban ministry of education issued a statement resuming secondary education for boys but gave no indication as to when girls might return to classes. As of December schools in nine of the country’s 34 provinces – Balkh, Jawzjan, Samangan, Kunduz, Urozgan, Ghazni, Faryab, Zabul, and Herat – had allowed girls to attend secondary school before closing for the winter break, according to UNICEF and other reports. In December the Taliban asserted that this number had grown to 12 provinces and pledged that all girls could return to school in March 2022 after the break.

As of December all public universities remained closed. Several private, all-female universities reopened for fall classes in October.

Taliban leaders stated they were committed to allowing girls and women access to education through the postgraduate level, although only in accordance with their interpretation of sharia and within the confines of Afghan culture, which includes segregation of genders and strict behavioral and dress codes.

On November 16, the head of the so-called Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice stated there was no theological basis in Islam for preventing girls and women from having access to all levels of education. Other Taliban representatives expressed the group’s intent to provide educational access at all levels to women and girls. At year’s end many Afghan girls remained excluded from the educational system.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes child abuse and neglect. The penalty for beating, or physically or mentally disciplining or mistreating a child ranges from a fine of 10,000 afghanis ($130) to one year in prison if the child does not sustain a serious injury or disability. Conviction of endangering the life of a child carries a penalty of one to two years in prison or a fine of 60,000 to 120,000 afghanis ($780 to $1,560).

Police reportedly beat and sexually abused children. Children who sought police assistance for abuse also reported being further harassed and abused by law enforcement officials, particularly in bacha bazi cases, which deterred child victims from reporting their claims.

In 2020, the most recent year data were available, there was an uptick in arrests, prosecutions and prison sentences given to perpetrators of bacha bazi, including members of the military and security forces. Kandahar’s governor sent seven members of the ANP suspected of sexually abusing and killing a 13-year-old boy in Kandahar to trial in Kabul. One of the seven was given the death penalty, and the others were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges including rape, as well as bacha bazi (two of them received sentences of 30 years’ imprisonment and the other four were sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment).

Despite consistent reports of bacha bazi perpetrated by the Afghan National Army, the ANP, and ALP officials, the government has only once (in September 2020) prosecuted officials for bacha bazi. The government denied that security forces recruited or used child soldiers. Some victims reported that authorities perpetuated abuse in exchange for pursuing their cases, and authorities continued to arrest, detain, and penalize survivors.

NGOs reported a predominantly punitive and retributive approach to juvenile justice throughout the country. Although it is against the law, corporal punishment in schools, rehabilitation centers, and other public institutions remained common.

There were reports some members of the pre-August 15 government military and progovernment groups sexually abused and exploited young girls and boys. UNAMA reported children continued to be subjected to sexual violence by parties to the conflict at an “alarming rate.” According to media and NGO reports, many of these cases went unreported or were referred to traditional mediation, which often allowed perpetrators to reoffend. There were press reports of sexual abuse perpetrated by teachers and school officials, particularly against boys. The pre-August 15 government claimed families rarely pressed charges due to shame and doubts that the judicial system would respond.

On May 4, the pre-August 15 government’s Minister of Justice and head of the Trafficking in Persons High Commission, Fazil Ahmad Mannawi, shared the pre-August 15 government’s statistics on trafficking in persons for the year 2020: He reported that the ministry arrested 70 suspects, the Attorney General’s Office launched investigations of 50 suspects, and courts were reviewing 235 cases of trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants, and bacha bazi at the end of 2020. Six hundred victims were provided with medical, psychological, and educational services in 2020. The pre-August 15 government held more than 200 trafficking-in-persons awareness-training sessions for more than 8,000 citizens, government officials, and ANDSF personnel. There was an increase of bacha bazi cases investigated, prosecuted, and convicted.

The pre-August 15 government took steps to discourage the abuse of boys and to prosecute or punish those involved. The pre-August 15 government’s law criminalizes bacha bazi as a separate crime and builds on a 2017 trafficking-in-persons law that includes provisions criminalizing behaviors associated with the sexual exploitation of children. The law details the punishment for authorities of security forces involved in bacha bazi with an average punishment of up to 15 years’ imprisonment. Although no police officer had ever been prosecuted for bacha bazi, eight officers were arrested during the year in connection with bacha bazi incidents and charged with “moral crimes,” sodomy, or other crimes.

The pre-August 15 government’s Ministry of Interior operated CPUs throughout the country to prevent the recruitment of children into the ANP, although the CPUs played a limited oversight role in recruiting. Nevertheless, recruitment of children continued, including into the ANP, the ALP, progovernment forces, and the Taliban. Additionally, the government did not have sufficient resources to reintegrate children into their families once they had been identified by the CPUs.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Despite a law under the pre-August 15 government setting the legal minimum age for marriage at 16 years for girls (15 years with the consent of a parent or guardian or the court) and 18 years for boys, international and local observers continued to report widespread early and forced marriages throughout the country. A 2017 UNICEF study found that 28 percent of women were married by age 18. Those convicted of entering into or arranging forced or underage marriages are subject to at least two years’ imprisonment; however, implementation was limited. By law a marriage contract requires verification that the bride is age 16 (or 15 with the permission of her parents or a court), but only a small fraction of the population had birth certificates.

After the August takeover by the Taliban, due to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country, widespread reports surfaced suggesting that some families were selling their young children, usually daughters for early marriage, to afford food.

Societal pressures and the Taliban practice of arranging marriages for widows forced women into unwanted marriages. HRW conducted telephone interviews with residents in Herat in September and found that women in Taliban-controlled areas increasingly felt pressured to marry for their own safety in view of restrictions upon their movements and activities imposed by the Taliban.

On August 13, the Taliban entered Herat, seizing government offices and the police station. A Taliban fighter reportedly threatened to kill a widowed mother of five if she did not marry him, and she was forced to do so in September with the consent of a mullah. She has said that her life is a nightmare and “it is like he is raping me every night.”

On December 3, Taliban supreme leader Hibatullah Akhunzada announced a public decree banning the forced marriage of women. The decree set out the rules governing marriage and property for women, stating that women should not be forced into marriage and widows should have a share in their late husband’s property. The decree mandated that courts should consider these rules when making decisions, and religious affairs and information ministries should promote these rights.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The pre-August 15 government criminalized sexual exploitation of children. In addition to outlawing the practice of bacha bazi, a practice common in parts of the country in which men exploit boys for social and sexual entertainment, the law provides that, “[i]f an adult male has intercourse with a person younger than the legal age, his act shall be considered rape and the victim’s consent is invalid.” In the case of an adult female having intercourse with a person younger than the legal age, the law considers the child’s consent invalid, and the woman may be prosecuted for adultery. The law prescribes a penalty of 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment for forcing an underage girl into commercial sexual exploitation. Taking possession of a child for sexual exploitation or production of pornographic films or images constitutes trafficking in persons under the Trafficking in Persons law regardless of whether other elements of the crime are present.

Displaced Children: NGOs and government offices reported high numbers of returnee families and their children in border areas, specifically Herat and Jalalabad. The pre-August 15 government attempted to follow its policy and action plan for the reintegration of Afghan returnees and IDPs, in partnership with the United Nations; however, the government’s ability to assist vulnerable persons, many of them unaccompanied minors, remained limited, and it relied on the international community for assistance. Although the government banned street begging in 2008, NGOs and government offices reported large numbers of children begging and living in the streets of major cities.

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

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

Albania

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

In December 2020, State Police shot and killed a man in Tirana who was violating a COVID-19 curfew. The officer who shot him was arrested, tried, and convicted for the killing. The minister of internal affairs resigned following protests in response to the killing. There were no other reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Civilian law enforcement agencies such as the State Police investigated whether civilian security force killings were justifiable and pursued prosecutions for civilian agencies. Military law enforcement conducted investigations of killings by the armed forces.

The Office of the Ombudsman reported that the high number of persons taken into custody by police resulted in overcrowding of detention facilities. For example, on December 9 and 13, police temporarily detained 357 persons, 126 of them minors, during street protests following the December 20 police shooting death of the unarmed man in Tirana breaking COVID curfew.

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

While the constitution and law prohibit such actions, there were allegations that police sometimes abused suspects and prisoners. For example, the Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC) reported a case of physical abuse of a minor while in police detention. Medical staff did not report the corroborating physical examination showing bruising to the head and arm to the prosecutor’s office. Responding to the incident, the general director of police mandated training focused on criminal procedural rights of juveniles.

Prisoners engaged in hunger strikes on several occasions in 2020 to protest COVID restrictions limiting contacts with outside visitors, new legislation tightening prisoner privileges in high-security regimes, and allegations of corruption related to the quality of food, and access to medicine.

The Ministry of Interior’s Service for Internal Affairs and Complaints (SIAC) received complaints of police abuse and corruption that led to investigations of police actions. The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent, constitutional entity that serves as a watchdog over the government, reported that most cases of alleged physical or psychological abuse during the year occurred during arrest and interrogation, especially in cases of public protest.

The government made greater efforts to address police impunity, most notably in the single case of excessive use of deadly force. The SIAC recorded an increase in the number of investigations, prosecutions, and sanctions against officers for criminal and administrative violations. The December 2020 deadly police shooting of a COVID curfew violator who fled arrest led to widespread protests, some violent. The officer involved was arrested soon after the shooting and was convicted of homicide in July, receiving a 10-year prison sentence, reduced from 15 years due to his guilty plea.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Poor physical conditions in some prisons and a lack of medical care, particularly for mental-health conditions, were serious problems, as was corruption. Conditions remained substandard in some police detention facilities in remote locations.

The General Directorate of Prisons issued several decisions to manage the spread of COVID-19 within the penitentiary system. The AHC reported that in March through May 2020, authorities identified 21 cases of positive infection in prisons, while from July 2020 to February 2021, 140 cases were reported. Only five cases were treated in civil COVID medical treatment facilities, Covid 1 and Covid 2. Shen Koll prison in Lezhe and the Prisons’ Hospital in Tirana dedicated some of their facilities to treating COVID-19 patients only. Authorities continued to prohibit meetings with families. In October 2020, inmates at the Peqin and Shen Koll prisons and their families protested the restrictions on visits.

Physical Conditions: While overcrowding was not a problem in most facilities, the Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC) and the Office of the Ombudsman reported overcrowding in the Zaharia prison in Kruje, the Jordan Misja prison, and the Durres prison. The General Directorate of Prisons reported sporadic overcrowding in several other prisons as populations fluctuated. Prison facilities in Kruja, Durres, Rrogozhina, Saranda, Lezha, Kukes, Ali Demi and Tepelena were reported by the Office of the Ombudsman and the AHC to have urgent infrastructure problems.

The Office of the Ombudsman and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to report that authorities held inmates with mental disabilities in regular prisons, where access to mental health care was inadequate. Since 2018 the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Health have tried to accommodate Zaharia inmates and detainees in the prison in Lezha. The AHC and the ombudsman reported the government had not completed turning buildings in the Lezha prison into a special medical institution to which Zaharia inmates could be transferred, in part due to anti-COVID restrictions. In November 2020 the Ministry of Justice announced it was constructing a prison for inmates older than 60 with a capacity of 120 beds that was to be completed in 2022. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited the country on November 23-26 to assess progress on closing the Zaharia facility and transferring forensic psychiatric patients to a specialized forensic psychiatric facility. Following the visit, the minister of justice announced the government had closed the Zaharia prison, and the 319 inmates there were transferred to the reconstructed Shen Kolli prison blocks.

Except for regional facilities in Tirana (excluding its commissariats, which are smaller units falling under regional police directorates) Gjirokaster, Kukes, Fier, and Korca, conditions in facilities operated by the Ministry of Interior, such as police stations and temporary detention facilities, did not meet the required standards. Some detention facilities in remote areas were unheated during the winter and lacked basic hygienic amenities and sanitizers as measures against COVID-19. Facilities were cramped, provided limited access to toilets, and had little or no ventilation, natural light, or beds and benches. Camera monitoring systems were nonexistent or insufficient in most police stations. The ombudsman reported that detention facilities operated by the Interior Ministry were overcrowded due to the increased number of arrests during the year and because of delays in the admission of new inmates in the penitentiary system. The ombudsman reported a high percentage of prison inmates were pretrial detainees. Criminal proceedings were generally delayed by shortages of judges resulting from the high number of those who failed vetting and were not yet replaced.

Administration: The ombudsman reported that prison and police officials generally cooperated with investigations. The General Directorate of Prisons received 20,065 complaints and requests through August, mostly regarding employment decisions, health-care services, and COVID-related prohibitions on in-person inmate contact with family and visitors that continued to July. The ombudsman received 60 complaints from detainees and inmates through August but did not refer any cases for prosecution.

In 2020 the Berat prison director was suspended and later dismissed following charges of abuse of duty and corruption. Through August the General Directorate of Prisons reported that it had carried out disciplinary proceedings against 112 prison staff and had fired 26.

Through August four inmates remained under a legal regime adopted in July 2020 to minimize communications between organized crime and gang members in prison and their outside contacts, to prevent them from running criminal organizations while incarcerated.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally allowed local and international human rights groups, media, and international bodies such as the Committee for the Prevention of Torture to monitor prisons and detention facilities.

Improvements: The ombudsman and the AHC confirmed an overall decrease during the year in prison overcrowding due to new infrastructure and amnesties. Nevertheless, some penitentiary facilities were still overcrowded.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Algeria

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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

The law prohibits torture and prescribes prison sentences of between 10 and 20 years for government agents found guilty of torture. Human rights activists reported police occasionally used excessive force against suspects, including protesters exercising their right to free speech, that could amount to torture or degrading treatment.

On January 26, authorities transferred political activist and prominent Hirak detainee Rachid Nekkaz from Kolea prison in Tipaza (30 miles from Algiers) to Labiod Sidi Cheikh prison (450 miles from Algiers) and placed him in solitary confinement despite Nekkaz’s suffering from prostate cancer and liver complications. On February 19, authorities released Nekkaz and other Hirak detainees ahead of the Hirak movement’s two-year anniversary. Authorities prevented Nekkaz from leaving Algeria on March 27 and arrested him twice in May for traveling within the country.

On February 2, during university student Walid Nekkiche’s trial for allegedly “distributing and possessing leaflets undermining the interest of the country,” “participating in a conspiracy to incite citizens to take up arms against the State,” “organizing secret communication with the aim of undermining national security,” and “undermining security and national unity,” Nekkiche accused intelligence officers of torture during the 14 months he spent in pretrial detention. Abdelghani Badi, Nekkiche’s lawyer, said the intelligence services forced Nekkiche to undress and then raped him. The public prosecutor’s office ordered an investigation into Nekkiche’s claims, although no details of the investigation were released by year’s end.

On March 2, Hirakist Sami Dernouni testified that he suffered mistreatment and torture while in the custody of the intelligence service in Algiers. Dernouni faced charges of “inciting an illegal gathering,” “undermining national unity,” and “undermining national security.” Dernouni’s lawyer, Fellah Ali, said the intelligence services forced Dernouni to undress, before beating and shocking him. Authorities denied his request to seek medical care for his injuries.

On April 3, authorities arrested 15-year-old Said Chetouane and several other youths during a Hirak protest. Upon his release, Chetouane publicly accused the police of sexual assault. The DGSN launched an investigation into Chetouane’s claims, accusing the other arrested youth of manipulating Chetouane, and stated authorities would publicize the investigation’s results, if the prosecutor approves. Authorities have not yet publicized the investigation’s findings.

The Ministry of Justice did not provide figures concerning prosecutions of police officers for abuse during the year. Local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) asserted that impunity in security forces was a problem.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were some significant reports of mental and physical abuse in detention centers that raised human rights concerns. Human rights lawyers and activists also expressed concern with prisons’ COVID-19 management.

The penal code prohibits the detention of suspects in any facilities not designated for the alleged crime. The local prosecutor has the right to visit detention facilities at any time.

Physical Conditions: The Ministry of Justice reported a total prisoner population of 94,749 individuals as of September and an average overcrowding rate of 19 percent, and stated it balanced the prison population across facilities to alleviate overcrowding. Convicted terrorists had the same rights as other inmates but were held in higher security prisons based on the danger they posed.

Prison authorities separated vulnerable persons but provided no consideration for sexual orientation. There were no legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons in prison, but authorities stated civil protections extend to all prisoners regardless of gender orientation.

The government used specific facilities for prisoners younger than age 27. The Ministry of Justice’s General Directorate for Prison Administration and Resettlement (DGAPR) maintained different categories of prisons that also separated prisoners according to the lengths of their sentences. The Ministry of Justice stated cell sizes exceeded international standards under the UN’s Nelson Mandela Rules. Some observers, including government-appointed human rights officials, attributed overcrowding in pretrial detention facilities to continued overuse of pretrial detention.

Authorities generally transferred pretrial detainees, after presenting them before the prosecutor, to prisons rather than holding them in separate detention facilities. The government stated pretrial detainees were normally held in cellblocks separate from those that confined the general prison population.

Administration: The DGSN reported it conducted investigations into 210 allegations of mistreatment and took administrative actions against officers it deemed to have committed abuses, including suspensions and termination. Religious workers reported they had access to prisoners during the year, and authorities allowed detainees access to religious observance. The DGSN reported it conducted four human rights-focused training sessions for 237 police officers during the year.

Independent Monitoring: The government allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and local human rights observers to visit prisons and detention centers. ICRC staff visited prisons, police, and gendarme stations under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, and an administrative detention center operated by the Ministry of Interior. The ICRC hosted training sessions on human rights standards related to arrest, detention, and interrogation procedures for judicial police from the DGSN and National Gendarmerie, as well as for judges.

Improvements: During the year the Ministry of Justice reported it opened two new prisons, bringing the total number of prisons to 51, and the new prisons provided better detention conditions in line with international standards. The new prison in Messerghine reduced overcrowding at the nearby Oran prison. The ministry also reported that it renovated and reopened the prison in Sfisef, which it closed in December 2020 for renovations. The Ministry of Justice reported the government included prisoners in their nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign, and that the ministry, in coordination with the Ministry of Health, trained prison medical staff in COVID-19 vaccination and treatment, electrocardiogram use, and emergency first response. The DGAPR also increased weekly bank-transfer limits from 2,500 dinars ($19) to 4,500 dinars ($34) , permitting prisoners more money to purchase staple goods in the prison, and expanded public telephone use in 93 prisons.

Andorra

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

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

Administration: Authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: According to the law, citizenship is acquired at birth in the following circumstances: a child is born in the country to an Andorran parent or born abroad to an Andorran parent born in the country; a child is born in the country if either parent was born in the country and is living there at the time of birth; or a child is born in the country and both parents are stateless or of unknown identity. A child of foreign parents may acquire Andorran nationality by birth in the country if at the time of birth one of the parents completed 10 years in the country. Otherwise, the child may become a citizen before attaining the age of majority or a year after reaching the age of majority if his or her parents have been permanently resident in the country for 10 years or if the person can prove that he or she has lived in the country permanently and continuously for the previous five years. In the meantime, the child has a provisional passport.

Children are registered at birth.

Child Abuse: The law punishes child abuse with three months’ to six years’ imprisonment. The government’s Specialized Child Protection Team, consisting of three social workers, five psychologists, and three social educators, intervened in situations where children and young persons were at risk or lacked protection, and it collected data on cases of child abuse. As of September, authorities assisted 349 minors at risk, of whom 25 lived in a shelter designated for them.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age of marriage is 16 for girls and boys and as young as 14 with judicial authorization.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penalty for statutory rape is 15 years’ imprisonment, the same as for rape in general. The law bans slavery and servitude with a maximum of 12 years’ imprisonment and trafficking in persons for the purpose of slavery and servitude with a maximum of six years. As of September, authorities identified 14 possible survivors of child sexual abuse.

The law punishes anyone who manages or finances premises used for prostitution; who aids, abets, or fosters prostitution; or who incites through violence, intimidation, or exploitation another person to engage in prostitution.

Child pornography is illegal and carries a prison sentence of up to four years. The minimum age of sexual consent is 14 years.

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

Angola

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

The government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings and sometimes used excessive force in maintaining stability. The national police and Angolan Armed Forces have internal mechanisms to investigate security force abuses.

On January 30, the National Police reported that in the village of Cafunfo, a rich diamond area in Lunda Norte Province, 300 individuals armed with sticks, machetes, and firearms tried to forcibly enter a police station. This provoked local police to use deadly force resulting in six deaths, 20 injured, and more than two dozen arrests. Some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and media sources framed the attack as a peaceful demonstration protesting the lack of access to water, education, and social services and reported much higher (unsubstantiated) death tolls. The group was organized by the Lunda Tchokwe Protectorate Movement, which seeks independence for the region. The government viewed the clash as an armed insurrection and justified the use of force in self-defense.

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

The constitution and law prohibit all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but the government did not always enforce these prohibitions.

Periodic reports continued of beatings and other abuses both on the way to and inside police stations during interrogations. The government acknowledged that at times members of the security forces used excessive force when apprehending individuals. Police authorities openly condemned some acts of violence or excessive force against individuals and asked that victims report abuses to the national police or the Office of the Public Defender.

On April 17, the Movement of Angolan Students (MEA) organized a protest against increased public university fees. According to the students, police dispersed demonstrators with tear gas and beatings. In a press note, MEA’s national secretary Laurindo Mande accused the police of violence against the students that resulted in 20 injuries and several detentions.

On July 1, a group of teachers in the city of Uige staged a protest demanding paid leave and back pay for examination subsidies they alleged had not been paid since 2019. Protest organizers reported that police used tear gas and violence to disperse the crowd, resulting in several injuries, three of which were serious; 12 teachers and one journalist were detained by police, and several demonstrators had their property seized or destroyed.

Security forces sometimes used excessive force when enforcing restrictions to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has held security forces accountable for these abuses in several cases and provided some training to reform the security forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, a lack of medical care, corruption, and violence.

Physical Conditions: Prisons had a total capacity for 21,000 inmates but held approximately 25,000 inmates, with approximately 10,000 of those inmates held in pretrial detention. The prison system held an excessive number of prisoners in pretrial detention due to a backlog of criminal cases in the court system.

Authorities frequently held pretrial detainees with sentenced inmates. Authorities also held short-term detainees with those serving long-term sentences for violent crimes, especially in provincial prisons. Inmates who were unable to pay court-ordered fines remained in prison after completing their sentence or while awaiting release warrants issued by higher courts. Many prisoners were held in pretrial detention longer than permitted under law, which ranges from four to 14 months depending on the severity and complexity of the alleged crime. Some offenders, including violent offenders, reported paying fines and bribes to secure their freedom, but it was unclear how prevalent this practice was.

On April 26, the director of the Nkiende penitentiary in Mbanza Congo, Zaire Province, said that the facility was overcrowded with more than double its capacity of 250 inmates and was housing 511 persons at the time.

Prison conditions varied widely between urban and rural areas. Prisons in rural areas were less crowded and had better rehabilitation, training, and reintegration services. There were no reports of deaths in prisons, but there were reports of inmates getting sick due to the poor conditions of the prisons, including with COVID-19. Prisons did not always provide adequate medical care, sanitation, potable water, or food, and it was customary for families to bring food to prisoners. Local NGOs stated prison services were insufficient.

In Caboxa jail, Bengo Province, there were reports from inmates and their relatives of episodes of violence against inmates that included beatings. There were also reports that jail officials forbade family members from bringing food and toiletries, relegating inmates to purchase provisions from a small shop inside the jail. Those without money faced illness and malnutrition. Bengo provincial officials disputed these claims, noting the jail had its own poultry and livestock farm.

On May 12, the Multisectorial Commission for Prevention and Combat of COVID-19 in Cuando Cubango Province reported that there were 284 positive cases in the jail in Menongue, the provincial capital. The jail was built to accommodate 500 inmates but held more than 800. The authorities isolated the site for institutional quarantine and released those who had already served their sentences.

Administration: The government investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits to prisons by independent local and international human rights observers and foreign diplomats. Nevertheless, civil society organizations faced difficulties in contacting detainees, and prison authorities undermined civil society work in the prisons by impeding their ability to enter the prisons.

Members of opposition parties visited prisons around the country on a regular basis and reported uneven improvements in living conditions and rehabilitation programs. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, ministry representatives made monthly visits to detention centers with representatives of the Office of the Public Defender, the Attorney General’s Office, and members of the National Assembly to assess prisoners’ living conditions. Members of the National Assembly conducted independent visits to prisons. On May 13, parliamentarians visited Luzia jail in Lunda Sul Province, where inmates complained about several cases of excessively long pretrial detention.

Improvements: The COVID-19 vaccination campaign covered facilities in Bengo, Lunda-Sul, and Huambo provinces. On August 24, approximately 900 inmates were vaccinated in Caboxa jail.

During the year seven videoconference rooms, called Virtual Parlors, were installed in three jails in Luanda and in one in Bengo allowing inmates to have virtual contact with their relatives and lawyers. The UN Development Program financed the project, implemented by the Human Rights Center of the Catholic University and the Penitentiary Services.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country or from one’s parents. The government does not register all births immediately. According to the 2014 census, approximately 13.7 million citizens (46 percent of the population) lacked birth registration documents. Since 2019 the government’s birth registration and identity document campaign provided 1.9 million persons with their first identity documents. During the year the government continued programs to improve the rate of birth registration through on-site registries located in maternity hospitals in all 18 provinces with a campaign called “Born with Registration.” The government also trained midwives in rural areas to complete temporary registration documents for subsequent conversion into official birth certificates. The government permitted children to attend school without birth registration, but only through the sixth grade.

Education: Education is tuition-free and compulsory for documented children through the ninth grade. Students in public schools often faced significant additional expenses such as books or irregular fees paid directly to education officials to guarantee a place. When parents were unable to pay the fees, their children were often unable to attend school. The Ministry of Education estimated that one to two million children did not attend school because of a shortage of teachers and schools.

There were reports that parents, especially in more rural areas, were more likely to send boys to school rather than girls. According to UNESCO, enrollment rates were higher for boys than for girls, especially at the secondary level.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was widespread. Reports of physical abuse within the family were commonplace, and local officials largely tolerated abuse due to lack of capacity within institutions to provide appropriate care. The Ministry of Social Assistance offers programs for child abuse victims and other vulnerable children. Nevertheless, nationwide implementation of such programs remained a problem.

In 2020 INAC launched a hotline called “SOS Child” to report violence against children. INAC reported that between June 2020 and June, the hotline received 4,274 reports of sexual violence against children.

According to the local UNICEF office, there were reports that more than 50,000 children suffered from some form of child abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage with parental consent is 15 for girls and 16 for boys. The government did not enforce this restriction effectively, and the traditional age of marriage among lower income groups coincided with the onset of puberty. According to UNICEF, 6 percent of men between the ages of 20 and 24 were married or in union before the age of 18, 30 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married or in union by the age of 18, and 7 percent of women between the age of 20 and 24 were married or in union by the age of 15.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children is illegal. Police did not actively enforce laws against commercial sexual exploitation, and local NGOs expressed concern regarding the sexual exploitation of children. The law prohibits the use of children to produce pornography; however, it does not prohibit the procuring or offering of a child for the production of pornography, or the use, procuring, or offering of a child for pornographic performances.

Sexual relations between an adult and a child younger than 12 are considered rape, and conviction carries a potential penalty of eight to 12 years’ imprisonment. Sexual relations with a child between the ages of 12 and 17 are considered sexual abuse and convicted offenders may receive sentences from two to eight years in prison. The legal age for consensual sex is 18. Limited investigative resources and an inadequate judicial system prevented prosecution of most cases. There were reports of prosecutions during the year.

Displaced Children: Extreme poverty and the economic decline during recent years led to an increase in the number of children living on the street, especially in urban areas of the capital. These children, estimated to number from the hundreds to several thousand, did not have access to health care or education, often resorted to begging or trash picking for survival, and lived in conditions placing them at great risk for exploitation. During the year INAC met with former street children to better understand the problem and to formulate a plan to address the growing issue.

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

Antigua and Barbuda

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh due to inadequate sanitary conditions and overcrowding.

Physical Conditions: The country’s sole prison was built in 1735 to hold 150 prisoners but as of October held 246, of whom 11 were women. According to a nongovernmental organization (NGO) representative, overcrowding created serious COVID-19 infection risks for prisoners and staff. The government did not provide information regarding numbers of COVID-19 infections in the prison.

There were no reports of prisoner mistreatment.

Administration: The superintendent of prisons reviews mistreatment reports and forwards them to a prison-visiting committee for further investigation.

Independent Monitoring: The government permits prison visits by independent human rights observers, but no visits occurred during the year.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired by birth in the country, and the government registers all children at birth. Children born abroad to citizen parents may be registered by either parent.

