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Afghanistan

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

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

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. From January 1 to June 30, UNAMA reported an overall increase in civilian deaths over the same period for 2016, from 1,637 to 1,662. The number of civilians killed by progovernment forces, however, decreased from 396 to 327. The number of civilian casualties decreased from 5,267 to 5,243.

According to UNAMA, in January Afghan National Police (ANP) in Nesh district, Kandahar Province, beat three young men to death because police believed they were supporters of antigovernment forces. There were numerous allegations of deaths resulting from torture, particularly in Kandahar Province. Although the government investigated and prosecuted some cases of extrajudicial killing, an overall lack of accountability for security force abuses remained a problem.

There were numerous reports of politically motivated killings or injuries by the Taliban, ISIS-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), and other insurgent groups. UNAMA reported 1,141 civilian deaths due to antigovernment and terrorist forces in the first six months of the year. These groups caused 67 percent of total civilian casualties, a 12 percent increase from 2016. On May 31, antigovernment forces injured more than 500 civilians and killed an additional 150 in a vehicle-borne IED attack against civilians during rush hour on a busy street in Kabul.

b. Disappearance

There were reports of disappearances committed by security forces and antigovernment forces alike.

UNAMA, in its April 24 Report on the Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees, reported multiple allegations of disappearances by the ANP in Kandahar.

On February 8, an armed group abducted two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid workers in Qush Tepah district, Jowzjan Province, during which six other ICRC staff were killed. In September the two aid workers were released.

In March an Australian aid worker, kidnapped in Kabul in November 2016, was released after five months in captivity. Two professors, working for the American University of Afghanistan and kidnapped by the Taliban in August 2016, were still in captivity.

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were numerous reports that government officials, security forces, detention center authorities, and police committed abuses.

NGOs reported security forces continued to use excessive force, including torturing and beating civilians. On April 22, the government approved a new Anti-Torture Law, which expands the previous prohibition on torture contained in the original penal code. The new law, however, applies only to torture committed in the context of the criminal justice system and does not clearly extend to torture committed by military or other security forces.

UNAMA, in its April 24 Report on the Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees, cited multiple reports of torture and other abuse committed by security forces, most frequently after the initial arrest, during interrogation, and with the purpose of eliciting confessions. The UNAMA report noted a high concentration of torture and abuse by police in Kandahar Province. Of the 469 National Directorate for Security (NDS), ANP, and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) detainees interviewed, 39 percent reported torture or other abuse. Types of abuse included severe beatings, electric shocks, prolonged suspension by the arms, suffocation, wrenching of testicles, burns by cigarette lighters, sleep deprivation, sexual assault, and threats of execution.

In November 2016, First Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum allegedly kidnapped Uzbek tribal elder and political rival Ahmad Ishchi. Before detaining Ishchi, Dostum let his bodyguards brutally beat him. After several days in detention, Ishchi alleged he was beaten, tortured, and raped by Dostum and his men. On August 14, Balkh Governor Atta Mohammed Noor allegedly attempted to arrest his political rival Asif Mohmand. The ensuing shootout resulted in three deaths and 13 persons injured. There were reports that Atta and his sons then detained and beat Mohmand and bit off a piece of his ear. The Attorney General’s Office opened investigations into both of the cases. As of September 16, there was no progress on either case, and both Dostum and Atta remained free. Dostum was no longer in the country, and he had not been allowed to exercise his duties as first vice president pending resolution of the legal charges against him.

There were numerous reports of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment by the Taliban and other antigovernment groups. In March the Taliban in northern Badakhshan Province stoned a woman to death for suspected “zina” (extramarital sex). There were other reports of the Taliban cutting off the hands and feet of suspected criminals.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were difficult due to overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and limited access to medical services. The General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Centers (GDPDC), part of the Ministry of Interior, has responsibility for all civilian-run prisons (for both men and women) and civilian detention centers, including the large national prison complex at Pul-e Charkhi. The Ministry of Justice’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Directorate is responsible for all juvenile rehabilitation centers. The NDS operates short-term detention facilities at the provincial and district levels, usually collocated with their headquarters facilities. The Ministry of Defense runs the Afghan National Detention Facilities at Parwan. There were reports of private prisons run by members of the ANDSF and used for abuse of detainees.

Physical Conditions: Media and other sources continued to report inadequacies in food and water and poor sanitation facilities in prisons. Some observers, however, found food and water to be sufficient at GDPDC prisons. Nevertheless, the GDPDC’s nationwide program to feed prisoners faced a severely limited budget, and many prisoners relied on family members to provide food supplements and other necessary items.

Authorities generally lacked the facilities to separate pretrial and convicted inmates or to separate juveniles according to the seriousness of the charges against them. There were reports the Parwan detention facility held 145 children for security-related offenses separate from the general population. Local prisons and detention centers did not always have separate facilities for female prisoners.

Overcrowding in prisons continued to be a serious, widespread problem. Based on standards recommended by the ICRC, 28 of 34 provincial prisons for men were severely overcrowded. The country’s largest prison, Pul-e Charkhi, held 11,527 prisoners, detainees, and children of incarcerated mothers as of June, which was more than double the number it was designed to hold. UNAMA found no reports of torture within the Ministry of Interior prison system. In April, 500 prisoners at Pul-e Charkhi carried out a multiday hunger strike to protest the administration of their court cases and insufficient food and medical care at the prison.

Access to food, potable water, sanitation, heating, ventilation, lighting, and medical care in prisons varied throughout the country and was generally inadequate. In November the local NGO Integrity Watch Afghanistan reported that Wardak Prison had no guaranteed source of clean drinking water and that prisoners in Pol-e Charkhi, Baghlan, and Wardak had limited access to food, with prisoners’ families also providing food to make up the gap.

Administration: The law provides prisoners with the right to leave prison for up to 20 days for family visits. Most prisons did not implement this provision, and the law is unclear in its application to different classes of prisoners.

There were reports of abuse and mistreatment by prison officials. On August 20, Takhar prison guards and police allegedly used clubs to beat 15 female inmates during a protest where approximately 60 women protested their continued imprisonment, despite promises of amnesty made by the government. The Attorney General’s Office investigated the allegations and recommended criminal charges against three guards for the alleged beating.

Independent Monitoring: The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), UNAMA, and the ICRC monitored the NDS, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Defense detention facilities. NATO Mission Resolute Support monitored the NDS, ANP, and Defense Ministry facilities. Security constraints and obstruction by authorities occasionally prevented visits to some places of detention. UNAMA and the AIHRC reported difficulty accessing NDS places of detention when they arrived unannounced. The AIHRC reported NDS officials usually required the AIHRC to submit a formal letter requesting access at least one to two days in advance of a visit. NDS officials continued to prohibit AIHRC and UNAMA monitors from bringing cameras, mobile phones, recording devices, or computers into NDS facilities, thereby preventing AIHRC monitors from properly documenting physical evidence of abuse, such as bruises, scars, and other injuries. The NDS assigned a colonel to monitor human rights conditions in its facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but both remained serious problems. 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 due process. Local law enforcement officials reportedly detained persons illegally on charges not provided for in the penal code. In some cases authorities wrongfully imprisoned women 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 provides 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 requirement.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Three ministries have responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order in the country: the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense, and the NDS. The ANP, under the Interior Ministry, has primary responsibility for internal order and for the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a community-based self-defense force. The Afghan National Army, under the Ministry of Defense, is responsible for external security, but its primary activity is fighting the insurgency internally. The NDS functions as an intelligence agency and has responsibility for investigating criminal cases concerning national security. The investigative branch of the NDS operated a facility in Kabul, where it held national security prisoners awaiting trial until their cases went to prosecution. Some areas were outside of government control, and antigovernment forces, including the Taliban, oversaw their own justice and security systems.

There were reports of impunity and lack of accountability by security forces throughout the year. According to observers, ALP and ANP personnel were largely unaware of their responsibilities and defendants’ rights under the law. Accountability of NDS, ANP, and ALP officials for torture and abuse was weak, not transparent, and rarely enforced. Independent judicial or external oversight of the NDS, ANP, and ALP in the investigation and prosecution of crimes or misconduct, including torture and abuse, was limited or nonexistent.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

UNAMA, the AIHRC, and other observers reported arbitrary and prolonged detention frequently occurred throughout the country. Authorities often did not inform detainees of the charges against them.

The law provides for access to legal counsel and the use of warrants, and it limits how long authorities may hold detainees without charge. Police have the right to detain a suspect for 72 hours to complete a preliminary investigation. If police decide to pursue a case, they transfer the file to the Attorney General’s Office. With court approval, the investigating prosecutor may continue to detain a suspect while continuing the investigation, with the length of continued detention depending on the severity of the offense. The investigating prosecutor may detain a suspect for a maximum of 10 additional days for a petty crime, 27 days for a misdemeanor, and 75 days for a felony. The prosecutor must file an indictment or release the suspect within those deadlines; there can be no further extension of the investigatory period if the defendant is already in detention. Prosecutors often ignored these limits. Incommunicado imprisonment remained a problem, and prompt access to a lawyer was rare. Prisoners generally were able to receive family visits.

The criminal procedure code provides for release on bail. Authorities at times continued to detain defendants who had been acquitted by the courts on the grounds that defendants who were released pending the prosecution’s appeal often disappeared. In other cases authorities did not rearrest defendants they released pending the outcome of an appeal, even after the appellate court convicted them in absentia.

According to international monitors, prosecutors filed indictments in cases transferred to them by police, even where there was a reasonable belief no crime occurred.

According to the juvenile code, the arrest of a child “should be a matter of last resort and should last for the shortest possible period.” Reports indicated children in juvenile rehabilitation centers across the country lacked access to adequate food, health care, and education. Detained children frequently did not receive the presumption of innocence, the right to know the charges against them, access to defense lawyers, and protection from self-incrimination. The law provides for the creation of special juvenile police, prosecution offices, and courts. Due to limited resources, special juvenile courts functioned in only six provinces (Kabul, Herat, Balkh, Kandahar, Nangarhar, and Kunduz). Elsewhere, children’s cases went to ordinary courts. The law mandates authorities handle children’s cases confidentially.

Some children in the criminal justice system were victims rather than perpetrators of crime. In the absence of sufficient shelters for boys, authorities detained abused boys and placed them in juvenile rehabilitation centers because they could not return to their families and shelter elsewhere was unavailable.

Police and legal officials often charged women with intent to commit zina to justify their arrest and incarceration for social offenses, such as running away from home, rejecting a spouse chosen by her family, fleeing domestic violence or rape, or eloping. The constitution provides that in cases not explicitly covered by the provisions of the constitution or other laws, courts may, in accordance with Hanafi jurisprudence (a school of Islamic law) and within the limits set by the constitution, rule in a manner that best attains justice in the case. Although observers stated this provision was widely understood to apply only to civil cases, many judges and prosecutors applied this provision to criminal matters. Observers reported officials used this article to charge women and men with “immorality” or “running away from home,” neither of which is a crime. Police often detained women for zina at the request of family members.

Authorities imprisoned some women for reporting crimes perpetrated against them and detained some as proxies for a husband or male relative convicted of a crime on the assumption the suspect would turn himself in to free the family member.

Authorities placed some women in protective custody to prevent violence by family members. They also employed protective custody (including placement in a detention center) for women who had experienced domestic violence, if no shelters were available to protect them from further abuse. The Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) presidential decree–commonly referred to as the EVAW law–obliges police to arrest persons who abuse women. Implementation and awareness of the EVAW law was limited, however.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrest and detention remained a problem in most provinces. Observers reported some prosecutors and police detained individuals without charge for actions that were not crimes under the law, in part because the judicial system was inadequate to process detainees in a timely fashion. Observers continued to report those detained for moral crimes were almost exclusively women.

Pretrial Detention: The law provides a defendant the right to object to his or her pretrial detention and receive a court hearing on the matter. Nevertheless, lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. Many detainees did not benefit from the provisions of the criminal procedure code because of a lack of resources, limited numbers of defense attorneys, unskilled legal practitioners, and corruption. The law provides that, if there is no completed investigation or filed indictment within the code’s 10-, 27-, or 75-day deadlines, the defendant must be released. Many detainees, however, were held beyond those periods, despite the lack of an indictment.

Amnesty: In September 2016 the government concluded a peace accord with the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) group, which granted its leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, amnesty for past war crimes and human rights abuses. In May, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned to Kabul for the first time in 20 years. The deal also included the release of HIG political detainees.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary continued to be 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. 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 within the judiciary, and often criminals paid bribes to obtain their release or a reduction in sentence (see section 4).

The formal justice system was stronger in urban centers, closer to the central government, and weaker in rural areas. Courts and police forces continued to operate at less than full strength nationwide. The judicial system continued to lack the capacity to absorb and implement the large volume of new and amended legislation. A lack of qualified judicial personnel hindered the courts. Some municipal and provincial authorities, including judges, had minimal training and often based their judgments on their personal understanding of sharia without appropriate reference to statutory law, tribal codes of honor, or local custom. The number of judges who graduated from law school continued to increase. Access to legal codes and statutes increased, but their limited availability continued to hinder some judges and prosecutors.

In March, TOLO News reported that an attorney working on the Farkhunda case called on President Ghani to review the murder case, citing failure to investigate the case properly. In March 2016 President Ghani established an investigatory committee to look into Farkhunda’s case after the Supreme Court’s decision to reduce the sentences of the perpetrators. As of year’s end, there were no results from that committee.

There was a widespread shortage of judges, primarily in insecure areas. During the year the judiciary attempted to send new female judges to insecure provinces without adequate provisions for security. The new female judges protested, and as of September 16, the judiciary relented and agreed to send the female judges to other, more secure provinces.

In major cities courts continued to decide criminal cases as mandated by law. Authorities frequently resolved civil cases using the informal system or, in some cases, through negotiations between the parties facilitated by judicial personnel or private lawyers. Because the formal legal system often was not present 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.

In some areas the Taliban enforced a parallel judicial system based on a strict interpretation of sharia. Punishments included execution and mutilation. On March 13, the Taliban cut off a 15-year-old’s hand and foot in the western province of Herat for the alleged theft of a motorcycle.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides the right to a fair and public trial, but the judiciary rarely enforced this provision. The administration and implementation of justice varied in different areas of the country. The government formally uses an inquisitorial legal system. By law all citizens are entitled to a presumption of innocence, and those accused have the right to be present at trial and to appeal, although the judiciary did not always respect these rights. Some provinces held public trials, but this was not the norm.

Three-judge panels decide criminal trials, and there is no right to a jury trial under the constitution. Prosecutors rarely informed defendants promptly or in detail of the charges brought against them. Indigent defendants have the right to consult with an advocate or counsel at public expense when resources allow. The judiciary applied this right inconsistently, in large part due to a severe shortage of defense lawyers. Citizens were often unaware of their constitutional rights. Defendants and attorneys are entitled to examine physical evidence and documents related to a case before trial, although observers noted court documents often were not available for review before cases went to trial, despite defense lawyers’ requests.

Criminal defense attorneys reported justice system officials slowly demonstrated increased respect and tolerance for the role of defense lawyers in criminal trials, but at times defendants’ attorneys experienced abuse and threats from prosecutors and other law enforcement officials.

The criminal procedure code establishes time limits for the completion of each stage of a criminal case, from investigation through final appeal, when an accused is in custody. The code also permits temporary release of the accused on bail, but this was rarely honored. An addendum to the code provides for extended custodial limits in cases involving crimes committed against the internal and external security of the country. Courts at the Justice Center in Parwan elected to utilize the extended time periods. If the deadlines are not met, the law requires the accused be released from custody. In many cases courts did not meet these deadlines, but detainees nevertheless remained in custody.

In cases where no clearly defined legal statute applied, or where judges, prosecutors, or elders were unaware of the statutory law, judges and informal shuras enforced customary law. This practice often resulted in outcomes that discriminated against women.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports the government held political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Corruption and limited capacity restricted citizen access to justice for constitutional and human rights violations. Citizens submit complaints of human rights violations to the AIHRC, which reviews and submits credible complaints to the Attorney General’s Office for further investigation and prosecution.

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

The law prohibits arbitrary interference in matters of privacy, but authorities did not always respect its provisions. The criminal procedure code contains additional safeguards for the privacy of the home, prohibiting night arrests and strengthening requirements for body searches. The government did not always respect these prohibitions.

Government officials continued to enter 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.

Residents of Baghlan Province reported the Taliban commandeered civilian homes without permission to use as bases to plan and stage attacks against government forces.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

Continuing internal conflict resulted in civilian deaths, abductions, prisoner abuse, property damage, displacement of residents, and other abuses. The security situation remained a problem due to insurgent attacks. Terrorist groups caused the vast majority of civilian deaths.

Killings: During the first half of the year, UNAMA counted 1,662 civilian deaths due to conflict, an increase of 2 percent from the first half of 2016. UNAMA noted an increase of women and child deaths due to more indiscriminate IED attacks by antigovernment forces in urban centers, including the country’s capital of Kabul. UNAMA attributed 67 percent of civilian casualties to antigovernment forces, including the Taliban and ISIS, and 18 percent to progovernment forces. The AIHRC, in its annual report of civilian casualties, reported 2,823 civilians killed from March 2016 to March 2017. On August 5, ISIS-K and the Taliban attacked a Shia village in Sayyad district of Sar-e-Pul Province and killed more than 40 civilians. UNAMA noted the majority of civilian casualties resulted from deliberate attacks by antigovernment forces against civilians.

UNAMA documented an increase in attacks by antigovernment forces against religious leaders from only two incidents in 2016 to 11 in the first six months of 2017. On August 1, ISIS-K bombed a Shia mosque in Herat, killing 29 civilians, and on August 25, suicide attackers stormed a Shia mosque in Kabul during Friday Prayer, killing at least 20 individuals and injuring dozens.

The increase in complex suicide attacks was evidenced by repeated attacks in Kabul. On January 10, a Taliban suicide attack in Kabul killed more than 30 individuals and injured some 70 others, as twin blasts hit a crowded area of the city during the afternoon rush hour. On May 31, a truck bomb exploded, killing 150 and injuring 500 outside the German embassy in Kabul. While no group claimed responsibility, protesters took to the streets on June 2, accusing government officials of cooperating with terrorists. Police shot and killed five protesters, including Salem Izidyar, the eldest son of Deputy Speaker of the Senate Alam Izidyar. At Izidyar’s funeral three suicide bombers struck on foot, killing at least a dozen persons.

Antigovernment elements continued to attack religious leaders who they concluded spoke against the insurgency or the Taliban. On September 9, Taliban gunmen on motorcycles in the Kohestan district of Kapisa Province killed Mawlawi Gul Mohammad Hanifyar, head of the Kapisa Ulema Council. The Kapisa police chief reported the arrest of five suspects in the case. According to UNAMA’s statistics, this was the 12th targeted assassination of a religious leader by the Taliban or other antigovernment forces during the year, more than double the number in 2016.

Antigovernment elements also continued to target government officials and entities throughout the country. On January 10, an explosion killed 12 individuals, including Kandahar’s deputy governor, Abdul Ali Shamsi, and Afghan diplomat, Yama Quraishi, at a guesthouse on Kandahar governor Humayun Azizi’s compound. Injured in the attack were 14 individuals, including United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Afghanistan, Mohammed Abdullah al-Kaabi, who later died from his injuries.

Abductions: UNAMA documented 131 cases of conflict-related abductions and 467 abducted civilians in the first six months of the year, a decrease from more than 1,100 abducted civilians in the same period in 2016. On or around August 31, the Taliban abducted three government employees in western Herat Province, where reports noted an increase in abductions for ransom. The bodies of the three were found 20 days later.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: According to some reports, in February a group of Uzbek elders from Takhar Province alleged abuses of the local population by local commander and former parliamentarian Piram Qul. They claimed that in addition to having killed popular Takhar Provincial Council member Ainuddin Rustaqi in April 2016, Piram Qul’s men killed four local police officers during the year and continued to torture detainees and jail residents in extrajudicial prisons. They complained that Piram Qul received government support for his leadership of a “people’s uprising group”–a progovernment militia.

Antigovernment elements continued to punish civilians. In February, Taliban members killed four civilians at a wedding party in the Sar Hakwza district of Paktika Province, accusing them of cooperating with government officials.

Antigovernment groups regularly targeted civilian noncombatants and used indiscriminate IEDs to kill and maim civilians. Land mines, unexploded ordnance, and explosive remnants of war (ERW) continued to cause deaths and injuries. The ANP reported that unexploded ordnance (UXO) killed 140 individuals per month. Media regularly reported cases of children killed and injured after finding UXO. The Ministry of Education and NGOs continued to conduct educational programs and mine awareness campaigns throughout the country. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration provided mine risk education for refugee and undocumented returnees.

Between January 1 and June 30, child casualties from ERW increased by 12 percent compared with the same period in 2016, accounting for 81 percent of all civilian casualties caused by ERW in 2017. ERW caused 296 child casualties (81 deaths and 215 injured), making it the second-leading cause of child casualties in the first half of the year. In the same period, UNAMA documented 192 incidents of ERW detonation resulting in 365 civilian casualties (93 deaths and 272 injured), a 17 percent increase compared with the first half of 2015.

