Afghanistan

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

Both the pre-August 15 government security forces and the Taliban were responsible for forced disappearances.

UNAMA reported that the Taliban carried out abductions with 40 civilian casualties resulting from those abductions in the first six months of the year, a slight decrease from the same period in 2020 (see section 1.g.).

There were reports of enforced disappearances by the pre-August 15 government that included transnational transfers from the country to Pakistan, according to an August UN Human Rights Council report for the period of May 2020 to May 2021.

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.

The 2004 constitution in effect until the August 15 Taliban takeover prohibited arbitrary arrest and detention, but both remained serious problems. In the pre-August 15 period, authorities detained many citizens without respecting essential procedural protections. According to NGOs, law enforcement officers continued to detain citizens arbitrarily without clear legal authority or without regard to substantive procedural legal protections. Local law enforcement officials reportedly detained persons illegally on charges that lacked a basis in applicable criminal law. In some cases authorities improperly held women in prisons because they deemed it unsafe for the women to return home or because women’s shelters were not available to provide protection in the provinces or districts at issue (see section 6, Women). The law provided a defendant the right to object to his or her pretrial detention and receive a court hearing on the matter, but authorities generally did not observe this stipulation.

There were reports throughout the year of impunity and lack of accountability by security forces by both the pre-August 15 government and the Taliban. According to observers, ALP and ANP personnel under the pre-August 15 government were largely unaware of their responsibilities and defendants’ rights under the law because many officials were illiterate and lacked training. Independent judicial or external oversight of the NDS, Major Crimes Task Force, the ANP, and the ALP in the investigation and prosecution of crimes or misconduct was limited or nonexistent. (See also section 1.g.)

The constitution under the pre-August 15 government provided for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary was underfunded, understaffed, inadequately trained, largely ineffective, and subject to threats, bias, political influence, and pervasive corruption.

Judicial officials, prosecutors, and defense attorneys were often intimidated or corrupt. Corruption was considered by those surveyed by the World Justice Project 2021 report to be the most severe problem facing criminal courts.

Bribery and pressure from public officials, tribal leaders, families of accused persons, and individuals associated with the insurgency impaired judicial impartiality. Most courts administered justice unevenly, employing a mixture of codified law, sharia, and local custom. Traditional justice mechanisms remained the main recourse for many, especially in rural areas. Corruption was common in the judiciary, and often criminals paid bribes to obtain their release or a sentence reduction (see section 4).

Because the formal legal system often did not exist in rural areas, local elders and shuras (consultative gatherings, usually of men selected by the community) were the primary means of settling both criminal matters and civil disputes. They also imposed punishments without regard to the formal legal system. UNAMA and NGOs reported several cases where perpetrators of violence against women that included domestic abuse reoffended after their claims were resolved by mediation.

In areas they controlled throughout the year, the Taliban enforced a judicial system devoid of due process and based on a strict interpretation of sharia. Punishments included execution and mutilation.

The law under the pre-August 15 government prohibited arbitrary interference in matters of privacy, but authorities did not always respect its provisions. The law contained additional safeguards for the privacy of the home, prohibiting night arrests, requiring the presence of a female officer during residential searches, and strengthening requirements for body searches. The government did not always respect these prohibitions.

Pre-August 15, government officials entered homes and businesses of civilians forcibly and without legal authorization. There were reports that government officials monitored private communications, including telephone calls and other digital communications, without legal authority or judicial warrant.

Likewise, numerous reports since August indicated that the Taliban entered homes and offices forcibly to search for political enemies and those who had supported the NATO and U.S. missions. On December 29, the Taliban’s “interim minister for the propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice” decreed all Taliban forces would not violate anyone’s privacy, including unnecessary searches of phones, homes, and offices, and that any personnel who did would be punished.

Internal conflict that continued until August 15 resulted in civilian deaths, abductions, prisoner abuse, property damage, displacement of residents, and other abuses. The security situation deteriorated largely due to successful insurgent attacks by the Taliban and terrorist attacks by ISIS-K. ISIS-K terrorist attacks continued to destabilize the country after August 15, and Taliban efforts to defeat the terrorist group resulted in numerous violent clashes. According to UNAMA, actions by nonstate armed groups, primarily the Taliban and ISIS-K, accounted for most civilian deaths although civilian deaths decreased dramatically following the Taliban’s territorial takeover in August.

Killings: UNAMA counted 1,659 civilian deaths due to conflict from January 1 to June 30, and 350 from August 15 to December 31. Pro-Islamic Republic forces were responsible for 25 percent of pre-August 15 civilian casualties: 23 percent by the ANDSF, and 2 percent by progovernment armed groups such as militias. Antigovernment elements were responsible for 64 percent of the total pre-August 15 civilian casualties: 39 percent by the Taliban, 9 percent by ISIS-K, and 16 percent by undetermined antigovernment elements. UNAMA attributed 11 percent of pre-August 15 civilian casualties to “cross fire” during ground engagements where the exact party responsible could not be determined and other incident types, including unattributable unexploded ordnance and explosive remnants of war.

During the year antigovernment forces, including the Taliban, carried out numerous deadly attacks against religious leaders, particularly those who spoke out against the Taliban. Many progovernment Islamic scholars were killed in attacks for which no group claimed responsibility. On January 24, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Maulvi Abdul Raqeeb, a religious scholar, imam, and teacher. On March 3, Kabul University professor and religious scholar Faiz Mohammad Fayez was shot and killed on his way to morning prayers. On March 31, the ulema council chief in northern Takhar Province, Maulvi Abdul Samad Mohammad, was killed in a bomb blast when an explosive attached to his vehicle detonated.

On May 8, an elaborate coordinated attack on Sayed ul-Shuhuda girls’ school in Kabul deliberately targeted its female students in a mostly Hazara neighborhood, killing at least 90 persons, mostly women and girls. The Taliban denied responsibility, but the pre-August 15 government blamed the killings on the Taliban, calling the action “a crime against humanity.”

On June 12, a religious scholar in Logar Province, Mawlawi Samiullah Rashid, was abducted and killed by Taliban gunmen, according to a local Logar government official. In June, according to NGO HALO Trust, gunmen attacked a compound in Baghlan Province killing 10 de-miners. ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack in which there were indications the gunmen may have sought to target Hazaras specifically. Taliban fighters killed nine ethnic Hazara men from July 4 to 6 after taking control of Ghazni Province, according to Amnesty International. On July 22, the Taliban executed a popular comedian from Kandahar, Nazar Mohammad, after beating him, according to HRW. After a video of two men slapping and abusing him appeared in social media, the Taliban admitted that two of their fighters had killed him.

A former police chief of Kandahar and a member of the High Council on the National Reconciliation on August 4 stated that the Taliban had killed as many as 900 individuals in Kandahar Province in the preceding six weeks.

On August 24, Michelle Bachelet, UN high commissioner for human rights, stated during the 31st Special Session of the Human Rights Council that her office received credible reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses in many areas under effective Taliban control.

An ISIS-K suicide bombing outside the Kabul Airport on August 26 killed more than 180 persons, including 169 civilians in a large crowd seeking to flee the country. ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack.

Taliban fighters allegedly engaged in killings of Hazaras in Daykundi Province on August 30; the Taliban denied the allegations.

On September 6, Taliban fighters in Panjshir reportedly detained and killed civilians as a part of their offensive to consolidate control over the province. Reports of abuses remained unverified due to a Taliban-imposed blackout on internet communications in the province. According to Amnesty International, on the same day, the Taliban conducted door-to-door searches in the village of Urmaz in Panjshir to identify persons suspected of working for the pre-August 15 government. Taliban fighters executed at least six civilian men, with eyewitnesses saying that most had previously served in the ANSDF, but none were taking part in hostilities at the time of the execution.

Antigovernment groups regularly targeted civilians, including using IEDs to kill or maim them. UNAMA reported the use of nonsuicide IEDs by antigovernment elements as the leading cause of civilian casualties in the first six months of the year.

A bomb attack targeting Taliban leadership at a mosque in Kabul on October 3 killed at least five civilians at the memorial service for the mother of Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid.

ISIS-K launched several attacks on mosques in October. The attacks targeted the Shia community, killing dozens of worshipers in Kunduz, Kandahar. No group claimed responsibility for two attacks on December 10 in western Kabul targeting predominantly Shia Hazara neighborhoods.

On November 2, ISIS-K suicide blasts and gunfire at the main military hospital in Kabul left at least 20 persons dead and dozens more injured.

On November 3, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders and 11 other thematic UN special rapporteurs stated that Afghan human rights defenders were under direct threat by the Taliban, including gender-specific threats against women, beatings, arrests, enforced disappearances, and killings. The report noted that defenders described living in a climate of constant fear, with the most at-risk groups being defenders documenting alleged war crimes; women defenders, in particular criminal lawyers; cultural rights defenders; and defenders from minority groups. The Taliban raided the offices of human rights and civil society organizations, searching for the names, addresses, and contacts of employees, according to the report.

According to the UN secretary-general’s report on the situation in the country, eight civil society activists were killed (three by the Taliban, three by ISIS-K, and two by unknown actors between August and December 31.

Abductions: The UN secretary-general’s 2020 Children and Armed Conflict Report, released in June, cited 54 verified incidents of the Taliban abducting children. Of those, 42 children were released, four were killed, and the whereabouts of eight children remained unknown.

Child Soldiers: Under the pre-August 15 government’s law, recruitment of children in military units carried a penalty of six months to one year in prison. The Children and Armed Conflict Report verified the recruitment and use of 196 boys, of whom 172 were attributed to the Taliban and the remainder to pre-August 15 government or progovernment forces. Children were used in combat, including attacks with IEDs. Nine boys were killed or injured in combat. Insurgent groups, including the Taliban and ISIS-K, used children in direct hostilities, to plant and detonate IEDs, carry weapons, surveil, and guard bases. The Taliban recruited child soldiers from madrassas in the country and Pakistan that provide military training and religious indoctrination, and it sometimes provided families cash payments or protection in exchange for sending their children to these schools. UNAMA verified the recruitment of 40 boys by the Taliban, the ANP, and progovernment militias half in the first half of the year. In some cases the Taliban and other antigovernment elements used children as suicide bombers, human shields, and to place IEDs, particularly in southern provinces. Media, NGOs, and UN agencies reported the Taliban tricked children, promised them money, used false religious pretexts, or forced them to become suicide bombers. UNAMA reported the ANDSF and progovernment militias recruited and used 11 children during the first nine months of the year, all for combat purposes. Media reported that local progovernment commanders recruited children younger than age 16. NGOs reported security forces used child soldiers in the practice of bacha bazi.

The country remained on the Child Soldiers Prevention Act List in the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The pre-August 15 government’s Ministry of Interior took steps to prevent child soldier recruitment by screening for child applicants at ANP recruitment centers, preventing 187 child applicants from enrolling in 2020. The pre-August 15 government operated child protection units (CPUs) in all 34 provinces; however, some NGOs reported these units were not sufficiently equipped, staffed, or trained to provide adequate oversight. The difficult security environment in most rural areas prevented oversight of recruitment practices at the district level; CPUs played a limited oversight role in recruiting. Recruits underwent an identity check, including an affidavit from at least two community elders that the recruit was at least 18 years old and eligible to join the ANDSF. The Ministries of Interior and Defense also issued directives meant to prevent the recruitment and sexual abuse of children by the ANDSF. Media reported that in some cases ANDSF units used children as personal servants, support staff, or for sexual purposes. Pre-August 15 government security forces reportedly recruited boys specifically for use in bacha bazi in every province of the country.

While the pre-August 15 government protected trafficking victims from prosecution for crimes committed because of being subjected to trafficking, there were reports the government treated child former combatants as criminals as opposed to victims of trafficking. Most were incarcerated alongside adult offenders without adequate protections from abuse by other inmates or prison staff.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuse: After the August 15 Taliban takeover, there were fewer security and security-related incidents throughout the rest of the year. According to UNAMA, between August 19 and December 31, the United Nations recorded 985 security-related incidents, a 91 percent decrease from the same period in 2020. Security incidents also dropped significantly as of August 15 from 600 to less than 100 incidents per week. Available data indicated that armed clashes also decreased by 98 percent as of August 15 from 7,430 incidents to 148; airstrikes by 99 percent from 501 to three; detonations of IEDs by 91 percent from 1,118 to 101; and killings by 51 percent from 424 to 207.

The security environment continued to make it difficult for humanitarian organizations to operate freely in many parts of the country through August. Violence and instability hampered development, relief, and reconstruction efforts throughout the year. Prior to August 15, insurgents, such as the Taliban, targeted government employees and aid workers. NGOs reported insurgents, powerful local elites, and militia leaders demanded bribes to allow groups to bring relief supplies into their areas and distribute them. After the Taliban takeover, a lack of certainty regarding rules and the prevalence of conservative cultural mores in some parts of the country restricted operation by humanitarian organizations.

The period immediately following the Taliban takeover in mid-August was marked by general insecurity and uncertainty for humanitarian partners as Taliban operations included searches of NGO office premises, some confiscation of assets and investigation of activities. According to UNAMA, challenges to humanitarian access increased from 1,104 incidents in 2020 to 2,050 incidents during the year, the majority occurring in the pre-August 15 period at the height of fighting between the Taliban and government forces.

The cessation of fighting was associated with a decrease in humanitarian access challenges with only 376 incidents reported between September 17 and December 17, according to UNAMA. The initial absence of a clear Taliban policy on humanitarian assistance; lack of awareness of the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence; sweeping albeit varied restrictions on women in the workplace; access problems; and banking challenges were also significant impediments to aid groups’ ability to scale up response operations.

After mid-August, geographic access by humanitarian implementing partners improved significantly, allowing access to some rural areas for the first time in years. Taliban provincial and local leaders expressed willingness to work with humanitarian partners to address obstacles to the principled delivery of humanitarian assistance. In September the Taliban provided written and oral assurances to humanitarian partners and increasingly facilitated access for the provision of humanitarian goods and services from abroad and within the country. Nonetheless, impediments to the full participation of women in management, delivery, and monitoring of humanitarian assistance programs remained a concern.

In October a Taliban official reportedly declared a prominent U.S.-based humanitarian aid organization an “enemy of the state.” Taliban forces occupied the organization’s Kabul offices, seized their vehicles, and warned that NDS officials were determined to “punish” the organization on alleged charges of Christian proselytization. Faced with mounting hostility and threats to arrest staff, the organization suspended its operations. The organization’s Kabul offices remained occupied by the Taliban.

In its campaign leading up to the August 15 takeover, the Taliban also attacked schools, radio stations, public infrastructure, and government offices. An explosives-laden truck destroyed a bridge in Kandahar’s Arghandab district on March 23. While the blast inflicted no casualties, part of the bridge used to connect the district with Kandahar city was destroyed. Sediq Sediqqi, Ghani’s deputy minister of interior affairs for strategy and policies, accused the Taliban of destroying the bridge, which Taliban spokesperson Mujahid denied.

Albania

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

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

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.

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

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, political pressure, intimidation, corruption, and limited resources prevented the judiciary from functioning fully, independently, and efficiently. Court hearings were generally open to the public unless COVID-19 restrictions did not allow for journalists or the public to enter court premises. In such cases, media submitted complaints to the court, which reviewed them on a case-by-case basis and generally allowed journalists and the public to attend hearings if the case was of interest to the general public.

The government continued to implement an internationally monitored process to vet judges and prosecutors and dismiss those with unexplained wealth or ties to organized crime. As of September, 42 percent of the judges and prosecutors vetted had failed and been dismissed, 36 percent passed, and 22 percent resigned or retired. During the year the number of vetted Supreme Court judges grew to fill nine of the 19 seats on the court. Assignments of vetted judges were sufficient to establish administrative, civil, and penal colleges and allow courts to begin adjudicating cases. The Supreme Court, however, must have at least 10 judges to be able to elect the remaining three Constitutional Court judges. As of July 31, the Supreme Court had a backlog of 36,608 cases pending adjudication.

The politicization of past appointments to the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court at times threatened to undermine the independence and integrity of these institutions.

The implementation of justice reform provisions led to a pause in normal disciplinary processes while the country established independent disciplinary bodies. From January through September 8, the country’s High Justice Inspectorate received 875 complaints that resulted in the issuance of 740 decisions on archiving and 120 decisions on the verifications of complaints. It also administered 24 disciplinary investigations, nine of which were carried over from the previous Inspectorate at the High Judicial Council. The High Justice Inspectorate also submitted nine requests for disciplinary proceedings against magistrates to the High Judicial Council and High Prosecutorial Council.

The constitution and laws prohibit arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, but there were reports that the government failed to respect those prohibitions. During the year’s parliamentary election campaign, it emerged that a database with the personal information and contact details of approximately 900,000 citizens as well as their likely voter preferences, leaked into the public domain, potentially making voters vulnerable to pressure. A criminal investigation was launched by the Specialized Anticorruption Body (SPAK).

Algeria

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. A detainee has the right to appeal a court’s pretrial detention order and, if released, seek compensation from the government. Nonetheless, overuse of pretrial detention remained a problem. The government increasingly used pretrial detention after the beginning of the Hirak popular protest movement in 2019. The Ministry of Justice reported that, as of September, 19 percent of the prisoners were in pretrial detention. Security forces routinely detained individuals who participated in unauthorized protests. Arrested individuals reported that authorities held them for four to eight hours before releasing them without charges.

The judiciary was not always independent or impartial in civil matters and lacked independence according to some human rights observers. Some alleged family connections and status of the those involved influenced decisions. While the constitution provides for the separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches of government, the executive branch’s broad statutory authorities limited judicial independence. The constitution grants the president authority to appoint all prosecutors and judges. These presidential appointments are not subject to legislative oversight but are reviewed by the High Judicial Council, which consists of the president, minister of justice, chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court, 10 judges, and six individuals outside the judiciary who the president chooses. The president serves as the president of the High Judicial Council, which is responsible for the appointment, transfer, promotion, and discipline of judges.

In May the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSM) removed National Union of Judges president Saad Eddine Merzouk for “violating an obligation of confidentiality.” The CSM suspended Merzouk in 2019 for supporting the Hirak movement. In May the CSM filed suit against Prosecutor Sid-Ahmed Belhadi for sharing pictures of himself and Merzouk on social media. In 2020 Belhadi requested that the courts release Hirak demonstrators. In May the CSM also suspended judge Fatma Zohra Amaili for alleged “insults on social networks.”

In September, President Tebboune appointed Tahar Mamouni as Supreme Court first president, replacing Abderrachid Tabi after his appointment as minister of justice. Tebboune also appointed 15 new appeal courts presidents, 20 attorneys general, and 20 administrative courts presidents. Tebboune did not indicate if the High Judicial Council reviewed his decision.

On November 18, according to media reports, authorities arrested and placed Judge Chentouf El Hachemi, president of the Court of Oran, in pretrial detention for allegedly accepting a bribe. Media also reported that the Ministry of Justice promoted El Hachemi to his position, despite facing previous disciplinary actions. El Hachemi presided over several high-profile corruption cases.

The constitution provides for the protection of a person’s “honor” and private life, including the privacy of home, communication, and correspondence. According to human rights activists, citizens widely believed the government conducted frequent electronic surveillance of a range of citizens, including political opponents, journalists, human rights groups, and suspected terrorists. Security officials reportedly visited homes unannounced and conducted searches without a warrant. The government charged the Ministry of National Defense cybercrime unit with coordinating anticybercrime efforts and engaging in preventive surveillance of electronic communications in the interests of national security, but it did not provide details regarding the limits of surveillance authority or corresponding protections for persons subject to surveillance. The Ministry of Justice stated the agency was subject to all existing judicial controls that apply to law enforcement agencies. In 2019 the government moved the agency from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Defense. A new decree allowed authorities to conduct domestic surveillance and required internet and telephone providers to increase cooperation with the Defense Ministry.

Andorra

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angola

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

There were reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

On January 30, following clashes between protesters and security forces in Cafunfo, there were varying reports of missing persons. The opposition parties National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola Electoral Coalition (CASA-CE), and Partido de Renovacao Social (Social Renewal Party) reported 10 persons missing. Amnesty International released unconfirmed reports alleging many missing activists were killed and their bodies thrown into the Cuango River. A respected journalist who visited Cafunfo between March and June reported that six persons involved in the clash were missing.

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.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, security forces did not always respect these prohibitions. The constitution provides the right of habeas corpus to citizens to challenge their detention before a court.

According to several NGO and civil society sources, police arbitrarily arrested individuals without due process and routinely detained persons who participated, or were about to participate, in antigovernment protests, although the constitution protects the right to protest. While they often released detainees after a few hours, police at times charged them with crimes.

The constitution and law provide for an independent and impartial judiciary. The judicial system was affected by institutional weaknesses, including political influence in the decision-making process. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the Attorney General’s Office worked to improve the independence of prosecutors and judges. The National Institute for Judicial Studies conducted capacity-building programs to foster the independence of the judicial system.

There were long trial delays at the Supreme Court, in part because the court remained the only appellate court in the country. A 2015 law established another level of appellate courts to reduce delays. Three of these courts were inaugurated in Luanda, Benguela, and Lubango, and judges and personnel were recruited but were not operating at year’s end. Criminal courts also had a large backlog of cases that resulted in major delays in hearings. In July a bill was approved to add 10 more judges to the Supreme Court, bringing the total to 31, to help address the backlog of more than 4,300 cases before the criminal, civil, and labor chambers of the court.

Informal courts remained the principal institutions through which citizens resolved civil conflicts in rural areas, such as disputes over a bartering deal. Each community in which informal courts were located established local rules, creating disparities in how similar cases were resolved from one community to the next. Traditional community leaders (known as sobas) also heard and decided local civil cases. Sobas do not have the authority to resolve criminal cases, which only courts may hear.

Both the national police and the Angolan Armed Forces have internal court systems that generally remained closed to outside scrutiny. Although members of these organizations may be tried under their internal regulations, cases that include violations of criminal or civil laws may also fall under the jurisdiction of provincial courts. Both the Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights have civilian oversight responsibilities over military courts.

The constitution and law prohibit the arbitrary or unlawful interference of privacy, family, home, or correspondence, but the government did not always respect these prohibitions. Civil organizations and politically active individuals, including government critics, members of opposition parties, and journalists, complained that the government monitored their activities and membership. These groups also frequently complained of threats and harassment based on their affiliations with groups that were purportedly or explicitly antigovernment.

Antigua and Barbuda

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court.

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

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

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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.

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

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees: “Judicial warrants” are required for arrests. According to the “law,” police must bring a detained person before a “judge” within 24 hours of arrest. Police can then keep the detainee in custody for up to three months, but a “judge” must review the detention after the third day and every eight days thereafter. Authorities generally respected this right and usually informed detainees promptly of charges against them, although they often held individuals believed to have committed a violent offense for longer periods without charge.

Bail may be granted by the “courts” and was routinely used. “Courts” confiscated detainees’ passports pending trial. Human rights contacts and an NGO reported that translators were not available for non-Turkish speakers, forcing defense attorneys or NGOs to provide one. As in previous years, according to an NGO and a human rights attorney, during the detention review process, officials pressured detainees to sign confessions in order to be released on bail. The lawyer cited situations in which police used the threat of prolonged detention to induce detainees to plead guilty.

According to the “constitution,” indicted detainees and prisoners have the right to access legal representation. Authorities usually allowed detainees prompt access to family members and a lawyer of their choice, but as in previous years, NGOs reported there were cases in which authorities prevented detainees from seeing a lawyer. Authorities provided lawyers to the indigent only in cases involving violent offenses. According to NGOs and human rights attorneys, police sometimes did not observe required legal protections, particularly at the time of arrest. Suspects who demanded the presence of a lawyer were sometimes physically intimidated or threatened with stiffer charges.

A lawyer reported a “Central Prison” “regulation” prohibits sentenced individuals in solitary confinement from meeting with a lawyer without the “prison director’s” permission. The “prison director” has the authority to deny the visit without providing justification.

The “law” provides for an independent judiciary, and authorities generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Most criminal and civil cases begin in “district courts,” whose decisions can be appealed to the “Supreme Court.” Civilian “courts” have jurisdiction in cases where civilians face charges of violating military restrictions, such as filming or photographing military zones.

The “law” prohibits such actions. There were reports that police subjected Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities to physical surveillance and monitoring, including police patrols and questioning. Greek Cypriot and Maronite residents reported that police required them to report their location and when they expected visitors. A Maronite representative asserted that Turkish armed forces continued to occupy 18 houses in the Maronite village of Karpasia.

Argentina

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of security forces during the year.

As of November 1, there were no developments in the disappearance of Facundo Astudillo Castro, who disappeared in April 2020 while hitchhiking approximately 75 miles from his home to Bahia Blanca, province of Buenos Aires, shortly after police arrested him for violating the COVID-19 quarantine. Authorities recovered Astudillo’s body in a canal four months later, and an autopsy by an internationally respected team of forensic anthropologists could not rule out homicide. Prosecutors asserted that provincial police officers were their primary suspects, but as of November 1, after 20 months of investigation, they had yet to formally charge any officers.

Authorities continued to investigate and prosecute individuals implicated in disappearances, killings, and torture committed during the 1976-83 military dictatorship and the 1974-76 government of Isabel Peron. On February 18, a federal court found eight individuals guilty of crimes against humanity committed at the former Naval Mechanics School in Buenos Aires; three were sentenced to life imprisonment. On June 10, a federal court gave life sentences to six former members of military counterintelligence related to the 1979 “Montonero Counteroffensive,” which resulted in the killing of 12 persons and the disappearance of 70 others.

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.

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

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but government officials at all levels did not always respect judicial independence and impartiality. According to domestic NGOs, judges in some federal criminal and ordinary courts were subject at times to political manipulation.

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

As of October, formal investigations continued regarding possible illegal espionage during the administration of former president Mauricio Macri. Among the suspects were the former heads of Argentine Federal Intelligence Gustavo Arribas and Silvia Majdalani and other officials. Members of the intelligence agency were accused of having illegally monitored the activities and private communications of politicians (from ruling and opposition parties), journalists, labor leaders, and religious figures. On April 20, a bicameral congressional committee published a report on the case, which stated that the former administration committed illegal espionage against 354 individuals and 171 political organizations.

Armenia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. A new criminal code which was adopted on May 5 and scheduled to enter into force in July 2022, would criminalize enforced disappearances, defined as “denial or hiding the fact of or the status or the place of a legally or illegally detained person by an official, another person or a group of persons, with the authorization, assistance, consent or connivance of the state as a result of which the disappeared person found himself outside the protection of law.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) processed cases of persons missing in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and worked with the government to develop a consolidated list of missing persons. According to the ICRC, more than 5,000 Armenians and Azerbaijanis remained unaccounted for since the 1990s as a result of the conflict. According to police, as of 2019 a total of 867 Armenians were missing since the 1990s due to the conflict. According to the government, as of October 29, 321 persons were considered missing after the fall 2020 fighting.

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.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. There were several reports of arbitrary or selective arrest during the year. There were reports that ethnic Armenian forces unlawfully executed some Azerbaijani detainees in 2020 (see section 1.g.)

Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary did not generally exhibit independence and impartiality. Popular trust in the impartiality of judges remained low, while civil society organizations highlighted that the justice sector retained many officials who served the previous authorities and issued rulings consistently favorable to them. Corruption of judges remained a concern. During the year NGOs continued to report on judges who had acquired significant amounts of property and assets that were disproportionate to their salaries, and they noted that the absence of vetting of all standing judges based on objective criteria – particularly of those in the Supreme Judicial Council and Constitutional Court – undermined the integrity of the judiciary.

Some human rights lawyers noted that some of the few truly independent judges faced internal pressure from superiors – including the Supreme Judicial Council – on some judicial decisions. Such pressure reportedly included suggestions their reputations or careers would be impacted and through the threat of selective punishment of minor misdemeanors. The lawyers said court decisions on cases involving similar circumstances had become unpredictable and in some high-profile corruption cases decisions, appeared to be politically motivated. They asserted that ongoing judicial reforms primarily offered ad hoc and temporary fixes rather than systemic reform.

In March 2020 parliament adopted changes to the judicial code and several related laws to provide a legal basis for checking and assessing the legality of judges’ property acquisition, their professionalism and respect for human rights, and their impartiality. In April 2020 a group of civil society organizations criticized these judicial integrity mechanisms. According to the group’s statement, the extremely limited scope of the integrity review was fundamentally disappointing, as it would be conducted only for candidates for Constitutional Court judgeships, prosecutors, or investigators, but not for sitting judges, prosecutors, or investigators. The constitution prohibits retroactive application of law and would have to be amended to allow the vetting of sitting judges.

The Commission on the Prevention of Corruption conducts asset declaration analysis of sitting judges and nominees to public positions, such as judges, prosecutors, and investigators. Based on the commission’s review of the property of judges, three disciplinary, three administrative, and one criminal case had been initiated as of September 3.

According to observers, administrative courts had relatively more internal independence but were understaffed and faced a long backlog.

Authorities generally enforced court orders.

NGOs reported judges routinely ignored defendants’ claims that their testimony was coerced through physical abuse. Human rights observers continued to report concerns regarding the courts’ reliance on evidence that defendants claimed was obtained under duress, especially when such evidence was the basis for a conviction.

The constitution prohibits unauthorized searches and provides for the rights to privacy and confidentiality of communications. Law enforcement organizations did not always abide by these prohibitions.

Authorities may not legally tap telephones, intercept correspondence, or conduct searches without obtaining the permission of a judge based on compelling evidence of criminal activity. The constitution, however, stipulates exceptions when confidentiality of communication may be restricted without a court order when necessary to protect state security and conditioned by the special status of those in communication. Although law enforcement bodies generally adhered to legal procedures, observers claimed that certain judges authorized wiretaps and other surveillance requests from the NSS and police without the compelling evidence required by law. By contrast there were no reports that courts violated legal procedures when responding to such authorization requests from the SIS, the Investigative Committee, or the State Revenue Committee. Human rights lawyers reported cases of wiretapping of privileged attorney/client communication as part of criminal investigations. Such wiretapping is prohibited by law.

Killings: At year’s end authorities were investigating two unlawful killings during the intensive fall 2020 fighting involving Armenia, Armenia-supported separatists, and Azerbaijan (also see the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Azerbaijan).

The sides to the conflict submitted complaints to the ECHR accusing each other of committing atrocities. The cases remained pending with the court.

According to a joint report released in May by the NGOs the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and Truth Hounds, When Embers Burst into Flames – International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law Violations during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, there was prima facie evidence that members of ethnic Armenian armed forces unlawfully executed two wounded and captured Azerbaijani combatants. The evidence consisted of two videos. As IPHR and Truth Hounds were unable to confirm the videos’ authenticity, the report stated, “If these killings are confirmed through further investigations, they would clearly violate the [International Humanitarian Law] prohibition on violence to life and person and would constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The killings of wounded Azerbaijani soldiers would equally violate … Armenia’s Penal Code and constitute gross violations of the right to life under … the [European Convention on Human Rights].”

On April 24, the Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office initiated a search in Bashlibel, Kalbajar District, Azerbaijan, for the graves of Azerbaijanis allegedly killed by Armenian armed forces in 1993. According to the Azerbaijan Prosecutor General’s Office, the remains of 12 Azerbaijani civilians were found. Three additional bodies were found in June, and another grave with multiple remains was found on August 30.

Since the November 2020 cease-fire, landmine explosions in Azerbaijani territories previously controlled by Armenia resulted in the deaths of seven Azerbaijani military personnel and 29 civilians; another 109 military and 44 civilians were injured, according to the Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office on December 9.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: In When Embers Burst into Flames – International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law Violations during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, the NGOs IPHR and Truth Hounds reported that based on interviews with former Azerbaijani captives and a video depicting the abuse of one of the captives, “at least seven Azerbaijani prisoners of war were subjected to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment at the hands of Armenian/Nagorno-Karabakh armed forces.” The report also stated that three additional cases of mistreatment had been captured on video, although not independently verified by IPHR and Truth Hounds, and required further investigation. In one of the latter cases, the mistreatment may have resulted in the victim’s death, although this was not independently confirmed. According to the report, “Systematic beatings, inhuman conditions of detention, denial of medical care and other basic needs, cruelty and humiliation described by witnesses or captured on video amounts to a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions [by Armenian/Nagorno-Karabakh forces] and the violation of the prohibition against torture and [cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment…under the [European Convention on Human Rights].” The report also noted the alleged conduct would violate the country’s penal code.

According to the same report, eight videos from social media appeared to show “the ill-treatment and despoliation of dead Azerbaijani soldiers by members of Armenian/Nagorno-Karabakh armed forces.” The videos were not independently verified, and the conduct that they purported to show required further investigation. Nevertheless, the report described the videos as constituting “prima facie evidence of multiple cases of despoliation” of the dead by Armenian/Nagorno-Karabakh forces. The report concluded, “All credible allegations of despoliation of the dead require further investigation. If proven to the applicable standard, this conduct would violate the [International Humanitarian Law] prohibition on despoliation and degrading treatment and may also violate … Armenia’s Penal Code.”

According to the government, authorities initiated six criminal cases in December 2020 investigating actions of Armenian servicemen during the fall 2020 conflict on charges of “serious violations of international humanitarian law during armed conflicts.” Of the six cases, four involved alleged murder, torture, and inhuman treatment, one involved alleged murder and torture, and one involved alleged murder. The government combined all six cases into one criminal proceeding on June 22. The investigation was underway at year’s end.

An international photojournalist documented the destruction of dozens of Azerbaijani cemeteries in Fuzuli, Agdam, Zangilan, Kalbajar, and Jebrayil with thousands of photographs. Graves were desecrated and in some instances evidence of grave robbery – such as holes dug above individual graves – was found; other sites showed evidence of destruction and exhumation by heavy construction equipment. Foreign observers visiting the Alley of Martyrs in Agdam photographed holes where bodies were once interred; one broken headstone remained in the cemetery. The vandalism of headstones left few individual graves untouched. Many graves had the carefully hewn faces of the deceased (carved into gravestones) destroyed by hammers or similar objects. Additionally, the corpses from Azerbaijani graves were exhumed and gold teeth removed, leaving skulls and bones strewn across Azerbaijani cemeteries. According to the photojournalist, Armenian graves remained virtually undisturbed.

Australia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

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

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.

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

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

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions. Police have authority to enter premises without a warrant in emergency circumstances.

Austria

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. The government has measures in place to ensure accountability for disappearances if one were to occur.

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.

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

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

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

Azerbaijan

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

There was one report of a temporary disappearance by or on behalf of government authorities. On October 22, Azerbaijan Popular Front Party activist Mutallim Orujov, who was deported from Germany and returned to Azerbaijan on June 1, reportedly was summoned by the State Security Service and disappeared for five days. His lawyer did not learn until October 27 that Orujov had been arrested on October 24.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) processed cases of persons missing in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and worked with the government to develop a consolidated list of missing persons. According to the ICRC, more than 5,000 Azerbaijanis and Armenians remained unaccounted for since the 1990s as a result of the conflict. The State Committee on the Captive and Missing reported that, as of December 2020, there were 3,896 Azerbaijanis registered as missing as a result of the fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the 1990s. Of these, 719 were civilians. The Ministry of Defense reported that as of October 21, there were six Azerbaijani service members missing as a result of the fall 2020 fighting.

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.

Although the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, the government generally did not observe these requirements.

There were reports that the government continued to hold detainees captured after the fall 2020 intensive fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and following the November 2020 cease-fire. There were reports that some detainees from the period prior to the November 2020 cease-fire had been summarily executed (see section 1.g.). Of the 41 Armenians in Azerbaijani detention at year’s end, two Armenians detained during the 2020 fighting were charged with committing crimes during the fighting in the 1990s.

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, judges were not functionally independent of the executive branch. The judiciary remained largely corrupt and inefficient, and lacked independence. Many verdicts were legally unsupportable and largely unrelated to the evidence presented during a trial, with outcomes frequently appearing predetermined. For example, in October opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party member Niyameddin Ahmedov was sentenced to 13 years in prison on a questionable “terrorist financing” charge. Human rights groups concluded the prosecution lacked credible evidence proving his guilt and the trial was politically motivated. Courts often failed to investigate allegations of torture and inhuman treatment of detainees in police custody.

There also were reports that the government prosecuted Armenian civilians and servicemembers that it took into custody both during the fall 2020 hostilities and following the November 2020 cease-fire in trials that lacked due process (see section 1.g.).

The Ministry of Justice controlled the Judicial Legal Council, which appoints the committee that administers the judicial selection process and examinations and oversees long-term judicial training. The council consists of six judges, a prosecutor, a lawyer, a council representative, a Ministry of Justice representative, and a legal scholar.

Credible reports indicated that judges and prosecutors took instructions from the Presidential Administration and the Justice Ministry, particularly in politically sensitive cases. There were also credible allegations that judges routinely accepted bribes.

The law prohibits arbitrary invasions of privacy and monitoring of correspondence and other private communications. The government generally did not respect these legal prohibitions.

While the constitution allows for searches of residences only with a court order or in cases specifically provided for by law, authorities often conducted searches without warrants. It was widely reported that the State Security Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs monitored telephone and internet communications (see section 2.a., Internet Freedom), particularly those of foreigners, prominent youth who were active online, and some political and business figures, activists, and persons engaged in international communication. Human rights lawyers asserted the postal service purposely lost or misplaced communications with the ECHR to inhibit proceedings against the government.

Throughout the year some websites and social media sources published leaked videos of virtual meetings and recorded conversations of opposition figures. It was widely believed that government law enforcement or intelligence services were the source of the leaked videos. For example, in March, the day after activist Narmin Shahmarzade was detained with 20 women attempting to stage a rally to raise awareness on domestic violence, doctored files from her smart phone appeared on a Telegram channel entitled, “Shahmarzade’s disclosures,” which included videos purporting to show her engaging in sexual acts. Authorities also allegedly hacked her Facebook profile, changing her profile name to “Shamtutan Narmin” (Slut Narmin). Activists believed government authorities were behind the campaign of intimidation.

There were reports the government punished family members for offenses allegedly committed by their relatives. For example, in March videos were disseminated purporting to show private citizen (and daughter of Jamil Hasanli, an opposition leader in exile) Gunel Hasanli engaged in sexual acts in her own bedroom in an effort to demean her. Hasanli released a statement explaining she had become a “target of such a large-scale (government) operation” when she started dating “Mahir,” a man whom she met online. Mahir was reportedly identified in the sex videos disseminated on Telegram channels that featured Hasanli. Hasanli said the relationship became serious, with Mahir giving her a gold ring and proposing to her. She claimed that Mahir drugged her one day to have one of the videos recorded. He later deleted all evidence of their relationship on her smart phone. Hasanli said she later suffered from severe allergic reactions and went to the hospital several times. She concluded, “The only purpose of abusing my desire to get married and own a nest in such a dirty and disgusting way is to discredit my father Jamil Hasanli, to overshadow his political activity, and this is what hurts me the most. I want to say that my father…had no information about my personal life.” A third sex video was disseminated on Telegram in April.

In contrast with 2020, during the year there were no public reports that authorities fired individuals from jobs or had individuals fired in retaliation for the political or civic activities of family members inside or outside the country.

Killings: Credible reports continued of unlawful killings involving summary executions during the fall 2020 intensive fighting involving Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Armenia-supported separatists (also see the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Armenia).

The sides to the conflict submitted complaints to the ECHR accusing each other of committing atrocities. The cases remained pending with the court.

In a March 12 report, Human Rights Watch documented two cases in which detainees died in Azerbaijan captivity a few months earlier. The available evidence indicated that one of the detainees, 44-year-old Arsen Gharakhanyan, was most likely the victim of an unlawful execution. Seen alive in two online videos in January after being detained by Azerbaijani soldiers, Gharakhanyan did not appear in the videos to be wounded. After his body was found on January 18 near the village of Aygestan, Human Rights Watch reported that photographs of the location showed a grave that appeared to be fresh, while his body, which had gunshot entry wounds, did not show any obvious signs of decomposition. According to Human Rights Watch, Armenian forensics experts assessed that he had been shot on January 15, two days after the ECHR had asked the government to provide information on his whereabouts.

According to a joint report released in May by the NGOs the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and Truth Hounds, When Embers Burst into Flames – International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law Violations during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, members of Azerbaijan’s armed forces unlawfully executed four captured Armenian combatants and three Armenian civilians. The report also stated that Azerbaijani forces were responsible for the enforced disappearance of at least one Armenian civilian and that another Armenian civilian died due to the conditions of his detention. According to the report, “All nine documented deaths violate the [International Humanitarian Law] prohibition on violence to life and person and constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The cases further violate…Azerbaijan’s Law concerning the Protection of Civilian Persons and the Rights of Prisoners of War and constitute criminal offences under…Azerbaijan’s Criminal Code. In the absence of lawful justification, these deaths equally constitute gross violations of the right to life under Article 2 of the [European Convention on Human Rights].”

According to multiple Armenian sources, civilians attempting to remain in their homes in territory captured by Azerbaijan were taken into custody or killed, including elderly civilians who had no weapons. On August 10, the Washington, D.C.-based Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights in partnership with Armenia’s International and Comparative Law Center announced that it had filed cases with the ECHR regarding 19 Armenians killed in 10 separate incidents while in the custody of Azerbaijani forces or in prison in Azerbaijan.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: In a March 12 report, Human Rights Watch documented several cases from September 2020 through early January 2021 in which Azerbaijani forces used violence to detain civilians and subjected them to torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Among the cases cited by Human Rights Watch was that of Sasha Gharakhanyan, a 71-year-old ethnic Armenian civilian and the father of Arsen Gharakhanyan, both of whom were captured in October 2020 in Hadrut. In November 2020 a video began circulating on social media with Azerbaijani soldiers shown forcing Sasha to kiss the Azerbaijani flag and repeat “Karabakh is Azerbaijan.” In December Azerbaijan returned him to Armenia as part of a group of 44 detainees. He spent the next 10 days in the hospital. Sasha Gharakhanyan’s wrists and ankles were deeply scarred from having been tightly bound with wire, and he had scars on the back of his head, where he said a soldier had hit him several times with a rifle butt, as well as on his back from being poked with a metal rod. X-rays showed that one of his ribs was fractured and that he had a broken nose.

Human Rights Watch assessed that the willful killing and mistreatment of Armenians detained by Azerbaijani forces constituted “war crimes under international humanitarian law.”

On March 19, Human Rights Watch reported that Azerbaijani forces abused Armenian “prisoners of war” captured during the 2020 intensive fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, subjecting them to torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, including punishment when they were captured, during their transfer, or while in custody at various detention facilities. The facilities included three in Baku: the Military Police detention facility, the National Security Ministry Detention Facility, and pretrial Detention Facility #1 in Baku’s Kurdakhani settlement. Human Rights Watch characterized the abuse as torture and “a war crime” and noted Azerbaijan’s failure to account for the fate of missing Armenian soldiers last seen in Azerbaijani custody. Human Rights Watch reported it examined and verified more than 20 videos of Azerbaijani forces apparently mistreating Armenian servicemen in their custody. The verification process included interviews with recently repatriated detainees and family members of servicemen who appeared in the videos but had not returned at the time of the report.

Human Rights Watch also reviewed medical documents and reported that repatriated detainees all described prolonged and repeated beatings. One described being prodded with a sharp metal rod, another said he was subjected to electric shocks, and a third person stated he was burned repeatedly with a cigarette lighter. The men reported they were given very little water and little to no food in the initial days of their detention.

Using satellite images, researchers from several organizations reported destruction of two Armenian cemeteries in the newly returned territories after the cessation of the 2020 hostilities. Caucasus Heritage Watch, a research initiative led by archaeologists at Cornell and Purdue Universities, published photographs from June 2020 and April 8, 2021, showing the complete demolition of the Boyuk Taglar (Mets Tagher) cemetery in Khojavend District. Other researchers further confirmed the destruction via Google Earth images from June 2020 and August 2021. Analysis of Google Earth images by open-source investigator Alexander McKeever supported this conclusion. Caucasus Heritage Watch also published satellite photographs from September 2020 and April 12 and June 18, 2021, that showed the complete destruction of the Sighnaq (Sghnakh) cemetery in the Khojaly region.