Child Abuse: The law on child abuse includes provisions on child-care services and orders of care placing abused children into the care of government authorities. The law stipulates a significant fine or three years in prison for conviction of child abuse. In extreme cases the government removes children from their homes and puts them in foster care or into a government-run or private children’s home.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for both men and women. Minors ages 16-17 may marry with parental consent; however, marriage when either partner was younger than 18 was rare.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Child pornography is illegal and subject to large fines and up to 20 years in prison. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16.

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

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

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

The “law” does not refer explicitly to torture but does prohibit police mistreatment of detainees under the section of the “criminal code” that deals with assault, violence, and battery. There were reports that police abused detainees.

In February police arrested Russian fugitive Alexander Satlaev in Kyrenia four days after he escaped from the “Central Prison.” The Turkish Cypriot Bar Association Human Rights Committee, Refugee Rights Association, Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation, and other human rights organizations issued a joint statement claiming police subjected Satlaev to inhuman treatment and torture. Organizations reported a police officer pulled Satlaev’s hair and that there were bruises on his arms and his face. Online news outlets posted photographs and videos purportedly showing a police officer pulling Satlaev’s hair while his arms were handcuffed behind his back.

The “attorney general’s office” reported they received four complaints concerning police battery and use of force and had launched investigations into all four cases. The “attorney general’s office” determined two of the complaints were baseless, based on statements from eyewitnesses. Investigations regarding the other two cases continued at year’s end.

The “attorney general’s office” also reported the completion of three investigations regarding police mistreatment pending since 2020: two complaints were assessed to be baseless; the third resulted in a police officer being charged with abuse. The trial was pending at year’s end.

An “attorney general’s office” investigation concluded that a complaint by two female international students of police mistreatment in July 2020 was unfounded. The students had reported that they were forced into a vehicle by four undercover police officers, beaten in the vehicle and at a police station, and then released 24 hours later without any explanation. Press outlets published photos of their bruised faces. The “attorney general’s office” determined the students were fighting in the street while intoxicated and had refused to report to the police station to provide statements, so police detained both students and held them overnight at the police station. The students were charged with disturbing the peace and public intoxication.

In one of the complaints, which it assessed to be baseless, the “attorney general’s office” determined that a complainant’s injuries in 2019 resulted from a traffic accident that occurred three days prior to an alleged abuse complaint. The complainant was charged with providing false statements to police and fined.

In April a police officer was sentenced to 50 days in prison after a video was published of the officer kicking a detained tourist in the presence of other officers at the Ercan (Timbou) airport in 2019. Other police officers present during the incident received administrative penalties. According to local press, the detainee was drunk and yelled at police for getting his cell phone wet during the security screening.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards in a number of areas, including overcrowding, sanitary conditions, medical care, heating, and access to food. A nongovernmental organization (NGO) reported asylum seekers were detained in overcrowded, “government”-run detention centers pending their return to Turkey.

Physical Conditions: Gross overcrowding was reported to be a problem. The “Central Prison,” the only prison administered by Turkish Cypriots, is in the northern part of Nicosia and has an official capacity of 454 inmates. Authorities stated the number of prisoners and pretrial detainees at the “Central Prison” was 622 in October, after peaking at 633 earlier in the year, requiring the use of prison classrooms and computer rooms as cells for inmates. Press reported as many as 45 to 50 persons for every 10 square meters (107.6 square feet) living in unhygienic conditions. An NGO that visited both the “Central Prison” and detention centers reported conditions remained deplorable: asylum seekers complained about inadequate sleeping arrangements, poor hygienic conditions, insect infestation, poor ventilation, lack of heating and cooling systems, lack of access to fresh air or shower facilities, inadequate food, and no access to internet or phones. Asylum seekers at detention centers, as a general practice, were provided sandwiches twice a day.

NGOs, media, and the “ombudsman” reported overcrowding remained a problem. An NGO also reported receiving complaints about police mistreatment of detainees in police detention centers. Most of the complaints alleged inhuman conditions in the detention centers and that police officers verbally abused detainees. According to NGOs, the “Central Prison” did not effectively separate adults and juveniles, and there were no detention or correction centers for children. Due to lack of space, pretrial detainees and prisoners occupied the same cells. NGOs reported conditions were better in the women’s section of the prison.

NGOs reported that the lack of security cameras at detention centers and in parts of the “Central Prison” allowed police officers and prison guards to abuse detainees with impunity. In addition, NGOs reported that sanitation remained a significant problem in the “Central Prison,” with inadequate access to hot water. Authorities stated hygiene supplies were insufficient due to an increasing number of inmates. An NGO also reported the police detention facilities lack hygienic conditions, direct sunlight, proper ventilation, and access to water.

NGOs claimed that prison health care was inadequate, lacking sufficient medical supplies and a full-time doctor. NGOs reported testing for contagious diseases at the “Central Prison” was haphazard and inconsistent. In June 2020 the Prison Guards Association chair stated that overcrowding in prison cells created a breeding ground for contagious diseases. Authorities reported all inmates were subject to hospital health checks before entering the “Central Prison.” Authorities stated a doctor visited the prison twice a week and was on call for emergencies. A dentist visited the prison once per week, a dietician visited twice per week, and there were two full-time psychologists at the prison, according to authorities.

An NGO reported that the detention center at Ercan (Timbou) airport lacked proper ventilation and access to natural light. The NGO stated hygiene was a concern because there was only one bathroom inside each detention room and the rooms were not regularly cleaned.

An NGO reported that pandemic quarantine centers generally included cells where individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 were placed together with close contacts or travelers undertaking mandatory quarantine after their arrival in the country.

In October local press reported COVID-19 continued to spread at the “Central Prison,” with 125 inmates and eight guards testing positive for COVID-19 in one week. The COVID-19 positive inmates were first placed in a quarantine hotel and later transferred to a newly constructed – but at the time, not yet fully functional – prison meant to replace the “Central Prison.” After several days at the new prison, the inmates were sent back to another quarantine hotel as the infrastructure at the new prison was inadequate, including a lack of running water and closed-circuit cameras. Multiple media outlets reported the inmates did not have water for three days.

Administration: Authorities reported an investigation of a complaint regarding a prison guard’s mistreatment and battery against an inmate. Authorities reported there were no intentional or nonintentional deaths at the “Central Prison.” Authorities stated facilities were available for Muslim prisoners and detainees to conduct their religious observance but that due to space restrictions, inmates generally conducted their religious observance in their cells. No equivalent facilities or space was provided for non-Muslim prisoners to conduct religious observances, services, or prayers. Non-Muslim clergy were permitted to visit the prison, although there were no reports of such visits.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities generally permitted prison monitoring but with some restrictions. An NGO reported the physical conditions at the “Central Prison” could not be observed in detail, as their staff were not allowed to visit the cells. They were only allowed to conduct detainee interviews in the visitor waiting room or in areas designated for private conversations.

Improvements: Authorities reported that the “Ministry of Health” provided disinfectant and masks to the “Central Prison” to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Authorities also reported that all prisoners and prison guards had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Authorities reported some inmates completed their high school education and exams online. While in-person visits were restricted due to the pandemic, inmates held video conferences with their families.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive “citizenship” from their parents, and there was universal registration at birth, including of children born to migrants.

Child Abuse: The “law” does not explicitly prohibit child abuse, but it does prohibit sexual abuse of children, which carries a penalty of up to six years imprisonment. There were reports of child abuse. As with domestic violence, there were social and cultural disincentives to seeking legal remedies for such problems.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage for girls and boys is 18. A “court” may allow marriages of minors who are 16 or 17 if they receive parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The “law” prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, and authorities generally enforced the prohibition. The age of consent is 16. Statutory rape or attempted statutory rape of a minor younger than 16 is a felony, and the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. If the offender is younger than 18 and less than two years apart in age from the victim, the crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison, an unspecified fine, or both. A cybercrime “law” enacted in July 2020 makes possession or production of child pornography punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Argentina

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

On May 29, Gianfranco Fleita Cardozo died after a violent arrest by local and provincial police in Tigre, Buenos Aires Province, for violating curfew. Video of the event shared on social media appeared to show 10 local officers beating Cardozo on the ground. Cardozo died while being transferred to a hospital. As of August, 11 officials faced charges of unlawful harassment and coercion, punishable by up to five years in prison. Lawyers representing Cardozo’s family requested more severe charges, accusing the officers of torture. As of October, the case was pending.

In May authorities arrested nine police officers for the May 2020 disappearance and death of Luis Espinoza in Tucuman Province. Espinoza and his brother were beaten by police officers at an illegal checkpoint and then shot at when they fled. Authorities found Espinoza’s body seven days later in a roadside ditch across the provincial border in Catamarca Province with a bullet wound in the back. Authorities issued charges of unlawful deprivation of liberty and aggravated homicide against 11 officers, 10 of whom were in pretrial detention as of August.

In July prosecutors formally accused 13 police officers of various crimes surrounding the August 2020 killing of Valentino Blas Correas, including abuse of authority, obstruction of justice, and providing false testimony. The two officers involved in the shooting, Javier Catriel Almiron and Lucas Damian Gomez, also faced charges of aggravated homicide.

The Committee against Torture of the Buenos Aires Provincial Memory Commission (CPM), an autonomous office established by the provincial government, and a nongovernmental organization (NGO) asserted that investigations into police violence and use of lethal force were limited.

Media reported high levels of violence in Santa Fe Province but noted a slight decline in homicides, with 291 reported through October 31, compared with 321 during the same period in 2020. Press and domestic NGOs, including Insight Crime, attributed the high homicide rate to drug trafficking and organized crime.

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

The law prohibits such practices; however, there were reports that government officials employed them. The Prosecutor General’s Office; the Prison Ombudsman’s National Office (PPN), an independent government body that monitors prison conditions; and the CPM reported complaints of torture perpetrated by provincial and federal prison officials, as did local and international NGOs.

As of July the PPN had recorded 116 cases of torture or mistreatment. Although the PPN created a National Registry of Cases of Torture in 2010, its reporting remained largely limited to the city and province of Buenos Aires (home to approximately 46 percent of the population).

In May local authorities sent to trial the case involving the 2020 torture and sexual abuse of 14 female detainees at the third commissary in the municipality of La Matanza, with 14 officers facing charges of sexual abuse and abuse of authority and six others charged with obstruction of justice. As of November 1, the case was pending.

Impunity remained a significant problem in security forces at all levels. Corruption and a slow, politicized judicial system impeded efforts to investigate abuses. The government generally denounced reported abuses and took efforts to train military and police forces at all levels on human rights, including through online training during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: Prison overcrowding remained a problem. According to the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Institutional Violence, the federal penitentiary system was at 93.5 percent capacity, holding an estimated 11,400 prisoners. As of April, however, Buenos Aires provincial penitentiaries held 45,374 inmates in facilities initially designed for 24,000, according to the Center for Legal and Social Studies. Many pretrial detainees were held with convicted prisoners.

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

Women’s prisons were generally less violent, dangerous, and overcrowded than men’s prisons.

The Federal Penitentiary Service reported 58 inmate deaths in federal prisons in 2020, of which 17 were violent. By contrast the CPM stated that 178 prisoners died in the province of Buenos Aires during 2020, of which 52 were due to health problems. There were also seven homicides and 13 suicides.

According to the Center for Legal and Social Studies and other human rights organizations and research centers, inmates in many facilities also suffered from poor nutrition; inadequate medical and psychological treatment; inadequate sanitation, heating, ventilation, and light; limited family visits; and frequent degrading treatment. The CPM reported 6,664 cases of health neglect during 2020 in provincial detention facilities, including deficient health care, inadequate diet, lack of medication, and lack of medical attention.

Administration: Authorities sometimes conducted investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment. According to local NGOs, prisoners occasionally did not submit complaints to authorities due to fear of reprisal.

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

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: The government provides universal birth registration, and citizenship is derived both by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. Parents have 40 days to register births, and the state has an additional 20 days to do so. The Ministry of Interior and Transportation may issue birth certificates to children younger than age 12 whose births were not previously registered.

Child Abuse: By law sexual abuse of a child is a punishable offense, with sentences of up to 20 years in prison. Physical harm to a child is punishable with up to 15 years in prison. Child abuse was common; the Supreme Court’s Office of Domestic Violence reported that approximately 30 percent of the complaints it received between January and March involved children. The government maintained a 24-hour hotline staffed by professional child psychologists for free consultations and advice.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Children older than age 16 are legally allowed to marry if they have parental permission. Children younger than 16 are required to obtain judicial authorization in addition to parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and the sale, offering, or procuring of children for prostitution. Authorities generally enforced the law; however, sexual exploitation of children, including in prostitution, was a problem. The minimum age of consensual sex is 13, but there are heightened protections for children ages 13 to 16. A statutory rape law provides for penalties ranging from six months to 20 years in prison, depending on the age of the victim and other factors.

In May, after numerous delays since June 2020, a trial began for two nuns and seven former employees of a group of schools for hearing-impaired children, the Antonio Provolo Institutes. A reported 67 students claimed abuses between 1983 and 2002. As of November, the trial continued.

The law prohibits the production and distribution of child pornography, with penalties ranging from six months to four years in prison. Possession of child pornography is a criminal offense.

Prosecutors from the nationwide Point of Contact Network against Child Pornography on the Internet pursued cases of internet child pornography. The city of Buenos Aires Public Ministry’s Judicial Investigative Bureau served as the primary point of contact for receiving and distributing child pornography leads from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to prosecutors and police forces across the country.

In June authorities conducted a series of 71 raids nationwide, arresting 31 individuals for suspected involvement in the distribution of child pornography. The raids formed part of a multinational effort and coincided with arrests in Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, and the United States.

In August federal police with investigative support arrested a man in Junin, Buenos Aires Province, for distributing child pornography.

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

Armenia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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. Credible reports continued of unlawful killings during the fall 2020 intensive fighting between ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijan forces (see section 1.g and the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Azerbaijan).

Human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to express concerns over noncombat deaths in the army and the failure of law enforcement bodies to conduct credible investigations into those deaths. According to civil society organizations and victims’ families, the practice of qualifying many noncombat deaths as suicides at the onset of investigations made it less likely that abuses would be uncovered and investigated. According to human rights lawyers, the biggest obstacle to investigation of military deaths was the destruction or nonpreservation of key evidence, both by the military command (in cases of internal investigations) and by the specific investigation body working on a case. According to human rights NGOs, the government’s lack of transparency in reporting on military deaths, whether classified as combat or noncombat, led to public distrust of official information in this sphere.

On August 19, the Ministry of Defense reported that three conscripts had been found dead with gunshot wounds at a military post in southeastern Syunik region near the border with Azerbaijan. Later that day the ministry announced the arrest of a soldier on suspicion of murder. On August 23, the Investigative Committee reported the arrest of the post commander, who was suspected of “inciting the unlawful intentional killing of servicemen and committing violent sexual acts against a serviceman.” According to civil society, the murders were indicative of years of official failure to act on multiple watchdog reports of discipline problems, impunity, and corruption inside the army. According to official information, the investigation was underway and both suspects remained in detention.

According to observers there was a notable increase in soldier suicides following the fall 2020 fighting. According to NGOs the trauma of the 2020 fighting was a leading factor in the suicides. The Prosecutor General’s Office reported a high rate of suicide among the family members of servicemembers and persons who participated in the conflict as volunteers. During the year the government initiated programs to provide free psychological assistance to thousands of conflict participants, servicemembers, and family members. According to NGOs the assistance provided was not always sufficient or effective. One servicemember told media, for example, that when he sought help for post-traumatic stress disorder, the military psychologist advised him to try not to think about the conflict.

According to a July 26 report by the NGO Helsinki Citizens Assembly Vanadzor (HCAV), deaths in the military due to health problems continued, although it was unclear what factors had led to the health conditions or if the conditions had been acquired prior to or during military service. In one case HCAV reported that failure to provide prompt and appropriate medical assistance led to the death of a conscript.

On May 11, Prime Minister Pashinyan was briefed by a working group established in August 2020 to examine noncombat deaths, some of which had occurred more than a decade prior. The working group, composed of three independent attorneys picked by the families and three experts from the Ministry of Justice and the prime minister’s office, had completed its examination of records related to the 2007 death of Tigran Ohanjanyan, the first of eight noncombat death cases it was reviewing. According to one of the lawyers, the review revealed major violations by more than 50 current and former officials at various levels of seniority from every law enforcement agency as well as army officers, who had covered up Ohanjanyan’s killing. In contrast to prior reviews of this case, the working group was given full access to case materials. According to the lawyer, the findings were forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office to initiate a case into the alleged cover-up as well as a new investigation of the killing. According to the government, the investigation of Tigran Ohanjanyan’s death was reopened on September 25 and was in progress with no suspects facing criminal charges as of year’s end.

Authorities took no steps during the year to set up a fact-finding commission to examine noncombat deaths, among other human rights abuses; the commission had been scheduled to have been established by 2020 (see section 5).

There was no progress in the investigation into the 2018 death of Armen Aghajanyan, who was found hanged in the Nubarashen National Center for Mental Health where he had been transferred from Nubarashen Penitentiary for a psychological assessment. There was progress, however, in the investigation into his alleged torture. His family believed Aghajanyan was killed to prevent his identification of penitentiary guards who beat and tortured him prior to his transfer to the hospital. The investigation into Aghajanyan’s alleged suicide was suspended for the third time on March 3. One of the attackers in Aghajanyan’s torture case, Major Armen Hovhannisyan, was initially charged with torture and falsification of documents, but the trial court requalified his actions as exceeding official authority and released him on the basis of a 2018 amnesty. On March 5, the Court of Cassation accepted the case for review based on applications by the prosecutor’s office and Aghajanyan’s family, following a failed appeal of the trial court’s decision. On October 15, the Court of Cassation ruled that the lower court’s requalification of the torture charges was not grounded and was in violation of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case law; it sent the case for further review to the Court of Appeals.

On March 26, the Constitutional Court ruled that a criminal code article under which former president Robert Kocharyan and other high-ranking officials were prosecuted for their alleged involvement in sending the military to break up protests after the 2008 presidential election, resulting in the deaths of eight civilians and two police officers, did not comply with two articles of the constitution and was therefore invalid. As a result on April 6, trial court judge Anna Danibekyan dropped the charges of overthrowing the constitutional order against the defendants but stated that Kocharyan and his former chief of staff, Armen Gevorgyan, would continue to stand trial on bribery charges. The judge acquitted two other defendants in this case, retired Ministry of Defense generals Yuri Khachaturov and Seyran Ohanian, who were charged with overthrowing the constitutional order in connection with the postelection unrest. The court denied the prosecutor’s appeal to requalify the case under a different article of the criminal code. Many in the legal community questioned the original decision to indict the officials under the specific article chosen.

Although the trial ran for three years before the Constitutional Court ruling, the trial court never discussed the merits of the case due to the stalling tactics employed by the defense, which presented countless motions and appeals. As a result, in September 2020 family members of the victims of the 2008 postelection violence refused to attend further court hearings, blaming the Prosecutor General’s Office for turning the trial into a farce and not taking effective measures to move the case forward. Following the Constitutional Court decision that the criminal code article under which Kocharyan was charged was unconstitutional, lawyers for the families averred that the prosecution’s failure served the “interests of a specific group,” a reference to Kocharyan and his associates. The investigation into others suspected of the 2008 postelection violence, including those charged with excessive use of force and murder, continued.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. Nevertheless, there were reports that members of the security forces continued to torture or otherwise abuse individuals in their custody. According to human rights lawyers, while the criminal code defines and criminalizes torture, it does not criminalize other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The first conviction in a torture case since the 2015 adoption of a new definition of torture in the criminal code occurred on December 28. Two policemen were found guilty of committing torture in 2019 and sentenced to seven years in prison.

With the disbanding of the Special Investigative Service (SIS), the investigation of torture cases was redistributed. According to lawyers involved in such cases, the cases were under investigation by the National Security Service (NSS), Investigative Committee, and the newly created Anticorruption Committee. Civil society criticized this redistribution, demanding the creation of a specialized, independent unit to tackle torture cases.

There were credible reports that ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani forces abused detainees held in connection with the conflict in late 2020 (see section 1.g. and the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Azerbaijan).

Human rights activists asserted that lack of accountability for old and new instances of law enforcement abuse continued to contribute to the persistence of the problem. Observers contended that the failure of authorities to prosecute past cases was linked to the absence of change in the composition of the justice system since the 2018 political transition, other than at the top leadership level. Human rights lawyers also noted multiple cases where those responsible for abuse were later promoted, including after the 2018 revolution. According to the government, the majority of criminal cases into police use of disproportionate force against protesters during the largely peaceful protests of 2018 were dropped due to the failure of law enforcement bodies to identify the perpetrators. The trial of former deputy police chief, Levon Yeranosyan, for abuse of authority during the 2018 protests continued.

On May 25, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published a report on its most recent periodic visit to the country in December 2019. The CPT noted that the great majority of the persons interviewed by its delegation who were or had recently been in police custody said they had been treated appropriately.

On June 3, the Helsinki Association for Human Rights reported that on May 30, Vanadzor police abused Samvel Hasanyan and two other suspects upon arrest on suspicion of burglarizing an apartment. The beatings reportedly continued at the Vanadzor police station. Hasanyan’s lawyer from the human rights association, Arayik Papikyan, said numerous officers, some in civilian clothing, participated in the abuse. Papikyan published photographs of Hasanyan with numerous abrasions and bruises on his face, ears, head, arms, and body. The investigators in the case alleged that Hasanyan had sustained the injuries when being taken out of the car and being pushed to lie on the ground. According to Papikyan, the Vanadzor trial court authorized Hasanyan’s pretrial detention based only on police testimony regarding his alleged role in abetting a theft in an apartment. The SIS opened an investigation into the torture allegations on charges of abusing authority but dropped it two months later. According to the government, the preliminary investigation did not find sufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the relevant police officers had used violence against the three individuals. According to Papikyan, Hasanyan refused to testify to the SIS concerning the abuse due to fear of retaliation in connection with the criminal case in which he was a suspect. The lawyer also noted that there was no video recording of the day’s events in Vanadzor’s Taron district police station, a problem he described as chronic.

During the year the trial of three police officers from Yerevan’s Nor Nork District continued on charges of torture for the September 2020 abuse of weight-lifting champion Armen Ghazaryan and another citizen. Ghazaryan asserted that officers had kidnapped him after he tried to intervene when plainclothes police were apprehending a person over a personal dispute. Ghazaryan stated he was taken to a police station, where he was beaten by a group of officers and subjected to degrading and inhuman treatment. After Ghazaryan reported the abuse, employees of the Nor Nork police department reportedly pressured him to recant his testimony, threatening to frame him if he did not. In September 2020 the SIS launched a criminal case and arrested three officers on torture charges and the department chief on charges of abuse of authority for trying to interfere with an internal investigation. While the charges against the department chief were later dropped, citing his repentance, the case against the three officers, who remained in pretrial detention, was sent to court and continued at year’s end.

There were continued reports of abuse in police stations, which, unlike prisons and police detention facilities, were not subject to public monitoring. Criminal justice bodies continued to rely on confessions and information obtained during questioning to secure convictions. According to human rights lawyers, procedural safeguards against mistreatment during police questioning, such as inadmissibility of evidence obtained through force or procedural violations, were insufficient. While human rights lawyers claimed that the installation of video cameras in police stations had not been effective in safeguarding against abuse, pointing to the absence of video evidence in several torture cases that they monitored, officials said that existing safeguards precluded individual police stations from manipulating or deleting centrally collected video data. According to official data, video recording systems were installed in interrogation rooms of 21 police subdivisions, and 70 video monitoring systems were installed at the exits and entrances of 20 regional subdivisions, all of which were connected to the main departmental network.

There was no progress in the investigation of the 2019 death of Edgar Tsatinyan, who died in a hospital after having been transferred from Yerevan’s Nor Nork police department, where he had been in custody. Tsatinyan died of a drug overdose after swallowing three grams of methamphetamine, with which police reportedly intended to frame him after he refused to confess to a murder. In July 2020 the SIS dropped the investigation into Tsatinyan’s death. In December 2020 a Yerevan trial court rejected the appeal by the lawyer representing Tsatinyan’s family to reopen the case. The lawyer, citing numerous procedural violations in the investigation, subsequently submitted an appeal on January 14 to the Court of Appeals that was rejected on April 25.

On July 13, lawyers for the Helsinki Association for Human Rights announced that the SIS had dropped torture charges against the commander of the Yerevan Police Department Escort Battalion, Armen Ghazaryan, for his alleged role in the 2017 police beatings of four members of the armed group Sasna Tsrer while they were in custody on court premises. The defendants suffered cuts and bruises on their faces, heads, abdomens, backs, and legs in the beatings. The lawyers said the SIS dropped the charges due to contradictory data and its inability to give an “external criminal assessment of the actions of the police officers,” which appeared to mean that SIS found no evidence besides that provided by the victims. The Helsinki Association strongly condemned the prosecutor’s office, the SIS, and other law enforcement agencies, demanding they act to end violence and torture by police and the long-standing practice of covering up such cases.

The CPT noted problems regarding voluntary consent to hospitalization by a number of legally competent patients who may not have signed consent forms voluntarily. At the Armash psychiatric health center, the CPT was told that since it “would be a hassle” to apply to a court for authorization for involuntary hospitalization, persons who brought in a family member for treatment were told they had to coerce that person to sign a voluntary consent form to receive treatment. Once a patient signs the form, there is no way to apply to a court to reverse the involuntary hospitalization. The CPT also reported that patients subsequently were not allowed to go outside to exercise or depart the hospital.

There were no reports regarding the scale of military hazing in the army and whether it constituted torture. According to a 2020 report produced by the NGO Peace Dialogue, the lack of legal clarity concerning the functions and powers of military police as well as a lack of civilian oversight mechanisms made it possible for military police to employ torture and other forms of mistreatment against both witnesses and suspects in criminal cases. There were anecdotal reports during the year that military police abused servicemen.

In September 2020 Syunik regional trial court judge Gnel Gasparyan, in an unprecedented decision, ruled in the case of Artur Hakobyan that investigators had failed to carry out a proper investigation into Hakobyan’s torture claims. The judge ruled that investigators should undertake a psychological assessment of the victim that adhered to provisions in the Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, commonly known as the Istanbul Protocol. Eight months after this ruling, investigators commissioned the required psychological assessment, which was underway at year’s end. In 2015 Hakobyan had been released from the army early due to a mental disorder. According to his family and lawyer, Hakobyan was in good mental health before joining the army but experienced deep psychological trauma as a result of torture and abuse. In 2019 the Court of Cassation recognized there had been a violation of Hakobyan’s right to freedom from torture, but up to the September 2020 court decision, the case had been stalled due to continuing appeals and counterappeals.

Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces. To combat torture, during the year the government held targeted training sessions for judges, prosecutors, investigators, military command staff, military police, police, and prison staff.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

While the prison population decreased due to improvements in early release procedures and the release of some prisoners under COVID-19 prevention measures, conditions in some prisons were harsh and marked by poor sanitation, inadequate medical care, and predation by hierarchical criminal structures. New criminal and administrative procedure codes, adopted on May 5 and June 30, respectively, provide for alternatives to imprisonment for certain crimes; both codes were scheduled to enter into force in July 2022. The government announced on October 28 that Kosh and Hrazdan prisons would close on January 1, 2022, allowing the government to reallocate resources. According to Justice Minister Andreasyan, as of October the prison system had the capacity to house 5,346 inmates but held just 2,113.

Physical Conditions: According to the Prison Monitoring Group (PMG), a coalition of local NGOs, prison renovations underway since 2019 had not resulted in major improvements for inmates. Prison monitors, however, no longer considered prison conditions to be life threatening, noting that with the dramatic decrease in inmate numbers the worst cells were no longer in use. Conditions in Nubarashen Prison, one of the country’s 12 penitentiaries, in some cases were harsh, although improvements to pipework reportedly eliminated the sewage stench from the prison. Human rights observers and the PMG also continued to express concern regarding the physical conditions of Armavir Penitentiary, which did not have an air ventilation or cooling system, which allowed recorded cell temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit in past summers. The heat affected inmates as well as the prison staff. On August 2, the human rights defender’s (ombudsperson’s) office issued a statement on the degrading conditions of defendants’ confinement in court buildings in the Shirak and Aragatsotn regions. The statement identified unsanitary conditions, open and inaccessible toilets, lack of heat and lighting, and lack of furniture in some cells. According to the ombudsperson and other reports, these problems also occurred in other courthouses throughout the country.

On August 19, the ombudsperson stated that conditions in the coronavirus department of the “hospital of convicts” penitentiary were inhuman and degraded human dignity. According to the statement, wards were dilapidated, unsanitary, and damaged by mold and decay.

According to the ombudsperson and the PMG, impunity related to the deaths of inmates and the lack of a systemic approach to their prevention continued to be a problem. Prison deaths totaled 13 in the year. This number exceeded those in 2020 due to illness but remained lower than in prior years. Nine deaths were linked to illness, including four from COVID-19; three committed suicide; and one was murdered. An investigation of the latter was underway at year’s end. The government and NGOs did not attribute any of the 2020 or 2021 prison deaths to physical conditions.