Child Soldiers: There were reports the ANDSF, particularly the ANP and ALP, and progovernment militias recruited children. The AIHRC reported that government security forces in Kandahar Province used child recruits. UNAMA documented the recruitment and use of 14 boys by security forces from January to June. The government continued to work towards the expansion of Child Protection Units to all 34 provinces. As of August there were 21 active units.

Under a government action plan, the ANP took steps that included training staff on age-assessment procedures, launching an awareness campaign on underage recruitment, investigating alleged cases of underage recruitment, and establishing centers in some provincial recruitment centers to document cases of attempted child enlistment. 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 in some cases ANDSF units used children as personal servants, support staff, or for sexual purposes.

According to AIHRC, the Taliban in Kandahar used children for front-line fighting and setting IEDs. The Ministry of Interior reported arresting 166 children for involvement in attacks against the government, with the largest contingent (28) recruited by ISIS-K in Nangarhar Province. UNAMA also documented the recruitment of 15 boys by antigovernment elements (11 by ISIS-K, three by the Taliban, and one by an unidentified armed group). In some cases the Taliban and other antigovernment elements used children as suicide bombers, human shields, and IED emplacers, 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.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuse: The security environment continued to have a negative effect on the ability of humanitarian organizations to operate freely in many parts of the country. Insurgents deliberately targeted government employees and aid workers. Violence and instability hampered development, relief, and reconstruction efforts. NGOs reported insurgents, powerful local individuals, and militia leaders demanded bribes to allow groups to bring relief supplies into the country and distribute them. Antigovernment elements increased their targeting of hospitals and aid workers compared with 2016. According to media reports, since the start of the year, 15 aid workers were killed and as many injured. During the first six months of 2017, UNAMA documented 32 incidents targeting health-care facilities and health-care workers, resulting in 58 civilian casualties (27 deaths and 31 injured) compared with 67 incidents during the same period in 2016 that caused 11 civilian casualties (five deaths and six injured). On March 8, ISIS-K attacked a military hospital in Kabul, killing 26 patients and hospital staff.

In the south and east, the Taliban and other antigovernment elements frequently forced local residents to provide food and shelter for their fighters. The Taliban also continued to attack schools, radio stations, and government offices. From June to August, armed groups forced dozens of health facilities to close temporarily in Laghman Province, north of Kabul, and in the western provinces of Farah and Badghis in an attempt to coerce nongovernmental organizations to improve service delivery for their combatants.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of speech, including for the press, but the government sometimes restricted these rights.

Freedom of Expression: The law provides for freedom of speech, and the country has a free press. There were reports authorities at times used pressure, regulations, and threats to silence critics. Criticism of the central government was regular and generally free from restrictions, but criticism of provincial government was more constrained, where local officials and power brokers exerted significant influence and authority to intimidate or threaten their critics, both private citizens and journalists.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views. Media were sometimes limited in their access to government information and often faced threats and violence from the internal conflict. Politicians, security officials, and others in positions of power at times threatened or harassed journalists because of their coverage. During a speech on April 30 to mark his return to the country, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar inspired protests when he publicly called the media “wicked” and told followers to censor the media.

Freedom of speech and an independent media were more constrained at the provincial level. Specific political and ethnic groups, including those led by former mujahedin leaders, owned many provincial media outlets and controlled the content. Some provinces had limited media presence.

Print media continued to publish independent magazines, newsletters, and newspapers. A wide range of editorials and dailies openly criticized the government. Still, there were concerns that violence and insecurity threatened media independence and safety. Due to high levels of illiteracy, most citizens preferred television and radio to print media. A greater percentage of the population, including those in distant provinces, had access to radio.

According to news reports, President Ghani issued a presidential decree on August 29 exempting media companies, except for television channels, from paying fines for past-due income taxes. The decree partially answered criticisms levied by press freedom groups the week prior that increased taxes and fines would hurt many independent media outlets.

Violence and Harassment: Government officials used threats, violence, and intimidation to attempt to silence opposition journalists, particularly those who spoke out about impunity, war crimes, corruption, and powerful local figures. According to Reporters Without Borders, the governor of Baghlan called a journalist and two other employees of privately owned Arezo TV into his office on May 25 to make them delete news footage. The Afghan Journalist Safety Committee (AJSC) reported 10 journalists killed in the first six months of the year. For the same period, the AJSC recorded 73 cases of violence against journalists, which included killing, beating, inflicting injury and humiliation, intimidation, and detention of journalists–a 35 percent increase from the first six months of 2016. Government-affiliated individuals or security forces committed most of the violence against journalists and were responsible for 34 instances of violence, leaving 39 instances attributable to the Taliban, ISIS-K, local warlords, and individuals. According to AJSC, the Eastern zone and Kabul zone, which include provinces north of Kabul, had the most cases of violence against journalists. The Southeastern zone had the least number of cases of violence against journalists.

On May 17, ISIS-K attacked the Afghanistan National Radio and Television compound in Jalalabad and killed seven persons. The May 31 bombing, widely attributed to the antigovernment Haqqani group, killed 31 employees of the Roshan television and news media telecommunications company and caused millions of dollars of damage to the company’s headquarters. The same attack killed at least one camera operator of Tolo News and one BBC driver, injured nine employees of other media outlets, and caused extensive damage to 1TV’s headquarters.

Security conditions created a dangerous environment for journalists, even when they were not specific targets. Media organizations and journalists operating in remote areas were more vulnerable to violence and intimidation because of increased levels of insecurity and threats from insurgents, warlords, and organized criminals. They also reported local governmental authorities were less cooperative in facilitating access to information.

In August 2016 the Office of the National Security Council approved a new set of guidelines to address cases of violence against journalists. The initiative created a joint national committee in Kabul and separate committees in provincial capitals, a coordination center to investigate and identify perpetrators of violence against journalists, and a support committee run by the NDS to identify threats against journalists. Press freedom organizations reported that, although the committee met and referred cases to the Attorney General’s Office, it did not increase protection for journalists.

In March a media advocacy group reported that many female journalists worked under pseudonyms to avoid recognition, harassment, and retaliation. According to the group, there were no female journalists in the provinces of Kunduz, Nuristan, or Panjsher because of insecurity.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Some media observers claimed journalists reporting on administrative corruption, land embezzlement, and local officials’ involvement in narcotics trafficking engaged in self-censorship due to fear of violent retribution by provincial police officials and powerful families. An NGO supporting media freedom surveyed journalists in 13 provinces and found 90 percent lacked access to government information. A Kabul Press Club survey showed more than half of journalists were dissatisfied with the level of access to government information.

Libel/Slander Laws: The penal code and the mass media law prescribe jail sentences and fines for defamation. Authorities sometimes used defamation as a pretext to suppress criticism of government officials.

National Security: Journalists complained government officials frequently invoked the national interest exception in the Access to Information law to avoid disclosing information.

Nongovernmental Impact: Some reporters acknowledged they avoided criticizing the insurgency and some neighboring countries in their reporting because they feared Taliban retribution. Insurgent groups coerced media agencies in insecure areas to prevent them from broadcasting or publishing advertisements and announcements of the security forces, entertainment programming, music, and women’s voices.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 10.6 percent of the population had internet access, mostly in urban areas, in 2016.

Media outlets and activists routinely used social media to discuss political developments, and Facebook was widely used in urban areas. The Taliban used the internet and social media to spread its messages. Internet usage remained relatively low due to high prices, a lack of local content, and illiteracy.

On November 4, the government announced a temporary ban on two popular encrypted messaging applications–WhatsApp and Telegram–from November 1 to 20. On November 6, the government rescinded the ban.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The government generally respected citizens’ right to demonstrate peacefully. Numerous public gatherings and protests took place during the year. Between June 2 and 12, hundreds of protesters, many from opposition political parties, installed tents and occupied major thoroughfares surrounding government buildings and foreign embassies in Kabul’s international zone to protest the government’s failure to stop the May 31 bombing. There were clashes between armed protesters and police.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the right to freedom of association, and the government generally respected it. The 2009 law on political parties obliges political parties to register with the Ministry of Justice and to pursue objectives consistent with Islam. In 2012 the Council of Ministers approved a regulation requiring political parties to open offices in at least 20 provinces within one year of registration. On September 14, President Ghani signed a decree prohibiting employees and officials of security and judicial institutions, specifically the Supreme Court, Attorney General’s Office, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense, and National Directorate of Security, from political party membership while government employees. Noncompliant employees could be fired.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, and other humanitarian organizations to provide protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, and other persons of concern. The government’s ability to assist vulnerable persons, including returnees from Pakistan and Iran, remained limited, and it continued to rely on the international community for assistance.

In-country Movement: The government generally did not restrict the right to freedom of movement within the borders of the country. Taxi, truck, and bus drivers reported security forces and insurgents sometimes operated illegal checkpoints and extorted money and goods from travelers. The greatest barrier to movement in some parts of the country was the lack of security. Social custom limited women’s freedom of movement without male consent or a male chaperone.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

Internal population movements increased in 2016 because of armed conflict. During the year internal displacement statistics reached a record high, with approximately 661,000 persons displaced. Most IDPs left insecure rural areas and small towns seeking relatively greater safety and government services in larger towns and cities in the same province. All 34 provinces hosted IDP populations.

Limited humanitarian access caused delays in identifying, assessing, and providing timely assistance to IDPs. IDPs continued to lack access to basic protection, including personal and physical security and shelter. Many IDPs, especially in households with a female head, faced difficulty obtaining basic services because they did not have identity documents. Many IDPs in urban areas reportedly faced discrimination, lacked adequate sanitation and other basic services, and lived in constant risk of eviction from illegally occupied displacement sites, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. Women in IDP camps reported high levels of domestic violence. Limited opportunities to earn a livelihood following the initial displacement often led to secondary displacement, making tracking of vulnerable persons difficult. Even IDPs who had access to local social services sometimes had less access than their non-IDP neighbors, due to distance from the services or other factors.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: Laws do not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees from other countries.

Durable Solutions: The government did not officially accept refugees for resettlement, offer naturalization to refugees residing on their territory, or assist in their voluntary return to their homes. Approximately 50,000 registered refugees and 174,000 undocumented Afghans voluntarily returned to the country during the year. The government established a Displacement and Returnees Executive Committee and a Policy Framework and Action Plan to promote the successful integration of returnees and IDPs.

STATELESS PERSONS

NGOs noted the lack of official birth registration for refugee children as a significant challenge and protection concern, due to the risk of statelessness and potential long-term disadvantage.

Albania

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

While the constitution and law prohibit such actions, police and prison guards sometimes beat and abused suspects and prisoners. Through September the Service for Internal Affairs and Complaints received complaints of police abuse and corruption that led to both administrative sanctions and criminal prosecutions. As of July, the Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC) reported one case of alleged physical violence in a police facility.

The ombudsman reported that most cases of alleged physical or psychological abuse occurred during arrest and interrogation. Through August, the ombudsman received 104 complaints from detainees. The majority of complaints concerned the quality of health care. The ombudsman did not refer any case for prosecution.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Poor physical conditions and a lack of medical treatment, particularly for mental health issues, were serious problems, as were overcrowded facilities and corruption. The AHC and the ombudsman reported that conditions in certain detention facilities were so poor as to constitute inhuman treatment. Conditions remained substandard in police detention facilities outside of Tirana and other major urban centers.

Physical Conditions: The government, the ombudsman, and the AHC reported prison overcrowding continued and that the prison population was 3-5 percent greater than the design capacity of prison facilities. Overcrowding was worse in pretrial detention centers. Conditions in prison and detention centers for women were generally better than those for men.

The majority of the 104 complaints received by the ombudsman from prisoners through August dealt with the quality of health services. Prisoners also complained about access to special leave programs, delays in the implementation of prison transfer orders, and undesirable transfers to other prisons. The AHC also reported numerous complaints about the quality of health services and transfer/nontransfer between detention facilities. In some cases, prison officials placed inmates not subject to disciplinary measures in isolation cells due to a lack of space among the general prison population. The ombudsman and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported that authorities held inmates with mental disabilities in regular prisons, where access to mental health care was wholly inadequate.

Prison and detention center conditions varied significantly by age and type of facility. The ombudsman, the AHC, and the Albanian Rehabilitation Center from Trauma and Torture identified problems in both new and old structures, such as dampness in cells, poor hygiene, lack of bedding materials, and inconsistent water and electricity supply.

Conditions in facilities operated by the Ministry of Interior, such as police stations and temporary detention facilities, were inadequate, except for regional facilities in Tirana, Gjirokaster, Kukes, Fier, and Korca. Some detention facilities were unheated during the winter, and some lacked basic hygienic amenities, such as showers or sinks. Facilities were cramped, afforded limited access to toilets, and had little or no ventilation, natural light, or beds and benches. Camera monitoring systems were nonexistent or insufficient in the majority of police stations.

Administration: The Ministry of Justice managed the country’s prisons. The ombudsman reported prison and police officials generally cooperated with investigations. NGOs and the ombudsman noted inadequate recordkeeping in some institutions, particularly in small or rural police stations.

Corruption continued to be a serious problem in detention centers, particularly in connection with access to work and special release programs. NGOs reported that those involved in work programs received only 90 leks (about $0.80) per month and did not receive credit for social security. In July 2016 the deputy general director of prisons, Iljaz Labi, was arrested for his involvement in creating fake procurement documents for food-supply companies. In February police arrested on similar corruption charges former general director of prisons, Artur Zoto, who had voluntarily resigned a few days after Labi’s arrest. During the year several other senior prison staff were arrested and convicted for supplying drugs to prisoners or demanding payment for access to family visits.

The majority of prison directors in the country were fired during the year on grounds of corruption, abuse of office, and other violations of the law.

Independent Monitoring: The government allowed local and international human rights groups, the media, as well as international bodies such as the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture to monitor prison conditions. The ombudsman conducted frequent unannounced inspections of detention facilities.

Improvements: The General Directorate of Prisons indicated that by July overall prison overcrowding had been reduced from 9 percent in 2016 to 3 percent. Both the ombudsman and NGOs reported a decrease in cases of physical and psychological abuse from the previous year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Interior oversees the Guard of the Republic and the State Police, which include the Border and Migration Police. The State Police are primarily responsible for internal security. The Guard of the Republic protects senior state officials, foreign dignitaries, and certain state properties. The Ministry of Defense oversees the armed forces, which also assist the population in times of humanitarian need. The State Intelligence Service (SIS) gathers information, carries out foreign intelligence and counterintelligence activities, and is responsible to the prime minister.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over police, the Guard of the Republic, the armed forces, and the SIS, although officials periodically used state resources for personal gain and members of the security forces committed abuses.

Police did not always enforce the law equitably. Personal associations, political or criminal connections, poor infrastructure, lack of equipment, or inadequate supervision often influenced law enforcement. Poor leadership and a lack of diversity in the workforce contributed to continued corruption and unprofessional behavior. Authorities continued to made efforts to address these problems by renovating police facilities, upgrading vehicles, and publicly highlighting anticorruption measures.

Impunity remained a serious problem, although the government made greater efforts to address it, in particular by increasing the use of camera evidence to document and prosecute police misconduct.

While the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, police corruption remained a problem. The Service for Internal Affairs and Complaints received 3,811 telephone complaints via the anticorruption “green line” through July 31. The majority of the complaints involved “inaction of police officers,” “unjust fine/ticket,” or “violation of standard operating procedures.” The office filed 43 administrative violations, recommending 57 police officers for disciplinary proceedings. The cases of five officers were forwarded to the Prosecution Office. During the year the ombudsman also processed complaints against police officers, mainly concerning problems with arrests and detention.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires that, except for arrests made during the commission of a crime, police may arrest a suspect on criminal grounds only with a warrant issued by a judge and based on sufficient evidence. There were no reports of secret arrests. By law police must immediately inform the prosecutor of an arrest. The prosecutor may release the suspect or petition the court within 48 hours to hold the individual further. A court must decide within 48 hours whether to place a suspect in detention, require bail, prohibit travel, or require the defendant to report regularly to police. Prosecutors requested, and courts ordered, detention in many criminal cases, although courts sometimes denied prosecutors’ requests for detention of well-connected, high-profile defendants.

The constitution requires authorities to inform detained persons immediately of the charges against them and their rights. Law enforcement authorities did not always respect this requirement. Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) that entered into force on August 1 imposed additional obligations on law enforcement regarding the rights of defendants and detained persons. The same amendments established a new system for handling the monetary aspect of bail. Courts often ordered suspects to report to police or prosecutors on a weekly basis. While the law gives detainees the right to prompt access to an attorney, at public expense if necessary, NGOs reported interrogations often took place without the presence of a lawyer. Authorities placed many suspects under house arrest, often at their own request, because if convicted they received credit for time served.

By law police should transfer detainees to the custody of the Ministry of Justice, which has facilities more appropriate for long-term detention, if their custody will exceed 10 hours. Due to overcrowding in the penitentiary system, detainees, including juveniles, commonly remained in police detention centers for long periods.

Arbitrary Arrest: The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention. Although the government generally observed these prohibitions, there were instances when police detained persons for questioning for inordinate lengths of time without formally arresting them.

Pretrial Detention: While the law requires completion of most pretrial investigations within three months, a prosecutor may extend this period to two years or longer. The law provides that pretrial detention should not exceed three years; the government reported five cases of pretrial detentions exceeding this limit. Extended pretrial detention often occurred due to delayed investigations, defense mistakes, or the intentional failure of defense counsel to appear. The amendments to the CPC that entered into force during the year included provisions intended to put an end to the existing inability of judges to prevent such delaying actions by holding the offending attorney in contempt of court. Limited material resources, lack of space, poor court-calendar management, insufficient staff, and failure of attorneys and witnesses to appear prevented the court system from adjudicating cases in a timely fashion. As of September, 44 percent of the prison and detention center population was in pretrial detention.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The CPC requires that the court examine the necessity of a detention within three days. If the detention is not revoked, the detainee may appeal up to the Supreme Court. If no decision is made within a prescribed period, the detention becomes void. The CPC also requires the prosecutor to provide the court bi-monthly updates regarding information obtained following detention. A judge may revoke detention based on new information.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, political pressure, intimidation, widespread corruption, and limited resources sometimes prevented the judiciary from functioning independently and efficiently. Court hearings were often not open to the public. Court security officers frequently refused to admit observers to hearings and routinely telephoned the presiding judge to ask whether to admit an individual seeking to attend a particular hearing. Some agencies exhibited a pattern of disregard for court orders. The politicization of appointments to the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court threatened to undermine the independence and integrity of these institutions. As of October there were 10 vacancies on the Supreme Court, which faced a considerable backlog of cases.

The Ministry of Justice generally did not vigorously pursue disciplinary measures against judges. When it did so, the High Council of Justice (HCJ) was reluctant to enact those measures. During 2016 the Ministry of Justice initiated disciplinary proceedings against nine judges. During the same year, the HCJ dismissed one judge after she was convicted of corruption and transferred another to a different court. During the year the Ministry of Justice did not pursue disciplinary actions against judges due to the entry into force of new legislation on justice organization, and the HCJ did not rule on any pending requests. The HCJ ordered the suspension of a trial court judge following a decision of the First Instance (i.e., Trial) Court for Serious Crimes. The case was pending at year’s end.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law presumes defendants to be innocent until convicted. It provides for defendants to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary, and to have a fair and public trial without undue delay. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial, consult an attorney and have one provided at public expense if they cannot afford one. The law provides defendants adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and access to interpretation free of charge. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them and to present witnesses and evidence in their defense. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right to appeal. The government generally respected these rights, although trials were not always public and access to a lawyer was at times problematic. Following the entry into force of amendments to the CPC, the prosecutor has to apply before a preliminary hearing judge to send the case to trial. This reform was intended to be a further guarantee for the rights of defendants and their access to the evidence against them.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

While individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations, courts were susceptible to corruption, inefficiency, intimidation, and political tampering. Judges held many court hearings in their offices, demonstrating a lack of professionalism and providing opportunities for corruption. These factors undermined the judiciary’s authority, contributed to controversial court decisions, and led to an inconsistent application of civil law. Despite the statutory right to free legal aid in civil cases, NGOs reported that very few individuals benefitted from this during the year.

Persons who have exhausted remedies in domestic courts could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In many instances authorities did not enforce ECHR rulings, especially those concerning the right to a fair trial.

Persons who were political prisoners under the former communist regime continued to petition the government for compensation. On several occasions groups of former political prisoners protested the government’s failure to pay them legally mandated compensation. The government made some progress on disbursing compensation during the year. By June the government had paid the eighth and final compensation installment to the former political prisoners who were still alive. The government also agreed to include 320 former political prisoners who had not submitted their papers in time to benefit from the compensation.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Thousands of claims for private and religious property confiscated during the communist era remained unresolved with the government’s Agency for Property Treatment. The ombudsman reported that to date the government had not yet executed 26,000 court rulings nor reviewed 11,000 claims dealing with property rights. Claimants may appeal cases to the ECHR, and during the year hundreds of cases–many of them related to property–were pending ECHR review.