In late 2020 authorities arrested four soldiers for desecrating bodies and grave sites; during the year the government did not release updates regarding the status of their cases.

Multiple videos, eyewitness testimony, and other evidence strongly suggested that at least 25 Armenian servicemen disappeared after having been taken into custody by Azerbaijani forces during or after the fall 2020 fighting. For example, two videos showed Azerbaijani soldiers questioning Arsen Karapetyan and Norik Arakelyan while in detention. Separate applications were submitted to the ECHR on their behalf, asking the court to apply urgent measures to protect their right to life and right to be free from inhuman treatment. The court granted requests for an interim measure and invited Azerbaijan to specify if the individuals were known to the authorities, whether they were under Azerbaijani control and, if so, how they were treated. In response, the Azerbaijan government stated it was unable to identify the men.

In another example, several repatriated Armenian servicemen reported having seen Alexander Yeghiazaryan in Baku. As of year’s end, the government had not acknowledged holding Yeghiazaryan, Karapetyan, or Arakelyan. The government stated it returned some of the individuals deemed missing, disputed that videos depicting the detention of missing Armenians were taken in Azerbaijan, and said it was investigating other cases of missing persons.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: In their May report, When Embers Burst into Flames – International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law Violations during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, the NGOs IPHR and Truth Hounds reported that Azerbaijani armed forces “appear to have deliberately targeted Armenian hospitals, medical transport, and medical personnel in at least five documented incidents” during the fall 2020 fighting. According to the report, “On the face of it, the documented incidents constitute deliberate targeted attacks on hospitals and medical transport. The incidents require immediate and thorough investigation by relevant authorities. If the incidents are confirmed as deliberate attacks on protected objects, this would constitute a serious violation of [International Humanitarian Law].…”

Reportedly, some Armenian servicemen detained by Azerbaijan were not permitted detainee visits from nor allowed to communicate with their families until February, months after they were taken captive.

The government prosecuted detained Armenian civilians and servicemen in public trials that lacked elements of due process such as the right to choose one’s own legal counsel. Azerbaijani authorities reportedly took dual Lebanese-Armenian citizen Viken Euljekian into custody in November along with another Lebanese-Armenian, Maral Najarian. Najarian was released after spending four months in an Azerbaijani jail. Authorities released a video of Euljekian confessing, under apparent duress, that he had fought as a mercenary for $2,500. In a rapid trial in which he was not permitted a lawyer of his own choosing, Euljekian reportedly was convicted of participating in a military conflict as a mercenary, terrorism committed by an organized group, and illegal crossing of a state border; he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Court proceedings in the case of civilians Gevorg Sujyan and Davit Davtyan similarly violated due process by failing to provide them with independent legal counsel of their own choosing; compelling both to testify against themselves or confess guilt; and not allowing them to call and examine their own witnesses. They were convicted of espionage and illegal border crossing and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Azerbaijan reportedly tried 54 of the 62 Armenian servicemen it captured near Hadrut in December 2020. The group claimed that they had been issued weapons and “sent to protect the border” on November 27, following the November 9 cease-fire. The servicemen were charged individually with illegal border crossing, illegal possession of weapons, participating in an illegal group, and terrorism (for killing four Azerbaijani soldiers weeks after the cease-fire). The men were assigned public defenders; none were permitted to hire their own attorneys. Several stated that they had not seen the attorney representing them before meeting them in the courtroom during the trial and were not provided relevant documents. Some persons captured with this group were returned to Armenia without a conviction, a few were repatriated while their trials were underway, and some were repatriated after six months when they were released for time served. The sentences for the 38 men who remained in custody reportedly ranged from four to six years. Convicted servicemen repatriated to Armenia after “time served” were not provided with documentation related to their convictions.

There were reported cases of individuals who allegedly should have been released under the terms of the November 2020 cease-fire but who were instead incarcerated. In one such case, the authorities put on trial two individuals – Alyosha Khosrovyan and Ludwig Mkrtchyan – who were captured before the November 2020 cease-fire arrangement. The terms of the cease-fire arrangement publicly committed all parties to exchange prisoners of war, hostages, and other detained persons. Captured in October 2020, Khosrovyan and Mkrtchyan were convicted and sentenced on August 2 to 20 years in prison for alleged “war crimes” committed during fighting in the 1990s.

Bahamas, The

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these requirements. The constitution provides for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, although this process sometimes took several years.

In August the Court of Appeals increased the amount of compensation due to a Kenyan national found by the Supreme Court in 2020 to have been unlawfully detained at the migrant detention center for six years and four months. The individual was to receive $750,000 instead of the $641,000 originally awarded to him in December 2020.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Procedural shortcomings and trial delays were problems. The courts were unable to keep pace with criminal cases, and there was a continued backlog, estimated by the chief justice at 12 to 18 months.

The constitution prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions.

While the law usually requires a court order for entry into or search of a private residence, a police inspector or senior police official may authorize a search without a court order where probable cause exists to suspect a weapons violation or drug possession.

Bahrain

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. Local and international human rights groups reported that individuals were detained without being notified at the time of the arrest of the legal authority of the person conducting the arrest, the reasons for the arrest, and the charges against them. Human rights groups claimed Ministry of Interior agents conducted many arrests at private residences without presenting an arrest warrant or presenting an inaccurate or incomplete one. Government officials disputed these claims.

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, political opposition figures asserted the judiciary was vulnerable to political pressure, especially in high-profile cases. The judiciary is divided into civil law courts that deal with commercial, civil, and criminal cases, and family matters of non-Muslims, and family law courts that handle personal status cases for Muslims. Under the Unified Family Law, there are separate family courts for Sunni and Shia sharia-based proceedings. Some judges were foreign citizens, serving on limited-term contracts and subject to government approval for renewal and residence. The Supreme Judicial Council reported working with the Judicial Legal Studies Institute to prepare 10 new local judges per year, in an effort to increase their number. The Supreme Judicial Council is responsible for supervising the work of the courts, including judges, and the PPO.

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

Reports also indicated the government used computer and mobile phone programs to surveil political activists and members of the opposition inside and outside the country. At least 13 activists were specifically targeted using Pegasus spyware by the Israeli company NSO Group, according to cybersecurity watchdog Citizen Lab, with at least one of the individuals residing in the United Kingdom when the hacking occurred.

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

Bangladesh

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

Human rights groups and media reported disappearances and kidnappings continued, allegedly committed by security services. Between January and September 30, local human rights organizations reported 18 persons were victims of enforced disappearances. The government made limited efforts to prevent, investigate, or punish such acts. Civil society organizations reported victims of enforced disappearance were mostly opposition leaders, activists, and dissidents. Following alleged disappearances, security forces released some individuals without charge, arrested others, found some dead, and never found others. The Paris-based organization International Federation of Human Rights reported enforced disappearances continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, targeting opposition members, political activists, and individuals who were critical of the government’s policies and response to the pandemic. Political opposition alleged police forces did not register complaints from families of those subjected to enforced disappearances (see also section 2.a.).

Following the March 26-28 demonstrations against Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country and subsequent political clashes (see sections 1.a., 1.d., 2.a., 2.b., and 6), civil society and media reported several Islamic preachers including Abu Taw Haa Muhammad Adnan, madrassa students, and those associated with the organization Hefazat-e-Islam were missing, according to their family members. Some of the disappeared were later found and subsequently arrested under various charges, including under the Digital Security Act (DSA).

On July 19, Mayer Daak (Mother’s Call), an organization of members of the families of victims of enforced disappearances, issued a statement urging the government to return the disappeared persons to their families before the religious holiday of Eid-al-Adha. The organization reported more than 500 individuals have gone missing in the country since 2009. According to the statement, the few victims of enforced disappearance who returned did not discuss their experiences due to fear of reprisal.

In August, Human Rights Watch published a comprehensive study of enforced disappearances in the country, a matter they described as becoming a predominant tactic used by security forces under the ruling government. The report was based on more than 115 interviews with victims, family members, and witnesses between July 2020 and March. It documented 86 cases of enforced disappearances during the prior decade in which the victim’s whereabouts remained unknown. It also alleged government refusal to acknowledge or investigate cases.

In November the Cyber Tribunal Court indicted photojournalist and news editor Shafiqul Islam Kajol on three charges under the DSA that were first filed in March. The court scheduled Kajol’s hearing for January 2022. The government allegedly forcibly detained Kajol in 2020 and held him in government detention for 53 days. Kajol spent a total of 237 days in prison on defamation charges and was released on interim bail in December 2020.

In September the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances (WGEID) raised concerns regarding allegations of disappearances and impunity in the country. The WGEID reported receiving complaints regularly concerning disappearances, mostly relating to alleged disappearances of members of opposition political parties. Since 2013 the government has not responded to a request from the WGEID to visit the country.

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.

The government permitted visits from governmental inspectors and nongovernmental observers who were aligned with the incumbent party. No reports on these inspections were released. The International Committee of the Red Cross continued to support the Prisons Directorate and assisted 68 prison centers across the country, including supplying personal protective equipment and helping the government launch isolation centers to alleviate the spread of COVID-19.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but the law permits authorities to arrest and detain an individual without an order from a magistrate or a warrant if authorities perceive the individual may constitute a threat to security and public order. The law also permits authorities to arrest and detain individuals without an order from a magistrate or a warrant if authorities perceive the individual is involved with a serious crime. The constitution provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, but the government did not generally observe these requirements. Media, civil society, and human rights organizations accused the government of conducting enforced disappearances not only against suspected militants but also against civil society and opposition party members. Authorities increasingly held detainees without divulging their whereabouts or circumstances to family or legal counsel, or without acknowledging having arrested them.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but corruption and political interference compromised its independence. The government generally did not respect judicial independence and impartiality.

Human rights observers maintained that magistrates, attorneys, and court officials demanded bribes from defendants in many cases, or courts ruled based on influence from or loyalty to political patronage networks. Observers claimed judges who made decisions unfavorable to the government risked transfer to other jurisdictions. Officials reportedly discouraged lawyers from representing defendants in certain cases.

Corruption and a substantial backlog of cases hindered the court system, and the granting of extended continuances effectively prevented many defendants from obtaining fair trials. During the pandemic media reported many courts were closed and very few operated virtually, exacerbating case backlogs.

In January the High Court ordered the release of Md. Kamrul Islam, who was prosecuted in a fraud case based on an investigation conducted by the Anti-Corruption Commission. The High Court asked the commission to act against the investigators who apparently charged the wrong person for the crime. In 2003 the commission accused and pressed charges against Islam for using a fake certificate to obtain admissions to a college in 1998. In 2014 he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison but was released on January 28.

The law does not prohibit arbitrary interference with private correspondence. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies may monitor private communications with the permission of the Ministry of Home Affairs, but police rarely obtained such permission from the courts to monitor private correspondence. Human rights organizations alleged police, the National Security Intelligence, and the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence employed informers to conduct surveillance and report on citizens perceived to be critical of the government.

During the year the government became increasingly active in monitoring social media sites and other electronic communications to scan public discussions on COVID-19 and the government’s handling of the virus. In March the Information Ministry announced the formation of a dedicated a unit to monitor social media and television outlets for “rumors” related to COVID-19.

On June 22, a Dhaka court issued a notice on behalf of 10 Supreme Court lawyers requesting the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to disclose the steps it had taken to prevent eavesdropping on private, telephone conversations. The notice mentioned 16 eavesdropping cases to be evaluated, which were previously disclosed by the press. Some of these cases involved eavesdropping on members of the political opposition. According to the press, the BTRC did not respond to the request.

In September 2020 the High Court asserted citizens’ right to privacy and stated the collection of call lists or conversations from public or private telephone companies without formal approval and knowledge of the individual must stop. In its verdict the court stated, “It is our common experience that nowadays private communications among citizens, including their audios/videos, are often leaked and published in social media for different purposes.”

Barbados

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belarus

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

During the year there were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

In January 2020 the Investigative Committee announced it reopened suspended investigations into the 1999 disappearances of former deputy prime minister Viktar Hanchar and businessman Anatol Krasouski. In 2019 the committee also reopened the investigation into the disappearance of former minister of internal affairs Yury Zakharanka after Yury Harauski, who claimed to be a former special rapid response unit officer, stated he participated in the forced disappearances and killings of Hanchar, Krasouski, and Zakharanka. In March 2020 the committee again suspended investigations due to a “failure to identify any suspects.” There was evidence of government involvement in the disappearances, but authorities continued to deny any connection with them. In 2019 Lukashenka stated that politically motivated killings would be impossible without his orders, which he “[had] never and would never issue.”

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.

The law limits arbitrary detention, but the government did not respect these limits. Authorities, including plainclothes security officers, arrested or detained thousands of individuals during peaceful protests since August 2020 and used administrative measures to detain political and civil society activists, as well as bystanders and journalists not involved in the protests, before, during, and after protests and other major public events.

Detainees have the right to petition the court system regarding the legality of their detention, but authorities consistently suppressed or ignored such appeals. By law courts or prosecutors have 24 hours to issue a ruling on a detention and 72 hours on an arrest. Courts hold closed hearings in these cases, which the suspect, a defense lawyer, and other legal representatives may attend. Appeals to challenge detentions were generally denied.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but authorities did not respect judicial independence and impartiality. Observers believed corruption, inefficiency, and political interference with judicial decisions were widespread. Courts convicted individuals on false and politically motivated charges brought by prosecutors, and observers believed that senior government leaders and local authorities dictated the outcomes of trials.

As in previous years, according to human rights groups, prosecutors wielded excessive and imbalanced authority because they may extend detention periods without the permission of judges. Defense lawyers were unable to examine investigation files, be present during investigations and interrogations, or examine evidence against defendants until a prosecutor formally brought the case to court. Lawyers found it difficult to challenge some evidence because the Prosecutor’s Office controlled all technical expertise. According to many defense attorneys, this power imbalance persisted, especially in politically motivated criminal and administrative cases. All communications between defense lawyers and their clients were monitored in pretrial detention. For example on April 28, state television channels showed footage of Syarhey Tsikhanouski talking to his defense lawyer. Courts did not exonerate criminal defendants except in rare circumstances. In 2019, the most recent year for which data were available, of approximately 39,000 criminal cases prosecuted, 114 resulted in acquittal.

On November 30, amendments to the Law on the Bar and Legal Profession came into effect that prohibit defense lawyers from working individually or for law firms and require them instead to work in Ministry of Justice-approved “legal bureaus.” The state-controlled National Bar Association oversaw the operations of legal bureaus in the country. The law bars defense lawyers from owning or sharing ownership in a legal or consultative firm or a real estate agency, and from representing the interests of any other commercial entity in which they have an ownership stake in courts or with other state agencies.

According to a July report by Lawyers for Lawyers, the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute, and the American Bar Association, authorities engaged in tactics that interfered with the independence of lawyers. The report noted “decisions about the continued practice of lawyers within the legal profession are not made by an independent entity,” but rather by the Ministry of Justice. The amendments also increased the Ministry of Justice’s power over the legal profession and bar associations. There were reports of retaliatory prosecution and disbarment of defense lawyers representing political campaigns, opposition leaders, and the opposition’s Coordination Council. For example on February 20, defense lawyers Maksim Konan, Kanstantsin Mikhel, and Lyudmila Kazak were disbarred and fined for allegedly participating in unauthorized protests. On February 24, another prominent defense lawyer, Uladzimir Sazanchuk, was disbarred for refusing to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

On July 8, the Minsk City Bar Association disbarred independent defense lawyer Dzmitry Laeuski after a single day of deliberation by the association’s disciplinary commission. The disbarment occurred two days after the verdict was announced in the trial against 2020 presidential hopeful and former Belgazprombank chairman Viktar Babaryka, whom Laeuski had represented. The Minsk City Bar Association cited as the basis for its decision a Facebook post in which Laeuski commented on the recent amendments to the Law on the Bar and Legal Profession and a statement during Babaryka’s hearing in which Laeuski suggested Babaryka’s codefendants had been innocent, despite their decisions to plead guilty during the trial.

The law prohibits such actions, but the government did not respect these prohibitions. Authorities used wiretapping, video surveillance, and a network of informers that deprived persons of privacy.

The law requires a warrant before or immediately after conducting a search. The KGB has authority to enter any building at any time, as long as it applies for a warrant within 24 hours after the entry. The regime’s full control over the judiciary, however, made the warrant process a formality.

There were reports authorities entered properties without judicial or other appropriate authorization. After August 2020 and through 2021, multiple instances were reported of plainclothes officers forcing entry into private homes or businesses. These officers often refused to show identification or a warrant, or claimed it was sufficient for them to state their affiliation with a government agency and proceed with the entry. As of year’s end there was no indication that authorities had investigated or taken action against Mikalay Karpiankou, head of the Internal Affairs Ministry’s Main Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime and Corruption, who in September 2020 repeatedly struck and broke the locked glass door of a cafe to allow security officials in civilian clothing to apprehend individuals who had supposedly participated in protests. Instead, the regime promoted Karpiankou in November 2020 to deputy minister of internal affairs.

There were reports that authorities accessed, collected, or used private communications or personal data arbitrarily or unlawfully or without appropriate legal authority. For example, after the 2020 presidential election and during the year, security officials occasionally threatened detained individuals with violence or arrest if they did not unlock their cell phones for review. Officials also threatened individuals at detention facilities with harsher sentences if they did not unlock their cell phones or laptops that had been confiscated. Increasingly during the year, security officials reportedly treated more harshly individuals with photographs or social media accounts that officials regarded as pro-opposition or that showed security forces committing abuses.

While the law prohibits authorities from intercepting telephone and other communications without a prosecutor’s order, authorities routinely monitored residences, telephones, and computers. Nearly all opposition political figures and many prominent members of civil society groups claimed that authorities monitored their conversations and activities. The government continued to collect and obtain personally identifiable information on independent journalists and democratic activists during raids and by confiscating computer equipment.

The law allows the KGB, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, special security services, financial intelligence personnel, and certain border guard detachments to use wiretaps. Wiretaps require the permission of a prosecutor, but the lack of prosecutorial independence rendered this requirement meaningless.

The Ministry of Communications has authority to terminate the telephone service of persons who violate telephone contracts, which prohibit the use of telephone services for purposes contrary to state interests and public order.

According to the 2021 Freedom on the Net Report published by Freedom House, internet freedom declined dramatically following the 2020 presidential election with repression against online journalists, activists, and internet users. The government employed systematic, sophisticated surveillance techniques to monitor its citizens and control online communications at its discretion and without independent authorization or oversight. After the 2020 election, security officials increased efforts to monitor and infiltrate encrypted messenger chat groups. In May a Ministry of Internal Affairs employee testified he had received screen shots of posts from an undisclosed member of a chat group on the online messaging platform Telegram that reportedly implicated cultural manager and art director Mia Mitkevich. Based on that she was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison.

Since 2010 the government utilized the Russian-developed System of Operative Investigative Measures, which provides authorities with direct, automated access to communications data from landline telephone networks, mobile service providers, and internet service providers. The government also blocked and filtered websites and social media platforms (see section 2.a., Internet Freedom). The country employed a centralized system of video monitoring cameras. Authorities sought surveillance and hacking tools from several countries and developed domestic capacity, including the company Synesis, that links closed-circuit television cameras in Belarus and other Commonwealth of Independent States countries. In December 2020 the EU sanctioned Synesis for providing “Belarusian authorities with a surveillance platform…making the company responsible for the repression of civil society and democratic opposition by the state apparatus.”

State television reportedly obtained state surveillance footage and wiretap transcripts from state security services that it used to produce progovernment documentaries and coverage.

On August 13, police raided Uber and Yandex offices in Minsk, leading to concerns the regime sought location data to identify individuals who had taken part in demonstrations. According to independent media outlets, authorities also utilized a Chinese facial recognition system to identify individuals. According to activists, authorities maintained informant networks at state enterprises after the 2020 presidential election to identify which workers intended to strike or were agitating for political change. “Ideology” officers were reportedly in charge of maintaining informant networks at state enterprises.

Family members were reportedly punished for offenses allegedly committed by their relatives (see section 1.e.).

Authorities temporarily removed or threatened to remove children from the custody of their parents to punish the parents for protesting or political activism.

Belgium

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

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

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.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements. International, regional, and national institutions have the right to access facilities where migrants and asylum seekers are housed or detained for monitoring and observation purposes.

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

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

Belize

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.”

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

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.

While the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, there were several allegations made to media that the government sometimes failed to observe these requirements.

On August 19, the government instituted a 30-day state of emergency for a section of Belize City in response to an increase in criminal gang activity. The measure allowed the BPD and BDF to target criminal gangs through house raids, arrests, and imprisonment. Normal due process rights related to timely habeas corpus were suspended under the state of emergency.

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

Due to substantial delays and a backlog of cases in the justice system, the courts did not bring some minors to trial until they reached age 18. In such cases the defendants were tried as minors.

In July, Ramiro de la Rosa was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for the possession of an unlicensed firearm. De la Rosa, his wife, and two children were at home when police officers, without a court warrant, conducted a search of their residence and found the unlicensed firearm that belonged to his father-in-law, who had died a few days before, in the attic. To avoid his wife being charged, De la Rosa pled guilty to the offense, but instead of being granted bail per standard practice, he was immediately sentenced to prison. De la Rosa was not afforded adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense prior to sentencing. After applying for a stay of execution through an attorney, De la Rosa was released pending the outcome of his appeal.

The constitution prohibits such actions, but there were reports that the government sometimes failed to respect these prohibitions (see section 1.e.).

Benin

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

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

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.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention; however, Republican Police occasionally failed to observe these prohibitions. A person arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, is by law entitled to file a complaint with the liberty and detention chamber of the relevant court. The presiding judge may order the individual’s release if the arrest or detention is deemed unlawful.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary; however, the president heads the High Council of the Judiciary that governs and sanctions judges. The judicial system was also subject to corruption, although the government continued to make anticorruption efforts, including the dismissal and arrest of government officials allegedly involved in corruption scandals. Authorities generally respected court orders.

During the year the Court for the Repression of Economic and Terrorism (CRIET) charged dozens of political opponents, human rights activists, and bloggers under broadly worded terrorism and public disturbance offenses. On April 4, CRIET judge Essowe Batamoussi resigned and fled the country. He stated that his resignation was due to government pressure to rule against its political opponents. On August 18, the government of France granted political asylum to Batamoussi.

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions.

Bhutan

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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.

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

In its preliminary findings conducted during a 2019 visit to the country, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (the UN Working Group) noted significant progress had been made on the arbitrary deprivation of liberty since prior visits in 1994 and 1996.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. The country’s courts generally functioned effectively, although Freedom House in its Freedom in the World 2021 report stated the rulings of judges “often lack consistency, and many in the public view the judiciary as corrupt.”

The constitution prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions; however, citizens seeking to marry noncitizens require government permission.

Bolivia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

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

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.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always respect the law. The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. International human rights groups highlighted several potentially politically motivated cases initiated by the government that resulted in arbitrary arrest, all against opponents of the government or members of the previous government.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary remained overburdened, vulnerable to undue influence by the executive and legislative branches, and plagued with allegations of corruption. Authorities generally respected court orders, but on several occasions, they pressured judges to change verdicts. Judges and prosecutors sometimes practiced self-censorship when issuing rulings to avoid becoming the target of verbal and legal harassment by the government.

The judiciary faced numerous administrative and budgetary problems. NGOs asserted the funds budgeted for the judiciary were insufficient to assure equal and efficient justice and that the reliance on underfunded, overburdened public prosecutors led to serious judicial backlogs. Justice officials were vulnerable to bribery and corruption, according to credible observers, including legal experts. An NGO’s 2020 Report on the State of Justice expressed serious concerns regarding the training and qualifications of most judges.

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

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

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

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.

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

The constitution provides for the right to a fair hearing in civil and criminal matters while entity constitutions provide for an independent judiciary. Nevertheless, political parties and organized crime figures sometimes influenced the judiciary at both the state and entity levels in politically sensitive cases, especially those related to corruption. Authorities at times failed to enforce court decisions.

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

Botswana

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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.

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but there were reports the DISS had developed capabilities for online surveillance. In a March media report, the main opposition party accused DISS of using spyware technology to eavesdrop on opposition politicians and union leaders. The Committee to Protect Journalists accused the Botswana Police Service (BPS) of using digital forensic equipment to reveal journalists’ communications and sources in previous years. The BPS also used online surveillance of social media as part of COVID-19 state of emergency measures.

Brazil

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

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

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.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and limits arrests to those caught in the act of committing a crime or called for by order of a judicial authority; however, police at times did not respect this prohibition. The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed this provision.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Local NGOs, however, argued that corruption within the judiciary, especially at the local and state levels, prevented fair trials.

Although the law and constitution prohibit warrantless searches, NGOs reported that police occasionally conducted searches without warrants. Human rights groups, other NGOs, and media reported incidents of excessive police searches in poor neighborhoods. During these operations police stopped and questioned persons and searched cars and residences without warrants.

Brunei

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of persons arrested for secular (not sharia) offenses to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these prohibitions but may supersede them by invoking emergency powers.

The law does not provide specifically for an independent judiciary, and both the secular and sharia courts fall administratively under the Prime Minister’s Office, run by the sultan as prime minister and the crown prince as senior minister. The government generally respected judicial independence, however, and there were no known instances of government interference with the judiciary. In both judicial systems, the sultan appoints all higher-court judges, who serve at his pleasure.

The law permits government intrusion into the privacy of individuals, families, and homes. The government reportedly monitored private email, mobile telephone messaging, and internet chat-room exchanges suspected of being subversive or propagating religious extremism. An informant system was part of the government’s internal security apparatus for monitoring suspected dissidents, religious minorities, or those accused of crimes. Persons who published comments on social media critical of government policy, both on public blogs and personal sites such as Facebook, reported that authorities monitored their comments. In some cases, persons were told by friends or colleagues in the government they were being monitored; in other cases, it appeared critical comments were brought to the attention of authorities by private complainants.

Longstanding sharia law and the SPC permit enforcement of khalwat, a prohibition on the close proximity of a Muslim and a member of the opposite sex other than a spouse or close relative. Non-Muslims may be arrested for violating khalwat if the other accused party is Muslim. Not all suspects accused of violating khalwat were formally arrested; some individuals received informal warnings.

Bulgaria

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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.

Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, there were reports that authorities at times abused their arrest and detention authority. The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but corruption, inefficiency, and lack of accountability were pervasive problems. Public trust in the judicial system remained low because of the perception that magistrates were susceptible to political pressure and rendered unequal justice.

According to the European Commission’s Rule of Law Report released on July 20, “[t]he level of perceived judicial independence [in the country] remains low,” with 31 percent of citizens and 43 percent of businesses considering it to be “fairly or very good.” The report noted that the combination of the prosecutor general’s powers and position within the Supreme Judicial Council, the judicial self-governance body, “results in a considerable influence within the prosecution service, the Supreme Judicial Council, and within the magistracy.” The report expressed concern with the “absence of judicial review against a decision by a prosecutor not to open an investigation.”

The constitution and law prohibit such actions; however, there were reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. In September a special National Assembly committee found that authorities ordered the wiretapping and surveillance of at least 934 persons, including politicians, magistrates, and journalists, during the 2020 antigovernment protests. In July during the committee’s inquiries, the prosecution services denied any illegal actions, admitting it had used technical methods in an ongoing coup d’etat investigation. In September the National Bureau for Control of Specialized Investigative Techniques stated its inspection identified at least two protest participants had been targets of illegal wiretapping, including a politician.

Burkina Faso

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burma

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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.

There were numerous reports of disappearances allegedly committed by the regime.

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.

The law does not prohibit arbitrary arrest. Persons held generally did not have the right to appeal the legality of their arrest or detention either administratively or before a court. The law allows authorities to order the detention without charge or trial of anyone they believe is performing or might perform any act that endangers the sovereignty and security of the state or public peace and tranquility.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, a protection the regime has not respected. On February 4, the regime dismissed five NLD-appointed justices of the Supreme Court and replaced them with justices who support the regime. The remaining four justices, including the chief justice, were holdovers from the previous military junta.

In February the regime declared martial law in numerous townships across the country and transferred judicial (and executive) power to regional military commanders in several cities. In martial law courts, defendants have few or no rights, including access to legal counsel and the right of appeal (except in cases involving the death penalty, which may be appealed to armed forces commander in chief Min Aung Hlaing). The hearings are abbreviated, the verdict is reached within one or two sessions, and the sentences are typically the maximum penalties allowed. According to regime public announcements, by November, 61 cases were heard in martial law courts, with 280 defendants convicted and sentenced, including at least 80 defendants sentenced to death.

Judicial corruption was a significant problem. According to NGOs, officials at all levels received illegal payments at all stages of the legal process for purposes ranging from influencing routine matters to substantive decisions, such as fixing the outcome of a case.

The law protected privacy and the security of the home, but enforcement of these rights was limited after the coup. Unannounced nighttime household checks were common. The law does not protect the privacy of correspondence or other communications. The regime regularly monitored private electronic communications through online surveillance; there were numerous reports that the regime monitored prodemocracy supporters.

On March 1, the New York Times reported that the military employed invasive dual-use surveillance, hacking, and forensic technologies to monitor and target critics and protesters. Before the coup, the military built an “electronic warfare capability” and bought surveillance technology, including cell phone-hacking tools to monitor prodemocracy activists.

In July local news outlet Frontier Myanmar reported that the regime ordered mobile phone companies to install equipment to enable them to monitor calls, text messages, and locations of selected users, flagging each time they use words such as “protest” or “revolution.” Mention of these words may trigger heavier surveillance or be used as evidence against those being watched. The regime also monitored social media use, including data from visited websites, as well as conversations in public and private chat groups. According to the magazine Frontier Myanmar, this “cybersecurity team” was based inside the police’s Special Branch, a notorious surveillance department that heavily monitored suspected dissidents in the previous era of junta rule.

After the coup, escalating conflict between the regime and joint EAOs-PDF groups focused on the northwest part of the country, with frequent fighting in Chin State and Sagaing and Magway Region. Conflict was also reported in Kachin, Kayah, and Karen States and in the Mandalay, Bago, and Tanintharyi Regions. Conflict between the military and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State declined following the coup because of a pre-coup de facto ceasefire. In March the regime removed the Arakan Army from its designated list of terrorist organizations; however, local media reported clashes between the AA and the military on November 9 after the military entered an AA-controlled area in the border area of Maungdaw Township.

Fighting between EAOs in Shan State continued.

Reports of killings, disappearances, excessive use of force, disregard for civilian life, sexual violence, and other abuses committed by regime security forces and some EAOs and PDF groups were common.

The NUG issued a code of conduct for PDF groups in June and included a call to respect human rights in its September 7 “people’s defensive war” declaration. No data was available to measure the impact of the NUG’s efforts to prevent human rights abuses by PDF groups.

Killings: Deliberate killings and deaths due to excessive or unjustified use of force by the regime were reported. For example:

On March 3, regime security forces killed at least 24 persons across the country in confrontations with peaceful demonstrators. In one Rangoon neighborhood alone, at least seven protesters died and 17 were critically wounded in a confrontation with regime security forces. Over the March 13-14 weekend, regime security forces shot and killed demonstrators indiscriminately across the country, killing at least 42.

In May a young mother in Magway’s Salin Township reportedly died from indiscriminate military fire during a raid. According to Myanmar Now, the raid was in response to prodemocracy graffiti.

In July, NUG-designated Minister for Human Rights Aung Myo Min reported that the military killed at least 32 civilians and displaced more than 6,000 residents from 13 villages in Sagaing’s Debeyin Township during intensified military operations targeting EAO and PDF strongholds.

In September the military was suspected of killing and mutilating five civilians in Magway’s Gangaw Township. According to the Irrawaddy, the victims were shot, and in some cases mutilated or showed signs of torture.

Also in September, the Irrawaddy reported on the killing of 18 civilians in Magway’s Yaw village perpetrated by the military. One resident recalled, “Most of them were shot in the head. Their heads were broken, and their brains spilled out like a ripe papaya that has fallen from a tree.” An 86-year-old resident was found tied up, with signs that he had been beaten to death.

In late September, according to a Radio Free Asia report, security forces responding to an attack by local defense forces in Thantlang, Chin State, shot and killed Baptist pastor Cung Biak Hum as he and others tried to extinguish fires the forces set. When his body was recovered, his ring finger was cut off and the wedding ring apparently stolen.

On December 5, regime security forces violently suppressed prodemocracy protesters in Rangoon. Tactics included, according to numerous reports, ramming a police vehicle directly into a crowd, killing five and injuring another 15. Escalating violence between the military and EAOs exposed many children to violence. AAPP reported in September that 61 children were killed in military-EAO conflicts.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: There were reports of such abuses by EAOs and PDF forces. In December Myanmar Now reported the targeting of alleged military informants and others seen as sympathetic to the regime. In June commanders of the Karen National Defense Army, the armed wing of the Karen National Union, confirmed Karen National Defense Army soldiers killed 25 alleged military spies and detained 22 others for approximately one week near Waw Lay, Myawaddy Township, Karen State.

Child Soldiers: The military and some EAOs (Kachin Independence Army, AA, Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Karen National Liberation Army, Shan State Army, and Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) were listed in the UN secretary-general’s 2021 Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict as perpetrators of the unlawful recruitment and use of children. There were no data on PDF groups. Meaningful use of the National Complaint Mechanism, focused on the elimination of forced labor but which also prohibits the use and recruitment of child soldiers, was limited after the coup. There was no credible evidence that the regime or EAOs prosecuted offenders.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuse: According to numerous local media reports, UN counterparts, and NGOs the regime restricted the passage of relief supplies, including medical supplies, and access by international humanitarian organizations to conflict-affected areas including in Kachin, Chin, Kayah, Karen, Tanintharyi, and Shan States. HRW reported on December 13 that restrictions on humanitarian assistance imposed by the regime since the coup were creating a “nationwide humanitarian catastrophe.” The United Nations estimated that the number of persons needing assistance would go from one million before the coup to 14.4 million by 2022. On November 8, the United Nations stated, “access to many people in desperate need across the country remains extremely limited due to bureaucratic impediments put in place by the armed forces.” HRW further reported that the military has seized food deliveries meant for displaced populations and arrested individuals on “suspicion of supporting aid efforts.” Visas for aid workers have also been delayed or denied. UNICEF reported in October that “the need to procure travel authorization [from the regime] remains a major access impediment and a high constraint factor for the humanitarian partners’ capacity to reach people in need.”

The regime reportedly forced civilians to act as human shields, carry supplies, or serve in other support roles. In September the Karen National Union reported to a local media outlet that approximately 300 civilians, including a number of women and children, were forced by regime security forces to perform military support duties. In September, Democratic Voice Burma reported that more than 100 soldiers abducted five local residents to act as guides for regime security forces in Kachin State.

As of September, the World Health Organization reported 260 attacks on health-care workers since the coup, representing 39 percent of such attacks globally during the year. In a February case, a doctor was arrested in Rangoon for providing first aid to prodemocracy supporters who had been shot while peacefully protesting. In July the Irrawaddy reported that the regime arrested five volunteer doctors working on COVID-19 prevention activities after luring them to a house under false pretenses.

Burundi

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were numerous reports that the government or its agents, including police, the National Intelligence Service (SNR), military personnel, and elements of the Imbonerakure, committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, often against perceived supporters of the political opposition or those who exercised their lawful rights. The banned nongovernmental organization (NGO) Ligue Iteka continued operating from outside the country and documented 405 killings by the end of November, as compared with 205 the previous year. Many killings were allegedly committed by agents of police or intelligence services or members of the Imbonerakure. The assessments of Ligue Iteka and other human rights groups differed on the number of killings for which agents of the state or ruling party were likely responsible. The government’s restrictions on UN human rights monitors and civil society organizations (CSOs) and refusal to allow international human rights bodies authorization to enter the country made it difficult to determine responsibility for arbitrary killings and exact statistics. Security risks for local activists, witnesses, and victims also posed challenges. Investigations and prosecutions of government officials and members of the ruling party who allegedly committed arbitrary or unlawful killings occurred but were rare. Responsibility for investigating such killings lies with the Burundi National Police, which is under the Ministry of Interior, Community Development and Public Security, while the Ministry of Justice is responsible for prosecution.

In its September report, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi (COI), whose members were denied access to the country by the government but who conducted face-to-face or remote interviews with more than 170 victims, witnesses, and other sources living both in the country and in exile, reported that summary executions and arbitrary killings continued. Although bodies bearing signs of violence continued to be found in public places, local authorities often buried them even if they were unable to identify the deceased and without investigating the cause of death and possible perpetrators, citing health risks to the local population in light of a lack of mortuary facilities or ability to preserver the bodies; this made it more difficult for the COI and NGOs to document and differentiate between cases of human rights abuses and cases constituting ordinary criminal offense. International human rights groups reported that bodies continued to be discovered regularly in different parts of the country, especially in Cibitoke Province bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According to a CSO, 35 bodies were found between January and April in Cibitoke alone. In addition, the COI reported numerous cases of disappearances, and it was difficult to determine how many of these were cases of forced disappearance or killings. Some victims were found dead a few days after their disappearance with injuries indicating they had been executed.

In the September report, the COI noted that security incidents were reported regularly, including armed clashes and exchanges of gunfire between members of the security forces, sometimes supported by the Imbonerakure, and armed groups that were often unidentified. According to the COI, authorities made efforts to seek the perpetrators but committed serious human rights abuses in the process of doing so. The report stated that persons suspected of belonging to or assisting armed groups involved in security incidents were executed by police officers or agents of the SNR, and others died in detention after being tortured by SNR agents. The COI concluded, “agents of the National Intelligence Service, placed under the direct responsibility of President Ndayishimiye, were the main perpetrators of executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and detentions and torture in connection with armed attacks and have continued to operate with absolute impunity.” The COI also added that police officers and members of the Imbonerakure were involved in some of the cases. As in past years, the COI report stated there was reason to believe abuses committed by authorities constituted crimes against humanity.

President Ndayishimiye continued efforts to curb violence and engage the country’s youth in positive economic efforts, including the creation of national economic empowerment and employment programs for unemployed youth to strengthen patriotism and involve youth in the development of economic growth. The COI reported that since President Ndayishimiye came to power, officials reportedly instructed Imbonerakure members to stop committing violent acts against the population and stop usurping the functions of police. The COI stated that the number of violent incidents involving members of the Imbonerakure fell in several provinces.

According to a Ligue Iteka report, Eliazard Nahimana, a resident of Buganda Commune in Cibitoke Province, died on April 22, after being beaten and tortured by a group of Imbonerakure. The report indicated that Nahimana was arrested at the order of Pamphile Hakizimana, the local administrator of the commune, who accused him of obstructing government activities after Nahimana tried to prevent Imbonerakure members from digging a rainwater drainage canal on his property. Nahimana was transported to the commune’s police detention facility where he was beaten and tortured. The local administration refused to provide him with medical assistance. As of year’s end, authorities made no known efforts to investigate his death.

On May 13, Imbonerakure punched and beat a National Congress for Freedom (CNL) member in Bubanza Province after they accused him of stealing corn, according to the Burundi Human Rights Initiative (BHRI). An eyewitness said the attackers insulted him because he had refused to join the ruling party National Council for Defense of Democracy-Forces for Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) ahead of the May 2020 elections. After being left at a school overnight and receiving inadequate medical care, he reportedly died shortly thereafter. A local government official was arrested but quickly released, and no members of the Imbonerakure had been arrested as of December.

On July 8, individuals in military uniforms arrested Emmanuel Baransegeta in the village of Ruhagarika, Cibitoke Province. According to Human Rights Watch, Baransegeta was tortured and two days later his body, identified by scars he was known to have, was found on the nearby shores of the Rusizi River. Authorities buried Barasengeta’s body without further investigation.

In March the Muha Court of Appeals sentenced two Imbonerakure members, Dieudonne Nsengiyumva and Boris Bukeyeneza, to 15 years of imprisonment for the May 2020 killing of Richard Havyarimana, a representative of the CNL opposition party in Mbogora Commune, Mwaro Province, and ordered them to pay compensation of 10 million Burundian francs ($5,110).

Media reported that unidentified armed groups were responsible for attacks against government officials, government armed forces and their proxies, and against civilians. The rebel group RED-Tabara claimed responsibility for some attacks that resulted in deaths, including the killing of five soldiers and seven police officers in Gatumba, Bujumbura Rural Province, in December. As of December 27, there were at least 26 fatalities and 257 injuries resulting from an estimated 33 grenade attacks that took place throughout the country. The identity of the perpetrators and motives behind the attacks were unclear. While the motives were presumably politically motivated hatred of the government, ruling party, or its agents for some of the attacks targeting members of the ruling political party, police, and other security service members, other attacks were likely motivated by personal or business vendettas.

There were numerous reports that individuals were victims of politically motivated disappearances after they were detained by elements of the security forces or during kidnappings where the identities of the perpetrators were not clear; however, lack of access to reliable reporting, caused in part by restraints on civil society, limited the ability of human rights organizations and researchers to gather complete data. Additionally, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances noted in September 2020 that a widespread fear of reprisals prevented the formal reporting and registration of enforced disappearances.

Ligue Iteka and SOS Torture Burundi regularly reported disappearances, which were sometimes later determined to be killings when victims’ bodies were discovered. A victim’s last sighting was often at the time of abduction by the Imbonerakure, police, military, or SNR. The COI, NGOs, and media reported that persons suspected of being involved in attacks and other security incidents, notably members of the CNL, were victims of enforced disappearances. The COI reported it was unable to determine whether authorities’ suspicions concerning the individuals’ involvement in attacks were based on objective evidence or based solely on political affiliation or ethnic background. As of November 30, Ligue Iteka had documented 56 disappearances, compared with 30 in the previous year. It linked five disappearances to the Imbonerakure, eight to police, 22 to the SNR, seven to the military, one to local administration, and 13 to unidentified actors. According to Human Rights Watch, the SNR, security forces, and the Imbonerakure killed, disappeared, and tortured real or perceived political opponents and persons suspected of having ties with Burundian rebels in the neighboring DRC. Persons crossing the Rusizi River to travel between the DRC and the country’s Cibitoke Province for personal business were reported missing, and their fate remained unknown. In October a delegation from the presidency visited the province to meet with local officials concerning the bodies, but there were no reports of government efforts to investigate or punish such acts.

In a public question and answer session held on December 29, President Ndayishimiye acknowledged there were cases of disappearances and assured the public the government was conducting investigations into the cases. The president also stated there were criminals among members of the security forces who operated on their own and who did not follow orders from their government organizations. The BHRI reported that some judicial police officers were forbidden by their superiors from investigating disappearances.

Media and human rights organizations reported that individuals in military uniforms kidnapped Elie Ngomirakiza, a CNL representative from Bujumbura Rural Province, on July 9. The BHRI reported that several sources said the 212th battalion was responsible for Ngomirakiza’s abduction. Police and military officials issued statements denying detaining Ngomirakiza, and no one claimed responsibility. Ngomirakiza’s family was unable to locate him, and his whereabouts remained unknown as of November.

On August 13, human rights organizations reported Jean-Marie Ndayizeye, a CNDD-FDD member who worked at the Ministry of Commerce in Gitega, was arrested by an SNR agent, reportedly on suspicion of involvement with armed criminals. As of November his whereabouts remained unknown.

The constitution and law prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but there were numerous reports government officials employed these practices. NGOs reported cases of torture committed by security services or members of the Imbonerakure. As of November 30, Ligue Iteka reported 57 such cases, down from 103 the previous year, attributing 38 to members of the Imbonerakure, nine to police, six to members of local government, and four to the SNR. Media reported throughout the year that Imbonerakure members arrested, threatened, beat, tortured, or inflicted a combination of the foregoing on CNL members. There were also reports that government officials in prisons physically abused prisoners. The COI reported most individuals arrested following security incidents were detained by the SNR and that some were subjected to severe torture, including sexual abuse. The BHRI reported numerous cases of torture against detainees at SNR headquarters in Bujumbura as well as in unofficial detention centers in Bujumbura or at the provincial level, including at SNR offices or residences in Gitega, Mwaro, Rutana, and Makamba.