Observers continued to note the need for better psychological services in prisons. According to the PMG, there was a shortage of psychologists on staff and hundreds of inmates in need of care. According to research published by the PMG in April 2020, the large number of patients per psychologist, overwhelming amounts of paperwork, and inappropriate working conditions as well as the ambiguous role of prison psychologists contributed to the failure of psychological services and led to burnout among the few existing specialists. In 2020 the ombudsperson criticized the practice of punishing inmates who self-mutilated instead of providing them with appropriate medical and psychological care. The government implemented programs to improve psychological services and increase staff, which together with improved physical conditions and a reduction in the number of inmates, contributed to a decrease in the number of cases of self-mutilation during the year.

The government reiterated its zero-tolerance policy towards corruption in prisons and expressed its determination to root out the organized hierarchical criminal structure dominating prison life, in which select inmates (called “watchers”) at the top of the informal prison hierarchy controlled the inmate population and prison life. According to the government, from January 1 to October 1, authorities investigated 19 criminal cases connected to the prison criminal subculture, of which four were sent to court with indictments, one was suspended, five were terminated, and nine remained under investigation. As of October 1, courts were examining six prison-related criminal cases against 25 individuals, with no convictions yet in place. According to observers it was not clear whether the government’s efforts had resulted in changes to the hierarchical system or had simply driven the problem underground.

Observers noted some progress fighting systemic corruption and said that prison administrations did not participate in corruption schemes, in part due to high-profile prosecutions of prison administration heads. Some observers reported that prisoners were no longer forced to contribute to a general pool of money supervised by watchers and that prisoners no longer appeared to be forced to participate in gambling. Other observers noted, however, that family members of incarcerated individuals reported having to pay representatives of prison hierarchies located outside of penitentiaries to ensure the safety of individuals in prison.

Experts assessed that corruption was likely to continue as long as the criminal subculture continued to exist. In its May 25 report, the CPT noted that its delegation received no credible allegations of recent physical mistreatment by staff in the six penitentiary establishments visited. From its observations, the CPT concluded, however, that interprisoner violence, intimidation, and extortion remained a problem in most of the prisons visited and was clearly related to the persistent influence of informal prisoner hierarchies.

In August 2020 the SIS reported the arrest of former Nubarashen Penitentiary chief Samvel Mkrtchyan for his role in arranging and covering up the February 2020 attack on inmate Vahagn Abgaryan. Mkrtchyan was released in September 2020 after a trial court refused to satisfy the SIS motion for pretrial detention. Mkrtchyan was charged with fraud and abuse of power for the February 2020 beating of Abgaryan (reportedly a member of the criminal hierarchical system) by other inmates. To hide the circumstances of the attack, which according to earlier official reports was instigated by orders from “criminal authorities” from abroad, Mkrtchyan instructed employees to report that Abgaryan had slipped exiting the bathroom. Other penitentiary employees were also arrested in the case. According to the government, the criminal case against penitentiary staff Hovik Aleksanyan and Zohrab Petrosyan was dropped in September 2020 due to their remorse, and the criminal case against Samvel Mkrtchyan was dropped in November on the grounds of an unspecified “change in the situation.”

In its May 25 report, the CPT noted the reform underway of the prison health-care service and the establishment of a Penitentiary Medicine Center, a public noncommercial organization for providing health care in prisons, but expressed concern that inmates still complained of a lack of access to specialized care. Observers noted that the number of surgeries and other specialized care permitted under the state order was limited. Most prisons lacked accommodations for inmates with disabilities.

According to the PMG and other human rights organizations, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals continued to experience the worst prison conditions. Prison administrators reinforced and condoned abusive treatment and held LGBTQI+ individuals in segregated cells in significantly worse conditions. The PMG noted that homosexual men or those assumed to be homosexual, those associating with them, and inmates convicted of crimes such as rape as well as those who refused to live by the “unwritten prison rules” were segregated from other inmates and forced to perform humiliating tasks, such as cleaning toilets, picking up trash for other prisoners, and providing sexual services. Food and cutlery for these inmates were kept separate, and they had a separate laundry machine and a separate solitary confinement cell.

On March 4, the NGO Center for Legal Initiatives issued a report, Issues of LGBT Prisoners of Armenia. The report specified that no state programs, strategies, or reports (including the 2020-22 National Strategy on the Protection of Human Rights and the 2019-23 Penitentiary and Probation Strategy mentioned the human rights of imprisoned LGBTQI+ persons or the need to improve their detention conditions. The report found that discrimination against and segregation of imprisoned LGBTQI+ persons was a direct consequence of the prison criminal subculture but was not recognized as such by government policy papers. Since initiatives to eradicate the criminal subculture did not consider the special vulnerability of LGBTQI+ persons, the report concluded the initiatives could have a further negative effect on LGBTQI+ individuals. According to the PMG, inmates entering the prison system were not screened for vulnerabilities such as sexual orientation, psychological problems, or other characteristics that could make their inclusion in the general prison population dangerous.

Observers reported significant improvements during the year in the early release and release on parole of inmates. Despite the progress, some experts noted that some prisoners were disadvantaged by the point system used to determine eligibility for release, since it failed to take into account factors not related to the inmate (for example, points were granted for employment or participation in an education program, which were not always available or were not available in all prisons). In its May 25 report, the CPT likewise noted that the lack of work opportunities for inmates meant that most of them could not qualify for early release. The CPT stated its concern that, as had been the case during its 2015 visit, none of the prisons visited offered anything remotely resembling a regime of organized constructive out-of-cell activities. In addition, there was no individual risk and needs assessment, no individual sentence planning (setting forth appropriate work, education, or other activities or noting any medical or psychological care that may be needed), and hardly any efforts to prepare prisoners for release.

According to the Ministry of Justice, an improved food program had a positive effect on the overall maintenance of order in prisons as well as a positive impact on the families of inmates, who no longer had to provide food. There were anecdotal reports concerning a deterioration in the quality of the food in the latter part of the year, with a few prisoners reportedly refusing to consume it. A PMG report on the food in late 2020, however, indicated that in private conversations, prisoners assessed the food positively and were generally satisfied with it.

Administration: Authorities did not conduct prompt investigations into credible allegations of mistreatment.

Outside the periods when there were COVID-19 restrictions, no access problems were reported.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted domestic and international human rights groups, including the CPT, to monitor prison and detention center conditions, and they did so regularly. Authorities allowed monitors to speak privately with prisoners and permitted the ICRC to visit prisons and pretrial detention centers. Authorities, however, limited independent monitoring by domestic groups. The Ministry of Justice continued to deny PMG monitors access to those individuals in whose cases the investigation body had put a restriction on communication. The PMG was also unable to monitor the conditions of confinement for those individuals. The PMG asserted the restriction was arbitrary and that the investigation body’s decision should not apply to the PMG. In November 2020 the PMG criticized the Ministry of Justice for the March 2020 adoption of a decree regulating PMG activities that contradicted its prior agreements with authorities. According to a PMG statement, the decree added further restrictions to their activities, such as a requirement to obtain permission from the prison administration before visits during nonworking hours. The decree also significantly raised the experience and qualification requirements for PMG members, all of whom performed their work pro bono. The PMG expressed concern that the new criteria could result in the inability of the group to attract new members, decreasing its ability to monitor prisons.

On August 5, human rights reporter Zhanna Alexanyan reported that the prison administration had obstructed her meeting with Karen Hovhannisyan, a pretrial detainee in Armavir Penitentiary, forcing her to meet her client in a bathroom foyer. Hovhannisyan was arrested in 2018 on charges of murder that he denied. While he entered prison without health problems, when Alexanyan met him, he was in a wheelchair and had numerous health problems that Hohannisyan attributed to beatings and torture by police and prison staff as well as inappropriate medical care. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the special investigative service launched a criminal case on August 20 on charges of torture concerning a 2019 incident when six security staff of Nubarashen prison, where Hovhannisyan was being held at the time, beat him to force him to end a hunger strike. On October 10, the case was forwarded to the NSS for further investigation and was underway at year’s end.

Improvements: Observers noted the reduction of the prison population and the decrease in corruption as improvements during the year. According to observers, the decrease of the prison population improved visitor access. According to the Ministry of Justice, ramps were built in the Central Prison hospital and Armavir and Hrazdan prisons for persons with disabilities, and special accommodations were made in the Central Prison hospital to enable their use of showers and bathrooms. To accommodate inmates with disabilities, toilets with seats were installed in at least one bathroom in each penitentiary, and in Hrazdan Penitentiary special equipment was installed in the bathing room.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from one or both parents. A centralized system generated a medical certificate of birth to make avoidance of birth registration almost impossible. A low percentage of births were registered in Yezidi and Kurdish communities practicing homebirths.

Education: Although education is free and compulsory through grade 12, in practice it was not universal: participation, completion, and dropout rates of students varied based their socioeconomic status and place of residence. These inequalities were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and an influx of populations displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh into the country. Schools in host communities struggled to handle children displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh, many of whom transferred between multiple schools during the year.

Enrollment and attendance rates for children from ethnic minority groups, in particular Yezidis, Kurds, and Molokans, were significantly lower than average, and dropout rates after the ninth grade were higher. Only a few schools throughout the country offered Yezidi, Assyrian, Kurdish, or Greek language classes at the primary and secondary level. These classes were not part of the formal academic curriculum and were not regulated. Yezidi parents continued to complain that the classes did not adhere to any standards and were largely ineffective.

According to a 2019 NGO report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, most Yezidi children grew up speaking their native tongue and had little or no command of Armenian upon entering schools. The absence of preschool educational services in most Yezidi villages created problems for Yezidi children, who struggled in school and fell behind their Armenian-speaking classmates.

As of May 31, UNHCR reported that 34,168 persons recently displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh were living in the country in a refugee-like situation. In July the local Institute of Public Policy presented a report assessing the education and protection needs of displaced children, who made up almost 40 percent of the displaced population. According to the report, the arrival of displaced children presented a variety of problems, including inadequate assessment of children’s educational needs, unclear data on children no longer in school, as well as children who had long-term gaps in their education. According to the report, multiple moves accompanied by school transfers exacerbated the stress and anxiety suffered by displaced children and hindered their inclusion in the education system.

The report noted that the attitude of teachers and local children and their parents, which included both negative and extremely positive stereotypes, differentiated displaced children and hindered their integration into the school environment. Neither host communities nor schools conducted effective, coordinated efforts to help displaced children adapt to their new environment. Children with special educational needs encountered more serious difficulties during the adaptation process. According to the report, as of July the problem of adapting to the new environment was largely left to members of the displaced community themselves without systematic professional support by authorities in the areas of education and psychological counseling.

Child Abuse: The Law on Child’s Rights prohibits abuse, and the criminal code prescribes punishments for such abuse.

The burden of stress caused by the 2020 fighting and the COVID-19 pandemic increased the risk of violence against children, especially emotional abuse and neglect, as well as sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. State-run services had limited capacity and resources for protection and improvement of mental health and psychosocial well-being of children and their caregivers.

According to observers the government prioritized combatting violence against children and took steps to address it, although violence against children continued to be reported and gaps in both legislation and practice remained. In February for example, media outlets reported the case of an 18-month-old toddler who died of injuries as a result of continued beatings by his stepfather, mother, and grandmother.

The government’s National Strategy for Human Rights Protection for 2020-22 and action plan included actions to prevent family-based violence against children, including penalization of family-based violence, establishment of support centers for victims of family-based violence, and an explicit prohibition of corporal punishment. Actions during the year included the training of 125 military officers on human rights, and the training of 149 police officers on issues related to domestic violence and violence against women. The Minister of Labor and Social Affairs ordered social-psychological care for individuals who had been flagged in cases related to violence against elderly persons with disabilities. Awareness-raising activities were conducted on a range of issues, such as promoting awareness of the rights of persons with mental health problems through new posters in all of the country’s psychiatric institutions. A commission was established to identify problems and help further develop the Joint Social Service System, launched in September 2020, to include integrated social services to vulnerable families. In accordance with the action plan, a variety of legal amendments were drafted during the year on issues ranging from ensuring children’s rights to labor rights.

According to observers, psychological and physical violence were widely used to discipline both boys and girls, and there was a lack of state supported positive parenting programs. Indirect data showed that peer-to-peer violence was common in schools, with no mechanisms in place to address it. Gender inequality and stereotyping also contributed to violence against both girls and boys and created barriers to access to justice for victims. Complex regulations on referrals and reporting within the child protection system, together with an unclear division of duties and responsibilities within the system, resulted in ineffective responses to violence against children. Legislation to implement the 2017 law on prevention of family violence had not been adopted by year’s end.

According to observers, two-thirds of the sexual crimes in the country were against minors. In 2020 the Investigative Committee examined 328 crimes against children, almost a quarter of which involved sexual violence. Observers believed the incidence of sexual violence was higher, since the strong stigma around such violence discouraged reporting by victims and their families.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, although an individual may marry at 17 with the consent of the legal guardian or at 16 with the consent of a legal guardian, provided the marriage partner is at least 18. Early marriage of girls was reportedly widespread within Yezidi communities. Reports indicated some girls left school either as a consequence of early marriage or to avoid abduction and forced marriage. The government did not record the number of early marriages. According to the Eurasia Partnership Foundation’s 2020 report Issues Related to the Rights and Opportunities of Yezidi Girls Residing in Armenia, the government did not have procedures for identifying forced marriages or awareness or prevention programs related to early marriage. According to the government, it launched awareness-raising programs.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the sexual exploitation of children and provides for prison sentences of seven to 15 years for conviction of violations. Conviction for child pornography is punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. In June 2020 the government established a referral mechanism for child victims of trafficking and exploitation.

According to NGOs, although official statistics showed relatively few cases of sexual exploitation and sale of children, there were numerous undetected and unreported cases caused by gaps in legislation, training, awareness raising, detection, and reporting.

Institutionalized Children: On August 4, the Ombudsperson’s Office reported on problems it observed during a July 27 visit to the Mari Izmirlyan orphanage for children with disabilities. According to the office, the students’ care, as well as their leisure and living conditions, violated the dignity of children. Among other problems, the office reported overcrowded conditions that interfered with children’s eating, sleeping, and leisure and led to tension and arguments between residents. The office also found problems with the children’s education. At the time of the visit, 47 of the institution’s students were officially attending general and special educational institutions, while 38 were receiving home schooling inside the orphanage. Private conversations with the children revealed that some of those enrolled in public schools were afraid of stigma and discrimination and did not attend classes, while home schooling was nominal. There was a lack of nurses and staff to care for the residents.

In his annual 2020 report, the ombudsperson also raised the problem of children with disabilities who remained in orphanages after turning 18 because they had not acquired the skills for independent living. Government programs to address the problem, e.g., provision of apartments to graduates from orphanages, were piecemeal and did not offer systemic solutions.

The government continued to prioritize deinstitutionalization of childcare and increasing family-based care. In April 2020 the government approved the Comprehensive Program on Implementation of the Right of the Child to Live in a Family and of the Right to Harmonious Development with a corresponding action plan to implement the program for 2020-2023. Its implementation was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the 2020 fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Some of population displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh resided in state-run institutions.

The number of children with disabilities in residential and educational institutions remained high, and children with disabilities continued to be less able to access community-based and family-type care options. Nonresidential services for children with disabilities and expansion and accessibility for children and families remained a government priority.

Awareness raising and capacity building for emergency foster care was conducted in Gegharkunik, Syunik, and Vayots Dzor regions. Authorities earmarked funds for approximately 100 children in foster families during the year.

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

Australia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

In December 2020 the government appointed a special investigator to investigate Australian Defense Force personnel allegedly involved in 39 killings in Afghanistan from 2009-13 and recommend prosecutions. In July the government also announced a reform program to address responsibility for past failures and make cultural and systemic changes to prevent future departures from required standards. These actions followed a November 2020 recommendation by the inspector general of the Australian Defence Force that federal police investigate 19 soldiers over their alleged role in the murder of 39 prisoners and civilians and the cruel treatment of two others. The inspector general’s inquiry found credible information that junior special forces soldiers were goaded by more senior enlisted unit members into mistreating or killing prisoners and noncombatants, planting weapons and equipment on battlefield casualties to create justification for questionable engagements, and other possible crimes.

In August 2019, a Western Australia police officer pleaded not guilty to murder in the shooting of a 29-year-old indigenous woman. On October 23, the officer was acquitted of murder. After the death, the town was the first in the area to introduce a program in which police responded to similar calls with an indigenous cultural liaison officer and a mental health professional.

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

The law prohibits such practices, and the government generally respected these provisions. There were occasional claims police and prison officials mistreated suspects in custody.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: The most recent data from the Australian Institute of Criminology reported 89 prison deaths in 2018-19. In the year to November, four indigenous prisoners died (one by suicide, three of undetermined causes) in prisons. Although media attention and public debate focused on indigenous deaths in prison, a December 2020 report by the Institute of Criminology stated that overall, indigenous persons in custody did not die at a greater rate than nonindigenous individuals.

Administration: Authorities investigated allegations of inhuman conditions and documented the results of such investigations in a publicly accessible manner. The government investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers. There were no reports of intimidation by authorities. Some domestic and international human rights groups expressed concerns about conditions at domestic immigration detention centers (see section 2.f.).

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

The Law Council of Australia; a conglomeration of legal, medical, and social justice organizations called Raise the Age Alliance; and other civil society groups campaigned for all governmental jurisdictions to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14. The age of responsibility is set independently by federal, state, and territory governments.

Birth Registration: Children are citizens if at least one parent is a citizen or permanent resident at the time of the child’s birth. Children born in the country to parents who are not citizens or permanent residents acquire citizenship on their 10th birthday, if they lived the majority of their life in the country. Failure to register does not result in denial of public services. In general births were registered promptly.

Child Abuse: State and territorial child protection agencies investigate and initiate prosecutions for child neglect or abuse. All states and territories have laws or guidelines that require members of certain designated professions to report suspected child abuse or neglect. The federal government’s role in the prevention of child abuse includes funding for research, carrying out education campaigns, developing action plans against commercial exploitation of children, and funding community-based parenting programs.

The rate of indigenous children removed from their families for legal or safety reasons was nearly 10 times greater than that for the nonindigenous.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 for both boys and girls. Persons aged 16 to 18 may apply to a judge or magistrate for an order authorizing marriage to a person who has attained 18 years; the marriage of the minor also requires parental or guardian consent. Two persons younger than age 18 may not marry each other; reports of marriages involving a person younger than age 18 were rare. Forced marriage is a criminal offense. In 2019 the government expanded the definition of forced marriage explicitly to capture all marriages involving children younger than age 16. The government reported an increase in the number of forced marriage investigations, but the practice remained rare.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment for commercial sexual exploitation of children and was effectively enforced.

The law prohibits citizens and residents from engaging in, facilitating, or benefiting from sexual activity with children overseas who are younger than age 16 and provides for a maximum sentence of 17 years’ imprisonment for violations. The government continued its awareness campaign to deter child sex tourism through distribution of pamphlets to citizens and residents traveling overseas.

The legal age for consensual sex ranges from ages 16 to 18 by state. Penalties for statutory rape vary across jurisdictions. Defenses include reasonable grounds for believing the alleged victim was older than the legal age of consent and situations in which the two persons are close in age.

All states and territories criminalize the possession, production, and distribution of child pornography. Maximum penalties for these offenses range from four to 21 years’ imprisonment. Federal laws criminalize using a “carriage service” (for example, the internet) for the purpose of possessing, producing, and supplying child pornography. The maximum penalty for these offenses is a substantial fine and 15 years’ imprisonment. Under federal law, suspected pedophiles can be tried in the country regardless of where the crime was committed, and the maximum penalty for persistent sexual abuse of a child outside the country is 25 years’ imprisonment.

The government largely continued federal emergency intervention measures to combat child sexual abuse in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, following findings of high levels of child sexual abuse and neglect in a 2007 inquiry. In 73 remote communities, these measures included emergency bans on sales of alcohol and pornography, restrictions on how welfare recipients could receive and spend payments, the linkage of support payments to school attendance, and required medical examinations for all indigenous children younger than age 16 in the Northern Territory. Police received authority to enter homes and vehicles without a warrant to enforce the intervention. Public reaction to the intervention was mixed, with some indigenous activists asserting there was inadequate consultation with affected communities, that the policies lacked evidentiary substantiation, that the intervention aimed to roll back indigenous land rights, and that the measures were racially discriminatory, because nonindigenous persons in the Northern Territory were not initially subject to such restrictions.

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

Austria

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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. Judicial authorities investigate whether any security force killings that may occur were justifiable and pursue prosecutions as required by the evidence.

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

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

After police used excessive force against several climate activists while dispersing a spontaneous assembly in Vienna in 2019, one police officer involved was prosecuted on charges of bodily injury and another on charges of abuse of office and false testimony. In October a Vienna court convicted one officer of one count of bodily injury and sentenced him to a four-month suspended sentence. The other officer was convicted of one count of abuse of office and sentenced to a one-year suspended prison sentence. In June a Vienna court convicted a third officer involved in the case of abusing his office and giving false testimony. The court sentenced him to a 12-month suspended prison term. The country’s administrative court also declared some actions by police during the incident as illegitimate. In October a Vienna court convicted another officer involved in the case of endangering bodily safety and imposed a fine.

In July a Vienna court convicted six police officers accused of striking a Chechen man during an identity check in 2019; two others were acquitted. The two main defendants received suspended prison sentences of 10 to 12 months on charges of bodily injury and abuse of office. Four others received suspended sentences of eight to 10 months on charges of abuse of office. Amnesty International stated that the suspended sentences did not have a sufficient deterrent effect.

The government’s January 2020 coalition agreement called for the creation of an independent office to deal with complaints of police brutality, but it had not been established as of year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions or inmate abuse. The most recent public report by an international prison monitoring body was the 2015 report by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) based on a 2014 visit to the country. The report stated that the committee received virtually no allegations of physical mistreatment of prisoners by staff and that material conditions of detention were satisfactory.

Administration: Authorities conducted investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by the CPT.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: By law children derive citizenship from one or both parents. Officials register births immediately.

Child Abuse: Child abuse is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, which may be extended to 10 years. Severe sexual abuse or rape of a minor is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment, which may be increased to life imprisonment if the victim dies because of the abuse. The government continued its efforts to monitor child abuse and prosecute offenders. Officials noted a growing readiness by the public to report cases of such abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. Adolescents between the ages of 16 and 18 may legally contract a marriage by special permit and parental consent or court action. NGOs estimated there were 200 cases of early marriage annually, primarily in the Muslim and Romani communities.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation, sale, grooming, and offering or procuring children for commercial sex and practices related to child pornography; authorities generally enforced the law effectively. The law provides up to 15 years’ imprisonment for an adult convicted of sexual intercourse with a child younger than 14, the minimum age for consensual sex for both girls and boys. Possession of or trading in child pornography is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

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

Azerbaijan

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Credible reports emerged during the year regarding unlawful killings during the fall 2020 intensive fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces (see section 1.g. and the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Armenia).

The Office of the Prosecutor General is empowered to investigate whether killings committed by the security forces were justifiable and to pursue prosecutions.

Reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings in police custody continued. For example, on August 2, 31-year-old Tural Ismayilov died in the Siyazan police department on the day of his arrest. According to official information disseminated by law enforcement agencies, his “health suddenly deteriorated in the police station” and he was taken to a hospital, where he died. Ismayilov’s family, however, alleged police tortured him to death.

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

While the constitution and criminal code prohibit such practices and provide for penalties for conviction of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, credible allegations of torture and other abuses continued. Most mistreatment took place while detainees were in police custody, where authorities reportedly used abusive methods to coerce confessions. Authorities reportedly denied detainees timely access to family, independent lawyers, or independent medical care. There were credible reports that Azerbaijani forces abused soldiers and civilians held in custody in connection with the conflict in late 2020 (see section 1.g. and the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Armenia).

During the year the government took no action in response to the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) reports on six visits the CPT conducted to the country between 2004 and 2017. In the reports, the CPT stated that torture and other forms of physical mistreatment by police and other law enforcement agencies, corruption in the entire law enforcement system, and impunity remained systemic and endemic. The CPT visited the country in December 2020 and discussed its findings from that visit at the CPT plenary meeting on June 28 to July 2. At year’s end the CPT’s report from the December 2020 visit had not yet been published.

There were several credible reports of torture during the year. For example, the lawyer of Agil Humbatov, a member of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party widely considered a political prisoner (see section 1.e.), stated that Humbatov’s initial testimony was coerced under torture after his arrest on August 11. In addition, Humbatov informed his lawyer that he had been threatened with rape at the Khazar district police department.

Reports continued of torture at the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Main Department for Combating Organized Crime. Persons reportedly tortured included a civil society activist (see section 4), Muslim Unity Movement member Razi Humbatov, and opposition activist Tofig Yagublu. Pictures of Yagublu were widely available on the internet with his eyes swollen shut, apparently from beatings while he was in police detention in December following a small unsanctioned rally in Baku (see section 2.b., Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, and section 3).

On November 1, Khanlar Veliyev, the deputy military prosecutor general, acknowledged that more than 100 persons connected with the 2017 Terter case had been subjected to different forms of physical abuse, including torture, that resulted in the deaths of eight suspects, four of whom were posthumously acquitted. The government prosecuted 17 officials for abuse: nine were sentenced to three and one-half years in prison, six were sentenced to six months, and one received a 10-year prison sentence. Investigators who falsified evidence also were sentenced to prison. In the Terter case, authorities detained a group of approximately 100 servicemen and civilians in 2017, allegedly for spying for Armenia. As of year’s end, 27 remained in prison and were considered political prisoners, some serving sentences of up to 20 years.

On July 21, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a decision that found that from 2009 to 2011, authorities tortured and unlawfully deprived Armenian Artur Badalyan of his liberty. The court ordered the state to pay Badalyan 30,000 euros ($34,500) in damages.

There were numerous credible reports of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in custody. For example, human rights defenders reported that on August 12, imprisoned Muslim Unity Movement deputy Abbas Huseynov was beaten by several prison guards in Prison No. 8.

Authorities reportedly maintained an implicit ban on independent forensic examinations of detainees who claimed abuse. Authorities reportedly also delayed detainees’ access to an attorney. Opposition figures and other activists stated that these practices made it easier for officers to mistreat detainees with impunity. In one example, on April 5, opposition Musavat party member Nizamali Suleymanov and his nephew, Akif Suleymanov, were sentenced to 20 days of administrative arrest for allegedly using drugs. After serving their sentences, they were forced to undergo medical treatment at a drug treatment center for six months. They were released on October 27.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

According to prison monitoring conducted by a reputable organization prior to the onset of COVID-19, prison conditions were sometimes harsh and potentially life threatening due to overcrowding; inadequate nutrition; deficient heating, ventilation, and sanitation; and poor medical care. Detainees also complained of inhuman conditions in the crowded basement detention facilities of local courts where they were held while awaiting their hearings.

Physical Conditions: Authorities held men and women together in pretrial detention facilities in separate blocks and held women in separate prison facilities after sentencing. Local nongovernmental (NGO) observers reported female prisoners typically lived in better conditions, were monitored more frequently, and had greater access to training and other activities. The same NGOs noted, however, that women’s prisons suffered from many of the same problems as prisons for men. While the government continued to construct new prison facilities, some Soviet-era facilities were still in operation and failed to meet international standards. Gobustan Prison, Prison No. 3, Prison No. 14, and the penitentiary tuberculosis treatment center reportedly had the worst conditions.

Human rights advocates reported guards sometimes punished prisoners with beatings or by placing them in solitary confinement. Local and international monitors reported markedly poorer conditions at the maximum-security Gobustan Prison.

Prisoners claimed they endured lengthy confinement periods without any opportunity for physical exercise. They also reported instances of cramped, overcrowded conditions; inadequate ventilation; poor sanitary facilities; inedible food; and insufficient access to medical care. One prison monitor noted food delivery and visits resumed after a pause due to the pandemic; the monitor reported overall progress had been made with regards to treatment of inmates and their complaints.

Administration: While most prisoners reported they could submit complaints to judicial authorities and the Ombudsperson’s Office without censorship, prison authorities regularly read prisoners’ correspondence, monitored meetings between lawyers and clients, and restricted some lawyers from taking documents into and out of detention facilities. The Ombudsperson’s Office reported that it conducted systematic visits and investigations into complaints, but activists claimed the office regularly dismissed prisoner complaints in politically sensitive cases.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some prison visits by international and local organizations, including the ICRC and the CPT.

Authorities generally permitted the ICRC access to detainees held in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The ICRC conducted regular visits throughout the year to promote protection of prisoners, including respect for international humanitarian law, and regularly facilitated the exchange of messages between prisoners and their families to help them re-establish and maintain contact.

A human rights community prison-monitoring group, known as the Public Committee, was allowed access to prisons without prior notification to the Penitentiary Service.