Albania endorsed the Terezin Declaration in 2009 and the Guidelines and Best Practices in 2010. Albania does not have any restitution or compensation laws relating to Holocaust-era confiscations of private property. Under the law, religious communities have the same restitution and compensation rights as natural or legal persons. Since becoming a signatory to the Terezin Declaration in 2009, Albania has not passed any laws dealing with restitution of heirless property. The government reported no property claims had been submitted by victims of the Holocaust.

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

The government’s National Inspectorate for the Protection of the Territory (NIPT) demolished some homes without due legal process as part of a wider campaign to demolish illegally constructed buildings. Through July the ombudsman received seven citizen complaints against the local inspectorates and three against the NIPT, including for failure to provide sufficient warning in writing, failure to consider a homeowner’s application for legalization of a property, and lack of transparency.

Throughout the year, residents of the Himara region continued to complain of targeted heavy-handedness by the government that resulted in the partial or complete demolition of numerous houses and businesses with little warning and no legal recourse for adequate compensation. In October the government demolished several uninhabited structures in Himara as it implemented an urban development plan about which residents complained they had not been adequately consulted by municipal authorities. The demolition of a further 12 structures was halted because residents filed a court case against the authorities. Municipal authorities defended the demolitions as necessary for commercial development.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights. There were reports that the government, business, and criminal groups sought to influence the media in inappropriate ways.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of viewpoints, although there were some efforts to exert direct and indirect political and economic pressure on the media, including threats and violence against journalists who tried to investigate crime and corruption stories. Political pressure, corruption, and lack of funding constrained the independent print media, and journalists reportedly practiced self-censorship. Lack of economic security reduced reporters’ independence and contributed to bias in reporting. The Albanian Journalists Union continued to report significant delays in salary payments to reporters at most media outlets. Financial problems led some journalists to rely more heavily on outside sources of income.

While dramatic growth in online media during the year added to the diversity of views, NGOs maintained that professional ethics were a low priority for such outlets, raising concerns over the spread of false news stories that benefited specific financial or political interests.

In its annual Media Sustainability Index, the International Research and Exchanges Board indicated that the county’s media environment deteriorated in several areas. Donor funding for organizations that pushed for a more independent press remained limited, and the press was vulnerable to misuse under constant political and economic pressure. According to the report, very few media outlets produced independent reports about organized crime because their journalists lacked financial and editorial independence.

The independence of the Audiovisual Media Authority, the regulator of the broadcast media market, remained questionable, and the role of the authority remained limited. Most owners of private television stations used the content of their broadcasts to influence government action toward their other businesses. Business owners also freely used media outlets to gain favor and promote their interests with political parties.

Violence and Harassment: There were reports of violence and intimidation against members of the media, and political and business interests subjected journalists to pressure.

In May 2016 the Union of Albanian Journalists denounced the severe beating of sports journalist Eduard Ilnica, allegedly for reporting on the violent behavior of a coach during a soccer match. Authorities arrested the coach, who in February was convicted of assault by both the district court and appellate court but released for time served in pretrial detention.

On March 8, two unidentified persons attacked Elvi Fundo, a journalist and owner of the news portal citynews.al, with iron bars, causing serious injuries. Police investigated the attack but as of September had not identified the perpetrators. According to Fundo, his portal’s stories accusing other media owners of drug trafficking and some police of corruption were possible reasons for the attack.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists often practiced self-censorship to avoid violence and harassment and as a response to pressure from publishers and editors seeking to advance their political and economic interests. A 2015 survey by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) Albania found that large commercial companies and important advertisers were key sources of pressure.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law permits private parties to file criminal charges and obtain financial compensation for insult or deliberate publication of defamatory information. NGOs reported that the fines, which could be as much as three million leks ($26,000), were excessive and, combined with the entry of a conviction into the defendant’s criminal record, undermined freedom of expression.

On June 9, a member of the High Council of Justice, Gjin Gjoni, filed defamation lawsuits against two BIRN journalists and two journalists of the daily Shqiptarja.com for their coverage of his asset declaration, which was being investigated by prosecutors. Gjoni was seeking seven million leks ($61,000) from BIRN and four million leks ($35,000) from Shqiptarja.com, claiming the stories damaged his reputation.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to March data from Internet World Stats, approximately 67 percent of the population used the internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. Police allowed UNHCR to monitor the processing, detention, and deportation of some migrants.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: UNHCR reported a few cases of police intimidation and reluctance to accept requests for asylum. On two occasions, in November 2016 and June, border authorities used force against groups of migrants who refused to be returned to Greece. Following the 2016 incident, one injured migrant was hospitalized and UNHCR filed a complaint with the border authorities.

Authorities often detained irregular migrants who entered the country. As of November authorities had detained approximately 744 migrants, mostly at the country’s southern border with Greece; those who did not request asylum were generally deported to Greece within 24 hours. Migrants detained further inland could spend several weeks at the Karrec closed migrant detention facility awaiting deportation. As of November the government reported four persons detained in the Karrec facility.

UNHCR reported that approximately 30 percent of migrants requested asylum. Some NGOs and UNHCR maintained that some migrants who requested asylum were deported as well. UNHCR made formal complaints to the government, but authorities were generally slow to address them. UNHCR reported that conditions at the Karrec center were unsuitable, particularly for children. As of September the government had referred fewer migrants to Karrec than in 2016, and only one minor–a 17-year-old boy travelling in a group–spent time there.

In-country Movement: In order to receive government services, individuals changing place of residence within the country must transfer their civil registration to their new community and prove the legality of their new domicile through property ownership, a property rental agreement, or utility bills. Many persons could not provide proof and thus lacked access to public services. Other citizens, particularly Roma and Balkan-Egyptians, lacked formal registration in the communities where they resided. The law does not prohibit their registration, but it was often difficult to complete. Many Roma and Balkan-Egyptians lacked the financial means to register, and many lacked the motivation to go through the process.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

There were credible reports from NGOs and migrants and asylum seekers that authorities did not follow due process obligations for some asylum seekers and that in other cases those seeking asylum did not have access to the system. Through November some 744 migrants–mostly Algerians, Syrians, and Libyans–entered the country, mostly via the country’s southern border with Greece. Of these, 128 requested asylum. Authorities returned those who did not request asylum to Greece, some immediately but others after weeks of detention in inadequate facilities. UNHCR was critical of the government’s migrant screening and detention procedures, particularly in view of the increased presence of children among migrants.

The law on asylum requires authorities to grant or deny asylum within 51 days of an applicant’s initial request. Under the law asylum seekers cannot face criminal charges of illegal entry if they contact authorities within 10 days of their arrival in the country. UNHCR reported that the asylum system lacked effective monitoring. In March authorities returned an Algerian woman to Greece although she had requested asylum; authorities also returned an unaccompanied Pakistani minor with no special consideration for his age. UNHCR expressed concern with the government’s mechanism for appeals of refused asylum requests since the appellate body generally lacked expertise and tended to uphold initial decisions without considering the merits of a case.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The law prohibits individuals from safe countries of origin or transit from applying for asylum or refugee status. UNHCR, however, reported that no asylum requests had been refused based on the government’s list of safe countries, which includes Greece.

Employment: The law permits refugees access to work. The limited issuance of refugee identification cards and work permits, however, meant few refugees actually worked.

Access to Basic Services: The law provides migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees access to public services, including education, health care, housing, law enforcement, courts/judicial procedures, and legal assistance. Migrants and asylum seekers often required the intervention of UNHCR or local NGOs to secure these services.

Durable Solutions: In September 2016 the government completed the process of receiving Iranian Mujahideen-e Khalq refugees from Iraq and continued to facilitate their local integration throughout the year.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided subsidiary and temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. As of September the government had granted subsidiary protection to two persons during the year.

STATELESS PERSONS

The government had no updated information regarding the total number of persons at risk of statelessness. Using data from the cases that were resolved from 2011 to 2016 with the support of the NGO Tirana Legal Aid Society, UNHCR estimated the number to be 4,871, down from the 7,443 persons who declared themselves as unregistered during the 2011 census. Most of these were Romani or Balkan-Egyptian children. The risk of statelessness continued to exist for unregistered children born abroad to returning migrant families, although the law affords the opportunity to obtain nationality.

Andorra

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The country’s only security forces are the police, prison officers, traffic police, and forestry officials. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Justice, and Interior maintained effective civilian control over the security forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires warrants for arrest. Police may legally detain persons for 48 hours without a hearing, and police generally observed this time limit. A judge has up to 24 hours to charge or release the detainee. Police promptly informed detainees of charges against them. A bail system exists. The law provides detainees the right to legal counsel from the moment of arrest. Persons charged with a crime may choose their own lawyers or accept one designated by the government. Detainees generally had prompt access to family members.

Pretrial Detention: On average, prisoners spent nine months in pretrial detention before being judged.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested and detained are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and to obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. They may also seek to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and receive prompt, detailed notification of the charges against them. Trials are fair and public and for the most part held without delay. Defendants have the right to be present and consult in a timely manner with an attorney of their choice. If a defendant cannot afford an attorney, the government must appoint a public attorney. Defendants and their attorneys have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. The government provides an interpreter, if needed, from the moment of being charged through all appeals. Defendants can confront or question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right to appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Plaintiffs may bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to the ECHR. The national ombudsman also serves to protect and defend basic rights and public freedom on behalf of citizens.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Angola

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

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

There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. On December 7, human rights activist and journalist Rafael Marques de Morais released a report, “The Field of Death,” alleging Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) officers engaged in a campaign of extrajudicial killings of young men in Luanda from April 2016 through November 2017. According to Marques, many of the victims were accused of petty criminality or otherwise labeled as “undesirable” by residents of their respective communities. The report alleged the national police at times coordinated with SIC officers in the killings. On December 11, the public prosecutor announced the creation of a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations.

Fifteen months after the August 2016 killing of 14-year-old Rufino Antonio during an Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) demolition operation of allegedly unauthorized housing, authorities arrested and charged an FAA soldier with Rufino’s death. The trial of the FAA soldier continued at year’s end.

At year’s end the Supreme Court had not rendered a decision on the appeal of the 28-year sentence imposed in April 2016 on Jose Kalupeteka, leader of the Light of the World religious sect, for the 2015 clashes between members of his group and police that left 13 civilians and nine police officers dead, according to official figures. There was no information on the status of the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) investigation into the August 2016 clashes between police and Light of the World followers in Kwanza Sul Province that reportedly resulted in the deaths of five church members and three police officers.

b. Disappearance

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

For example, Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) representatives alleged that on June 28, MPLA party members kidnapped Adelino Joao Cassoma, a UNITA party member, tortured him, and threw him into the Cuango River in Lunda Norte Province. The MPLA accused UNITA of lying and concealing Cassoma’s whereabouts. On August 8, a man alleging to be Adelino Joao Cassoma appeared before the media to insist that he had not been kidnapped but had hidden in the forest for more than 20 days due to fear of political intolerance. UNITA claimed that the man was an imposter and that Cassoma remained missing. There was no additional information on the case at year’s end.

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

The constitution and law prohibit all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but the government did not always enforce these prohibitions. Periodic reports continued of beatings and other abuses of persons on the way to and in 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 (Ombudsman).

On September 16, police found Dias Casa Mbata dead in a police station in Luanda following his arrest the previous day. An autopsy revealed Mbata suffered three skull fractures, a broken arm, and multiple bruises. The Ministry of Interior opened an investigation into possible unlawful arrest and police brutality in the case.

Security forces reacted harshly and sometimes violently to public demonstrations against the government. The visible presence of security forces was enough to deter significantly what were deemed by the government to be unlawful demonstrations. Authorities claimed known agitators who sought only to create social instability organized many of the public demonstrations.

Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of abuses by private security companies in diamond producing regions.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening. Domestic NGOs, activists, and the media continued to highlight corruption, violence, overcrowding, a lack of medical care, and generally poor conditions.

Physical Conditions: In April 2016 Antonio Fortunato, director general of penitentiary services, acknowledged overcrowding in prisons was a serious problem.

Authorities frequently held pretrial detainees with sentenced inmates, and short-term detainees with those serving long-term sentences for violent crimes, especially in provincial prisons.

Prison conditions varied widely between urban and rural areas. Prisons in rural areas were less crowded and reportedly had better rehabilitation, training, and reintegration services. Prisons did not always provide adequate medical care, sanitation, potable water, or food, and it was customary for families to bring food to prisoners. Local NGOs stated prison services were insufficient. In 2015 Fortunato acknowledged that approximately five prisoners died each month in the country’s prisons from diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

In 2016, while a prisoner inside the Viana jail, Bruno Marques took photographs that allegedly depicted the jail’s deplorable conditions and sick and malnourished prisoners. Newspaper Novo Jornal published the photographs in a September 2016 article, and there were reports that members of the Rapid Intervention Police and Special Prison Services Detachment tortured Marques while he was still a prisoner in response to the publication. On March 25, unknown assailants shot and beat Marques to death in a Luanda suburb. Police opened an investigation into the killing, which was pending at year’s end.

On July 20, the NGO Ame Naame Omunu denounced conditions in Peu Peu prison in Cunene Province. After receiving complaints from family members of deceased prisoners, the NGO contacted the municipal hospital, which confirmed the presence of nine deceased prisoners’ bodies in the hospital morgue. No information was available on causes of death. The NGO filed a letter of complaint with the provincial-level representative of the Ministry of Interior, but authorities conducted no official investigation.

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

Some offenders, including violent offenders, reported paying fines and bribes to secure their freedom, but it was unclear how prevalent this practice was.

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

Members of opposition parties visited prisons around the country on a regular basis and reported uneven improvements in living conditions and rehabilitation programs. A local NGO that provides pro bono legal services to inmates said prison officials were trying to improve conditions but overcrowding limited results. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, ministry representatives made monthly visits to detention centers with representatives of the Office of the Public Defender, the PGR, and members of the National Assembly to assess prisoners’ living conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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, despite this right being protected by the constitution. While they often released detainees after a few hours, police at times charged them with crimes.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police, controlled by the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for internal security and law enforcement. The SIC, also under the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for preventing and investigating domestic crimes. The Expatriate and Migration Services and the Border Guard Police, in the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for migration law enforcement. The state intelligence and security service reports to the presidency and investigates sensitive state security matters. The FAA are responsible for external security but also have domestic security responsibilities, including border security, expulsion of irregular migrants, and small-scale actions against Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda separatists in Cabinda.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the FAA and the national police, and the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The security forces generally were effective, although sometimes brutal, at maintaining stability. There were allegations during the year that the SIC committed extrajudicial killings, at times in coordination with the national police, to combat crime (see section 1.a.). The national police and FAA have internal mechanisms to investigate security force abuses, and the government provided some training to reform the security forces. Impunity for security force abuses remained a problem, however.

Local populations generally welcomed police presence in neighborhoods and on streets as enhancing general safety and security. Nevertheless, police routinely were believed to extort civilians to supplement their income. Corruption and impunity remained serious problems. The national police handled most complaints internally through opaque disciplinary procedures, which sometimes led to formal punishment, including dismissal. They participated in a television series designed to show a gamut of interactions between police and civilians. The goal of the show was to encourage the population to collaborate with police while discouraging security force members’ procurement of bribes or their payment. The national police also utilized social media to communicate with civilians. The PGR has an anticorruption unit, charged with oversight of police wrongdoing. The government disclosed publicly the results of some investigations that led to disciplinary action. For example, on October 3, the Zaire Military Court sentenced three police officers to between three and four years in prison for insubordination and facilitating illegal immigration in order to extort money from irregular migrants.

Police participated in professional training provided by national and international organizations that focused on human rights, combatting trafficking in persons, and law enforcement best practices during elections.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires a magistrate or judge to issue a warrant before an arrest may be made, although a person caught committing an offense may be arrested immediately without a warrant. Authorities, however, did not always procure warrants before making an arrest.

By law the public prosecutor must inform the detainee of the legal basis for his or her detention within 48 hours. NGO sources reported authorities often did not respect the law. If the public prosecutor is unable to determine whether there is a legal basis for the detention within 48 hours, the prosecutor has the authority to release the person or, depending on the seriousness of the case, require the person to submit to one or more pretrial procedures prescribed by law, such as posting bail, periodic appearance before authorities, or house arrest.

If the public prosecutor determines a legal basis exists for the detention, a person can be held in pretrial detention for up to four months without charge and up to 12 months before a judge is required to rule on the case. Cases of special complexity regarding crimes punishable by eight or more years allow for pretrial detention without charge for up to six months, and up to 14 months before a judge is required to rule on the case. By law the period of pretrial detention counts toward the total amount of time served.

The law states that all detainees have the right to a lawyer, either chosen by them or appointed by the government on a pro bono basis. The lack of lawyers in certain provinces at times impeded the right to a lawyer. There was an insufficient number to handle the volume of criminal cases, and the geographical distribution of lawyers was a problem, since most lawyers were concentrated in Luanda. During the year the Angolan Justice, Peace, and Democracy Association published a study, “Angola: Justice Sector, Human Rights and State Law,” which reported 1,528 accredited and 2,426 unaccredited (those who have yet to pass the bar exam) lawyers in the country. More than 80 percent of accredited and unaccredited lawyers resided in Luanda Province. In 2015 the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights reported that all municipal courts were staffed with licensed lawyers, but at the same time it recognized access to a lawyer, especially in the provinces and in rural areas, remained a problem. Several lawyers and NGOs noted that even in Luanda most poor defendants did not have access to lawyers during their first appearance before a judicial authority or during their trial. When a lawyer is unavailable, a judge may appoint a clerk of the court to represent the defendant, but clerks of the court often lacked the necessary training to provide an adequate defense.

The law allows family members prompt access to detainees, but prison officials occasionally ignored this right or made it conditional upon payment of a bribe. The law requires detainees be held incommunicado for up to 48 hours until being presented to a public prosecutor, except they may communicate with their lawyer or a family member.

A functioning but ineffective bail system, widely used for minor crimes, existed. Prisoners and their families reported that prison officials demanded bribes to release prisoners.

Arbitrary Arrest: Unlawful arrest and detention remained serious problems. According to the PGR, allegations of government wrongdoing on arrest practices made by local and international NGOs were due to a lack of understanding of national laws. For example, on April 17, police detained seven activists in the Cacuaco suburb of Luanda for holding a protest demanding transparent elections. The young men, charged with acts of rebellion and resisting arrest, received a sentence of 45 days’ imprisonment and a fine of 65,000 kwanzas ($382); authorities released them on June 9 after they had completed their sentence.

Pretrial Detention: Excessively long pretrial detention continued to be a serious problem. An inadequate number of judges and poor communication among authorities contributed to the problem. In some cases authorities held inmates in prison for up to two years before their trials began. The Ministry of Interior reported in 2016 that 11,000 inmates were pretrial detainees, approximately 45 percent of the total inmate population. The government often did not release detainees confined beyond the legal time limit, claiming previous releases of pretrial detainees had resulted in an increase in crime. During the year the provincial government of Cunene held twice-monthly court sessions inside the Peu Peu prison to alleviate lengthy pretrial detention.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: In June 2016 the Supreme Court granted a group of activists known as the “15+2” a writ of habeas corpus, ruling that following their March conviction and sentencing to between two and eight years in prison by the Luanda Provincial Court, the appeal lodged by their lawyers had a suspensive effect and required their release pending the outcome of their appeal. Judge Domingos Januario, the judge of first instance for the Luanda Provincial Court, was later accused of concealing the activists’ petition for habeas corpus from the Supreme Court. The attorney general launched an investigation of the judge’s handling of the case, which was pending at year’s end.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent and impartial judiciary. Institutional weaknesses in the judicial system, however, such as political influence in the decision-making process, were problems. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the PGR worked to improve the independence of prosecutors and judges. The National Institute for Judicial Studies conducted capacity-building programs on the importance of an independent judicial system.

There were long trial delays at the Supreme Court. Criminal courts also had a large backlog of cases, which resulted in major delays in hearings. There were only 22 municipal courts for 163 municipalities.

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 leaders (known as “sobas”) also heard and decided local civil cases. Sobas do not have the authority to resolve criminal cases; only courts can hear criminal cases.

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Although the law provides all citizens the right to a fair trial, authorities did not always respect this right. Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Authorities must inform defendants of the charges levied against them in detail within 48 hours of their detention. Defendants have the right to free language interpretation during all legal proceedings from the moment charged through all appeals. By law trials are usually public, although each court has the right to close proceedings. Defendants have the right to be present and consult with an attorney, either chosen by them or appointed by the state, in a timely manner. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, all public defenders are licensed lawyers. Defendants do not have the right to confront their accusers. They may question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right to sufficient time and facilities to prepare a defense. The law protects defendants from providing self-incriminating testimony. Individuals have the right to appeal their convictions. Authorities did not always respect these trial procedure rights.