From January through August, the BHRI documented several cases of torture allegedly committed by Moise Arakaza, who was then police commissioner of Mugamba Commune, Bururi Province. Arakaza reportedly beat detainees with the flat side of a machete blade, rubbed hot chili peppers up detainees’ noses, and threatened further cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment against other detainees. The BHRI also stated that several detainees were transferred from Mugamba to SNR headquarters in Bujumbura where they were reportedly tortured. Arakaza was reassigned to a commune in Bujumbura in August but reportedly continued to arrest and ill-treat detainees and other individuals there. Despite BHRI reporting that senior judicial and police officials knew about these abuses, authorities had not held Arakaza accountable as of November.

There were some reports of investigations and prosecutions for serious abuses of human rights, although limited enforcement meant impunity in the security forces remained a problem. Media reported cases of state agents arrested, detained, and sometimes convicted for acts related to human rights abuses. On December 10, the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (CNIDH) released a statement that it had investigated and confirmed two reported cases of torture by members of the SNR. The COI reported, however, many state agents arrested were later released and that the outcomes of proceedings against those still in detention remained uncertain. Factors contributing to impunity included the ruling party’s reliance on the Imbonerakure, the lack of judicial independence, and reprisals against individuals reporting abuses. There were no sufficient mechanisms to investigate human rights abuses committed by security forces.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there were seven open allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic. Six of the allegations were reported during the year, and one was reported in 2019, all of which allegedly occurred on deployments in prior years. Of the seven, four concerned alleged exploitative relationships with adults between 2014 and 2017, and three concerned alleged instances of child rape between 2017 and 2019. Nine other cases were determined to be unsubstantiated and two cases from the 2015-16 timeframe were substantiated. As of December the government had not announced whether it had taken any measures to investigate or address the seven cases that remained open and had also not yet reported actions taken related to the substantiated 2017 allegation concerning the rape of a child that took place in 2015.

There were reports that members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community were threatened, beaten, and arrested by local administrators and other citizens with the support of security forces (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest and detention, but the government did not observe these prohibitions.

By law persons arrested or detained are entitled to challenge the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention in court and obtain prompt release if found to have been unlawfully detained. There was no record that any person was able to do so successfully before a court; however, there were reports that the CNIDH helped some detainees successfully challenge the basis of their detention by intervening soon after arrest and negotiating release, arguing lack of evidence or other bases for the charges.

Serious irregularities undermined the fairness and credibility of trials. Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, there were reports of authorities who bribed or influenced members of the judiciary to drop investigations and prosecutions or predetermine the outcome of trials or not to seek enforcement of court orders. According to the COI’s report, President Ndayishimiye demonstrated a desire to promote the rule of law which had been seriously undermined for several years. The president’s efforts were eroded, however, by increasing disrespect for criminal procedures and laws on the part of other government authorities. Authorities routinely did not follow legal procedures.

The COI report stated that the judiciary’s lack of independence was long-standing, but its use for political and diplomatic gain worsened under President Ndayishimiye. There were allegations the attorney general’s office ignored calls to investigate senior figures within the security services and national police. Prosecutors and members of the security services sometimes ignored court orders for the release of detainees after judges had determined there were no legal grounds for holding them. The COI stated that authorities took no structural measures to resolve these problems. On September 17, the president signed a decree restructuring the Supreme Council of Justice, giving the head of state (the president) authority over the council, including authority to oversee the quality of judicial decisions and the power to implement corrective measures. The COI and other organizations assessed that the decision expanded the means through which the executive branch may control the judiciary.

The constitution and law provide for the right to privacy and require search warrants, but authorities did not always respect these rights. The law provides for warrantless searches when security services suspect acts of terrorism, fraud, trafficking in persons, illegal possession of weapons, trafficking in or consumption of drugs, or “infractions of a sexual nature.” The law requires that security services provide advance notice of warrantless searches to prosecutorial officials but does not require approval. Human rights groups raised concerns that the breadth of exceptions to the warrant requirement and the lack of protections provided in the law created risks of abuse. They also noted that by law warrants may be issued by a prosecutorial official without reference to a judicial authority, limiting judicial oversight of the decisions of police and prosecutors.

Police, SNR agents, and Imbonerakure members – sometimes acting as mixed security committees – set up roadblocks and conducted general vehicle inspections and searches. Members of the security forces also sought bribes in many instances, either during searches or in lieu of a search. They conducted search-and-seizure operations throughout the year without judicial or other appropriate authorization. The BHRI reported that the SNR used the Telecommunications Regulation and Control Agency to monitor the date, duration, and location of all calls in the country. The human rights group further reported that the agency had the ability to listen in real time to a limited number of calls.

Some media outlets reported their websites and social media platforms were blocked or not accessible to the public. The official website of the independent outlet Iwacu remained inaccessible as of November and could only be accessed via a mirror site.

The BHRI reported that some police arrested and threatened family members of suspects they were unable to find for arrest. For other efforts to punish family members for offenses allegedly committed by their relatives (see section 1.e., Politically Motivated Reprisal Against Individuals Located Outside the County, Threats, Harassment, Surveillance, and Coercion).

Cabo Verde

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports of hazing involving sexual abuse and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by military personnel against other military personnel. Military authorities detained six individuals alleged to have been involved, expelled them from the armed forces following disciplinary proceedings, and referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office for criminal investigation.

As of August, the National Commission for Human Rights and Citizenship reported six complaints of police abuse during the year and 10 for all of 2020. Authorities investigated 20 reports of violence by National Police agents through September and 19 such reports for all of 2020, many of which resulted in dismissal, suspension, or other disciplinary action against officers involved. The cases included hitting detainees, excessive force with a baton, and discharging a weapon. The Attorney General’s Office reported 141 cases of alleged crimes by law enforcement agents between August 2020 and July, 83 percent by National Police, 8 percent by Judicial Police, and 7 percent by prison guards. During the same period, authorities resolved 106 such cases.

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

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Cases nevertheless moved through the judicial system slowly because it lacked sufficient staffing and was inefficient.

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

Cambodia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

In contrast with 2020, there were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. On January 13, the Battambang Provincial Court sentenced two military police officers, Sar Bunsoeung and Chhoy Ratana, to four and seven years in prison, respectively, and ordered them to pay between 20 and 30 million riels ($4,900 and $7,400) in compensation to the family for the January 2020 death of Tuy Sros, who died in police custody after being arrested in a land dispute in Banteay Meanchey Province. Two witnesses reported that military police beat Tuy and refused to provide medical treatment. By law those who commit “torture and the act of cruelty with aggravating circumstances” may be sentenced to between 10 and 20 years in prison. The victims’ family appealed the sentence seeking stronger punishment; there were no reports of progress on the appeal as of October.

In contrast with 2020, there were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

On June 4, the one-year anniversary of Thai prodemocracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s disappearance, local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) released a statement calling the Cambodian government’s investigation a failure and a violation of international human rights obligations. Wanchalearm’s sister called on the Cambodian government to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.

Eyewitnesses reported that in June 2020 several armed men abducted Wanchalearm outside his Phnom Penh apartment. Authorities initially denied an abduction had taken place, claiming that official records showed Wanchalearm had left the country three years earlier. A representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva raised concerns that the incident “may now comprise an enforced disappearance.” In March the Cambodian government responded to the UN’s Committee on Enforced Disappearances, claiming that Wanchalearm was not on the list of residents in the apartment where the alleged abduction took place, that the vehicle seen in security camera footage of the alleged abduction was not registered, that three individuals who lived near the apartment said they had not witnessed any abduction, and that authorities could not find any further evidence from the security camera footage.

The constitution prohibits such practices; however, beatings and other forms of physical mistreatment of police detainees and prison inmates reportedly continued during the year.

NGOs and detainees reported that military and police officials used physical and psychological abuse and occasionally severely beat criminal detainees, particularly during interrogation. On April 3, local police in Battambang Province took Pich Theareth into custody for allegedly murdering his wife. Police later announced that Pich died of a heart attack a few hours after his arrest. Pich’s relatives alleged that he was beaten to death and posted photographs of his bruised body on social media and filed a complaint against police. On June 16, the National Antitorture Committee determined that Pich’s death was caused by “excessive torture” and requested that the National Police investigate the case. An NGO reported in September that the National Police had not filed any charges against the police officers involved.

Although the law requires police, prosecutors, and judges to investigate all complaints, including those of police abuse, in practice there was impunity for government officials and their family members for human rights abuses. Judges and prosecutors rarely conducted independent investigations. Although the law allows for investigations into accusations of government abuse, cases were pursued only when there was a public outcry or when they drew the prime minister’s attention. If abuse cases came to trial, presiding judges usually passed down verdicts based only on written reports from police and witness testimony. In general police received little professional training on protecting or respecting human rights.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and limits pretrial detention to a maximum of 18 months; however, the government did not always respect these prohibitions.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the government did not respect judicial independence, exerting extensive control over the courts. Court decisions were often subject to political influence. Judicial officials, up to and including the chief of the Supreme Court, often simultaneously held positions in the ruling party, and observers alleged only those with ties to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) or the executive received judicial appointments. Corruption among judges, prosecutors, and court officials was widespread. The judicial branch was inefficient and could not assure due process. At times the outcome of trials appeared predetermined.

The government significantly increased the use of arbitrary charges of “incitement” over the last two years, using the law to charge criminally political opposition leaders and their supporters, labor and environmental activists, and citizens who make politically sensitive comments, including social media posts about the border with Vietnam, the government’s COVID-19 response, relations with China, and unflattering comments about senior government officials. The law criminalizes the “direct incitement to commit a felony or disturb social security,” a vague standard commonly used to suppress and punish peaceful political speech and dissent. By the end of 2020, the government reportedly filed at least 200 cases of incitement, up from approximately 40 in 2019 and no more than 20 in previous years. This included a mass filing of incitement charges against approximately 120 individuals in November 2020, most of whom were associated with the opposition CNRP. There was no report that anyone had ever been acquitted of an incitement charge; individuals with a criminal record may not hold public office until the king grants clemency after a request from the prime minister.

In the long-suspended treason trial of former political opposition leader Kem Sokha, the government gave conflicting statements, at times insisting the court was acting independently, while at other times insisting the trial would last for “years,” or that the outcome would depend on other factors, such as the EU’s partial withdrawal of trade benefits.

Observers alleged the Bar Association of Cambodia heavily favored admission of CPP-aligned members at the expense of nonaligned and opposition attorneys and at times admitted unqualified individuals to the bar solely due to their political affiliation. Analysts revealed that many applicants to the bar paid high bribes for admittance.

A shortage of judges and courtrooms continued to delay many cases. NGOs also believed court officials focused on cases that might benefit them financially. Court delays or corrupt practices often allowed accused persons to escape prosecution. There were widespread allegations that rich or powerful defendants, including members of the security forces, often paid victims and authorities to drop criminal charges. These allegations were supported by NGO reports and instances of rich defendants appearing free in public after their high-profile arrests were reported in media without further coverage of court proceedings or final outcomes of the cases. Authorities sometimes urged victims or their families to accept financial restitution in exchange for dropping criminal charges or for failing to appear as witnesses.

Although the law provides for the privacy of residences and correspondence and prohibits illegal searches, NGOs reported police routinely conducted searches and seizures without warrants. The government continued to leak personal correspondence and recordings of telephone calls by opposition and civil society leaders to government-aligned media. On June 24, police arrested Kak Sovanchay, a 16-year-old boy reportedly with autism, for allegedly “insulting the government” in posts he made in a private chat group on the social media app Telegram that related to his father, a jailed CNRP official. Kak was convicted and later released on probation after an appeals court suspended a portion of his sentence in November.

Cameroon

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings through excessive use of force in the execution of their official duties. As in the previous year, most of the killings were associated with the crisis in the Northwest and Southwest Regions (see also section 1.g., Abuses in Internal Conflict).

The Ministry of Defense, through the Secretariat of State in charge of the National Gendarmerie (SED), is responsible for investigating whether killings attributed to the security forces, including police perpetrated killings, are justifiable. Prosecutions related to these matters are conducted through the Military Tribunal. In some high-profile cases, preliminary investigations are entrusted to a mixed commission of inquiry, including civilian members with relevant professional backgrounds.

On January 10, according to multiple credible sources, including Reuters, the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, Buea-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) Reach Out Cameroon, and Cameroon News Agency, soldiers carried out an offensive raid in Mautu, a village in the Muyuka subdivision of the Southwest Region, killing at least nine civilians, including a child and an elderly woman, neither of whom was an affiliate of any separatist organization. Three witnesses reportedly told Reuters that soldiers raided homes and shot civilians as they ran for cover. The Southwest Region-based NGO Reach Out Cameroon identified the deceased as Takang Anyi Roger, age 20; Tambe Daniel; Shey Keisa, age six; Obenegwa David, age 30; Egoshi Lucas, age 25; Takang Bruno, age 22; Ndakam Pascal, age 22; Tambe Ann, age 50; and Ngoto Valentine Akama, age 32. Defense Ministry spokesperson Cyrille Serge Atonfack Guemo acknowledged in a January 11 press release soldiers from the 21st Motorized Infantry Battalion conducted a preventive operation against terrorist positions in the Mautu but did not admit that troops killed civilians. Atonfack Guemo said troops came under heavy gunfire and “adequately responded,” which resulted in the neutralization of some terrorists.

Multiple media outlets reported that on January 23, security officers killed four unarmed teenagers in the Meta Quarter neighborhood in Bamenda, Northwest Region. The victims included Sale Saddam and Aloysius Ngalim each age 16, and Blaise Fon and Nelly Mbah, both age 17. In a January 27 press release, Defense Ministry spokesperson Atonfack Guemo said soldiers of the Fifth Gendarmerie Region raided Meta Quarter to apprehend separatists who were planning an assault on a nearby police post from an abandoned building. He said the separatists opened fire on the soldiers approaching their vehicles and during the ensuing confrontation, security officers killed four separatists, wounded several others who escaped, and recovered large quantities of weapons. On January 25, the Guardian Post newspaper reported that local residents identified two of the boys as students at Government Bilingual High School downtown and categorically stated that the teenagers were not armed and had “nothing to do with the ongoing conflict in the Anglophone regions.”

In an August 2 report, HRW denounced abuses committed by the army and separatists in Northwest and Southwest Regions. HRW wrote that on June 8 and 9, members of the security forces killed two civilians and raped a 53-year-old woman in the Northwest Region. Survivors and witnesses reportedly told HRW that in the early hours of June 9, approximately 150 security force members from both the regular army and Rapid Intervention Battalion (French acronym: BIR) conducted an operation in and around Mbuluf village. Survivors reportedly told HRW that security forces stopped their group of six including a husband and wife, their two children, another man, and another woman in the vicinity of the village for questioning. In Mbah they released everyone except the husband of the woman who was reportedly raped. His body was reportedly found with multiple gunshot wounds on June 11 in Tatum village, approximately 18 miles from Mbah.

On June 8, at approximately 7 p.m. in Gom village in the Northwest Region, two plainclothes soldiers, whom a witness recognized as regular army members from the Gom military base, broke into the local traditional ruler’s home, known as the fon’s home, and beat a 72-year-old man. At approximately 7:30 p.m., they questioned and shot Lydia Nwang, a 60-year-old woman, in the right leg after she failed to provide information regarding a separatist fighter. The soldiers then forced the man age 72 and his wife to carry Nwang towards the Gom military base for questioning. Nwang was carried as far as a bridge approximately one mile from her house, when the soldiers shot and killed her. Nwang’s relatives recovered her body from the bridge the following morning. HRW claimed that on July 15, it emailed its findings to Defense Ministry spokesperson Atonfack Guemo requesting responses to specific questions but received no response by the time it released its findings. In an August 5 statement, Atonfack Guemo qualified the information contained in HRW’s report as false and baseless.

According to NGO Un Monde Avenir, Juste Magloire Tang Ndjock died sometime overnight between July 20 to 21, in the premises of the Gendarmerie Brigade in Pouma after authorities severely beat him. He had been summoned to the Pouma gendarmerie brigade following a complaint. After failing to appear, gendarme Marshal Okala ordered the arrest of Tang Ndjock. As of the end of the December, his remains and findings of the autopsy report had not been released to the family of the deceased.

On the night of February 13, according to multiple credible sources, a group of armed separatists carried out an attack on the Essoh Atah village in Lebialem division of the Southwest Region, killing four civilians, including the following three traditional rulers: Chief Benedict Fomin, Chief Simon Forzizong, and Chief Fualeasuoh. According to the minister delegate in charge of planning at the Ministry of the Economy, Planning, and Regional Development, Paul Tasong, the group led by Oliver Lekeaka, also known as “Field Marshal,” stormed Essoh Atah village, pulled the chiefs from their houses, and shot and killed them at the market square before dumping their bodies near a river. Minister Tasong added that the separatists accused the chiefs of refusing to hand over proceeds from the sale of cocoa for the 2020-21 season and organizing schools in the community. Other reports suggested the separatists also accused their victims of participating in the December 2020 regional election. On July 8, the fon of Baforkum in the Northwest Region was abducted from his palace for the second time in less than 60 days sometime between July 6 and July 7 by suspected separatist fighters; on July 8, residents discovered his body dumped nearby a stream.

On June 15, separatists abducted six divisional delegates in Ekondo-Titi subdivision of the Southwest Region. On June 18, local residents discovered the body of Johnson Mabia Modika, the divisional delegate for the Ministry of Economy, Planning, and Regional Development. HRW indicated on July 1, at approximately 7:30 p.m., two suspected separatist fighters killed Fuh Max Dang, a physics teacher at the Government Bilingual High School in Kumba, Southwest Region, after they broke into his home. A relative of the deceased reportedly told HRW that separatist fighters had previously threatened the teacher, warning him that he would face consequences if he continued teaching. As of the end of December, the status of the remaining five delegates remained unknown.

On July 14, separatists dressed in army uniforms and riding motorbikes killed two security officers at a security post in Babadjou, West Region. On July 18, according to multiple reports, separatists killed five police officers in Bali, Mezam division of the Northwest Region. The attack took place at a security checkpoint where separatists detonated an improvised explosive device near a police vehicle, after which the separatists opened fire on the occupants. In a video a group of armed men claimed responsibility for the attack and identified themselves as the “Bali Buffaloes.” On July 19, less than 24 hours after the Bali attack, a video found on social media showed separatists dismembering a security officer, Patrick Mabenga.

Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa (ISIS-WA) continued killing civilians, including members of vigilance committees, which are organized groups of local residents cooperating with government forces in the Far North Region. On April 5, HRW reported that Boko Haram had increased attacks on civilians in towns and villages in the Far North Region since December 2020, killing at least 80 civilians. HRW documented that Boko Haram suicide bombers blew up fleeing civilians, adding that dozens of local fishermen were killed with machetes and knives, and an elderly village chief was killed in front of his family. HRW indicated that the actual number of casualties was much higher, in view of the difficulty of confirming details remotely, underscoring that some attacks often went unreported. In late July ISIS-WA carried out two attacks against the army in the Logone-et-Chari division. The first attack took place on July 24 in the locality of Sagme, in Fotokol subdivision. According to multiple accounts, eight soldiers died during the attack and 13 others were wounded. According to the NGO Stand Up for Cameroon, suspected Boko Haram affiliates killed at least 27 persons in the months of November and December.

Although the government repeatedly promised to investigate abuses committed by security forces, it did not do so transparently or systematically. Following the April 2020 release of a summary of the findings of an investigation into the February 2020 killing by security forces of an estimated 23 civilians in the village of Ngarbuh, legal proceedings against three security force members, 17 members of a vigilance committee, and one former separatist fighter, indicted on murder charges, opened at the Yaounde Military Tribunal in June, after multiple adjournments. As of the end of December, only three of the accused had appeared before the court.

As in the previous year, government security forces were believed to be responsible for enforced disappearances of suspected separatists or their supporters. Human rights lawyers documented the cases of Onyori Mukube Onyori and Ernest Mofa Ngo, whose abductions they believed were orchestrated at the behest of authorities. Following an attack on the Mother Theresa International Bilingual Academy in Kumba, Southwest Region, in November 2020 two men who were playing cards in the hallway of their house, were abducted and taken to an undisclosed location. After months of investigations, lawyers discovered in late April that they were being detained at the General Directorate for External Research (DGRE), an intelligence agency, in Yaounde. The lawyers reported Mofa Ngo was subsequently released under unclear circumstances, but Mukube remained in detention as of December.

As of December there were no developments reported on the high-profile investigation into the death of broadcast journalist Samuel Abue Adjiekha, popularly known as Samuel “Wazizi.” Wazizi was detained in August 2019 after authorities accused him of having connections with armed separatists. He was transferred to a military-run facility in Buea in August 2019 and never appeared in court, despite several scheduled hearings. According to the Ministry of Defense, Wazizi died in police custody 10 days after his arrest in 2019 from severe sepsis. Although Wazizi was officially pronounced dead in June 2020, his family had yet to see or recover his remains more than one year after the official death announcement.

There were no reported developments concerning the alleged disappearance of human rights activist Franklin Mowha, the president of NGO Frontline Fighters for Citizen Interests, who disappeared after leaving his hotel room in 2018, while on a mission to monitor human rights abuses in Kumba, Southwest Region. Despite multiple calls by human rights organizations for an investigation into the disappearance, the government had not taken action more than three years later. Mowha highlighted and denounced the abuses perpetrated by persons associated with the government, and authorities had previously detained him on several occasions.

On October 13, barrister Amungwa Nde Ntso Nico, one of the lawyers for separatist leader Sisuku Julius Ayuk Tabe and 47 others arrested in connection to the Anglophone crisis in 2017, told the international community that members of government security forces had removed three of his clients, Tebid Tita, Hamlet Acheshit, and John Fongue, from Yaounde Kondengui Central Prison without official authorization and were holding them incommunicado in the Central Service for Judicial Enquiries (SCRJ) bunker. On October 15, barrister Amungwa and members of the defense team announced to the public that he had a meeting with the state prosecutor at the Yaounde Military Tribunal, who told him the detainees had been transferred to the SCRJ at the SED. Following the meeting, he said he went to the SCRJ, but the clients were not on the prisoner manifest. Amungwa later reported he had been able to visit the three, who were very ill and said they had been mistreated and forced to sign a document in the absence of their lawyer. Tita, Acheshit, and Fongue, in detention since 2017, had yet to be officially sentenced, despite multiple appearances before the Military Tribunal.

On June 15, separatists abducted six divisional delegates in Ekondo-Titi subdivision of the Southwest Region. One of the delegates was eventually killed (see also section 1.a.), and the five others remained unaccounted for as of the end of December.

Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were reports that security force members tortured or otherwise abused citizens, including separatist fighters, their alleged supporters, and political opponents. Human rights organizations documented several cases in which security forces severely mistreated separatist fighters and others in which armed separatists mistreated civilians and members of defense forces. Public officials, or persons acting at their behest, reportedly carried out acts that resulted in severe physical, mental, and emotional trauma.

On February 13, a video emerged on social media and television news programs showing a mixed unit of government defense forces abusing a civilian. They interrogated the man in French and pidgin English, poured water on him, beat him with a machete until he fell unconscious. According to the video, authorities demanded that the man reveal the location of his brother whom they believed to be a separatist fighter. In a February 15 press release, MOD spokesperson Atonfack Guemo acknowledged that the incident took place in the afternoon of February 11 in the locality of Ndu, Donga and Mantung division of the Northwest Region. Atonfack Guemo said the victim was identified upon preliminary investigations as Jean Fai Fungong, a suspected criminal and separatist. He indicated that the minister delegate for defense, Joseph Beti Assomo, ordered the immediate arrest of two soldiers, two gendarme officers, and four police officers believed to be responsible for the abuse and placed them in detention at the Ndu Territorial Gendarmerie Brigade pending the outcome of a full investigation. As of the end of December, authorities had not released information concerning the outcome of the investigation, and there was no indication that the case had been fully investigated (see also section 1.a.).

On September 21, multiple videos depicting a civilian being beaten by gendarme officers with machetes circulated on social media. The MOD issued a press release and stated there would be a full investigation into the matter. The communique added that the perpetrators of the abuse, which took place on the overnight on September 16 at a gendarme facility in Yaounde, had been identified and would be subject to disciplinary and judicial sanctions. As of late November, the MOD had not provided an update on this case.

According to NGO Un Monde Avenir, shopkeeper Sieur Nzimou Bertin died in gendarme custody on the morning of November 18, a few hours after he was released from police custody, following a summons after a dispute with his neighbor. His death was said to be the consequence of the severe assault and degrading treatment he suffered while in detention on the evening of November 17 at the 9th quarter police station in the Littoral Region.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, three allegations were submitted during the year of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). This followed six allegations against the country’s peacekeepers deployed to MINUSCA in 2020. As of the end of December, investigations by the United Nation’s Office of Internal Oversight Services into all allegations from during the year remaining pending. There were also 26 other open allegations dating from previous years of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to UN peacekeeping missions dating back to 2017. Of the open cases, eight allegedly involved rape of a child. One case allegedly involved multiple allegations: four instances of rape of a child and two instances of exploitative relationships with an adult. Another open case allegedly involved rape by two peacekeepers of two children and an exploitative relationship with an adult.

Reports from credible organizations and anecdotal evidence suggested there were cases of rape and sexual assaults perpetrated by persons associated with the government in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, as well as in other parts of the country. NGOs also indicated armed separatists sexually assaulted survivors in the two regions (see also section 1.g., Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture). On February 13, the NGO Mandela Center International issued a press release denouncing the December 2020 gang rape of a 16-year-old girl by police inspector Remy Gaetan Eba’a Ngomo and his colleagues. Police inspector Eba’a Ngomo, who was on duty at the Ntui public security police station, forced the girl and a male colleague to follow him, according to the survivors and the civil society organizations reporting on the issue. Once at the police station, the police inspector forced the two to have sex outdoors. Afterwards, Eba’a Ngomo invited his colleagues, including a person he referred to as his boss, to rape the female survivor, after chasing away the male survivor. Eba’a Ngomo gave the female survivor 1,000 CFA francs ($2) and threatened to kill her if she revealed what had happened. The father of the female survivor unsuccessfully initiated a series of complaints starting with the head of public security police in Ntui, followed by the public prosecutor in Ntui. The father of the female survivor filed another complaint with the regional division of judicial police in Yaounde. As of early October, the case was pending before the prosecutor, while police inspector Eba’a Ngomo was reportedly in detention; however, his presence in detention was not independently confirmed as of December.

In May Reach Out Cameroon released its human rights situation and incident report for the period extending from January to March 31. In the report, Reach Out indicated that on January 21, separatist fighters attacked, robbed, and gang-raped a young woman at Nkewen, in the Bamenda III municipality in the Northwest Region. The survivor reportedly told Reach Out that she was on her way back from a party with her aunt when armed men attacked her at the entrance to her neighborhood, pulled her into a nearby bush, and raped her.

While some investigations and prosecutions were conducted and a few sanctions meted out, impunity remained a problem. Few of the reports of trials involved those in command. The General Delegation of National Security and the Secretariat of State for Defense in charge of the National Gendarmerie investigated some abuses. The government levied punitive action against convicted low-level offenders, and other investigations continued as of year’s end. The trial for the four soldiers and 17 members of vigilance committees accused of assisting regular defense forces in perpetrating the February 2020 massacre in Ngarbuh continued at the Yaounde Military Tribunal, but as of December, only three of the accused, all of them members of defense and security forces, had been seen in court.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness in court of an arrest or detention. The law states that except in the case of an individual discovered in the act of committing a felony or misdemeanor, the officials making the arrest must disclose their identity and inform the detainee of the reason for his or her arrest. Any person illegally detained by police, the state counsel, or the examining magistrate may receive compensation. The government did not always respect these provisions.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but this was not always the case. In some instances the outcomes of trials appeared influenced by the government, especially in politically sensitive cases. Despite the judiciary’s partial independence from the executive and legislative branches, the president of the republic appoints all members of the bench and legal department of the judicial branch, including the president of the Supreme Court, as well as the president and members of the Constitutional Council, and he may dismiss them at will.

Military courts may exercise jurisdiction over civilians in a broad number of offenses including civil unrest. Military courts increasingly exercised jurisdiction over peaceful demonstrations, which the government had not previously authorized.

Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, these rights were subject to restriction in the interests of the state, and there were credible reports police and gendarmes abused their positions by harassing citizens and conducting searches without warrants. The law permits a police officer to enter a private home during daylight hours without a warrant only if pursuing a person suspected of or seen committing a crime. Police and gendarmes often did not comply with this provision and entered private homes without a warrant. An administrative authority, including a governor or senior divisional officer, may authorize police to conduct neighborhood sweeps without warrants, and this practice occurred.

The Buea-based NGO Human Is Right reported in August that it documented several cases of arbitrary arrests and detentions by defense and security forces in Mutengene, Muea, Mile 16, Mile 14, and Molyko, in the Southwest Region, from August 18 to August 30. According to Human Is Right, security forces patrolling neighborhoods arrested persons, especially young men, and searched their homes without warrants. An anonymous witness reportedly told Human Is Right how his 24-year-old son was arrested in Molyko, despite having his national identification card, and subsequently was asked to pay 50,000 CFA francs ($91) to secure his release.

Reports suggest authorities punished family members for offenses allegedly committed by their relatives. In an audio recording circulated on social media platforms early on August 3, the separatist fighter alias “General No Pity,” who controlled a separatist base known as Marine Forces located in Ndop, Northwest Region, claimed that soldiers stormed his compound and arrested his “uncles, aunts, younger brothers, and sisters.” He gave authorities 48 hours to release the family members, threatening to wreak havoc if anything bad happened to them. The NGO The Center for Research and Resources Distribution to Rural and Underprivileged People (CEREDRUP) confirmed his claims in a September 4 report. According to CEREDRUP, No Pity’s brother and cousin were released on August 5, but his mother and uncle remained in government custody. In order to pressure for their release, No Pity and his fighters took up positions along the Bamenda Kumbo Highway in Ndop and Sabga Hill, completely blocking the road for weeks. As of late December, there was no official statement from the government concerning the arrests.

Killings: There were credible reports that members of government forces and separatist fighters deliberately killed civilians. On July 4, according to multiple credible sources, soldiers at a security checkpoint shot and killed local resident Djibring Dubila Ngoran. A July 6 government press release described the victim as a fugitive from justice and accused him of acting in complicity with separatists abroad. Local residents rejected this narrative, and hundreds of civilians protested on the streets of Bamenda.

On July 18, separatists beheaded Esomba Nlend at Ekondo Titi Beach, accusing him of being a traitor. On July 23, in Ekondo Titi, Ndian division of the Southwest Region, separatists killed former fighter John Eyallo, who had laid down his arms and joined the Deradicalization, Demobilization, and Rehabilitation center in Buea.

Abductions: Armed separatists allegedly kidnapped several persons for not respecting the separatist-imposed lockdown measures. The separatists held persons as hostages, including public officials, political leaders, teachers, schoolchildren, and traditional leaders. There were credible allegations that separatists physically brutalized their victims.

On January 13, armed separatists attacked a transport truck at Bamessing in the Ndop subdivision in the Northwest Region and abducted the driver and his assistant. Two days later, on January 15, two civilians were abducted by alleged separatists from their farm in Mbelewa, in the Bamenda III municipality. According to the NGO Reach Out, separatists abducted three civilians from a construction site on January 21 at Mile 6 Nkwen, in the Bamenda III municipality of the Northwest Region, for failing to receive a permit from the local commander of separatist forces before beginning construction.

On February 3, armed men believed to be separatists abducted three officers of the Bamenda II council, while council members were in the process of sealing shops. In a video found on social media, officers could be seen shirtless, sitting on the ground, and being threatened by their abductors, who accused them of violating the laws of “Ambazonia.”

On March 12, HRW reported that armed separatists kidnapped a medical doctor in the Northwest Region on February 27 and took him to their camp. The separatists accused the victim of “not contributing to the struggle” and threatened to kill him. The doctor was released six hours later, after a 300,000 CFA francs ($545) ransom payment.

Several media outlets reported that on March 13, gunmen presumed to be separatists abducted Ayiseh Bonyui Fame, a journalist assigned to the CRTV station in Buea, the Southwest Region. A video that was widely circulated on social media featured Ayiseh pleading for her life while in captivity at knifepoint at an unknown location. Ayiseh was eventually released on the night of March 14 after her family paid part of the ransom amount requested.

Reach Out reported in May that on January 12, security forces raided Bawum in the Northwest Region and burned down the Bafut ecovillage, which was also a UNESCO world cultural heritage site. On January 22, security forces attacked the village of Bafia in Muyuka subdivision of the Southwest Region and set houses on fire. A similar incident happened on February 16 in Tad, a village in Batibo subdivision of the Northwest Region. On March 1, security forces also set fire to a guest house and laboratory of the Baptist hospital in Bamkikai, Kumbo subdivision, according to multiple sources. In its August report, HRW indicated that security forces destroyed and looted at least 33 homes, shops, as well as a traditional leader’s palace in the Northwest Region on June 8 and 9. On June 25, according to credible sources, including OCHA, separatists in the Northwest Region kidnapped four humanitarian workers and held them overnight.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: According to anecdotal reports, members of government forces physically abused civilians and prisoners in their custody. Reports suggested that both government forces and separatists mistreated persons, including through sexual and gender-based violence (see also section 1.a.).

Child Soldiers: The government did not recruit or use child soldiers. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reported allegations that some members of defense and security forces used children for intelligence gathering. Some community neighborhood watch groups, known as vigilance committees, may have used and recruited children as young as 12 in operations against Boko Haram and ISIS-WA. Authorities increasingly encouraged the creation of vigilance committees. On July 29, for example, the senior divisional officer for Bamboutos, Francois Franklin Etapa, issued a decision to reorganize local self-defense committees in his command zone.

Boko Haram continued to recruit and use child soldiers, including girls, in its attacks on civilian and military targets.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: As in the previous year, there were reports of violence directed against health workers and institutions and the use of firearms around health facilities by members of security forces and armed separatists.

From January to June, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 29 attacks were reported in seven health districts in the Northwest Region and seven health districts in the Southwest Region. Health districts also reported attacks on health-care facilities. The types of attacks included removal of patients and health workers; criminalization of health care; psychological violence, abduction, arrest, and detention of health personnel or patients; and setting of fires. These attacks resulted in the death of one patient and the complete destruction of one district health service structure and equipment.

Canada

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were isolated reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Some family members of individuals killed by police said police may have committed unlawful killings during mental wellness checks or in response to calls to police by them for assistance when their relative was in mental distress and at risk of self-harm or harm to others. For example on August 1, Montreal police in Quebec fatally shot Jean-Rene Junior Olivier after his family called police to report Olivier was confused, mentally unstable, and armed with a knife. Olivier’s family said police responded inappropriately to a mental-health crisis and racially profiled Olivier, who was Black. Quebec’s police investigation office opened an investigation into the death that remained in progress as of October.

In the 2020 cases regarding police-involved deaths of New Brunswick residents Rodney Levi and Chantal Moore, on January 26, New Brunswick’s Public Prosecutions Service determined police acted lawfully and in self-defense in the death of Rodney Levi. On June 7, it found police acted lawfully and in self-defense in the death of Chantal Moore. Officials stated no criminal charges would be filed against officers in the cases.

Charges of negligence causing death filed in December 2020 against prison guards at the St. John’s penitentiary in Newfoundland and Labrador in the 2019 death of Jonathan Henoche, an indigenous inmate at the facility, remained pending as of November. The province dropped charges against one of the nine guards in August on the basis there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction. Media reports indicated Henoche may have had a violent altercation with correctional officers prior to his death. Provincial police opened a homicide investigation that remained in progress as of November.

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

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

Correctional Services Canada (CSC) stated it would review a February 23 report by federally commissioned researchers that concluded the government continued to use solitary confinement in federal prisons. The Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that solitary confinement for longer than 15 days constituted cruel and unusual punishment, and the government passed legislation the same year prohibiting the measure. The February report stated that in practice isolation placements continued to regularly exceed the 15-day threshold and broke guidelines permitting inmates a minimum of four hours per day outside their cells.

In April the family of Edward Snowshoe, an indigenous man who killed himself in federal prison in 2010 after 162 days in solitary confinement, filed suit against CSC alleging racial discrimination, neglect, and failure to fulfill its duty of care in the man’s death. The family sought 12.5 million Canadian dollars (C$) ($10 million) in damages. The case remained pending as of November.

There were no known developments in a suit filed by the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 2020 against the province of Ontario in which the commission alleged the province failed to respect its commitments to end use of solitary confinement in the provincial correctional system for persons with mental disabilities.

As of July 23, at least nine women in Newfoundland and Labrador reported incidents of sexual assault involving six former and one serving police officer of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC). The nine women stated that on-duty police officers drove them home at night after the women had been drinking at bars in St. John’s and sexually assaulted them; at least three other women said on-duty officers sexually propositioned them after driving them home from bars. The RNC opened an independent civilian investigation into the reports. The RNC disclosed it had conducted four separate investigations over the previous five years into similar reports but had filed no charges. The latest complaints followed the separate conviction in July of RNC officer Douglas Snelgrove in his third criminal trial on charges of sexually assaulting a woman in her home after driving her home from a bar in 2014. The third trial followed a successful appeal and a declared mistrial. Snelgrove was held in custody pending a sentencing hearing in November.

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

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

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

On August 6, British Columbia’s information and privacy commissioner launched an investigation at the request of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) into the federal Liberal Party’s use of facial recognition technology to screen candidates to run for the party in the 2021 federal election. The technology verifies the identity of members eligible to vote in nomination meetings. Nomination meetings are normally held in person, but the party moved them online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CCLA asserted the Liberal Party’s use of such software “sends the wrong message to municipal, provincial, and federal election officials that this technology is ready for prime time.” The review was to determine whether the party complied with British Columbia’s Personal Information Protection Act; it was the only province that had privacy laws subjecting activities of political parties to independent oversight, including the use of identity technology and of third-party automated identification verification service providers. The outcome of the review remained pending as of November.

Central African Republic

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year. The Ministry of Justice investigates whether security force killings were justifiable and pursues prosecutions. In an August joint report by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), covering the electoral period of July 2020 through June, the UN agencies cited 59 instances of extrajudicial killings committed by state security forces, along with “other security forces,” including Russian private military company (PMC) elements from the Wagner Group who have been engaged in active combat. Many of these killings occurred when security forces and Russian elements suspected civilians of being affiliated with armed groups. On April 30, MINUSCA shared with authorities a list of human rights abuses allegedly committed by the national defense forces and “bilaterally deployed and other” security personnel. Subsequently, in May the government announced the creation of a special commission of inquiry to shed light on alleged abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law from December 2020 to April. Government authorities investigated these incidents and released preliminary findings in an October 2 report synopsis, although as of year’s end, the official report had not been released to the public. The government report synopsis accused armed rebel groups of war crimes and crimes against humanity; additionally, it acknowledged that extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and disappearances, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, occupation of public buildings, and hindrances to humanitarian access were also committed by the Central African Army (FACA), internal security forces, and Russian “instructors.” As of year’s end there was no indication authorities had taken action to hold responsible officials accountable.

The United Nations reported that in the Ombella M’Poko Prefecture, from December 30, 2020, to January 20, 10 civilians were victims of summary and extrajudicial killings by the country’s armed forces and “other security forces,” a term that includes Russian PMC elements affiliated with the sanctioned Wagner Group. Killings by PMC elements of the Wagner Group were reported in local and international press by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies. According to local official sources, on June 12, Wagner Group elements summoned the sultan mayor of the town of Koui, Lamido Souleymane Daouda, his deputy, and his bodyguard to accompany them to seize weapons from a rebel group. Hours later the Wagner elements returned to Koui to inform Daouda’s family that he, his deputy, and his bodyguard were killed in a landmine explosion. After discussions with his family, the Wagner elements handed over the remains of all three deceased, which observers noted showed bullet wounds and no trace of explosives. The UN’s report corroborated allegations that Daouda and his entourage were killed by Wagner Group elements.

The report also stated that Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebels were responsible for approximately 61 killings targeting civilians for party affiliation or participation in the elections. On July 31, Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) rebels attacked the northwestern village of Mann near the borders of Chad and Cameroon, killing at least six civilians, according to MINUSCA sources.

There were some reports of disappearances committed by or on behalf of government authorities. According to a local news report, in December 2020 members of a government-sponsored militia commonly known as the Sharks, while disguised as presidential guards, broke into Ngaragba Prison in Bangui and abducted three individuals: army officer Bombole; Staff Sergeant Amazoude; and Corporal Ringui, alias Badboy. There has been no sign of the three since that time. On February 1, Saint Claire Danmboy Balekouzou, a FACA soldier known as “Sadam,” was also allegedly kidnapped by the Sharks. His body was later found in the bordering Bimbo district of Bangui.

In a July 7 letter to President Touadera, members of the Goula ethnic community in the central town of Bria alleged 12 Goula community members were detained by government forces during the unrest that followed December 2020 polling. The letter states there had been no further contact with the individuals after their arrest. Although a government investigation acknowledged UN reports that other disappearances were committed by government or Wagner Group elements, as of year’s end there was no indication that authorities had taken action regarding those disappearances, or those abuses cited earlier (see section 1.a.).

Although the law defines and specifies punishment for torture and other cruel and inhuman treatments, authorities and armed groups continued to commit abuses against the civilian population. Although sentences for such crimes range from 20 years to life in prison and forced labor, impunity persisted. In August FACA soldiers stationed at the Boing neighborhood police station reportedly extorted 146,000 Central African Francs (CFA) ($254) from timber seller Alfred Doualengue and severely beat him. The online newspaper Le Tsunami published Doualengue’s photograph, which showed scars across his buttocks. Although a government investigation acknowledged UN reports that other instances of torture were committed by government or Wagner Group elements, as of year’s end there was no indication that authorities had acted regarding those abuses (see section 1.a). Impunity for human rights abuses continued to be a significant problem throughout the country’s security forces, including the army, gendarmerie, and police. According to human rights advocates, factors that contributed to impunity included judicial backlogs and fear of retaliation. The government worked with the EU and MINUSCA to provide training on human rights for FACA and gendarme units.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government sometimes observed these requirements. There were, however, reports of arbitrary detentions and lengthy pretrial detentions.

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, political actors exerted undue influence on it. The country’s judicial system had not recovered from 2013 attacks by Seleka rebels who destroyed court buildings and records throughout the country. Despite slight improvements in the number of judges deployed outside Bangui, the overall inadequate number of justices still hindered court operations nationwide. Many judges were unwilling to conduct proceedings outside Bangui, citing security concerns, the inability to receive their salaries while in provincial cities, and the lack of office space and housing. UN legal experts explained that while some “security concerns” were legitimate, others were used to avoid deployment to underdeveloped areas outside Bangui that lacked social services, housing, and other infrastructure. For judges based in Bangui, legal advocacy organizations noted performance problems and impunity for underperformance, particularly for judges in “investigative chambers.” At the end of January, 55.2 percent of judicial staff were present at their posts across the country, according to records from MINUSCA’s Justice and Corrections Division. By the end of September, this figure increased to 70.6 percent. National criminal courts of appeal operated in two (Bouar and Bangui) of the country’s three appellate districts (Bouar, Bambari, and Bangui). The Bangui military tribunal held its second hearing in July, hearing 14 cases. In late September the Court Martial held its first criminal session in Bangui. The Military Tribunal hears cases punishable by less than 10 years, whilst the Court Martial hears cases punishable by 10 years or more.

Corruption was a serious problem at all levels. Courts suffered from inefficient administration, understaffing, shortages of trained personnel, and salary arrears. Authorities at all levels did not always respect court orders.

The Special Criminal Court (SCC) established in 2015 operates with both domestic and international participation and support. The SCC has jurisdiction over serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. With the arrival of four international judges and one prosecutor between January and June, and two appellate judges from France and Germany set to arrive by the end of November, the court had its full complement of national and international judges.