Improvements: The Ministry of Justice reported that authorities permitted the use of GPS-enabled electronic monitoring bracelets for more than 2,500 citizens during the year, allowing them to avoid incarceration.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country or from their parents. Registration at birth was routine for births in hospitals or clinics. Some children born at home were not registered.

Education: While education is compulsory, free, and universal until age 17, large families in impoverished rural areas sometimes placed a higher priority on the education of boys and kept girls at home to work. Social workers stated that some poor families forced their children to work or beg rather than attend school.

Child Abuse: There is criminal liability for sexual violence against children. The law also stipulates punishment for child labor and other abuses of children. The SCFWCA organized multiple events prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to address the problem of child abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: According to UNICEF’s 2021 State of the Worlds Children report, 11 percent of girls in the country were married before they were 18. The problem of early marriage continued during the year. The law provides that a girl may marry at the age of 18 or at 17 with local authorities’ permission. The law further states that a boy may marry at 18. The Caucasus Muslim Board defines 18 as the minimum age for marriage as dictated by Islam.

Throughout the year the SCFWCA organized various events for the prevention of early marriages.

The law establishes substantial fines or imprisonment for up to four years for conviction of the crime of forced marriage with an underage child. Girls who married under the terms of religious marriage contracts were of particular concern, since these contracts were not subject to government oversight and did not entitle the wife to recognition of her status in case of divorce.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Conviction of recruitment of minors for commercial sexual exploitation (involving a minor in immoral acts) is punishable by up to eight years in prison. The law prohibits pornography, its production, its distribution, or its advertisement, and conviction is punishable by three years’ imprisonment. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. Conviction of statutory rape is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. Some civil society representatives reported that boys and girls at times were exploited for commercial sex.

Displaced Children: Significant government investment in IDP communities largely alleviated the problem of numerous internally displaced children living in substandard conditions and unable to attend school.

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

Bahamas, The

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

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

The constitution prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. At times citizens and visitors alleged instances of cruel or degrading treatment of criminal suspects or of migrants by police or immigration officials.

In April a correctional officer reported that two prison officers beat a male prisoner, resulting in hospitalization. There were four recorded cases of physical abuse by correctional officers. Two officers in these cases had disciplinary charges levied against them. The evidence in the remaining two cases was deemed insufficient to go to trial, according to the government.

Law enforcement investigated four alleged cases of rape at the government’s only safe house for victims of domestic violence, which was also used to hold migrant detainees who are women and children. Two investigations resulted in the discharge of the immigration officers involved. Prosecutors dropped a third case because the alleged victim declined to press charges. Prosecutors dropped a fourth case when the accuser died from COVID-19.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions at the government’s only prison, the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDCS) facility commonly known as Fox Hill Prison, were harsh due to overcrowding, poor nutrition, inadequate sanitation, and inadequate medical care. Conditions at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre for migrants were adequate for short-term detention only.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate access to medical care were problems in the BDCS men’s maximum-security block. The facility was designed to accommodate 1,000 prisoners but was chronically overcrowded. Juvenile pretrial detainees were held with adults at the BDCS remand center, a minimum-security section of the prison. At the end of November, eight juveniles were incarcerated.

Due to COVID-19, authorities suspended the ability of family members to bring meals to prisoners. Authorities also limited food sales by independent vendors. Prisoners reported infrequent access to nutritious meals and long delays between daily meals. Maximum-security cells for men measured approximately six feet by 10 feet and held up to six persons with no mattresses or toilet facilities. Inmates removed human waste by bucket. Prisoners complained of the lack of beds and bedding. Some inmates developed bedsores from lying on bare ground. Sanitation was a general problem, and cells were infested with rats, maggots, and insects. The government claimed to provide access to toilets and showers one hour a day to prisoners in maximum-security areas. The women’s facilities were generally more comfortable, with dormitory-style quarters and adequate bathrooms.

Individuals detained in jails complained they were denied access to medical care and food. The availability of and access to medical and psychological care were sporadic. Prisoners consistently complained that prison authorities did not take their health concerns seriously. Sick male inmates and male inmates with disabilities had inadequate access to the medical center. Correctional officers and civil society accused prison management of contributing to COVID-19 outbreaks by failing to quarantine COVID-19-positive prisoners from the general population and failing to provide prisoners with timely access to the vaccine.

While the law prohibits persons serving a prison sentence from voting, persons who are detained but not convicted are permitted to vote. Individuals in the main prison who were detained but not convicted, however, were denied the ability to vote in the September election.

Administration: The Internal Affairs Unit and a disciplinary tribunal at the BDCS facility were responsible for investigating any credible allegations of abuse or substandard conditions. The prison commissioner was placed on leave beginning October 1 pending an investigation into several allegations including poor management of the Department of Corrections, the unapproved release of a prisoner, and gross negligence concerning the transmission of COVID-19 between prisoners.

Independent Monitoring: The BDCS facility stated it was not granting access to visitors, including human rights organizations, due to COVID-19 protocols. Independent observers, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), were restricted to virtual meetings with detainees who were held at the migrant detention center and the government’s safe house.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Children born in the country to married parents, one of whom is Bahamian, acquire citizenship at birth. In the case of unwed parents, the child takes the citizenship of the mother. All children born in the country who are noncitizens may apply for citizenship upon reaching their 18th birthday. All births must be registered within 21 days of delivery.

Child Abuse: The law stipulates severe penalties for child abuse and requires all persons having contact with a child they believe has been physically or sexually abused to report their suspicions to police; nonetheless, child abuse and neglect were serious problems, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Social Services provided services to abused and neglected children through a public-private center for children, the public hospital’s family violence program, and The Bahamas Crisis Centre. The ministry also operated a 24-hour national abuse hotline.

In January a video surfaced of apparent child abuse in a government-owned children’s facility. After an investigation, the government charged six employees of the children’s facility with child cruelty.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, although minors may marry at 15 with parental permission.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual heterosexual sex is 16. The law considers any association or exposure of a child to commercial sex or an establishment where commercial sex takes place as cruelty, neglect, or mistreatment. The offense of having sex with a child carries a penalty of up to life imprisonment. Child pornography is illegal. A person who produces child pornography is subject to life imprisonment; conviction for dissemination or possession of child pornography calls for a penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.

The penalties for rape of a minor are the same as those for rape of an adult. While a victim’s consent is an insufficient defense against allegations of statutory rape, it is a sufficient defense if the accused had “reasonable cause” to believe the victim was older than age 16, provided the accused was younger than age 18.

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

Bahrain

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

There were no reports that government security forces committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year.

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

The constitution prohibits “harm[ing] an accused person physically or mentally.” Domestic and international human rights organizations, as well as detainees and former detainees, maintained that torture, abuse, and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by government security officials continued during the year.

Human rights groups alleged security officials beat detainees, placed detainees in stress positions, humiliated detainees in front of other prisoners, and insulted detainees’ religious beliefs. Detainees reported that security forces committed abuses during searches, arrests at private residences, and during transportation. Detainees reported intimidation, such as threats of violence, took place at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) headquarters facility. Some detainees at the CID reported security officials used physical and psychological mistreatment to extract confessions and statements under duress or to inflict retribution and punishment.

Human rights groups reported authorities subjected children, sometimes younger than age 15, to various forms of mistreatment, including beating, slapping, kicking, and verbal abuse. On August 18, the criminal age of majority was raised from 15 to 18, although the law has been inconsistently applied.

Human rights organizations reported that four prison detainees, convicted on terrorism, illegal assembly, and rioting charges, began a hunger strike in November to protest prison mistreatment and denial of contact with their families. The four ranged in age from 17 to 20. Several of the juvenile detainees reported they were held in solitary confinement and were subject to abuse during their interrogations.

Human rights organizations and families of inmates also reported authorities denied medical treatment to injured or ill detainees and prisoners of conscience (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees). In June, 73-year-old Hasan Mushaima, a prominent leader of a dissolved political society sentenced to life in prison on terrorism charges related to his role organizing protests in 2011, issued a recorded message from Jaw Prison to complain of his deteriorating health and prison authorities’ refusal to refer him to outside medical specialists. The government offered to release Mushaima on house arrest under the alternative sentencing law, but he declined, reportedly refusing to accept restrictions on his activities (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees).

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces. The government stated that all prisons, detention facilities, and interrogation rooms at local police stations and the CID were equipped with closed-circuit television cameras that monitored facilities at all times. The Ministry of Interior police code of conduct requires officers to abide by 10 principles, including limited use of force and zero tolerance for torture and mistreatment. The Royal Academy of Police included the police code of conduct in its curriculum, required all recruits to take a course on human rights, and provided recruits with copies of the police code of conduct in English and Arabic. The ministry reported it took disciplinary action against officers, although it did not publish details of which principles the officers violated and what disciplinary steps were taken.

According to its eighth annual report released in December, the Interior Ministry’s Office of the Ombudsman received 209 complaints and 691 requests for assistance between May 2020 and April 30. Alleged victims or their families submitted multiple complaints regarding police mistreatment, along with human rights organizations and other international organizations. The complaints were levied against a variety of police directorates, Reform and Rehabilitation Centers (prisons), and other Ministry of Interior units. The Ombudsman rejected some cases as being outside of its jurisdiction and referred several more to other investigative bodies. The majority of cases investigated by the Ombudsman were considered resolved at the time of the report’s release, although several were still considered pending.

The Special Investigation Unit (SIU), an element of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) that reports to the king-appointed attorney general, is responsible for investigating security force misconduct, including complaints against police. The SIU investigated and referred cases of misconduct to the appropriate court, including civilian criminal courts, the Ministry of Interior’s Military Court, and administrative courts. The ministry generally did not release the names of officers convicted, demoted, reassigned, or fired for misconduct. The SIU did not provide detailed reports regarding the nature of police misconduct, abuse, or excessive use of force. According to compiled local media reports during the year, the SIU received 68 formal complaints, questioned 107 who were tied to those complaints, and prosecuted 16 members of the security forces in the criminal court on police misconduct charges. Three police officers faced trials in military courts, and at least 11 former police officers were referred to psychological evaluations.

The Ministry of Interior organized various human rights training programs for its employees, including a year-long human rights curriculum and diploma at the Royal Police Academy. The academy regularly negotiated memoranda of understanding with the government-linked National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) to exchange expertise. The academy included a unit on human rights in international law in the curriculum for its master’s degree in Security Administration and Criminal Forensics program.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Human rights activists reported conditions in prisons and detention centers were harsh and sometimes life threatening due to overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

Physical Conditions: Human rights organizations and prisoners reported gross overcrowding in pretrial detention facilities that placed a strain on prison administration and led to a high prisoner-to-staff ratio.

Authorities held detainees younger than age 15 at the Juvenile Care Center; criminal records are expunged after detainees younger than 15 are released. The government housed convicted male inmates ages 15 to 17 and those 18 to 21 in separate buildings located on the grounds of the Dry Dock Facility. Upon reaching 21, prisoners enter the general population at Jaw Prison. The Ministry of Interior reserved one ward in the pretrial detention center for elderly and special needs detainees. Officials reported they offered these detainees special food, health care, and personal services to meet their needs.

The government reported detention centers were staffed with experienced medical specialists and outfitted with modern equipment, but prisoners needing medical attention reported difficulty in alerting guards to their needs. Some prisoners reported delays in scheduling offsite treatment or very short stays in the hospital, especially those needing follow-up care for complex or chronic conditions. Some prisoners spent extended periods at external hospitals, with prison guards posted to monitor them.

In response to complaints that prisoners were not receiving appropriate medical attention, the Ministry of Interior stated that all inmates received full health-care services and medication under the law and in line with humanitarian standards. After calls from human rights groups to investigate the death of 50-year-old inmate Abbas Hassan Ali, the ministry confirmed he died of a heart attack April 6. Separately, the NIHR reported it found no evidence prison guards deliberately denied medical services to Ali.

The government announced on February 17 that COVID-19 vaccines were available for detainees. The Ministry of Interior later stated that most detainees received vaccines and that detainees could choose which version. Nonetheless, both prisoner families and human rights organizations raised concerns regarding COVID-19 outbreaks in detention centers. On March 25, families of detainees protested in front of the Ombudsman’s office and Jaw Prison against “the spread of COVID-19 in prison” and called for the release of their relatives. After reviewing Ministry of Health data, human rights groups reported that more than 39 positive cases had been detected in Jaw prison as of March. The human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) Salam for Democracy and Human Rights published the names of detainees who tested positive, calling for their immediate release.

On June 8, Hussain Barakat, who was serving a life sentence for terrorism due to his alleged participation in the “Zulfiqar Brigades,” an allegedly Iran-linked militant group, died in prison from COVID-19 complications. Human rights activists alleged that prison authorities had failed to properly implement COVID-19 mitigation measures. The Ministry of Interior’s General Directorate of Reformation and Rehabilitation stated it disinfected cells daily and provided prisoners with medical kits and hygiene products. New inmates were quarantined for 14 days before joining the general prison population.

According to the government, six prisoners died during the year for reasons unrelated to COVID-19; the causes of three of these deaths were deemed by the government to be the result of chronic diseases, one was due to an overdose, and two were reported suicides. On July 25, Hasan Abdulnabi Mansoor, age 35, died from sickle cell anemia complications while serving a three-month sentence at Dry Dock Detention Center. Human rights groups accused prison authorities of delaying his medical treatment; authorities denied the allegations.

Human rights organizations reported food was adequate for most prisoners; however, prisoners with medical conditions had difficulty obtaining special dietary provisions. During the year some prisoners submitted complaints regarding the quality and quantity of food, allegedly after the prison contracted with a new catering company. Prisoners complained outdoor activities were limited to one hour and a half per day.

The ministry operated a center for rehabilitation and vocational training, including various educational, drug addiction, and behavioral programs.

Administration: Authorities generally allowed prisoners to file complaints to judicial authorities without censorship, and officials from the Ombudsman’s Office were available to respond to complaints. Human rights groups reported that it was sometimes necessary to file multiple complaints to receive assistance. Prisoners had access to visitors at least once a month, often more frequently. Authorities permitted 30 minutes of phone calls each week in principle, but at times prevented prisoners from communicating with family members and others. In-person family visits remain suspended at year’s end after a March 2020 decision by the General Directorate of Reformation and Rehabilitation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Detainees were permitted to hold video conferences with their families in lieu of in-person visits.

The NIHR stated Shia inmates were given additional time to practice Ashura rituals in common areas, adding that religious rituals were not allowed in prison cells as a matter of general policy.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities permitted access for the NIHR and the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission (PDRC), as well as the Ombudsman’s Office and the SIU (see section 5). The Ombudsman also serves as the chair of the PDRC, which maintained an office at Jaw Prison to conduct regular investigations and privately meet with inmates and their families. The PDRC also conducted a formal monitoring visit to Jaw Prison August 30-31.

International human rights organizations questioned the independence and effectiveness of these organizations.

In April inmates in Building 17 of Jaw Prison undertook a hunger strike to protest mistreatment, including religious discrimination, lack of access to medical facilities, and limits on family visitation. On April 17, human rights groups reported prison officials violently assaulted inmates after an extended sit-in and protest in Jaw Prison. The Ministry of Interior issued a statement the same day claiming that the prisoners had “blocked the hallways and obstructed the services inside the facility.” A delegation from NIHR visited Jaw Prison and disputed the ministry’s claims in an April 18 statement. Human rights NGOs reported that 33 prisoners were held in solitary confinement following the prison assault, and the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights called on the government to launch an investigation into the “violent repression of the sit-in at Jaw Prison.”

Separately, in response to a request for assistance for prisoner Sayed Mahmood al-Alawi from a human rights organization, the Ombudsman’s Office confirmed it facilitated a family visit in November and stated it would investigate allegations of mistreatment. No public information on the status of the investigation was available by year’s end.

In May, Interior Ministry officials invited senior diplomatic representatives to view prison conditions at Jaw Prison facilities and speak with prison officials regarding prisoner treatment. The Interior Ministry stated it was seeking to address prison overcrowding, including through early releases of inmates, and adequate medical care for prisoners. The government facilitated a second visit for diplomats in September to the Nasser Vocational Training Center in Jaw Prison. Diplomats were allowed to speak freely with prisoners concerning prison conditions, their treatment in the prison, and vocational training and courses offered by the prison.

Improvements: On January 30, the Ministry of Interior’s undersecretary stated that the ministry offered inmates video calls, e-court hearings, e-documentation, and online medical consultations in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. The undersecretary cited safety measures, such as social distancing between inmates, repurposing an empty building to a field hospital, moving inmates to other buildings to alleviate overcrowding, opening new prison buildings, and quarantining incoming inmates to isolate COVID-19 cases. The official also stated the inmates underwent random COVID-19 tests, and the prison provided masks, gloves, and sanitizers.

The government released prisoners under the alternative sentencing law, and on September 9, the king issued a royal decree further expanding the use of alternative sentencing (see section 1.e., Trial Procedures).

In February the king issued the Restorative Justice Law for Children and Protection from Mistreatment, which came into effect August 18 (see section 1.e., Trial Procedures and section 6, Children). The law, which raised the criminal age of majority from 15 to 18, mandates alternative noncustodial sentences for juvenile offenders.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Individuals derive citizenship from their father or by decree from the king. Women do not transmit their nationality to their children, rendering stateless some children of citizen mothers and noncitizen fathers (see section 2.d.).

Authorities do not register births immediately. From birth to the age of three months, the mother’s primary health-care provider holds registration for the children. When a child reaches three months, authorities register the birth with the Ministry of Health’s Birth Registration Unit, which then issues the official birth certificate. Children not registered before reaching their first birthday must obtain a registration by court order. The government does not provide public services to a child without a birth certificate.

Education: Schooling is compulsory for children until age 15 and is provided free of charge to citizens and legal residents through grade 12. Authorities segregated government-run schools by gender, although girls and boys used the same curricula and textbooks. Islamic studies based on Sunni doctrine are mandatory for all Muslim public school students and are optional for non-Muslim students.

Child Abuse: The Family Courts have jurisdiction over child abuse matters.

There were reports police approached children outside schools and threatened or coerced them into becoming police informants.

In February the king issued the Restorative Justice Law for Children and Protection from Mistreatment, which came into effect August 18 (see sections 1.d., Prison and Detention Center Conditions and 1.e., Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies). The law raised the criminal age of majority from 15 to 18 and established children’s courts, a child protection center, and a special children’s judicial committee to review criminal cases involving juveniles. The law also mandates alternative noncustodial sentences for juvenile offenders.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: According to the law, the minimum age of marriage is 16 years for girls and 18 years for boys, but special circumstances allow marriages before reaching these ages with approval from a sharia court.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits exploitation of a child for various crimes, including in commercial sex and child pornography. The Restorative Justice Law for Children and Protection from Mistreatment, which came into effect August 18, imposes harsher penalties on adults who sexually exploit children or incite or coerce children to commit crimes, including increasing the mandatory minimum prison sentence for child pornography crimes to two years.

The age of consent is age 21 and there is no close-in-age exemption.

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

Bangladesh

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

The constitution provides for the rights to life and personal liberty. There were numerous reports, however, that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Police policy requires internal investigations of all significant uses of force by police, including actions that resulted in serious physical injury or death, usually by a professional standards unit that reports directly to the inspector general of police. The government, however, neither released statistics on total killings by security personnel nor took comprehensive measures to investigate cases. Human rights groups expressed skepticism regarding the independence and professional standards of the units conducting these assessments and claimed citizens were being deprived of justice. In the few known instances in which the government brought charges, those found guilty generally received administrative punishment.

Law enforcement raids occurred throughout the year, primarily to counter terrorist activity, drugs, and illegal firearms. Suspicious deaths occurred during some raids, arrests, and other law enforcement operations. Security forces frequently denied their role in such deaths: they claimed that when they took a suspect in custody to a crime scene to recover weapons or identify co-conspirators, accomplices fired on police; police returned fire and, in the ensuing gunfight, the suspect was killed. The government usually described these deaths as “crossfire killings,” “gunfights,” or “encounter killings.” Media also used these terms to describe legitimate uses of police force. Human rights organizations and media outlets claimed many of these crossfire incidents constituted extrajudicial killings. Human rights organizations claimed in some cases law enforcement units detained, interrogated, and tortured suspects, brought them back to the scene of the original arrest, executed them, and ascribed the death to lawful self-defense in response to violent attacks.

Domestic human rights organization Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) reported at least 80 individuals died in extrajudicial killings during the year, including 51 in so-called shootouts or crossfires with law enforcement agencies. Between May 2018 and June, ASK reported a total of 606 incidents of alleged extrajudicial executions. According to another human rights organization, Odhikar, of 71 incidents of alleged extrajudicial killings between January and September 30, 35 deaths resulted from gunfights with law enforcement, 30 persons were shot by law enforcement, and six others died from alleged torture while in custody. In 2020 Odhikar reported a total of 225 alleged extrajudicial executions, down from 391 incidents in 2019. Human rights organizations and civil society expressed concern regarding the alleged extrajudicial killings and arrests, claiming many of the victims were innocent.

Between January and July, local human rights organizations and media reported 10 Rohingya refugees were victims of extrajudicial killings. In Cox’s Bazar, the site of Rohingya refugee camps, Rohingya constituted a disproportionate percentage of reported “crossfire” killings. On February 23, media reported three Rohingya refugees including the ringleader of the “Zakir Bahini” gang were killed in a “gunfight” with the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in Cox’s Bazar. On July 16, media reported Luftar Rahman and Hashem Ullah, Rohingya alleged to be criminals by the government, were reportedly killed in a “gunfight” with the RAB and Border Guards of Bangladesh (BGB). On July 19, media reported a Rohingya refugee with the alias “Kalimullah” was killed in a “gunfight” with the RAB in Cox’s Bazar. In all these cases, media reported security forces conducted raids to find the alleged criminals. After speaking with family members of the deceased, Amnesty International reported several of those killed were picked up from their homes by police and later found dead.

During the March 26-28 demonstrations after Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country, civil society and media reported at least 19 persons were killed and more than 100 injured (see sections 1.b., 1.d., 2.a., 2.b., and 6).

In May two suspects in the May 16 killing of businessman Shahin Uddin were allegedly killed by security forces days after their arrest. The two were accused of hacking Uddin to death in front of his son. Media reported that one of the suspects, Md. Manik, was killed in a reported gunfight with the RAB, while the other, Monir, was killed two days later, also in a reported gunfight with police. After his death Uddin’s wife filed a murder suit against 20 persons, including former Member of Parliament M.A. Awal. On May 20, the RAB arrested Awal for allegedly ordering the killing of Uddin regarding a land dispute.

In August media reported the Ministry of Home Affairs convened a senior investigation committee to investigate the killing of retired army major “Sinha” Md. Rashed Khan. As a result of the investigation, authorities suspended 21 police officers and charged nine officers. In 2020 police in Cox’s Bazar allegedly shot and killed Khan at a checkpoint. Security forces reported that Sinha “brandished” a gun, while eyewitnesses said Sinha had left the firearm in the car when he was asked by police to exit the vehicle. Sinha’s killing generated intense public discussion on police, extrajudicial killings, and law enforcement excesses.

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, local and international human rights organizations and media reported security forces, including those from the intelligence services, police, and soldiers seconded into civilian law enforcement, employed torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. The law contains provisions allowing a magistrate to place a suspect in interrogative custody, known as remand, during which questioning of the suspect may take place without a lawyer present. Human rights organizations alleged many instances of torture occurred during remand. Some victims who filed cases under the Torture and Custodial (Prevention) Act were reportedly harassed and threatened, while some were forced to withdraw their cases due to fear.

According to multiple organizations, including the UN Committee against Torture (CAT), security forces reportedly used torture to gather information from alleged militants and members of political opposition parties. These forces reportedly used beatings with iron rods, kneecappings, electric shock, rape and other sexual abuse, and mock executions. Numerous organizations also claimed security forces were involved in widespread and routine commission of torture, occasionally resulting in death, for the purpose of soliciting payment of bribes or obtaining confessions.

According to international and local civil society, activists, and media, impunity was a pervasive problem in the security forces, including within but not limited to the RAB, BGB, Detective Branch of Police, police, and other units. Politicization of crimes, corruption, and lack of independent accountability mechanisms were significant factors contributing to impunity, including for custodial torture. While police are required to conduct internal investigations of all significant abuses, civil society organizations alleged investigative mechanisms were not independent and did not lead to justice for victims. Law enforcement authorities took no additional steps, such as training, to address or prevent abuses.

On January 4, media reported family members of Rejaul Karim Reja said he died in police custody four days after he was arrested by the Detective Branch of Police in Barisal. Medical reports stated Reja, a law student, died of excessive bleeding and had numerous injury marks on his body. Barisal Metropolitan Police investigated the case and alleged he died because of complications related to drug addiction. Reja’s father alleged police tortured and killed his son and demanded a fair and impartial investigation.

On February 25, media reported writer Mushtaq Ahmed died in prison after being held in pretrial detention for 10 months. Ahmed was charged under the DSA for posting criticism of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Facebook (see section 2.a.). On March 3, the inspector general of prisons told media a three-member investigation committee found “no evidence of negligence.” On March 4, the minister of home affairs announced Ahmed died of natural causes and found no visible evidence of wounds or bruises on his body. According to Ahmed Kabir Kishore, a cartoonist detained by the RAB alongside Ahmed, Mushtaq Ahmed endured “extensive torture,” including being “beaten a lot” and subjected to electric shock torture to the genitals during his detention. The RAB’s spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ashiq Billah rejected the allegations of torture and dismissed Kishore’s complaints as “lies.” Nationwide protests demanding justice for Ahmed’s death in custody lasted for weeks.

On March 4, Kishore, charged under the DSA, was released on bail. Media reported Kishore appeared visibly injured after being released. On March 10, Kishore filed a legal claim with a Dhaka court under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act alleging that he and Ahmed were tortured in custody. Although police records state he was arrested by Unit 3 of the RAB (RAB-3) in May 2020, Kishore said he was picked up from his residence by men in plainclothes three days prior. Kishore detailed the alleged torture he experienced while in custody, stating, “Every time they were not pleased with an answer, they hit me on my legs, ankles, and soles of my feet,” and that someone from behind slapped him on both sides of his head throughout RAB’s interrogations. Kishore also stated he lacked timely access to medication to control his diabetes. He reported “long-lasting side effects,” such as bleeding through his right ear, severe pain in his left knee and ankle, and difficulty with walking.

In March the UN Human Rights Council released a statement urging the “prompt, transparent, and independent” investigation into Ahmed’s death, the “overhaul” of the DSA, the release of all detained under the law, and an investigation into allegations of ill-treatment of other detainees, including Kishore. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported allegations of torture and ill-treatment by the RAB were a “long-standing concern.”

On March 14, a Dhaka court directed the Police Bureau of Investigation to launch an investigation into Kishore’s claims. On October 17, media reported the Bureau submitted to the courts the investigation report, which stated there was no evidence of Kishore’s allegations of torture against 16 or 17 unnamed individuals in plainclothes, nor was there definitive evidence that one or more persons picked up the cartoonist from home and tortured him physically and mentally in May 2020. On November 24, Kishore filed a no-confidence application against the investigation report, which the court accepted.

On June 26, 10 international human rights groups issued a statement for the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, stating the government allegedly failed to follow up on recommendations made by the CAT in 2020 to better prevent and address torture.

On July 3, media reported a three-member committee was formed to investigate the alleged torture of Indian prisoner Shahjahan Bilash after footage of the incident went viral on social media. Five officers from Cumilla Central Jail, including the chief prison guard, were suspended. Three other prison employees were also suspended for allegedly circulating the video footage.

Multiple news outlets reported a woman filed a case under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act against six persons on July 5, including three police officers, alleging she was tortured and sexually assaulted while in custody in the Wazirpur police station in Barisal District. In response to the allegations, a senior judicial magistrate court asked the district police to launch an investigation and ordered a medical report to be submitted within 24 hours of the complaint. Media reported the district police withdrew two of the accused officers from the police station and launched an investigation into the allegations. The medical report submitted to the court by the local hospital stated injury marks were found on both hands, neck, and other parts of the woman’s body. The officers accused in the case denied the allegations.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and at times life threatening due to severe overcrowding, inadequate facilities, physical abuse, corruption, and a lack of proper sanitation and social-distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were no privately run detention facilities.

Between January and September 30, local human rights organization ASK reported 67 prisoners, of which 42 were awaiting trial and 25 were convicted, died in jail custody. Former detainees reported some inmates who died in prison were transported to a hospital and pronounced dead due to natural causes.