A separate juvenile court is designated for children’s affairs. The juvenile court hears cases of minors between the ages of 12 and 16 accused of committing a criminal offense. Minors over age 16 accused of committing a criminal offense are tried in regular courts. In many rural municipalities, there is no provision for juvenile courts, so offenders as young as 12 can be tried as adults. In many cases traditional leaders have state authority to resolve disputes and determine punishments for civil offenses, including offenses committed by juveniles. Traditional authorities are defined in the constitution as ad hoc units of the state.

The president appoints Supreme Court justices for life terms without confirmation by the National Assembly. The Supreme Court generally hears cases concerning alleged political and security crimes.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights denied there were political prisoners in the country. Opposition political parties, however, often claimed authorities detained their members because of their political affiliations.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Damages for human rights violations may be sought in municipal or provincial courts and appealed to the Supreme Court.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The constitution recognizes the right to housing and quality of life, and the law states that persons relocated should receive fair compensation. The constitution provides that all untitled land belongs to the state. In August 2016 security forces demolished hundreds of allegedly illegal, privately built homes in Zango, a suburban Luanda zone that falls within the restrictive perimeter of the Luanda-Bengo Special Economic Zone. The demolitions reportedly displaced thousands of persons and resulted in several deaths. Some persons forced to move did not receive fair compensation, at times due to lack of clear title or permits for the destroyed property. Relocated persons who received new housing units often complained their units were located far from their jobs or places of business, or were of substandard quality.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, 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 the government maintained surveillance of 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.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Antigua and Barbuda

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prisoners in Her Majesty’s Prison, the country’s only prison, faced severe conditions and extreme overcrowding.

Physical Conditions: Her Majesty’s Prison, designed to hold a maximum of 150 inmates, held 334 male and 17 female prisoners as of September. Authorities separated remanded prisoners from convicted prisoners when space was available. Remanded inmates faced the harshest conditions, since their cells were the most overcrowded. As of September the prison held three juvenile inmates in maximum security.

Extremely poor ventilation caused cell temperatures to remain very high, and hygiene was inadequate. The prison had inadequate toilet facilities, with slop pails used in all cells except for those of the female prisoners. The men’s section had no showers; inmates used buckets to wash themselves. The women’s section of the prison had two showers; prison staff provided some feminine hygiene products to women, although most female inmates’ families provided for this need. Conditions in the kitchen were unsanitary, aggravated by the presence of insects, rodents, and stray cats (to catch rodents). The yard area also had stray cats and rodents.

Inmates with mental disabilities were held in the prison, in large part because the island’s psychiatric facility was also overcrowded. The prison superintendent reported that inmates had access to a mental health professional. The superintendent reported that bribery and corruption were common in the prison, with guards allegedly taking bribes and smuggling contraband such as liquor, cell phones, and marijuana to prisoners.

The prison had a work release program for men, but female inmates did not have a comparable program.

Conditions at the police holding facility in Saint John’s Station were also deficient. Inmates did not have ready access to potable water and were fed three meals of sausage and stale bread each day. Toilets were inadequate, and a rusty smell permeated the facility. Like Her Majesty’s Prison, the building was very old and appeared to be in a state of disrepair.

Administration: Complaints were handled in several ways, including a prison welfare officer, a complaints committee, and a prisoner appointed to lodge complaints.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, although no such visits occurred during the year.

Improvements: During the year authorities repaired the water system in Her Majesty’s Prison, restoring a running, potable water supply to prisoners.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge his/her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements. Prisoners on remand, however, remained in detention for an average of three to four years before their cases came to trial, according to the director of the Office of Public Prosecutions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Security forces consist of a police force; a prison guard service; immigration, airport, and port security personnel; the small Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force; and the Office of National Drug Control and Money Laundering Policy. Police fall under the responsibility of the attorney general, who is also the minister of justice, legal affairs, public safety, and labor. Immigration falls under the minister of foreign affairs, international trade, and immigration.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. The prime minister can call for an independent investigation into an incident as needed. The Professional Standards Department, which investigates complaints against police, is headed by the deputy police commissioner and decides whether an investigation is conducted. Senior authorities typically held police accountable for their actions. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law permits police to arrest without a warrant persons suspected of committing a crime. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and victims reported that police often abused this provision. Criminal defendants have the right to a prompt judicial determination of the legality of their detention. Police must bring detainees before a court within 48 hours of arrest or detention, but NGOs reported that victims were often held for 96 hours before being presented to a court. Authorities allowed criminal detainees prompt access to counsel and family members. The system requires those accused of more serious crimes to appeal to the High Court for bail.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for criminal defendants to receive a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Trials are by jury. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, have timely access to counsel, may be present at their trial, may confront adverse witnesses, may present their own witnesses and evidence, and have the right to appeal. In murder trials the government provides legal assistance at public expense to persons without the means to retain a private attorney. Defendants have the right to free assistance of an interpreter.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. They may apply to the High Court for redress of alleged violations of their constitutional rights. They may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, but the government respected this right on a somewhat limited basis.

Press and Media Freedoms: Privately owned print media, including daily and weekly newspapers, were active and offered a range of opinions. There were claims, however, that the government did not allow fair access to opposition and independent media. In public statements the prime minister threatened journalists and singled out the sole independent media outlet as the cause for the country’s problems.

Libel/Slander Laws: There were two libel cases pending against the country’s sole independent media outlet involving ruling party ministers.

INTERNET FREEDOM

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

According to 2016 International Telecommunication Union data, 73 percent of the population had access to the internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The country does not have any laws or legal procedures governing asylum or refugee status. The government handles asylum requests on an ad hoc basis.

Australia

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The law prohibits such practices, and the government generally respected these provisions. There were occasional claims police and prison officials mistreated suspects in custody; mistreatment of juvenile detainees was a particular concern.

In May a royal commission released an interim report on excessive abuse and unlawful treatment of youth detainees at Alice Springs Youth Detention Center and Aranda House Youth Detention Center in the Northern Territory. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Human Rights Commission (HRC), and others launched formal complaints against these detention centers. Media revealed in July 2016 that from 2010 until 2015, some juveniles at the Don Dale Detention Center in the Northern Territory were teargassed, physically assaulted, stripped naked, shackled, and hooded. In response, Prime Minister Turnbull announced a joint royal commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory, prompting calls for the commission to look into alleged abuses in other states as well.

Also in May a Victoria state Supreme Court judge ruled that the detention of minors in the Barwon maximum security prison for adults since late 2016, albeit in a separate unit, was unlawful. The court also found that prison guards violated the rights of the juveniles who were transferred to Barwon. The youths were reportedly handcuffed when released from their cells for exercise, continuously placed in isolation, and frequently restrained. A total of 28 youths were transferred to Barwon; at the time of the ruling 15 youths were incarcerated in the prison.

In September 2016 media reported abuse in the Cleveland Youth Detention Center in northern Queensland. Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath subsequently launched an inquiry into other possible cases of abuse in Queensland prisons and detention centers.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards.

Physical Conditions: The most recent data from the Australian Institute of Criminology reported 53 prison deaths in 2012-13. Of the 53 deaths, 32 were from natural causes, nine from hanging, five from external/multiple trauma, one from head injury, one from drugs, and one from other/multiple causes. The report excluded four cases due to missing data.

In June 2016 the Queensland Corrective Services minister indicated the increase in prisoner-on-prisoner assaults was “partly due to overcrowding in the state’s prison system.” A November 2016 New South Wales (NSW) Auditor-General’s report found the state’s prisons were operating at 122 percent of capacity.

In April the Department of Corrective Services in Western Australia reported overcrowding in Greenough Regional Prison with detainees forced to sleep on mattresses on cell floors. The Inspector of Custodial Services indicated that the prison was running at 140 percent of its capacity, holding 323 inmates in a prison designed to hold only 232.

As of October there were approximately 1,400 persons in immigration detention facilities in the country and another approximately 2,000 in facilities funded by the Australian Government in Papua New Guinea (Manus Island) and Nauru. The Manus Island Regional Processing Center closed down October 31 pursuant to a Papua New Guinea court decision contesting its legality.

In June the Australian government reached a court settlement with nearly 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island for illegally detaining them in dangerous and hostile conditions. The government claimed that the settlement was not an admission of liability, but media and independent reports revealed those in offshore detention centers were often subjected to sexual and physical abuse by locals and were living in overcrowded and substandard accommodations for prolonged periods. Furthermore, detainees had inadequate access to basic services, including water and hygiene facilities, clothing and footwear, education, and health services.

In October a Sri Lankan asylum seeker committed suicide while receiving treatment for mental illness at Lorengau General Hospital on Manus Island. He was the ninth asylum seeker and sixth on Manus Island to die by unnatural means while in the offshore detention system.

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

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The armed forces, under the minister for defense, are responsible for external security. The Australian Federal Police (AFP)–under the minister for justice–and state and territorial police forces are responsible for internal security. The AFP enforces national laws, and state and territorial police forces enforce state and territorial laws. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Border Force are responsible for migration and border enforcement.

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

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police officers may seek an arrest warrant from a magistrate when a suspect cannot be located or fails to appear, but they also may arrest a person without a warrant if there are reasonable grounds to believe the person committed an offense. Police must inform arrested persons immediately of their legal rights and the grounds for their arrest, and must bring arrested persons before a magistrate for a bail hearing at the next session of the court. Twenty-four hours is the maximum investigation period police may hold and question a person without charge, unless extended by court order for up to an additional 24 hours.

In terrorism cases the law permits police to hold individuals in preventive detention without charge or questioning for up to 48 hours under federal law and up to 14 days under state and territory laws if a senior police official finds it is “reasonably necessary to prevent a terrorist act or preserve evidence of such an act.”

If an individual is determined to be a terrorism suspect, police may detain the person for up to seven continuous days and can question the suspect for a maximum period of 24 hours, or 48 hours if an interpreter is needed. A separate provision of law permits the attorney general to grant the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) authority to detain a person for a continuous period of up to 168 hours (seven days) in special circumstances, such as where there are “reasonable grounds for believing that issuing the warrant to be requested will substantially assist the collection of intelligence that is important in relation to a terrorism offense.” The ASIO, however, reportedly has not used this authority.

By law the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor helps provide that counterterrorism laws strike an appropriate balance between protecting the community and protecting human rights. The AFP, the Australian Crime Commission, and intelligence agencies are subject to parliamentary oversight. The inspector-general of intelligence and security is an independent statutory officer who provides oversight of the country’s six intelligence agencies.

Bail generally is available to persons facing criminal charges unless authorities consider the person a flight risk or the charges carrying a penalty of 12 months’ imprisonment or more. Authorities granted attorneys and families prompt access to detainees. Government-provided attorneys are available to give legal advice to detainees who cannot afford counsel. Arrested persons enjoy additional legal protections, such as the ability to challenge the lawfulness of their detention and to apply for compensation if unlawfully detained.

Arbitrary Arrest: In December 2016 the government passed legislation allowing courts to hold convicted terrorists up to an additional three years if the courts find that prisoners still pose significant threats to the community. Various human rights organizations criticized the law saying it allows the government to detain prisoners indefinitely and arbitrarily.

In June the Victoria state government increased antiterrorism measures, giving Victoria Police the power to search suspected terrorists and gun crime offenders without warrants. Based on suspicion alone, police are able to impose a firearm prohibition order and search a person, their car and other property without showing “reasonable belief.” Orders can last up to 10 years for adults and five for youths. Those issued with an order have the right to appeal to the Victoria Civil Administrative Tribunal.

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and timely public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. In state district and county courts, and in state and territorial supreme courts, a judge and jury try serious offenses. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. They have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, the right to an attorney, to be present at their trial, and adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Government-funded attorneys are available to low-income persons. The defendant’s attorney can question witnesses, present witnesses and evidence, and appeal the court’s decision or the sentence imposed.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, and individuals or organizations may seek civil judicial remedies for human rights violations. There is also an administrative process at the state and federal levels to seek redress for alleged wrongs by government departments. Administrative tribunals may review a government decision only if the decision is in a category specified under a law, regulation, or other legislative instrument as subject to a tribunal’s review.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

For the resolution of Holocaust-era restitution claims, including by foreign citizens, the government has laws and mechanisms in place. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups reported that the government has taken comprehensive steps to implement these programs.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Austria

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The law prohibits such practices, but there were some reports that police used excessive force with detainees and psychiatric patients.

The government investigated allegations of such practices and prosecuted cases in which credible evidence existed. In July authorities suspended two police officers from duty and accused them of abuse of office after one of them was found to have slapped a homeless person in the face, and the other officer did not report the incident.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Physical Conditions: In its November 2015 report, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) expressed “serious concern” about the almost total lack of medical confidentiality in all the establishments visited and the fact that prison officers with only basic health care training performed health-related tasks normally reserved for qualified nurses.

Independent Monitoring: Human rights groups continued to criticize the incarceration of nonviolent offenders, including persons awaiting deportation, in single cells or inadequate facilities designed for temporary detention.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The federal police maintain internal security and report to the Ministry of the Interior. The army is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities and reports to the Defense Ministry. The criminal courts are responsible for investigating police violations of the law. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the federal police and army, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. For example, the Human Rights Advisory Council and the federal ombudsmen monitor police respect for human rights and make recommendations as needed to the minister of the interior.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to criticize the police for allegedly targeting minorities for frequent identity checks. Racial sensitivity training for police and other officials continued with NGO assistance.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Authorities base arrests on sufficient evidence and legal warrants issued by a duly authorized official. Authorities bring the arrested person before an independent judiciary. In criminal cases, the law allows investigative or pretrial detention for no more than 48 hours, during which time a judge may decide to grant a prosecution request for extended detention. The law specifies the grounds for investigative detention and conditions for bail. There were strict checks on the enforcement of pretrial detention restrictions and bail provisions, and a judge is required to evaluate investigative detention cases periodically. The maximum duration for investigative detention is two years. There is a functioning bail system. Police and judicial authorities generally respected these laws and procedures. There were isolated reports of police abuse, which authorities investigated and, where warranted, prosecuted.

Detainees have the right to a lawyer. Although indigent criminal suspects have the right to an attorney at government expense, the law requires appointment of an attorney only after a court decision to remand such suspects into custody (96 hours after apprehension). Criminal suspects are not legally required to answer questions without an attorney present. Laws providing for compensation for persons unlawfully detained were enforced.

In its 2015 report, the CPT found it unacceptable that authorities were continuing the practice of subjecting juveniles, some as young as 14, to police questioning and asking them to sign statements without a lawyer or a trusted person present. The report also noted that indigent persons could not usually benefit from the presence of a lawyer during police questioning.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested on criminal charges are entitled to challenge the arrest in court and can obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

The law presumes persons charged with criminal offenses are innocent until proven guilty; authorities inform them promptly and in detail of the charges. Trials must be public and conducted orally; defendants have the right to be present at their trial. Attorneys are not mandatory in cases of minor offenses, but legal counsel is available at no charge for needy persons in cases where attorneys are mandatory. The law grants defendants and their attorneys adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants can confront or question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Free interpretation is available from the moment a defendant is charged, through all appeals. Suspects cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. A system of judicial review provides multiple opportunities for appeal.

The law extends the above rights to all defendants regardless of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, or mental or physical disability.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, including an appellate system. These institutions are accessible to plaintiffs seeking damages for human rights violations. Administrative and judicial remedies were available for redressing alleged wrongs. Individuals and organizations may appeal domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

For the resolution of Holocaust-era restitution claims, including by foreign citizens, the government has laws and mechanisms in place. Property restitution also includes an art restitution program. NGOs and advocacy groups reported that the government has taken comprehensive steps to implement these programs.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Barbados

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, but there continued to be complaints against the police alleging assault, intimidation, and other unprofessional conduct. According to human rights activists, suspects occasionally accused police of beating them to obtain confessions, and suspects often recanted their confessions during trial. In many cases the only evidence against the accused was a confession. Suspects and their family members continued to allege coercion by police, but there was no evidence of systematic police abuse.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Administration: Two agencies–the Office of the Ombudsman and the Prison Advisory Board–are responsible for investigating credible allegations of mistreatment. The Prison Advisory Board conducted monthly visits.

Independent Monitoring: Human rights organizations were allowed access and monitored prison conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) is responsible for internal law enforcement, including migration and border enforcement. The Barbados Defense Force (BDF) protects national security and may be called upon to maintain public order in times of crisis, emergency, or other specific needs. The RBPF reports to the attorney general, and the BDF reports to the minister of defense and security. The law provides that police may request BDF assistance with special joint patrols.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the RBPF and BDF, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. Allegations against police were investigated and brought to the Police Complaints Authority, a civilian body in the Office of Professional Responsibility.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law authorizes police to arrest persons suspected of criminal activity; a warrant issued by a judge or justice of the peace based on evidence is typically required. Police procedure permits authorities to hold detainees without charge for up to five days, but once persons are charged, police must bring them before a court within 24 hours, or the next working day if the arrest occurred during the weekend. There was a functioning bail system. Criminal detainees received prompt access to counsel and were advised of that right immediately after arrest. Authorities generally permitted family members access to detainees.

Official procedures allow police to question suspects and other persons only at a police station, except when expressly permitted by a senior divisional officer to do otherwise. An officer must visit detainees at least once every three hours to inquire about their condition. After 24 hours the detaining authority must submit a written report to the deputy commissioner.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides that persons charged with criminal offenses receive a fair and public hearing without unnecessary delay by an independent, impartial court and a trial by jury. The government generally respected these rights, although prosecutors expressed concerns about increasing pretrial delays. Civil society representatives reported that wait times could be as long as five or six years before trial. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney of their choice in a timely manner. The government provided free legal aid to the indigent in family matters (excluding divorce), child support cases, serious criminal cases such as rape or murder, and all cases involving minors. The constitution prescribes that defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. These timelines may be set by the court on arraignment. Defendants may confront and question witnesses and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, have the right of appeal, and cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right to free assistance of an interpreter.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Magistrates’ courts have civil and criminal jurisdiction, but the civil judicial system experienced heavy backlogs. Citizens primarily sought redress for human rights or other abuses through the civil system, although human rights cases were sometimes decided in the criminal court. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views. Civil society representatives, however, reported that journalists who were overly critical of the government could be denied access to press conferences or denied the opportunity to ask questions of government officials.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Civil society representatives reported media practiced self-censorship when reporting on corruption due to fear that making allegations could invite a defamation lawsuit.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 79 percent of citizens used the internet in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees, asylum seekers, or other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. The Immigration Department was responsible for considering refugee or asylum claims. During the year there was one reported case of a request for temporary asylum, made by a Jamaican citizen from the LGBTI community.

Belarus

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

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

During the year there were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings and no reports of deaths from torture.

b. Disappearance

During the year there were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. There were no developments in the reportedly continuing investigations into the 2000 disappearance of journalist Zmitser Zavadski and the 1999 disappearances of former deputy prime minister Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasouski, and former interior minister Yuri Zakharanka. There was evidence of government involvement in the disappearances, but authorities continued to deny any connection with them.

In May 2016 a Minsk court suspended the civil suit of Zakharanka’s mother asking for the court to recognize Zakharanka’s death until the criminal case regarding his disappearance was closed. The lawyer for Zakharanka’s mother told the court, “given the fact that for 16 years the investigation has produced no results, it deprives the citizen the opportunity to realize her rights. In fact it is a denial of justice.”

In August 2016 a Minsk city court refused the request of Zakharanka’s mother to declare her son deceased. In order to obtain access to case materials and his property, Zakharanka’s mother has repeatedly asked authorities to declare him dead, suspend the investigation, or both. In June authorities extended the investigation into Zakharanka’s disappearance to December 24.

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

The law prohibits such practices. Nevertheless, the Committee for State Security (KGB), riot police, and other security forces, often without identification and in plain clothes, beat detainees on occasion. Security forces also reportedly mistreated individuals during investigations. Police occasionally beat persons during arrests.

Human rights advocates, opposition leaders, and activists released from detention facilities reported maltreatment and other forms of physical and psychological abuse of suspects during criminal and administrative investigations.

On March 25, special police forces raided an apartment in which 58 human rights observers, experts, and foreign journalists gathered in advance of unauthorized protest in Minsk. According to eyewitnesses, when a doorbell rang and human rights advocate Aliaksei Loika opened the door officers assaulted Loika, who was hospitalized and diagnosed with a concussion the same day. On August 28, a Minsk district investigative committee turned down Loika’s request to investigate his beatings because it stated law enforcement officers did not apply excessive physical force.

On March 29, a court in Minsk sentenced Mikalai Dziadok, an anarchist and opposition activist, to 10 days in administrative detention for resisting police and participating March 25 in unauthorized protests in Minsk. Dziadok was hospitalized after his detention with a concussion and minor facial and head injuries. In court he claimed that a police officer hit him in the head a number of times. Police testified that Dziadok shouted political slogans and resisted police during his detention, requiring officers to apply physical force. Dziadok’s father filed a complaint asking investigators to look into his son’s beating, but authorities turned it down.