In May the SCC accepted nine cases involving members of the armed group Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) who were arrested for crimes committed in the towns of Obo, Zemio, and Bambouti in the southeastern portion of the country. As of September the SCC received 122 complaints; 24 of those were in various stages of investigation. Pursuant to an SCC warrant, 15 persons were also detained and were awaiting trial at Ngaragba Prison and its annex at Camp de Roux. In September the SCC announced war crimes charges against Anti-balaka leader Eugene Barret Ngaikosset.

The country’s Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRRC), is a transitional justice body charged with establishing truth, determining nonjudicial responsibility for violations, creating a reparations fund, and promoting reconciliation. In April 2020 the National Assembly passed legislation creating the TJRRC, giving it a mandate of four years (with possible extension to five). The law charged the commission with “investigating, determining the truth, and assigning responsibly for the grave events that have marked the nation starting with the March 29, 1959, disappearance of President Barthelemy Boganda until December 31, 2019.” In July the TJRRC’s 11 commissioners, including five women, were sworn in by national authorities. Edith Douzima presided over the TJRRC. The UN Development Program and MINUSCA provided support to the TJRRC through strategic planning and training retreats in August and September.

On February 16, the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened the trial of Alfred Yekatoum and Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The prosecution began the presentation of evidence against Yekatoum and Ngaissona, both former Anti-balaka leaders. Government authorities surrendered Mahamat Said Abdelkani, a former Seleka commander, to the ICC on January 24, and his initial appearance before the court to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity took place on January 28 and 29. From October 12-14, the ICC held a hearing to confirm the charges against Abdelkani. The government referred the situation in the country to the ICC in 2014, and investigations continued during the year.

The law prohibits home searches without a warrant during preliminary investigations, except for provisions in the law that permit searches with the defendant’s consent. Once the case is under investigation by an investigating magistrate, the presence of the defendant or witnesses is sufficient. The government did not always follow this requirement. For instance, in early January former minister Thierry Savonarole Maleyombo, also a senior executive of former president Francois Bozize’s Kwa na Kwa Party, was arrested in Bangui following a search of his home. According to his lawyer, Me Crepin Mboli Goumba, Maleyombo was arrested on suspicion of sheltering pro-Bozize armed individuals in his hotel, which was being used as a rear base. According to Mboli Goumba, authorities did not present Maleyombo a warrant.

There were numerous reports of serious human rights and international humanitarian law abuses countrywide by FACA, Wagner Group elements, and armed groups. Reports of abuses included unlawful killings, torture, disappearances, rape, forced marriage, looting, destruction of property, recruitment and use of child soldiers by armed groups, and disruption of humanitarian access.

Between July 2020 and June, a joint report by the UN Human Rights Office and MINUSCA recorded 526 cases of violations and abuses of human rights and of international humanitarian law across the country, impacting 1,221 victims, including 144 civilians. Armed groups affiliated with the CPC were responsible for 286 (54 percent) of the incidents, and the FACA, internal security forces, and other security personnel, including Russian elements from the Wagner Group, were responsible for 240 incidents (46 percent). Violations included summary and extrajudicial executions, acts of torture and ill treatment, arbitrary arrests and detentions, conflict-related sexual violence, and serious violations of children’s rights. The report attributed kidnappings, attacks on peacekeepers, and looting of humanitarian organizations’ premises to CPC rebels.

Killings: In June, 14 persons were killed and two badly wounded during intercommunal clashes between Peuhl herders and local farmers in the Bamingui-Bangoran Prefecture. The 3R rebels, Central African Patriotic Movement (MPC), UPC, Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central African Republic (FPRC), and Anti-balaka armed groups participated in killings of civilians related to armed conflict. Additionally, reports indicated that after forming the CPC in late 2020, these armed groups committed a series of attacks that resulted in civilian deaths and the looting of homes and private properties.

On September 4, the SCC confirmed the arrest of Eugene Ngaikosset, a former captain in the presidential guard accused of multiple killings of civilians from 2005 to 2007. According to Human Rights Watch, his unit was accused of burning thousands of homes in the northeast and northwest of the country in the same period, as well as other crimes as a leader of the Anti-balaka in 2015. The SCC charged him with crimes against humanity.

Abductions: On August 24, three teenagers, ages 12 to 14, were kidnapped, allegedly by 3R rebels and CPC members, in the outskirts of Bozoum, capital of the Ouham-Pende Prefecture in the northwestern part of the country. Local authorities stated the three hostages were safely released by their captors early the next morning after carrying the rebels’ luggage into the bush. They were referred to the local gendarmerie commander for investigation.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: There were numerous reports throughout the year that all parties to the conflict, including FACA, Wagner Group elements, and rebel armed groups mistreated, assaulted, and raped civilians with impunity.

The United Nations reported a significant increase in conflict-related sexual violence linked with the deterioration of the security situation following the elections. Between June and October, MINUSCA received allegations concerning 118 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence, most of which involved rape. Eighty percent of incidents were attributed to armed groups, while 5 percent were attributed to national defense forces, and 7 percent to “bilaterally deployed and other security personnel.” In Bangui, MINUSCA supported a safe house operated by a local NGO to provide temporary protection to survivors of sexual violence and worked with the UN Country Team to establish a working group to assist survivors in the areas of health, justice, and psychosocial and socioeconomic support. In October President Touadera named Minister Counselor of Child Protection Josiane Bemaka Soui as the country’s new focal point for sexual violence in conflict.

Military tribunals, courts martial, appeals courts, and the Court of Cassation have jurisdiction to try any violation by the military. After a decade of inactivity, military courts resumed work in July. Several officers, noncommissioned officers, and soldiers were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to seven years in prison. Most were found guilty of abandoning their posts during the CPC offensive from December 2020 to January. Additionally, Arsene Laki, a divisional police commissioner, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and a substantial fine by the Permanent Military Tribunal for beating a woman while on duty.

MINUSCA announced in September that it would withdraw Gabon’s 450-strong peacekeeping contingent in the wake of sexual exploitation and abuse allegations against some members. The Gabonese government stated it would open its own investigation into the charges and dispatched an investigation team to the country.

Child Soldiers: Armed militias associated with Anti-balaka, ex-Seleka, the CPC, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and other armed groups forcibly recruited and used child soldiers; however, there were no verified cases of the government supporting units recruiting or using child soldiers during the year. Armed groups recruited children and used them as combatants, messengers, informants, and cooks. Girls were often forced to marry combatants or were used as sex slaves. The United Nations also documented the presence of children operating checkpoints and barricades.

Despite signing the United Nation’s Standard Operation Procedures proscribing the use of child soldiers, the MPC, FPRC, and UPC continued to use child soldiers. The FPRC and UPC issued orders barring the recruitment of children; however, NGOs reported the continued presence of children within these groups.

The country is party to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibit the involvement of children in armed conflicts. In addition, on June 15, President Touadera signed the decree enacting the Child Protection Law. The law prohibits and criminalizes the recruitment and the use of children into armed groups and their exploitation for sexual purposes; perpetrators may be sentenced up to 10 years of imprisonment to hard labor. In addition, the law establishes that a child who has served in an armed force or group is a victim and should not be subject to criminal prosecution or that service, and mandates social reintegration mechanisms for victims.

During the year the government, UNICEF, and various NGOs worked with armed groups to combat the exploitation of child soldiers. The focal point for children’s affairs in the unit in charge of the national Demobilization, Reintegration, and Repatriation program, confirmed in August that there were still former child soldiers detained in Ngaragba Prison, because the government was unable to find alternative centers to hold and rehabilitate them.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuse: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that humanitarian organizations’ ability to access remote areas worsened because of insecurity. Beginning in December 2020, insecurity forced the closure of the country’s main road, leading to severe shortages of relief commodities. The government continued to impose restrictions on humanitarian travel due to insecurity, and operations by FACA and affiliated forces led to temporary suspensions of assistance in affected areas. Humanitarian organizations suspended activities in areas with high levels of armed group activity as a preventive measure. Additionally, the increase in the use of explosive devices along roads during the year, as well as attacks on key infrastructure such as bridges, limited relief actors’ ability to travel by road. The United Nations recorded 314 security incidents affecting humanitarian staff between January and September, leading to three deaths and 23 injuries. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also reported “a rise in the number of reports of attacks on humanitarian workers and medical services” during the year, and in its most recent appeal, the ICRC noted that health facilities were closed, operating at limited capacity, or were damaged or looted during fighting.

Chad

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interethnic violence resulted in deaths (see section 6).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chile

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were isolated reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. On February 5, in Panguipulli, Los Rios Region, police shot and killed a street juggler who allegedly refused to participate in an identity check. The police officer claimed he used his weapon in legitimate self-defense. The incident sparked violent protests, including arson attacks against several municipal buildings. Prosecutors charged the officer with homicide. A hearing was scheduled for December 17 to review the investigation.

On October 18, a man died while in the custody of Carabineros at a police station in San Fernando, in the O’Higgins Region. According to the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH), Carabineros allegedly strangled the man and left him unconscious in his cell. The INDH brought a criminal complaint, and prosecutors charged the police officer allegedly responsible for abuse resulting in death. The officer was fired and placed in pretrial detention.

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were occasional reports of excessive force, abuse, and degrading treatment by law enforcement officers or members of military patrols deployed during the State of Catastrophe declared due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 24, prosecutors arrested and charged nine members of the army with torturing five individuals in October 2020, citing the specific article in the criminal code that defines torture as intentionally inflicting serious pain or suffering with the aim to intimidate, coerce, punish, or reduce the willpower of a victim. The soldiers allegedly detained and bound the victims during the COVID-19 curfew, drove them to a forest, beat them, and simulated an execution. At the end of the year, the case was open, and the soldiers remained in pretrial detention.

In August 2020 prosecutors arrested and charged the police officer who shot Gustavo Gatica with a riot-control shotgun in November 2019, blinding Gatica in both eyes. As of December 6, the case against the officer remained open. On September 20, the government issued an update to regulations on the use of force by security forces in public-protest situations, with input from the INDH and the National Defender for Children’s Rights, to incorporate preventive measures and dialogue during peaceful protests to protect the right of freedom of assembly.

Human rights groups reported that impunity was a problem in the security forces, especially the Carabineros. The Investigative Police (PDI) and Public Prosecutor’s Office investigate whether security force killings were justifiable, and they pursue prosecutions in cases of alleged unlawful killings. The INDH, an independent government authority that monitors complaints and allegations of abuse, may file civil rights cases alleging arbitrary killings. As of November 12, the National Prosecutor’s Office reported that 3,433 investigations into abuses committed by law enforcement agents during 2019-20 protests remained open and that it had formally charged 153 members of the security forces. By November, 14 individuals, all Carabineros, were convicted. According to human rights observers, the slow pace and small number of prosecutions relative to the number of accusations stemming from the social unrest created a perception that those accused of abuses did not face effective accountability. The government increased training for Carabineros on crowd control techniques and human rights.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government did not always observe these requirements. On January 28, the Temuco Appellate Court accepted a protective measure brought by the INDH on behalf of a seven-year-old girl who was arbitrarily detained by the PDI on January 7. The court instructed the PDI to refrain from arbitrary and illegal actions against this or other minors.

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

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

China (Includes Hong Kong, Macau, and Tibet)

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In many instances few or no details were available. In an April 21 report, Amnesty International declared the country executed potentially thousands of individuals in 2020.

In Xinjiang there were reports of custodial deaths related to detentions in the internment camps. There were multiple reports from Uyghur family members who discovered their relatives had died while in internment camps or within weeks of their release. In January, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported the 82-year-old Uyghur poet Haji Mirzahid Kerimi died in prison while serving an 11-year sentence for writing books that were later blacklisted. According to RFA, Kerimi was arrested in 2017 as part of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) campaign to censor “dangerous” literature. RFA also reported Kurbanjan Abdukerim died in February shortly after his release from an internment camp. During the three years of his detainment, Abdukerim family reported he had lost more than 100 pounds and that the cause of his death was unknown.

Disappearances through multiple means continued at a nationwide, systemic scale.

The primary means by which authorities disappeared individuals for sustained periods of time is known as “Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location” (RSDL). RSDL codifies in law the longstanding practice of the detention and removal from the public eye of individuals the state deems a risk to national security or intends to use as hostages. The primary disappearance mechanism for public functionaries is known as liuzhi. Per numerous reports, individuals disappeared by RSDL and liuzhi were subject to numerous abuses including but not limited to physical and psychological abuse, humiliation, rape, torture, starvation, isolation, and forced confessions.

The government conducted mass arbitrary detention of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim and ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) alleged these detentions amounted to enforced disappearance, since families were often not provided information concerning the length or location of the detention.

Amnesty International reported in April that Ekpar Asat, also known as Aikebaier Aisaiti, a Uyghur journalist and entrepreneur, had been held in solitary confinement since 2019 in Aksu Prefecture. He was reportedly detained in Xinjiang in 2016 shortly after participating in a program in the United States and subsequently sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

In July officials at Tongji University in Shanghai confirmed that Uyghur research scientist Tursunjan Nurmamat had been detained after Nurmamat suddenly went silent on social media in April. Further details on Nurmamat’s case and whereabouts were unknown.

Professional tennis player Peng Shuai disappeared from public view for approximately three weeks after her November 2 accusation on social media that former Politburo Standing Committee member and vice premier Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her. Her reappearance, via what appeared to be tightly controlled and staged video clips, raised concerns that authorities were controlling her movement and speech (see section 6, Women).

Former lawyer Tang Jitian, a long-time advocate for Chinese citizens, has been held incommunicado since December 10, reportedly in connection with his plans to attend Human Rights Day events in Beijing. Subsequently there were reports that authorities had sent a video to his former wife telling his family to remain quiet.

In 2020, four citizen journalists disappeared from public view after authorities in Wuhan took them into custody. Chen Qiushi, Li Zehua (who was released after two months in April 2020), Zhang Zhan, and Fang Bin had interviewed health-care professionals and citizens and later publicized their accounts on social media during the initial COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown in Wuhan. Media reported November 24 that Fang Bin was in custody in Wuhan, the first news of his location since his arrest in February 2020. On September 30, Chen Qiushi appeared on social media but said he could not talk about what happened to him. In November according to reports from her family and lawyer in media, Zhang Zhan, who had been sentenced in December 2020 to four years’ imprisonment, remained in detention and has been on an intermittent hunger strike.

The government still had not provided a comprehensive, credible accounting of all those killed, missing, or detained in connection with the violent suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations. Many activists who were involved in the 1989 demonstrations and their family members continued to suffer official harassment. The government made no efforts to prevent, investigate, or punish such harassment.

The law prohibits the physical abuse and mistreatment of detainees and forbids prison guards from coercing confessions, insulting prisoners’ dignity, and beating or encouraging others to beat prisoners. The law excludes evidence obtained through illegal means, including coerced confessions, in certain categories of criminal cases. There were credible reports that authorities routinely ignored prohibitions against torture, especially in politically sensitive cases.

Numerous former prisoners and detainees reported they were beaten, raped, subjected to electric shock, forced to sit on stools for hours on end, hung by the wrists, deprived of sleep, force-fed, forced to take medication against their will, and otherwise subjected to physical and psychological abuse. Although prison authorities abused ordinary prisoners, they reportedly singled out political and religious dissidents for particularly harsh treatment.

Zhang Zhan, sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in December 2020 for her activities as a citizen journalist during the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, was not allowed family visits by Shanghai prison authorities. When Zhang went on a hunger strike, prison officials force-fed her, tying and chaining her arms, torso, and feet.

In August after 21 months in detention, human rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi was indicted. Ding was detained in 2019 on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” for participating in a meeting in Xiamen, Fujian Province, to organize civil society activities and peaceful resistance to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule. Ding’s wife posted on Twitter that Ding was tortured in a detention center in Beijing, including being subjected to sleep deprivation tactics such as shining a spotlight on him 24 hours per day.

On March 22, Zhang Wuzhou was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison for “obstructing official duty, provoking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” Following her arrest in June 2020, Zhang was tortured in the Qingxin District Detention Center in Qingyuan (Guangdong Province), according to her lawyer’s July 2020 account as reported by Radio Free Asia. Zhang said that detention center authorities handcuffed her, made her wear heavy foot shackles, and placed her in a cell where other inmates beat her. The Qingyuan Public Security Bureau detained Zhang on charges of “provoking quarrels and stirring up troubles” two days after she held banners at Guangzhou Baiyun Mountains to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.

As of November human rights activist and lawyer Yu Wensheng remained in a Nanjing prison serving a four-year sentence. In April he was treated in a hospital for nerve damage from an unknown incident suffered in prison. He was convicted in June 2020 for “inciting subversion of state power” and was held incommunicado for 18 months before and after his conviction. Yu reported he was repeatedly sprayed with pepper spray and was forced into a stress position for an extended period.

As of November human rights lawyer Chang Weiping, who was reportedly tortured while in RSDL, was still in pretrial detention. Chang, known for his successful representation of HIV and AIDS discrimination cases, was detained in October 2020 after posting a video to YouTube detailing torture he suffered during a January 2020 round of RSDL.

In December 2020 Niu Tengyu was sentenced to a 14-year jail term by the Maonan District People’s Court in Guangdong for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” “violating others’ privacy,” and “running an illegal business” in a case that has been linked to the leak of the personal information of President Xi’s daughter. According to RFA, Niu’s lawyers alleged that prior to the trial, Niu was stripped, suspended from the ceiling, and his genitals burned with a lighter. They also alleged he was beaten so badly that he lost use of his right hand.

Members of the minority Uyghur ethnic group reported systematic torture and other degrading treatment by law enforcement officers and officials working within the penal system and the internment camps. Survivors stated that authorities subjected individuals in custody to electric shock, waterboarding, beatings, rape, forced sterilization, forced prostitution, stress positions, forced administration of unknown medication, and cold cells (see section 6, Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination). In an October report on CNN, a former PRC police detective now living in Europe who had multiple tours of duty in Xinjiang confirmed many of these specific allegations in what he described as a systematic campaign of torture.

In March, Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy released a comprehensive assessment of the PRC’s actions in Xinjiang to examine “whether China bears State responsibility for breaches of Article II of the Genocide Convention, in particular, whether China is committing genocide against the Uyghurs as defined by Article II of the Convention.” The report included contributions of more than 30 scholars and researchers and found that the PRC has implemented a campaign designed to eliminate Uyghurs, in whole or in part. The report stated, “[h]igh-level officials gave orders to ‘round up everyone who should be rounded up,’ ‘wipe them out completely,’ ‘break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins.’” The report noted the PRC has also pursued a “dual systematic campaign of forcibly sterilizing Uyghur women of childbearing age and interning Uyghur men of child-bearing years, preventing the regenerative capacity of the group.”

In June, Amnesty International released a report that documented the accounts of more than 50 former detainees regarding the torture, mistreatment, and violence inflicted on them in camps in Xinjiang. The report detailed the systematic use of detainment and “re-education” centers to target Uyghurs and members of other ethnic minorities living in Xinjiang. The report concluded, “according to the evidence Amnesty International has gathered, corroborated by other reliable sources, members of the predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang have been subjected to an attack meeting all the contextual elements of crimes against humanity.” Further, it elaborated on violence and detention stating, “Amnesty International believes the evidence it has collected provides a factual basis for the conclusion that the Chinese government has committed at least the following crimes against humanity: imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; torture; and persecution.”

The treatment and abuse of detainees under the liuzhi detention system, which operates outside the judicial system as a legal tool for the government and the CCP to investigate corruption and other offenses, featured custodial treatment such as extended solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, beatings, and forced standing or sitting in uncomfortable positions for hours and sometimes days, according to press reports.

The law states psychiatric treatment and hospitalization should be “on a voluntary basis,” but the law also allows authorities and family members to commit persons to psychiatric facilities against their will and fails to provide meaningful legal protections for persons sent to psychiatric facilities. The law does not provide for the right to a lawyer and restricts a person’s right to communicate with those outside the psychiatric institution.

Official media reported the Ministry of Public Security directly administered 23 psychiatric hospitals for the criminally insane.  While many of those committed to mental health facilities were convicted of murder and other violent crimes, there were also reports of activists, religious or spiritual adherents, and petitioners involuntarily subjected to psychiatric treatment for political reasons.  Public security officials may commit individuals to psychiatric facilities and force treatment for “conditions” that have no basis in psychiatry.

Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces, including the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of State Security, and the Ministry of Justice, which manages the prison system.

Arbitrary arrest and detention remained systemic. The law grants public security officers broad administrative detention powers and the ability to detain individuals for extended periods without formal arrest or criminal charges. Lawyers, human rights activists, journalists, religious leaders and adherents, and former political prisoners and their family members continued to be targeted for arbitrary detention or arrest. (See section 1.b., Disappearance, for a description of RSDL and liuzhi.)

The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, but the government generally did not observe this requirement.

There were allegations of detainee abuse and torture in the official detention system, known as liuzhi, of the National Supervisory Commission-Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (NSC-CCDI; see section 4). Liuzhi detainees are held incommunicado and have no recourse to appeal their detention. While detainee abuse is proscribed by the law, the mechanism for detainees to report abuse was unclear.

On March 14, Li Qiaochu was arrested for her human rights advocacy and involvement with fellow activists involved in the nationwide crackdown of lawyers and activists who participated in 2019 meetings in Xiamen, Fujian. Her first visit with her lawyer was on August 27, who reported that her mental health had deteriorated. At year’s end she was still detained in Shandong Province on suspicion of “subverting state power.”

On October 1, more than 170 Uyghurs in Hotan, Xinjiang, were detained by the National Security Agency of Hotan on the country’s national day, according to Radio Free Asia. They were accused of displaying feelings of resistance to the country during flag-raising activities. Among those detained were at least 40 women and 19 minors.

On September 19, journalist Sophia Huang and activist Wang Jianbing were detained in Guangzhou, according to the rights group Weiquanwang (Rights Protection Network). Huang had planned to leave China via Hong Kong on September 20 for the United Kingdom, where she intended to pursue graduate studies. Media reported that both were being held incommunicado under RSDL on suspicion of “incitement to subvert state power.” As of year’s end they remained detained in Guangzhou, and no one was allowed to see the pair.

In September, PRC authorities released Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from detention in China and allowed them to return to Canada, shortly following the release by Canadian authorities of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou. Kovrig and Spavor had been detained since December 2018, after the arrest in Canada of Meng. For months the two Canadian citizens were held in RSDL before being charged with a crime and were denied access to lawyers and consular services. Another Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, remained in detention as his sentence was reviewed. After Meng’s arrest, Schellenberg’s sentence for drug-smuggling crimes was increased from 15 years’ imprisonment to a death sentence.

There were no statistics available for the number of individuals in the liuzhi detention system nationwide. Several provinces, however, publicized these numbers, including Heilongjiang with 376 and Jilin with 275 detained, both in 2020. One provincial official heading the liuzhi detention system stated suspects averaged 42.5 days in detention before being transferred into the criminal justice system.

Although the law states the courts shall exercise judicial power independently, without interference from administrative organs, social organizations, and individuals, the judiciary did not exercise judicial power independently. Judges regularly received political guidance on pending cases, including instructions on how to rule, from both the government and the CCP, particularly in politically sensitive cases. The CCP Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission have the authority to review and direct court operations at all levels of the judiciary. All judicial and procuratorate appointments require approval by the CCP Organization Department.

Corruption often influenced court decisions since safeguards against judicial corruption were vague and poorly enforced. Local governments appointed and paid local court judges and, as a result, often exerted influence over the rulings of those judges.

A CCP-controlled committee decided most major cases, and the duty of trial and appellate court judges was to craft a legal justification for the committee’s decision.

Courts are not authorized to rule on the constitutionality of legislation. The law permits organizations or individuals to question the constitutionality of laws and regulations, but a constitutional challenge may be directed only to the promulgating legislative body. Lawyers had little or no opportunity to rely on constitutional claims in litigation.

Media sources indicated public security authorities used televised confessions of lawyers, foreign and domestic bloggers, journalists, and business executives to establish guilt before their criminal trial proceedings began. In some cases these confessions were likely a precondition for release. NGOs asserted such statements were likely coerced, perhaps by torture, and some detainees who confessed recanted upon release and confirmed their confessions had been coerced. No provision in the law allows the pretrial broadcast of confessions by criminal suspects.

In February, United Kingdom media regulator Ofcom cancelled the broadcast license of China Global Television Network, the international news channel of China Central Television, for having insufficient editorial independence from the PRC government and the CCP. In July 2020 Ofcom found in its formal investigation that China Global Television Network broadcast in 2013 and 2014 a confession forced from a British private investigator imprisoned in China. “Judicial independence” remained one of the subjects the CCP reportedly ordered university professors not to discuss (see section 2.a., Academic Freedom and Cultural Events).

The law states the “freedom and privacy of correspondence of citizens are protected by law,” but authorities often did not respect the privacy of citizens. A new civil code entered into force on January 1, introducing articles on the right to privacy and personal information protection. Although the law requires warrants before officers can search premises, officials frequently ignored this requirement. The Public Security Bureau and prosecutors are authorized to issue search warrants on their own authority without judicial review. There continued to be reports of cases of forced entry by police officers.

Authorities routinely monitored telephone calls, text messages, faxes, email, instant messaging, social media apps, and other digital communications intended to remain private, particularly of political activists. Authorities also opened and censored domestic and international mail. Security services routinely monitored and entered residences and offices to gain access to computers, telephones, and fax machines. Foreign journalists leaving the country found some of their personal belongings searched. In some cases, when material deemed politically sensitive was uncovered, the journalists had to sign a statement stating they would “voluntarily” leave these documents in the country.

According to Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch, a website focusing on human rights in China, Lin Xiaohua began appealing the bribery conviction of his older brother Lin Xiaonan, the former mayor of Fu’an City, Fujian Province, who in April was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison. In June 2020 Xiaohua tried to send petition letters and case files to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the Supreme People’s Court, and the National Commission of Supervision-CCP Central Discipline Inspection Commission, but the post office opened all the letters then refused to deliver them. In July 2020 the Xiamen Culture and Tourism Administration confiscated the letters and files, stating they were “illegal publications.”

According to Freedom House, rapid advances in surveillance technology – including artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and intrusive surveillance apps – coupled with growing police access to user data helped facilitate the prosecution of prominent dissidents as well as ordinary users. A Carnegie Endowment report in 2019 noted the country was a major worldwide supplier of artificial-intelligence surveillance technology, such as facial recognition systems, surveillance cameras, and smart policing technology.

According to media reports, the Ministry of Public Security used tens of millions of surveillance cameras throughout the country to monitor the general public. Human rights groups stated authorities increasingly relied on the cameras and other forms of surveillance to monitor and intimidate political dissidents, religious leaders and adherents, Tibetans, and Uyghurs. These included facial recognition and “gait recognition” video surveillance, allowing police not only to monitor a situation but also to quickly identify individuals in crowds. In May the BBC reported Chinese technology companies had developed artificial intelligence, surveillance, and other technological capabilities to help police identify members of ethnic minorities, especially Uyghurs. The media sources cited public-facing websites, company documents, and programming language from firms such as Huawei, Megvii, and Hikvision related to their development of a “Uyghur alarm” that could alert police automatically. Huawei denied its products were designed to identify ethnic groups. The monitoring and disruption of telephone and internet communications were particularly widespread in Xinjiang and Tibetan areas. The government installed surveillance cameras in monasteries in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan areas outside the TAR (see Special Annex, Tibet). The law allows security agencies to cut communication networks during “major security incidents.” Government entities collected genetic data from residents in Xinjiang with unclear protections for sensitive health data.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Ministry of State Security partnered with information technology firms to operate a “mass automated voice recognition and monitoring system,” similar to ones already in use in Xinjiang and Anhui, to help solve criminal cases. According to one company involved, the system monitored Mandarin Chinese and certain minority languages, including Tibetan and Uyghur. In many cases other biometric data such as fingerprints and DNA profiles were being stored as well. This database included information obtained not just from criminals and criminal suspects but also from entire populations of migrant workers and all Uyghurs applying for passports. Some Xinjiang internment camp survivors reported that they were subjected to coerced comprehensive health screenings including blood and DNA testing upon entering the internment camps. There were also reports from former detainees that authorities forced Uyghur detainees to undergo medical examinations of thoracic and abdominal organs.

Forced relocation because of urban development continued in some locations. Protests over relocation terms or compensation were common, and authorities prosecuted some protest leaders. In rural areas, infrastructure and commercial development projects resulted in the forced relocation of thousands of persons.

Property-related disputes between citizens and government authorities sometimes turned violent. These disputes frequently stemmed from local officials’ collusion with property developers to pay little or no compensation to displaced residents, a lack of effective government oversight or media scrutiny of local officials’ involvement in property transactions, and a lack of legal remedies or other dispute resolution mechanisms for displaced residents. The problem persisted despite central government claims it had imposed stronger controls over illegal land seizures and taken steps to standardize compensation.

Government authorities also could interfere in families’ living arrangements when a family member was involved in perceived sensitive political activities.

The government at various levels and jurisdictions continued to implement two distinct types of social credit systems. The first, the corporate social credit system, is intended to track and prevent corporate malfeasance. The second, the personal social credit system, is implemented differently depending on geographic location.

Although the government’s goal was to create a unified government social credit system, there continued to be dozens of disparate social credit systems, operated distinctly at the local, provincial, and the national government levels, as well as separate “private” social credit systems operated by several technology companies. These systems collected vast amounts of data from companies and individuals in an effort to address deficiencies in “social trust,” strengthen access to financial credit instruments, and reduce corruption. These agencies often collected information on academic records, traffic violations, social media presence, friendships, adherence to birth control regulations, employment performance, consumption habits, and other topics. For example, there were reports individuals were not allowed to ride public transportation for periods of time because they allegedly had not paid for train tickets.

Industry and business experts commented that in its present state, the social credit system was not used to target companies or individuals for their political or religious beliefs, noting the country already possessed other tools outside the social credit system to target companies and individuals. The collection of vast amounts of personal data combined with the prospect of a future universal and unified social credit system, however, could allow authorities to control further the population’s behaviors.

In a separate use of social media for censorship, human rights activists reported authorities questioned them regarding their participation in human rights-related chat groups, including on WeChat and WhatsApp. Authorities monitored the groups to identify activists, which led to users’ increased self-censorship on WeChat as well as several separate arrests of chat group administrators.

The government continued to use the “double-linked household” system in Xinjiang developed through many years of use in Tibet. This system divides towns and neighborhoods into units of 10 households each, with the households in each unit instructed to watch over each other and report on “security issues” and poverty problems to the government, thus turning average citizens into informers. In Xinjiang the government also continued to require Uyghur families to accept government “home stays,” in which officials or volunteers forcibly lived in Uyghurs’ homes and monitored families’ observance of religion for signs of “extremism.” Those who exhibited behaviors the government considered to be signs of “extremism,” such as praying, possessing religious texts, or abstaining from alcohol or tobacco, could be detained in “re-education camps.”

The government restricted the right to have children (see section 6, Women).

Colombia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. According to the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Center for Research and Education of the Populace (CINEP), from January 1 through August 26, there were 28 cases of “intentional deaths of civilians committed by state agents.”

According to government and NGO reports, police officers killed multiple civilians during nationwide protests that began on April 28. The NGO Human Rights Watch collected information linking 25 civilian deaths during the protests to police, including 18 deaths committed with live ammunition. For example, according to Human Rights Watch and press reports, protester Nicolas Guerrero died from a gunshot wound to the head on May 3 in Cali. Witness accounts indicated a police shooter may have been responsible for Guerrero’s death. As of July 15, the Attorney General’s Office opened investigations into 28 members of the police for alleged homicides committed during the protests, and two police officers were formally charged with homicide. Police authorities and the Attorney General’s Office opened investigations into all allegations of police violence and excessive use of force.

Armed groups, including the National Liberation Army (ELN), committed numerous unlawful killings, in some cases politically motivated, usually in areas without a strong government presence (see section 1.g.).

Investigations of past killings proceeded, albeit slowly due to COVID-19 pandemic and the national quarantine. From January 1 through July 31, the Attorney General’s Office registered six new cases of alleged aggravated homicide by state agents. During the same period, authorities formally charged four members of the security forces with aggravated homicide or homicide of a civilian.

Efforts continued to hold officials accountable in “false positive” extrajudicial killings, in which thousands of civilians were killed and falsely presented as guerrilla combatants in the late 1990s to early 2000s. As of June the Attorney General’s Office reported the government had convicted 1,437 members of the security forces in cases related to false positive cases since 2008. Many of those convicted in the ordinary and military justice systems were granted conditional release from prisons and military detention centers upon transfer of their cases to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). The military justice system developed a protocol to monitor the whereabouts of prisoners granted conditional release and was responsible for reporting any anomalies to the JEP’s Definition of Juridical Situation Chamber to take appropriate action.

The Attorney General’s Office reported there were open investigations of five retired and active-duty generals related to false positive killings as of July 31. The Attorney General’s Office also reported there were 2,535 open investigations related to false positive killings or other extrajudicial killings as of July 31.

In addition the JEP, the justice component of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Nonrepetition provided for in the 2016 peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continued to take effective steps to hold perpetrators of gross violations of human rights accountable in a manner consistent with international law. This included activities to advance Case 003, focused on extrajudicial killings or “false positives” largely committed by the First, Second, Fourth, and Seventh Army Divisions. In a February 18 ruling, the JEP concluded that, from 2002 to 2008, the army killed at least 6,402 civilians and falsely presented them as enemy combatants in a “systematic crime” to claim rewards in exchange for increased numbers of for combat “enemy” casualties. Several former soldiers and army officers, including colonels and lieutenant colonels convicted in the ordinary justice system, admitted at the JEP to additional killings that had not previously been investigated nor identified as false positives.

On July 6, the JEP issued charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes against a retired brigadier general, nine other army officers, and one civilian in a case concerning the alleged extrajudicial killing and disappearance of at least 120 civilians in Norte de Santander in 2007 and 2008. The killings were allegedly perpetrated by members of Brigade 30, Mobile Brigade 15, and Infantry Battalion 15 “General Francisco de Paula Santander.” On July 15, the JEP issued a second set of war crimes and crimes against humanity indictments against 15 members of the Artillery Battalion 2 “La Popa” for killings and disappearances that took place in the Caribbean Coast region between 2002 and 2005.

In 2019 there were allegations that military orders instructing army commanders to double the results of their missions against guerillas, criminal organizations, and armed groups could heighten the risk of civilian casualties. An independent commission established by President Duque to review the facts regarding these alleged military orders submitted a preliminary report in July 2019 concluding that the orders did not permit, suggest, or result in abuses or criminal conduct and that the armed forces’ operational rules and doctrine were aligned with human rights and international humanitarian law principles. As of September a final report had not been issued.

Human rights organizations, victims, and government investigators accused some members of government security forces of collaborating with or tolerating the activities of organized-crime gangs, which included some former paramilitary members. According to the Attorney General’s Office, between January and July 31, 15 police officials were formally accused of having ties with armed groups.

According to a February 22 report from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 133 human rights defenders were killed in 2020, but the OHCHR was only able to document 53 of those cases, due to COVID-19 pandemic-related movement restrictions. According to the Attorney General’s Office, in the cases of more than 400 killings of human rights defenders from January 2016 to August 2021, the government had obtained 76 convictions. According to the OHCHR, 77 percent of the 2020 human rights defender killings occurred in rural areas, and 96 percent occurred in areas where illicit economies flourished. The motives for the killings varied, and it was often difficult to determine the primary or precise motive in individual cases. For example, on August 21, two armed men entered the motorcycle shop of Eliecer Sanchez Caceres in Cucuta and shot him multiple times, killing him. Sanchez was the vice president of a community action board and had previously complained to authorities about receiving threats from armed groups. Police officials immediately opened an investigation into the killing, which was underway as of October 31.

The Commission of the Timely Action Plan for Prevention and Protection for Human Rights Defenders, Social and Communal Leaders, and Journalists, created in 2018, strengthened efforts to investigate and prevent attacks against social leaders and human rights defenders. The Inspector General’s Office and the human rights ombudsman continued to raise awareness regarding human rights defenders through the Lead Life campaign, in partnership with civil society, media, and international organizations. Additionally, there was an elite Colombian National Police (CNP) corps, a specialized subdirectorate of the National Protection Unit (NPU), a special investigation unit of the Attorney General’s Office responsible for dismantling criminal organizations and enterprises, and a unified command post, which shared responsibility for protecting human rights defenders from attacks and investigating and prosecuting these cases.

By law the Attorney General’s Office is the primary entity responsible for investigating allegations of human rights abuses committed by security forces, except for conflict-related crimes, which are within the jurisdiction of the JEP (see section 1.c. for additional information regarding investigations and impunity).

According to the Attorney General’s Office, there were six formal complaints of forced disappearance from January 1 through July. As of December 2020, the National Institute of Forensic and Legal Medicine registered 32,027 cases of forced disappearance since the beginning of the country’s armed conflict. Of those, 923 persons were found alive and 1,975 confirmed dead. According to the Attorney General’s Office, as of July there were no convictions in connection with forced disappearances.

The Special Unit for the Search for Disappeared Persons, launched in 2018, continued to investigate disappearances that occurred during the conflict.

Although the law prohibits such practices, there were reports government officials employed them. CINEP reported that through August, security forces were allegedly involved in 19 cases of torture, including 40 victims. Members of the military and police accused of torture generally were tried in civilian rather than military courts. NGOs including Human Rights Watch reported that police beat and sexually assaulted demonstrators during the nationwide April-June protests. Human Rights Watch documented 17 cases of beatings, including one that resulted in death. The human rights Ombudsman’s Office and multiple NGOs reported at least 14 cases of alleged sexual assault by police officers during the protests. Police launched internal investigations of all allegations of excessive use of force.

The Attorney General’s Office reported it convicted six members of the military or police force of torture between January and July 31. In addition the Attorney General’s Office reported 50 continuing investigations into alleged acts of torture committed by police or the armed forces through July.

CINEP reported organized-crime gangs and armed groups were responsible for four documented cases of torture including seven victims through August. CINEP reported another 19 cases of torture in which it was unable to identify the alleged perpetrators. According to government and NGO reports, protesters kidnapped 12 police officials during the nationwide protests, torturing some.

According to NGOs monitoring prison conditions, there were numerous allegations of sexual and physical violence committed by guards and other inmates.

The Attorney General’s Office is the primary entity responsible for investigating allegations of human rights abuses committed by security forces, except for conflict-related crimes, which are within the jurisdiction of the JEP. The JEP continued investigations in its seven prioritized macro cases with the objective of identifying patterns and establishing links between perpetrators, with the goal of identifying those most responsible for the most serious abuses during the conflict.

Some NGOs complained that military investigators, not members of the Attorney General’s Office, were sometimes the first responders in cases of deaths resulting from actions of security forces and might make decisions about possible illegal actions. The government made improvements in investigating and trying cases of abuses, but claims of impunity for security force members continued. This was due in some cases to obstruction of justice and opacity in the process by which cases were investigated and prosecuted in the military justice system. Inadequate protection of witnesses and investigators, delay tactics by defense attorneys, the judiciary’s failure to exert appropriate controls over dockets and case progress, and inadequate coordination among government entities that sometimes allowed statutes of limitations to expire, resulting in a defendant’s release from jail before trial, were also significant obstacles.

President Duque signed three decrees in March to modernize the military justice system. The decrees transfer the court system from the Ministry of Defense to a separate jurisdiction with independent investigators, prosecutors, and magistrates. This was a step toward transitioning the military justice system from the old inquisitorial to a newer accusatory justice system. Transition to the new system continued slowly, and the military had not developed an interinstitutional strategy for recruiting, hiring, or training investigators, crime scene technicians, or forensic specialists, which is required under the accusatory system. As such, the military justice system did not exercise criminal investigative authority; all new criminal investigation duties were conducted by judicial police investigators from the CNP and the Attorney General’s Corps of Technical Investigators.

In June, President Duque announced police reform plans focused on enhancing community-police relations, accountability, and human rights. Since the announcement, the CNP established a human rights directorate that responds directly to the director general of police and hired a civilian to oversee it. In partnership with a local university, the CNP also developed a human rights certification course for the entire police force and began training 100 trainers to replicate this 200-hour academic and practical course throughout the country. The CNP also enhanced police uniforms with clear and visible identifiable information to help citizens identify police officers who utilize excessive force or violate human rights protocols.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. There were allegations, however, that authorities detained citizens arbitrarily. CINEP reported 85 cases of arbitrary detention involving 394 victims committed by state security forces through August 1. Other NGOs provided higher estimates of arbitrary detention, reporting more than 2,000 cases of arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, or illegal deprivations of liberty committed in the context of the national protests.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Much of the judicial system was overburdened and inefficient, and subornation, corruption, and intimidation of judges, prosecutors, and witnesses hindered judicial functioning.

The law prohibits such actions, but there were allegations the government failed to respect these prohibitions. Government authorities generally need a judicial order to intercept mail or email or to monitor telephone conversations, including in prisons. Government intelligence agencies investigating terrorist organizations sometimes monitored telephone conversations without judicial authorization; the law bars evidence obtained in this manner from being used in court.

NGOs continued to accuse domestic intelligence or security entities of spying on lawyers and human rights defenders.

The Attorney General’s Office reported that as of July 31, there were no active criminal investigations underway in connection with illegal communications monitoring. The Inspector General’s Office reported that as of August 5, there were 40 disciplinary investigations against 38 state agents in connection with illegal surveillance and illegal monitoring of communications.

The government and the FARC, formerly the country’s largest guerrilla insurgency group, continued to implement the 2016 peace accord. In 2017 the FARC completed its disarmament, and as of July nearly 13,000 former members were engaged in reincorporation activities, including the formation of a political party. An estimated 800 to 1,500 FARC dissident members did not participate in the peace process from the outset. As of October, NGOs estimated FARC dissident numbers had grown to approximately 5,200 due to new recruitment and some former combatants who returned to arms. A significant percentage of FARC dissidents were unarmed members of support networks that facilitated illicit economies. Some members of the FARC who participated in the peace process alleged the government had not fully complied with its commitments, including ensuring the security of demobilized former combatants or facilitating their reintegration, while the government alleged the FARC had not met its full commitments to cooperate on counternarcotics efforts and other peace accord commitments. Following the signing of the 2016 peace accord, three transitional justice mechanisms were established and were operational throughout the year: the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence, and Nonrepetition; the Special Unit for the Search for Disappeared Persons; and the JEP.

The ELN, a leftist guerilla force that NGOs estimated at 2,400 members, continued to commit crimes and acts of terror throughout the country, including bombings, violence against civilian populations, and violent attacks against military and police facilities. Armed groups and drug gangs, such as the Gulf Clan, also continued to operate. For example, on June 15, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated at a military base housing the army’s 30th brigade in Cucuta, Norte de Santander. At least 44 persons were injured in the explosion, including military officials. President Duque’s helicopter was hit with gunfire in the same region on June 25. The Attorney General’s Office announced the arrest of 10 alleged members of a FARC dissident group in connection with both attacks. On August 30, an improvised explosive device detonated at a police station in Cucuta, injuring at least 13 persons. The ELN took credit for the attack. The Colombia-Europe-United States Coordination Group and other NGOs considered some of these armed groups to be composed of former paramilitary groups. The government acknowledged that some former paramilitary members were active in armed groups but noted these illegal groups lacked the national, unified command structure and explicit ideological agenda that defined past paramilitary groups, including the disbanded United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.

Killings: The military was accused of some killings, some of which military officials stated were “military mistakes” (see section 1.a.). In other cases military officials stated they believed an individual was fighting on behalf of an armed group, while community members stated the victim was not a combatant. On March 2, the army bombed a FARC dissident site in Guaviare and reported killing 13 FARC dissidents. According to press reports, some of those killed may have been children. Officials acknowledged minors were present at the site, describing them as young combatants recruited by the FARC dissident group, and claimed the attack on the site fell within the bounds of international law.

Armed groups, notably the ELN, FARC dissidents, and the Gulf Clan, committed unlawful killings, primarily in areas with illicit economic activities and without a strong government presence. The government reported that between January and July 28, there were 109 killings of state security force members, including 53 police officers, allegedly committed by armed groups. Government officials assessed that most of the violence was related to narcotics trafficking enterprises.