Physical Conditions: According to the Department of Prisons, as of April more than 83,837 prisoners were held in facilities designed to hold 42,450 inmates. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, federal authorities implemented a policy that required prison authorities to screen all incoming inmates for symptoms and keep them in a 14-day quarantine. Other protocols in place included mandating face masks, discontinuing family visits in exchange for weekly telephone calls, providing access to hand sanitizers, and other measures. Prison superintendents stated they had no capacity to isolate inmates infected by COVID-19. As of June 22, the government opened three COVID-19 isolation centers in the districts of Keraniganj, Feni, and Kishoreganj. Some released prisoners alleged that many prisons underreported positive cases of COVID-19. Authorities often incarcerated pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners.

The Department of Prisons’ statistics revealed 29 of 141 positions for prison doctors were vacant as of April, while half the posts for nurses and pharmacists were unoccupied. Officials reported only approximately 11 prison doctors provided care to the 83,837 inmates, causing prison authorities to employ nurses or pharmacists to provide medical care.

Conditions in prisons, and often within the same prison complex, varied widely. Authorities held some prisoners in areas subject to high temperatures, poor ventilation, and overcrowding. The law allows individuals whom prison officials designated as “very important persons” (VIP) to access “Division A” prison facilities with improved living conditions and food, more frequent family visitation rights, and the provision of another prisoner without VIP status to serve as an aide in the cell. News outlets reported some individuals with VIP access were allegedly allowed to conduct business remotely, meet with members of the opposite sex, and receive visitors despite restrictions in place to curb the pandemic.

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

In March media reported at least five children at the Jashore Juvenile Correction Center allegedly attempted suicide, and eight others fled. In April media reported that between April 15-22, juvenile courts granted bail to a total of 167 incarcerated children to curb the spread of the pandemic.

In July media reported three male youths died in Jashore after allegedly conducting protests demanding, among other matters, better quality of food, water, and sports facilities. In response the deputy commissioner of Jashore formed a committee to investigate the grievances and identify improvements to facility services. Officials at the correction center stated the boys were killed in a fight with other inmates; however, days after the incident, the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association reported allegations of torture in the correction center and demanded a separate judicial inquiry into the deaths. In September 2020, after the deaths of three male youths at the same correction center in August 2020, the Ministry of Social Welfare recommended management changes for all juvenile correction centers. A journalist reported the government took no steps in line with the ministry’s recommendations as of March. Media reported juvenile centers made no effort to rehabilitate youths in custody, had appointed officials not trained to handle juvenile delinquency, and treated the youths as criminals as opposed to juveniles with special needs.

On August 4, media reported an appeals court acquitted two minors jailed for a month by a mobile court in Netrokona. The appeals court ruled the mobile court had no jurisdiction to deal with juvenile crimes.

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

Administration: Prisons lacked any formal process for offenders to submit grievances. Prisons had no ombudsperson to receive prisoner complaints. Retraining and rehabilitation programs were extremely limited.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Individuals are born citizens if their parents were Bangladeshi citizens, if the nationality of the parents is unknown and the child is born in Bangladeshi territory, or if their fathers or grandfathers were born in the territories that were previously not part of the country. The government did not register births for nor extend citizenship to Rohingya refugees born in the country, although it permitted UNHCR to register births within the refugee camps. If a person qualifies for citizenship through ancestry, the father or grandfather must have been a permanent resident of these territories in or after 1971. Birth registration is required to obtain a national identity card or passport.

Education: Education is free and compulsory through eighth grade by law, and the government offered subsidies to parents to keep girls in class through 10th grade. Teacher fees, books, and uniforms remained prohibitively costly for many families, despite free classes, and the government distributed hundreds of millions of free textbooks to increase access to education. Enrollments in primary schools showed gender parity, but completion rates fell in secondary school, with more boys than girls completing that level. Early and forced marriage was a factor in girls’ attrition from secondary school. Numerous civil society organizations stated many families of school-aged children struggled to find access to the internet in order to benefit from online schooling during the pandemic.

Child Abuse: Many forms of child abuse, including sexual abuse, physical and humiliating punishment, child abandonment, kidnapping, and trafficking, continued to be serious and widespread. Children were vulnerable to abuse in all settings: home, community, school, residential institutions, and the workplace. The law prohibits child abuse and neglect with the penalty for conviction up to five years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. According to Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF), a network of child rights NGOs, the law was not fully implemented, and juvenile cases – like many other criminal cases – often lagged in the judicial system. The Department of Social Services, under the Ministry of Social Welfare, operated “Child Helpline – 1098,” a free telephone service designed to help children facing violence, abuse, and exploitation. The hotline received approximately 80,000 calls a year on average and was accessible from anywhere in the country. The hotline center provided services such as rescue, referral, and counseling.

ASK reported a total of 453 cases of violence against children were filed in the first half of the year.

Odhikar reported child rape increased alarmingly during the year. According to a survey, 64 percent of rape survivors in Chittagong were children and adolescents. A 2019 BSAF report on child rape stated children as young as two were among the rape survivors and cited a failure of the law-and-order situation in the country as reason for the increase in child rape. In BSAF’s 2020 report, the domestic organization Human Rights Support Society reported 850 children were raped and 136 violent incidents were committed against children.

During the year former students detailed multiple allegations of sex abuse at the hands of teachers and older pupils in Islamic madrassas. In May a former leader of the Chhatra League raped a ninth-grade madrassa student. Family members later rescued the girl, finding her in critical condition. The man beat the girl’s father when he demanded justice. In September a father of a nine-year-old girl in Cox’s Bazar accused his daughter’s teacher of raping her inside a local madrassa. Many smaller schools had few teachers and no oversight from governing bodies.

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

Barbados

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

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

Administration: Two agencies, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Prison Advisory Board, investigated credible allegations of mistreatment. The superintendent of prisons stated no mistreatment reports were submitted during the year.

Independent Monitoring: Human rights organizations may request access to monitor prison conditions; however, the superintendent of prisons reported that no visit requests were received during the year.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: A child born in the country is a citizen by birth. There was universal birth registration, and all children are registered immediately after birth without any discrimination. An NGO reported that some foreign women had difficulty accessing health care and welfare services for their Barbados-born children after the woman’s relationship with her Barbadian partner ended.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse but does not prohibit corporal punishment of children. No law requires a person to report suspected child abuse, but the government encouraged the public to report cases where they believed abuse may have occurred. Child abuse remained a problem. An NGO representative reported that their NGO frequently encountered situations involving molestation and incest.

The Child Care Board had a mandate for the care and protection of children, which involved investigating daycare centers, investigating allegations of child abuse or child labor, and providing counseling services, residential placement, and foster care.

Media reported a 61-year-old man was sentenced to four years in prison for a sexual act on a five-year-old girl. Media also published a report on the abuse of a 14-year-old girl at the government’s reform school. The report included a photograph leaked by a staff member that showed the girl lying naked on a cement floor in a solitary confinement cell at the school. According to an NGO, the girl was charged with wandering (the legal charge applied against underage runaways) and was placed in the school as a runaway. Although the government launched an investigation into the incident, the minister in charge of the school complained about the staff member’s release of the photograph. Civil society activists cited the abuse incident as evidence of the school board’s mismanagement of the facility.

An NGO reported an increase in reports of molestation and incest affecting girls.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. Persons ages 16 and 17 may marry with parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for the protection of children from sexual exploitation and abuse. Child pornography is illegal, and the authorities effectively enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16.

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

Belarus

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

During the year there were reliable reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, and deaths from torture were reported.

In the wake of the August 2020 presidential election, riot police, internal troops, and plainclothes security officers violently suppressed mass protests. As of December at least two individuals in 2021 and four individuals in 2020 died as a result of police violence or abuse, shooting by members of the security forces, or authorities’ failure to provide medical assistance. No criminal cases or charges were brought against security officials in connection with these killings. When investigations were conducted, authorities absolved security officials from blame and alleged the victims were “intoxicated” or were responsible for their own deaths, even when evidence discredited government narratives or allegations. Individuals who released factual information that contradicted the government were arrested and faced fines and jail sentences.

On May 21, political prisoner Vitold Ashurak died in prison under disputed circumstances, but ultimately under authorities’ supervision and care. Authorities initially told Ashurak’s family he had died of a heart attack, but his wife told independent press her husband had no previous heart problems. In a May 25 press release, the Investigative Committee, the law enforcement body charged with investigating violence in the country, claimed Ashurak died from a fall and resultant head injuries. The Investigative Committee also publicly released a heavily edited video purportedly from a closed-circuit camera in Ashurak’s cell, showing him stumbling and then falling twice, then cutting to a clip of him receiving medical attention from a uniformed person. The committee asserted that prison officials properly treated Ashurak for the falls – an assessment challenged by medical experts on social media – and claimed Ashurak had refused further treatment. Ashurak’s family called upon authorities to release unedited video of the events that led to his death and stated they had many unanswered questions.

On May 26, Dzmitry Stakhousky committed suicide following an interrogation by the Investigative Committee on May 25 for his alleged participation in protests in August 2020. The 18-year-old posted a suicide note on his VKontakte account stating, “The Investigative Committee is to blame…if they did not continue to pressure me mentally, I think I would not have dared to commit a terrible act like suicide. But my strength was running out.” On May 26, the committee reported that authorities found Stakhousky’s body with signs he had fallen from a nearby building, alleged he had a high blood alcohol content, and stated he was a suspect in a criminal case in connection with the August 2020 protests.

On February 19, Investigative Committee chairman Ivan Naskevich asserted a nonlethal bullet had killed Alyaksandr Taraykouski, a protester killed in an August 2020 demonstration. Naskevich stated criminal proceedings against the offending officer would not be initiated because Taraykouski had been intoxicated and “provoked law enforcement officers,” protesters present had “explosives and weapons,” and police had fired from a safe distance. The government presented no independently verified evidence to the public that Taraykouski had been intoxicated, and independent observers criticized authorities for a lack of evidence, for suggesting intoxication was a justifiable reason to kill, and for asserting the distance was “safe” when an individual had died. Authorities previously claimed that Taraykouski was killed when an explosive device he was holding detonated. That story was contradicted by eyewitness accounts and video footage of the incident, in which security forces clearly appeared to shoot Taraykouski in the chest as he approached them with his empty hands raised. The Investigative Committee initiated an investigation into the case but suspended it in November 2020. During the year authorities rapidly destroyed memorials in Taraykouski’s memory and detained or fined individuals who laid flowers at the place of his death, including a 78-year-old pensioner, Halina Ivanova, who was fined 4,350 rubles ($1,740) on June 1 for laying a tulip.

On February 25, a Brest judge found protester Henadz Shutau posthumously guilty of disobeying a police order and convicted Alyaksandr Kardziukou for resisting law enforcement officers and attempted murder of plainclothes officers. In August 2020 independent media reported that Shutau and Kardziukou had been on the outskirts of a protest when they were confronted by two plainclothes officers, one of whom pulled out a gun and fatally shot Shutau in the head as he and Kardziukou attempted to depart the area. At trial, Kardziukou asserted that he did not know the individuals were law enforcement officers, since they were not wearing uniforms and did not show identification. The court nonetheless sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

In November 2020 a representative of the Investigative Committee told the UN Human Rights Council that the committee was not investigating any allegations of police abuse and declared “currently there have been no identified cases of unlawful acts by the police.” Authorities did not announce any charges against government officials responsible for human rights abuses during the year or in 2020.

On September 17, authorities announced they had suspended the investigation into the death of Raman Bandarenka without charges because “a suspect had yet to be identified in the case.” In November 2020 Bandarenka died from head injuries and a collapsed lung after being severely beaten and detained by masked plainclothes security officers in Minsk.

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

The law prohibits such practices. Nevertheless, the Committee for State Security (KGB), riot police, and other security forces, without identification and wearing street clothes and masks, regularly used excessive force against detainees and protesters. Security forces also reportedly mistreated individuals during investigations. Police regularly beat and tortured persons during detentions and arrests. According to human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and former prisoners, prison authorities abused prisoners. In a November 19 interview with the BBC, Lukashenka admitted protesters were beaten in the Akrestsina detention center. Human rights groups reported abuses in police custody continued during the year, including severe beatings, psychological humiliation, efforts to exhaust detainees mentally, removal of hearing devices from hard-of-hearing individuals, and forcing detainees to undress to humiliate them.

On February 3, a Minsk district court sentenced five individuals, including Artsiom Anishchuk, to six years in prison on charges of malicious hooliganism for allegedly damaging a car in September 2020 that belonged to the spouse of a Ministry of Internal Affairs officer. Anishchuk was originally detained in September 2020. Human rights groups reported all defendants were beaten, and one of the detainees stated they were shocked with an electric stun gun approximately 40 times at the time of detention. According to independent observers, there was credible evidence that security officers, not the defendants, damaged the car. Anishchuk’s spouse told the press Anishchuk was repeatedly tortured and beaten in jail beginning in April, especially after he filed complaints and reported the abuses. In June Anishchuk’s spouse said Anishchuk had suffered violent treatment in detention and during repeated stays in an isolation cell. In response, authorities further restricted his freedom by reducing access to his lawyer, family members, correspondence, walks and exercise, and parcels. According to Anishchuk’s spouse, Anishchuk’s treatment was retaliatory in nature, as the head of the Mahilyou prison where Anishchuk was serving his sentence was reportedly a friend of the officer and spouse whose car was allegedly damaged in 2020.

On March 18, Ministry of Internal Affairs officers stopped Volha Zalatar as she was driving one of her five children to music school. Officers took her home, conducted a search, and detained her, citing the reason as her “active protest activity.” Authorities claimed she was the administrator of a local opposition chat group and organizer of “unauthorized” mass events. On March 29, Zalatar was charged with “creating an extremist formation or leading such a formation.” According to human rights observers, Zalatar was reportedly tortured in detention and forced to provide evidence against herself. She claimed police physically and verbally pressured her into revealing passwords for her cell phone and encrypted Telegram messaging application. Zalatar claimed police beat her on the head, strangled her, laid her on the ground, and pressed her to the floor. Zalatar reported the beatings at the first interrogation, but the investigator ignored the report, and she was not examined by a forensic examiner to record the injuries. Zalatar’s trial began on November 15.

As of year’s end, there was no indication that authorities had investigated or taken action against officers involved in abuses following the August 2020 election. According to documented witness reports, in August 2020 security officers physically abused the majority of the approximately 6,700 persons detained during postelection civil unrest inside detention vehicles, police stations, and detention facilities across the country. The human rights NGO Vyasna documented more than 500 cases of torture and other severe abuse committed in police custody against postelection protest participants and independent election observers, opposition leaders, civil society activists, and average citizens. Among the unpunished abuses by authorities documented after the August 2020 election were severe beatings; psychological humiliation; the use of stress positions; at least one reported case of rape and sexual abuse; use of electric shock devices and tear gas; and up to three days intentional deprivation of food, drinking water, hygiene products, the use of toilets, sleep, and medical assistance.

Impunity was a serious problem in the security forces. For example, as of year’s end, there was no indication that authorities had investigated or taken action against any officer involved in the alleged abuse or torture of persons detained during the popular unrest that followed the August 2020 election.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions remained poor and in many cases posed threats to life and health.

Physical Conditions: According to former prison inmates and human rights lawyers, there continued to be shortages of food, medicine, warm clothing, personal hygiene products, and bedding as well as inadequate access to basic or emergency medical care and clean drinking water. Inmates reported that prison officials deliberately denied access to food, water, hygiene products, and necessary medical care, sometimes for several days, as a form of retribution. Overall sanitation was poor. Authorities made little effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in prisons, but at the same time they used COVID-19 as a pretext to restrict access to visitors and distribution of food, hygiene, and clothing parcels.

Although there were isolated allegations that police placed underage suspects in pretrial detention facility cells with adult suspects and convicts, authorities generally held juvenile prisoners separately from adults at juvenile penal colonies, arrest houses, and pretrial holding facilities. Conditions for female and juvenile prisoners were generally better than for adult male prisoners.

Observers believed tuberculosis, pneumonia, HIV, AIDS, COVID-19, and other communicable diseases were widespread in prisons because of generally poor medical care. Former detainees reported that individuals with COVID-19 symptoms were rarely isolated and did not receive proper medical assistance. In September a political detainee serving a 15-day sentence contracted COVID-19 but was not given appropriate treatment. After her condition deteriorated severely, she was moved to a hospital but died, reportedly from a lack of immediate care.

Corruption in prisons was a serious problem, and observers noted that parole often depended on bribes to prison personnel. Parole could also depend on a prisoner’s political views.

Individuals detained for political reasons prior to the August 2020 election or during the subsequent protests and during the year appeared to face worse prison conditions than those of the general prison population, including more reports of torture and severe abuses.

In Minsk individuals who received up to 30-day jail sentences in July and August on charges widely viewed by observers as politically motivated reported that prison conditions were designed to punish those who had sought to express their political views freely. This included routinely forcing 30 individuals into cells designed for five individuals, although nearby cells were empty. Former detainees told independent media that while nonpolitical inmates were allowed short walks and showers, political inmates were intentionally deprived of mattresses, food parcels from families, drinking water, ventilation, or sanitation, and rats and other vermin were common. One male inmate told independent press that he and a number of his cellmates were kept in an outside area designated for short walks all night long in the mud and rain.

In mid-November authorities converted a state-run logistics warehouse in Bruzgi (near the Polish border) into a shelter for migrants and asylum seekers. At its maximum, 1,833 migrants were held there. Authorities allowed humanitarian organizations, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration, and media to visit the center on a limited basis. International humanitarian organizations stated the shelter was overcrowded, cold, and lacked adequate health and sanitation facilities for the number of persons held there, noting a lack of adequate hygienic measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The shelter had only eight biotoilets, not separated by gender, and no shower facilities. Migrants slept on wood pallets on a cement floor. Authorities established a medical clinic at the shelter on November 29.

Administration: Former prisoners and their defense lawyers reported that prison officials often censored or did not forward their complaints to higher authorities and that prison administrators either ignored or selectively considered requests for investigation of alleged abuses. Prisoners also reported that prison administrators frequently refused to provide them with copies of responses to their complaints, which further complicated their defense. Complaints could result in retaliation against prisoners, including humiliation, death threats, or other forms of punishment and harassment. Former prisoners claimed some prison administrators’ repeated harassment resulted in suicides, which authorities neither investigated nor made public.

Prisoners and detainees had limited access to visitors, and meetings with families were denied for political detainees or as a common punishment for alleged disciplinary violations. In 2020 authorities restricted visits to all detainees in a reported attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 in facilities but removed the general restriction on visits on June 30.

Authorities generally prevented prisoners from holding religious services and performing ceremonies that did not comply with prison regulations, despite legal provisions for such practice. Belarusian Orthodox churches were located at a number of prison facilities, and Orthodox clergy were generally allowed access to conduct services.

Independent Monitoring: Despite numerous requests to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, government officials refused to approve requests from NGOs to visit detention and prison facilities and speak with the inmates. The government did not cooperate with international monitoring bodies. Authorities worked to minimize observation of detention conditions by independent observers, hindering the verification of conditions which former political prisoners reported as purposefully decrepit and designed to punish individuals for their political dissent.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived either by birth within the country or from one’s parents. A child of a citizen is a citizen regardless of place of birth, even if one parent is not a citizen. Births were generally registered immediately.

Child Abuse: The law stipulates minors’ rights to education, health care, personal integrity, and protection from exploitation and violence, among others. The law provides for the inviolability of the child’s person and protects the child from all types of exploitation, including sexual, physical, and psychological abuse; cruel or abusive treatment, humiliation, and sexual harassment (including by parents, guardians, caregivers, and relatives); involvement in criminal activities; use of alcoholic beverages; use of drugs, toxic or other intoxicating substances, and tobacco products; and coercion into prostitution, begging, vagrancy, participation in gambling, actions related to child pornography, and work that may harm physical, mental, or moral development.

Conviction of rape or sexual assault of a person known to be a minor is punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment. Conviction of a person older than 18 for engaging in sexual acts with a person known to be younger than 16 is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

According to local human rights groups, domestic violence and abuse against children were common, and anecdotal evidence suggested that many parents admitted beating their children. Authorities identified families in vulnerable conditions and generally intervened to prevent child abuse linked to domestic violence, providing foster care to children who could not remain with their immediate families while preventive work was underway. Although the government continued to prosecute child abusers, its efforts to address the causes of child abuse were inadequate, and it lacked effective capabilities to detect violence and refer victims for proper assistance in a timely manner.

The government instituted a comprehensive national plan for 2017-21 to improve child care and the protection of children’s rights, including for victims of child abuse, domestic violence, and commercial sexual exploitation, but it acknowledged its inefficiency in executing certain protective measures absent assistance from international organizations and NGOs. For example, in one case authorities in the Hrodna region charged both foster parents with beating, abusing, torturing, and depriving their foster children of freedoms from 2016 through 2021. Authorities recognized eight children as victims in the case, including a minor who was 10 months old at the time and was physically abused. Local prosecutors claimed that authorities took disciplinary action against seven local officials in charge of monitoring foster families and living conditions.

With assistance from NGOs that promote children’s rights, authorities employed procedures for on-the-record, one-time interviewing of child-abuse victims in the framework of investigations or criminal cases at specialized facilities under the direct supervision of psychologists. Courts often used recorded testimony to avoid repeatedly summoning child-abuse victims for hearings, but experts continued to raise concerns that in some cases, judges summoned victims to testify at hearings. More-experienced judges with expertise in developmental psychology, psychiatry, and education generally heard cases that affected the rights and interests of minors.

As of January 2020 the Ministry of Education ran 138 social-educational centers nationwide for minor victims of any type of violence or minors in vulnerable and dangerous conditions, but independent observers questioned the quality of services. General health-care institutions provided a wide range of medical aid to child abuse victims free of charge.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage for both boys and girls is 18, although girls as young as 14 may marry with parental consent. There were reports of early marriages in which girls as young as 14 and boys as young as 16 married with parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. Sex trafficking of children was a problem, and authorities took some steps to address it. From January through September, authorities identified 540 minors as victims of child sexual abuse, up from 354 in the same period in 2020. The law provides penalties of up to 13 years in prison for producing or distributing pornographic materials depicting a minor. Authorities generally enforced the law. Authorities claimed the law does not require a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex-trafficking offense and claimed to have identified 91 minors who were trafficking or trafficking-related victims used for commercial sexual exploitation. Authorities considered child pornography and cyber-related methods such as sexting, grooming, and sextortion to be serious problems and in January 2020 adopted a separate 2020-22 plan of action to protect minors from sexual abuse and exploitation. There were no reports on the implementation of the plan as of December 2020.

In April the Internal Affairs Ministry reported that on February 16, it identified and arrested a 37-year-old foreigner who had legally resided in the country since 2017 and had engaged girls between ages five and 13 in producing pornographic materials. Four mothers of the children were arrested for providing their children for filming and commercial sexual exploitation. Police also stated one of the victims was removed from the family and taken into the government custody, while the others remained in the custody of their fathers.

Institutionalized Children: There was no system for monitoring child abuse in orphanages or other specialized institutions. Authorities did not report any child-abuse incidents in institutions. There were allegations of abuse in foster families; the government opened or continued investigations into some of these cases.

According to a 2018 UNICEF study, more than two in five children at residential care institutions were exposed to either physical or psychological violence. Approximately one in four children participating in the survey reported exposure to physical violence at institutions. The children living in institutions appeared significantly more vulnerable compared with children living in families, and they had two to three times more exposure to violence than children from secondary schools. Children from special closed-type educational institutions and penitentiary institutions reported greater exposure to violence both at home and in the institutions.

As of January 1, there were nine institutions for children with disabilities that held at least 1,300 minors. Institutions provided basic medical and social care to their clients. Although experts assessed the services as being of better quality than at adult institutions, these institutions had problems with proper diagnostics, education, and social reintegration as well as public accountability and transparency.

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

Belgium

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

In August 2020 a video came to light of a two-year-old incident at the Charleroi airport showing a group of police officers subduing an apparently unstable Slovak citizen by putting a blanket over his head and sitting on him, while at one point an officer made a Hitler salute. The man died shortly following the encounter. Following the leak of the video, Director General of the Federal Police Andre Desenfants stepped down from his duties for three months while investigations took place. After the investigations, Desenfants received a 10 percent pay cut for two months for failing to respond properly to the man’s death, costing him 1,500 euros ($1,770). A final reenactment of the events was scheduled for September 27-28 as part of the investigation. On August 23, media outlets reported that according to the autopsy, the man’s death was caused by a tranquilizer injection administered to him at the time of his detention.

In August the UN Committee against Torture issued a report condemning excessive use of force by police in the deaths of several persons in custody since 2014.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. There were some reports, however, that prison staff physically mistreated prisoners.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) alleged excessive use of force by police, noting that it had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April Amnesty International delivered a report to parliament denouncing “violations of the human rights of detainees” in connection with the problem. In August the UN Committee against Torture issued a report condemning widespread mistreatment and excessive use of force by police. The report also expressed concern regarding the excessive use of weapons, such as tear gas, batons, and water cannons, to disperse crowds protesting COVID-19 restrictions in April and May.

Impunity in the security forces was not a significant problem.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions did not always meet international standards. Prison conditions, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, presented health risks due to overcrowding, hygiene problems, inadequate physical activity, and lack of access to materials and medical care.

Physical Conditions: Prison overcrowding remained a problem. As of June 2020, there were 10,363 inmates in prisons that had a maximum capacity of 9,600.

In an April report on the human rights situation in 149 countries, Amnesty International criticized the COVID-19 situation in Belgian prisons.

On April 6, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) held that the country had violated the European Convention on Human Rights for holding mentally ill persons in prison rather than in psychiatric institutions. The ECHR issued the ruling following a complaint filed by five inmates who were found to lack criminal responsibility for their actions due to mental illness but were held in the psychiatric wings of prisons without access to appropriate therapy. The ECHR previously ruled against the country for the same abuse in 2012, 2016, and 2019. As of 2019 there were 537 mentally ill inmates in prison.

In August the UN Committee against Torture issued a report reiterating concerns about prison conditions, including overcrowding and the dilapidated state of prison facilities.

Administration: Authorities conducted investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment. The federal mediator acts as an ombudsman, allowing any citizen to address problems with prison administration. The federal mediator is an independent entity appointed by the Chamber of Representatives to investigate and resolve problems between citizens and public institutions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers, among them several domestic committees.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: The government registered all live births immediately. Citizenship is conferred on a child through a parent’s (or the parents’) citizenship, but, except for a few circumstances, not through birth on the country’s territory.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, and the government continued to prosecute cases of child abuse and punish those convicted.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law provides that both (consenting) partners must be at least 18 years of age to marry. Federal police statistics for 2019 recorded 20 cases of forced marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual exploitation, abduction, and trafficking of children and includes severe penalties for child pornography and possession of pedophilic materials. Authorities enforced the law. The penalties for producing and disseminating child pornography range up to 15 years’ imprisonment and up to one year in prison for possessing such material. Local girls and foreign children were subjected to sex trafficking within the country.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. Statutory rape carries penalties of imprisonment for up 30 years.

In August the media reported that police had recorded a rise in sexual exploitation of minors online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Police continued to track the problem.

In May the children’s rights NGO Child Focus released its 2020 annual report, which noted the group had received 2,205 reports of sexual exploitation in 2020, compared with 1,501 reports in 2019. The organization also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had vastly increased children’s internet screen time, putting them at greater risk of sexual exploitation. Child Focus reported that it had received 2,056 reports of child pornography, a 45 percent increase from 2019, through its stopchildporno.be website.

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

Belize

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

On September 5, off-duty Belize Defence Force (BDF) soldier Jessie Escobar was shot by a soldier in a joint police-BDF patrol that stopped a group of men outside a store. The shooter, BDF Private Raheem Valencio, was arrested and charged with murder. Police officer Juan Carlos Morales and another BDF soldier in the patrol, Ramon Alberto Alcoser, were both charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice by providing inaccurate statements to the investigators. Morales was also charged with aggravated assault on one of the men at the store. The commissioner of police noted Morales would face Belize Police Department (BPD) disciplinary charges for an “act of prejudice to good order and discipline” and “breach of department policy” for using force during the incident.

On the night of July 14, police corporal Kareem Martinez shot and killed 14-year-old Laddie Gillett while Gillet and a friend were fleeing from police officers. According to Gillett’s friend Thomas Palacio, he and Gillett ran because they believed the two men in dark clothing confronting them with guns intended to rob them. Palacio said the men had not identified themselves as police officers. Palacio claimed the officers beat him, and he feared he would be killed. Two days after the incident, Martinez was charged with manslaughter by negligence and granted bail while awaiting trial. A police investigation led to Martinez’s dismissal from the police force. Following the incident, Commissioner of Police Chester Williams said the shooting was not a justifiable use of force. The Belize Progressive Party condemned the “recurrent issues of brutality” by the police and “diminished charges assigned to officers involved … the scandalously low rate of successful prosecution of said officers, and the light sentences accorded to the few that would be found guilty.” The Human Rights Commission of Belize (HRCB), an independent, volunteer-based, nongovernmental organization (NGO), denounced the killing and stressed that “this kind of systematic abuse of authority by some police officers and their disregard of the humanity and dignity of Belizean citizens can no longer be countenanced.”