There were numerous reports of cases of hazing of conscripts into the army that included beatings and other forms of physical and psychological abuse. Some of those cases reportedly resulted in deaths. For example, on October 13, a senior official from the Investigative Committee announced a criminal investigation into alleged hazing and violence that preceded the discovery October 3 of the body of a 21-year-old soldier, Aliaksandr Korzhych, in the basement of his military barracks near Barysau.

On October 16, the government also confirmed that soldier Genadz Sarokin died on September 2 while assigned to a military unit in the Brest region and that his case was under investigation. In a separate case, authorities reopened the investigation into a purported suicide on March 31 of another soldier, Artsiom Bastsiuk, at military grounds in the Barysau region. On October 12, Bastsiuk’s family received notification that his death was not the result of a criminal act, but the family continued to maintain that he was psychologically abused and harassed during his service.

Authorities reported isolated cases of prosecution of suspected military offenders. For example, on May 30, a district court in Brest sentenced an army sergeant to three years restricted freedom, a form of house arrest, for abusing his powers and beating a younger soldier. The offender was also to pay 4,000 rubles ($2,050) in moral damages.

PRISON AND DETENTION CENTER CONDITIONS

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

Physical Conditions: According to local activists and human rights lawyers, there were shortages of food, medicine, warm clothing, and bedding as well as inadequate access to basic or emergency medical care and clean drinking water. Ventilation of cells and overall sanitation were poor, and authorities failed to provide conditions necessary for maintaining proper personal hygiene. Prisoners frequently complained of malnutrition and low-quality uniforms and bedding. Some former political prisoners reported psychological abuse and sharing cells with violent criminals. The law permits family and friends to provide detainees with food and hygiene products and to send them parcels by mail, but authorities did not always allow this.

According to a May 26 report by independent survey organizations that questioned 130 individuals detained between March 15 and April 19 on charges related to unsanctioned demonstrations, approximately 79 percent of respondents stated that authorities failed to inform their families of their whereabouts, and 83 percent stated prison authorities had not properly informed them of their rights, obligations, and the detention centers’ regulations. Approximately 17 percent complained of a lack of medical care and 27 percent said they were denied access to lawyers. More than 50 percent of the detainees complained of unsanitary conditions. Only 21 percent of those surveyed were not impeded by prison authorities from appealing their sentences.

Overcrowding of pretrial holding facilities, and prisons generally, was a problem. For example, individuals who were held for short periods in a holding facility in the town of Dziarzhynsk reported that they had to take shifts to sleep, as there were more inmates than beds in the cell.

Authorities allowed persons sentenced to a form of internal exile (khimiya) to work outside detention facilities. These individuals were required to return at night to prison barracks, where they lived under strict conditions and supervision.

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

According to human rights NGOs and former prisoners, authorities routinely abused prisoners.

On March 23, a Minsk district court ruled in the case of the death of 21-year old Ihar Ptichkin that the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of holding facilities, should pay 20,000 rubles ($10,300) in moral damages to his mother, 10,000 rubles ($5,150) to his sister, and 6,000 rubles ($3,100) to cover the costs of his funeral. These damages were one third of what the family requested in a suit contesting his death in custody. After an alleged beating Ptichkin suffered a heart attack and died in a pretrial detention center in Minsk in 2013. In October 2016 a Minsk district court convicted prison doctor Aliaksandr Krylou, who was involved in Ptichkin’s case, of negligence and sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment.

Credible sources maintained that prison administrators employed inmates to intimidate political prisoners and compel confessions. They also reported that authorities neither explained nor protected political prisoners’ legal rights and excessively penalized them for minor violations of the prison rules.

In view of poor medical care, observers believed tuberculosis, pneumonia, HIV/AIDS, and other communicable diseases were widespread in prisons. In 2014 a senior tuberculosis control officer reported that tuberculosis infection in prisons was quadruple the national average but claimed that only up to 4 percent of the 7,400 tuberculosis patients across the country were in prisons.

Human rights NGOs reported that prison inmates and individuals held in internal exile often complained of lack of employment opportunities or low pay. In August 2016 the head of the Interior Ministry’s Corrections Department, Siarhei Daroshka, stated that of the average 510 rubles ($205) salary, inmates would get only 10 percent and the rest would go to cover the costs of their imprisonment and to repay any debts or damages ordered by the court.

Administration: As in the previous year, authorities claimed to have conducted annual or more frequent investigations and monitoring of prison and detention center conditions. Human rights groups, however, asserted that such inspections, when they did occur, lacked credibility in view of the absence of an ombudsperson and the inability of reliable independent human rights advocates to visit prisons or provide consultations to prisoners. In July authorities approved the application of Aleh Hulak, chairperson of the human rights group Belarusian Helsinki Committee, to join the Ministry of Justice’s commission on prison conditions monitoring. In August the ministry organized a visit to a high security prison in Hrodna. The visit reportedly was closely monitored by the head of the prison administration. The commission, mainly composed of the ministry’s officials and representatives of progovernmental NGOs, failed to produce any comprehensive reports.

Prisoners and detainees had limited access to visitors, and denial of meetings with families was a common punishment for disciplinary violations. Authorities often denied or delayed political prisoners’ meetings with family as a means of pressure and intimidation.

Although the law provides for freedom of religion, and there were no reports of egregious infringements, authorities generally prevented prisoners from holding religious services and performing ceremonies that did not comply with prison regulations.

Former prisoners reported that prison officials often censored or did not forward their complaints to higher authorities and that prison administrators either ignored or selectively considered requests for investigation of alleged abuses. Prisoners also reported that prison administrators frequently refused to provide them with copies of responses to their complaints, which further complicated their defense. Complaints could result in retaliation against prisoners who spoke out, including humiliation, death threats, or other forms of punishment and harassment.

Corruption in prisons was a serious problem, and observers noted that parole often depended on bribes to prison personnel or a prisoner’s political affiliation.

Independent Monitoring: Despite numerous requests to the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Justice, government officials refused to meet with human rights advocates or approve requests from NGOs to visit detention and prison facilities. In its 2015 response to Paval Sapelka of the human rights NGO Vyasna, the head of Interior Ministry’s Corrections Department claimed it would be “inexpedient” for him to visit detention facilities and monitor their conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law limits arbitrary detention, but the government did not respect these limits. Authorities arrested or detained individuals for political reasons and used administrative measures to detain political activists before, during, and after protests and other major public events.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Internal Affairs exercises authority over police, but other bodies outside of its control, for example, the KGB, the Financial Investigations Department of the State Control Committee, the Investigation Committee, and presidential security services exercise police functions. The president has the authority to subordinate all security bodies to his personal command and he maintained effective control over security forces. Impunity among law enforcement personnel remained a serious problem. Individuals have the right to report police abuse to a prosecutor, although the government often did not investigate reported abuses or hold perpetrators accountable.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

By law police must request permission from a prosecutor to detain a person for more than three hours, but police usually ignored this procedure and routinely detained and arrested individuals without warrants. Authorities may hold a criminal suspect for up to 10 days without filing formal charges and for up to 18 months after filing charges. By law prosecutors, investigators, and security service agencies have the authority to extend detention without consulting a judge. Detainees have the right to petition the court system regarding the legality of their detention, but authorities frequently suppressed or ignored such appeals. The country has no functioning bail system.

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities detained opposition and civil society activists for reasons widely considered politically motivated. In isolated cases authorities used administrative measures to detain political activists before, during, and after planned demonstrations and protests, as well as other public events.

From February through April, authorities fined, detained, or arrested more than 950 protesters in Minsk and other cities. Protests largely stemmed from a presidential decree requiring Belarusian nationals, foreigners, and noncitizens permanently residing in the country who officially work less than 183 calendar days per year to pay an annual tax. Charges ranged from participation in an unsanctioned demonstration to minor hooliganism and resisting arrest. Of the detained, human rights groups estimated that authorities issued approximately 259 jail sentences of up to 25 days. At least 10 journalists were arrested and four were fined for working without accreditation, minor hooliganism, and participating in an unsanctioned demonstration. All those arrested were released by year’s end.

For example, on March 28, courts in Minsk, Babruisk, Barysau, Brest, Vitsyebsk, Homyel, and Polatsk convicted 177 individuals (144 in Minsk and 33 in other cities) on various charges, including participation in unsanctioned demonstrations on March 25-26, minor hooliganism, and resisting police. Of the 177 individuals detained March 25-26, 74 were sentenced to between two and 25 days of detention and 93 were ordered to pay fines between 46 rubles ($25) and 1,840 rubles ($970).

On March 27, Mikalai Statkevich, a former political prisoner and 2010 presidential candidate, stated that police apprehended him at a friend’s apartment in Minsk on March 23 and transported him to KGB detention facilities. Police reportedly had a warrant for his arrest and claimed that he and a group of unidentified individuals were suspects in a criminal case of preparing mass riots. Statkevich explained in his interview that while officers showed him some papers and accused him of plotting mass riots since 2011, they did not give him any documents nor allowed him to make telephone calls to his family or lawyer. Statkevich refused to answer questions or testify at holding facilities. Throughout the year Statkevich and Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, another 2010 presidential candidate, opposition activist, and former political prisoner, were arrested repeatedly and placed in administrative detentions, usually in connection with unauthorized gatherings and demonstrations.

Pretrial Detention: Authorities may hold a criminal suspect for up to 10 days without filing formal charges. Prior to being charged, the law provides detainees with no access to their families or to outside food and medical supplies, both of which are vital in view of the poor conditions in detention facilities. Police routinely held persons for the full 10-day period before charging them.

Police often detained individuals for several hours, ostensibly to confirm their identity; fingerprinted them; and then released them without charge. Police and security forces frequently used this tactic to detain members of the democratic opposition and demonstrators, to prevent the distribution of leaflets and newspapers, or to break up civil society meetings and events.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees have the right to petition the court system regarding the legality of their detention, but authorities frequently suppressed or ignored such appeals. By law, courts 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. Prosecutors, suspects, and defense lawyers may appeal lower court decisions to higher courts within 24 hours of the ruling. Higher courts have three days to rule on appeals, and their rulings may not be challenged. Further appeals may be filed only when investigators extend the period of detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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 throughout the year, especially in politically motivated criminal and administrative cases. Courts did not exonerate criminal defendants except in rare circumstances.

By law, bar associations are independent, and licensed lawyers are permitted to establish private practices or bureaus. All lawyers must be licensed by the Ministry of Justice and must renew their licenses every five years.

In September a Ministry of Justice standing commission, which reviews lawyers’ performance, found that prominent independent lawyer Ana Bakhtsina had “insufficient professional skills” to be a defense lawyer. According to Bakhtsina, the template she used for concluding contracts with clients differed slightly from the ministry’s recommended one, and the commission also identified grammar mistakes in its review of her documents. On September 26, Bakhtsina appealed the commission’s decision revoking her license but her appeal was dismissed. Additionally, at least seven more defense lawyers were due to retake their bar exams within six months following the ministry’s determination that their professional skills were only “partially insufficient.”

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, but authorities occasionally disregarded this right.

The law provides for the presumption of innocence. Nevertheless, the lack of judicial independence, state media practice of reporting on high-profile cases as if guilt were already certain, and widespread limits on defense rights frequently placed the burden of proving innocence on the defendant.

The law also provides for public trials, but authorities occasionally held closed trials frequently in judges’ chambers. Judges adjudicate all trials. For the most serious cases, two civilian advisers assist the judge.

The law provides defendants the right to attend proceedings, confront witnesses, and present evidence on their own behalf, but authorities did not always respect these rights.

The law provides for access to legal counsel for the defendant and requires courts to appoint a lawyer for those who cannot afford one. Although by law defendants may ask for their trials to be conducted in Belarusian, most judges and prosecutors were not fluent in this language, rejected motions for interpreters, and proceeded in Russian. Interpreters are provided when the defendant speaks neither Belarusian nor Russian. The law provides for the right to choose legal representation freely; however, a presidential decree prohibits NGO members who are lawyers from representing individuals other than members of their organizations in court. The government’s attempts to disbar attorneys who represented political opponents of the regime further limited defendants’ choice of counsel. The government also required defense attorneys to sign nondisclosure statements that limited their ability to release any information regarding the case to the public, media, and even defendants’ family members.

Courts often allowed statements obtained by force and threats of bodily harm during interrogations to be used against defendants. Some defendants were tried in absentia. For example, on January 9, a court in the town of Svislach notified three For Freedom movement activists that they were fined in absentia for participating in an unsanctioned ceremony in October 2016 commemorating the 1863-64 anti-Russian uprising, during which Belarusians, Poles, and Lithuanians rebelled against Russian rule. The movement’s leader, Yuri Hubarevich, received a fine of 525 rubles ($260); an activist from Brest, Yuri Kazakevich, 210 rubles ($105); and an activist from Vitsyebsk, Vadzim Babin, 63 rubles ($32).

Defendants have the right to appeal convictions, and most defendants did so. Nevertheless, appeals courts upheld the verdicts of the lower courts in the vast majority of cases.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Local human rights organizations reported several different lists of political prisoners in the country. These included individuals who were facing criminal charges and others who were already incarcerated. Leading local human rights groups, including Vyasna and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, either recognized these individuals as prisoners of conscience or noted serious due process violations that merited, at the very least, a retrial.

After President Lukashenka’s March 21 comments that some 20 militants were arrested for seeking to stir up unrest, KGB officers began detaining dozens of individuals across the country and charging them with such separate matters as training or preparing for participation in mass, potentially violent riots, or creating an illegal armed organization. Detainees were connected with the White Legion group (a now defunct radical opposition organization active in the 1990s); the registered “Patriot” educational and training camp for youth; or the Malady Front opposition youth group. Police searched their residences, and the KGB reportedly confiscated rifles, guns, grenades, and other weapons that, according to the KGB, were to be used during the March 25 demonstrations. Some families of the arrested individuals told the press that defense lawyers were denied meetings with detainees at KGB holding facilities.

On April 11, a KGB spokesperson confirmed that 20 individuals were charged with the creation of an illegal armed formation and could face up to seven years’ imprisonment if convicted. The KGB spokesperson also confirmed that 17 individuals were charged with preparing a mass riot and faced up to three-years’ imprisonment if convicted. The official, however, did not specify how many of those detained faced multiple charges. The KGB confirmed 18 other suspects were also being investigated in connection with the case, four of whom were in custody. Some state media published articles concerning the criminal cases, describing suspects as members of extremist nationalist groups, and stated that the investigation began on March 21.

On November 30, the Investigative Committee Chairman Ivan Naskevich announced that both charges and criminal proceedings against all those involved in the case had been dropped and that the investigation was now closed. Naskevich said the actions of the individuals involved posed no danger to the public or a threat to the constitutional order.

On June 9, the Prosecutor General’s Office rejected a request filed by Ales Byalyatski, the chair of the human rights group Vyasna, to investigate allegations of torture made by some of the individuals detained in the White Legion case. Byalyatski highlighted the treatment of former head of the White Legion group Miraslau Lazouski, who was allegedly beaten during his arrest and had blood and bruises on his face when he appeared in a state television “documentary” regarding the White Legion. Byalyatski also stated that several individuals charged in the case were forced to take psychotropic drugs while in custody. In its reply the Prosecutor General’s Office called those reports mere allegations not supported by evidence or formal complaints from the detained or their lawyers.

Former political prisoners released in August 2015 continued to be unable to exercise some civil and political rights at year’s end. For example, in July 2016 the Central Electoral Commission refused to register the initiative group supporting the candidacy for parliament of former political prisoner and 2010 presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich because any individual in prison or with a criminal record is prohibited by law from being a candidate.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides that individuals may file lawsuits seeking damages for a human rights violation, but the civil judiciary was not independent and was rarely impartial in such matters.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

To date, there are no laws providing for restitution or compensation for immovable private property confiscated during World War II and the Holocaust on its territory. The country also has no legislative regime for restitution of communal property or of heirless property. The government reported that, in the last 10 years, it did not receive any requests or claims from individuals, NGOs, or any other public organization, either Jewish or foreign, seeking compensation or restitution of any property.

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

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.

By law persons who obstruct law enforcement personnel in the performance of their duties may be penalized or charged with an administrative offense, even if the “duties” are inconsistent with the law. “Obstruction” could include any effort to prevent KGB or law enforcement officers from entering the premises of a company, establishment, or organization; refusing to allow KGB audits; or denying or restricting KGB access to information systems and databases.

The law requires a warrant before, or immediately after, conducting a search. Nevertheless, some democratic activists believed the KGB entered their homes unannounced. The KGB has the authority to enter any building at any time, as long as it applies for a warrant within 24 hours after the entry.

Security forces continued to target prominent opposition and civil society leaders with arbitrary searches and interrogations at border crossings and airports. For example, on March 14, border officials detained Ihar Barysau, a Mahilyou leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party Hramada, for three hours upon his arrival from Germany at the national airport in Minsk. A law enforcement officer searched his belongings and confiscated his flash drives.

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.

On March 12, Belarusian Christian Democracy cochair Paval Sevyarynets filed a complaint that the state Belarus 1 television channel illegally broadcast recordings of his private cell phone conversations in a news show. On September 12, police responded that the television channel received the tape from “an anonymous source,” and that the channel’s administration “did not make any deliberate effort” to obtain such information. Additionally, on September 26, the Ministry of Information claimed that the channel used materials from open sources as well as from law enforcement agencies, and did not interfere in Sevyarynets’ private life.

The Ministry of Communications has the 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.

Authorities continued to harass family members of NGO leaders and civil society and opposition activists through selective application of the law.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Belgium

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions met most international standards.

Physical Conditions: Prison overcrowding remained a problem, despite a steady decrease in the number of inmates, the establishment of new prisons during the year, and the increased use of electronic home monitoring. According to the government’s annual report on prisons for 2016, an average of 10,618.8 inmates were held in prisons that had an average capacity of 9,686.8 inmates.

According to the media and prison monitors, conditions in a number of prisons deteriorated sharply during a strike by prison guards between April and June 2016. In May 2016 a delegation from the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) visited prisons where a large number of staff were absent due to the strike, requiring the mobilization of police and the armed forces to manage the situation. In November 2016 the committee released its report on the visit, terming conditions during the strike “intolerable” and noting that virtually all staff at the prisons visited were absent from their posts and that volunteer employees and reassigned staff assisted by police officers and others were not able to provide for acceptable conditions of detention.

On July 13, the CPT formally adopted and released a public statement that noted that for 12 years the CPT had “consistently expressed its deep concern regarding the serious consequences” that can result from strike actions by prison staff in the country. These consequences included continuous confinement of inmates in cells in conditions deemed intolerable, serious disruption in the distribution of meals, dramatic deterioration of personal hygiene conditions and conditions in cells, frequent cancellation of outdoor exercise, serious restrictions on inmate access to health care, and a virtual halt to their contacts with the outside world, including with lawyers. The statement noted that during the 2016 strike, inmates had been “placed in conditions that could amount to inhuman or degrading treatment or lead to the aggravation of conditions already held to be incompatible with… the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Some older facilities experienced maintenance problems that contributed to poor detention conditions. Lengthy wait times for inmates to see medical practitioners were sometimes reported.

Independent Monitoring: The federal mediator acts as an ombudsman, allowing any citizen to address problems with prison administration. The federal mediator is an independent entity appointed by the Chamber of Representatives to investigate and resolve problems between citizens and public institutions. Authorities permitted the CPT to visit prisons and detention centers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The federal police are responsible for internal security and nationwide law and order, including migration and border enforcement, and report to the ministers of interior and justice. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the federal and local police and the armed forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Under the constitution, an individual may be arrested only while committing a crime or by a judge’s order carried out within 48 hours. The law provides detainees the right to prompt judicial determination of the legality of their detention, and authorities generally respected this right. Authorities promptly informed detainees of charges against them and provided access to an attorney (at public expense if necessary). Alternatives to incarceration included conditional release, community service, probation, and electronic monitoring. There was a functioning bail system, and a suspect could be released by meeting other obligations or conditions as determined by the judge.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them; to a fair, timely, and public trial; to be present at their trial; to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or have one provided at public expense if unable to pay); to have adequate time and facilities to prepare defense; to have free assistance of an interpreter (for any defendant who cannot understand or speak the language used in court); to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present one’s own witnesses and evidence; to not be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and to appeal. The law extends these rights to all citizens.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations could seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts and appeal national-level court decisions to the European Court of Human Rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Holocaust-era restitution is no longer a significant issue in the country. The government has laws and/or mechanisms in place, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups, including the Belgian Jewish community, reported that the government has resolved virtually all Holocaust-era claims where ownership can be traced, including for foreign citizens.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Bhutan

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards.

Physical Conditions: According to police, there were no separate prisons designated for women and children.

Administration: Police administer the prison system. There was no available information regarding recordkeeping on prisoners.

Independent Monitoring: No international human rights groups sought access to monitor prisons during the year. The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) has not renewed its memorandum of understanding with the government since 2012 and did not request access to prisons during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) is responsible for internal security. The Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) is responsible for defending against external threats but also has responsibility for some internal security functions, including counterinsurgency operations, protection of forests, and security for prominent persons. The RBP reports to the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, and the king is the supreme commander in chief of the RBA.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Royal Bhutan Army and the Royal Bhutan Police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving security forces during the year. The army and police have procedures to conduct internal investigations of alleged personnel misconduct. Official courts of inquiry adjudicate the allegations. The king or a senior official makes the final determination on the outcome of a case.