Independent observers raised concerns that inadequate security guarantees facilitated the killing of former FARC militants. According to the UN Verification Mission, as of September 24, a total of 291 FARC former combatants had been killed since the signing of the 2016 peace accord. The Attorney General’s Office reported 34 homicide cases with convictions, 37 in the trial stage, 17 under investigation, and 42 with pending arrest warrants. The United Nations also reported the government began to implement additional steps to strengthen security guarantees for former FARC combatants, including deploying additional judicial police officers and attorneys to prioritized departments, promoting initiatives for prevention of stigmatization against former combatants, and establishing a roadmap for the protection of political candidates, including the FARC political party.

Abductions: Organized-crime gangs, FARC dissidents, the ELN, and common criminals continued to kidnap persons. According to the Ministry of Defense, from January 1 to June 30, there were 81 kidnappings, six attributed to the ELN and the remainder attributed to other organized armed groups. On April 18 in Arauca, FARC dissidents kidnapped army lieutenant colonel Pedro Enrique Perez. According to press reports, the FARC dissidents were holding the military officer in Venezuela and released a proof-of-life video in September.

Between January and June, the Ministry of Defense reported five civilians and one member of the military remained in captivity. The Attorney General’s Office reported two convictions as of July 31 for the crime of kidnapping.

The Special Unit for the Search for Disappeared Persons provided for in the peace accord is mandated to account for those who disappeared in the context of the armed conflict and, when possible, locate and return remains to families. According to the Observatory of Memory and Conflict, more than 80,000 persons were reported missing because of the armed conflict, including 1,214 military and police personnel who were kidnapped by the FARC and ELN.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: From January through August, CINEP reported ELN and organized-crime gangs were responsible for four documented cases of serious abuse that included seven victims.

The ELN, FARC dissidents, and other groups continued to lay land mines. According to the High Commissioner for Peace, 10 persons were killed and 104 wounded as the result of improvised explosive devices and land mines between January 1 and September 12.

Child Soldiers: There were reports the ELN, FARC dissident groups, the Gulf Clan, and other armed groups recruited persons younger than age 18. According to the Child and Family Welfare Department, 7,023 children separated from armed groups between November 16, 1999, and June 30. Government and NGO officials confirmed rates of child recruitment increased with the appearance of COVID-19 and related confinement measures. The government continued efforts to combat child recruitment via the Intersectoral Committee for the Prevention of Recruitment and Utilization of Children and the “Join Me” program, which focused on high-risk areas.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Reports of other human rights abuses occurred in the context of the conflict and narcotics trafficking. Drug traffickers and armed groups continued to displace predominantly poor and rural populations (see section 2.e., Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons). Armed groups, particularly in the departments of Cauca, Choco, Cordoba, Narino, and Norte de Santander, forcibly recruited children, including Venezuelan, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian youth, to serve as combatants and informants, harvest illicit crops, and be exploited in sex trafficking.

Comoros

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There was one report that the government or its agents committed an arbitrary or unlawful killing. The prosecutor of the republic has responsibility to investigate the lawfulness of security force killings, and the military has responsibility to make parallel administrative investigations.

In April on the island of Anjouan police arrested former military officer Hakim Bapale on charges of attempting to destabilize the government. He died while in custody on April 7. There were allegations authorities abused him (see section 1.c). The government committed to investigating the case but made no results public by year’s end.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports that government officials employed them. In April the family of Hakim Bapale claimed his corpse showed signs of gross physical abuse after his death in police custody (see section 1.a.). In September journalists Hachim Mohamed and Oubeid Mchangama reported in the newspaper Masiwa Ya Komor gendarmes abused them after their arrest during a protest (see section 2.a., Violence and Harassment).

Impunity was a problem in the security forces, within both police and military. Corruption and reluctance by the populace to bring charges contributed to impunity. The prosecutor of the republic, under the Ministry of Justice, has the responsibility to investigate abuses.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of arrest or detention in court. The government often did not observe these provisions.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. Judicial inconsistency, unpredictability, and corruption were problems. Authorities generally respected court orders.

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions.

Costa Rica

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cote d’Ivoire

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There was at least one report that the government or its agents committed potentially arbitrary or unlawful killings. In May media reported a late-night altercation between two gendarmes and a group of young persons in the town of Gonate, in which one of the gendarmes shot and killed Abdoulaye Fofana, age 20. Authorities arrested the two gendarmes shortly after the incident, and the commander of the National Gendarmerie stated that a military tribunal had opened an investigation into the killing. The commander also visited the victim’s family to offer condolences.

Military police and the military tribunal are responsible for investigating and prosecuting alleged abuses, including killings, perpetrated by members of the security services.

In March the government prosecuted Amade Oueremi, a militia leader during the 2010-11 postelectoral crisis, for killings and other crimes allegedly committed in 2011 in the city of Duekoue. International organizations estimate that militias killed 300 to 800 persons in one day. During the crisis, Oueremi fought alongside forces loyal to President Ouattara against forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo. After a 20-day trial, the court convicted Oueremi of crimes against humanity, murder, looting, and rape; sentenced him to life imprisonment; and ordered he pay a substantial amount to his victims.

On June 17, former president Gbagbo returned to the country at government expense following his March 31 acquittal by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity in the 2010-11 postelectoral crisis (which resulted in approximately 3,000 deaths and 500,000 displaced persons). Gbagbo met with President Ouattara in a cordial, if symbolic, meeting on July 27. Many private citizens, members of the government, opposition leaders, and religious leaders stated Gbagbo’s return was a necessary step for national reconciliation. Groups representing victims of violence committed during the 2010-11 postelectoral crisis asserted the government’s willingness to allow Gbagbo back in the country without legal accountability for his alleged role in that violence constituted acquiescence in impunity by the government.

In contrast with 2020, there were no reports of disappearances carried out by or on behalf of government authorities.

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. The government did not provide information regarding reports of abuse within prisons, or mechanisms to prevent or punish such abuses. Human rights organizations reported that detainees and prisoners were subject to violence and abuse, including beatings and extortion, by members of the security forces and prison officials and that the perpetrators of these acts went unpunished. Human rights organizations reported mistreatment of detainees between arrest and being booked into prison. Human rights organizations reported that some prisoners arrested for crimes allegedly committed during the presidential electoral period in 2020 were subject to abuse by security forces during their arrest and incarceration in 2020, including being denied medicine for chronic conditions, beatings, and electric shocks.

Prison authorities acknowledged abuse might happen and go unreported, since prisoners fear reprisals.

Impunity was a problem in the security forces. Military police and the military tribunal investigated and prosecuted abuses.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but both reportedly occurred. Human rights organizations reported that authorities arbitrarily detained persons, often without charge. Many of these detainees remained in custody briefly at either police or gendarmerie stations before being released or transferred to prisons, but others were detained at these initial holding locations for lengthy periods. The limit of 48 hours’ detention without charge by police was sometimes not enforced. Although detainees have the right to challenge in court the lawfulness of their detention, most detainees were unaware of this right. Public defenders were often overwhelmed by their workloads.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and although the judiciary generally was independent in ordinary criminal cases, the government did not always respect judicial independence. Some human rights organizations reported interference by the executive branch in the judiciary and the government’s refusal to implement several court decisions. The judiciary was subject to corruption and outside influence. Since former president Laurent Gbagbo’s return to the country in June, the government has not enforced his 2018 conviction in absentia for alleged theft of funds from a state-controlled bank during the postelectoral crisis of 2010-11. The conviction resulted in a 20-year sentence.

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not always respect these prohibitions. The law requires warrants for security personnel to conduct searches, the prosecutor’s agreement to retain any evidence seized in a search, and the presence of witnesses in a search, which may take place at any time.

Crimea

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There was one new report of occupation authorities committing arbitrary or unlawful killings. According to human rights groups, on May 11, Russian security forces fatally shot 51-year-old Uzbek citizen Nabi Rakhimov during a raid and search of his residence in the village of Dubki near Simferopol. Russia’s Federal Investigative Service (FSB) claimed Rakhimov was a suspected terrorist and was shot during a gun battle with officers. Lawyers of Rakhimov’s family characterized the FSB’s account as a cover-up and claimed FSB officers likely tortured Rakhimov before shooting him. Occupation authorities refused to turn Rakhimov’s body over to the family. On August 9, a Simferopol “court” rejected an appeal of Rakhimov’s widow for the body to be returned. As of September her lawyer planned to appeal the decision to the “supreme court.”

Impunity for past killings remained a serious problem. The Russian government tasked the Russian Investigative Committee with investigating whether security force killings in occupied Crimea were justifiable and whether to pursue prosecutions. The HRMMU reported the Investigative Committee failed to take adequate steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, resulting in a climate of impunity. The Office of the Prosecutor of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea also investigated security force killings from its headquarters in Kyiv, but de facto restrictions on access to occupied Crimea limited its effectiveness.

There were still no reported investigations for the four Crimean Tatars found dead in 2019. Occupation authorities did not adequately investigate killings of Crimean residents from 2014 and 2015. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12 Crimean residents who had disappeared during the occupation were later found dead. Human rights groups reported occupation authorities did not investigate other suspicious deaths and disappearances, occasionally categorizing them as suicide. Human rights observers reported that families frequently did not challenge findings in such cases due to fear of retaliation.

There were reports of abductions and disappearances by occupation authorities. OHCHR reported that 43 individuals had gone missing since Russian forces occupied Crimea in 2014, and the fate of 11 of these individuals remained unknown. OHCHR reported occupation authorities had not prosecuted anyone in relation to the forced disappearances. NGO and press reports indicated occupation authorities were responsible for the disappearances. For example, in 2014 Revolution of Dignity activists Ivan Bondarets and Valeriy Vashchuk telephoned relatives to report police in Simferopol had detained them at a railway station for displaying a Ukrainian flag. Relatives had no communication with them since, and the whereabouts of the two men remained unknown.

According to the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, two Crimean Tatars reported missing during the year were found dead. Nineteen-year-old Crimean Tatar Osman Adzhyosmanov went missing on July 2; his body was found on August 8. Twenty-three-year-old Crimean Tatar Aider Dzhemalyadynov went missing on July 26 and was found dead on August 5. As of mid-September, occupation authorities were reportedly investigating the circumstances of the deaths. Occupation authorities denied international monitors, including OHCHR and the OSCE, access to Crimea, which made it impossible for monitors to investigate forced disappearances there properly.

Occupation authorities did not adequately investigate the deaths and disappearances, according to human rights groups. Human rights groups reported that police often refused to register reports of disappearances and intimidated and threatened with detention those who tried to report disappearances. The Ukrainian government and human rights groups believed Russian security forces kidnapped the individuals for opposing Russia’s occupation to instill fear in the population and prevent dissent.

There were widespread reports that occupation authorities in Crimea tortured and otherwise abused residents who opposed the occupation. According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, “The use of torture by the FSB and the Russia-led police against Ukrainian citizens became a systematic and unpunished phenomenon after Russia’s occupation of Crimea.” Human rights monitors reported that Russian occupation authorities subjected Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians in particular to physical abuse. For example on March 10, the FSB detained freelance RFE/RL journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko in Crimea on charges of “illegal production, repair, or modifying of firearms.” After his initial arrest, OHCHR reported that Yesypenko was tortured by FSB officers for several hours to obtain a forced confession on cooperating with Ukrainian intelligence agencies. According to the HRMMU, occupation authorities reportedly denied Yesypenko access to a lawyer during his first 28 days in detention and tortured him with electric shocks, beatings, and sexual violence in order to obtain a confession.

Occupation authorities reportedly demonstrated a pattern of using punitive psychiatric incarceration as a means of pressuring detained individuals. For example, according to the Crimean Human Rights Group, on March 5, occupation authorities transferred Ernest Ibrahimov to the Crimean Clinical Psychiatric Hospital for forced psychiatric evaluation. Ibrahimov was one of seven Muslims arrested on February 17 and charged with having attended a mosque allegedly belonging to the Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia as a “terrorist” group but is legal in Ukraine. Human right defenders viewed the authorities’ move as an attempt to break his client’s will and intimidate him.

According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, as of September 1, approximately 16 Crimean Tatar defendants had been subjected to psychiatric evaluation and confinement against their will without apparent medical need since the beginning of the occupation (see section 1.d.).

Human rights monitors reported that occupation authorities also threatened individuals with violence or imprisonment if they did not testify in court against individuals whom authorities believed were opposed to the occupation.

Under Russian occupation authorities, the judicial system was neither independent nor impartial. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys were subject to political directives, and the outcomes of trials appeared predetermined by occupation authorities. The HRMMU noted that lawyers defending individuals accused of extremism or terrorism risked facing harassment or similar charges themselves. For example, human rights lawyer Lilya Hemedzhi reported that on May 11, occupation authorities delivering a notice of arrest to her client threatened to take actions to have her disbarred from Russia-controlled courts. Human rights groups reported Hemedzhi faced long-standing pressure for her involvement in defending Crimean Tatar activists, including in August 2020, when a Russia-controlled court in Crimea privately ruled that Hemedzhi violated court procedures by speaking out of turn during a video conference hearing. Such rulings could place a lawyer’s standing with the bar in jeopardy.

See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant Russian laws and procedures that the Russian government applied and enforced in occupied Crimea.

Occupation authorities and others engaged in electronic surveillance, entered residences and other premises without warrants, and harassed relatives and neighbors of perceived opposition figures.

Occupation authorities routinely conducted raids on homes to intimidate the local population, particularly Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, and members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, ostensibly on the grounds of searching for weapons, drugs, or “extremist literature.” According to the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, occupation authorities conducted 32 raids between January and June; 13 were in the households of Crimean Tatars.

Human rights groups reported that Russian authorities exercised widespread authority to tap telephones and read electronic communications and had established a network of informants to report on suspicious activities. Occupation authorities reportedly encouraged state employees to inform on their colleagues who might oppose the occupation. According to human rights activists, eavesdropping and visits by security personnel created an environment in which persons were afraid to express any opinion contrary to the occupation authorities, even in private.

Occupation authorities regularly used recorded audio of discussions regarding religion and politics, obtained through illegal wiretapping of private homes and testimonies from unidentified witnesses, as evidence in court. For example, according to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, on September 27, prosecutors in a hearing involving five Crimean Tatar activists charged with allegedly organizing the activities of a “terrorist” organization presented as evidence illegal wiretaps of purported conversations between the defendants and a secret witness. The five men were arrested in 2019 by occupation authorities during mass raids on Crimean Tatar homes in and around Simferopol. The prosecution’s purported “expert” witnesses claimed the recordings, which human rights groups characterized as innocuous discussions of politics and religion, were evidence of terrorist activity. The defense questioned whether the recordings had been edited. On July 6, in a separate case involving five other Crimean Tatar activists detained in the same 2019 raids on terrorism-related charges, prosecutors reportedly introduced testimony to the court from an unidentified witness. According to the accused men’s lawyers, the unidentified witness was an FSB agent who had provided similar testimony in several other cases. The lawyers claimed the court rejected their petition to reveal the identity of the witness. As of September the men were being held at a detention facility in Rostov-on-Don in Russia as the trial proceeded.

Croatia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person:

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

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities; however, a significant number of cases of missing persons from the 1991-95 conflict remained unresolved. The Ministry of Veterans Affairs reported that as of November 23, 1,455 persons remained missing, and the government was searching for the remains of 398 individuals known to be deceased, for a total of 1,853 unsolved missing persons’ cases. The ministry reported that during the year field searches were conducted in 31 locations in eight different counties, and remains of five individuals were exhumed from four locations. Remains of 20 persons were identified. Progress on missing persons remained slow primarily due to lack of reliable documents and information regarding the location of mass and individual graves, as well as other jurisdictional and political challenges with neighboring countries.

On May 12, Veterans Minister Tomo Medved attended the opening of a newly renovated DNA laboratory at the Institute of Forensic Medicine and Criminology in Zagreb. The government invested 5.08 million kuna ($829,000) in the lab.

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but, according to the Office of the Ombudsperson, there were several reports of physical and verbal mistreatment among prisoners.

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

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Cases of intimidation of state prosecutors, judges, and defense lawyers were isolated.

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

Cuba

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

On July 12, a police officer shot and killed Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, an unarmed Afro-Cuban man in the Havana neighborhood of Guinera. The state-run Cubadebate website acknowledged the death of the 36-year-old man but characterized Tejeda as a criminal with a record of contempt, theft, and disorderly conduct. The government further reported that organized groups of criminals had tried to attack the local police station, vandalized homes, set fires, and attacked agents and civilians with knives, rocks, and blunt weapons. The independent media outlet Diario de Cuba obtained testimony from witnesses and acquired documents that contradicted the official statement. A prosecutor declared the police officer was acting in self-defense against direct aggression, and the officer was exonerated of all charges.

On November 1, oncologist Carlos Leonardo Vazquez Gonzalez, also known as “agent Fernando,” admitted on state television to working as an informant for State Security for 25 years. Following Vazquez’ confession, multiple sources came forward and credibly accused him of intentionally denying medical care to dissidents. Friends and relatives of deceased activist Laura Pollan and independent journalists accused Vazquez and other doctors of playing a role in her 2011 death and falsifying the medical certificate of death.

There were confirmed reports of long-term disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. There were multiple reports of detained activists whose whereabouts were unknown for days or weeks because the government did not register these detentions, many of which occurred at unregistered sites.

The unprecedented and spontaneous protests that erupted on July 11 were met with systemic and violent repression. On July 14, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances submitted a request for urgent government action regarding the alleged enforced disappearance of 187 persons in the previous few days. The committee gave the government a deadline of August 24 to respond to the inquiry, but the government did not respond.

There were recurring reports that members of the security forces and their agents harassed, intimidated, and physically assaulted human rights and prodemocracy advocates, political dissidents, and peaceful demonstrators, and that they did so with impunity. Some detainees and prisoners endured physical and sexual abuse by prison officials or other inmates at the instigation of guards. Although the law prohibits coercion during investigative interrogations, police and security forces at times used aggressive and physically abusive tactics, threats, and harassment during questioning. Detainees reported officers intimidated them with threats of long-term detention, loss of child-custody rights, denial of permission to depart the country, and other punishments.

On July 11, police violently arrested Gabriela Zequeira Hernandez, a 17-year-old who happened upon the protests while walking home from the hairdresser. Upon her admission to Cien y Alabo Prison where she was held 10 days incommunicado, authorities forced her to remove her clothes and put a finger in her vagina to verify she was concealing nothing. Officers kept interrupting her attempts to sleep, and one officer made sexual taunts and threatened her with sexual violence. She was sentenced to eight months’ house arrest for “public disorder,” for participating in the demonstrations.

On July 12, uniformed policemen arrested and beat Maria Cristina Garrido Rodriguez and her sister Angelica Garrido Rodriguez for participating in the July 11 protests in Quivican. Angelica passed out three times from the beatings. They transferred the sisters to a police station, where Maria Cristina received another beating. That afternoon police transferred them to the “del Sida” prison located in San Jose de las Lajas, where a female guard beat Maria Cristina. Authorities then put her in a cell so small she could not sit or lie down, and she began to experience severe headaches. Later they repeatedly forced her to shout “Long Live Fidel!” Authorities accused both sisters of public disorder, resistance, spreading an epidemic, attacks, and being protest organizers, despite having no evidence against them.

Amid the worst wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, prisoners reported being crowded into communal cells with only two cups to share for water and then being charged with “propagating an epidemic” for having participated in a protest. Prisoners reported being told they would not be released until the wounds from their beatings at the hands of police were healed. Others were told the local head of the Communist Party’s Comites de Defensa de la Revolucion (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, local groups used for political surveillance) would be notified when they were released.

State security officials frequently deployed to countries such as Venezuela and Nicaragua, where they trained and supported other organizations in the use of repressive tactics and human rights abuses and sometimes participated in the abuses directly. Cuban security force members embedded in the Maduro regime’s security and intelligence services in Venezuela were instrumental in transforming Venezuela’s Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) into a large organization focused on surveilling Venezuelans and suppressing dissent. UN reports accused the DGCIM of torture, and many former Venezuelan prisoners said that Cubans, identified by their distinctive accents, supervised while DGCIM personnel tortured prisoners.

Impunity was pervasive. There were no known cases of prosecution of government officials for any human rights abuses, including torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. Although the 2019 constitution adds explicit protections of freedom and human rights, including habeas corpus, authorities did not observe them, nor did the courts enforce them.

The government broadened arbitrary arrest powers under the pretext of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. A May 2020 resolution permits security forces to carry out active and systematic screening of the entire population, prioritizing suspected cases and populations at risk. Travel restrictions barring persons from leaving their homes except in cases of emergency made it harder for activists and political dissidents to communicate.

The law requires that police furnish suspects a signed “report of detention,” noting the basis, date, and location of any detention in a police facility and a registry of personal items seized during a police search. Authorities routinely ignored this requirement. Police routinely stopped and questioned citizens, requested identification, and carried out search-and-seizure operations directed at known activists. Police used legal provisions against public disorder, contempt, lack of respect, aggression, and failure to pay minimal or arbitrary fines as ways to detain, threaten, and arrest civil society activists. Police routinely conducted short-term detentions to interfere with individuals’ rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, and at times assaulted detainees.

Police and security officials used short-term and sometimes violent detentions to prevent independent political activity and free assembly. Such detentions generally lasted from several hours to several days.

The law allows for “preventive detention” for up to four years of individuals not charged with an actual crime, based on a subjective determination of “precriminal dangerousness,” which is defined as the “special proclivity of a person to commit crimes, demonstrated by conduct in manifest contradiction of socialist norms.” Mostly used as a tool to control “antisocial” behaviors such as substance abuse or prostitution, authorities also used such detentions to silence peaceful political opponents. Several of the more than 100 individuals considered to be political prisoners by domestic and international human rights organizations were imprisoned under the “precriminal dangerousness” provision of the law.

While the constitution recognizes the independence of the judiciary, the judiciary is directly subordinate to the National Assembly and the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), which may remove or appoint judges at any time. Political considerations thoroughly dominated the judiciary, and there was no separation of powers between the judicial system, the PCC, and the Council of State.

Civilian courts exist at the municipal, provincial, and national levels. Special tribunals convene behind closed doors for political (“counterrevolutionary”) cases and other cases deemed “sensitive to state security.” Military tribunals may have jurisdiction over civilians if any of the defendants are active or former members of the military, police, or another law enforcement agency or if they are civilian employees of a military business, which comprise the majority of economic output, such as hotels. The government denied admission to trials for observers on an arbitrary basis.

The constitution provides for the protection of citizens’ privacy rights in their homes and correspondence, and the law requires police to have a warrant signed by a prosecutor or magistrate before entering or conducting a search. Officials, however, did not respect these protections. Reportedly, government officials routinely and systematically monitored correspondence and communications between citizens, tracked their movements, and entered homes without legal authority and with impunity.

Security forces conducted arbitrary stops and searches, especially in urban areas and at government-controlled checkpoints at the entrances to provinces and municipalities. Authorities used dubious pretenses to enter residences where they knew activists were meeting, such as “random” inspections of utilities, for epidemiological reasons, or spurious reports of a disturbance. Authorities also used seemingly legitimate reasons, often health related, such as fumigating homes as part of an antimosquito campaign or door-to-door COVID-19 checks, as a pretext for illegal home searches.

On May 2, security officers taunted and threatened human rights activist and UNPACU member Orestes Varona Medina in what observers said was an unsuccessful effort to provoke a confrontation. The next morning, after he received a summons to go to the Minas police station, several policemen raided his house while he was with his wife and young children, arrested him, carried him out by his hands and feet, and beat him. On May 8, he was sentenced for “propagating an epidemic” and contempt and sentenced to 10 months in prison.

The Ministry of Interior employed a system of informants and neighborhood groups, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, to monitor government opponents and report on their activities. Agents from the ministry’s General Directorate for State Security frequently subjected foreign journalists, visiting foreign officials, diplomats, academics, and businesspersons to surveillance, including electronic surveillance.

Family members of government employees who left international work missions or similar activities (such as medical missions, athletic competitions, and research presentations) without official permission at times faced government harassment or loss of employment, access to education, and other public benefits. Family members of human rights defenders, including their minor children, reportedly suffered reprisals related to the activities of their relatives. These reprisals included reduction of salary, termination of employment, denial of acceptance into university, expulsion from university, and other forms of harassment.

Arbitrary government surveillance of internet activity was pervasive and frequently resulted in criminal cases and reprisals for persons exercising their human rights. Internet users had to identify themselves and agree they would not use the internet for anything “that could be considered…damaging or harmful to public security.” User software developed by state universities gave the government access to users’ personal data and communications.

Cyprus

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. There were reports that police at times engaged in abusive tactics and degrading treatment, sometimes to enforce measures adopted by the government to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. According to press reports and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), members of ethnic and racial minorities were more likely to be subjected to such treatment.

On February 13, police in Nicosia dispersed an anticorruption and antilockdown protest using a water cannon and tear gas. The police action resulted in several injuries among the 300 to 400 protesters and at least 10 arrests. The police water cannon injured a demonstrator’s eye, requiring emergency surgery. While then justice minister Yiolitis stated that police did not have orders to use force to break up the gathering (which had been banned for violating COVID-19 restrictions), critics pointed out that police arrived prepared to do so, equipped with riot gear and prepositioning a water-cannon vehicle. A police spokesperson stated police used force only after demonstrators ignored warnings to disperse and threw rocks and other objects at officers. The ruling Democratic Rally party (DISY) released a statement saying the police action appeared excessively violent, and the attorney general consented to a criminal investigation by the Independent Authority Investigating Complaints against the Police. The Independent Authority recommended on October 14 that the attorney general pursue criminal prosecution and disciplinary action against police officers involved in the incident. The ombudsman concurred with the recommendation. The main opposition party, the Progressive Party of Working People, and some members of parliament called upon the minister of justice and chief of police to resign.

The most recent report of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), published in 2018, on the country’s prison and detention centers noted persistent, credible allegations of police mistreatment of detainees, including allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

The ombudsman, who also acts as the country’s national preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, reported it was investigating complaints from citizens of verbal, discriminative, and degrading treatment by police. Unlike in previous years, the ombudsman did not receive any complaints of mistreatment and discriminatory and degrading behavior, including complaints of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, from inmates in detention centers and the Cyprus Prisons Department (CPD), the country’s only prison. The ombudsman reported that complaints received in 2020 regarding prisoner abuse at the CPD were still under investigation. The ombudsman noted continued improvement overall in the treatment of prisoners and detainees in the CPD and in detention centers.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

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

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

The law and constitution prohibit such actions, but there was one report that the government did not fully respect these prohibitions.

In December 2020, then minister of justice Emily Yiolitis filed a complaint with the chief of police that unknown persons had created a fake Twitter account using her name and picture. In December 2020 police, using a court-issued search warrant, confiscated and searched electronic devices from the home of activist Niki Zarou on suspicion that she created the parody Twitter account. On January 29, the Supreme Court ruled the lower court had exceeded its authority and cancelled the warrant. Zarou filed a civil lawsuit in March asserting that the attorney general and Yiolitis violated her constitutional rights.

Czech Republic

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There was one report that the government or its agents may have committed an arbitrary or unlawful killing. The General Inspection of Security Forces or military police investigate whether security force killings were justifiable and pursue prosecutions.

On June 12, a Romani man died while or after he was restrained by several police officers. According to videos that appeared on social media, police officers knelt on the man’s back and neck while he was prostrate. Some media outlets reported that the European Commission requested an independent investigation into the matter. High-level officials, including Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Interior Minister Jan Hamacek, spoke out in support of police on social media and criticized the victim’s reported behavior and substance abuse. On June 24, the General Inspectorate of Security Forces announced at a press conference that based on the available facts and the preliminary results of the autopsy, it found no evidence the police officers “committed a criminal act” and would not initiate disciplinary proceedings. The final medical expert opinion issued in October did not offer additional details. The family of the Romani man initiated at least one criminal complaint that was still pending in November. In September the deputy public defender of rights (deputy ombudsman) opened an investigation into the death, which she finalized in November and expected to release in December.

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

The law prohibits torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment.

In its 2020 annual report, the ombudsman again recommended amendments to laws regulating the treatment of persons in detention facilities. The report highlighted that some less serious forms of “ill-treatment” (mistreatment) were not punishable and that persons in some facilities that impose restrictions on movement (e.g., psychiatric institutions, senior homes) do not have access to an independent investigative body.

In June the military police recommended that a prosecutor bring charges against four unidentified members of the special-forces unit of the army. The recommendation was based on the investigation of a 2018 interrogation and subsequent death of an Afghan commando. The soldiers and the victim were engaged in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, and the soldiers reportedly interrogated the victim after he killed a Czech soldier. According to media reports, military police recommended that two of the four accused be charged with the use of force and failure to follow orders and the other two with not providing assistance and violating the rules of conduct. The prosecutor’s decision on whether to file charges was pending as of September.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

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

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. In most instances authorities respected court orders and carried out judicial decisions.

In 2019 Prague High Court judge Ivan Elischer was taken into custody a second time for attempting to influence witnesses. In 2018 he was accused of taking bribes, abuse of power, and preferential treatment in serious drug cases. Elischer allegedly accepted a bribe of one million crowns ($45,200) in a drug-crimes trial. In November the Prague Municipal Court sentenced the judge to nine years in prison. The sentence was subject to appeal.

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

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

The state security forces (SSF) committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in operations against illegal armed groups (IAGs) in the east and in the Kasai region (see section 1.g.). According to the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO), the Forces Armees de la Republique Democratique du Congo (FARDC) committed 149 violations of the right to life. For example, UNJHRO reported that in February, a FARDC soldier with the 2103rd regiment shot and killed two girls who had allegedly just stolen from a shop. The UNJHRO also reported that in March in South Kivu province, two FARDC noncommissioned officers from the 2202nd battalion killed two men from the Banyamulenge community and injured one woman. The victims were returning from a market when the two soldiers tried to force them to stop and shot them when they refused. The UNJHRO reported that FARDC soldiers were responsible for the extrajudicial execution of nine civilians and sexual violence against five women and three children in Tanganyika Province. On June 30, approximately eight FARDC personnel raped and killed four women in Minembwe. A court convicted six FARDC personnel to life imprisonment for murder and attempted murder, while two convicted of rape were sentenced to 20 years in prison.

According to the UNJHRO, in October Congolese National Police (PNC) agents committed 56 violations of the right to life, including 47 victims of extrajudicial executions. In February for example, the UNJHRO reported that in Buvira, Nyiragongo Territory, a PNC officer shot and killed a man who was returning from field work when he failed to produce his identification card.

Military courts had primary responsibility for investigating whether security force killings were justified and for pursuing prosecutions. Although the military justice system convicted some SSF agents of human rights abuses, impunity remained a serious problem. The government maintained joint human rights committees with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and used available international resources, such as the UN-implemented technical and logistical support program for military prosecutors as well as mobile hearings supported by international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

The UNJHRO continued to document appointments to command positions, including for military operations, of FARDC and PNC officers against whom there were serious allegations that they bore responsibility – direct or command responsibility – for human rights violations.

IAGs committed arbitrary and unlawful killings throughout the year (see section 1.g.). IAGs recruited and used children as soldiers and human shields and targeted the SSF, government officials, and others. In October, ISIS-Democratic Republic of the Congo (ISIS-DRC) carried out 13 attacks in the villages of Keterain and Matadi, raising the monthly death toll of ISIS-DRC attacks in Beni to 25.

On September 21, the High Military Court at Ndolo Prison in Kinshasa began hearings in the trial of the killing of Floribert Chebeya, the prominent executive director of the human rights NGO Voice of the Voiceless (VSV), and disappearance of his driver and VSV member Fidele Bazana in Kinshasa in June 2010. A new trial began for two recently arrested defendants, PNC Senior Commissioner Christian Kenga Kenga and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jacques Mugabo, who were previously convicted and sentenced to death in absentia but acquitted on appeal in 2015. In October testimony Mugabo confessed to having participated in the murders of Chebeya and Bazana. Later in the year, the court also heard testimony implicating former PNC Inspector General John Numbi in Chebeya’s killing. In March Numbi disappeared from his Lubumbashi farm near the Zambian border and reportedly fled the country, being officially declared a deserter in June.

The International Criminal Court continued to conduct an open investigation in the country. In March the Appeals Chamber upheld the conviction and sentence of Bosco Ntaganda, a former Congolese warlord, on war crimes and crimes against humanity. Also in March the Trial Chamber delivered an order on reparations to victims against Ntaganda to be implemented through the Trust Fund for Victims.

There were reports of disappearances attributable to the SSF during the year. Authorities often refused to acknowledge the detention of suspects and sometimes detained suspects in unofficial facilities, including on military bases and in detention facilities operated by the National Intelligence Agency (ANR). The whereabouts of some civil society activists and civilians arrested by the SSF remained unknown for long periods. Despite the president’s promise to grant the United Nations access to all detention facilities, some ANR prisons remained hidden and impossible to access.

Amid a spate of killings of journalists in North Kivu and Ituri, journalist Pius Manzikala of Ruwenzori Voice Radio Mutwanga disappeared in December 2020. The FARDC officially confirmed Manzikala’s death, but his body had not yet been found.

IAGs kidnapped numerous persons, generally for forced labor, military service, or sexual slavery. Many of these victims disappeared (see section 1.g.).

The law criminalizes torture, but there were credible reports the SSF continued to abuse and torture civilians, particularly detainees and prisoners. Impunity among the FARDC for mistreatment was a problem, although the government continued to make limited progress in holding security forces accountable for human rights violations and abuses. The UNJHRO reported that during the first half of the year, 84 PNC officers, 196 FARDC soldiers, and 122 members of armed groups were convicted of acts constituting human rights violations, reflecting a significant effort by judicial authorities to combat impunity.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there was one open allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse by Congolese peacekeepers deployed to UN peacekeeping missions. Of the 32 allegations against Congolese military personnel deployed to peacekeeping missions from 2015 to the present, the United Nations repatriated six perpetrators, all of whom received prison time upon return to the country. The United Nations and the local government were conducting 27 investigations that remained pending as of September.

During the year the government acted to increase respect for human rights by the security forces. The PNC has a special Child Protection and Sexual Violence Prevention Squadron, and much police training addressed sexual and gender-based violence, such as mining police training in North and South Kivu and community policing programs in Haut-Katanga and Eastern Kasai. From January through June, the UNJHRO supported 46 capacity-building sessions on international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence for a total of 1,705 participants from both the FARDC and PNC. MONUSCO also collaborated with the FARDC to screen recruits and prevent children from joining the military.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, but the SSF routinely arrested or detained persons arbitrarily (see section 1.e.). IAGs also abducted and detained persons arbitrarily, often for ransom. Survivors reported to MONUSCO they were often subjected to forced labor (see section 1.g.).

Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was corrupt and subject to influence and intimidation. Officials and other influential individuals often subjected judges to coercion.

A shortage of prosecutors and judges hindered the government’s ability to provide expeditious trials, and judges occasionally refused transfers to remote areas where shortages were most acute because the government could not sufficiently support judges in these areas. The Ministry of Human Rights reported that 90 percent of cases lacked magistrates. Authorities routinely did not respect court orders. Disciplinary boards created under the High Council of Magistrates continued to rule on cases of corruption and malpractice. Rulings included the firing, suspension, or fining of judges and magistrates.

Military magistrates are responsible for the investigation and prosecution of all crimes allegedly committed by SSF members, whether committed in the line of duty or not. Civilians may be tried in military tribunals if charged with offenses involving firearms. The military justice system often succumbed to political and command interference, and security arrangements for magistrates in conflict areas were inadequate. Justice mechanisms were particularly ineffective for addressing misconduct by mid- and high-ranking officials due to a requirement the judge of a military court must have either the same or a higher rank than the defendant.

Although the law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, the SSF routinely ignored these provisions. The SSF harassed and robbed civilians, entered and searched homes and vehicles without warrants, and looted homes, businesses, and schools. Family members were often punished for offenses allegedly committed by their relatives.

The SSF continued fighting IAGs in the east of the country, and conflict among armed groups resulted in significant population displacement and human rights abuses, especially in Ituri and North Kivu Provinces. Fighting among the Nyatura, Nduma Defense of Congo-Renewal (NDC-R), Mai Mazembe, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and ISIS-DRC (formerly the Allied Democratic Forces or ADF) caused significant population displacement in North Kivu Province.

There were credible reports that the IAGs and the SSF perpetrated serious human rights violations and abuses during internal conflicts. UNJHRO director Abdoul Aziz Thioye stated that state actors committed abuses under the cover of the state of siege. He attributed the majority of IAG violations to ISIS-DRC, which took advantage of historical tension to incite interethnic fighting. In the first half of the year, the UNJHRO documented a total of 3,068 human rights violations and abuses in conflict-affected provinces, including North Kivu (1,662), followed by Ituri (506), and to a lesser extent South Kivu, Tanganyika, Kasai, Kasai-Central, Kasai-Oriental, Maniema, and Bas-Uele. Conflict-affected provinces accounted for more than 93 percent of all violations and abuses throughout the country. Armed groups committed approximately 60 percent of documented cases. Combatants abducted victims for ransom, for forced labor, and in retaliation for suspected collaboration. On July 7, combatants from the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo abducted and killed a man in Masisi Territory after accusing him of collaborating with another combatant group.

There were credible reports that elements within the FARDC collaborated with some IAGs. In June the UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo reported that soldiers of the 3404th and 3410th FARDC regiments cooperated with or participated in operations alongside the Bwira faction of the NDC-R against other IAGs.

The UNJHRO reported that assailants from the armed group Cooperative de Developpement economique du Congo (Cooperative for Economic Development of the Congo or CODECO) were responsible for 401 violations between January and June. CODECO attacks against civilians in Djugu and Irumu Territories resulted in the deaths of at least 361 individuals. Throughout October CODECO, Force Patriotique et Integrationniste du Congo (Patriotic and Integrationist Force of the Congo or FPIC), and Force de Resistance Patriotique d’Ituri (Patriotic Resistance Front of Ituri) attacked multiple villages in Ituri Province, leading to numerous reports of civilian deaths, looting, and property destruction. Additionally, more than 5,000 persons abandoned their homes after clashes between FARDC and CODECO militiamen on October 17 in North Kivu Province.

North Kivu Province saw the most abuses in internal conflict, as the UNJHRO reported ISIS-DRC combatants committed 25 abuses in the province in July. On July 15, ISIS-DRC combatants attacked civilians in Beni Territory, killing at least five civilians, including the president of a local civil society organization, a woman, and a child, and set fire to 10 houses and abducted numerous individuals. Following UNJHRO advocacy, a team of investigators from the military prosecutor’s office launched an investigation that continued in early November. According to UNJHRO, ISIS-DRC combatants committed 27 abuses in September and 33 abuses in October.

In August, HRW decried the appointment of Tommy Tambwe, a former rebel leader of a group responsible for many human rights abuses, as coordinator of the new Disarmament, Demobilization, Community Recovery, and Stabilization program in eastern Congo. According to HRW, Tambwe led major Rwandan-backed rebel groups responsible for countless human rights abuses in eastern Congo during the last 25 years. Prominent human rights groups accused Tambwe of ordering the arrest of journalists perceived as critics in 2002 when he was vice governor of South Kivu.

Operational cooperation between MONUSCO and the government continued in the east. The MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade supported FARDC troops in North Kivu and southern Ituri Provinces. MONUSCO forces deployed and conducted patrols to protect internally displaced persons (IDPs) from armed group attacks in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri Provinces.

Killings: The UNJHRO reported that 1,147 civilians were killed in conflict-affected provinces in the first six months of the year. IAG killings decreased from 1,315 in 2020 to 962, while killings of civilians by state agents in conflict-affected areas increased from 155 to 185. Approximately 209 children were killed and maimed in the North Kivu, Ituri, Tanganyika, South Kivu, Maniema, and the Kasai Provinces. IAGs, ISIS-DRC, Nyatura, and Mai Mai armed groups committed most of most of these killings and mutilations, while FARDC soldiers and PNC agents contributed to the abuses.

The UNJHRO reported that on July 1, Union des Patriotes pour la Liberation du Congo (Patriotic Union for the Liberation of Congo) Mai Mai combatants abducted, abused, and killed a member of a local civil society organization who had just left the village of Mabalako in Beni Territory. Although the local police opened an investigation, the UNJHRO noted no progress by year’s end, adding that tracking armed group members in that area was very difficult.

Abductions: UN agencies and NGOs reported IAGs abducted individuals to perform forced labor, obtain ransom, or guide them. Armed groups also utilized abductions as reprisal for a victims’ alleged collaboration with the security and defense forces or rival groups, or because of their refusal to pay illegal taxes or to participate in so-called community work. The UNJHRO reported that from January through June, a total of 204 children between ages one and 17 were abducted, most from the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, but also from Tanganyika, South Kivu, the Kasai Provinces and Maniema.

The UNJHRO reported in August that armed groups abducted at least 305 individuals, including 24 women and 27 children, in the conflict-affected provinces, a significant increase from July’s 208 victims. Of the 305 persons abducted by armed groups in August, 33 were killed and 92 were released, sometimes following the intervention of the security forces or negotiations with local community members. The whereabouts of 115 abducted persons were unknown. ISIS-DRC combatants were responsible for the abductions of 197 individuals. The UNJHRO reported that of the 208 individuals abducted by armed groups in July, 45 were released, often following FARDC intervention, while 11 were killed. The location of 94 individuals was unknown as of the end of September.

In March Radio Okapi reported that Lord’s Resistance Army militiamen released 27 hostages detained in one of their camps situated in Ango Territory, Bas-Uele. Former captives included five children younger than five years of age and six women, as well as South Sudanese, Congolese, and Central African Republic nationals.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: The FARDC, PNC, ANR, IAGs, and civilians perpetrated widespread sexual violence. From January through June, the UNJHRO documented 265 cases of conflict-related sexual violence affecting 258 women and seven adult men, a significant decrease from the previous six months, when they documented 398 adult survivors. Nearly 35 percent of these violent crimes were attributable to state agents, notably FARDC soldiers and PNC agents. Most of the sexual violence attributable to state agents in these provinces was committed in Ituri.

The UNJHRO reported that in February, in Kasumbalesa, Sakania Territory, Haut-Katanga Province, the Kipushi Tribunal militaire de garnison convicted three FARDC soldiers of rape during mobile hearings supported by the UNJHRO. They were sentenced to terms of one to 10 years in prison and payment of compensation to the victims. In July in South Kivu, a military court ruled on sexual violence cases and sentenced 11 FARDC soldiers to between four to 20 years in prison and ordered the seizure of their salaries for victims’ compensation. The UNJHRO reported that through June there were 48 convictions by judicial authorities, following a legal support project that assisted 191 survivors, most of whom were girls.

The UNJHRO reported that a FARDC soldier raped a 38-year-old woman in July in South Kivu after breaking into her house and was not arrested. The UNJHRO separately reported that the special police for the protection of children and the fight against sexual violence arrested a FARDC soldier from the 31st FARDC Rapid Reaction Commando Brigade when the parents of a 12-year-old rape survivor accused him of assault.

IAGs also perpetrated numerous incidents of physical abuse and sexual violence. For example, the UNJHRO reported that combatants of NDC-R committed 10 human rights abuses in July, including the fatal shooting of a man and the rape of a 14-year-old girl.

In July local press reported that the military court of South Kivu sentenced a leader of the FDLR militia to 10 years’ imprisonment for committing crimes against humanity in the eastern regions of the country. The militia leader, Lenine Kizima Sabin, was prosecuted for rape, extortion, murder, and acts of plundering committed against more than 500 civilians between 2004 and 2006 in Shabunda Territory. A military tribunal had sentenced Kizima to life imprisonment in 2015, but his lawyers successfully appealed the conviction.

Child Soldiers: FARDC officers unlawfully used three children and continued coordinating with an armed group that recruited and used children during the reporting period.

Through June MONUSCO’s Child Protection Section documented 1,195 violations of the rights of the child in the context of armed conflict in the country, a decrease of 23 percent from the same period in 2020. Most of the violations documented the recruitment and use of children by armed groups and militias. Following a screening by the MONSCO Child Protection section, 45 children were separated from Mai Mai Biloze Bisambuke combatants.