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

The constitution prohibits torture or other inhuman punishment, but there were reports of abuse and use of excessive force by law enforcement agents. During the first half of the year, 25 percent of the complaints received by the Office of the Ombudsman were filed against police for abuse of power, harassment, and brutality. The ombudsman also received complaints against the central prison for allegations of inhuman treatment.

In January police constable Edgar Teul was charged for sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman who went to the Succotz police station to sign bail documents for the release of her common-law husband. The woman reported that while she waited to sign the bail documents, Teul sexually assaulted her three times. Teul was criminally charged and subsequently dismissed from the BPD following an internal investigation.

Through the end of August, the BPD Professional Standards Branch, the internal investigative unit of the police department, registered 105 complaints against members of the BPD and concluded 60 investigations with recommendations. Through June the BPD dismissed 14 officers after internal tribunals found them guilty of offenses which ranged from excessive absence to drug trafficking and abuse.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were reports of harsh conditions in the central prison and police detention center due to inadequate sanitation.

Physical Conditions: The Kolbe Foundation, a local Christian nonprofit organization, administered the country’s only prison, which held men, women, and juveniles. The government retained oversight and monitoring responsibility and provided funding.

In February amateur video showed inhuman treatment of prisoners by guards at the central prison. The video showed guards spraying pepper spray directly in the faces of handcuffed prisoners, guards forcing an inmate to ingest large quantities of water until the inmate vomited, and a paralyzed inmate suffering from bedsores. An anonymous letter directed to the HRCB listed other human rights violations at the prison, including inmates being fed stale or spoiled food. The chief executive officer of the prison, Virgillo Murrillo, told the press that the mistreatment featured in the video did not occur at the prison, and that the inmate with bedsores received treatment and assistance from an NGO. The HRCB categorized the incidents as “atrocious inhumane acts” and called on the minister of home affairs to appoint visiting justices to the central prison as mandated by law.

Prisoners in pretrial detention and held for immigration offenses continued to be held with convicted prisoners. Officials used isolation in a small, poorly ventilated punishment cell to discipline inmates.

Administration: Authorities investigated credible allegations of mistreatment. Relatives of inmates claimed that prison authorities were occasionally reluctant to provide information about family members in prison and did not allow direct communication with the imprisoned relative.

Independent Monitoring: The prison administrator generally permitted visits from independent human rights observers. Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the HRCB was unable to carry out inspections of police detention cells and the central prison. The HRCB, however, met with inmates who requested assistance and guidance with the legal process.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory, regardless of the parents’ nationalities. Citizenship may be acquired by descent if at least one parent is a citizen. The standard requirement is for births to be registered no later than one week after birth; registration after one month is considered late and includes a minimal fine. Failure to register does not result in denial of public service, but it slows the process for receiving a social security card to access services such as health care. Children without birth certificates had trouble registering for school and often had to move from school to school. Government experts from the Ministry of Human Development indicated that 4 percent of children up to age five were not registered, making them legally stateless. The government’s Vital Statistics Unit, with support from the embassy of Mexico, UNHCR, and UNICEF, continued its mobile registration program that provided services across the country.

In September a 20-year-old woman in Ladyville sought the public’s assistance after she discovered her parents, now deceased, had not registered her at birth. As a result, the woman could not access basic documents such as a birth certificate and social security registration in order to be legally employed.

Child Abuse: The law allows authorities to remove a child from an abusive home environment and requires parents to maintain and support children until age 18. Abuse of children occurred. There were publicized cases of underage girls being victims of sexual abuse and mistreatment, in most cases in their own or a relative’s home.

The Family Services Division in the Ministry of Human Development was the government office with the lead responsibility for children’s matters. The division coordinated programs for children who were victims of domestic violence, advocated remedies in specific cases before the Family Court, conducted public education campaigns, investigated cases of trafficking in children, and worked with local and international NGOs and UNICEF to promote children’s welfare.

The ministry reported that by midyear it had registered 220 cases of sexual abuse and assaults on minors; in 2020 there were 366 reported cases for the entire year. Following several crimes against minors, the government, with the Office of the Special Envoy for the Development of Families and Children and the National Committee for Families and Children, affirmed their “commitment to protect girls and boys from predators” by working with partner agents and NGOs to ensure that laws, policies, and services were responsive to the needs of families and children.

In June police arrested and charged a man for raping a 14-year-old girl while she slept. In August another girl reported a man, who was later criminally charged with rape of a child, sexually abused her.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age to marry is 18, but persons ages 16-17 may marry with the consent of parents, legal guardians, or judicial authorities. According to UNICEF, 29 percent of women ages 20 to 49 were married or cohabitating before reaching age 18. Early marriage was more prevalent in certain areas – Toledo, Corozal, and Orange Walk – and among the Maya and Mestizo ethnic groups.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law establishes penalties for child trafficking, child pornography, child sexual exploitation, and indecent exhibition of a child. It defines a “child” as anyone younger than 18. The law allows 16- and 17-year-old children to engage in sexual activity. NGOs and experts noted that this provision makes children vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation.

The legal age for consensual sex is 16 but prostitution is not legal under age 18. Sexual intercourse with a minor younger than age 14 is punishable with 12 years to life imprisonment. Sexual intercourse with a minor age 14-15 is punishable with five to 10 years’ imprisonment.

There were anecdotal reports that boys and girls were exploited through child trafficking, including through “sugar daddy” arrangements whereby older men provided money to minors, the families of minors, or both for sexual relations. Similarly, there were reports of increased child trafficking, often to meet the demand of foreign sex tourists in tourist areas or where there were transient and seasonal workers. The law criminalizes the procurement or attempted procurement of “a person” younger than 18 to engage in prostitution; an offender can receive eight years’ imprisonment. The government did not effectively enforce laws prohibiting child sex trafficking.

The law establishes a penalty of two years’ imprisonment for persons convicted of publishing or offering for sale any obscene book, writing, or representation.

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

Benin

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

There were several credible reports from civil society groups that police and military members used disproportionate and lethal force against citizens.

For example, in early April, while attempting to disperse protesters ahead of the presidential election, security force members reportedly shot and killed at least two individuals in Save and three individuals in Bante, in the center of the country. On April 14, the government released a statement acknowledging the reports, but said that no bodies had been found and no deaths had been registered. On April 19, the government independent Beninese Human Rights Commission stated that it would investigate the accusations and issue a report. As of October 4, no report had been issued.

On August 21, police shot and killed two occupants of a car and seriously wounded a third in the commune of Ouake in the western part of the country. The driver reportedly ignored an order to stop. On August 22, the director general of the Republican Police ordered the arrest of the two police officers involved in the shootings and an investigation of the incident. As of November 2, there were no reports the police officers and military members involved were arrested or an investigation initiated.

Authorities have not investigated the killings of civilians in connection with the 2019 legislative elections during which civil society groups stated police and military members used disproportionate and lethal force against protesters. Although the government stated at the time it would launch investigations of the police and military personnel involved, there was no indication during the year that it had done so.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but such incidents continued to occur.

The penal code prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. There were numerous reported abuses similar to the following example. On April 1, the Constitutional Court ruled that a plainclothes police officer violated the constitution in October 2020 by arbitrarily arresting, brutally beating, and confining two individuals; they were handcuffed, forced to stand, and deprived of food and water for 28 hours. The ruling stated the arrest was arbitrary and that treatment of the detainees was humiliating and degrading.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions web platform, there was one allegation submitted during the year of sexual exploitation and abuse by Beninese peacekeepers deployed to the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There were also four open allegations from prior years of sexual exploitation and abuse by Beninese peacekeepers deployed to UN peacekeeping missions, including one each from 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2016. As of September 10, the government had yet to report on any accountability measures taken in the four cases. All four cases involved accusations of exploitative relationships with adults.

Authorities sometimes held police accountable for misconduct for corruption-related crimes, but impunity remained a problem. The Inspectorate General of the Republican Police Investigation Division is responsible for investigating serious cases involving police personnel. The government provided some human rights training to security forces, often with foreign or international donor funding and assistance.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and inadequate medical care and food. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Social Change Benin stated prisoners suffered poor treatment and confinement to overcrowded cells.

Physical Conditions: According to the Benin Bar Association, conditions in the country’s three prisons and eight jails were inhuman due to overcrowding, malnutrition, and poor sanitation. The 11 facilities held approximately 9,000 inmates, significantly exceeding a capacity of 5,620 inmates. Convicted criminals, pretrial detainees, and juveniles were often held together. There were deaths due to lack of medical care, neglect, and poor ventilation in cramped and overcrowded cells. Prisoners with mental disabilities lacked access to appropriate disability-related support.

On March 17 and June 22 respectively, the defense attorneys of opposition politicians and presidential aspirants Reckya Madougou and Joel Aivo, detained in March and April and charged with financing terrorism (Madougou) and money laundering (Aivo), accused Cotonou and Akpro-Misserete prison officials of subjecting the opposition leaders to harsh conditions. Media reported Aivo contracted COVID-19 while in prison due to being confined in a cell with 38 other inmates. Madougou’s attorneys claimed that she experienced weight loss, psychological distress, and respiratory problems due to filthy prison conditions.

Authorities reported two deaths in Akpro-Misserete prison due to COVID-19; a human rights group stated that prison conditions contributed to contraction of COVID-19 and their deaths. On August 3, the president pardoned 203 prisoners charged with minor criminal offenses or misdemeanors to reduce overcrowding.

Administration: Authorities conducted investigations of alleged mistreatment upon instruction by the Beninese Human Rights Commission. Prison authorities reduced visitor access due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the year. According to NGO reports, prison officials sometimes charged visitors a fee that was substantial for the average person.

Independent Monitoring: Beginning in July the government resumed permitting prison visits by human rights monitors suspended as a COVID-19 pandemic precautionary measure. Representatives of Amnesty International, Social Change Benin, and the Beninese Human Rights Commission (an independent government entity) visited prisons. Nonetheless, some NGOs complained that unannounced prison visits were not permitted due to COVID-19 pandemic mitigation measures.

Improvements: During the year the Beninese Prison Agency improved prisoner access to government health-care services by covering expenses related to the admission of prisoners in government hospitals.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country to a citizen father. By law the child of a Beninese father is automatically considered a citizen, but the child of a Beninese woman is considered Beninese only if the child’s father is unknown, has no known nationality, or is also Beninese. Particularly in rural areas, parents often did not declare the birth of their children, either from lack of understanding of the procedures involved or because they could not afford the fees for birth certificates. This could result in denial of public services such as education and health care.

Education: Primary education is compulsory for all children between ages six and 11. Public school education is tuition free for all primary school students and for female students through grade nine in secondary schools. Girls did not have the same educational opportunities as boys and the literacy rate for women was 18 percent, compared with 50 percent for men. In some parts of the country, girls received no formal education.

Child Abuse: Violence against children was common. The law bans a wide range of harmful practices and provides for substantial fines and up to life imprisonment for persons convicted of child abuse. Police of the Central Office for the Protection of Minors arrested suspects, referred them to judicial authorities, and provided temporary shelter to victims of abuse. Courts meted out stiff sentences to persons convicted of crimes against children, but many such cases never reached the courts due to lack of awareness of the law and children’s rights, lack of access to courts, fear of police involvement, or a combination of the three.

On September 2, the government reported an increase in child rape cases in the commune of Abomey Calavi in the south of the country. Authorities recorded 26 cases of rape involving children ages 4 to 15 from January 1 to September in the commune.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law prohibits marriage at younger than age 18 but grants exemptions for children ages 14 to 17 with parental consent and authorization of a judge. According to the Benin 2017-2018 Demographic Health Survey, 9 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before age 15. Child, early, and forced marriage included barter marriage and marriage by abduction, in which the bridegroom traditionally abducts and rapes his prospective child bride. The practice was widespread in rural areas, despite government and NGO efforts to end it through information sessions on the rights of women and children. Local NGOs reported some communities concealed the practice. The joint government and UNICEF Zero Tolerance for Child Marriage campaign to change social norms and create a protective environment for children in their communities continued.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penal code provides penalties for conviction of rape, sexual exploitation, and corruption of minors, including procuring children for commercial sexual exploitation; it increases penalties for cases involving children younger than age 15. The child trafficking law provides penalties for conviction of all forms of child trafficking, including child commercial sexual exploitation, prescribing penalties if convicted of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment. Individuals convicted of involvement in child commercial sexual exploitation, including those who facilitate and solicit it, face imprisonment of two to five years and substantial monetary fines. The child code prohibits child pornography. Persons convicted of child pornography face sentences of two to five years’ imprisonment and substantial monetary fines.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Although concealed from authorities, traditional practices of killing breech babies, babies whose mothers died in childbirth, babies considered deformed, and one newborn from each set of twins (because they were considered sorcerers) occurred. The NGO Franciscan-Benin reported that communities in the four northern communes of Djougou, Gogounou, Kouande and Kandi continued to practice ritual infanticide. Authorities enforced prohibitions and discouraged the practice through door-to-door counseling and awareness raising.

Institutionalized Children: The government and human rights organizations reported poorly managed orphanages were not compliant with the law governing child protection centers. During the year the government inspected and closed several orphanages following reports of child abuse and neglect. In August the government closed one unregistered orphanage in Allada in southern Benin after inspections revealed poor living conditions and insufficient staffing. Authorities sanctioned an orphanage run by Roman Catholic nuns for using children as beggars to encourage charitable donations.

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

Bhutan

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

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

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

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

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

Administration: Police administer the prison system. Authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no monitoring visits during the year.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Under the constitution, a person born to parents who are citizens by birth or by naturalization acquires citizenship.

Education: The government provides 11 years of universal free education to children, although education is not compulsory.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse and provides for a range of penalties for conviction depending on the type of abuse. According to the OAG 2020 Annual Report, 67 sexual offenses committed against children were recorded in 2020, including 42 cases of rape and 14 cases of child molestation. In June the High Court convicted a schoolteacher for child molestation and official misconduct and ordered prison sentences of three years and one year, respectively for each offense.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The statutory minimum age of marriage is 18 for men and women.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography, child sex trafficking, and the sale of children. Authorities generally enforced the law. The legal age of consent is 16 for both boys and girls.

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

Bolivia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

On August 17, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), created under an agreement between the government and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), released its report on the postelection violence that left 37 persons dead between September 1 and December 31, 2019. The report blamed the then government for failing to prevent acts of violence and committing acts of violence itself. The GIEI report was generally well received by the government, the opposition, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and independent experts, who stated the report did a credible, independent analysis.

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

The constitution prohibits all forms of torture, coercion, and physical and emotional violence, but there were reports that government officials employed them. The penal code carries only minimum penalties for persons convicted of torture, but no public official had ever been found guilty of the crime.

NGOs charged that the Ministry of Justice failed to denounce torture by police and military personnel, who employed it frequently, according to Ombudswoman Nadia Cruz. NGOs reported that police investigations relied heavily on torture to procure information and extract confessions. Most abuses reportedly occurred while officials were transferring detainees to police facilities or holding persons in detention. According to reports from NGOs engaged with prison populations, the most common forms of torture for detainees included rape, gang rape by guards, sensory deprivation, use of improvised tear gas chambers, tasers, asphyxiation, verbal abuse, and threats of violence.

On July 21, authorities arrested Mario Bascope, a member of the Cochala Youth Resistance group, on charges of criminal association, destruction of state property, and illegal possession of weapons related to protests held in October 2020 outside Attorney General Lanchipa’s office in Sucre. Bascope claimed police badly beat him when he was arrested. A medical board reported that Bascope’s injuries required hospitalization and that he was unfit to attend trial. Nonetheless, he was taken to court. At his arraignment Bascope testified, “I have had blows to the head, I have not eaten for seven days, I have not had any water. What is happening to me is inhuman.” Ombudswoman Nadia Cruz demanded that due process be respected in Bascope’s case, and she called for a full investigation into “the allegations of mistreatment and possible torture.” The Justice Ministry denied any wrongdoing. Ministry of Justice vice minister Nelson Cox declared Bascope’s guilt was “proven” prior to a judge sentencing Bascope on October 27 to 10 years in prison for trafficking in controlled substances in a separate case.

Within the military, torture and mistreatment occurred both to punish and to intimidate trainees into submission. Military officials regularly verbally abused soldiers for minor infractions and perceived disobedience. The Ombudsman’s Office reported 45 cases of human rights abuses in the military between January 2020 and June 2021, most of them against trainees. The cases entailed complaints of torture and cruel and degrading treatment and led to the deaths of at least two soldiers. There were no convictions in any of these cases.

In one example, on June 30, navy conscript Mauricio Apaza died after being subjected to a series of physical exercises and mistreatment as punishment for escaping from his garrison in Pando. Prosecutors pledged they would seek homicide charges against the alleged perpetrators. On July 7, Ensign Pedro (last name withheld) was arrested and charged with homicide in Apaza’s case. A judge ordered Pedro held in prison while the homicide investigation continued.

Police impunity remained a significant problem due to corruption and politicization of the judicial system. Mechanisms to investigate abuse were rarely utilized or enforced. Complex legal procedures, large numbers of detainees, judicial inefficiency, executive interference, corruption, and inadequate case-tracking mechanisms contributed to police impunity. Investigations frequently were not completed due to payoffs to investigators from the parties being investigated.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prisons were overcrowded, underfunded, and in poor condition, resulting in harsh and life-threatening conditions. Violence was pervasive due to inadequate internal security.

Physical Conditions: According to the government’s penitentiary agency, prison facilities had a combined capacity for 6,765 persons, but in September the prison population was 17,833 inmates, more than two and one-half times capacity. The problem was most acute in the 20 urban prisons, which in 2020 had a combined design capacity of 5,436 persons but held 15,581 inmates.

Women’s prisons operated in Cochabamba, two in La Paz, and one each in Reyes, Rurrenabaque, Santa Rosa, and Trinidad. Men and women shared sleeping facilities in Morros Blancos Prison in Tarija, Montero Prison in Santa Cruz, Riberalta Prison in Beni, and Oruro Prison in Oruro. In other facilities men and women had separate sleeping quarters but commingled daily. Female inmates experienced sexual harassment and assault on a regular basis, and some were forced to pay extortion fees to avoid being raped. Observers noted rampant rape and other forms of gender-based violence and a culture of silence that suppressed reporting gender-based violence due to fear of retaliation.

The law permits children younger than age six to live with an incarcerated mother (but not an incarcerated father) under “safe and regulated conditions.” Older children sometimes resided in detention centers with incarcerated mothers, despite unsafe conditions, often because the parents lacked viable alternative living arrangements due to poverty or family constraints.

The law sets juvenile detention ages from 14 to 16 and requires that juvenile offenders be held in facilities separate from the general prison population to facilitate rehabilitation; however, many prisoners remained in juvenile facilities long after they reached adulthood. Childrenyounger than age 14 are exempt from criminal liability but may be subject to civil liability. Children who are 17 may be tried as adults. Adult inmates and police reportedly abused juvenile prisoners. Rehabilitation programs for juveniles or other prisoners were scarce.

Violence in prisons and detention centers was ubiquitous due to inadequate internal security. Abuses perpetrated by penitentiary officials included systematic intimidation, rape, psychological mistreatment, extortion, torture, and threats of death. There were reports of rape and sexual assault committed by authorities and by other inmates.

One medical doctor attended to prisoners in each prison twice a month. Although medical services were free, prisons rarely had medications on hand. Skin diseases and tuberculosis were widespread due to the cramped sleeping quarters and lack of medicine. Incarcerated pregnant women lacked access to obstetric services.

Corruption was pervasive. Prisoners could purchase a transfer to the rehabilitation center, a newly built detention facility with better living conditions. A prisoner’s ability to pay bribes often determined physical security, cell size, visiting privileges, ability to attend court hearings, day-pass eligibility, and place and length of confinement. Inmates and NGOs both alleged there was an insufficient number of police to escort inmates to their hearings. Prison directors often did not take action to ensure that inmates attended their hearings, exacerbating delays. Police sometimes demanded bribes in exchange for granting inmates the right to attend their own hearings. Independent media reported corruption complaints against police were common. Prison inmates stated guards extorted money in order to let inmates receive goods.

(For information on former president Jeanine Anez, see section 1.d., Arbitrary Arrest.)

Administration: Authorities generally did not investigate credible allegations of mistreatment. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, prisoners could submit complaints to a commission of district judges for investigation, but due to fear of retaliation by prison authorities, inmates frequently did not do so.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted monitoring by independent observers such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, local NGOs, judges, religious organizations, legislators, and media. The COVID-19 pandemic greatly restricted independent monitoring of prison conditions. Observers reported a nearly complete ban on outside monitors visiting prisons from March 2020 to March 2021. The lawyers of incarcerated defendants were often unable to visit in person. Criminal justice activists also pointed to the lack of any law related to public access to information regarding the prison system and stated the lack of transparency and opacity in the judicial branch increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived both through birth within the country’s territory (unless the parents have diplomatic status) and from parents. The 2018 civil registry indicated 78 percent of citizens were registered within one year of their birth and 96 percent by age 12.

Child Abuse: The penal code defines infanticide as the killing of a child younger than 13. Conviction for rape of a child younger than 14 carries a penalty of 20 to 25 years’ imprisonment. The Justice Ministry reported 1,308 cases of child abuse in 2020, compared with 923 cases in 2019 and 850 cases in 2018. There were 800 cases of child abuse reported from January to April, including five cases of infanticide. Nonprofit organizations assessed the actual number of abused children as probably much higher. In April Minister of Justice Lima publicly called on authorities at all levels to do more to combat child abuse. On August 19, several municipal and regional governments agreed to increase their budget allocations to combat child abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 14 for girls and 16 for boys. Minors’ parents or guardians must approve marriages between adolescents younger than 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Conviction for commercial sexual exploitation of children is punishable with 15- to 20-year prison sentences but remained a serious problem. The law also prohibits child pornography, punishable with sentences of 10- to 15-years’ imprisonment.

The penalty for statutory rape of an adolescent age 14 to 17 is three to six years’ imprisonment. The penalty for having sex with a child younger than age 14 is 20 to 25 years’ imprisonment, “even if there is no use of force or intimidation and consent is alleged.”

Institutionalized Children: UNICEF reported in 2015 (the most recent information available) that 20,000 to 32,000 minors lived in shelters after their parents abandoned them. Child advocacy organizations reported abuse and negligence in some government-run shelters. The La Paz Department Social Work Service confirmed that of the country’s 380 shelters, including centers for abuse survivors, orphans, and students, only 30 had government accreditation for meeting minimal standards.

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

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

Impunity for some crimes committed during the 1992-1995 conflict continued to be a problem, especially for those responsible for the approximately 8,000 persons killed in the Srebrenica genocide and for approximately 7,600 other individuals who remained missing and presumed killed during the conflict. Authorities also failed to prosecute most of the more than 20,000 instances of sexual violence alleged to have occurred during the conflict.

Lack of resources, including insufficient funding and personnel, political obstacles, poor regional cooperation, and challenges in pursuing old cases due to the lack of evidence and the unavailability of witnesses and suspects led to the closure of cases and difficulties in clearing the significant backlog.

During the year national authorities made limited progress in processing of war crimes due to long-lasting organizational and financial problems. In 2020 the Council of Ministers adopted a Revised National War Crimes Strategy, which defines new criteria for selection and prioritization of cases between the state and entities, provides measures to enhance judicial and police capacities to process war crime cases, and updates the measures for protection of witnesses and victims. The revised strategy provides for prioritizing category “A” cases, in which the evidence is “sufficient by international standards to provide reasonable grounds for the belief that the person may have committed the serious violation of international humanitarian law” and provides additional measures to enhance regional cooperation. The implementation of the revised strategy was delayed because the Council of Ministers failed to appoint a supervisory body, mainly due to the opposition of Bosniak victims’ associations to the nomination of RS Center for Investigation of War and War Crimes Director Milorad Kojic as a member of the body. The Special Department for War Crimes within the Prosecutor’s Office has 28 prosecutors and a total of 110 employees, including nonprosecutorial staff. Six regional teams were formed. The courts transferred less-complex cases from the state-level to entity-level or Brcko District courts. During the year the Prosecutor’s Office transferred 13 cases with 27 persons charged to the entities and Brcko District judiciary. The Prosecutor’s Office submitted criminal reports or ordered investigations on 351 cases and worked on 1,522 additional cases with unknown perpetrators or crime (meaning the prosecutor has not finalized a decision on how to qualify the crime). During the year, four guilty verdicts were brought against seven persons who were sentenced to 33 years’ imprisonment in total. The Prosecutor’s Office, through the Ministry of Justice, sent a legal assistance request to Croatia with a request to take over the criminal proceedings against 14 Croatian generals who had been reported by the RS police in 2007 for the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Western Slavonia during the Flash military operation in 1995. Croatia has not responded to the request.

Some convictions were issued or confirmed over the past year. The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) rejected the appeal of the 20-year prison sentence handed down to Radomir Susnjar for participating in mass killings in Visegrad during the war. The appeals chamber of the Court of BiH upheld the verdict sentencing former soldiers Branko Cigoja, Zeljko Todic, and Sasa Boskic to 14 years in prison each for crimes against civilians in Oborci near Donji Vakuf in September 1995.

In January 2020 the Court of BiH sentenced in the first instance Sakib Mahmuljin, a commander in the former Army of the Republic of BiH to 10 years imprisonment for war crimes committed in the areas of Vozuca and Zavidovici. The verdict is subject to appeal. It prompted strong reactions from Bosniak ethno-nationalist leaders, and BiH Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic called his conviction “a verdict to all who defended their country” and expressed pride in commanders of the BiH army, declaring that “we are all Sakib.” On November 10, the Appellate Chamber of the Court of BiH revoked Mahmuljin’s first-instance war crimes verdict. The Appellate Chamber of the Court of BiH will hold a new hearing in this case.

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

The law prohibits such practices. While there were no internal reports that government officials employed such measures, there were no concrete indications that security forces had ended the practice of severely mistreating detainees and prisoners reported in previous years.

On September 14, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) released findings from its 2019 visit to the country in which it reported receiving numerous allegations of physical and psychological mistreatment, including of a severity which, in the CPT’s view, amounted to torture. The reported mistreatment consisted of falaka (beating the soles of the feet), rape with a baton, and mock execution with a gun of detained persons by law enforcement officials. The CPT also received allegations of police officers inflicting kicks, punches, slaps, and blows with batons (as well as with nonstandard objects such as baseball bats, wooden tiles, and electrical cables) on detainees. The CPT stated the mistreatment was apparently inflicted by crime inspectors with the intention of coercing suspects to confess as well as by members of special intervention units at the time of the apprehension of criminal suspects. The CPT found the situation in the Republika Srpska (RS) to have improved considerably since its visits in 2012 and 2015, although the CPT received a few allegations of physical and psychological mistreatment of criminal suspects by police officers, notably in rural areas. The CPT report stated that the high number of credible allegations of police mistreatment, particularly by members of the Sarajevo Cantonal Police, was a source of “deep concern” for the CPT.

The country has not designated an institution as its national mechanism for the prevention of torture and mistreatment of detainees and prisoners, in accordance with the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. In 2019 the Institution of Human Rights Ombudsman in BiH (Ombudsman Institution) received 129 complaints by prisoners regarding prisoner treatment in detention and prison facilities. The number of complaints fell by 10 percent compared with 2018; most of the complaints concerned health care, denial of out-of-prison benefits, transfer to other institutions, use of parole, and conditions in prison and detention facilities. A smaller number of complaints referred to misconduct by staff or violence by other prisoners.

Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces. The September 14 CPT report stated that investigations into alleged police mistreatment “cannot be considered effective, as they are not carried out promptly or thoroughly and neither can they considered to be impartial and independent.” The report was critical of the internal control unit of the Sarajevo Cantonal Police and of the role of prosecutors who, in several cases examined by the CPT, had delegated all investigative acts to police inspectors from the same unit as the alleged perpetrators of the mistreatment.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Physical and sanitary conditions in the country’s prisons and detention facilities varied depending on location; some met the need for accommodation of prisoners and detainees, while others did not.

Physical Conditions: In its September 14 report, the CPT stated that conditions were acceptable in police detention facilities in Banja Luka and Sarajevo but unacceptable in Mostar (poor daylight and ventilation in cells, inadequate conditions for rest, and small beds for overnight stays). The CPT criticized RS police for holding detainees in the offices of police criminal inspectors, especially in Banja Luka. The CPT reported that conditions in Sarajevo prison had improved since the appointment of a new director in 2017 but that poor ventilation and sanitary installations continued to present a problem. In Mostar, the CPT reported some improvements, including painting the walls, installation of video surveillance, and installation of air conditioning in the cells. Maintenance of the prison and especially hygiene and ventilation in the prison were substandard. The report found that material and hygienic conditions generally improved in medical units of the Sarajevo prison detention unit and in Mostar prison.