By law the Police Service Board, made up of senior police personnel and a Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs representative, investigates cases of abuse. Police officers can face criminal prosecution for human rights violations. The RBP has institutional reviews, human rights training, and accountability procedures for its personnel. The Civil and Criminal Procedure Code (CCPC) also provides an avenue to check any abuse of power in criminal investigations by an investigating officer of the RBP.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Under the law, police may only arrest a person with a court-issued warrant or probable cause. Police generally respected the law. Police may conduct “stop and frisk” searches only if a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed exists. Arresting authorities must issue an immediate statement of charges and engage in reasonable efforts to inform the family of the accused. The law requires authorities to bring an arrested person before a court within 24 hours, exclusive of travel time from the place of arrest. The law provides for prompt access to a lawyer and government provision of an attorney for indigent clients. Bail is available depending on the severity of charges and the suspect’s criminal record, flight risk, and potential threat to the public. In addition, bail can be granted after the execution of the bail bond agreement. Police can hold remanded suspects for 10 days pending investigation, which courts can extend to 49 days. In cases of “heinous” crimes, the period can then be extended to 108 days should the investigating officer show adequate grounds. The law expressly prohibits pretrial detention beyond 108 days. Under the Anticorruption Act of Bhutan, an Anticorruption Commission is empowered to arrest without a warrant any person upon reasonable suspicion of the person having committed or about to commit an offense. The arrested individual must make a court appearance within 24 hours.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees may pursue a writ of habeas corpus to obtain a court-ordered release.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law stipulates that defendants must receive fair, speedy, and public trials, and the government generally respected this right. A court must hold a preliminary hearing within 10 days of registration of a criminal matter. Before registering any plea, courts must determine whether the accused is mentally sound and understands the consequences of entering a plea. Defendants benefit from a presumption of innocence, have the right to confront witnesses, and cannot be compelled to testify. Convictions require that cases be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The government has prescribed a standing rule for courts to clear all cases within a year of the case filing. The country has an inquisitorial judicial system and has no jury trials.

Defendants have the right to appeal to the High Court and may make a final appeal to the king, who traditionally delegates the decision to the Royal Advisory Council. Trials are conducted publicly, although a court can order that press and the public be removed from the courtroom for part or all of the trial in the interest of justice. While the law does not require that defendants in criminal trails receive the free assistance of an interpreter, in practice interpreters are provided free of charge or the proceedings are conducted in a language the defendant understands. The court must provide the opportunity for the parties to present relevant evidence, including witness testimony. Prosecutors and defendants are allowed to conduct direct and cross-examination.

Cases are tried pursuant to the CCPC. State-appointed prosecutors for the attorney general generally are responsible for filing charges and prosecuting cases for offenses against the state. In some cases other government departments, such as the Anticorruption Commission (ACC), file charges and conduct prosecutions.

The law provides for the right to representation. Although this occurred frequently in criminal cases, in civil cases most defendants and plaintiffs represented themselves. The law states that criminal defendants may choose legal representation from a list of licensed advocates. The government promoted the use of judiciary websites for legal information as a means of self-help for defendants. There were no reports that the courts denied any groups the right to trial.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) claimed that 28 political prisoners remained in Chamgang Central Jail in Thimphu. Regional media reports corroborated these figures. Family members of the prisoners are allowed to meet their relatives and receive a travel allowance paid by the ICRC. Most political prisoners were Nepali-speaking persons associated with protests in the early 1990s. Government officials claimed that those remaining in prison were convicted of having committed violent crimes during demonstrations. The government reported that as of December 2016, there were 57 prisoners serving sentences resulting from convictions under the National Security Act or its related penal code provisions. No international monitors sought access to these prisoners. Since 2010 the government has released 47 political prisoners, including one granted amnesty by the king.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The CCPC governs the resolution of criminal trials and civil litigation and states that a suit may be initiated by a litigant or a member of the litigant’s family. The CCPC also provides for compensation to those detained or subjected to unlawful detention but later acquitted. Often local or community leaders assisted in resolving minor disputes. As plaintiffs and defendants often represented themselves in civil matters, judges typically took an active role in investigating and mediating civil disputes. The CCPC does not include a provision for appeal to regional human rights bodies.

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

The constitution states that a person “shall not be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home, or correspondence, or to unlawful attacks on the person’s honor and reputation.” The government generally respected these prohibitions.

Citizens seeking to marry noncitizens require government permission. Government workers are barred from receiving promotions in the case of marriage to a noncitizen. In case such a government worker is employed in the defense or international relations sector, automatic discharge is required.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights. Citizens could criticize the government publicly and privately without reprisal.

Freedom of Expression: The constitution provides for freedom of speech including for members of the press. Defamation can carry criminal penalties, and citizens were cautious in their expression, especially as it related to criticism of the royal family or government practices.

Press and Media Freedom: The media law does not provide specific protections for journalists or guarantee freedom of information. The media law also prohibits media outlets from supporting political parties. Media sources suggested that while there was commitment to media freedom at the highest levels, some media professionals continued to find bureaucrats unwilling to share information, especially on issues of corruption and violations of the law. Independent media outlets relied heavily on government advertisements for revenue, and most news outlets struggled to generate sufficient revenue to operate.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: In its Freedom in the World 2016 report, Freedom House reported that a 2015 survey of 119 current and former Bhutanese journalists revealed general concerns about press freedom and access to information. Local contacts reported increased use of social media to raise complaints of official misconduct or abuse.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government generally permitted individuals and groups to engage in peaceful expression of views via the internet. Government officials stated the government did not block access, restrict content, or censor websites. Freedom House reported the government occasionally blocked access to websites containing pornography or information deemed offensive to the state. Such blocked information typically did not extend to political content. The Annual Statistics 2017 of the Ministry of Information and Communications estimated the number of internet users at 72 percent of the population.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The government limited/restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and/or association.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

While the constitution provides for the right to assemble peacefully, the government restricted this right. The 1992 National Security Act permits the government to control the public’s right to assembly “to avoid breaches of the peace” by requiring licenses, prohibiting assembly in designated areas, and declaring curfew. The penal code prohibits “promotion of civil unrest” as an act that is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony among different nationalities, racial groups, castes, or religious groups.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government permitted the registration of some political parties and organizations that were deemed “not harmful to the peace and unity of the country.” Many of the NGOs in the country maintained formal or informal connections to members of the royal family. In its Freedom in the World 2016 report, Freedom House stated the government did not permit the operation of NGOs working on the status of Nepali-speaking refugees. Under the law, all NGOs must register with the government. To register an NGO, an individual must be a Bhutanese citizen, disclose his or her family income and assets, disclose his or her educational qualifications, and disclose any criminal records.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government limited freedom of movement and repatriation. Freedom of movement was sometimes restricted based on location of permanent residence. Rules established differences in citizenship categories and determined whether a person may be granted a “route permit” to travel internally or obtain a passport for international travel. (Bhutanese citizens are required to obtain a security clearance certificate to obtain a passport.)

Foreign Travel: The law establishes different categories of citizenship under which foreign travel is restricted. NGOs reported these restrictions primarily affected ethnic Nepalis although children of single mothers who could not establish citizenship through a Bhutanese father also were affected.

Exile: The law does not address forced exile, and there were no reported cases of forced exile during the year. In the early 1990s, the government reportedly forced between 80,000 and 100,000 Nepali-speaking residents to leave the country, following a series of decisions taken during the 1970s and 1980s establishing legal requirements for Bhutanese citizenship.

In its Freedom in the World 2016 report, Freedom House stated that 18,000 Nepali-speaking refugees remained in Nepal as of late 2015. The government claimed the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) failed to screen individuals who originally entered these camps to determine whether they had any ties to Bhutan. As of September 2016, after years of international efforts resulting in the resettlement of thousands of refugees, approximately 8,000 Nepali-speaking refugees remained in two refugee camps in Nepal administered by UNHCR.

There continued to be delays in government consideration of claims to Bhutanese citizenship by refugees in Nepal.

Citizenship: Under the constitution, only children whose parents can both be proven to be citizens of Bhutan can apply for citizenship up to their first birthday, after which a petition must be filed with the king to be granted citizenship. Civil society groups noted disproportionate barriers to citizenship faced by Lhotshampa communities and the wives of non-Bhutanese citizens.

NGOs reported that approximately 9,000 applicants have received citizenship since 2006. In June the king granted 137 persons citizenship at a ceremony in Tashichhodzong. The law provides for revocation of the citizenship of any naturalized citizen who “has shown by act or speech to be disloyal in any manner whatsoever to the king, country, and people.” The law permits reapplication for citizenship after a two-year probationary period. The government can restore citizenship after successful completion of the probation and a finding that the individual was not responsible for any act against the government.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees.

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) reported that since the 1960s, the country had sheltered Tibetan refugees who were initially located in seven settlements. The government reported that the Tibetans had successfully integrated into society and that approximately 1,600 had applied for and received citizenship. As of July, Department of Immigration records showed 2,583 Tibetan refugees in Bhutan. No current records indicate any of these refugees hold work permits. The CTA did not have an official presence in the country and did not provide social and economic assistance to Tibetans in Bhutan. Authorities keep the country’s border with China closed, and Tibetans generally did not transit the country en route to India. The Tibetan population is decreasing as Tibetan refugees adopt Bhutanese citizenship according to the Department of Immigration.

Employment: Reports suggested that some Tibetan refugees and some Nepali-speaking Bhutanese citizens could not obtain security clearances for government jobs, enroll in higher education, or obtain licenses to run private businesses. According to the government, all Bhutanese citizens are eligible for security clearances provided they do not have criminal records.

Access to Basic Services: The government stated that Tibetan refugees have the same access to government-provided health care and education as citizens. According to the CTA, 13 Tibetan refugees have received licenses to run businesses. The CTA also said that while Tibetan refugees are not eligible for government employment, a few Tibetan refugees worked as teachers and health-care providers under temporary government contracts. They reportedly have difficulties traveling within and outside the country.

Durable Solutions: Tibetan refugees could travel to India, although many faced obstacles in obtaining travel permits. There were also reports the government did not provide the travel documents necessary for Tibetan refugees to travel beyond India. The government continued to delay implementing a process to identify and repatriate refugees with claims to Bhutanese residency or citizenship.

STATELESS PERSONS

A nationwide census in 1985 resulted in a determination that many Nepali-speaking persons in Bhutan were not citizens, effectively rendering them stateless. The government alleged that they were not citizens because they could not prove they had been resident in the country in 1958. Officials repeated the census in 1988-89 in the southern districts. During the second round of the census, those who were deemed not to be citizens in 1985 could apply for citizenship provided they met certain conditions. The government categorized those who did not meet the new criteria as illegal immigrants and expelled them. According to NGOs, an unknown number of Nepali-speaking stateless persons remained in the country, mainly in the south. Officials conducted the last census in 2005. While records do not show any figures on stateless persons, informed sources estimated 1,000 families are stateless.

For a child to qualify for Bhutanese citizenship, both parents must be Bhutanese citizens. NGOs and media sources highlighted the existence of stateless children born to unwed mothers who were unable to prove the identity of the father of the child. According to 2014 NGO reports, more than 700 children born in the country were not recognized as Bhutanese citizens because their fathers’ nationality was undocumented. Nonetheless, the government claimed that 20 children in the kingdom fell into this category. In May the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) urged the government to end discrimination against children based on ethnic origin, particularly in access to education. The UNCRC also requested that the government amend the Citizenship Act of 1985.

Stateless persons cannot obtain “no objection certificates” and security clearance certificates, which are often necessary for access to public healthcare, employment, access to primary and secondary education, enrollment at institutions of higher education, travel documents, and business ownership. The National Commission for Women and Children stated children without citizenship were eligible for public educational and health services.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

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

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

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

While national authorities made significant progress prior to 2016 in the investigation and prosecution of war crimes committed during the 1992-95 conflict, many problems remained, including insufficient funding, lack of personnel, political obstacles, the unavailability of witnesses and suspects, and the closure of cases due to lack of evidence. While the Prosecutor’s Office and Court of BiH retained the lead in processing the most serious war crimes, authorities worked to revise criteria for the referral of cases to the entity-level judiciaries to speed processing times. Data from April indicated that the Prosecutor’s Office had 779 unresolved cases.

As of September, landmine accidents killed two civilians, while one civilian was injured. According to the country’s Mine Action Center, as of August more than 8,630 active minefields (with an estimated 80,000 devices) remained, endangering more than a half million residents. In many cases, the presence of land mines slowed the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the exhumation of mass graves.

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

In 2016 the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) released a report on its 2015 visit to detention facilities, prisons, and psychiatric establishments in the country. The report cited a considerable number of allegations of widespread police abuse of detainees in Sarajevo, Trebinje, Banja Luka, Turski Lukavac, and Bijeljina. The reported abuse of detainees included slaps, punches, truncheon blows, prolonged handcuffing in stress positions, mock executions, and use of a hand-held electro-shock device. The report stated that the CPT delegation gained the impression from multiple detainee interviews in Bijeljina and Sarajevo that mistreatment (kicks, punches, and slaps) was a routine occurrence and almost considered “normal” practice. In some instances, authorities allegedly abused detainees in order to extort confessions. The CPT found that prosecutors and judges routinely failed to take action regarding allegations of mistreatment.

The CPT also noted that it received several credible allegations of inmate physical mistreatment (slaps, kicks, and punches to various parts of the body) by staff at Mostar Prison. In one case, an inmate alleged that, in response to his repeated banging on his cell door, prison officials handcuffed him behind his back with his wrists hyperflexed, ankle-cuffed him with a walking chain, and placed him empty cell for two days without food or the opportunity to use sanitary facilities. The CPT reported that the findings observed by its delegation’s doctor were compatible with the inmate’s allegation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Physical and sanitary conditions in the country’s prisons and detention facilities varied depending on the location but were generally considered substandard and occasionally life threatening.

Physical Conditions: Conditions in Sarajevo Prison were noteworthy due to dilapidated facilities and overcrowding, with as many as four prisoners living in eight square meters (86 square feet) of common living space. Following a February 2016 inspection, the human rights ombudsman described Sarajevo prison conditions as worst in the country and identified 126 detainees in the facility, which has an optimal capacity of 88. Ombudsmen reported that neither prison management nor Federation authorities had addressed their claims to date.

Prison and detention facilities provided adequate basic medical care and routine arrangements for more complex medical interventions as needed. Ventilation and lighting, however, were lacking in many facilities, particularly Sarajevo Prison. There were no prison facilities suitable for prisoners with physical disabilities.

The CPT reported overcrowding at Sarajevo Prison and inter-prisoner violence at Zenica Prison. The CPT also found that remand prisoners spent 22 hours or more a day confined to their cells and were offered no purposeful activities. In December 2016 authorities opened a newly constructed facility in Sokolac for prisoners from throughout the country determined to be suffering from mental illness at either the time of their offense or during their subsequent incarceration. As a result, authorities transferred prisoners to Sokolac from Zenica Prison, where accommodations for prisoners suffering from mental illness had been described as poor for years.

In 2016 the CPT reported that material conditions in most police holding facilities visited by its delegation were unfit due to lack of natural light, poor ventilation, deplorable hygienic conditions, and an absence of mattresses and bedding. The condition and number of holding facilities at most police agencies generally were well below EU standards.

Administration: According to the 2016 CPT report, authorities throughout the country generally failed to investigate allegations of abuse and mistreatment of detainees and prisoners, particularly those reported to have occurred while in police custody. The human rights ombudsman reported that the most common types of violence among prisoners occurred in the form of extortion, physical and psychological harassment, and intimidation on ethnic and religious grounds.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent human rights observers to visit and gave international community representatives widespread and unhindered access to detention facilities and prisoners. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the CPT, the BiH ombudsmen, and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to have access to detention facilities under the jurisdiction of the ministries of justice at both the state and entity levels.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

By law state-level police agencies include the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA), the Border Police, the Foreigners Affairs Service (FAS) (partial police competencies), and the Directorate for Police Bodies Coordination (DPBC). Police agencies in the two entities (the RS Ministry of Interior and the Federation Police Directorate), the Brcko District, and 10 cantonal interior ministries also exercise police powers. SIPA investigates cases of organized crime, human trafficking, war crimes, financial crimes, and international terrorism and provides protection to witnesses before the BiH State Court. The Border Police are responsible for monitoring the borders and detaining illegal migrants until FAS takes custody. The Border Police also investigate other crimes related to the border in accordance with the state criminal code, with the exception of corruption cases. FAS is responsible for tracking and monitoring legal and illegal migration. The DPBC provides physical security for government and diplomatic buildings and personal protection for state-level officials and visiting dignitaries. The DPBC also has an office for coordination with Interpol for state-level police agencies. The Federation Police Directorate investigates cases of intercantonal crimes, domestic terrorism in the Federation, and narcotics smuggling. The RS Ministry of Interior investigates domestic terrorism and all other general crimes in the RS. Brcko police and cantonal police agencies investigate general crimes and public peace and order. The laws outlining the mandates of respective law enforcement agencies of the state, entity, cantonal and district governments contain significant similarities but do not overlap. The competencies of each police agency are established by law.

An EU military force continued to support the country’s government in maintaining a safe and secure environment for the population.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces, but their complex structure at times resulted in lack of effective coordination and no clear practical division of jurisdictions and responsibilities.

Impunity for war crimes continued to be a problem. Many lower-ranking perpetrators of crimes committed during the 1992-95 conflict remained unpunished, including those responsible for the approximately 8,000 persons killed in the Srebrenica genocide and for approximately 8,000 other persons who remained missing and presumed killed during the conflict. Authorities also failed to prosecute more than a very small fraction of the more than 20,000 instances of sexual violence alleged to have occurred during the conflict.

In the course of its 2015 visit to prisons and remand detention centers, the CPT reported interviewing many persons who stated they had complained about mistreatment by law enforcement officials to the prosecutor or to the judge before whom they appeared. Such complaints met with no response. The CPT noted that, even when detainees displayed visible injuries or made a statement alleging mistreatment, there was usually no apparent follow-up by the prosecutor or judge other than, at times, to order a medical examination that often took place in the presence of the law enforcement officer whom the detainee had accused of mistreatment.

There were reports of police corruption (see section 4). The government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, but political pressure often prevented the application of these mechanisms. Observers considered police impunity to be widespread, and there were continued reports of corruption within the state and entity security services. There are internal affairs investigative units within all police agencies. Throughout the year, mostly with assistance from the international community, the government provided training to police and security forces designed to combat abuse and corruption and promote respect for human rights.

In 2016 police reported 561 criminal cases of police corruption and made 81 arrests. Most cases of police corruption were commercial in nature, but involving organized crime. For example, in November the former head of the Narcotics Department at the State Investigative and Protection Agency (equivalent to the FBI), Bojan Cvijan, was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for organized crime, robbery, murder and conspiracy to commit crime as part of the large-scale “Lutka” (Doll) investigation and prosecution. In 2016 SIPA conducted 10 police anticorruption operations and arrested 36 persons, a decrease from the 13 such operations that were conducted in 2015 and led to the arrest of 61 persons.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police generally arrested persons based on court orders and sufficient evidence or in conformity with rules prescribed by law. The law requires authorities to inform detainees of the charges against them immediately upon their arrest and obliges police to bring suspects before a prosecutor within 24 hours of detention (72 hours for terrorism charges). During this period, police may detain individuals for investigative purposes and processing. The prosecutor has an additional 24 hours to release the person or to request a court order extending pretrial detention. The court has a subsequent 24 hours to make a decision. The law limits duration of the interrogation up to six hours. The law also limits pretrial detention to 12 months and trial detention up to three years. There is a functioning bail system and restrictions, such as the confiscation of travel documents, are regularly placed on defendants to ensure their appearance in court.

The law allows detainees to request a lawyer of their own choosing, and if they are unable to afford a lawyer, the authorities are to provide one. The law also requires the presence of a lawyer during the pretrial and trial hearings. Detainees are free to select their lawyer from a list of registered lawyers. In its July 5 report, the CPT noted that, in the vast majority of cases, authorities did not grant detainees access to a lawyer at the outset of their detention. Instead, such access only occurred when the detainee was brought before a prosecutor to give a statement or at the hearing before a judge. It was usually not possible for a detainee to consult with his or her lawyer in private prior to appearing before a prosecutor or judge. Juveniles met by the CPT also alleged that they were interviewed without a lawyer or person of trust present.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides that defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation if necessary, and the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay. The law provides for the right to counsel at public expense if the prosecutor charges the defendant with a serious crime. Courts did not always appoint defense attorneys where the maximum prison sentence was less than five years. Authorities generally gave defense attorneys adequate time and facilities to prepare their clients defense. The law provides defendants the right to confront witnesses, to a court-appointed interpreter and written translation of all pertinent court documents into a language understood by the defendant, to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, and to appeal verdicts. Authorities generally respected most of these rights, which extend to all defendants.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides for individuals and organizations to seek civil remedies for human rights violations and provides for the appeal of decisions to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The government failed to comply with many decisions pertaining to human rights by the country’s courts. The court system suffered from large backlogs of cases and the lack of an effective mechanism to enforce court orders. Inefficiency in the courts undermined the rule of law by making recourse to civil judgments less effective. The government’s failure to comply with court decisions led plaintiffs to bring cases before the ECHR.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The four “traditional” religious communities (Muslim, Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Jewish) had extensive claims for restitution of property nationalized during and after World War II. In the absence of a state restitution law governing the return of nationalized properties, many government officials used such properties as tools for ethnic and political manipulation. In a few cases, government officials refused to return properties legally recognized as belonging to religious institutions.