The government continued to work with MONUSCO to engage IAGs directly to end the use of child soldiers. As of September 16, a total of 2,378 children had been voluntarily released by commanders as part of the roadmap to end the recruitment and use of children and prevent sexual violence of children. In October and November, a Canadian NGO trained FARDC officers on how to approach children and identify child soldiers in conflict zones and contact child protection officials. According to MONUSCO’s Child Protection Section, a joint MONUSCO-FARDC vetting mechanism led to the screening of 414 FARDC recruits and identification of 35 children who were separated before they received further training. Through October, MONUSCO trained 894 Congolese security forces (611 FARDC and 283 PNC) on the Children and Armed Conflict mandate including age verification methods. The government and the United Nations had a joint action plan to end the recruitment and use of children with other grave violations.

In September a military court in South Kivu handed down a life sentence to warlord Chance Mihonya. The former FARDC captain was found guilty of crimes against humanity, murder, rape, in addition to war crimes for using children as combatants.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Fighting between the FARDC and IAGs as well as among IAGs continued to displace populations and limit humanitarian access, particularly in Ituri, South Kivu, Maniema, and Tanganyika Provinces as well as in Rutshuru, Masisi, Walikale, Lubero, Beni, and Nyiragongo Territories in North Kivu Province.

In North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, Kasai-Oriental, and Haut-Katanga Provinces, IAGs and elements of the FARDC continued to illegally tax, exploit, and trade natural resources for revenue and power. Clandestine trade in minerals and other natural resources facilitated the purchase of weapons and reduced government revenues. Gold, cassiterite (tin ore), coltan (tantalum ore), and wolframite (tungsten ore) were the most exploited minerals, but wildlife products, timber, charcoal, and fish were also sought after.

The illegal trade in minerals financed IAGs and individual elements of the SSF. Both elements of the SSF and certain IAGs continued to control, extort, and threaten remote mining areas in North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, Maniema, and Haut Katanga Provinces and the Kasai region (see section 4).

Denmark

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were some reports government officials employed them.

Several committees in the country’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) expressed concern that coercive measures were used in mental health institutions, and that coerced treatment and the use of restraint in institutions remained legal. In February the Danish Institute against Torture (DIGNITY) published a briefing note finding the country’s 2014 action plan to reduce the use of coercion in psychiatric institutions by 50 percent by 2020, including a 50 percent reduction in the use of mechanical restraints with belts, did not meet its goals. According to a 2020 report released by the Health Authority, the use of belt restraints decreased, but the prevalence of patients subjected to one or several coercive methods increased in comparison to the pre-action plan statistics during a 12-month study period between July 2019 and June 2020.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concluded in September 2020 that the government had violated the prohibition of inhuman treatment in a case where belt restraints had been used on a patient for nearly 23 hours. On February 3, the Supreme Court held that restraining with belts for 281 consecutive days was a violation of the prohibition of inhuman treatment. The case related to a patient who was detained at a psychiatric institution while awaiting a transfer to a more specialized psychiatric hospital in 2015. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), the Audit Office, and the ombudsman criticized the use of belt restraints.

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but there were isolated reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. The law allows the government to collect the personal data of airline passengers. The DIHR criticized the government for postponing the revision of its logging rules despite a ruling by the European Court of Justice that the existing systematic collection of data is in violation of citizens’ fundamental rights.

Djibouti

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

Five individuals died during a week of civil unrest at the beginning of August. Civil society actors blamed police using live ammunition for at least some of the deaths. The National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH) investigated the occurrence but did not conclude that law enforcement entities caused the deaths.

During the year authorities did not take known action to investigate reported cases of arbitrary or unlawful killings from previous years or to put suspected perpetrators on trial.

Authorities arrested and held journalists and political dissidents in unknown locations.

On April 10, Ethiopia extradited an online activist to the country to stand trial for murder. He was kept in an unknown place for two weeks before being sentenced to prison.

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports that government officials employed them. Security forces arrested and abused journalists and opposition members.

There were numerous reported abuses similar to the following example. On March 17, police arrested seven members of an opposition political party for participating in an illegal demonstration to protest the president’s campaign for a fifth term. The head of the party reported that police beat one of the party’s female members while in detention at the Central Police Station, before releasing all seven of them without charge.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, but the government seldom respected these provisions.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary lacked independence and was inefficient. There were reports of judicial corruption. Authorities did not consistently respect constitutional provisions for a fair trial.

Although the constitution and law prohibit such actions, the government did not respect these prohibitions. The law requires authorities to obtain a warrant before conducting searches on private property, but the government did not always respect the law. Government critics claimed the government monitored their communications and kept their homes under surveillance.

There were reports the government punished family members for offenses allegedly committed by their relatives.

On January 16, four elders from Tadjourah were arrested due to their family ties to members of an armed group that allegedly attacked a gendarmerie squad in Tadjourah, resulting in one death. The Gendarmerie released three of the elders a week later and the fourth in November.

On August 26, police arrested two relatives of members of an armed rebel group that allegedly carried out an attack at Lac Assal. They remained in custody as of December.

Dominica

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There was one report that the government or its agents allegedly committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In July the superintendent of police was charged with the murder of Kerwin Prosper, who died on February 15 while in police custody. The family alleged that while in police custody, Prosper was severely beaten by officers, ultimately causing his death. At year’s end several additional police officers remained under investigation for Prosper’s death.

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. There were no reports that impunity in the security forces was a significant problem.

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

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

Inadequate prosecutorial and police staffing, outdated legislation, and a lack of magistrates resulted in backlogs and other problems in the judicial system.

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

Dominican Republic

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were several reports that government agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Extrajudicial killings of civilians by officers of the National Police were a problem. According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a nongovernmental organization (NGO), more than 4,000 individuals died during confrontations with police or security forces between 2010 and April 2021. As of October police killed a total of 41 persons, according to the Attorney General’s Office, but the exact number of extrajudicial killings was unknown. Media and civil society acknowledged that many cases went unreported due to a lack of faith in the justice system to pursue charges.

In one of the most high-profile cases of the year, in March police killed Joel Diaz and Elizabeth Munoz under unclear circumstances when Diaz and Munoz were returning home after a church event. According to local media, the officers “confused” the couple’s vehicle for the vehicle of wanted criminals and shot at the couple’s vehicle while in pursuit. In April the Public Ministry (the ministry responsible for the formulation and implementation of the country’s policy against crime, for the conduct of criminal investigations, and for public prosecution) ordered that all seven police officers involved in the shooting be arrested and put in pretrial detention.

On October 2, an off-duty police officer shot and killed Leslie Rosado after Rosado allegedly hit the officer’s motorcycle and left the scene. The officer was assisted by a second officer, who helped him chase Rosado’s vehicle. The Santo Domingo Este Prosecutor’s Office requested the courts place the two police officers in pretrial detention and requested three months to complete the investigation. President Luis Abinader attended Rosado’s funeral service, called her killing “an intolerable act of savagery,” and promised to eradicate similar police abuse through police reform.

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

Although the law prohibits torture, beating, and physical abuse, there were reports that security force members, primarily police, carried out such practices.

In April relatives of a young man in La Vega, the fourth largest city, reported to news outlets that the young man was beaten by police officers and left outside a convenience store. As of year’s end, authorities reported they had investigated the incident, but no further information on their conclusions or steps taken was available.

Impunity was a problem within certain units of the security forces, particularly the National Police. The government worked to address issues related to impunity through training programs for police officers, including specialized courses on human rights included as part of their continuing education courses. On April 6, President Abinader created a special commission on police reform, scheduled to be effective for one year. On October 17, the president replaced the director and deputy director of the National Police. The president announced other reform initiatives, including limits on the use of force, improved training and performance evaluation mechanisms, an increase in the salaries for officers, and funding to allow for the immediate purchase of body cameras and car cameras to ensure all actions by police are recorded.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her detention in court. The government generally observed this requirement, but arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported. The constitution prohibits detention without a warrant unless authorities apprehend a suspect during the commission of a crime or in other special circumstances. The law permits detention without charges for up to 48 hours. In many instances authorities detained, fingerprinted, questioned, and then released detainees with little or no explanation for the detention.

The law provides for an independent judiciary. In a change from past years, independent observers noted the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. The president respected the independence of the Attorney General’s Office and instructed senior officials to do the same. In addition independent observers noted the judiciary began investigating high-level cases of corruption and drug trafficking, including cases involving government allies.

Civil society and attorneys complained of the backlog of cases and what they considered undue delay in processes. Civil society and attorneys complained early in the year of virtual management of courts and hearings, but this matter became less of a concern as tribunals resumed in-person services and hearings later in the year.

The law prohibits arbitrary entry into a private residence, except when police are in hot pursuit of a suspect, a suspect is caught in the act of committing a crime, or police suspect a life is in danger. The law provides that all other entries into a private residence require an arrest or search warrant issued by a judge. Despite these limits on government authority, police conducted illegal searches and seizures, including many raids without warrants on private residences in poor neighborhoods.

Ecuador

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

Human rights organizations, however, reported excessive force by security forces was likely responsible for several of the 11 deaths reported by the comptroller during October 2019 protests against the government’s economic reforms. Ministry of Government officials indicated that only eight deaths were linked to demonstrations, and they argued that the causes of death were either due to force majeure actions of police attempting to control violent crowds or accidents that did not result from direct police action. A March 17 report from the ombudsman-created Special Commission for Truth and Justice alleged that up to six of the deaths during the protests could constitute extrajudicial killings and called on judicial authorities to further investigate the actions of security forces. Criminal investigations concerning the entire range of crimes committed during the several weeks of organized violence – including lootings, arson, attacks on public employees and institutions – that accompanied the political protests did not significantly advance before year’s end.

On August 30, a judge accepted a prosecutor’s request to indict two former police officers accused of attempted murder (constituting an attempted extrajudicial killing) in 2010 of taxi driver Aldo Zambrano in Guayaquil. The judge found the former officers had acted arbitrarily and negligently in shooting Zambrano.

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

Regarding the 2012 kidnapping in Colombia of opposition legislator Fernando Balda, in August 2020 the National Court of Justice found former intelligence director Pablo Romero guilty of planning the abduction under the orders of former president Rafael Correa, who was also indicted but remained in Belgium despite extradition requests. Romero appealed the ruling, with a subsequent ruling pending as of October 27. The National Court confirmed that Ecuador’s extradition request remained in process as of October 27.

On January 28, the country’s representative to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights accepted the state’s responsibility for the forced disappearance in Quito in 1990 of writer Cesar Gustavo Garzon Guzman. The agents responsible for Garzon’s disappearance remained unknown.

While the law prohibits torture and similar forms of intimidation and punishment, there were reports that police officers and prison guards tortured and abused suspects and prisoners.

Human rights activists asserted that as of September 28, officials had not investigated claims alleging police kidnappings and torture or other forms of degrading treatment during police interrogations related to the October 2019 protests. Human rights advocates said prosecutors could potentially request the cases be closed starting in October, since the law stipulates the statute of limitations is two years for some crimes, although longer for more egregious ones.

A hearing on the case concerning the February 2020 deaths of six prisoners in Turi Prison was scheduled for January 2022 to identify which prison officials or inmates may be responsible for the speculated torture resulting in the deaths.

On November 14, a court in Azuay Province sentenced 37 police officers to 106 days in prison each for excessive use of force in a 2016 operation to confiscate contraband from inmates in Turi Prison. In the operation, officers beat and forced alleged violators to perform exercises in stressful positions while nude. The prosecutor’s office, which sought convictions for torture, said it would appeal the ruling.

On February 10, the Attorney General’s Office announced a 12-year, seven-month prison sentence for a police officer in Pillaro, Tungurahua Province, for raping a 24-year-old woman in September 2020 after taking her on a date in his patrol car.

Although impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces, human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups reported the lack of prosecutions against police officers who allegedly used excessive force against demonstrators during October 2019 protests could be interpreted as impunity. The government did not announce further actions taken to address public concern regarding alleged human rights abuses during the protests.

The Internal Affairs Unit of the National Police investigates whether police killings are justifiable and can refer cases to the Attorney General’s Office to pursue prosecutions. An intelligence branch within the military has a role similar to the police internal affairs unit. The law states that the Attorney General’s Office must be involved in all human rights abuse investigations, including unlawful killings and forced disappearances. Human rights defenders reported the National Police Internal Affairs Unit and Attorney General’s Office often failed to conduct investigations adequately. Activists stated follow-up on abuse claims was difficult due to high staff turnover in the Internal Affairs Unit.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, but there were reports that provincial and local authorities did not always observe these provisions. According to NGOs, illegal detentions continued to occur.

While the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, outside pressure and corruption impaired the judicial process. Legal experts, bar associations, and NGOs reported on the susceptibility of the judiciary to bribes for favorable decisions and faster resolution of legal cases. As of October 25, authorities had made no information available on the selection of permanent replacement of Judicial Council members after 23 of 36 evaluated judges were deemed not to have met the minimum qualification threshold in 2019 and were replaced by temporary judges from lower courts appointed by the council.

In January 2020 six former police officials convicted for “paralyzing a public service” during a 2010 police protest known as 30-S were released from prison on appeal. In June 2020 four other former police officials sentenced to 12 years in prison in the same incident presented a revision appeal to the National Court of Justice. The appellants, after serving nearly six years in prison, were released as they awaited the court’s ruling, and November 24, the court acquitted the officials of all charges.

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

Egypt

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were numerous reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings that occurred while making arrests or holding persons in custody or during disputes with civilians.

There were also reports of civilians killed during military operations in North Sinai.

There were reported instances of persons tortured to death and other allegations of killings in prisons and detention centers by security forces. The government charged, prosecuted, and convicted perpetrators in some cases, but lack of accountability remained a problem.

On May 25, an Italian judge ordered four senior members of the country’s security services to stand trial in Italy concerning their suspected role in the killing of Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni, who was found dead in Cairo in 2016 bearing what forensics officials said were signs of torture. On June 15, the prosecutor general gave the Italian ambassador a document for the Italian court outlining a lack of evidence in the case. On October 14, the Italian judge suspended the trial and sent the case back to a preliminary hearings judge to determine whether the defendants knew they had been charged. According to Italian media, a hearing before the preliminary hearings judge was scheduled for January 2022.

There were several reports of groups of suspected terrorists and other suspected criminals killed during security raids conducted by security forces. On August 5, Amnesty International called on the country’s Public Prosecution to investigate a video released on August 1 by the armed forces spokesperson allegedly showing two extrajudicial killings in North Sinai.

ISIS-Sinai Province (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis) conducted deadly attacks on government, civilian, and security targets in North and South Sinai. Other terrorist groups, including Harakat al-Suwad Misr, reportedly continued to operate. There were no official, published data on the number of victims of terrorist violence during the year. A combination of local and international press reporting, government press releases, and social media accounts tracking events in Sinai suggested terrorist groups killed or wounded more than 90 civilians in 2020. Approximately 15 of these civilians were reported to have been killed by booby traps left by ISIS-Sinai Province between October and December 2020.

International and local human rights groups reported continuing large numbers of enforced disappearances, alleging authorities utilized this tactic to intimidate critics.

Authorities detained individuals without producing arrest or search warrants. According to a local nongovernmental organization (NGO), authorities detained many of these individuals in unspecified National Security Sector offices and police stations, but they were not included in official registers. Authorities held detainees incommunicado and denied their requests to contact family members and lawyers.

Photojournalist Hamdy al-Zaeem was arrested on January 4 and held without knowledge of his whereabouts by his family or attorneys until he appeared on January 17 before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (State Security Prosecution), a branch of the Public Prosecution specialized in investigating national security threats, who ordered his detention pending investigation into charges of spreading false news, joining an unspecified banned group, and misusing social media. Journalist Ahmed Khalifa was arrested on January 6, the day after he covered a labor protest, and was held without knowledge of his whereabouts by his family or attorneys until he appeared on January 16 before the State Security Prosecution, who ordered his detention pending investigation into the same allegations as al-Zaeem. Khalifa was released in July, while Zaeem remained in pretrial detention at year’s end.

On June 25, 1,000 days after the 2018 disappearance of former parliamentarian Mustafa al-Naggar, 15 local and international organizations called on the government to investigate and disclose information on his whereabouts, as ordered by the Administrative Court in 2020.

The constitution states that no torture, intimidation, coercion, or physical or moral harm shall be inflicted upon a person whose movements are restricted or whom authorities have detained or arrested. The penal code forbids torture to induce a confession from a detained or arrested suspect but does not account for mental or psychological abuse against persons whom authorities have not formally accused, or for abuse occurring for reasons other than securing a confession. The penal code also forbids all public officials or civil servants from “employing cruelty” or “causing bodily harm” under any circumstances. Nonetheless, there were reports that government officials employed them.

Local rights organizations reported torture was systemic, including deaths that resulted from torture. According to domestic and international human rights organizations, police and prison guards resorted to torture to extract information from detainees, including minors. Reported techniques included beatings, electric shocks, psychological abuse, and sexual assault. On July 15, Human Rights First issued a report documenting alleged abuses, including torture, by security forces based on testimony from prisoners released between 2019 and 2021. Human Rights First characterized torture and other abuse as pervasive in prisons.

On March 1, detained activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, who was sentenced to five years in prison on December 20, claimed during a pretrial detention hearing that he had been subjected to incidents of intimidation after he reported hearing fellow prisoners being subjected to torture with electric shocks.

The government released journalist Solafa Magdy and her photographer husband Hossam el-Sayed on April 14 and journalist Esraa Abdel Fattah on July 18 from pretrial detention. International organizations reported that Magdy and Abdel Fattah were abused while in pretrial detention following their 2019 arrests. The abuse reportedly included beatings and suspension from a ceiling.

On September 17, a local human rights attorney said that secretary general of the Foundation for the Defense of the Oppressed, Ahmed Abd-al-Sattar Amasha, had been deprived of visits, exercise, sunlight, and access to health care for more than a year. He had been detained since his June 2020 arrest and was previously arrested in 2017, allegedly abused, and released in 2019. He joined an international campaign in 2016 urging authorities to close the maximum-security branch of Tora Prison and cofounded the League of Families of the Disappeared in 2014.

There were reports that prisoners detained on politically motivated charges were held in prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement. Local media reported that the state detained Strong Egypt party deputy president Mohamed el-Kassas in solitary confinement and had prevented him from exercising, reading, or listening to the radio since his initial arrest in 2018 on allegations of joining an unspecified banned group and spreading false news. El-Kassas was re-arrested in three new cases during continuous confinement without release, all on similar charges in 2019, in August 2020, and again on July 28.

According to human rights activists, impunity was a significant problem in the security forces. The Prosecutor General’s Office (for Interior Ministry actions) and the Military Prosecution (for military actions) are responsible for pursuing prosecutions and investigating whether security force actions were justifiable.

On April 4, the Court of Cassation upheld as a final verdict a 2019 acquittal of six police officers and two noncommissioned police personnel charged with torturing to death a citizen and forging official documents inside a police station in 2017. According to local media, the victim was arrested with his brother on charges of murdering and robbing their grandmother.

On April 10, a criminal court reconvicted, in absentia, two noncommissioned police personnel on charges of torturing to death Magdy Makeen, a donkey-cart driver, in a Cairo police station in 2016. In December 2020 a criminal court sentenced a police officer and eight other noncommissioned personnel to three years in prison in this case. A police corporal also charged in the case was acquitted.

On August 5, a criminal court acquitted 11 police officers in a retrial that challenged their suspended one-year prison sentences and their convictions for the killing of protesters during the January 25 revolution in 2011.

On December 28, a court ruled that the family of Khaled Said, who died of police brutality in 2010, would receive one million Egyptian pounds (EGP) ($62,500) in compensation. Two police officers were convicted of the crime in 2011.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there were two allegations submitted during the year of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). This follows one allegation of attempted transactional sex in 2020 and another of sexual assault in 2016, both of which also occurred in MINUSCA. As of September investigations into the three most recent allegations were pending. A separate investigation substantiated the 2016 allegation, leading to the repatriation and, imprisonment of the perpetrator.

Human rights organizations said the Public Prosecution continued to order forced medical exams in “family values” or “debauchery” cases. On July 5, the New York Times published testimony from women who claimed sexual abuse in detention by police, prison guards, and state-employed doctors, including forced stripping, invasive examinations, so-called virginity tests, and forced anal examinations in front of onlookers (see section 6).

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court but reported incidents of arbitrary arrests and detentions remained frequent, according to local and international rights groups.

According to the constitution, detainees have the right to challenge the legality of their detention before a court, which must decide within one week if the detention is lawful or otherwise immediately release the detainee. Authorities regularly deprived individuals of this right, according to international and local human rights groups. The constitution also defers to the law to regulate the duration of preventive detention.

From July 11 to 13, the Cairo Criminal Court ordered the release of 128 detainees and renewed the pretrial detention of more than 2,100 detainees, who a human rights attorney said, “were involved in various political cases,” including human rights defender Ibrahim Ezzedine, who remained in pretrial detention.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Individual courts sometimes appeared to lack impartiality and to arrive at outcomes that were politically motivated or without individual findings of guilt. The government generally respected court orders. Human rights organizations claimed the State Security Prosecution bypassed court orders to release detainees by arresting them again in a new case, in some instances on the same charges.

The law imposes penalties on individuals designated by a court as terrorists, even without criminal convictions. The government has designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group and prosecutes individuals for membership in or support for the Muslim Brotherhood group. The effects of a designation include a travel ban, asset freeze, loss of political rights, and passport cancellation. The court designation may be appealed directly to the country’s highest appeals court, and authorities do not inform most individuals of their impending designation before the court rules.

The constitution states: “Civilians may not stand trial before military courts except for crimes that represent an assault against military facilities, military barracks, facilities protected by the military, designated military or border zones; military equipment, vehicles, weapons, ammunition, documents, military secrets, public funds or military factories; crimes related to conscription; or crimes that represent an assault against its officers or personnel because of the performance of their duties.”

Under the state of emergency that expired on October 24, authorities regularly used military courts to try civilians accused of threatening national security. Public access to information concerning military trials was limited. Military trials were difficult to monitor because media were usually subjected to restraint orders. Rights groups and lawyers said defense attorneys in military trials had difficulty gaining access to their clients and to documentation related to the cases.

Authorities released journalist Moataz Wadnan on July 18. Police arrested Wadnan in 2018, after he conducted a press interview with the former head of the Central Audit Organization, and charged Wadnan with joining an unspecified banned group and spreading false news. Two days after a court ordered Wadnan’s release in May 2020, the State Security Prosecution added him to a new case with the additional charges of inciting terrorist crimes. Before his July 18 release, Wadnan had been in continuous pretrial detention for more than three years. Journalist Mostafa al-Asaar, who was also arrested in 2018, and lawyer Mahienour al-Masry, who was arrested in 2019 after she defended detainees arrested during street protests, were released on July 18. Police charged all three with joining a banned group and spreading false news.

Some trials involving hundreds of defendants continued, particularly in cases involving demonstrators sympathetic to former president Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 and 2014.

On April 8, Mahmoud Ezzat was sentenced to life in prison for inciting violence and other terrorism-related charges, stemming from clashes outside the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in 2013 that resulted in the killing of nine persons and injuring of 91 others.

On June 14, the Court of Cassation issued a final ruling upholding the death penalty sentences for 12 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including three senior Brotherhood leaders: Mohamed El-Beltagy, Safwat Hegazy, and Abdel-Rahman El-Bar. The court also commuted the death sentences to life imprisonment for 31 others in the same case, the 2013 Rabaa sit-in.

On July 11, in a separate case, the Court of Cassation upheld the 2019 sentencing of 10 Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including Mohamed Badie, to life imprisonment on charges of killing policemen, organizing mass jail breaks, and undermining national security by allegedly conspiring with foreign militant groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah, during 2011 unrest. The Court of Cassation in the same case also overturned the convictions of eight mid-level Muslim Brotherhood members who had been sentenced in 2019 to 15 years in prison. It remained unclear at year’s end whether they were released or were held pending charges in other cases.

In an August 23 statement, a local human rights organization said the Public Prosecution refused to allow attorneys to visit blogger Mohamed Ibrahim (aka “Mohamed Oxygen”) after Ibrahim reportedly attempted suicide in pretrial detention in July. According to his attorneys, Ibrahim had been suffering mentally from mistreatment, including because of authorities depriving him family visits for a period exceeding 15 months, which the government said was due to COVID-19 preventive measures. Ibrahim had been in pretrial detention between his 2019 arrest and his December 20 conviction on allegations of joining an unspecified banned group, spreading false news, and misusing social media, after he tweeted a list of protesters and journalists detained in 2019 who had protested alleged military corruption. On October 16, the State Security Prosecution referred Ibrahim, activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, and human rights lawyer Mohamed Elbakr to trial before an emergency court. On December 20, an emergency court sentenced Abdel Fattah to five years in prison, and Ibrahim and Elbakr to four years in prison. Human rights groups and activists said the trial lacked due process and called for presidential commutation or pardon for all three individuals; at year’s end their sentences remained in place.

Khaled Lotfy, founder of the Tanmia bookstores and publishing house, remained in custody at year’s end. He was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to five years in prison by a military court for distributing the Arabic edition of The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, as well as charges of spreading false news and allegedly divulging military secrets.

The constitution provides for the privacy of the home, correspondence, telephone calls, and other means of communication. Nevertheless, there were reports that security agencies placed political activists, journalists, foreigners, and writers under surveillance; monitored their private communications; screened their correspondence, including email and social media accounts; examined their bank records; searched their persons and homes without judicial authorization; and confiscated personal property in an extrajudicial manner. Ahead of planned protests or demonstrations, there were reports police stopped young persons in public places and searched their mobile phones for evidence of involvement in political activities deemed antigovernment in nature.

The constitution protects the right to privacy, including on the internet. The constitution provides for the confidentiality and “inviolability” of postal, telegraphic, and electronic correspondence; telephone calls; and other means of communication. They may not be confiscated, revealed, or monitored except with a judicial order, only for a definite period, and only in cases defined by law. The law allows the president to issue written or oral directives to monitor and intercept all forms of communication and correspondence, impose censorship prior to publication, and confiscate publications.

Surveillance was a significant concern for internet users. The constitution states that private communications “may only be confiscated, examined, or monitored by causal judicial order, for a limited period of time, and in cases specified by the law.” Judicial warrants are required for authorities to enter, search, or monitor private property such as homes. During a state of emergency, warrantless searches are allowed provided the Public Prosecution is notified within 24 hours, and police may detain suspects for up to seven days before handing them over to the prosecution. The government’s surveillance operations lacked transparency, potentially violating the constitution’s privacy protections. There were credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority, including cyberattacks to gain access to devices and accounts belonging to critics of the government.

On February 5, the government released film director and screenwriter Moamen Hassan from detention pending trial on allegations of using social media for the purpose of “promoting a terrorist act.” Local media reported that on January 25, security forces arrested Hassan after stopping his taxi in the vicinity of Tahrir Square, searching his mobile phone, and alleging he had sent suspicious texts containing inappropriate political comments regarding the government. Hassan reportedly appeared before the State Security Prosecution on January 31, and a court ordered his release on February 4.

On August 9, a local human rights organization claimed the Public Prosecution’s Communication, Guidance, and Social Media Department, established in 2019 to monitor the internet for crimes, facilitated mass surveillance without due process of law.

The conflict in North Sinai involving government security forces, terrorist organizations, and other armed groups (including militias and criminal gangs) continued. According to press releases and international media reports, at least 135 armed forces soldiers were killed in attacks on government positions or in counterterrorist operations during the year. The government continued to impose restrictions on North Sinai residents’ travel to the country’s mainland and movement within North Sinai Governorate and severely restricted media access to North Sinai.

Killings: The government acknowledged no civilian deaths due to security force actions. Human rights organizations alleged that some persons killed by security forces were civilians. According to an international NGO, at least 26 civilian deaths, 51 security force deaths, and 31 terrorist deaths occurred in the conflict in Sinai between January and July. According to an ISIS media affiliate, ISIS-Sinai Province claimed 101 attacks resulting in 206 casualties during the year.

Terrorist and other armed groups continued to target the armed forces and civilians, using gunfire, improvised explosive devices, and other tactics.

According to another international organization’s July 31 report covering January through July, ISIS-Sinai Province killed approximately 22 civilians, including a woman and a child; kidnapped 26 civilians; and killed approximately 51 members of the armed forces, including seven from an armed group of North Sinai tribes fighting alongside the army. The same report documented four civilian deaths by security forces.

Abductions: Terrorist groups and other armed groups abducted civilians in North Sinai, almost always alleging cooperation with the government as the rationale. According to human rights groups, terrorist groups and other armed groups sometimes released abductees; some abductees were shot or beheaded. According to media and social media reports, at least 30 civilians were abducted by terrorist and militant elements in Sinai between January and August. In June, ISIS-Sinai Province reportedly abducted five construction contractors supporting a government developmental project near the al-Salam canal.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Explosions caused by hidden explosive devices killed at least two children during the year. Approximately 15 civilians died between October and December 2020 due to improvised explosive devices left behind by ISIS-Sinai Province members following an offensive in North Sinai.

El Salvador

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed politically motivated killings. There were reports, however, of security force involvement in extrajudicial killings of suspected gang members. As of October 25, the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDDH) was investigating seven cases of extrajudicial killings, six attributed to the members of the National Civilian Police (PNC) and one to the armed forces.

On January 31, PNC officers arrested three men on charges of double homicide after they killed two supporters of opposition party Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) following a soccer match. The three perpetrators worked for the Ministry of Health. President Bukele tweeted that the attack was a plot hatched by his political rivals to damage his Nuevas Ideas party’s chances in the February 28 legislative and municipal elections, but there was no evidence of a plot.

On July 19, PNC officers in Guacotecti, Cabanas Department, killed two brothers suspected of being members of transnational gang MS-13. According to relatives, PNC officers arrived at the house to arrest the two brothers who had outstanding warrants, and the brothers fled with rifles when they saw the police officers. The victims’ father said his two sons previously received threats from police, claiming the PNC officers planned the shooting and told him, “We are going to kill your children.”

The First Justice of the Peace of Santa Tecla, La Libertad Department, ordered the provisional arrest of four soldiers for the aggravated homicide of a 30-year-old engineer on August 12. The soldiers from the Apolo Task Force claimed the victim attacked them with a firearm from his vehicle and that the soldiers returned fire. The Scientific Technical Police found no firearms or bullet casings in the vehicle, and the victim’s hands did not have traces of gunpowder.

On February 7, the First Trial Court of Santa Tecla convicted three PNC officers of aggravated homicide and sentenced each of them to 25 years in prison for the 2017 extrajudicial killings of three persons in San Jose Villanueva, La Libertad Department. The PNC officers claimed they received information that the three persons in the vehicle were armed gang members, but the prosecutor showed that the PNC officers intercepted the vehicle and shot the victims without confrontation.

Media reports alleged that security and law enforcement officials were involved in unlawful disappearances. According to reports, the PNC recorded 989 disappearances between January 1 and June 29, an increase from the same period in 2020 when the PNC tracked 728 cases. The PNC reported that 545 of those reported missing were later found alive and 51 found dead. Minister of Justice and Public Security Gustavo Villatoro explained that many disappeared persons were victims of homicide, as criminals hid the bodies of their victims to avoid charges of homicide.

On April 7, the Foundation for Studies for the Application of Law released a study stating that the illegal practice of disappearing a person was no longer exclusive to gangs and that police, soldiers, and extermination groups viewed unlawful disappearances as a low-cost, effective way of resolving conflicts. According to a Human Rights Observatory of the Central American University (OUDH) report published in September, extermination groups operated with police, military, and civilian members, simulating legal actions such as searches, raids, and police operations in addition to illegal actions such as arbitrary detentions and killings. The report also noted that between 2015 and 2020, the Attorney General’s Office identified approximately 15 extermination groups in the country.

On May 31, Minister of Justice and Public Security Gustavo Villatoro criticized families who posted photographs of their missing relatives on social media accounts and asked them instead to file a formal complaint with the PNC or the Attorney General’s Office. Villatoro accused the families of psychologically damaging their missing children who eventually are found and stated most persons leave their families because they want to leave their life partner or because they did not get enough attention at home.

On June 1, the daily newspaper El Diario de Hoy reported that the Attorney General’s Office stopped the regular practice of publishing the photographs and information of missing persons following the arrival of the new attorney general, Rodolfo Delgado, on May 1. The Attorney General’s Office recorded more missing persons (5,381) than homicides (2,940) during the first two years of the Bukele administration, with most of the victims disappeared in areas with a high presence of gangs.

The Attorney General’s Office reported 66 minors as missing in the first 10 months of the year, 15 boys and 51 girls. All cases were under investigation.

On December 1, the daily newspaper La Prensa Grafica reported the findings from a study by the OUDH showing that between June 2019 and June 2021, only four cases of missing persons ended in a conviction. This number represented well less than 1 percent of the total cases of missing persons initiated by the Prosecutor’s Office.

The law prohibits such practices, but there were reports of violations. As of August 31, the PDDH had received 13 complaints of torture or cruel or inhuman treatment by the PNC and one by the armed forces, compared with 15 and two complaints, respectively, as of August 2020. The PDDH also received 62 complaints of mistreatment and disproportionate use of force by the PNC and seven by the armed forces, compared with 55 and four complaints, respectively, as of August 2020.

As of September the PNC registered a total of 95 accusations against police officers involved in crimes and offenses. Of the 95 accusations, 38 concerned homicides committed by police officers. The PNC received 296 complaints of general misconduct in the same period, including but not limited to torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading acts of punishment. Three of the 296 complaints were referred to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution, while the 293 unresolved cases remained under investigation by the PNC.

On March 12, the Attorney General’s Office issued arrest warrants for four PNC officers for the torture of a minor and a woman in 2017 in Sensuntepeque, Cabanas Department. According to a video widely circulated on social media, PNC officers Cristian Neftali Franco Vasquez, Elvis Alirio Montenegro Beltran, Omar Alexander Pineda Chevez, and Mario Enrique Perez Chavez beat the minor to force him to reveal the hiding location of drugs and weapons. One of the officers fired a warning shot when a woman who witnessed the beating began to complain.

On April 30, El Diario de Hoy reported that an armed forces officer was arrested for shooting Rene Alfredo Lainez Andasol in the face in Victoria, Cabanas Department. The Attorney General’s Office accused the soldier of attempted homicide.

On June 23, the Sentencing Court of Cojutepeque, Cuscatlan Department, sentenced PNC officer Juan Carlos Portillo Velasquez to 12 years in prison for the aggravated rape of an adolescent in 2018. According to the Attorney General’s Office, Portillo Velasquez abused his position by ordering a 17-year-old girl to enter her home and remove her clothes under the guise of checking for gang-related tattoos. His partner caught him in the act of rape and informed his supervisors.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there were no new allegations against El Salvadoran peacekeepers brought in the year. The most recent allegation was submitted in March 2020 concerning sexual exploitation and abuse by Salvadoran peacekeepers deployed to the UN Mission in South Sudan, allegedly involving an exploitative relationship with an adult. As of October the United Nations had found the allegation of sexual exploitation or abuse to be unsubstantiated but found evidence of fraternization and repatriated the perpetrator.

Impunity was a problem in the PNC and armed forces. Factors contributing to impunity included politicization and general corruption. The Attorney General’s Office investigates whether security force killings were justifiable and pursues prosecutions, and the PDDH investigates complaints of such killings. The government provided annual training to military units to dissuade any potential for gross abuses of human rights, such as the training provided to the Marine Infantry Battalion by the navy’s Legal Unit on the need to respect human rights. The government repeatedly defied a June 2020 judicial order to allow expert witnesses access to inspect military archives to determine criminal responsibility for the 1981 El Mozote massacre.

Previous government efforts to counter impunity were also eliminated. In June President Bukele ended the cooperative agreement with the Organization of American States to back the International Organization Against Impunity in El Salvador. Civil society organizations condemned this action and characterized it as a step backwards in the fight against impunity and corruption in the country. The government pursued actions against members of other parties governing in past administrations and judges who had served a long time in a so-called effort to “clean house” of influence of officials appointed under previous administrations. Civil society organizations criticized many of these actions as politically motivated.

Impunity in the executive branch also remained a problem. From January through September, the Attorney General’s Office reported that it processed 150 cases of embezzlement, illicit negotiations, illicit enrichment, and bribery perpetrated by government employees. Of these cases, only seven resulted in convictions.

The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court is responsible for addressing these types of cases.

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the government did not always respect judicial independence, and the judiciary was burdened by inefficiency.

While the government generally respected court orders, some agencies ignored or minimally complied with orders.

As of August 31, the PDDH received 65 complaints of lack of a fair public trial, compared with 12 such complaints as of August 2020.

On May 1, during the first plenary session of the newly elected Legislative Assembly, legislators of the majority Nuevas Ideas, a political party founded by President Bukele, and their allies voted to dismiss all five magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice and the attorney general without granting any of them due process. Critics contended the dismissals lacked legal cause and amounted to an unconstitutional power grab. The president defended the votes, claiming the Legislative Assembly had the authority to do this according to the constitution. On June 30, the Legislative Assembly installed new judges loyal to the president to replace the five dismissed magistrates.

On August 31, the Legislative Assembly used an emergency waiver process to pass two judicial career laws, instead of following the constitutionally prescribed process that judicial reforms must originate from the Supreme Court. The laws mandate the retirement of judges and prosecutors aged 60 or older and also those who have completed 30 years of service or more. In addition the attorney general and Supreme Court were given authority, at their discretion, to transfer prosecutors and judges between districts. While the Legislative Assembly justified the actions as an effort to rid the courts of corruption, legal analysts argued the laws were unconstitutional and were enacted to allow the ruling political party to appoint loyal replacement judges. More than 200 judges were forced by the new laws to retire, including Judge Jorge Guzman Urquilla, the magistrate overseeing the prosecution of 13 surviving former military officers for the alleged El Mozote massacre of more than 800 civilians in 1981. Although the Supreme Court offered him a one-time exception to remain in his position, Judge Guzman resigned in protest before the law went into effect.

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the state intelligence service tracked journalists or collected information regarding their private lives.

In many neighborhoods gangs and other armed groups targeted certain persons and interfered with privacy, family, and home life. Efforts by authorities to remedy these situations were generally ineffective.

Equatorial Guinea

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were anecdotal accounts of deaths in prison due to injuries inflicted by prison staff.

No specific office investigates the legality of security force killings.

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

The law prohibits such practices, but there were reports that both police and military personnel in Malabo and in Bata used excessive force during traffic stops, house-to-house searches, and interrogations, sometimes including sexual assault, robbery, and extortion. Police also tortured members of opposition parties, according to opposition leaders. Security personnel particularly abused persons suspected of plotting against the government, often with little or no evidence against them. Lawyers and other observers who visited prisons and jails reported serious abuses, including beatings and torture.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, citizen activists documented police officers and the military using excessive force, including beating citizens who did not abide by the government’s preventive actions, such as not adhering to mask mandates.

Authorities later fired, suspended, or arrested some of these officials, and government officials reminded security personnel to treat their fellow citizens with respect.

Police reportedly beat and threatened detainees to extract information or to force confessions.

Some military personnel and police reportedly raped, sexually assaulted, or beat women, including at checkpoints. Foreigners recounted being harassed at checkpoints, including having guns pointed at them without provocation. Senior government officials took few steps to address such violence and were sometimes implicated in ordering the violence.

Impunity was a significant problem within the security forces, due to corruption, politicization of the forces, poor training, and the ability of senior government officials to order extrajudicial acts. An inspector general’s office within the Ministry of National Security investigates abuses within the ministry.

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

The law does not provide for an independent judiciary. Instead, the president is designated the “first magistrate of the nation” and chair of the Judicial Council responsible for appointing judges and magistrates.

Members of the government often influenced judges in sensitive cases. Judges and magistrates sometimes decided cases on political grounds, and many were members of the ruling party; others sought bribes. Impunity for politically motivated abuses was a problem, and human rights activists and opposition members had little legal recourse to protest such abuses. Authorities did not always respect court orders, and many persons turned to the legislature, the Constitutional Court, or the president in his executive role for enforcement of civil judgments on matters such as employment, land, and personal injury disputes, circumventing appropriate legal processes altogether. Credible reports alleged judges decided in favor of plaintiffs in cases against international companies in return for a percentage of damages awarded.

The military justice system provided defendants with fewer procedural safeguards than the criminal court system. The code of military justice states that a military tribunal should judge any civilian or member of the military who disobeys a military authority or who is accused of committing a crime that is considered a “crime against the state.” A defendant in the military justice system may be tried in absentia, and the defense does not have the right to cross-examine an accuser. Such proceedings were not public, and defendants have no right of appeal to a higher court.

In June a military court tried three individuals for crimes related to accidental explosions at a military barracks complex in a heavily populated neighborhood outside of Bata. The government stated 98 persons were killed and 617 injured, but Human Rights Watch and a local NGO reported the death toll may have been considerably higher. Two of the individuals received prison sentences of 30 and 70 years respectively, and the third was acquitted. Lawyers including the Equatoguinean Commission of Jurists criticized the trying of the case in a military court, in view of the high number of civilian casualties, the lack of opportunity for the victims to testify or observe at the trial, and the legal requirement that the attorney general “defend the interests of the people.” Legal observers considered the trial lacked genuine accountability and transparency, as evidenced by the relatively low rank of the accused and the relative lack of evidence presented for such a complex event.

In rural areas tribal elders adjudicated civil claims and minor criminal matters in traditional courts. Traditional courts conducted cases according to customary law that does not afford the same rights and privileges as the formal system. Persons dissatisfied with traditional judgments could appeal to the civil court system.

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government often did not respect these prohibitions. Search warrants are required unless a crime is in progress or for reasons of national security. Nevertheless, security force members reportedly entered homes without required warrants and arrested alleged criminals, foreign nationals, and others; they confiscated property and demanded bribes with impunity. Military and police personnel committed many break-ins.

Authorities reportedly monitored opposition members, NGOs, journalists, and foreign diplomats, including through internet and telephone surveillance. Members of civil society and opposition parties reported both covert and overt surveillance by security services.

Eritrea

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

While there were no credible reports of unlawful or politically motivated killings within the country, there were credible reports that government forces deployed in northern Ethiopia committed arbitrary or unlawful killings (see section 1.g.).

An unknown number of persons disappeared during the year and were believed to be in government detention or to have died while in detention. The government did not make efforts to prevent disappearances or to investigate or punish those responsible. The government did not regularly notify family members or respond to requests for information regarding the status of detainees, including locally employed staff of foreign embassies and foreign or dual nationals. The disappeared included persons presumably detained for political and religious beliefs, journalists, and individuals suspected of evading national service and militia duties; others were disappeared for unknown offenses.

There were no known developments in the case of the G-15, a group of former ruling party members and officials who called for reforms, and of journalists detained in 2001.

The law prohibits torture. Reports of torture, however, continued, especially against political prisoners. According to UN experts, torture is allegedly common at the Eiraeiro prison. Former prisoners who have escaped the country have reported being tied up and held upside down on frames, legs and arms bound, while their feet, legs and buttocks were beaten with sticks or wire.

In August 2019, Human Rights Watch published a report documenting security forces’ torture, including by beating, prisoners, army deserters, national service evaders, of persons attempting to flee the country without travel documents, and members of certain religious groups.

Former prisoners described two specific forms of punishment by security forces known as “helicopter” and “8.” For “helicopter,” prisoners lie face down on the ground and their hands and legs are tied behind them. For “8,” they are tied to a tree. Prisoners were often forced to stay in either position for 24-48 hours, in some cases longer, and only released to eat or to relieve themselves. Use of psychological torture was common, according to inmates held in prior years. Some former prisoners reported authorities conducted interrogations and beatings within hearing distance of other prisoners to intimidate them.

Lack of transparency and access to information made it impossible to determine the numbers or circumstances of deaths due to torture or other abuse.