Health care was one of the main complaints by prisoners. Not all prisons had comprehensive health-care facilities with full-time health-care providers. In such instances, the institutions contracted part-time practitioners who were obligated to regularly visit institutions and provide services. Prisons in Zenica, Tuzla, Sarajevo, East Sarajevo, Foca, and Banja Luka employed full time doctors. There were no prison facilities suitable for prisoners with physical disabilities. In some instances, prisoners in need of expensive and more complex medical services faced problems obtaining such services due to limited budgets of the institutions. The CPT report found there is no coherent approach to prisoners who were drug addicts. For example in Sarajevo, only prisoners who were already prescribed substitute therapy before entering the prison were able to continue with the therapy. In Mostar and RS prisons, such treatment would stop when inmates started serving their prison term.

Administration: In its September 14 report, the CPT stated that investigations by authorities into allegation of police mistreatment “cannot be considered effective… and neither can they [be] considered to be impartial and independent” (see Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, above, for details).

Units in both entities and the Brcko District had internal units for professional standards, which were under direct supervision of the district, cantonal, or entity police units to which citizens can report cases of mistreatment or abuse of persons deprived of liberty. Only a small number of reported allegations of police brutality were judged to be justified by police authorities and then processed. For example, only two of 20 allegations of police brutality in Sarajevo Canton in 2019 were deemed justified, and only one of the two was forwarded to a prosecutor for further investigation.

The country’s prison system was not fully harmonized nor in full compliance with European standards. Jurisdiction for the execution of sanctions was divided between the state, entities, and Brcko District. Consequently, in some instances different legal regulations governed the same area, often resulting in unequal treatment of convicted persons, depending on the prison establishment or the entity in which they served their sentence.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent human rights observers to visit and gave international community representatives widespread and unhindered access to detention facilities and prisoners. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the CPT, the Ombudsman Institution, and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to have access to prison and detention facilities under the jurisdiction of the ministries of justice at both the state and entity levels. In 2019 the CPT visited prisons and detention facilities, including psychiatric institutions, and provided its findings to the BiH government.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: By law a child born to at least one citizen parent is a citizen regardless of the child’s place of birth. A child born in the country to parents whose citizenships were unknown or who were stateless is entitled to citizenship. Parents generally registered their children immediately after they were born, but there were exceptions, particularly in the Romani community. As of September the NGO Vasa Prava had been working on 43 pending cases related to birth/citizenship registration of persons under 18 years of age. New amendments to the Federation law on extrajudicial proceedings opened a potential legal path to resolve pending and difficult cases of civil registration in the Federation through court proceedings.

Education: The law prescribed that education be free through the secondary level but compulsory only for children between the ages of six and 15. In practice, parents needed to pay for books, supplies, and with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, internet connection and telephones, tablets, or laptops. This left many disadvantaged children without access to regular schooling, especially in the Federation, where students attending grades five to nine had mostly online classes in the 2020-21 school year. Due to inadequate registration and persistent poverty and marginalization, only 35 percent of Romani children between the ages of six and 15 regularly attended school.

More than 50 schools across the Federation remained segregated by ethnicity and religion. Although a “two schools under one roof” system was instituted following the 1992-95 conflict to bring together returnee communities violently separated by conflict, the system calcified under the divisive and prejudicial administration of leading political parties. These parties controlled schools through the country’s 13 ministries of education and often enforced education policies based upon patronage and ethnic exclusion. Where students, parents, and teachers chose to resist segregation, they were frequently met with political indifference and sometimes intimidation, which further hurt the quality of education children received. Funds were spent on perpetuating the “two schools under one roof” system rather than on improving school infrastructure, training teachers, improving teaching materials, or conducting extracurricular activities. The situation compounded inefficiencies in the country’s education system, as evidenced by poor performance by 15-year-old students who participated in the 2018 international Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) study implemented by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The results of the study showed that the country’s students were three years behind in schooling compared to the OECD average and that more than 50 percent of students did not possess functional knowledge in language, mathematics, and science. Results for disadvantaged students showed that they lagged five years behind the OECD average. Results were similar for 10-year-old students who participated in the 2019 international Trends in Mathematics and Social Sciences (TIMSS) assessment implemented by the International Education Agency. The results of the study showed that almost one quarter of students did not reach the Low International Benchmark, which is a Student Development Goal. According to the study, “Rural and socio-disadvantaged students are falling behind and less than 20 percent of them have access to computers in school.”

As demonstrated by the 2018 PISA testing results and confirmed by the results from TIMSS, the country faced a learning crisis. In December 2020 when the TIMSS results were published, the international community (the European Commission in BiH, the OSCE, and UNICEF) issued a joint press statement noting that “combined with the pandemic, BiH is facing a learning catastrophe that could undermine decades of progress and exacerbate entrenched inequalities.”

Returnee students (those belonging to a minority ethnic group returning to their homes after being displaced by the war) continued to face barriers in exercising their language rights. For the eighth consecutive year, parents of Bosniak children in returnee communities throughout the RS continued to boycott public schools in favor of sending their children to alternative schools financed and organized by the Federation Ministry of Education with support from the governments of the Sarajevo and Zenica-Doboj Cantons and the Islamic community. The boycott was based on the refusal of the RS Ministry of Education and Culture to approve a group of national subjects (specific courses to which Bosniak, Serb, and Croat students are entitled and taught in their constituent language according to their ethnicity). Parents of children in one of these schools in Vrbanjci, Kotor Varos, won a court case in December 2019 when the RS Supreme Court ruled that their children were entitled to instruction on the national subjects in Bosnian. Although the RS Supreme Court decision was final, the RS Ministry of Education failed to implement the decision. As a result, 60 children continued learning in the Hanifici Islamic Center building, where teachers traveled from the Zenica-Doboj Canton, and in some cases from Sarajevo Canton. In 2020 lawyers representing Bosniak parents filed a request for execution of the decision at the Kotor Varos basic court, but the decision had not been implemented as of November.

In the Federation, Serb students likewise were denied language rights as provided in the Federation constitution, especially in schools with Croat language of instruction. One example was the Glamoc elementary school in Canton 10, where authorities prevented the use of the Serbian language and textbooks, despite the significant number of returnee Serb students. Human rights activists noted that changes in the history curriculum and in history and other textbooks reinforced stereotypes of the country’s ethnic groups other than their own and that other materials missed opportunities to dispel stereotypes by excluding any mention of some ethnic groups, particularly Jews and Roma. State and entity officials generally did not act to prevent such discrimination. Human Rights Watch asserted that ethnic quotas used by the Federation and the RS to allocate civil service jobs disproportionately excluded Roma and other minorities. The quotas were based on the 1991 census, which undercounted these minorities and was never revised.

Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse, but family violence against children was a problem. According to UNICEF, there was no recent data available on the overall level of violence against children in the country. While relevant institutions collect scattered data, there was no unified data collection system. Police investigated and prosecuted individual cases of child abuse. Only a small number of cases of violence against children were reported and, consequently, only a few cases were brought before courts. The country’s Agency for Gender Equality estimated that one in five families experienced domestic violence. In many cases, children were indirect victims of family violence. The Sarajevo Canton Social Welfare Center reported that more than 100 children were victims of domestic violence during 2020, of which 13 children were direct victims. In the cases where children were direct victims, proceedings were launched, and the parents were sanctioned. The RS Ministry of Interior registered 843 cases of domestic violence from March to December of 2020, of which 80 victims were children. It also reported that the number of cases of domestic violence against children aged 14 to 16 increased by more than 100 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Municipal centers for social work are responsible for protecting children’s rights but lacked resources and the ability to provide housing for children who fled abuse or who required removal from abusive homes.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 but may be as young as 16 with parental consent. In certain Romani communities, girls were married between the ages of 12 and 14, and Romani human rights activists reported that early marriages were on the rise. Children’s rights and antitrafficking activists noted that prosecutors were often reluctant to investigate and prosecute forced marriages involving Romani minors, attributing it to Romani custom. Activists also warned authorities often returned children to their families even when their parents were the ones involved in their exploitation.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The Federation, the RS, and the Brcko District have laws criminalizing sex trafficking, forced labor, and organized human trafficking. The state-level penalty for sexual exploitation of children is imprisonment for up to 20 years under certain aggravating circumstances. At the entity level, penalties range from three to 15 years’ imprisonment. Under entity criminal codes, the abuse of a child or juvenile for pornography is a crime that carries a sentence of one to five years in prison. Authorities generally enforced these laws. The law prohibits sexual acts with a person younger than 18.

Girls were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation, and there were reports that Romani girls as young as 12 were subject to early and forced marriage and domestic servitude. Children were used in the production of pornography.

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

Botswana

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and unlike in years prior to 2019, there were no reports of government officials employing such tactics. Some laws prescribe corporal punishment for convicted offenders in both criminal and customary courts. Human rights groups viewed these provisions as cruel and degrading; the Court of Appeals ruled these provisions do not violate the constitution’s provisions on torture or inhuman treatment.

On September 7, police used force to disperse protesters outside a Gaborone police station where a pastor was held on charges of holding a political demonstration without a permit (see section 2.g., Freedom of Peaceful Assembly). Officers used whips to break up the peaceful group. Press photos showed persons with deep bruises and cuts, reportedly resulting from police actions. There was no evidence police investigated the uses of force.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards.

Physical Conditions: Authorities occasionally held juveniles with adults, generally for a few days while the juveniles awaited transport.

After a fire damaged Francistown Prison during the year, some prisoners were held in the Francistown Center for Illegal Immigrants (FCII), which is a dedicated facility for detaining migrants and processing asylum and other immigration claims made by individuals who entered the country illegally; the prisoners were kept in separate areas from asylum seekers and migrants. In previous years journalists reported allegations of authorities abusing asylum seekers in the FCII, but there were no reports of such abuses during the year. There were no significant reports regarding conditions at other prisons that raised human rights concerns.

Administration: Authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions brought by inmates against prison officials and took disciplinary or judicial action against persons responsible for abuses. The law requires the minister of defense, justice, and security to appoint a committee to visit prisons on a quarterly basis and allows religious authorities to visit with prisoners. The government enforced this law. Prisoners in general may also attend religious services.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally allowed international and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to meet with prisoners and permitted independent human rights observers to visit prisons. The International Committee of the Red Cross visited prisons. Representatives of diplomatic missions were also allowed access to the FCII.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: In general, citizenship is derived from one’s parents, although there are limited circumstances in which citizenship may be derived from birth within the country’s territory. The government generally registered births promptly. Unregistered children may be denied some government services, including enrollment in secondary schools and national exams.

Education: Primary education is tuition free for the first 10 years of school but is not compulsory. Parents of secondary school students must cover tuition fees as well as the cost of uniforms and books. These costs could be waived for children whose family income fell below a certain level.

Human rights organizations and minority tribes criticized the policy that designates English and Setswana as the only officially recognized languages, thereby forcing some children to learn in a nonnative language. In 2018 the UN special rapporteur on minority issues noted that the lack of mother tongue education or failure to incorporate minority languages into the school curriculum may constitute discrimination and encouraged the government to review its language policy regarding education. In July the government announced the final draft of an education language policy to provide guidance on implementation of mother tongue teaching in schools. The government proposed to implement 11 languages for Phase 1 beginning January 2022.

Child Abuse: The law penalizes neglect and mistreatment of children. There was reportedly widespread abuse of children. Child abuse was reported to police in cases of physical harm to a child. Police referred children and, depending on the level of abuse, their alleged abuser(s) to counseling in the Department of Social Services within the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development as well as to local NGOs. Police referred some cases to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.

The deputy opposition whip, Pono Moatlhodi, was charged in 2020 with assault for allegedly setting a dog on a boy age 12 he suspected of stealing mangoes. The lawmaker offered the boy 40,000 pula ($3,480) in compensation, but government prosecutors rejected the offer and pursued an assault case against him. The case began May, but there was no verdict as of the end of the year.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Child marriage occurred infrequently and was largely limited to certain tribes. The government does not recognize marriages that occur when either party is younger than the minimum legal age of 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child sex trafficking and sexual abuse of children. Conviction of sex with a child younger than 18 constitutes defilement (statutory rape) and is punishable by a minimum of 10 years’ incarceration. The penalty for conviction of not reporting incidents of child sexual exploitation ranges from a substantial monetary fine to imprisonment for no less than two years but no greater than three years, or both. Perpetrators who engage in sexual exploitation of children are punished, if convicted, with a substantial monetary fine, imprisonment for no less than five years but no longer than 15 years, or both. The law further requires the government to develop programs to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. In 2019 member of parliament Polson Majaga was charged with defilement of a minor and was subsequently suspended by the BDP from party activities but retained his seat in the legislature. In March Majaga was acquitted of defilement.

Child advocacy groups reported increases in sexual abuse of children during COVID-19 lockdowns. For example, in April 2020 UNICEF reported 23 cases of defilement and 22 rape cases during the first seven days of the national lockdown.

Child pornography is a criminal offense punishable by five to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Displaced Children: Orphans and vulnerable children received government support. Once registered as an orphan, a child receives school uniforms, shelter, a monthly food basket, and counseling as needed.

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

Brazil

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

There were numerous reports that state-level civil and military police committed unlawful killings. In some cases police employed indiscriminate force. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Brazilian Public Security Forum reported that police killed 6,416 persons nationwide in 2020, compared with 6,351 persons in 2019 – only a 0.3 percent increase but the highest number of deaths ever recorded. During the year 17 of the 26 states saw increases. Experts attributed the growth in police lethality in many communities to a multitude of factors, including worsened economic conditions and high unemployment, declines in mental health, prisoner releases, rises in gun ownership, police forces heavily impacted by COVID-19 illnesses, and an increase in confrontations with organized crime. Data for the first half of the year largely indicated that numbers declined 8 percent in violent deaths in the first six months of the year, compared with the same period in 2020. Those killed included criminal suspects, civilians, and narcotics traffickers who engaged in violence against police. Accordingly, the extent of unlawful police killings was difficult to determine. The Federal Public Ministry and Federal Prosecutor’s Office, as well as state-level public ministries, investigate whether security force killings are justifiable and pursue prosecutions.

According to some civil society organizations, victims of police violence throughout the country were overwhelmingly young Afro-Brazilian men. The Brazilian Public Security Forum reported that almost 79 percent of the persons killed by police in 2020 were Black, compared with 56 percent of the country’s population that is Black.

Notably, in 2020 Rio de Janeiro State experienced a 32 percent decline in killings by police due to a June 2020 Federal Supreme Court (STF) injunction on police operations in Rio de Janeiro’s poorer communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, except in rare cases with preauthorization. Although as of August the injunction remained in effect, Rio de Janeiro saw increases in uses of lethal force by police during the first half of the year compared with 2020. In the city of Rio de Janeiro, most deaths occurred while police were conducting operations against narcotics trafficking gangs wielding military-style weapons in the more than 1,000 informal housing settlements (favelas), where an estimated 1.4 million persons lived. NGOs in Rio de Janeiro questioned whether all the victims actually resisted arrest, as police had reported and alleged that police often employed unnecessary force.

According to the Public Institute of Public Security, 804 persons died in Rio de Janeiro State from police interventions in favela communities in the first six months of the year, a 3.3 percent increase compared with the same period in 2020 (778) and a 9 percent decrease compared with 2019 (885). An August study by the Center of Studies on Public Security and Citizenship revealed that Rio de Janeiro’s Civil and Military Police conducted a total of 507 operations in the first six months of the year, a 32 percent increase compared with the same period in 2020.

According to a survey carried out by researchers at Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), at the request of the news outlet UOL, operations to combat drug trafficking (1,200), disputes between criminal groups (482), and retaliation for killing or attacking security agents (380) were the major motivators of police violence during the last 14 years. A second UFF survey assigned one of five ratings (disastrous, inefficient, slightly efficient, reasonably efficient, or efficient) by considering several factors such as the impacts of operations (e.g., dead, wounded, or imprisoned; the strategic and judicial motivations that justified them; and seizures, whether of weapons, drugs, cargo, or vehicles.) In the survey an “efficient” operation was one that took place through judicial and investigative procedures, complied with search or arrest warrants, resulted in a significant number of seizures (especially of weapons), and did not kill or injure persons. Analysis of the resulting data determined that only 1.7 percent of police operations in the slums of Rio de Janeiro from 2007 to 2020 met the criteria of “efficient,” and an additional 13 percent were rated “reasonably efficient.” Meanwhile, 40 percent were labeled “slightly efficient,” 32 percent were “inefficient,” and 12.5 percent were “disastrous.”

According to media reports and public officials, Rio de Janeiro experienced its deadliest police confrontation in the city’s history during a May 6 operation led by the Rio de Janeiro Civil Police’s Coordinator of Special Assets (CORE) and involving 200 police officers. CORE officers led an action against the criminal organization Comando Vermelho in the Jacarezinho neighborhood in the North Zone of the city when they encountered a blockade and heavy fire from armed groups. The operation resulted in the deaths of 28 individuals, including one police officer. Autopsy reports of the 27 civilians killed indicated that at least four victims were shot in the back at a distance of less than three feet, supporting local residents’ and public officials’ allegations that some of these killings were summary executions by CORE officers. Human rights advocates and some investigators assessed as credible reports that some of the criminal suspects, after being shot by police, were denied lifesaving first aid and medical care – a violation of Civil Police regulations and recognized human rights norms. The state’s Civil Police and Attorney General’s Offices were investigating the case. On October 18, a Rio de Janeiro judge accepted the criminal case against two CORE officers, Douglas de Lucena Peixoto Siquera and Anderson Silveira, for the death of Omar Pereira de Silva, who was already injured when he was killed. The officers were charged with murder and procedural fraud and fraud, respectively, after they allegedly planted weapons at the crime scene. The judge ordered the officers’ removal from CORE operations, prohibited them from carrying out police activities, and ordered that they have no contact with any witness in the case. Finally, the judge instructed that the Civil Police transfer their investigation to the state court.

The number of deaths resulting from military and civil police operations in the state of Sao Paulo from January to June decreased 33 percent, compared with the same period in 2020. According to the Sao Paulo state government, military and civil police reported 345 deaths from January to June – and 514 in the same period in 2020. Security authorities attributed the reduction in lethality in part to the use of bodycams by Military Police officers. This initiative started in the beginning of June when there were no killings reported among the battalions equipped with the technology (a total of 15 battalions of 134 plus three special units).

In March the Sao Paulo Committee for the Prevention of Homicide in Adolescence of the State Legislative Assembly, in partnership with UNICEF, released a report showing that from January 2015 to December 2020, 1,253 children and adolescents (age 19 years or younger) died as a result of police intervention in the State of Sao Paulo. Children and adolescents represented 24 percent of total victims’ deaths from police intervention.

A special report produced in April by the news agency G1 and based on the Monitor of Violence database, a collaboration between G1, the University of Sao Paulo’s Violence Study Nucleus, and the Brazilian Public Security Forum to study all types of violence in in the country, showed a 29 percent increase in the number of killings by Parana state police force operations between 2019 (289) and 2020 (373). Analysis of the first six months of 2021 showed a 14 percent increase, compared with the same period of 2020, with 210 deaths – a state record.

In the state of Santa Catarina, the number of persons killed by police forces increased 9 percent in 2020, compared with 2019, according to the Brazilian Public Security Forum data released in April.

In the state of Bahia, the use of lethal force by police increased by 47 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, but a July study by the Public Security Observatory Network showed a decline in deaths resulting from police intervention during the first five months of 2021. At the time of the study, Bahia counted 29 deaths from police intervention, a 36 percent decrease, compared with the same period in 2020.

In June, Rio de Janeiro’s Attorney General’s Office filed a criminal complaint against 13 police officers from the Battalion to Repress Conflicts (CHOQUE) on charges of altering a crime scene by removing the victims’ bodies. The charges stemmed from the investigation of a 2019 operation against drug trafficking by two military police battalions – the Police Special Operations Battalion and CHOQUE – in the Santa Teresa neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro that resulted in 13 deaths. Military police reported that all the victims were criminals; however, human rights organizations claimed the victims offered no resistance and that many were shot in the back. An investigation by Rio de Janeiro’s military police concluded that evidence was insufficient to prove that any crimes were committed. In November 2019 the Civil Police Homicide Division recommended that the case be closed and that none of the investigated police officers be held accountable for killings. As of August the case remained open, but no suspects had been arrested and no trial date had been set.

In July the Sao Paulo State Military Police command asked for preventive detention of three police officers after images from a security camera contradicted their version of events concerning the death of a driver during an interaction in Sao Paulo. While the officers claimed the man was killed in a confrontation, the footage showed what appeared to be an execution, and the footage suggested police further tampered with the scene and falsely reported the location of the action. The case was pending trial as of October.

In June investigations into the killing of 14-year-old Joao Pedro Matos Pinto led to the indictment of three officers from Rio de Janeiro’s CORE. The teenager was killed in May 2020 after he sought shelter in his home in Rio de Janeiro State’s municipality of Sao Goncalo as a police helicopter circled above his neighborhood of Salgueiro searching for a suspect. According to the autopsy report and witness testimonies, police raided Joao Pedro’s home and shot him in the back dozens of times after authorities said they mistook the teenager for the suspect during the joint operation of the Federal Police and CORE. Two CORE officers were charged with manslaughter without intention to kill, and the third was charged with involuntary manslaughter, because although he fired, he did not strike the victim. As of August the defendants had not been suspended from their regular duties and were awaiting a trial date. In the same neighborhood of Sao Goncalo, on August 20, 17-year-old Joao Vitor Santiago was killed as he returned from a fishing trip with a friend in an alleged exchange of fire between Military Police from the Seventh Military Brigade in São Goncalo and drug dealers during an operation. The Homicide Police Station of Niteroi, Sao Goncalo, and Itaborai was investigating the case.

Regarding the investigation of the June 2020 Rio Grande do Sul State shooting that injured Angolan citizen Gilberto Almeida and killed his friend, Dorildes Laurindo, an internal investigation of the Military Brigade indicted the police officers for military crimes and violations of discipline under the military justice system in August 2020, and the officers were placed on administrative duty. In September 2020 the Public Ministry found no intent of killing by the police officers and transferred the case back to the military court for further investigation of a possible crime under the military justice system. As of May, however, the documentation had not been provided to the military prosecutor responsible for the investigation. The State Military Court cited limited personnel and pandemic-related delays to explain the slow progress.

On October 14, Rio de Janeiro’s Military Court of Justice sentenced eight army soldiers from Deodoro’s (a neighborhood located in the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro) First Infantry Motorized Battalion to approximately 30 years in prison for the homicide of Black musician Evaldo Rosa dos Santos and Luciano Macedo, a trash collector, in April 2019. Four other soldiers involved in the operation were acquitted.

Verbal and physical attacks on politicians and candidates, including those by militias and narcotics trafficking criminal organizations, were common. According to a survey by the Center for Security and Citizenship Studies, at least 84 candidates for mayor, deputy mayor, or councilor positions were killed during the 2020 municipal campaigns between January and November 2020. An additional 80 politicians survived attacks with firearms or bladed weapons. Most of these crimes remained unsolved and their motivations unknown.

In the state of Rio de Janeiro, three Duque de Caixas city councilmen were killed in a span of 10 months. As of November 15, investigators had not established that the cases were connected or politically motivated. The killings prompted the installation of security cameras and meetings with the state government to demand the safety of council members and thorough investigations.

In August, President Jair Bolsonaro approved a law to combat political violence against women. The new law defines political violence against women to be any action, conduct, or omission with the purpose of preventing, hindering, or restricting their political rights, not only during elections, but in the exercise of any political or public function.

In July, Rio de Janeiro’s Court of Justice sentenced former military police officer Ronnie Lessa and four other persons to four years in prison for obstructing justice by tossing guns into the ocean, including the suspected murder weapon used in the 2018 killing of gay, Black Rio councilwoman and human rights activist Marielle Franco. On July 10, the lead state investigators of the Marielle Task Force, public prosecutors Simone Sibilio and Leticia Emile, resigned for unconfirmed reasons during a reported dispute over a plea agreement related to the cooperation of a key witness. On July 26, the Rio de Janeiro Attorney General’s Office appointed eight new members to the task force. As of August, Ronnie Lessa and Elcio Vieira de Queiroz, both former military police officers with long-standing ties to the militia group Escritorio do Crime (Crime Bureau), were in a federal prison awaiting a trial date.

The NGO Global Witness reported that 20 social, human rights, and environmental activists were killed in 2020, down from 23 killings in 2019. Despite the risk to activists, the Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights’ Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Communicators, and Environmentalists remained underfunded. In 2020 the program, which provided protection to more than 600 individuals under threat, received only 21 percent of its projected budget. Press reports described the decrease as a “dismantling” of the program and said that individuals under the protection of the government had once again began receiving threats.

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

The constitution prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, but there were reports government officials sometimes employed such practices. The law mandates that special police courts exercise jurisdiction over state military police except those charged with “willful crimes against life,” primarily homicide. Police personnel often were responsible for investigating charges of torture and excessive force carried out by fellow officers. Delays in the special military police courts allowed many cases to expire due to statutes of limitations.

According to the National Council of the Public Ministry, in 2019 there were 2,676 cases of guards and other personnel inflicting bodily harm on prisoners compared with 3,261 cases in 2018.

In June the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) denounced the government for physical, verbal, and psychological aggressions committed against more than 150 adolescents at state-funded Fundacao Casa, a socioeducational center for adolescents in Sao Paulo, between 2015 and 2017. The Sao Paulo Public Defender’s Office made the complaint to the commission because the government “failed to ascertain responsibilities and compensate the victims,” according to a petition sent by the institution to the IACHR. The petition’s documentation, including testimonies and photographs of injuries, narrated recurrent aggressions and torture carried out by employees against the students during the period. The alleged abuses included beatings, intimidation by employees, and isolation without mattresses or personal belongings, with the participation and consent of unit authorities, such as directors and supervisors. The Public Defender’s Office insisted that the remedial actions taken by Fundacao Casa and the state of Sao Paulo, responsible for the guardianship of assisted minors, were not sufficient.

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, six men arrested during a police operation conducted in the Jacarezinho neighborhood on May 6 reported they suffered numerous aggressions and physical assaults following their arrest. The claims included having been tortured, beaten, hit in the head with a rifle, and forced to carry bodies to a police armored vehicle at the Jacarezinho crime scene immediately following the confrontation.

In June a military prosecutor denounced two police officers to the military court in Sao Paulo, Joao Paulo Servato and Ricardo de Morais Lopes, from the 50th Sao Paulo Metropolitan Military Police Battalion, who were filmed in May 2020 holding a Black woman to the ground by stepping on her neck. The woman sustained a fractured leg injury during the incident. The two officers were accused of abuse of authority, aggravated aggression, and ideological falsehood and remained on administrative duties. As of August 1, a trial date had not been set.

On July 29, the Sao Paulo First Criminal Court accepted the case of the Public Prosecutor’s Office against 12 military police officers on charges of intentional homicide of nine young persons during a street music event in the favela of Paraisopolis in 2019.

According to the Military Police Internal Affairs Unit, the inquiry had not been completed in the case of a Rio de Janeiro State military police officer accused of rape in August 2020. As of August the defendant was on administrative duty and awaiting trial.

On June 8, a military court convicted one military police officer of conducting a libidinous act in a military environment and acquitted a second police officer on 2019 charges of rape in Praia Grande, Sao Paulo. Judge Ronaldo Roth of the First Military Audit judged the act was consensual because the victim did not resist. The judge suspended the convicted police officer’s sentence, up to one year in prison. As of September, however, the Public Ministry of Sao Paulo opened an investigation into the friendship between Judge Roth and one of the defendant’s lawyers, Jose Miguel da Silva Junior.

In March 2020 the Military Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation into the 2018 accusations of torture of seven male residents of Rio de Janeiro by federal military officers from Vila Militar’s First Army Division, detained during a 2018 drug-trafficking operation. By March 2020 all seven men had been released after one year and four months in detention. In November 2020 the Military Justice Court in Rio reinstated its ruling to detain the seven men following an appeal by the Military Public Prosecutor’s Office. In response to the claims of torture, the court affirmed there was not sufficient evidence to prove that the military officials had tortured the seven men. According to the Rio de Janeiro Public Defender’s Office, as of October none of the military officers involved in the alleged torture of the seven men had been charged or indicted.

Cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of prisoners continued. At the request of the Federal District and Territories Public Prosecutor’s Office, three prison police officers stationed in Brasilia’s Papuda Penitentiary Complex were preventively removed by the Criminal Execution Court on charges of beating two prisoners incarcerated in the Federal District I Prison. The officers also shot detainees inside a cell using a shotgun loaded with rubber bullets. The two events, recorded by security cameras, occurred on April 16. The case was being investigated by the Center for Control and Inspection of the Prison System of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

In July the Military Police carried out Operation Bronze Bull in Belo Horizonte and four other cities to execute 26 search and seizure warrants against 14 police officers to assist in the Public Ministry of Minas Gerais’ investigation into crimes of torture against prisoners at the Nelson Hungary Penitentiary in Minas Gerais in July 2020. The investigation was classified as secret, so few details were publicly available.