The country has no law that covers immovable communal or private property confiscated during the Holocaust era and no law for the restitution of confiscated, heirless property. The absence of legislation has resulted in the return of religious property on an ad hoc basis, subject to the discretion of local authorities. Since 1995 the Jewish community has not received a single confiscated communal property. In 2005 the Council of Ministers established a Commission for Restitution on Bosnia and Herzegovina that led to draft legislation on restitution; no significant progress on that legislation has been made.

BiH officials expressed support for a working group, but had concerns about the process, details on specific issues, how past efforts to address this issue will impact future discussions, how the working group would be initiated, and factors of history. The minister of civil affairs, assistant minister of human rights and refugees, and the minister of justice agreed to participate in the working group.

Roma displaced during the 1992-95 conflict had difficulty repossessing their property because of discrimination and because they lacked documents proving ownership or had never registered their property with local authorities.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Botswana

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports of police using such tactics. Some laws prescribe corporal punishment for offenders. Some 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.

Survival International, a UK-based nongovernmental organization (NGO), claimed that in July 2016 police on an antipoaching operation shot from a helicopter at a group of Basarwa (San) hunting in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). Survival International stated nine of the men were later stripped and beaten while in police custody. The Botswana Police Service (BPS) denied the claims.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards and continued to improve with further reduction of inmate overcrowding.

Physical Conditions: Authorities occasionally held juveniles with adults, although only for a few days while awaiting transport.

The Center for Illegal Immigrants (CII) in Francistown is a dedicated facility for processing asylum and other immigration claims by individuals who entered the country illegally. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2016, conditions in the CII deteriorated considerably and no longer met minimum standards. UNHCR reported authorities housed some women and child asylum seekers in tents that were prone to leaking during rains. Sanitary conditions were inadequate, increasing the risk of communicable diseases. Safety was also an issue, and a minor asylum seeker was reportedly sexually assaulted.

Administration: Prison recordkeeping was adequate but utilized mostly paper records, and there was no plan to upgrade to computerized systems.

Authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions brought by inmates against prison officials and took disciplinary or judicial action against persons responsible for abuses. The law requires visits to prisons on a quarterly basis.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally allows access to prisoners by international and local NGOs and permitted independent human rights observers to visits prisons. The International Committee of the Red Cross visited prisons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The BPS, under the Ministry of Defense, Justice, and Security in the Office of the President, has primary responsibility for internal security. The Botswana Defense Force (BDF), which reports to the president through the minister of defense, justice, and security, is responsible for external security and has some domestic security responsibilities. The Directorate for Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), under the Office of the President, collects and evaluates external and internal intelligence, provides personal protection to high-level government officials, and advises the presidency and government on matters of national security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the BPS, BDF, and DISS, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving security forces.

BPS officers received human rights training at the country’s International Law Enforcement Academy.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police must produce an arrest warrant issued by a duly authorized magistrate upon the presentation of compelling evidence, except in certain cases, such as when an officer witnesses a crime being committed or discovers a suspect is in possession of a controlled substance. DISS personnel have the power to enter premises and make arrests without warrants if the agency suspects a person has committed or is about to commit a crime. Elements of civil society continued to criticize the DISS, claiming it did not receive sufficient independent oversight and posed a potential threat to civil liberties.

The law requires authorities to inform suspects of their rights upon arrest, including the right to remain silent, and to file charges before a magistrate within 48 hours. Authorities generally respected these rights. There were no reports of denial of a suspect’s right to an attorney during the first 48 hours after arrest and arraignment before a magistrate. A magistrate may order a suspect held for 14 days through a writ of detention, which may be renewed every 14 days. The law provides for a prompt judicial determination of the legality of a person’s detention. Heavy court caseloads occasionally delayed this determination. Authorities generally informed detainees of the reason for their detention, although there were some complaints this did not always occur. There is a functioning bail system, and detention without bail was unusual except in murder cases, where it is mandatory. Detainees have the right to contact a family member and hire attorneys of their choice but most could not afford legal counsel. There were no reports authorities held suspects incommunicado or under house arrest.

Pretrial Detention: A writ of pretrial detention is valid for 14 days and is renewable every 14 days. Some detainees, however, waited several weeks or months between the filing of charges and the start of their trials. Pretrial detention in murder, rape, livestock theft, and robbery cases sometimes exceeded a year, but there were no reports of instances in which the length of detention equaled or exceeded the sentences later actually imposed. Delays were largely due to judicial staffing shortages.

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. The civil courts remained unable to provide timely trials due to severe staffing shortages and a backlog of pending cases.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, and authorities generally informed them promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation from the moment charged through all appeals if he or she cannot understand the language of the court. Trials in the civil courts are public, although trials under the National Security Act may be secret. Defendants have the right to be present and consult with an attorney in a timely manner. In capital cases the government provides legal counsel, or private attorneys work pro bono for indigent clients. Courts tried those charged with noncapital crimes without legal representation if they could not afford an attorney. As a result, many defendants were not aware of their procedural rights in pretrial or trial proceedings. Defendants may question witnesses against them. Defendants may present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense and to appeal. Defendants are not compelled to testify or confess guilt. The constitution states these rights extend to all citizens. Some NGOs provided limited, free legal assistance.

In addition to the civil court system, a customary or traditional court system also exists. According to traditional practice, a tribal chief presides over most small villages. While customary (traditional) courts enjoyed widespread citizen support and respect, they often did not afford the same due process protections as the formal court system. Although defendants may confront, question, and present witnesses in customary court proceedings, they do not have legal counsel, and there are no standardized rules of evidence. Customary trials are open to the public, and defendants may present evidence on their own behalf. Tribal judges, appointed by the tribal leader or elected by the community, determine sentences. Many tribal judges were poorly trained. The quality of decisions reached in the customary courts varied considerably, and defendants often lacked a presumption of innocence. Tribal judges applied corporal punishment, such as lashings on the buttocks, more often than did civil courts. Those convicted in customary courts may file appeals through the civil court system.

Small-claims courts were established in 2009 in Francistown and Gaborone. There were reports of heavy caseloads and new procedures limiting the courts’ effectiveness. Many cases remained delayed for several months, and the National Legal Association criticized judges who did not deliver rulings in a timely manner.

A separate military court system does not try civilians. Military courts have separate procedures from civil courts. Defendants in military courts are able to retain private attorneys at their own expense and see evidence to be used against them. Defendants in military court can have their cases transferred to the civilian judicial system. Additionally, military personnel can take other military personnel to civilian civil court.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

In the formal judicial system, there is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, including for human rights cases, which includes a separate industrial court for most labor-related cases. Administrative remedies were not widely available. By mutual agreement of the parties involved, customary courts, which handle land, marital, and property disputes, tried most civil cases; they often did not afford the same due process protections as the formal judicial system. The country has not ratified the protocol that established the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, although individuals and organizations may file complaints regarding domestic decisions with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Brunei

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The law does not specifically prohibit torture, and the government did not ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which it signed in 2015. Caning may be ordered for 95 offenses under 12 different pieces of legislation including secular law, and it is mandatory for some offenses. The government has not implemented the phase of the Sharia Penal Code (SPC) that includes offenses punishable by caning, and the SPC prohibits caning those younger than 15 years. Secular law prohibits caning for women, boys younger than eight years, men older than 50 years, or those ruled unfit for caning by a doctor. 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, although there were reports authorities deported foreigners in lieu of caning.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: Prisons for male offenders were designed for 400 inmates. Prisons appeared to be over capacity. Women were housed in separate facilities from men, as were pretrial detainees from convicts. Prison conditions did not vary by gender, except that women of all religious groups must wear head coverings (hijab).

Juveniles were not subject to imprisonment, although the law permits imprisonment of juveniles who cannot be detained in other facilities. Courts sent juvenile offenders to dedicated detention centers, rehabilitation homes, and government approved schools that apply a higher standard of security. The curriculum for all facilities includes academic studies and vocational skills. The maximum sentence for juvenile offenders in a detention center is six months, where authorities hold them separately from adult inmates, or three years in an approved school.

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

The prison system has an ombudsperson’s office under which visiting judiciary, community leaders, and representatives of public institutions visit inmates on a monthly basis. A prisoner may complain to a visiting judge, the superintendent, the officer in charge, and, in the case of female prisoners, the matron in charge.

Independent Monitoring: It was not known if the government allows independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to monitor prison conditions, and there were no reports of such requests.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Royal Brunei Police Force and Internal Security Department (ISD), which fall under the direct control of the Prime Minister’s Office, have primary responsibility for enforcing laws and maintaining order. The Departments of Labor and Immigration in the Ministry of Home Affairs also hold limited law enforcement powers for labor and immigration offenses. Religious enforcement officers under the Ministry of Religious Affairs are responsible for enforcing sharia (Islamic law). By law they have the same powers of arrest as police, but their powers to detain were reportedly limited to cases of disturbing the peace or refusing to provide identification, and arrests were made in cooperation with secular enforcement agencies. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police, the ISD, and the labor, immigration, and religious enforcement departments. The government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

A magistrate must endorse a warrant for arrest, except when police are unable to obtain an endorsement in time to prevent the flight of a suspect or when a suspect is apprehended in the act of committing a crime. After an arrest, police may detain a suspect for a maximum of 48 hours for investigation before bringing the suspect before a magistrate. Police stations maintain a policy of no access to detained individuals during that time. Authorities detained persons without a hearing only in cases of detention/arrest under the Internal Security Act (see below). Authorities reportedly informed detainees promptly of the charges against them. Information on detainees was made public. After the 48-hour investigative period, police may deny visitor access in exceptional cases, such as probable cause to suspect witness tampering. This includes denying access to counsel, although there were no reports of authorities using this provision except in cases involving the Internal Security Act (ISA). Authorities may hold detainees beyond the initial 48 hours with a magistrate’s approval. The criminal procedure code allows for bail except in cases designated as “discretionary” by law. There is no provision to afford pro bono legal counsel to poor defendants, except in capital offences. In noncapital cases, indigent defendants may act as their own lawyers in court. Some civil society organizations provided pro bono legal service to indigent defendants in noncapital cases before civil, criminal, and sharia courts.

The government deferred further implementation of the SPC, with only the first phase operating in parallel with the existing common law-based criminal law system. Because all portions of the SPC have not been officially gazetted, the secular criminal procedure code continued to apply to all criminal proceedings in sharia court unless expressly covered under the first phase of the SPC.

The ISA permits the government to detain suspects without trial for renewable two-year periods. The government convenes an independent advisory board consisting of executive and judicial branch officials to review individual ISA detentions and report to the Minister of Home Affairs. The minister is required to notify detainees in writing of the grounds on which their detention was made and relevant allegations of fact. The advisory board must review individual detentions annually. In February four Indonesian nationals were detained under the ISA for possession and dissemination of ISIS propaganda materials and online videos. The four individuals were deported in April.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law does not provide specifically for an independent judiciary, but the government generally respected judicial independence, and there were no known instances of government interference with the judiciary in the secular courts. There were reports of procedural flaws and bias in the sharia courts. The sultan appoints all higher court judges, who serve at his pleasure.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Secular law, based on English common law, provides for the right to a fair trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants in criminal proceedings are presumed innocent. Trials are public and conducted by a judge or panel of judges. Defendants have the right to counsel, to be present at their trials, to confront accusers, to cross-examine and call witnesses, to present evidence, and to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges. There were no reports of defendants who were not allowed adequate time or facilities to prepare their defense. Lawyers have access to the accused, but not during the initial 48-hour investigatory period unless the investigation is concluded and charges are filed. Defendants have the right not to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have a right of appeal and access to an interpreter (if needed) free of charge.

Individuals detained under the ISA neither have the right to legal counsel nor are they presumed innocent. Those detained under the ISA are entitled to make representation against a detention order to an advisory board and may make oral representation personally or be represented by an advocate and solicitor.

While sharia courts have long had jurisdiction over civil matters where at least one party is Muslim, the SPC applies to non-Muslims as well, depending on the crime. Implementation of the first phase of the SPC, which began in 2014, includes fines and jail terms that expanded existing restrictions on drinking alcohol, eating in public during the fasting hours of Ramadan, cross-dressing, and propagating religions other than Islam. The government did not issue implementing regulations governing sharia proceedings under the SPC by year’s end. In general defendants in sharia proceedings had the same rights as defendants in criminal cases under secular law. There were reports of defendants in sharia courts not being informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, not being allowed adequate time or facilities to prepare their defense or receive adequate interpretation, and not being allowed to communicate with an attorney. There were also instances where minor sharia court officials suggested a defendant was guilty during a trial or the outcome appeared predetermined.

The government continued to defer implementing two additional phases of the SPC that would introduce severe punishments such as stoning to death or amputation of limbs. These phases involve evidentiary and witness standards different from secular law, unless the defendant freely admits the act.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is no specific provision of law for individuals or organizations to seek civil remedies for human rights violations. By customary practice, individuals may present written complaints about rights violations directly to the sultan for review. There are no provisions in the law to allow individuals or local organizations to appeal domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

In June 2016 the government published amendments to the Land Code that ban non-Bruneians (including foreign investors, permanent residents, and stateless individuals) from holding land via a power of attorney or trust deeds, and retroactively declares all such contracts null and void. The amendments do not provide for any financial compensation or restitution. The new amendments were not implemented by year’s end.

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

The law permits government intrusion into the privacy of individuals, families, and homes. The government 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 to monitor 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.

Long-standing 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. There were 98 khalwat cases in 2017. Not all suspects accused of violating khalwat were formally arrested. There were reports that administrative penalties, such as travel bans or suspension from government jobs, were imposed on individuals accused but not convicted of violating khalwat, but the implementation of such measures was inconsistent.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Bulgaria

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

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

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

The law allows police to use firearms only as a last resort while doing everything possible to preserve the life of the person who is in danger, and it prohibits the use of deadly force against nonviolent offenders who do not pose a threat. Roma activists claimed that on April 12, Asparuh Dobrushev from the village of Bohot died during a police stop, and his son Shibil suffered rib and arm fractures and numerous bruises. According to Pleven police, the two had been caught with stolen chemicals, although according to Shibil, his father and he were harvesting wood, when they were assaulted by police. Asparuh Dobrushev suffered a heart attack during the police stop, and died. Roma activists later reported that the Dobrushevs had decided not to pursue the case because they feared they would not get fair treatment, especially given that police claimed the Dobrushevs were engaged in an illegal activity.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports of government officials employing degrading treatment.

In the concluding observations of the Committee against Torture (CAT) of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in its report issued December 15, the CAT expressed concern about deliberate physical mistreatment of persons upon arrest and in police detention units. The CAT observed that one-third of detained persons were subjected to physical abuse in police stations “which may be of such severity as to amount to torture,” and police officers who abused their authority largely remained unpunished. The CAT noted that this abuse included “beating, handcuffing to immovable objects and the use of truncheons and electrical discharge weapons.” The CAT claimed that “the rate of physical abuse against persons belonging to the Roma community is allegedly double the rate of abuse against ethnic Bulgarians.” The CAT also expressed concern that the law does not criminalize torture as a separate offense.

There were reports that police physically mistreated migrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross the border into the country (see section 2.d., Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons).

Police can detain persons for 24 hours without charging them. There were occasional reports that police arrested suspects for minor offenses and physically abused them to force confessions, especially in cases involving Romani suspects.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in most prisons were harsh, with problems including violence against inmates, overcrowding, prison staff corruption, and inadequate sanitary, living, and medical facilities. In its concluding observations, the CAT noted the lack of improvement of material conditions at the Sofia, Burgas, and Varna Prisons.

Physical Conditions: Most prison facilities dated from the early 1900s. In its December concluding observations, the CAT reported receiving allegations of mistreatment of prisoners, including “excessive use of force” and beatings in cells. The CAT noted the “frequent occurrence” of violence between prisoners at the Sofia, Burgas, and Varna Prisons, as well as reports of prisoners being asked to pay custodial staff for services provided for by law. Other persistent problems identified by the CAT included prison overcrowding; poor material conditions in detention and prison facilities; poor hygienic and sanitation conditions; inadequate access to heat, water, and electricity; inadequate cell furnishings, including bedding; inadequate ventilation and access to natural and artificial light; insufficient quantity and quality of food and drinking water; and inadequate custodial staffing levels.

The country’s ombudsman identified a discrepancy between officially reported prison capacity and actual capacity, observing that overcrowding remained a problem in some facilities. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Bulgarian Helsinki Committee identified several additional problems, including poor access to health care and its poor quality wherever available, insufficient access to work and poor working conditions, and prison corruption.

The State Agency for Refugees complained that asylum seekers damaged reception centers faster than the agency was able to make repairs and improvements. Independent observers and the ombudsman noted inadequate hygiene and sanitation, in addition to some interruptions in the provision of medical and interpretation services at refugee facilities. According to the country representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the centers did not provide accommodation for persons with limited mobility; there were no elevators, wheelchair-friendly ramps, or bathrooms for the mobility impaired. In addition, there was no accommodation for asylum seekers with visual, mental, or psychological disabilities.

In December 2016 amendments to the law provided for the establishment of closed-type centers or designation of closed-type areas within a reception center for confinement in isolation of migrants who disturbed the internal order.

The ombudsman reported cases of police applying excessive force and abusing detainees.

NGOs received complaints about both the quality and quantity of food.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee criticized the prison administration for not performing medical examinations on detainees following reports of police abuse, and officials rarely punished offending officers. According to the ombudsman, the prison personnel in Bobov Dol prison and the detention center in Sofia systematically and continuously used handcuffs when taking inmates out of the cell or when prisoners were hospitalized in a general hospital, based on illegal instructions issued by the heads of the penitentiary institutions.

The ombudsman criticized the lack of adequate light in detention centers and expressed concern that the centers were not properly stocked with bed linen and food, sometimes leaving detainees without food for 24 hours. The ombudsman also reported that detention centers for irregular migrants did not provide adequate accommodation for families with children.

Administration: Authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment. The NGO Bulgarian Helsinki Committee reported that medical personnel did not report all cases of custodial staff violence against prisoners to the prosecution service.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring of prisons by independent nongovernmental observers. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment conducted a visit from September 25 to October 6.

Improvements: The government increased prison capacity by building a new prison facility in Debelt, and entirely renovated two other facilities, Belene and Razdelna. The government also improved the living and sanitary conditions in several prisons and detention centers, including refurbishing the nursery and medical center and improving the heating system at Sliven prison.

During the year the government implemented a comprehensive reform of the penitentiary system, including measures against overcrowding and remedies for prevention and compensation for damages caused by inhuman or degrading treatment. Amendments to the Execution of Punishments and Detention in Custody Act enacted in February initiated flexibility in prison population management and improved the parole system in order to implement a minimum living area of 43 square feet per prisoner. The amendments also expanded the definition of inhuman or degrading treatment to include not only imprisonment in poor conditions, but also long-term isolation, unjustified use of restraint, and other treatments that “demean human dignity or engender fear, helplessness, or inferiority.” They included a provision permitting prisoners to challenge prison administration decisions in court.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Interior is responsible for law enforcement, migration, and border enforcement. The State Agency for National Security, which reports to the Prime Minister’s Office, is responsible for counterintelligence, domestic intelligence analysis, and investigating corruption and organized crime. The State Intelligence Agency under the Council of Ministers is responsible for foreign intelligence, and the Military Information Service under the defense minister is responsible for military intelligence. The National Protective Service is responsible for the security of dignitaries and answers to the president. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police and security services. Police and the prosecution service are responsible for investigating security force killings. While the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, implementation was inadequate, and impunity was a problem.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police normally obtained a warrant prior to apprehending an individual. Police may hold a detainee for 24 hours without charge, and a prosecutor may authorize an extension of an additional 72 hours. A court must approve detention longer than 72 hours; such detentions can last up to two years. Prosecutors may not arrest military personnel without the defense minister’s approval. Authorities generally observed these laws.

The law provides for recognizance, bail, and house arrest, and these measures were widely used.