Impunity remained a serious problem among security forces. The government did not release any information to indicate it had conducted investigations of alleged abuses, making it difficult to assess the extent of the problem among the different branches of the security services.

The Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) were responsible for serious human rights abuses, including execution, rape, and torture of civilians, within Ethiopia as part of its military involvement there (see section 1.g.).

The unimplemented constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government did not observe these provisions.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but executive control of the judiciary continued, and the judiciary was neither independent nor impartial. There are special courts charged with handling corruption cases, but there was no clarity on their structure or implementation. The Office of the President served as a clearinghouse for citizens’ petitions to some courts. It also acted as an arbitrator or a facilitator in civil matters for some courts. The judiciary suffered from lack of trained personnel, inadequate funding, and poor infrastructure.

The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, but the government did not respect these rights.

Many citizens believed the government monitored cell phones. Authorities required permits to use SIM cards.

The government used an extensive informer system to gather information.

Without notice, authorities reportedly entered homes and threatened individuals without explanation. Security forces reportedly detained and interrogated the parents, spouses, or siblings of individuals who evaded national service or fled the country.

Ruling party administration offices and their associated local militia units, composed of persons who had finished their national service but were still required to assist with security matters, reportedly checked homes or whole neighborhoods to confirm residents’ attendance at national service projects.

Killings: The EDF were reportedly responsible for deliberately killing civilians, including Eritrean refugees, in northern Ethiopia as part of the conflict there. On May 21, the Attorney General of Ethiopia accused the EDF of killing 110 civilians in November 2020, including 40 who were pulled from their homes in house-to-house raids. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Tigray described a systematic effort by the EDF to inflict as much harm on the ethnic Tigrayan population as possible in areas where the EDF operated. IDPs reported that in some cases, the EDF used knives or bayonets to slash the torsos of pregnant women and then left them for dead. The EDF reportedly forced survivors to leave the bodies of the dead where they lay or face execution themselves. Many IDPs recounted instances of witnessing the rape, murder, and torture of friends and family members by the EDF.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: According to media and NGO reports, the EDF was responsible for massacres, looting, and sexual assaults in Tigray; EDF troops raped, tortured, and executed civilians; the EDF also destroyed property and ransacked businesses; and the EDF purposely shot civilians in the street and carried out systematic house-to-house searches, executing men and boys, and forcibly evicted Tigrayan families from their residences.

The EDF also reportedly engaged in sexual violence to terrorize and traumatize Tigrayan civilians. IDPs also spoke of a “scorched earth” policy intended to prevent IDPs from returning home.

According to Amnesty International, several women reported being raped by EDF personnel inside Ethiopia, including some who reported being held captive for weeks. According to Human Rights Watch, Eritrean soldiers forcibly repatriated Eritrean refugees and largely destroyed the Hitsats and Shimelba refugee camps. Human Rights Watch said Eritrean troops killed at least 31 individuals in Hitsats town. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UN refugee agency), more than 7,600 of the 20,000 refugees sheltering at the Hitsats and Shimelba camps in October 2020 remained unaccounted for as of August.

Estonia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

The law prohibits such practices, but there were reports that police used excessive physical force and verbal abuse during the arrest and questioning of some suspects. The number of cases brought against police officers for excessive use of force was similar to previous years. During the first half of the year, authorities filed five cases against police officers for excessive use of force.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

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

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

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

Eswatini

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during periods of unrest. Civilian security forces including the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) and His Majesty’s Correctional Services (HMCS) refer cases to REPS for investigation into whether security force killings were justifiable, and to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions for prosecution. The military conducts its own investigations of defense force killings, followed by referrals for prosecution before military tribunals.

In May law student Thabani Nkomonye died allegedly from a car accident. Although police investigated the crash site, his body was not found until days after the accident, prompting concerns that REPS was responsible for his death. Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku called for an inquest into the circumstances surrounding the student’s death; this was pending as of year’s end.

During the civil unrest in late June and early July, according to media reports and civil society, security and police forces killed dozens of persons. In July the national commissioner of the police stated that 34 individuals lost their lives during the unrest, but civil society organizations reported higher numbers of deaths. In October the Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration (CHRPA), a semiautonomous government body, released a preliminary assessment specifically reviewing events on June 28-29. CHRPA verified 46 deaths due to the unrest, although the report stated that “this figure does not rule out the possibility of more deaths,” citing swift funerals and the possibility of unregistered deaths. CHRPA also verified that a total of 245 persons sustained gunshot injuries, including 17 children, 17 women, and two elderly persons. The Commission could not verify if injuries were the result of rubber bullets or live rounds of ammunition. CHRPA’s assessment stated that lethal force was used indiscriminately on protesters and members of the public who were not engaged in protests, as demonstrated by the death of children and women and the injuries sustained by victims on the upper body, such as head, abdomen, and spinal area.

Internal investigations by REPS and the military were still pending as of year’s end. The government maintained that security forces took appropriate measures to restore law and order. In September Sizwe Shoulder, who lost his mother during the unrest, allegedly due to complications after she was beaten by soldiers, initiated court proceedings against Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini, alleging that his mother was deprived of her right to life.

On October 20, at least one person was killed, and 80 others were wounded by security forces during a second round of unrest, according to media reports and civil society. In addition, media and witnesses reported that police stopped two buses carrying protesters and deployed tear gas inside the buses. Those on the bus could be seen in video footage jumping from the bus windows as oncoming cars swerved to avoid them. Gun shots could also be heard in the video footage, and protesters alleged that police shot at them with rubber bullets as they ran to escape the tear gas. At least one protester was shot with a rubber bullet in the face, according to local media.

There were no credible reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. Some citizens, however, alleged that they were prevented from filing missing persons reports for relatives who disappeared during the civil unrest.

There were numerous reports that security forces employed such practices. The law prohibits police from inflicting, instigating, or tolerating torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. It also establishes a disciplinary offense for officers who use violence or unnecessary force, or who intimidate prisoners or others with whom they have contact in the execution of their duties. During the year there were several reports of police brutality towards those alleged to have violated curfews that were imposed during the unrest and continued under the auspices of COVID-19 responses. According to media and civil society, security forces beat citizens on the buttocks and elsewhere for breaking curfew. There was also a report that soldiers forced a group of boys to eat raw meat they were preparing to cook. According to media reports the boys were within the confines of their homestead but were gathered after curfew. There were numerous reports of police brutality during drug raids in Lavumisa and Hosea, including one report in August of a pregnant woman who was beaten badly by police and subsequently miscarried. Thomas Nhlanhla Tsabedze, whose leg was amputated after being shot in the June unrest, sued the government after police officers in August allegedly kicked his amputated leg stump repeatedly until the stiches broke open. In October 60 workers from the Swaziland Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union claimed that soldiers stopped them from traveling to a planned protest march, beat them, and forced them to roll in the mud.

There were isolated reports throughout the country of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by “community police,” untrained volunteer security personnel who exist outside the country’s formal legal structures and are empowered by rural communities to act as vigilantes, patrolling against rural crimes such as cattle rustling. In September a community police officer allegedly shot a man in the leg. REPS reported they initiated an investigation into the matter.

Impunity was a problem in the security forces. HMCS, REPS, and the military had internal mechanisms to investigate alleged wrongdoing and apply disciplinary measures. The reliability of such internal mechanisms, however, remained unclear, although members of these forces have been investigated, prosecuted, and convicted. Where impunity existed, it generally was attributable more to inefficiency than politicization or corruption, although the latter remained legitimate concerns. Security forces employed training modules to help promote respect for human rights.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. There were reports that the government failed to observe these requirements.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the government often failed to respect judicial independence. The king appoints Supreme Court and High Court justices. According to the constitution, these appointments are made with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission, which is chaired by the chief justice and consists of other royal appointees, but civil society groups alleged that the king made judicial appointments without consultations.

Judicial powers are based on a dual legal system: Roman-Dutch law, and a system of traditional courts that follows traditional law and custom. Although a 2018 High Court ruling determined that the constitution is the law of the land and takes precedence when there is a conflict between traditional law and the constitution, there was sometimes no clear delineation of jurisdiction between the two legal systems. This gray area allowed for judicial discretion and alleged government interference. Neither the Supreme Court nor the High Court, which interpret the constitution, have jurisdiction in matters concerning the Offices of the King or Queen Mother, the regency, chieftaincies, the Swati National Council (the king’s advisory body), or the traditional regiments system. Unwritten traditional law and custom govern all these institutions. Traditional courts did not recognize many of the fundamental rights provided for in the constitution and record keeping of traditional court proceedings was limited.

Most citizens who encountered the legal system did so through the 13 traditional courts. Each court has a presiding judicial officer appointed by the king. These courts adjudicate minor offenses and abuses of traditional law and custom. Authorities generally respected and enforced traditional, as well as magistrate, High Court, and Supreme Court rulings.

The constitution and law prohibit such actions except “in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town and country planning, use of mineral resources, and development of land in the public benefit.” The law requires police to obtain a warrant from a magistrate before searching homes or other premises, but officers with the rank of subinspector or higher have authority to conduct a search without a warrant if they believe delay might cause evidence to be lost. There were reports of unlawful interference by the government. In June, July, and October the government disrupted internet services and social media platforms (see section 2.a., internet freedom). After the unrest and looting in late June there were widespread reports of security forces entering homes and demanding receipts for any expensive items such as mattresses or televisions. In August several families in Nhlangano alleged that their homes were entered without judicial or appropriate authorization during drug raids.

Ethiopia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were numerous reports that the government and its representatives committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) in collaboration with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reported numerous cases of unlawful or extrajudicial killings in the context of the conflict in Tigray and the northern part of the country (see section 1.g.). The Federal Police Internal Investigative Bureau investigated cases of criminal acts perpetrated by police. The internal unit’s decisions regarding penalties against police were kept confidential.

The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) had a military police division with a military investigative unit that reported to the military attorney general’s office. The military police passed evidence from their investigations to the prosecutors and defense counsels. The ENDF attorney general directed the investigations and heard the cases in military court.

Unnamed groups of ethnic Gumuz militants reportedly carried out attacks and killings of civilians in various part of Benishangul-Gumuz throughout the year. Local militia groups in Afar and Somali Regions reportedly carried out attacks and killings of civilians as part of a long-running regional boundary dispute in the northeast of the country. The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA)-Shane – an armed separatist group with factions in western, central, and southern Oromia – reportedly killed civilians and government officials in many parts of Oromia, especially in the west.

There were reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

On August 18, HRW reported that since late June authorities had forcibly disappeared ethnic Tigrayans in Addis Ababa. While lawyers and families discovered that the government transferred some individuals to detention centers in Afar, the whereabouts of others – including 23 cases HRW documented – remained unknown as of early August. A lawyer shared with HRW a list of an additional 110 persons whose relatives said their whereabouts were unknown as of August 2. HRW reported that several disappeared individuals had been released and re-arrested as of early December.

On September 13, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated reports suggested, “people of Tigrayan ethnicity have been profiled and detained by law enforcement officials on ethnic grounds, with hundreds having reportedly been arrested in recent security sweeps, mostly in Addis Ababa, and several businesses belonging to ethnic Tigrayans having reportedly been closed.”

In early November the BBC, CNN, and other news agencies reported on widespread detentions of ethnic Tigrayans in Addis Ababa and throughout the country; such reports continued at year’s end.

On November 8, the EHRC reported authorities appeared to be arresting persons “based on ethnicity” under a nationwide state of emergency declaration, which gave them power to detain “people suspected of collaborating with terrorist groups on reasonable grounds.”

In early December East Africa regional representatives for OHCHR estimated security forces had detained between 5,000 and 7,000 individuals since the government declared the state of emergency on November 2, noting this information was based on preliminary information and likely an underestimate. There were also reports of widespread disappearances on the basis on ethnicity in Western Tigray (see section 1.d.).

Although the constitution prohibits such practices, there were reports that security officials tortured and otherwise abused detainees.

The World Organization Against Torture and its partner the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia reported that the government reintroduced torture in its security operations connected to the armed conflict in the northern part of the country and failed to hold soldiers accused of torture accountable (see section 1.g.).

During an EHRC investigation in Oromia early in the year, detainees reported police beat them during arrests and in detention. The EHRC’s monitoring teams found evidence of injuries on some detainees who reported police beatings.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there were two open allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to a UN peacekeeping mission: one submitted in 2018 allegedly involving an exploitative relationship with an adult in the UN Mission in Liberia and one submitted in late 2020 allegedly involving transactional sex in the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei. As of October the United Nations had substantiated the 2018 allegation and repatriated the perpetrator, but the government had not yet reported regarding accountability measures taken. Concerning the 2020 allegation, the United Nations had taken an interim action (suspension of payments), but results of the investigation remained pending, as was any final action.

Impunity remained a problem, although some measures were taken to hold security forces accountable for human rights abuses. Lack of transparency regarding those being charged and tried in courts of law made it difficult to assess the government’s accountability efforts. In May the federal attorney general’s office released a summary report of its efforts to ensure accountability regarding violations of national and international law in Tigray. Government investigators examined allegations that members of the ENDF engaged in killing of civilians, rape, and other forms of gender-based violence and looting and destruction of property. Military prosecutors charged 28 soldiers for killing civilians without military necessity, and 25 soldiers for committing acts of sexual violence including rape. As of year’s end trials were underway. In addition, three soldiers were convicted and sentenced for rape, and one soldier was convicted and sentenced for killing a civilian. At year’s end the military police were also investigating several other cases of alleged conflict-related crimes. Human rights groups criticized the military’s accountability efforts for lacking transparency.

The constitution and federal law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government rarely observed these requirements, especially regarding the mass detentions made under the state of emergency (see section 1.b.).

The law provides for an independent judiciary. Although the civil courts operated with a large degree of independence, criminal courts remained weak and overburdened.

The law generally requires authorities to obtain court-issued search warrants prior to searching private property, although the government did not always enforce this, especially under the state of emergency imposed in November. The law also recognizes exceptions for “hot pursuit” cases in which a suspect enters premises or disposes of items that are the subject of an offense committed on the premises. This legal exception also applies when police have reasonable suspicion that evidence of a crime punishable if convicted by more than three years’ imprisonment is concealed on or in the property and a delay in obtaining a search warrant could allow for the evidence to be removed. Freedom House reported the government used location tracking and other technical means to surveil online and telephone communications. In addition, the government blocked or filtered websites for political reasons, and there was reportedly no mechanism to appeal website blocking.

Beginning in November 2020, fighting between the ENDF and TPLF resulted in protracted conflict throughout the northern area of Tigray Region. During the year the conflict spread into neighboring Amhara and Afar Regions, where serious abuses were also reported. As of year’s end there was very limited access to Tigray, except for the capital Mekele, resulting in a lack of reporting on human rights abuses in Tigray. There were numerous reports of looting and destruction of infrastructure in Tigray, Amhara, and Afar, including in refugee camps. There were reports that government security forces, regional security forces, the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), private militias, and the TPLF all committed human rights abuses.

Killings: There were widespread reports that government security forces killed civilians in the context of the continuing conflict in the northern part of the country. Reports of regional militias, EDF, and rebel groups killing civilians in the context of the conflict were likewise widespread.

In early and mid-January, local and international media reported that the ENDF killed at least 30 civilians in Mai Harmaz in western Tigray and at least 11 civilians in Mahibere Dego in central Tigray. Media also reported that on or about February 11, ENDF soldiers killed 18 civilians in Wikro in eastern Tigray Region. Staff from Medecins Sans Frontieres reported witnessing ENDF soldiers kill four civilians in Adigrat, Tigray, in March. On April 9, a partner organization of the NGO-operated Armed Conflict Location and Event Database Project reported that ENDF soldiers killed at least 33 civilians in Selekleka in northern Tigray.

In August multiple news agencies, including Agence France-Presse, the New York Times, the Associated Press, and CNN, did feature stories regarding the bodies of what appeared to be executed Tigrayans being found in the town Wad al-Hilou, Sudan, which is 40 miles along the Tekeze River from Humera, Ethiopia. On September 13, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated, “We have received disturbing reports that local fishermen found dozens of bodies floating along the river crossing between Western Tigray and Sudan in July. Some allegedly had gunshot wounds and bound hands, indications that they might have been detained and tortured before being killed.” CNN reported that many of the bodies bore marks of “extensive torture.” One CNN witness had counted 60 bodies to date. According to CNN, the bodies were believed to be the remains of Tigrayans incarcerated in Humera by the ENDF and associated militia groups. According to a Sudanese forensic expert who identified some of the bodies, “We found clear signs of a systematic manner of torture – aggressive and painful violence with intent to kill. The victims were dead before they hit the water.”

According to a mid-December Amnesty International and HRW report, Amhara security forces were responsible for a surge of mass detentions, killings, and forced expulsions of ethnic Tigrayans in Western Tigray. Earlier that month HRW reported Tigrayan forces had executed dozens of civilians in two towns they temporarily controlled in Amhara Region. According to the November 3 OHCHR-EHRC report, there were reasonable grounds to believe all parties to the conflict – including the ENDF, EDF, and TPLF – carried out indiscriminate attacks resulting in civilian casualties and destruction or damage to civilian objects. According to reports by the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, al-Jazeera, SkyNews, and others, on June 22, government forces bombed a marketplace in Togogo, Tigray Region, killing dozens of civilians. Medical personnel told Reuters the ENDF blocked them from reaching the site of the attack.

Abductions: According to the November 3 OHCHR-EHRC report, the ENDF detained individuals in secret locations and military camps, in many cases arbitrarily. The TPLF and groups allied to them reportedly arbitrarily detained and abducted non-Tigrayan civilians some of whom were killed or disappeared.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture:According to the November 3 OHCHR-EHRC report, all parties to the conflict engaged in torture and ill-treatment of civilians and captured combatants. Victims were reportedly beaten with electric cables and metal pipes, detained incommunicado, threatened with guns to their heads, and deprived of food and water. Civilians in Western Tigray were reportedly tortured and ill-treated mainly because of their ethnic identities as Amhara. Elsewhere, captured soldiers and fighters, as well as civilians suspected of providing support to them, were reportedly tortured. According to the OHCHR-EHRC report, on April 2, in Samre, EDF soldiers forcibly paraded at least 600 Tigrayan men, who were stripped to their underpants or naked, through the town. The report detailed how the TPLF also subjected captured ENDF soldiers to public view.

Reports were widespread that parties to the conflict in the northern part of the country used rape as a weapon of war, with numerous allegations against the ENDF, EDF, and Amhara Regional Special Forces and associated militia groups. Amnesty International documented 1,288 cases of sexual violence attributed to government forces between February and April. In February the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth recognized the widespread use of rape in Tigray, establishing a task force to investigate allegations and send a report to the Attorney General’s Office. Women and girls in Tigray reported to local and international media that men in Ethiopian military uniforms subjected them to rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, sexual mutilation, sexual exploitation and abuse, and other forms of gender-based violence. Survivors reported that pregnant women, women with disabilities, and young girls were targeted, and that in some cases rapists used ethnic slurs. One woman reported to Reuters that men dressed in Ethiopian military uniforms killed her 12-year-old son in Mekelle, then took her to a camp where she was held with other female captives and repeatedly raped for 10 days in mid- to late-February. In other similar reports survivors reported difficulty distinguishing whether their abusers were Ethiopian soldiers or Eritreans wearing Ethiopian uniforms. According to the OHCHR-EHRC report, there were reasonable grounds to believe that all parties to the conflict committed sexual and gender-based violence, with the ENDF, EDF, and TPLF implicated in multiple reports of gang rape. A November 9 report by Amnesty International documented more than a dozen reports of rapes committed by TPLF fighters.

In June the Attorney General’s Office stated that the court convicted four ENDF soldiers of rape, and that 21 additional suspects had been charged with committing acts of sexual violence and rape.

Child Soldiers:There were some reports of conscription and use of child soldiers by government forces and armed groups.

In August Tigrayan teenagers reported to the BBC that the TPLF had been forcibly conscripting child soldiers. Since June the government accused the TPLF of using child soldiers, but the TPLF spokesperson denied the allegations.

On September 29, local media reported that authorities in the Borana Zone in southern Oromia were forcibly conscripting youth to join the ENDF. Local officials dismissed these reports as propaganda.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: In the context of the conflict in the northern part of the country, international organizations, including the United Nations, reported that a humanitarian crisis, including man-made widespread famine was unfolding and sought to assist with basic services, food, and medical supplies. The government, however, significantly impeded or blocked access to areas in need of humanitarian assistance, especially in Tigray. In June the UN’s top humanitarian official, Mark Lowcock, stated that soldiers were deliberately blocking supplies to the more than one million persons in areas outside of government control and told Reuters, “Food is definitely being used as a weapon of war.” On October 8, the NGO InterAction noted the use of “starvation as warfare.”

According to the November 3 OHCHR-EHRC report, there were reasonable grounds to believe all parties to the conflict – including the ENDF, EDF and TPLF – either directly attacked civilians and civilian objects, such as houses, schools, hospitals, and places of worship. In addition, there were reports of large-scale destruction and appropriation of property by all parties to the conflict, as well as forcible displacement of civilians on a broad scale.

Fiji

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were no reports of such killings by or on behalf of the government during the year.

In April 2020, four corrections officers at the Lautoka Corrections Center allegedly murdered one prisoner and assaulted two others. The officers were arrested and charged; in September 2020 a court granted the officers bail. As of December 2021, the trial had not yet opened.

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

The constitution and law prohibit torture, forced medical treatment, and degrading treatment or punishment. The Public Order Act (POA, see section 1.d.), however, authorizes the government to use whatever force it deems necessary to enforce public order. There were reports security forces abused persons.

The police Internal Affairs Unit is responsible for investigating complaints of police misconduct. As of December, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions charged 56 officers with police misconduct.

Court proceedings into an alleged assault on two suspects by eight police officers in Tavua in March 2020 continued as of December.

On October 8, the high court extended bail for four police officers charged for assaulting a 32-year-old man and throwing him off a bridge in Naqia Tailevu in April 2020. The man allegedly broke COVID-19 curfew rules.

Two inmates alleged corrections officers assaulted and took nude photographs of them during a strip search in 2019. Investigations were ongoing as of December.

On March 3, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions charged 10 corrections officers for an alleged 2019 assault against a serving prisoner who later committed suicide.

Impunity remained a problem in the security forces in some politically connected cases. The constitution and POA explicitly provide immunity from prosecution for members of the security forces for any deaths or injuries arising from the use of force deemed necessary to enforce public order. The constitution also provides immunity for the president, prime minister, members of the cabinet, and security forces for actions taken related to the 2000 suppression of a mutiny at military headquarters, the 2006 coup, and the 2009 abrogation of the 1997 constitution.

There is no independent oversight mechanism for the security forces. The law requires the consent or approval of the police commissioner to begin any investigation into or take any disciplinary action against a police officer. Authorized investigations were usually conducted by the Internal Affairs Unit, which reports to the police commissioner, who decides the outcome of the complaint. If the commissioner decides there is a criminal case, it is referred to the public prosecutor for further action. Information regarding the number of complaints, investigatory findings, and disciplinary action taken is not publicly available.

Slow judicial processes contribute to an impression of impunity, especially in police abuse cases. For example, trials had yet to conclude for the alleged 2019 police beating of Pelasio Tamanikoula or the alleged 2019 police beating of prisoner Manasa Rayasidamu. The three officers accused in the Rayasidamu case were suspended from duty and charged with causing grievous harm. Other unresolved cases dated back as far as 2017.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, unless the person is detained under the POA. The government generally observed these requirements. The law details procedures for lawful arrest. Except for arrests under the POA, prisoners must be charged within 24 hours of arrest or released. Under the POA, the minister of defense and national security must authorize detention without charge for a period exceeding 48 hours and may approve extending detention for up to 14 days.

The POA allows authorities to suspend normal due process protections where “necessary to enforce public order.” The POA explicitly disallows any judicial recourse (including habeas corpus) for harms suffered when the government is acting under its provisions. There are also provisions that allow for warrantless searches, restriction of movement (specifically international travel, immigration, or emigration), and permit requirements for political meetings. Authorities also used the POA’s wide provisions to restrict freedom of expression and of association.

For example, in July authorities arrested nine persons, including opposition members of parliament and other prominent political figures, under the POA for social media criticisms of a land law amendment. (See also section 2.a., Freedom of Expression.)

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. On February 11, Parliament enacted two laws to reform the judicial system. The “criminal procedure” law abolished the lay assessor system during trials and placed decision-making authority solely with judges. The “high court amendment” law created a specialized court to enable specific judges and magistrates to preside over and speedily resolve anticorruption cases.

The president appoints or removes from office the Supreme Court, appellate, and high court judges on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission in consultation with the attorney general. The commission, following consultations with the attorney general, may appoint other judicial officers.

On September 21, President Jioji Konrote suspended Solicitor-General Sharvada Sharma for alleged “misbehavior” without due process provisions established in the constitution. Chief Justice Kamal Kumar told media that the president would appoint a tribunal to investigate the complaint against the solicitor-general, but on November 12, President Konrote dismissed Sharma.

The constitution and law provide for a variety of restrictions on the jurisdiction of the courts. For example, the courts may not hear challenges to government decisions on judicial restructuring, terms and conditions of remuneration for the judiciary, and terminated court cases. Various other decrees contain similar clauses limiting the jurisdiction of the courts in decisions made by the cabinet, ministers, or government departments.

The constitution prohibits such actions, but the POA permits military personnel to search persons and premises without a warrant from a court and to take photographs, fingerprints, and measurements of any person. Police and military officers also may enter private premises to break up any meeting considered unlawful.

Finland

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions. In September the Office of the Deputy Data Protection Ombudsman reprimanded the Police Board over the use of facial recognition software by the National Bureau for Investigation’s Child Sexual Exploitation Unit. The ombudsman’s report stated that the use of the facial recognition program Clearview AI did not comply with data security and data protection legislation. In response the National Bureau for Investigation said it would stop using the application.

France

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Mechanisms to investigate security force killings and pursue prosecutions include the police disciplinary body, the Inspector General of the National Police (IGPN); the gendarmerie police disciplinary body, the Inspector General of the National Gendarmerie and a separate and independent magistrate that can investigate police abuses.

In July 2020 judicial sources announced that three police officers were charged with manslaughter after the January death of a Paris delivery driver from asphyxia during his arrest by police. A fourth police officer was under investigation but had not been charged. The victim, Cedric Chouviat, was stopped by police close to the Eiffel Tower in January 2020 in a routine traffic stop. In a video acquired by investigators, Chouviat was heard saying, “I’m suffocating,” seven times in 22 seconds as police held him down, allegedly in a chokehold. In June 2020 authorities banned police use of chokeholds to restrain individuals. On June 21, the Ministry of Interior confirmed the three police officers charged had not been suspended. On July 30, the director general of the National Police finalized the ban on chokeholds and replaced their use with three different techniques aimed at allowing police to restrain resisting individuals without applying continuous or prolonged pressure on the larynx.

As of September 17, the country had experienced one terrorist attack during the year. On April 23, a Tunisian national stabbed and killed a police administrative worker as she walked into a police station in Rambouillet, a southwestern suburb of Paris. Police officers shot and killed the attacker. The national antiterror prosecutor has jurisdiction over the investigation because the assailant had previously scouted the site and shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the attack.

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

While the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were several accusations that security and military personnel committed abuses.

During the year there were reports that police used excessive force during regular antigovernment demonstrations. The annual report of the inspector general of the IGPN, published on July 20, found that the number of investigations carried out by the inspectorate decreased by nearly one-quarter, compared with the same period in 2020. Less than one-half of the 1,101 investigations pertained to “willful violence” by officers, a 39 percent decrease from 2019, while 21.5 percent of the cases of alleged police use of force pertained to public demonstrations. The report noted that the complaints related to racism and discrimination increased with 38 complaints registered in 2020 compared with 21 in 2019.

On June 24, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) released the report on its 2019 visit to the country. The report noted that, while most persons interviewed did not report any physical mistreatment by police, several persons indicated to the CPT they had been deliberately beaten by police officer at the time of their arrest or on police premises. The CPT also received allegations of insults, including of a racist or homophobic nature, as well as threats with a weapon.

On June 8, the Paris Court of Appeal ruled that discrimination was behind humiliating police identity checks carried out on three high school students of color in 2017, overturning a previous ruling. The court found the state guilty of “willful misconduct” over stop-and-frisk checks carried out in 2017 and ordered it to pay compensation of 1,500 euros ($1,750) to each of the young men.

On September 14, eight months after the Ministry of Interior opened discussions on police reform following allegations of violence and racism, President Macron announced the creation of a mechanism to allow independent oversight of police with a new body in parliament to assess police actions and increase transparency. Macron also stated that internal investigation reports concerning allegations of police abuse and misconduct would now be made public.

In a report released September 14, Amnesty International stated that police were responsible for abusive and illegal use of force during the “Teknival” dance party in Redon, Brittany, in June. Dozens were injured in the crackdown on the partygoers and organizers, with one participant losing his hand as police used teargas and explosive grenades to break up the event. Based on interviews with multiple witnesses, including journalists, participants, and organization heads as well as videos and other published documents, Amnesty reported it found evidence from the Redon policing operation indicating that the use of force was neither necessary nor proportionate, as is required by both the law and UN basic principles on the use of force. Two investigations were ongoing at the end of the year.

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

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary. The government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality, although delays in bringing cases to trial were a problem. The country does not have an independent military court; the Paris Tribunal of Grand Instance (roughly equivalent to a district court) tries any military personnel alleged to have committed crimes outside the country.

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports of government failure to respect these prohibitions.

The government continued implementing amendments to a 2017 law on Internal Security and Counterterrorism (SILT) that was passed following the 2015 terrorist attacks. SILT codifies certain measures of the 2015-17 state of emergency, including search and seizures, restricting and monitoring movements of certain individuals, and closing religious sites suspected of promoting radical Islam. SILT allows specialized intelligence agencies to conduct real-time surveillance on both networks and individuals regarding a person identified as posing a terrorist threat without approval from a judge. Following passage of the amendments, the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court that ensures that the French administration operates in compliance with the law and that is advisor to both the government and the Supreme Administrative Court, issued three implementing decrees designating the agencies that may engage in such surveillance, including the agencies’ use of devices to establish geolocation.

To prevent acts of terrorism, SILT permits authorities to restrict and monitor the movement of individuals, conduct administrative searches and seizures, close religious institutions for disseminating violent extremist ideas, implement enhanced security measures at public events, and expand identity checks near the country’s borders. The core provisions of SILT were to expire at the end of 2020 unless renewed by parliament. In December 2020 parliament extended SILT until July.

In a July 30 decision, the Constitutional Council approved the Counterterrorism and Intelligence bill that parliament adopted July 22, declaring many “controversial” provisions constitutional. The bill aimed to make permanent some provisions of the 2017 SILT law that were set to expire July 31, including a “judicial measure for the prevention of terrorist recidivism and reintegration” applicable to the perpetrators of terrorist offenses. The council, however, struck down the two-year restriction of freedom of movement for certain convicted prisoners following release from prison, reducing the restriction to one year. According to council officials, the decision intended to reconcile “prevention of breaches of public order” with “the freedom to come and go (and) the right to respect for private and family life.”

Gabon

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There was one report the government or its agents committed an unlawful killing. The Judicial Police, under the Ministry of Justice, are responsible for investigating any abuses or unlawful acts by government security forces. During protests against COVID-19 restrictions in February, credible reports indicate Libreville security forces shot and killed two men.

According to a local nongovernmental organization (NGO), an individual accused of drug trafficking inside the Libreville Central Prison was tortured and beaten with electric cable. He died on October 8.

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

In 2017 the government reported to the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances that, despite opposition allegations of disappearances, no official complaints were filed after the 2016 elections. The committee called on the government to conduct an exhaustive inquiry into postelection violence and to update the law to comply with the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The government’s National Committee of Human Rights opened an inquiry in 2020 that was completed during the year, but a report was not released.

The constitution prohibits such practices. There were reports of torture in prisons where unidentified personnel employed torture (see section 1.a.). A number of high-profile prisoners were kept in solitary confinement for extended periods.

The United Nations on September 15 ordered the withdrawal of the country’s 450-strong peacekeeping contingent from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Meeting in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) regarding sexual abuse allegations. The United Nations stated it had received during the year a total of 33 allegations of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation against troops from the country, which were part of an international peacekeeping force numbering thousands in the Central African Republic (CAR). The country’s authorities opened an investigation following the UN decision to withdraw the country’s contingent. At year’s end the United Nations had not posted final details regarding the investigation to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal; as a result, the reporting in the online portal may not represent the full scale and scope of the country’s peacekeeper abuses in CAR.

According to the portal, prior to the most recent revelations there were seven additional allegations submitted during the year of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to MINUSCA. Six of these involved exploitative relationships with adults, and the seventh involved child rape. As of September 30, there were 22 pending investigations into allegations from the peacekeeping mission in the CAR.

Impunity was a problem in the security forces. Nevertheless, the government took some steps to identify, investigate, and prosecute officials and punish human rights abusers. In 2020 authorities established a national hotline to report abuses by security force members.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for detainees or persons arrested to challenge the legal basis and arbitrary nature of their detention in court; however, the government did not always respect these provisions.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary demonstrated only partial independence and only in some cases. The NGO Freedom House alleged the executive branch exercised firm control over the judiciary. The judiciary was inefficient. The president appoints and may dismiss judges through the Ministry of Justice, to which the judiciary is accountable. Corruption was a problem. For example, individuals charged with offenses reportedly paid bribes to influence the judicial process, avoid facing trial, or both.

Authorities generally respected court orders.

Although the constitution and law prohibit such actions, the government did not always respect these prohibitions. As part of criminal investigations, police requested and easily obtained search warrants from judges, sometimes after the fact. Security forces conducted warrantless searches for irregular immigrants and criminal suspects. Authorities reportedly monitored private telephone conversations, personal mail, and the movement of citizens.

Gambia, The

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

Families of individuals detained during the Jammeh regime continued to demand information on their missing relatives and ask that those responsible for killings, disappearances, and other serious crimes be held accountable.

The constitution and the law prohibit such practices, but there were reports security personnel engaged in degrading treatment of citizens.

In July 2020 Commander Gorgi Mboob of the Police Anti-Crime Unit assaulted Ebrima Sanneh, an arrestee, at the unit’s headquarters in Bijilo. In October 2020 the inspector general of police demoted Mboob at the recommendation of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). On July 26, the inspector general reappointed Mboob to his position. The NHRC requested an explanation from the inspector general concerning Mboob’s return, but at year’s end had not received an answer.

According to the online portal Conduct in UN Field Missions, there was one open allegation (submitted in 2018) of sexual exploitation and abuse by one of the country’s peacekeepers deployed to a UN peacekeeping mission, allegedly involving an exploitative relationship with an adult from 2013 to 2015. The United Nations completed its investigation and awaited additional information from the government. Authorities did not provide the additional information or accountability measures taken.

Impunity remained a problem in the security forces, including in the prison service, police, and military. Factors contributing to impunity included corruption, inadequate training, and lack of oversight and accountability mechanisms. Offices charged with investigation abuses included the NHRC, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparation Commission (TRRC). The Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparation Commission Report, finalized in November and published December 24, provided recommendations to hold alleged wrongdoers from the Jammeh era accountable.

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

Military decrees enacted prior to the adoption of the constitution in 1997 give the National Intelligence Agency and the Interior Ministry broad powers to detain individuals indefinitely without charge “in the interest of national security.” Although these detention decrees are inconsistent with the constitution, no one challenged their legality. The government no longer enforced the decrees.

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

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

Georgia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The State Inspector’s Service investigates whether security force killings were justifiable, and the Prosecutor General’s Office pursues prosecutions of these cases.

In 2019 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) began substantive consideration of the case involving the 2018 death of 18-year-old Temirlan Machalikashvili from gunshot wounds inflicted by security forces during a 2017 counterterrorism raid in the Pankisi Gorge. The Prosecutor General’s Office stated that it terminated its investigation in January 2020 due to the absence of a crime. The Public Defender’s Office responded by urging the Prosecutor General’s Office to reopen the investigation as “several important investigative actions” had not been conducted. Machalikashvili’s father, Malkhaz, alleged the killing was unjustified. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) criticized the investigation as lacking integrity.

The trial for the 2008 death of Badri Patarkatsishvili was pending assignment to a third judge as of August. After prosecutors presented their closing argument in 2019, the case was reassigned to a new judge. The new judge subsequently was moved to a different position. The trial followed an investigation begun in 2018 by the Prosecutor General’s Office (then known as the Chief Prosecutor’s Office) after the release of audio tapes dating back to 2007 in which former government officials were allegedly heard discussing methods of killing Patarkatsishvili that would make death appear natural. A former official of the Internal Affairs Ministry’s Constitutional Security Department, Giorgi Merebashvili, was charged with participating in planning the killing.

In 2019 the Prosecutor General’s Office charged former justice minister Zurab Adeishvili and the leader of opposition party Victorious Georgia, Irakli Okruashvili, with abuse of power in connection with the 2004 killing of Amiran (Buta) Robakidze. At year’s end the trial was in process at Tbilisi City Court.

During the year there was one report of a possible unlawful killing in occupied Abkhazia. On August 12, Anri Ateiba was found unconscious while in the custody of the de facto Abkhaz ministry of interior department of Gagra District and died a month later. On September 14, claims appeared in social media that Ateiba died as a result of a police beating, while Ateiba’s relatives reportedly claimed that police abuse drove him to suicide. On September 14, the de facto ombudsman of Abkhazia, Asida Shakir, called on the de facto prosecutor general’s office of Abkhazia to investigate Ateiba’s death. Media reported the de facto prosecutor general’s office opened a criminal case on October 13 against two district police leaders for “carelessness leading to severe injury or death.”

In early June South Ossetian de facto authorities released from pretrial detention four police officers suspected of involvement in the August 2020 death of Inal Jabiev. Two other officers remained in custody. Jabiev, who reportedly died in the custody of South Ossetian de facto police, was allegedly tortured to death. The release of the four officers followed the reported June 5 opening of a criminal case by local de facto authorities against the forensic medical expert whose preliminary examination attributed Jabiev’s death to acute heart failure that developed as a result of injury. According to a May report from the Democracy Research Institute, the South Ossetian de facto prosecutor’s office issued an arrest warrant for Inal Jabiev’s brother, Atsamaz Jabiev, in connection with obscene “antistate” remarks made at a rally and in front of the office. Jabiev’s reported death sparked widespread protests in occupied South Ossetia leading to the removal of the de facto minister of internal affairs, Igor Naniev, the resignation of the de facto prime minister, and the dissolution of the de facto government by the de facto president.

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

On April 7, Azerbaijani freelance journalist and activist Afghan Mukhtarli returned to the country to provide testimony to the Prosecutor General’s Office in connection with his reported 2017 abduction and forced rendition to Azerbaijan. The Prosecutor General’s Office acknowledged a crime had been committed against him and conferred “victim status” on him. In an April 22 interview with Meydan TV, Mukhtarli asserted that government bodies, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service, had cooperated with Azerbaijan’s State Border Service and State Security Service in his abduction. Following Mukhtarli’s March 2020 release from Azerbaijani prison, he moved to Germany where he resided with his family. In the absence of accountability, concerns continued regarding impunity for government officials in connection with the Mukhtarli case.

More than 2,300 individuals remained missing following the 1992-93 war in Abkhazia and the 2008 Russian invasion, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Despite some signs of progress on the investigation into the disappearances of ethnic Ossetians Alan Khachirov, Alan Khugaev, and Soltan Pliev, who disappeared in 2008, the cases remained unresolved.

After suspending sessions in 2020 due to COVID-19, the government resumed meetings of the Interagency Commission on Missing Persons in July.

While the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were reports government officials employed them. The public defender’s report for 2020, published in April, noted that ineffective investigations continued to be a significant obstacle to fighting mistreatment by government officials. The report also noted isolated incidents of alleged physical violence against prisoners by the staff of closed prison facilities and some incidents of what the report termed “psychological violence,” including verbal abuse of prisoners by prison staff in such facilities for going on a hunger strike, lodging complaints against the staff, or telephoning the Public Defender’s Office. The report termed the incidents of physical and psychological violence by police against persons in custody to be mistreatment. According to the report, the total number of mistreatment allegations was 463. Bodily injuries inflicted either during or after arrest featured in 34.3 percent of the 463 allegations, up from 12.8 percent in 2016.

As of September the Public Defender’s Office had sent letters, but not official referrals, for 194 cases of alleged human rights violations in government institutions to the State Inspector’s Service (SIS) for investigation. Of the cases, 99 concerned alleged violations by Internal Affairs Ministry personnel and prosecutors, 93 involved alleged crimes by penitentiary department staff, one concerned an alleged crime by a Finance Ministry employee, and one involved a death in a state clinic. There were six cases of protracted investigation relating to mistreatment and 12 cases that involved general inhuman conditions in prison.

As of year’s end, the SIS Investigative Department received 3,115 crime reports of alleged mistreatment committed by civil servants. According to the SIS, 55 of the reports were sent by the Public Defender’s Office, compared with 44 in 2020; of those, 30 concerned alleged violations committed by Ministry of Internal Affairs personnel, and 25 involved crimes allegedly committed by Special Penitentiary Service staff. Of the 55 reports, the SIS opened investigations into 17. The SIS transferred 243 reports to the Prosecutor General’s Office and 385 reports to other agencies, as they did not fall within the SIS’ investigative scope. The service determined that 2,125 reports had no signs of a crime. In 365 cases, the SIS Investigative Department opened criminal investigations. Of these 365 criminal investigations, 49 concerned crimes allegedly committed by the staff of the Special Penitentiary Service. Of the above-mentioned 49 cases, the Prosecutor General’s Office terminated the investigation of three criminal cases due to the absence of a criminal act under the law.

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) reported it had consulted victims on 13 allegations of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. GYLA filed a legal case involving one allegation with the SIS, prepared applications for the SIS in four cases, and participated in one case proceeding where the investigation was suspended. Additionally, GYLA was involved with cases connected to the July 5-6 violence (see section 2.b., Freedom of Assembly) and sent applications in the name of nine applicants to the Prosecutor General’s Office to start an investigation into police actions. GYLA consulted victims on six such allegations in 2020.

On October 1, the government announced that former president Mikheil Saakashvili had returned to the country and been detained on various charges and convictions in absentia. The convictions in absentia included abuse of power for ordering the physical assault on a former member of parliament (see the 2018 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Georgia). On November 11, the Public Defender’s Office asked the SIS to initiate an investigation into alleged violations of former president Saakashvili’s rights by the Ministry of Justice and Special Penitentiary Service (SPS) by forcibly transferring him from Prison N12 in Rustavi to Prison Hospital N18 in Gldani, after his prolonged hunger strike. The Public Defender’s Office stated, “On November 11, 2021, the Ministry of Justice violated the prisoner’s right to honor, dignity, and privacy by releasing video footage showing the placement of Mikheil Saakashvili in Medical Establishment N18 against his will, seminaked, and in a degrading condition.” According to the SIS, the video recordings requested for the investigation had not been provided to SIS by the SPS but had been disclosed to the public. The Public Defender’s Office further alleged that “SPS restricted the 3rd President of Georgia (Saakashvili) from participating in his own trial, which violated the right to a fair trial enshrined in the Constitution of Georgia, since Saakashvili had not been allowed to appear before court on three occasions since his arrest and imprisonment.” On November 19, former president Saakashvili was transferred to the Ministry of Defense Gori Military Hospital for treatment of a critical health condition. Following his recovery, Saakashvili was returned to SPS Penitentiary Establishment N12 on December 30, where he remained.

On December 30, Georgian Dream members of parliament voted to abolish the SIS as of March 2022. In its place, two separate agencies to investigate abuse of power by law enforcement officials and to protect personal data were scheduled to be established. In contrast to the previous mandate to investigate all law enforcement equally, the law does not authorize the new investigative agency to investigate certain crimes committed by prosecutors, such as murder and bodily harm. As part of the reorganization, the State Inspector was scheduled to be removed from office in March 2022, despite the fact that she had three years remaining in her constitutionally mandated term. Ruling party members of parliament expedited the vote by introducing the legislation and holding all three readings on it in less than a week without consultation with key stakeholders and in the face of strong domestic and international criticism. In the days leading up to parliament’s actions, the SIS had been investigating alleged inhuman treatment of former president Saakashvili during his forced November transfer from the Rustavi prison to the Gldani penitentiary clinic. The SIS had recently stated that the Justice Ministry and the Special Penitentiary Service violated the data protection law by releasing several controversial videos of Saakashvili’s transfer.