The state of Paraiba was ordered to pay 50,000 reais (R$) ($8,950) in compensation for moral damages in the death of an inmate inside the state prison, a victim of violence by other inmates in 2008. The conviction also provided for a monthly pension in the amount of two-thirds of the minimum wage for material damages until the date the deceased would have turned 65 years old and until the date each immediate descendant turned 21.

Impunity and a lack of accountability for security forces at all levels, but especially at the local level, was a problem, and an inefficient judicial process at times delayed justice for perpetrators as well as for victims. Examples of impunity were found in the armed forces and Federal police forces but were most common in the Military Police and Civil Police. Low pay, and the resulting endemic corruption, established an environment where individuals were not consistently held accountable. Furthermore, the overburdened judicial system limited the application of justice and encouraged corruption. The federal and state public ministries, as well as ombudsmen and ethics centers, investigated accusations of impunity. Human rights are included in security forces’ training curricula.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in many prisons were poor and sometimes life threatening, mainly due to overcrowding. Abuse by prison guards continued, and poor working conditions and low pay for prison guards encouraged corruption.

Physical Conditions: According to the National Penitentiary Department, as of 2020 there were 213,022 more prisoners than the system had space to hold, causing overcrowding across the country. Although some states were more overburdened than others, during the year nationally the system was 54.9 percent over capacity, a decrease from the 67.5 percent recorded in 2020. The states of Amazonas and Mato Grosso do Sul experienced the worst overcrowding at 196 and 166 percent, respectively. During 2020, 17,141 additional places were added to increase inmate capacity. Much of the overcrowding was due to the imprisonment of pretrial detainees. According to the news portal G1 in January, 217,687 inmates, or 31.9 percent of detainees, were awaiting trial, a small increase from 31.2 percent in 2020.

In July, as a protest against overcrowding in prisons, the Santa Catarina Union of Penitentiary System Public Agents refused to receive new prisoners. For example, the Vale do Itajai Penitentiary complex, which had a designed total capacity for 1,160 inmates, held 1,523 men, and the prison, designed for 696 inmates, held 1,129. Soon afterward, a state court ordered the Prison Administration Secretariat to require the union to receive new prisoners or pay substantial fines.

Reports of abuse by prison guards continued (see Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment above). Pastoral Carceraria, a prison-monitoring NGO connected to the Catholic Church, reported that torture and prison conditions worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic when prisons closed their doors to visitors to curb the spread of the virus. Between March 15 and October 31, 2020, the organization received 90 allegations of torture within the prison system across the country, compared with 53 cases in the same period in 2019. Complaints of physical torture appeared in 53 of the 90 allegations.

General prison conditions were poor. There was a lack of potable water, inadequate nutrition, food contamination, rat and cockroach infestations, damp and dark cells, a lack of clothing and hygiene items, and poor sanitation. Prisoners also complained of poor access to personal care products and clothing. Prisoners made complaints regarding the right to health and failure to provide adequate medical assistance. General poor prison conditions were further stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but some systems attempted to provide extra support. For example, the state government of Minas Gerais hired additional doctors, nurses, and nursing technicians; by May, 237 prison employees and 200 prisoners in the state had died from COVID-19 and 20,000 employees and 57,000 inmates had been infected. These rates were lower than the general population estimates. As of August, Sao Paulo’s penitentiary system, with a population of 205,000, had experienced 78 inmate deaths from COVID-19.

Prisoners convicted of petty crimes frequently were held with murderers and other violent criminals. Authorities attempted to hold pretrial detainees separately from convicted prisoners, but lack of space often required placing convicted criminals in pretrial detention facilities. In many prisons, including those in the Federal District, officials attempted to separate violent offenders from other inmates and keep convicted drug traffickers in a wing apart from the rest of the prison population. Multiple sources reported adolescents were held with adults in poor and crowded conditions.

Prisons suffered from insufficient staffing and lack of control over inmates. Violence was rampant in prison facilities. According to the National Penitentiary Department, 209 prisoners were killed while in custody in 2020. In addition to poor administration of the prison system, overcrowding, the presence of gangs, and corruption contributed to violence. Media reports indicated that incarcerated leaders of major criminal gangs continued to control their expanding transnational criminal enterprises from inside prisons.

Prison riots were common occurrences. On July 2, inmates rioted in the Romeiro Neto penitentiary in Mage, Baixada Fluminense, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Led by members of a criminal group called Povo de Israel, the inmates set fire to mattresses and vandalized the prison facility, resulting in injuries to five prisoners. The same group instigated a second prison riot the same day in the Nelson Hungria penitentiary in Bangu, in western part of the city of Rio de Janeiro, but no injuries occurred. As of August the motivation for the two prison riots was unknown.

Administration: State-level ombudsman offices; the National Council of Justice; the National Mechanism for the Prevention and Combat of Torture in the Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights; and the National Penitentiary Department in the Ministry of Justice monitored prison and detention center conditions and conducted investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. Prisoners and detainees had access to visitors; however, human rights observers reported some visitors complained of screening procedures that at times included invasive and unsanitary physical exams. The Pastoral Carceraria reported that all religious services remained suspended in the Sao Paulo penitentiary system due to COVID-19 restrictions, which impeded their independent monitoring of sanitary and health conditions and reporting of abuses and physical violence against inmates.

Improvements: Nationally, overcrowding decreased from 68 percent in 2020 to 55 percent, according to the Violence Monitor. Overcrowding declined in 21 states compared with 2020, and 12 states saw decreases two years in a row. Experts suggested that the decrease in the overcrowding rate could be explained by the increase in alternative sentences, noncompliance with prison terms, the increase in open prison sentences, and the opening of new prison spaces.

In July the government of Rio Grande do Sul State established a partnership with the University of Santa Cruz do Sul to offer free distance learning courses to inmates in the Santa Cruz do Sul Regional Prison.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from birth in the country or from birth to a Brazilian citizen parent. Parents are required to register their newborns within 15 days of the birth or within three months if they live more than approximately 20 miles from the nearest notary. Nevertheless, many children did not have birth certificates.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse and negligence, but enforcement was often ineffective, and abuse was widespread. According to data from the National Human Rights Ombudsman, in the first six months of the year, the country registered 47,416 reports of crimes against children and adolescents, compared with 53,525 in the first half of 2020. Of these, 121 were from mistreatment, and 52 were from sexual abuse, such as rape or harassment. The total number of reports in 2020 was 124,839 – a 47 percent increase over 2019 – and experts suspected that pandemic closures resulted in significant underreporting.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 (or 16 with parental or legal representative consent). The practice of early marriage was common. A study of child marriage in the northeastern states of Bahia and Maranhao found that pregnancy was the main motivation for child marriage in 15 of 44 cases. According to a 2020 UNICEF report, 26 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married by age 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual exploitation of children, adolescents, and other vulnerable persons is punishable by four to 10 years in prison. The law defines sexual exploitation as child sex trafficking, sexual activity, production of child pornography, and public or private sex shows. The government enforced the law unevenly. The law sets a minimum age of 14 for consensual sex, with the penalty for statutory rape ranging from eight to 15 years in prison.

The Alagoas state government invested in campaigns to raise public awareness of the increase of sexual abuse of children and adolescents, largely within the same family, during the pandemic. From January to March, 211 cases of child sexual abuse were registered in the state, an increase from 186 during the same period in 2020.

In Maranhao State, the Department of Health Care for Children and Adolescents carried out a campaign with the theme “You report it, we take care of it” to improve assistance for victims of child sexual abuse. The state registered 99 cases of pregnant children younger than age 14 in 2019 and again in 2020.

The country was a destination for child sex tourism. While no specific laws address child sex tourism, it is punishable under other criminal offenses. The country was a destination for child sex tourism. In addition girls from other South American nations were exploited in sex trafficking in the country.

The law criminalizes child pornography. The creation of child pornography carries a prison sentence of up to eight years and a fine. The penalty for possession of child pornography is up to four years in prison and a fine. In June the Ministry of Justice coordinated Brazil’s participation, carried out by state civil police forces, in an international operation to combat crimes of child sexual abuse and exploitation on the internet. The operation carried out 176 search and seizure warrants in 18 states and five countries and resulted in the arrests of 39 individuals in Brazil.

Displaced Children: According to UNICEF, in 2020 refugee support organizations identified more than 1,577 unaccompanied Venezuelan children and adolescents in Pacaraima, Roraima State, and in the first three months of the year the number reached 1,071. According to civil society contacts, some of these minors were at risk of being trafficked or sexually exploited. Local child protection services offices act as legal guardians so unaccompanied adolescents can go to school and obtain identification papers to access the public health system. In some areas, however, they could not accommodate the influx of children. State shelters in Roraima, the state where most migrants entered the country, could house a maximum of 15 adolescent boys and 13 adolescent girls. According to a 2019 Human Rights Watch report, some unaccompanied children ended up living on the streets, where they may be particularly vulnerable to abuse or recruitment by criminal gangs.

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

Brunei

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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

The law does not specifically prohibit torture. Caning may be ordered for certain offenses under both secular and sharia law, and it is mandatory for some offenses. The Sharia Penal Code (SPC) includes offenses punishable by corporal and capital punishments, including stoning to death, amputation of hands or feet, and caning. Neither stoning nor amputation was imposed or carried out.

The SPC prohibits caning persons younger than 15. Secular law prohibits caning for women, girls, boys younger than eight, men older than 50, and those a doctor rules unfit for caning. Juvenile boys older than eight may be caned with a “light rattan” stick. Canings were conducted in the presence of a doctor, who could interrupt the punishment for medical reasons. The government generally applied laws carrying a sentence of caning impartially; the government sometimes deported foreigners in lieu of caning. The sharia court did not hand down any sentences imposing corporal or capital punishments.

There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The government reported prison overcrowding.

Physical Conditions: In January the Ministry of Home Affairs reported the 841 inmates in prison exceeded the maximum prison capacity of 585.

Administration: A government-appointed committee composed of retired government officials monitored prison conditions and investigated complaints concerning prison and detention center conditions.

The prison system has an ombudsman’s office through which judicial officials, Legislative Council members, community leaders, and representatives of public institutions visit inmates monthly. A prisoner may complain to a visiting judge, the superintendent, the officer in charge, or, in the case of female prisoners, the matron in charge.

“Spiritual rehabilitation” programs were compulsory for Muslim inmates.

Sharia convicts were held in the same prison facilities but separated from inmates convicted in the secular courts. Sharia convicts were subject to the same regulations as secular convicts.

Independent Monitoring: There were no reports of independent domestic or international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) monitoring prison conditions.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from the father, or, following an application process, the mother. Citizenship is not derived by birth within the country’s territory. Birth registration is universal and equal for girls and boys. Stateless parents must apply for a special pass for a child born in the country. Failure to register a birth is against the law and later makes it difficult to enroll the child in school.

Child Abuse: Child abuse is a crime and was prosecuted but did not appear prevalent. On November 16, a man was sentenced to was sentenced to 20 years in jail with 12 strokes of the cane for sexually abusing his daughters. The Royal Brunei Police Force includes a specialized Woman and Child Abuse Crime Investigation Unit, and the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports provided shelter and care to victims.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage for both boys and girls is 14 years and seven months with parental and participant consent, unless otherwise stipulated by religion or custom under the law, which generally sets a higher minimum age. The Islamic Family Act sets the minimum marriageable age at 16 for Muslim girls and 18 for Muslim men and makes it an offense to use force, threat, or deception to compel a person to marry against his or her own will. Ethnic Chinese must be 15 or older to marry, according to the Chinese Marriage Act, which also stipulates sexual intercourse with an ethnic Chinese girl younger than 15 is considered rape even if with her spouse. Observers reported that, although permitted by the law, marriages involving minors were rare and generally prohibited by social custom.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: By law sexual intercourse with a girl younger than 14 (15 if ethnically Chinese) constitutes rape and is punishable by imprisonment of from eight to 30 years plus a minimum of 12 strokes of the cane. The law provides for protection of women, girls, and boys from commercial sexual exploitation through prostitution and “other immoral purposes,” including pornography. The government applied the law against “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” to prosecute rape of male children. The minimum age for consensual sex outside of marriage is 16.

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

Bulgaria

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports of government officials employing violent and degrading treatment. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) reported that guards in Debelt prison frequently beat inmates. In February the Blagoevgrad administrative court ruled in favor of a female former prisoner who accused Sliven prison authorities of conducting strip searches before and after every meal and sentenced the prison administration to pay remedial compensation of 700 levs ($405) plus interest. The BHC expressed concern that the court-awarded compensation was much smaller than the 20,000 levs ($11,600) requested by the claimant and noted that there appeared to be a trend in the past few years of courts routinely awarding much smaller compensation for abuses than requested.

According to the BHC, police physically abused detainees in detention facilities with impunity and the practice was widespread. The BHC cited its own research that showed one-third of detainees in a police precinct in Burgas complained of physical abuse, including by electric shock. The purpose was to extract information. In August the prosecutor general reported to the National Assembly that 12 of the 15 police violence investigations opened after the 2020 antigovernment protests had been terminated due to lack of evidence while the remaining three were ongoing.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in some prisons and detention centers were poor but NGOs noted positive changes in others. There were reports of overcrowding in some detention facilities, prison staff corruption, and inadequate sanitary, living, and medical conditions.

Physical Conditions: In February the national ombudsman’s annual report noted “a positive trend of improving physical conditions and decreasing number of inmates” in prisons but identified a continuing problem with cockroach and bedbug infestations as well as poor access to health care due to a lack of medical personnel. The ombudsman reported continuing problems in detention centers at police precincts, including generally poor hygiene, overcrowding, and poor access to ventilation and natural light. The BHC reported very poor conditions in the detention centers in Svilengrad and Haskovo and severe overcrowding in centers in Veliko Tarnovo and Varna. According to the organization, detention centers were largely inaccessible for persons with impaired mobility. According to the ombudsman, state psychiatric hospitals were significantly underfunded, resulting in poor physical conditions and lack of quality medical personnel.

In November the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) said in a public statement that its most recent periodic visit in October identified authorities’ “persistent failure” to address shortcomings and implement recommendations regarding the treatment, conditions, and legal safeguards offered to patients with psychiatric disorders and residents of social care institutions. The statement noted the CPT’s repeated findings regarding cases of “physical ill-treatment of social care residents and patients with psychiatric disorders by staff,” illegal use of “seclusion and mechanical restraint,” “appalling level of hygiene,” “utterly neglectful care,” and “grossly insufficient” staffing.

Authorities and external monitors observed poor conditions in refugee reception centers. The law provides for the establishment of closed-type centers or designation of closed-type areas within a refugee reception center for confinement in isolation of disorderly migrants. In August the ombudsman’s administration inspected facilities for unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the Voenna Rampa refugee reception center in Sofia and identified insufficient staffing as well as 100 percent overcrowding, with “extremely poor physical conditions that are highly unacceptable and absolutely inadequate for children.” According to the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), migrant detention centers lacked proper medical care, hygiene, and sanitary conditions.

Administration: Authorities investigated allegations of mistreatment. According to the CPT, the prison administration suffered from serious corruption as well as a shortage of health-care personnel. The ombudsman also identified a legal provision that allowed prison authorities to access prisoners’ correspondence without judicial approval. Regulations allow night searches of sleeping quarters for unapproved possessions. The ombudsman and NGOs voiced concern that prisoners’ rights to appeal administrative acts, such as punishment or relocation, are pegged to the local administrative courts and cannot go to the Supreme Administrative Court, limiting the Supreme Administrative Court’s ability to address contradictory rulings by local courts.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring of prisons by independent nongovernmental observers and international bodies such as the CPT and the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. In February the BHC complained that the Ministry of Health refused to let BHC representatives visit psychiatric hospitals since 2014. In October a delegation from the CPT examined the treatment, conditions, and legal safeguards offered to psychiatric patients, and visited three Ministry of Health-run psychiatric hospitals.

Improvements: The government repurposed and refurbished buildings for new detention facilities in Blagoevgrad and Dobrich and retrofitted a wing in the prison in Sofia, including repairing its roof and renovating its toilets and lighting installations.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from one’s parents or by birth within the country’s territory unless one receives foreign citizenship by heritage. The law requires birth registration within seven days.

Education: The law establishes Bulgarian as the official language of instruction in the country’s public education system but allows instruction in foreign languages, if instruction in Bulgarian language and literature is conducted in Bulgarian. The law also permits study of the mother tongue. There were officially approved curricula for the teaching of Armenian, Hebrew, Romani, and Turkish. According to the National Statistical Institute, there were no Romani students studying their mother tongue in public schools and the average number of students who learned Turkish, Hebrew, and Armenian declined by more than 16 percent, continuing the downward trend from the previous two years. The government operates foreign language schools in English, Spanish, German, Hebrew, French, and Italian.

According to the Ministry of Education, online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic deepened education inequalities and risked increasing the number of school dropouts. The ministry reported that students lacked access to the internet in 56.5 percent of urban schools and 87.5 percent of schools in the rest of the country.

The law prohibits ethnic segregation in multiethnic schools and kindergartens but allows ethnic segregation of entire schools. Of Romani children, 30 percent (up from 16 percent five years earlier) were enrolled in segregated schools outside mainstream education, according to the European Roma Rights Center. According to the NGO Amalipe, there were segregated schools in 26 out of the 28 regions in the country and approximately 10 percent of general education schools in the country were ethnically segregated. Romani children often attended de facto segregated schools where they received inferior education. There were instances of ethnic Bulgarian students withdrawing from desegregated schools, thereby effectively resegregating them. Romani NGOs reported that many schools throughout the country refused to enroll Romani students.

The Education Ministry provided financial support to nine municipalities that pursued policies for educational desegregation and prevention of resegregation.

Child Abuse: The law protects children against any type of abuse, including physical, psychological, and sexual violence and exploitation. The law punishes violators with fines unless the abuses constitute a criminal or more severe administrative offense. Violence against children continued to be a problem.

In April UNICEF reported results from a survey which showed that 47 percent of children in the country had experienced some form of violence. The violence faced by the children included psychological (45.9 percent of cases), physical (31.2 percent), sexual (15.6 percent), and neglect (10.5 percent). In May the national child support helpline reported a 25 percent increase in the number of cases of domestic violence against children from the previous year.

In May the NGO National Network for Children released its tenth monitoring “report card,” which identified “not only a lack of progress but a backslide and deterioration of the situation for thousands of children and families due to a lack of government will to build the necessary capacity and develop consistent child policies as a top priority.”

In August the ombudsman requested that the minister of education initiate an urgent inspection at the Center for Special Education Support in Burgas following a video distributed on social media showing teachers harassing a student. As of September the local education inspectorate and child protection services were investigating the case.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18. In exceptional cases a person may enter marriage at 16 with permission from the regional court. In March the NGO Amalipe stated that reduced school attendance during the COVID-19 state of emergency had “brought back the problem of early marriage in the Roma communities.” The NGO cited an example from a vocational school in Pazardjik in which more than 25 students had married since the start of the school year in September 2020, noting a similar trend in Sliven. As of September 28, the country’s courts had sentenced 13 adults for cohabiting with girls younger than 16, 19 adults for cohabiting with girls younger than 14, and four parents for aiding and abetting such cohabitation.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law differentiates between forcing children into commercial sex, which is punishable by up to eight years’ imprisonment and a fine, and child sex trafficking, which is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine. The law prohibits child pornography and provides for up to six years in prison and a fine for violations. Authorities enforced the law. The legal minimum age for consensual sex is 14. In August the Center for Safe Internet expressed concern about a 20 percent increase in online sexual exploitation and harassment of children in the previous 18 months and criticized the government for lacking an integrated strategy.

Displaced Children: As of November a total of 2,268 unaccompanied minors sought asylum in the country, a 650 percent increase compared with the same period in 2020. According to the UNHCR, the practice of placing unaccompanied children in migrant detention centers without a clear standard persisted.

Institutionalized Children: The government continued to close residential care institutions for children. As of January a total of 277 children remained to be relocated from four legacy facilities and placed in community-based care. According to the government, the focus of the reform was on preventing child abandonment and encouraging reintegration in a family environment. NGOs, however, believed that the new family-type placement centers did not ensure improved quality of life for children and the quality of family support services remained unchanged.

In September the Validity Foundation published a report that criticized the government for continuing to invest substantial funds in new group homes which “leads to further segregation and isolation … and reinforces the model of institutionalization.” Validity Foundation noted “behavior is controlled by staff through psychological (and sometimes physical) force, punishment, and medication”; individuals “remain locked in the buildings”; and “there is no meaningful training for independent living.” The report also stated that, even though authorities considered the process of deinstitutionalization of children with disabilities complete, placing them in smaller homes does not change the type and quality of care they receive, and there are no policies indicating a vision for their future as equal community members.

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

Burkina Faso

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burma

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

There were numerous reports that regime security forces committed arbitrary or unlawful killings of civilians, prisoners, and other persons in their power. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which noted that the actual number was likely to be much higher, there were 1,300 verified reports of persons killed by the regime as of November 22. Some ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and Peoples Defense Force (PDF) groups or members committed human rights abuses, including killings, disappearances, physical abuse and degrading treatment, and failure to protect local populations in conflict zones (see also section 1.g.). Examples include the following.

On February 9, Mya Thwate Khaing was shot in the head by police while peacefully protesting the military coup in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw. She was taken to the hospital but died of her injuries several days later. Her death was widely considered the first fatality in the protest movement that began on February 2.

On February 28, regime security forces killed as many as 26 persons in eight cities and injured scores during a day of massive nationwide demonstrations against the regime. According to multiple media reports, eyewitnesses accounts, and documentary evidence, police arrested hundreds and used tear gas, flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets, and live rounds in confronting demonstrators.

On March 11, regime security forces shot and killed at least 11 persons in five cities according to multiple media reports, eyewitness accounts, and photographic evidence. Regime security forces used live rounds against unarmed demonstrators in addition to the use of tear gas, flash-bang grenades, and rubber bullets.

On March 27, a national holiday known as Armed Forces Day, regime security forces killed more than 100, including 13 children, across the country according to media reports, eyewitness accounts, and social media posts. Regime security forces met demonstrations on March 28 with further violence, killing at least 22 more individuals.

According to media reports, in April regime security forces continued to kill demonstrators and other civilians, including, on April 9, at least 28 persons in Bago Region. The killing came as regime security forces confronted demonstrators and sought to clear residents’ makeshift barricades.

In May the Chin Human Rights Organization reported that the military cremated the bodies of two civilians who were allegedly tortured to death by regime security forces in Chin State’s capital Hakha.

In July local media reported the death of 40 civilians allegedly killed by the military in Sagaing’s Kani Township. According to a local resident who spoke with the news website Irrawaddy, “Junta troops raided our villages. We fled and found corpses when we came back to the villages.”

In July local media reported the rape and killing of a 55-year-old woman by three soldiers in Kachin State. The military acknowledged the incident after the family filed a complaint, but no action was known to have been taken against the alleged perpetrators.

In September local media reported the King Cobra civilian defense group killed an alleged regime informant in Sagaing Region. King Cobra claimed its members committed 26 other killings.

AAPP alleged that at least 100 political prisoners died due to torture inflicted by authorities between February 1 and September 9. Well-known poet Khet Thi, who wrote the line, “They shoot in the head, but they don’t know the revolution is in the heart,” was reportedly tortured to death by regime security forces. The 45-year-old was detained on May 8 and died the following day in transit to the hospital in Monywa, Magway Region.

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

The law prohibits torture; however, members of regime security forces reportedly tortured and otherwise abused suspects, prisoners, detainees, and others. Such incidents occurred, for example, during interrogations and were widely documented across the country. Alleged harsh interrogation techniques were designed to intimidate and disorient and included severe beatings and deprivation of food, water, and sleep. Other reported interrogation methods described in news reports included rubbing salt into wounds and depriving individuals of oxygen until they passed out.

A 19-year-old prodemocracy supporter told local media that on April 9, he was taken to a military compound on the outskirts of Bago Township, Bago Region where “the commander tied my hands from the back and used small scissors to cut my ears, the tip of my nose, my neck and my throat.”

In April media reported regime forces struck Wai Moe Naing, a high-profile Muslim protest leader and a Muslim, with an unmarked vehicle during a motorbike demonstration in Monywa.

Transgender writer Han Nwe Oo shared on social media that while in detention she was ridiculed for being transgender, sexually assaulted, and faced “atrocious” interrogation for two days at a military camp inside Mandalay Palace, Mandalay Region in September.

According to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), women in custody were subjected to sexual assault, gender-based violence, and verbal abuse. Police in some cases verbally abused women who reported rape. Women who reported sexual assault faced further abuse by police and the possibility of being sued for impugning the dignity of the perpetrator. On July 19, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders noted “[w]omen human rights defenders are particularly at risk in remote rural areas and are often beaten and kicked before being sent to prison where they may face torture and sexual violence with no medical care provided.”

In one case in April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that security force members severely beat and sexually assaulted a female detainee accused of involvement in small-scale bomb attacks against regime targets in Rangoon. Her injuries were so severe she struggled to eat or urinate. Her cellmate reported similar treatment.

Also in April, local media reported that a high school student from Rangoon was arrested with her mother and described how she was “touched by a police officer who told me he could kill me and make me disappear.”

In Rangoon a journalist detained in March told media he witnessed police burn a detained female journalist with cigarettes and threaten to rape her if she did not provide information on her involvement in prodemocracy activities.

Impunity for rights abuses was pervasive for security force leaders and members. There was no credible evidence that the regime took action to investigate incidents or punish alleged perpetrators of abuses or to include human rights training as part of its overall training of regime security forces. The regime routinely denied responsibility for atrocities. For example, in April local media reported that the regime issued a blanket denial of abuses during a meeting with the UN special envoy for Burma, rejecting her allegations as “one-sided,” while denying it had killed children, among other atrocities.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in prisons, labor camps, and military detention facilities were reportedly harsh and frequently life threatening due to overcrowding; degrading and abusive treatment; and inadequate access to medical care (including COVID-19 treatment) and basic needs, including food, shelter, and hygiene.

Physical Conditions: There were 48 known prisons and 50 known labor camps in 2020. Women and men were held separately. Some prisons held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners. Children were sometimes held in pretrial detention with adults. More than 20,000 inmates were serving court-mandated sentences in labor camps located across the country in 2020; data were not available for the reporting year. The Associated Press reported on October 28 that the military had transformed dozens of public facilities (e.g., community halls) into interrogation centers across the country after the coup.

Several reports document poor conditions within prison facilities, including inadequate sewage systems, insufficient – and often inedible – rations, and a lack of basic necessities. Overcrowding was reportedly a serious problem in many prisons and labor camps. According to AAPP, occupancy at Insein Prison, the country’s largest, was nearly three times its intended capacity prior to the military coup.

Medical care was inadequate, and this reportedly contributed to deaths in custody. Prisons failed to adopt measures to protect prisoners from COVID-19, and there were widespread reports of COVID-19 transmission, illness, and deaths among prisoners. Despite regular regime reporting at national and subnational levels on COVID-19 cases and deaths, the regime failed to make data available on the impact of COVID-19 in prisons. According to AAPP, COVID-19 vaccinations were limited only to high-profile prisoners. In addition to COVID-19, prisoners suffered from other health problems, including malaria, heart disease, high blood pressure, tuberculosis, skin diseases, and intestinal illnesses caused or exacerbated by unhygienic conditions and spoiled food. There were also numerous reports of political prisoners being denied medical services.

Former prisoners complained of poorly maintained physical structures that provided no protection from the elements and were infested with rodents, snakes, and molds.

Conditions for women were deplorable, with a lack of access to sufficient toilets and no privacy. Prison guards denied requests for sanitary products for menstruation and other basic hygiene products. After the coup, sexual violence, gender harassment, and humiliation by officials increased.

In September human rights watchdog Just Power reported that a prominent human rights activist suffered from deteriorating health conditions as a result of her “unjust arrest and detention.” According to the report, regime security forces denied her access to health services, including to medicines provided by her family.

Administration: Prisoners and detainees could sometimes submit complaints to judicial authorities prior to the coup, but there was no clear legal or administrative protection for this right. There is no credible evidence of prisoners and detainees submitting complaints after the coup. Some prisons prevented full adherence to religiously based codes of personal conduct, ostensibly due to space restrictions and security concerns.

In April local media reported that a journalist fasting in observance of Ramadan was accused of staging a hunger strike and sent to solitary confinement at Insein Prison.

Independent Monitoring: The Department of Corrections in the Ministry of Home Affairs operated the prisons and labor camp system.

The International Committee for the Red Cross had no access to prisons, labor camps, or military detention sites during the year. After March 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs under the deposed civilian government claimed it could not allow access because of COVID-19 prevention measures. After