Trials against three police officers stemming from the June 2019 antigovernment demonstrations continued during the year. The officers were charged with exceeding authority by using violence or weapons, which is punishable by up to eight years’ imprisonment and deprivation of the right to hold public office for up to three years (see section 2.b., Freedom of Assembly). In September all three defendants were released from criminal responsibility under the Law on Amnesty passed on September 7.

During the year the trial of detective investigator Konstantine Kochishvili for allegedly physically assaulting a minor in 2019 by spitting in his face, beating him, and breaking his arm continued. Authorities arrested Kochishvili in 2019 and charged him with degrading and inhuman treatment. In February 2020 the Rustavi City Court released the defendant on bail. As of November the trial continued at Rustavi City Court. The next hearing was postponed, however, for an indefinite period.

Several former officials remained on trial in absentia at Tbilisi City Court in various cases of torture and other crimes allegedly committed under the former government. The officials included the former deputy chief of the general staff, Giorgi Kalandadze; the former deputy culture minister, Giorgi Udesiani; and the former director of the Gldani No. 8 Prison, Aleksandre Mukhadze. (Udesiani and Mukhadze’s cases had a new judge appointed because the presiding judge was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2019; the new judge ruled the case would be reheard based on a motion by the defense.) Kalandadze’s case remained pending with a hearing scheduled for September. Mukhadze was convicted in absentia on another charge related to Sergo Tetradze in 2014 and received a nine-year prison sentence.

On April 7, de facto authorities in Russian-occupied Abkhazia detained Russian tourist Artyom Russkikh on suspicion of involvement in drug sales. De facto police repeatedly moved Russkikh, beat him, threatened to kill him, including by simulating executions of hanging with a garden hose and drowning in a mountain stream, and brandished a pistol. The beatings resulted in three broken ribs, multiple bruises, and internal injuries, including to his kidneys. Russkikh was ultimately released and deported to Russia. Following media attention, on September 15 Abkhaz de facto prosecutors initiated a criminal case for exceeding authority against the three de facto police officers implicated in the alleged criminal activity. The three were reportedly suspended from duty during the investigation.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government’s observance of these prohibitions was uneven, and reports of selective or arbitrary arrests continued.

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, there remained indications of interference in judicial independence and impartiality. Judges were vulnerable to political pressure from within and outside the judiciary on cases involving politically sensitive subjects or individuals.

The Public Defender’s Office, the nongovernmental Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, and the international community continued to raise concerns regarding a lack of judicial independence. During the year they highlighted problems, including the influence of a group of judges primarily consisting of High Council of Justice (HCOJ) members and court chairs that allegedly stifled critical opinions within the judiciary and obstructed proposals to strengthen judicial independence. NGOs referred to this group of influential and nonreformist judges as the “clan.” Other problems they highlighted included the impact of the High Council’s powers on the independence of individual judges, manipulation of the case distribution system, a lack of transparency in the High Council’s activities, and shortcomings in the High Council’s appointments of judges and court chairpersons. Civil society and opposition representatives suggested the respective prosecutions involving Lelo Party founders Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze, UNM Chair Nika Melia, and Mtavari Arkhi General Director Nika Gvaramia, in particular, were politically motivated.

In analyzing four waves of judicial reform and other changes in the law since 2013, civil society stakeholders agreed that the reforms were ineffective due to the lack of political will to foster an independent judiciary, since a large majority of positive changes in the law remained unimplemented or were only partially implemented. As the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary stated on June 21, “legislative changes of 2013-2021 can be characterized as an illusory and incomplete attempt at an institutional modernization of the judiciary, which ultimately created an imitation of a positive transformation instead of a real and systemic change. The change of government in 2012 was a good precondition for fundamental reforms, but the lack of political will and fragmented legislative initiatives carried out in the last nine years have failed to meet the most important challenge pertinent to the Georgian context. In particular, the reform did not affect the role of real power and de facto influential groups in the judiciary. The result is a clan-based governance, where a small influential group of judges controls the judiciary, not in the interest of justice, but in its private interest.”

Under an April 19 agreement between the ruling and most opposition political parties, the parties committed to comprehensive reform of the justice system. While the ruling party withdrew from the agreement in July, it publicly stated it would follow through on the commitments on judicial reform in the agreement. Based on this document, the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary and the public defender called on parliament to start working on fundamental justice sector reform through an inclusive process. The coalition stated that “despite four waves of reform, public trust towards the judiciary is still critically low, the High Council of Justice fails to ensure the system’s independence and efficiency. The lack of trust in the judiciary and the signs of selective and politicized justice also contribute to the aggravation of the political crisis and the escalation of the situation.” Both the public defender and the coalition stressed the importance of reforming the selection and appointment process for members of the High Council of Justice, so that nonjudge members of the High Council are appointed by the parliament based on consensus and judge members are elected without internal and external influence. On May 18, the coalition stressed the importance of selecting judge and nonjudge members of the High Council in a fair and transparent process and selecting candidates on merit. Despite these calls, parliament had not begun working on comprehensive judicial reform as of year’s end.

Following passage of the 2019 “fourth wave” of judicial reform, the authority to select individual court chairs remained with the High Council of Justice. NGOs warned this power would allow the High Council to continue to influence individual judges. NGOs reported one of the levers court chairs used to influence the outcomes of cases was creating narrowly specialized chambers in larger courts to manipulate the randomized case assignment process. At their sole discretion, court chairpersons assigned judges to narrowly specialized chambers without clear rules or pre-established criteria. A court chairperson could at any time reshuffle the composition of narrowly specialized chambers and change the specialization of a judge. Chairpersons were not legally required to substantiate such a decision.

The long-standing practice of transferring judges from one court to another also remained a problem. Decisions regarding transfers were made by the High Council of Justice, and these decisions were unsubstantiated.

Administrative chambers adjudicate election disputes. Most of the judges transferred to administrative chambers panels reportedly were affiliated with the “clan,” and almost all of them were associated with high-profile cases.

NGOs reported the courts did not serve as an effective check over election administration bodies following the October municipal elections while reviewing appeals against decisions made by the precinct and district election commissions. In a December 22 report, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy stated, “The court mainly followed the practice established by the election commissions and made decisions through narrow interpretation of the election legislation. Court decisions were as if copied from a template and failed to meet the minimum standard of justification.”

As of December there were 343 judges in all common courts (including the Supreme Court) and 92 judicial positions were vacant. At the same time court observers and lawyers agreed that delayed and lengthy judicial proceedings were one of the main obstacles for accessing justice. It its report Judicial System Reform in Georgia 2013-2021, GYLA said, “The workload must allow the judge to administer justice within the time limits prescribed by law so that their decent working conditions are secured;” however, “it is still unclear what the judicial authorities plan to compose the system with a sufficient number of judges.” As a result of the backlog, the vast majority of judges failed to comply with statutory terms for case review, which can be subject to judicial discipline. According to the Office of the Inspector for Judicial Discipline under the High Council of Justice, 60 of 118 complaints reported in the first three-quarters of the year (January-September) concerned case delays.

The amendment to the Law on Common Courts adopted on December 30 introduced a new type of judicial disciplinary misconduct under which the expression of opinion without “political neutrality” can result in the discipline and punishment of judges. This change imposed an additional restriction on the freedom of expression of judges. The existing law already restricted judges’ participation in political activities and provided an exhaustive list of political activities that could result in judicial discipline. The rationale for adding a new type of misconduct was not clear, and the explanatory note provided no evidence-based analysis that justified an additional restriction on the constitutional right of judges to freedom of expression.

On May 26, the Conference of Judges (an entity composed of all judges in the country’s courts) held an extraordinary session and elected four new judge-members of the High Council of Justice for four-year terms. The international community, civil society, the Public Defender’s Office, and opposition parties had urged parliament to pause High Council of Justice elections until rules were changed to ensure the transparency and fairness of the process. GYLA stated that the scheduled Conference of Judges session “takes place mainly in a noncompetitive environment, and the (High) Council usually has an intake of the leaders of an influential group of judges.” In a postconference statement, GYLA asserted that judges did not know the identity of the candidates in advance and did not have an opportunity to hear the candidates’ opinions regarding the judicial system. Despite this, a majority of judges supported the nominated candidates without asking y questions or showing deeper interest.

The leadership of the judiciary continued the practice of electing High Council members and members in other governing bodies in a nontransparent manner. On October 31, the Conference of Judges elected two new members of the High Council of Justice, as well as a member of the Independent Board of the High School of Justice and two members of the Disciplinary Collegium under the High Council. The appointments took place on the day after local elections and only four days after the publication of the Conference of Judges’ agenda. The predecessors of the new appointees to the High Council, two women (replaced by two male candidates who allegedly were closely affiliated with the group of influential judges), had unexpectedly resigned from their mandates before their terms expired. No announcement of candidates was made in advance of the appointments. Local and international community criticized the judiciary for lack of transparency in this process.

On November 1, GYLA called the preterm elections “a manipulation of the clan government. Monitoring the election process of the High Council of Justice members manifests that only representatives of the influential group of judges or individuals trusted by the group have a chance to be elected in the High Council of Judges. The influential group fills all strategic, important positions with loyal judges, which contributes to strengthening the already deep-rooted informal hierarchy.” According to a November 2 Georgian Democracy Initiative statement, the timing of the Conference of Judges session was chosen purposefully: “With the society consumed with other urgent matters, we believe the ‘Clan’ is trying to seize the opportunity to install loyal and trusted judges to the body. This will ensure their continued influence on the (High) Council for years to come.”

In June the High Council nominated nine candidates for parliamentary appointment to the Supreme Court. Civil society criticized the selection process. For example, the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary called it arbitrary, unfair, and problematic. Despite calls from the international community and civil society to refrain from Supreme Court appointments until after comprehensive judicial reforms called for in the April 19 agreement, parliament appointed six of nine nominated candidates to the Supreme Court on July 12. GYLA stated that despite questions regarding the competence and integrity of the candidates, parliament appointed judges who were loyal to the influential group of judges pejoratively referred to as the “clan.” In its final assessment report, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) stated that “appointment of new judges to Georgia’s highest court lacked integrity and credibility, though the procedure was generally well run.”

The HCOJ) and parliament resumed the Supreme Court justice appointment process after the local elections. In December parliament appointed four more justices to the Supreme Court. On December 2, the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary called the appointments “unjustified and damaging.” According to the coalition, “The existing rules for the selection and appointment of judges are fundamentally problematic, as they do not sufficiently mitigate the risks of internal and external influences on the process. At the same time, the Parliament makes a final decision based on a single-party vote, in the absence of a broad political consensus. Consequently, in this context, the appointment of four Supreme Court judges further reduces the already deficient trust in the justice system.” Despite civil society criticism, parliament rushed to fill the last (28th) vacant judicial position in the Supreme Court, and on December 29 during an extraordinary parliamentary session and through an expedited confirmation process, it appointed the candidate put forward by the HCOJ.

In February and March, the HCOJ announced an open competition to fill 88 vacant judicial positions in trial courts and the Court of Appeals. On June 17, the HCOJ concluded the competition by filling 47 judicial vacancies. As a result of the competition, 22 new judges, who were High School of Justice graduates, entered the system. In addition, the HCOJ reappointed for lifetime terms 24 sitting judges and one former judge. Seven candidates were appointed in appellate courts, and 40 candidates were appointed in trial courts. Under the “fourth wave” of judicial reform legislation, the HCOJ is required to provide reasoning for the appointment or rejection of judicial candidates. As in previous years, however, these “sufficient justifications” were not provided. NGOs highlighted the need for written justifications addressing integrity and competence in the appointments of judges.

Access to court decisions was restricted. Despite a 2019 constitutional ruling that obliged parliament to provide public access to court decisions by the standards established by the Constitutional Court, parliament failed to comply with the obligation. Courts stopped publishing decisions in May 2020.

In an October 26 report, the NGO Transparency International/Georgia evaluated the existing legal regulations and established practices for promotion in the country’s courts. The study analyzed decisions made by the High Council of Judges on the promotion of judges in the 2015-20 period. The study found that the promotion system was used by the clan of influential judges as an important lever in maintaining their internal influence. According to the study, 35 judges were promoted without competition since 2015. The judges were transferred from various courts mainly to the Tbilisi Court of Appeals. There were only three cases where judges were transferred to the Kutaisi Court of Appeals. The trend of transferring judges mainly to the Tbilisi Court of Appeals raised questions, since district courts suffered more from the shortage of judges. The study noted that the judges who were promoted were usually ones loyal to the influential group.

On December 22, Georgian Dream members of parliament initiated draft amendments to the Organic Law on Common Courts and requested expedited adoption of the amendments. The draft changes affected disciplinary hearings, transfers of judges, and business travel of judges. They also allowed election to the same position on the High Council of Justice two times in a row.

Information on the draft amendments became public through the media on December 27, the day that parliament commenced expedited proceedings on the amendments. The text of the draft became available on parliament’s website the same day. There were no public consultations or discussions regarding the proposed amendments with the participation of the legal community, civil society organizations (CSOs) or the ombudsman. It was not known whether consultations were conducted with the judiciary, including the HCOJ, the association of judges, individual judges, or the disciplinary inspector.

On December 28, the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary expressed concern over the expedited review of the amendments and that the process was taking place in the pre-New Year’s period without public involvement and consultations. CSOs urged parliament to suspend consideration of the draft amendments and establish a platform aimed at broad public participation and consensus to study the need for fundamental reforms of the justice system and develop corresponding changes.

In just three days, however, parliament went through all stages of proceedings, including two hearings, debates, and three rounds of voting. On December 30, parliament adopted the draft.

According to the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, “The changes clearly weaken individual judges and strengthen intra-corporatism and clan influences within the system. They contradict the government’s commitment to fundamentally reform the justice system with an aim to create independent and accountable courts and to restore trust in the judiciary. The changes further strengthen the High Council of Justice and make individual judges more vulnerable to the power of this institution. It can be confidently said that all the above-mentioned will have a negative effect on critical and dissenting opinions in the judiciary, which are already deficient.”

The constitution and law prohibit such actions without court approval or legal necessity and prohibit police from searching a residence or conducting nonconsensual electronic surveillance or monitoring operations without a warrant. NGOs, media, and others asserted the government did not respect these prohibitions. For example, there were widespread reports that the government monitored the political opposition. Civil society, journalists, and the international community raised concerns regarding the State Security Service’s secret surveillance system and its lack of political neutrality and weak oversight.

On August 1, Nika Gvaramia, director general of the pro-opposition channel Mtavari Arkhi TV, accused the State Security Service in a broadcast of spying on opposition politicians, government officials, NGOs, journalists, foreign diplomats, clergy, and business leaders. During the segment Gvaramia read aloud what he claimed to be transcripts of documents reportedly obtained from the State Security Service that detailed illegally recorded telephone and face-to-face conversations. According to the recordings, the State Security Service conducted illegal surveillance relating to sexual orientation, personal relationships, and sexual partners. Some journalists and NGOs publicly or privately confirmed the authenticity of the private conversations in the transcripts read on the show. Ruling Georgian Dream leadership dismissed these reports as fabricated.

In response to the August 1 broadcast, nine NGOs issued a statement on August 2 that said in part, “The State Security Service has become a firmly politicized institution protecting the interests of influential political actors and trying to preserve political power of a specific group by means of surveillance, threats, and blackmail.”

On August 3, the Public Defender’s Office called for an investigation into and accountability for the alleged illegal wiretapping. She also called on parliament to exercise existing oversight mechanisms and strengthen legislative oversight.

On September 13, an individual claiming to have worked at the State Security Service released thousands of files containing private information and conversations allegedly gathered through surveillance of NGOs, journalists, foreign diplomats, and clergy. The Prosecutor’s Office announced an investigation on September 14. Officials including Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri, and State Security Service head Grigol Liluashvili continued to deny the alleged wiretapping occurred. On September 19, the Public Defender’s Council of Religions and Tolerance called for a full investigation of the surveillance, stating “released materials can only indicate that the Government, through the Security Service, committed the gravest crimes against its people, its own citizens, all religious associations, civil society, constitution, democratic and secular structure of the State.”

Germany

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

On January 28, the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court sentenced neo-Nazi Stephan Ernst to life in prison for the 2019 murder of local Hesse politician Walter Luebcke but acquitted codefendant Markus Hartmann on an accessory to murder charge. The crime was widely viewed as a politically motivated killing of a known prorefugee state official, and prosecutors believed Ernst committed the crime out of ethnonationalist and racist motivations. Frankfurt prosecutors continued to investigate multiple persons for having threatened Luebcke on the internet after his 2015 prorefugee remarks. They passed several of the remaining investigations to prosecutors across the country, depending on the residence of the accused. A Hesse state parliament investigation into why Hesse’s domestic security service failed to identify Stephan Ernst as a danger to society was ongoing as of September.

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

The constitution and the law prohibit such practices, but there were a few reports that government officials employed them. According to some human rights groups, authorities did not effectively investigate allegations of mistreatment by police and failed to establish an independent mechanism to investigate such allegations.

In June a court sentenced a Muelheim police officer to nine months’ probation for inflicting bodily injury while on duty. In 2019, when responding to a domestic violence call, the officer handcuffed a naturalized citizen with Kosovar roots and beat him in the face. The officer’s partner helped cover up the assault and was sentenced to seven months’ probation.

On September 17, a Cologne court found a police officer guilty of using excessive force against a fleeing suspect and sentenced him to eight months’ probation. The officer in 2019 shot an unarmed man aged 19, Alexander Dellis, when he fled arrest; Dellis later filed a complaint for excessive use of force. The court ruled that the officer had not adequately warned the suspect.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

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

Laws at the state level give police the power to take preventive action against an “impending danger.” Critics argued that this provision expands police surveillance power, which had been reserved for the country’s intelligence services. As of September a case challenging the law in Bavaria was pending at the Federal Constitutional Court, as was a separate case at the Saxony Constitutional Court regarding that state’s law.

While several states required police to wear identity badges, the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Amnesty International Germany criticized the lack of a nationwide requirement to do so, noting that six states had no such requirement.

In February a man was acquitted for a third time of charges of resisting police officers and causing bodily harm during a public demonstration in Cologne. The court upheld a charge of insulting a police officer but imposed no penalty, finding fault instead with the officers themselves. The judge in the man’s second trial in 2019 had dismissed the charges as unfounded and apologized to the defendant. Two police officers were placed under investigation in 2019, and in February the case against them was dropped in exchange for fines. The man thereafter sued the state of North-Rhine Westphalia for 15,000 euros ($17,300) in compensation, which the state agreed to pay in July.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, but there were assertions the government failed in some cases to respect these prohibitions.

The federal and state offices for the protection of the constitution (OPCs) continued to monitor political groups deemed to be potentially undermining the constitution. These include left-wing extremist groups inside the Left party and right-wing extremist groups inside the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, both of which have seats in the Bundestag, as well as the right-wing extremist National Democratic Party (NPD). Monitoring requires the approval of state or federal interior ministries and is subject to review by state or federal parliamentary intelligence committees.

All OPC activities may be contested in court, including the Federal Constitutional Court. Following a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling, the government stated the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (FOPC) could no longer monitor Bundestag members.

The Bavaria OPC during the year monitored the NPD; Der Fluegel (“The Wing,” a loose network of far-right extremist AfD party members within the AfD); the AfD youth organization Junge Alternative (“Young Alternative”); as well as the Der Dritte Weg (“The Third Way”), an extremist party that was mainly active in opposing public COVID-19 measures.

The Baden-Wuerttemberg OPC monitored Querdenken 711 (“Lateral Thinking 711”), a movement directed against state and federal COVID-19 restrictions, due to its extremist views. The state’s anti-Semitism commissioner repeatedly warned of Querdenken 711’s anti-Semitic rhetoric and views.

On January 26, the Saxony-Anhalt OPC announced it would monitor the Saxony-Anhalt chapter of the AfD due to the party’s attacks on human dignity, its rejection of constitutional principles, and its hostility to democracy. In response the AfD moved for an injunction. On April 24, Saxony-Anhalt’s Interior Ministry determined the state’s OPC would refrain from monitoring the party until a verdict had been reached. As of August proceedings were ongoing.

In early March media reported that the FOPC had decided to surveil the AfD national party organization but not AfD elected officials or candidates. The FOPC reportedly took this step in light of AfD infringements upon human dignity and democratic principles and the influence of “The Wing,” which supposedly was officially dissolved in 2019, but members of the group continued to convene. Anticipating this, the AfD filed suit in January in the Cologne Administrative Court to block FOPC surveillance. Shortly after the March media reports, the court issued an injunction preventing the FOPC from commenting on whether it had decided to surveil the AfD until the court had ruled on the January suit. In August the court indicated it would not issue a ruling until early 2022, to avoid influencing voters’ decisions in the September 26 elections.

On May 12, the Thuringia OPC upgraded its classification of the Thuringian chapter of the AfD from a suspected case to a proven extremist case. According to the OPC, there are clear “efforts against the free democratic basic order” within the Thuringian AfD chapter.

In June 2020 the Brandenburg OPC announced it would monitor the state chapter of the AfD as a suspected case of right-wing extremism. The Brandenburg state chapter of the AfD challenged the decision before the State Constitutional Court, which ruled against the AfD on March 19.

In June the Bavarian government amended its police powers law to give police the power to screen visitors at major events using “reliability tests” conducted with visitors’ personal data obtained from “public and nonpublic entities.” The law entered into force July 31 and was immediately challenged by the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD), Greens, and Free Democratic Party before the Bavarian Constitutional Court. As of October the case was still pending (for the “NSU 2.0” case, see section 3, Political Parties and Participation).

In August the Hamburg Administrative Court ruled that Hamburg’s OPC may no longer state that two AfD state parliament staffers were identitarians, a right-wing extremist movement. The AfD caucus in the state parliament had sued the OPC for mentioning the staffers’ supposed connection in its 2020 public report. The court stated that, although the staffers had attended two identitarian events, such attendance alone was not proof of their membership in the group. Under the ruling, the Hamburg OPC must delete the allegation from its public 2020 report and issue a public correction. The OPC pledged to continue monitoring The Wing’s activities in Hamburg.

Human Rights Watch reported that on June 10, the parliament had passed amendments to a law that allows OPCs to use spyware and bypass encryption. Human Rights Watch raised strong privacy concerns regarding the change, noting that the law allows interception of communications by “persons against whom no suspicion of a crime has yet been established and therefore no criminal procedure can yet be ordered.” The government argued the provisions were needed to keep up with technological changes.

Ghana

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were a few reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Offices charged with investigating security force killings include the Special Investigations Branch of the Ghana Armed Forces and the Police Professional Standards Bureau.

On June 26, unidentified perpetrators beat #FixTheCountry movement supporter and social activist Ibrahim “Kaaka” Muhammed in Ejura, Ashanti Region. On June 28, he died in the hospital from his injuries. Muhammed, who was also a member of the Economic Fighters League (EFL), was a vocal anticorruption activist, and #FixThe Country had protested against restrictions on freedom of assembly (see section 2.b., Freedom of Assembly). EFL reported that Muhammed had received threats due to his activism, and police had warned him prior to his beating and death against disturbing the peace. An investigation into Muhammed’s death continued. On June 29, during protests in the wake of his death, security forces shot and killed two persons (see section 2.b., Freedom of Assembly).

During the 2020 election period, authorities, media, and observers reported as many as eight killings, with at least two killed by the National Elections Security Task Force (NESTF), composed of military and police units, and at least two deaths from civilian violence. Investigations continued into these deaths (see section 3, Freedom to Participate in the Political Process).

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

While the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were credible reports police beat and otherwise abused detained suspects and other citizens. Victims were often reluctant to file formal complaints. Police generally denied allegations or claimed the level of force used was justified.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there was one open allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to the UN Mission in South Sudan: a 2018 case involving 12 peacekeepers’ alleged transactional sex with six adults. A UN investigation substantiated some of those allegations, leading the United Nations to repatriate the alleged offenders. As of December the United Nations awaited reporting from the government regarding what actions it has taken in response to the allegations the United Nations considered to be substantiated.

Impunity remained a significant problem in the Ghana Police Service, and the investigation and complaints processes did not effectively address reports of abuses and bribery.

Corruption, brutality, poor training, lack of oversight, and an overburdened judicial system contributed to impunity. Police often failed to respond to reports of abuses and, in many instances, did not act unless complainants paid for police transportation and other operating expenses. The Office of the Inspector General of Police and the Police Professional Standards Board investigated claims of excessive force by security force members.

The constitution and law provide for protection against arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government frequently disregarded these protections.

While the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was subject to unlawful influence and corruption. Judicial officials reportedly accepted bribes to expedite or postpone cases, “lose” records, or issue favorable rulings for the payer of the bribe.

A judicial complaints unit within the Ministry of Justice headed by a retired Supreme Court justice addressed complaints from the public, such as unfair treatment by a court or judge, unlawful arrest or detention, missing trial dockets, delayed trials and rendering of judgments, and bribery of judges. The government generally respected court orders.

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

Greece

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. There were reports, however, that police mistreated and abused members of racial and ethnic minority groups, undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, demonstrators, and Roma (also see section 2.f., Protection of Refugees, and section 6, Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination).

Most reports alleged abusive treatment of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers in preremoval centers by law enforcement authorities, violence against migrants and asylum seekers during pushback operations at Greece-Turkey land and sea borders, and mistreatment of inmates in detention centers. There were several reported abuses similar to the following examples. According to media reports, on January 30, the Hellenic Police Internal Affairs Division launched an investigation into allegations of violence by police officers against a group of migrants held at the preremoval center in Drama. Police officers allegedly stormed into the cells of detainees, beating them with batons. The violence was reportedly prompted by a protest by some of the inmates against an extension of their detention beyond 18 months.

In a November 2020 report on its ad hoc visit to migrant detention and preremoval centers in the country, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) reported that, while the vast majority of migrants it interviewed had not been physically mistreated by authorities when they were apprehended and detained, the CPT’s delegation received a number of reports by migrants that they have been subjected to slaps on the head, kicks, and truncheon blows by members of the Hellenic Police and Coast Guard. For example, one person held by Hellenic Police at the former Special Missions Unit of the Hellenic Coast Guard at Samos alleged he was struck across the left side of his head with a baton by a police office after asking to be let out of the cell to go to the toilet, resulting in partial deafness.

In its November 2020 report, the CPT reported that detained migrants were sometimes confined in squalid conditions. In two cells under the authority of the Hellenic Police at the Port of Samos, for example, the CPT found 93 migrants (58 men, 15 women, three of whom were pregnant, and 20 children, 10 of whom were younger than age five) crammed into space that provided each person with less than 10 square feet of living space. Access to natural light was limited, there was no artificial light, no heating, no beds, no mattresses, and unpartitioned in-cell toilets emitted a foul stench. Women were given wet wipes but were not provided any other hygiene products. The CPT report stated, “These conditions clearly amount to inhuman and degrading treatment. The fact that authorities continued to hold this group, many of whom were clearly vulnerable, for 18 days without any efforts to lessen the harshness of their situation could be considered an inhuman punishment.”

On June 22, media outlets reported that a Georgian national arrested on suspicion of homicide stated he was interrogated and badly beaten for four days to force a confession for a crime another individual was later identified and prosecuted for committing. On March 9, the Office of the Greek Ombudsman, an independent constitutionally sanctioned authority, stated cases of police violence in 2020 increased by 75 percent and that the number recommended for investigation rose by 25 percent.

The most recent prison and detention center monitoring visit by the CPT took place in 2019. In its 2020 report on the visit, the CPT expressed deep concern that police mistreatment, especially against foreign nationals and members of the Romani community, remained a frequent practice throughout the country and that the system for investigating allegations of police mistreatment could not be considered effective. The report stated that, during the visit, the CPT received a high number of credible allegations of excessive use of force, unduly tight handcuffing, and physical and psychological mistreatment of criminal suspects during or in the context of police interviews. Alleged mistreatment consisted mainly of slaps, punches, and kicks as well as blows to the head with truncheons and metal objects. The CPT also received some allegations of blows with a stick to the soles of the feet and the application of a plastic bag over the head during police interviews, reportedly with the aim of obtaining a confession and a signed statement.

Several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and international human rights organizations reiterated complaints of a lack of an independent government entity to investigate violence and other alleged abuses at the border by the Coast Guard and border patrol forces. The National Commission for Human Rights reported that in 2020 police investigated only two pushback abuse cases and no cases were prosecuted and tried. The commission recommended the establishment of “an official independent mechanism to record and monitor informal pushback complaints.”

In the report on its 2019 visit, the CPT stated that its findings “confirm that investigations are still not carried out promptly or expeditiously and often lack thoroughness. Consequently, most cases of alleged police ill-treatment are not criminally prosecuted and very few result in criminal sentences or even disciplinary sanction.” As an example, the CPT noted that none of the 21 outstanding cases of alleged serious police mistreatment made by the police Internal Affairs Directorate in April 2014 had resulted in successful prosecution.

Both the constitution and the law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and give any person the right to challenge the lawfulness of an arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements. The ombudsman, through the National Preventive Mechanism for the Investigation of Arbitrary Incidents, received 263 complaints in 2020, most of which related to police. According to the Office of the Greek Ombudsman, more than one-half of complaints reported abusive behavior taking place during arrests, detentions, and other police operations. In many cases victims of police abuse were minors, young persons, refugees, and foreigners. The ombudsman noted delays by law enforcement authorities in launching disciplinary investigations of police conduct and sending forensic reports and video footage for the ombudsman’s assessment; however, the ombudsman noted that in most cases authorities cooperated.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Authorities respected court orders. Observers continued to track the case of Andreas Georgiou, who was the head of the Hellenic Statistical Authority during the Greek financial crisis. The Council of Appeals cleared Georgiou three times of a criminal charge that he falsified 2009 budget data to justify Greece’s first international bailout. Georgiou appealed a 2017 criminal conviction for violation of duty to the European Court of Human Rights. Separately, a government official filed a civil suit in 2014 as a private citizen against Georgiou. The official stated he was slandered by a press release issued from Georgiou’s office. Georgiou was convicted of simple slander in 2017. The Supreme Court in October granted Georgiou an injunction until January 2023, when it is scheduled to consider his appeal of the slander conviction.

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

Grenada

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guatemala

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. As of August 31, the Public Ministry, which is responsible for the prosecution of all criminal cases, as well as the Office of Professional Responsibility of the National Civil Police (PNC), reported five complaints of homicide by police, three more than in 2020. The PNC did not provide further information on any of these cases.

The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA) alleged that at least seven members of rural and indigenous activist groups were killed or died in disputed circumstances between January and November. Some of the killings appeared to be politically motivated, and all the cases remained under investigation at year’s end. On September 20, indigenous rights defender Ramon Jimenez was found dead with gunshot and blunt weapon wounds in El Volcan, Jalapa. Jimenez worked for an indigenous collective that promotes indigenous rights and had clashed with local political and business leaders over his advocacy for fellow farmers and taxi drivers. As of November 29, a total of 10 activists or human rights defenders were killed.

The national government’s prosecution of Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez continued. Rodriguez Sanchez, former intelligence chief under former president Rios Montt, was accused of genocide against the Maya Ixil community during the country’s 36-year internal armed conflict (1960-1996). On February 21, an appellate court ruled against the appeal of the 2018 ruling that acquitted Rodriguez Sanchez of all crimes. On March 19, the Public Ministry brought the case before the Supreme Court, but as of November 29, a final resolution had not been issued.

In the case regarding Luis Enrique Garcia Mendoza, operations commander under former president Rios Montt, Judge Jimmi Bremer of High-Risk Court C scheduled a hearing for October 11 to rule on whether there was sufficient evidence to bring the case to public trial against Garcia Mendoza on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The hearing was suspended and rescheduled for February 2022.

The Public Ministry continued investigation of another case for genocide against the Maya Ixil community from the last months of former president Romeo Lucas Garcia’s government (1978-1982). Three high-ranking military officers, Cesar Octavio Noguera Argueta, Manuel Callejas y Callejas, and Benedicto Lucas Garcia, were charged in this case. The prosecution continued against Callejas and Lucas; Noguera died in November 2020. According to the ministry, the case involved a minimum of 32 massacres, 97 selected killings, 117 deaths due to forced displacement, 37 cases of sexual assault, and 80 cases of forced disappearance. Many victims were children. On August 30, Judge Miguel Angel Galvez ruled there was sufficient evidence to bring the case to public trial. As of November 29, the trial had not been scheduled. Callejas and Lucas were both previously convicted of serious crimes in the Molina Theissen case and were serving 58-year prison sentences.

There were no reports of new disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. The Public Ministry continued to investigate and prosecute cases of forced disappearances from the 1960-1996 internal armed conflict period, although at times Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras stalled cases of genocide and disappearances from that period. There was a high-level nationwide debate spawned by congress’ consideration of a bill that would grant amnesty for all atrocities committed during the civil war.

On May 27, a High-Risk Court judge issued 17 arrest warrants for individuals materially involved with, or who directly enforced, disappearances, torture, rape, and extrajudicial executions in 1983 and 1985, as documented in a leaked military file referred to as Diario Militar. The PNC initially detained 11 of the 17 individuals and detained a 12th when he voluntarily attended a related judicial proceeding. Five more individuals remained at large and were being sought by victims’ families. Initial judicial hearings to proceed to trial began in September after months of stalling by the defendants’ lawyers and attempts to dismiss the judge.

The CREOMPAZ case, named after the Regional Center for UN Peacekeeping Training Institute where a mass burial site for disappeared persons was found, continued for former military officers indicted in 2017 on charges of forced disappearance and crimes against humanity during the 1960-1996 armed conflict. The delay in resolving several appeals and recusal motions filed in 2016 prevented the opening of a full trial. Byron Barrientos and Carlos Garavito remained in custody. Former congressman Edgar Justino Ovalle Maldonado, also charged in the case, remained in hiding after the Supreme Court lifted his immunity from prosecution in 2017.

The law prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but there were cases of prison officials’ negligence that allowed prisoners to experience violence and degrading conditions. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) noted that documentation and reporting mechanisms for torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment remained weak, thereby hindering a full understanding of the prevalence of the problem. The OHCHR also noted that many official complaints cited unsafe and cramped conditions at Federico Mora National Hospital for Mental Health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of these complaints remained unresolved.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there was one allegation submitted in February 2020 of sexual exploitation and abuse by a Guatemalan peacekeeper deployed to the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The allegation involved rape of a child. Both the government and the United Nations launched investigations into the allegation, but as of November both inquiries remained pending.

Impunity within the PNC was not a widespread or systemic issue. Impunity from prosecution for serious crimes within the PNC declined, with several high-profile convictions of PNC officers sentenced to imprisonment. Lesser crimes of negligence and bribery by officers continued, however, with few convictions. As of October more than 90 police officers were removed from the force based on bribery allegations. Most of the cases were documented in social media with videos taken by civilians. These removals formed part of PNC institutional policy to combat corruption. These instances appeared scattered and not related to military orders. Negligence by officers largely resulted from a lack of sufficient training. The law requires officers to hold at least a high school degree, but they often had much less, and some individuals had as little as six months of police training before being sent out on the streets.

In some areas impunity remained a significant problem in the PNC and the military. Impunity was evident in the Port, Airports, and Border Points Division (DIPAFRONT) of PNC forces dedicated to investigating crimes involving national borders, such as drug trafficking, smuggling, contraband and evasion of paying taxes by moving money outside the country. International law enforcement organizations reported private-sector actors paid some DIPAFRONT officers to avoid investigations into their operations. Government records did not include internal investigations in the PNC of these bribes.

Impunity for high-level officials from disciplinary or criminal prosecution existed. In several instances when PNC or Public Ministry investigators opened a case against high-level officials, the investigators were subsequently removed.

The PNC utilizes three mechanisms to identify and investigate abuses: an anonymous tip line using a landline telephone number, a tip line to receive complaints using a messaging application, and in-person complaints. The PNC Internal Affairs Division conducts internal surveillance of PNC officers’ performance and follows a disciplinary process with an internal tribunal to decide cases. That division wiretaps criminal structures found to be working with corrupt PNC officers, but the unit was not authorized to investigate criminal structures within the PNC. The government’s main mechanism to rid the PNC of corruption is to remove PNC officers suspected of these abuses, often without investigation or tribunal. The PNC has a unit devoted to criminal investigation of human rights violations, funded by donor countries, but the unit lacked political and material support.

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

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

Judges, prosecutors, plaintiffs, and witnesses continued to report threats, intimidation, and surveillance, including from government officials, such as harassment of prosecutors from the Office of the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity and judges from the High-Risk Court. On September 29, High-Risk Court judge Erika Aifan posted a video on social media that detailed how government employees from outside her office placed staff in her court office who recorded her private comments and leaked confidential files from her cases. From January through August 31, the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Judicial Workers and Unionists received 69 complaints of threats or aggression against workers in the judicial branch and 53 complaints against prounion activists, for a total of 122 complaints, compared with 194 in 2020.

On October 11, Attorney General Porras announced the reassignment of lead human rights prosecutor Hilda Pineda to an office that investigates crimes against tourists. Pineda was known for aggressively pursuing prosecution of human rights abuses by the military during the civil war, including genocide against the Maya Ixil community and the Diario Militar case. Civil society decried the move as politically motivated and expressed concern the move would weaken the prosecutions of these cases.

Since May prosecutors and judges associated with the Diario Militar case reported increased threats and surveillance. The Human Rights Prosecutor’s Office requested security support from the Public Ministry, but as of November none had been provided.

On April 13, the Congressional Executive Board swore in seven of the 10 new Constitutional Court members for the 2021-2026 term starting on April 14. Congress refused to seat re-elected independent incumbent Constitutional Court magistrate Gloria Porras, citing a provisional injunction. In view of her consequent loss of immunity after not being sworn in for a new term on the Constitutional Court, Porras departed the country on April 14 and remained abroad as of November 29. Civil society expressed concern that as of November the court had consistently ruled in favor of the governing coalition.

The selection process for the election by congress of 13 Supreme Court and 135 appellate court magistrates continued largely unresolved. As of August 31, congress successfully completed the voting procedure for only one candidate for the appellate court in a total of 270 candidates. The sitting Supreme Court and 269 appellate court judges remained in their positions. In 2019 the Constitutional Court halted the selection process for Supreme Court and appellate court magistrates, ruling that formal evaluation procedures were not followed within the selection committees after a process that suffered widespread manipulation of selection committees by politicians, judicial operators, and other influential citizens. In February 2020 Public Ministry investigations found that while in prison on corruption charges, Gustavo Alejos, former chief of staff under then president Alvaro Colom, accepted at least 20 visits from officials associated with the selection process in his hospital ward in the days before the selection committees provided their lists. The Constitutional Court issued a final ruling in May 2020 requiring removal of candidates associated with Gustavo Alejos and a voice vote for each position in congress, but as of November congress had not complied with the ruling.

The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions, but there were credible reports of harassment of the families of officials. A prosecutor reported that in October, after her office removed her from a high-profile corruption case, unknown individuals in unmarked cars photographed her mother and sister outside their houses on several occasions.

Guinea

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guinea-Bissau

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports that police tortured or used other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment against suspects.

In July police detained three youths in Bafata Province as they organized an impromptu street protest against electricity blackouts. Police allegedly tortured the three youths before they were released. The Minister of Interior terminated the employment of the three police officers involved.

There were no updates on investigations into allegations that security forces used cruel, inhuman, or otherwise degrading treatment or punishment against suspects in 2020, including the May 2020 abduction and assault of member of parliament, Marciano Indi, or the October 2020 beating and detention of two members of the political party MADEM-G15.

In July 2020 the parliament approved the creation of a Parliamentary Investigation Committee to investigate incidents involving three citizens. Among the cases were the abduction of Marciano Indi and the 2019 death of the Party for Social Renewal’s leader, Demba Balde. The committee was led by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea Cape Verde and consisted of a total of nine members of parliament. There were no updates on the committee’s investigations during the year.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not observe these prohibitions. Detainees may challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court through a regular appeals process and obtain prompt release as well as compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. Arbitrary arrests by security forces increased during the year.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary was subject to political manipulation. Judges were poorly trained, inadequately and irregularly paid, and subject to corruption. A lack of resources and infrastructure often delayed trials, and convictions were extremely rare. Authorities respected court orders, however.

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not always respect these prohibitions. Police routinely ignored privacy rights and protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Guyana

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In May police shot and killed robbery suspect Peter Headley while he was being transported by police in a civilian vehicle to a police station. According to police, Headley reached under the seat of the vehicle and pulled out what appeared to be a firearm, leading an armed police officer to shoot Headley, who died a short time later. The officers involved were placed under arrest. The Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility and Police Complaints Authority investigated the matter, and as of October the Department of Public Prosecutions was reviewing the results of the investigation. In September the Guyana Police Force SWAT team shot and killed Orin Boston during a search of his home. Boston was unarmed. As of November, the Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility was conducting an investigation into the incident.

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

The law prohibits such practices. There were allegations that prison officials mistreated inmates.

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

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

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

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

Haiti

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were numerous reports of arbitrary and unlawful killings perpetrated by armed gangs allegedly supported and protected by the government.

Young men from the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Ravine Pintade alleged police killed 11 of their peers on September 21 as they were recording a music video with fake weapons. During a press conference on September 22, police spokesperson Inspector Marie Michelle Verrier stated police had heard gunfire and that an investigation was underway. According to an investigation of the incident by the Center for Advocacy and Research in Human Rights (CARDH) released in October, at least 11 persons were killed, including the son of a Haitian National Police (HNP) divisional inspector. According to CARDH, police killed three at the scene, wounded and then killed two others, carried away four others later found dead in a second location. Three more were found dead the following day. The official investigation remained open as of November.

The HNP reported 1,352 homicides between January and October 31. The Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice blamed most of these deaths on gang warfare and called on the government to investigate the “hidden forces” behind the violence, including political and economic actors bankrolling gang activity. In June the Eyes Wide Open Foundation (FJKL) reported the existence of more than 150 active gangs in the country and alleged the government actively supported certain gangs.

The National Network for the Defense of Human Rights reported the government weakened the HNP during the year through politicization and exploitation of the institution. It further reported the government did not provide sufficient resources for police officers to carry out their duties but used government funds to strengthen chosen armed gangs instead. In 2020 armed gangs were invited by the National Commission for Disarmament and Reintegration to federate with the support of the government, ostensibly with the intention of reducing intergang violence and providing the commission with a negotiating partner. As a result, the G9 federation of gangs, formed in May 2020 and led by Jimmy “Barbeque” Cherizier, emerged as one the largest criminal organizations in the country. Following the G9’s formation, the country witnessed a spike in attacks against the HNP, including the killing of 36 police officers between January 1 and September 1, kidnappings for ransom of police officers, the takeover of police stations by armed gangs, and police officers fleeing for their lives.

On March 12, the HNP attempted to conduct an antigang operation in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Village de Dieu. The offensive led to the deaths of at least four HNP officers, whose bodies were not recovered. Two of the officers were publicly mutilated. The gangs also captured one police armored vehicle and destroyed a second in an operation that yielded no arrests.

The government and judiciary made minimal progress on a growing list of emblematic human rights cases. While authorities stated they continued to investigate large-scale attacks in the Port-au-Prince neighborhoods of Grande Ravine (2017), Bel Air (2018), La Saline (2019), and Cite Soleil (2020), each of which left dozens dead, the government had yet to bring any of the perpetrators to justice. In January President Moise declined to renew the mandate of the investigative judge in the La Saline case, despite a positive vetting record and recommendation by the Superior Council of the Judiciary. Among those implicated in La Saline and Bel Air were Jimmy Cherizier, Fednel Monchery, and Joseph Pierre Richard Duplan, all of whom were go