The law provides for the right to counsel from the time of detention, and internal regulations instruct that detainees have access to legal counsel no later than two hours after detention and that a lawyer have access to the detainee within 30 minutes of his or her arrival at the police station. According to the ombudsman, police did not provide detainees with written information about their rights and precincts did not properly log legal counsel, family, doctor, or consular official visits, taking detainees out of the cell for interrogation, or other detainee-related incidents. According to a Bulgarian Helsinki Committee report issued in January, the government did not collect or track information on police brutality. The NGO’s analysis, based on information from one-third of the courts, indicated that slightly more than 40 percent of complaints involved physical injuries and illegal arrests, while 16 percent were for forced interrogations. According to the report, the Interior Ministry imposed penalties in 11 percent of the cases involving complaints, while the courts found police officers guilty in 61 percent of the cases, suggesting that the Interior Ministry lacked an efficient mechanism for investigating and punishing its officials.

The law provides for government-funded legal aid for low-income defendants, and defendants could choose from a list of public defenders provided by the bar associations. A national hotline provided 15-minute free legal consultations eight hours per day. The law prohibits holding detainees charged with misdemeanors in custody without indictment for more than two months; detainees charged with felonies may be held without indictment for eight months, while persons suspected of crimes punishable by at least 15 years’ imprisonment may be held up to 18 months without indictment.

On August 8, the mayor of Kamenar reported that masked police in patrol cars and on motorbikes raided the Romani neighborhood in the village, beating persons in the street, including pregnant women and children. The attackers left in a few minutes, leaving 18 persons with mostly minor injuries. There were other reports of similar “punitive raids” in the nearby Maksuda neighborhood in Varna. The Varna police directorate denied the allegations of police involvement but stated that police had been searching for a reportedly ethnic Roma rapist.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports of arbitrary detention. Six police officers from the first precinct in Sofia were suspended from work. They were accused of manhandling two persons after stopping them for a document check and then arresting them in 2015. The prosecution terminated the criminal investigation of the officers.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

The Supreme Judicial Council appoints, promotes, disciplines, and dismisses judges, investigators, and prosecutors. It also investigates complaints of judicial misconduct and recommends disciplinary action. Managing magistrates can also impose minor punishments. Observers criticized the lack of clearly stated reasoning and justifications in the council’s disciplinary decisions.

Judicial and investigative backlogs remained a problem in larger jurisdictions, and long delays for criminal trials were common. The law allows defendants to request court dismissal of the charges against them if the prosecution has not formally indicted them for more than two years in serious crime cases and one year in petty crime cases.

Human rights organizations expressed concern that amendments to the criminal procedure code, which were adopted in June and came into force on November 4, significantly lowered fair trial standards, creating possibilities for violation of procedural rights of lawyers and defendants. In addition, the amendments transferred jurisdiction for prosecution of corruption by senior- and high-level government officials to the Specialized Criminal Court, interpreted by human rights organizations as establishment of an extraordinary court, which is explicitly prohibited in the constitution.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law presumes defendants are innocent until proven guilty and allows them ample time and facilities to prepare a defense. All court hearings are public except for cases involving national security, endangerment of public morals, and the privacy of juvenile defendants. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary from the moment they are charged through all their appeals.

In cases involving serious crimes, two nonprofessional judges join a professional judge. If a crime carries a sentence of more than 15 years’ imprisonment, two professional judges and three lay judges hear the case. In such circumstances a majority vote determines verdicts. The constitution and the law give defendants the right to an attorney, provided at public expense for those who cannot afford to pay for one. A defense attorney is mandatory if the alleged crime carries a possible punishment of 10 or more years in prison; if the defendant is a juvenile, foreigner, or person with mental or physical disabilities; or if the accused is absent. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and can demand a retrial if they were convicted in absentia, unless they were evading justice at the time of the first trial. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses, examine evidence, and present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants are not compelled to testify or confess guilt. The law provides for the right of appeal, which was widely used.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

While the law provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, the same long delays in criminal cases affected civil cases. Individuals may file allegations of human rights abuses with courts and with the Commission for Protection against Discrimination, which can impose fines on violators. After all remedies in domestic courts have been exhausted, individuals can appeal decisions involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the state to the European Court of Human Rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

While the government has no legislation specific to Holocaust-era property restitution, it does have laws and mechanisms in place to address communist-era real property claims (not including moveable property), including by foreign citizens, which have been applied to cover Holocaust-era claims. NGOs and advocacy groups, including local Jewish organizations, reported significant progress on resolution of such claims. After World War II, the communist government first restituted and then nationalized the personal and community property lost during the Holocaust. After the fall of communism, Jewish organizations and individuals were able to reclaim ownership of or receive compensation for community property nationalized by the communist regime. The Ministry of Defense refused to restore to the Jewish community a property located on the Naval Academy’s campus in Varna, claiming that it was used for strategic communications; according to a local Jewish organization, the Varna property was the only outstanding Holocaust-era communal property that had not yet been returned.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. Law enforcement agencies can access electronic data traffic only in cases related to serious crime or national security. In August the head of the National Bureau for Oversight of Specialized Investigative Techniques, an independent government body appointed by the National Assembly, stated that he was aware of cases of illegal wiretapping of politicians, magistrates, and journalists done for the purpose of intimidation, pressure, or extortion.

In April the Supreme Cassation Court confirmed the rulings of two lower courts and issued a suspended sentence to the former president of the Sofia City Court, Vladimira Yaneva, for illegally permitting the use of specialized investigative techniques.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Burkina Faso

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

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

There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. According to the international nongovernmental organization (NGO) Human Rights Watch (HRW), on June 9, Burkinabe soldiers detained approximately 74 men and severely beat many of them during a cross-border operation near the border with Mali. The soldiers accused the detainees of supporting the Burkinabe Islamist armed group Ansaroul Islam. According to HRW, the soldiers transported 44 of the men into Burkina Faso for questioning, and two of the detainees died from mistreatment shortly after arriving in Djibo.

In June 2016 an investigative commission submitted its report on the 28 persons killed and 625 injured in 2014 during protests against former president Blaise Compaore’s efforts to force a National Assembly vote to change presidential term limits. The report recommended the prosecution of 31 persons, including former president Compaore and former transition prime minister Yacouba Isaac Zida. Most of the others recommended for prosecution were former members of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP). The report was transmitted to judicial authorities, but none of those listed in the report was prosecuted. Compaore and Yacouba Isaac Zida reportedly remained abroad, and no arrest warrants had been issued against them in this case.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and in 2014 the National Assembly adopted a law to define and prohibit torture and all related practices. Nevertheless, HRW documented severe beatings by security forces during cross-border operations near the border with Mali that resulted in two deaths (see section 1.a.).

In addition, according to videos shared on social media and reports in the local press, on August 1, gendarmes assaulted several protesting truck drivers, injuring at least one of them. According to press reports, the minister of security publicly told the gendarmes that no legal action would be taken against them. As of September authorities had not prosecuted any of the gendarmes involved in the incident.

Local press reported that on May 12, a gendarme assaulted and injured Guezouma Sanogo, a journalist at the Radio Burkina state radio–who was also president of the Association of Burkina Faso Journalists–during the country’s National Peasant’s Day, allegedly because he did not obey established security measures. President Kabore addressed the incident, stating that he “sincerely regrets the incident which should not occur in our time.” As of September 20, Sanogo had not pressed charges, and authorities had not opened an investigation into the case.

Some former RSP members accused of attempting to attack an armory in 2015 claimed during their trial that gendarmes tortured them during their detention in Ouagadougou and Leo. Additionally, one of the witnesses, Ali Ouedraogo, a son of one of the accused RSP members, stated gendarmes physically assaulted him during the search of their house as part of the investigation. As of October 15, no legal action had been taken against the gendarmes, nor had the government undertaken an investigation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: Authorities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. Female prisoners had better conditions than those of men, in large part due to less crowding. Although regulations require the presence of a doctor and five nurses at the Ouagadougou Detention and Correction Center’s (MACO) health unit, only three nurses were on duty to treat detainees, and a doctor was present once a week. Prisoners’ diets were inadequate, and inmates often relied on supplemental food from relatives. Prison infrastructure throughout the country was decrepit. In MACO and other prisons, severe overcrowding exacerbated inadequate ventilation, although some cells had electricity and some inmates had fans. Sanitation was rudimentary.

On August 10, diplomatic representatives visited MACO to verify compliance with standards of detention and human rights. Their report cited overcrowding, malnutrition, sanitation, health problems, and slowness in judicial processes.

According to human rights organizations, deaths occurred in prisons and jails due to harsh conditions and neglect. Human rights activists estimated one or two inmates died monthly because of harsh prison conditions.

There were no appropriate facilities or installations for prisoners or detainees with disabilities, who relied on other inmates for assistance.

Physical abuse was a problem in many detention centers across the country. For example, the NGO Burkinabe Movement of Human Rights and People (MBDHP) alleged that in 2016 gendarmes tortured and killed two suspects. In April 2016 Bokoum Salif, a driver in Dedougou, died after being arrested and detained by the local gendarmerie. Bokoum was accused of stealing a computer at the house of the head of the local gendarmerie. Relatives who visited him before his death stated that he presented signs of torture. According to the MBDHP, in May 2016 Sidibe Yero, a herder from Dedougou accused of rape, died under similar circumstances. The gendarmerie reportedly asked his relatives to bury his remains without conducting an autopsy. As of October 15, authorities had not taken legal action in either case.

Food, potable water, sanitation, heating, ventilation, lighting, and medical care were inadequate in the majority of detention facilities across the country, including MACO. Conditions of detention were better for wealthy or influential citizens.

Local media regularly reported on cases of detainees who spend more than one year without trial. For example, one detainee, who had been detained at MACO since 2015, reportedly met the investigative judge for only 15 minutes after more than 13 months in detention. In January when the case was reported in the local press, the same detainee had spent 18 months in prison without seeing the judge again and without a scheduled trial date.

Administration: There were no reports that authorities failed to investigate credible allegations of inhuman prison conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. Prison authorities regularly granted permission to representatives of local and international human rights groups, media, foreign embassies, and the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit prisons without advance notice.

Improvements: To address overcrowding, the government opened a new prison in Koupela, in the Kouritenga Province, and transferred prisoners from overcrowded prisons to those with lower occupancy rates. Other measures also taken during the year to reduce prison overcrowding included enforcing fines and community service rather than prison time, and allowing for the provisional release of certain prisoners. As of October, however, there was no evidence that these measures effectively reduced overcrowding.

To improve detention conditions, improve prisoner health, and facilitate social reintegration of prisoners, the Ministry of Justice launched a three-year prison reform project with EU support. The Ministry of Justice also partnered with the NGO SOS Doctor Burkina Faso to provide free health consultations to approximately 1,500 to 2,000 detainees.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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, but security forces did not always respect these provisions. For example, security forces arrested and detained web activist Naim Toure in December 2016 for posting on his Facebook page information on the health condition of a former RSP member detained at the military prison. On February 27, he was sentenced to pay a fine of 300,000 CFA francs ($550).

HRW reported that during the June 9 cross-border operation near the border with Mali (see section 1.a.), soldiers detained approximately 74 men, ages 20 to 70. The soldiers accused the men of supporting the Burkinabe Islamist armed group Ansaroul Islam, which also had bases in Mali. According to HRW, 44 men were taken to Burkina Faso for questioning, and seven remained in detention. Minister of Justice Rene Bagoro opened an investigation and was working with the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Security to investigate the allegations. Minister Bagoro also announced that the permanent secretary of the interministerial committee on human rights and international humanitarian law began to conduct predeployment training on human rights for soldiers.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Internal Security and the Ministry of Defense are responsible for internal security. The Ministry of Internal Security includes the National Police and the gendarmerie. The army, which operates within the Ministry of Defense, is responsible for external security but sometimes assists with missions related to domestic security. Use of excessive force, corruption, a climate of impunity, and lack of training contributed to police ineffectiveness. The government announced investigations in progress, but as of September 20, none had led to prosecution. Inadequate resources also impeded police effectiveness.

Following an attempt to seize power in September 2015, the government dismantled the RSP and integrated former RSP members into the regular army, except those at large or previously arrested for involvement in the putsch attempt. The unit subsequently responsible for presidential security included police officers, gendarmes, and soldiers.

The Military Justice Administration examines all cases involving killings by military personnel or gendarmes to determine whether they occurred in the line of duty or were otherwise justifiable. The administration refers cases deemed outside the line of duty or unjustifiable to civilian courts. Civilian courts automatically handle killings involving police. The gendarmerie is responsible for investigating abuse by police and gendarmes, but the results of their investigations were not always made public.

NGOs and the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights, and Civic Promotion conducted training activities on human rights for security forces. The previous united Ministry of Territorial Administration, Decentralization, and Internal Security organized a meeting for defense and security forces, journalists, and human rights organizations on February 3, during which participants from the eastern region discussed human rights protection in the region and overcame their disagreements.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

By law police and gendarmes must possess a court-issued warrant based on sufficient evidence before apprehending a person suspected of committing a crime, but authorities did not always follow these procedures. Authorities did not consistently inform detainees of charges against them. By law detainees have the right to expeditious arraignment, bail, access to legal counsel, and, if indigent, access to a lawyer provided by the government after being charged. A judge may order temporary release pending trial without bail. Authorities seldom respected these rights. The law does not provide detainees access to family members, although authorities generally allowed detainees such access through court-issued authorizations.

The law limits detention without charge for investigative purposes to a maximum of 72 hours, renewable for a single 48-hour period. Police rarely observed the law, and the average time of detention without charge (preventive detention) was one week. Once authorities charge a suspect, the law permits judges to impose an unlimited number of consecutive six-month preventive detention periods while the prosecutor investigates charges. Authorities often detained defendants without access to legal counsel for weeks, months, or even years before the defendant appeared before a magistrate. There were instances in which authorities detained suspects incommunicado.

Pretrial Detention: Authorities estimated 48 percent of prisoners nationwide were in pretrial status. In some cases authorities held detainees without charge or trial for longer periods than the maximum sentence for conviction of the alleged offense. A pretrial release (release on bail) system exists, although the extent of its use was unknown.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides persons arrested or detained the right to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention. Prisoners who did so, however, reportedly faced difficulties due to either judicial corruption or inadequate staffing of the judiciary.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary was corrupt, inefficient, and subject to executive influence, according to NGOs. There were no instances in which the outcomes of trials appeared predetermined, and authorities respected court orders. Legal codes remained outdated, there were not enough courts, and legal costs were excessive. Citizens’ poor knowledge of their rights further weakened their ability to obtain justice.

Military courts try cases involving military personnel charged with violating the military code of conduct. 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.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law presumes defendants are innocent. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free assistance of an interpreter. Trials are public but may be delayed. Judicial authorities use juries only in criminal cases. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and to legal representation, consultation, and adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants have the right to provide evidence. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but a refusal to testify often resulted in harsher decisions. Defendants may challenge and present witnesses, and they have the right of appeal. In civil cases where the defendant is destitute and files an appeal, the state provides a court-appointed lawyer. In criminal cases court-appointed lawyers are mandatory for those who cannot afford one. The law extends these rights to all defendants, but the government did not always respect these rights, due in part to popular ignorance of the law and a continuing shortage of magistrates and court-appointed lawyers.

The Ministry of Justice, Human Rights, and Civic Promotion claimed courts usually tried cases within three months, although human rights organizations reported major case backlogs. The 2011 “processing of criminal penalties in real time” reform to shorten pretrial detention allows the prosecutor and investigators (police and gendarmerie) to process a case prior to the criminal hearing. This countrywide approach allows authorities to inform defendants of the charges and trial date before authorities release them pending trial.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees during the year, although some arrests and detentions may have been politically motivated.

In 2015 gendarmes arrested Leonce Kone, interim CDP president, and Hermann Yameogo, president of the National Union for Democracy and Development, for refusing to condemn the RSP attempt to seize power. Authorities granted provisional release to Kone in July 2016 and released Yameogo in October 2016. As of September 20, the government had not provided any update on this pending case.

In January 2016 authorities arrested CDP president Eddie Komboigo and charged him with involvement in the preparation of the 2015 attempted putsch. Komboigo was granted provisional release in June 2016 for “medical reasons.” On July 24, the presiding judge reportedly informed Komboigo that the investigation concluded he was not guilty of the charges against him.

Authorities of the transition government arrested former minister of foreign affairs and founder of opposition party New Alliance of the Faso, Djibril Bassole, in 2015 for allegedly providing support to the failed 2015 military coup. In July a UN working group released its investigative report calling for his immediate release and demanding that he stand trial by a civilian court instead of a military court. In response to the working group’s request, the government announced on July 8 that it would request a review of the case through the revision procedure of the UN Human Rights Council’s work. On October 10, Bassole was granted provisional release for medical reasons and placed under house arrest.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent judiciary in civil matters, but it was often inefficient, corrupt, and subject to executive influence. As a result, citizens sometimes preferred to rely on the Office of the Ombudsman (see section 5, Government Human Rights Bodies) to settle disputes with the government.

The law provides for access to a court to file lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation, and both administrative and judicial remedies were available for alleged wrongs. Victims of human rights violations may appeal directly to the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice, even before going through national courts. For civil and commercial disputes, authorities may refer cases to the Abidjan Common Court of Justice and Arbitration. The courts issued several such orders during the year.

There were problems enforcing court orders in sensitive cases involving national security, wealthy or influential persons, and government officials.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. In cases of national security, however, the law permits surveillance, searches, and monitoring of telephones and private correspondence without a warrant.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Cabo Verde

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

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

There was one report the government or its agents committed an arbitrary or unlawful killing. On February 26, Helder Delgado was declared dead on arrival at Praia General Hospital, 10 hours after being detained by an off-duty police officer during what the officer described as a break-in. Delgado’s body showed signs of blunt trauma, and the cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma and hypoglycemic shock. The attorney general opened a case to investigate the death as an aggravated homicide. The accused officer was suspended from his duties and spent nearly six months in prison in preventive detention. In late September he was released and was awaiting trial at year’s end.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. Media, however, cited instances of physical violence. The most common types of abuses were excessive force and aggression against persons arrested and detained by police. In most cases the National Police Council took action against abusers. In the first quarter, 23 cases of abuse were registered, a significant increase over the first eight months of 2016.

Prisoners complained of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. In all prisons authorities isolated newcomers in small, cramped cells for up to 30 days. This isolation was intended to allow new inmates time to adjust and to determine if they had communicable diseases. Inmates in isolation had limited access to visitors and prison activities. The isolation cells were small, dark, not well-ventilated, unfurnished, and crowded. Similar cells were used for punishment.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening due to gross overcrowding and inadequate housing and sanitation.

Physical Conditions: There were five prisons in the country; the two largest had populations that substantially exceeded capacity (indicated in parentheses). The Central Prison of Praia (CCP) had 1,091 inmates (880), the Central Prison of Sao Vicente 248 (180), and the regional prisons of Santo Antao 47 (50), Sal 89 (250), and Fogo 67 (50). The Orlando Pantera Center housed juvenile detainees who were under age 16 at the time of sentencing. The regional prisons on Fogo and Sal did not have sufficient external walls. Several of the prisons did not have reliable electricity. The regional prison on Sal had no access to an electric grid or piped water; it ran a generator at night, and water was brought in trucks. There was no kitchen at the prison, and food for inmates was prepared and delivered by the armed forces.

As of August 31, there were three deaths reported in prison.

Prisoners also complained of inadequate sanitation, ventilation, lighting, and heating. Not all prisoners had mattresses and beds; some slept on thin blankets on concrete floors. Shower and toilet facilities were inadequate and unsanitary; however, prison directors ensured distribution of personal hygiene kits and prioritized improvements to the showers and toilets. There was standing water in the toilet and shower areas. Conditions in general were inadequate for inmates with mental disabilities or substance addictions. There were too few corrections officers to deal with the growing number of such prisoners. Conditions were markedly better for female prisoners, who generally had significantly more space and better sanitary conditions than male prisoners.

At the CCP and the central prison on Sao Vicente, inmates were separated by categories of trial status, sex, and age, but in regional prisons a lack of facilities prevented authorities from separating inmates. In the Fogo regional prison, all 11 cells and the isolation cells housed youth and adults together. In the Santo Antao regional prison, inmates were separated according to status and crime.

Most prisoners received adequate food and clean water three times per day.

Administration: There were no prison ombudsmen to respond to complaints. Prisoners’ relatives reported complaints, but corrections officials claimed all had been investigated and disproven.

Prison directors at Fogo and CCP reported religious activities were permitted for all religious groups. The CCP director stated religious visits for Muslims had not yet been scheduled. He noted, however, that religious activities during Ramadan had been organized and supported by the administration. In the regional prison on Sao Vicente, the director stated that Muslim religious services sometimes fall outside of regular prison working hours, complicating the prison’s ability to accommodate them.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted formal visits by international human rights monitors to the prisons and individual prisoners. Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and members of the press made frequent visits to prisons to record conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Police, under the control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, is responsible for law enforcement. The Judiciary Police, under the Ministry of Justice, is responsible for major investigations. The armed forces, under the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for protecting the national territory and sovereignty of the country. Logistical constraints, including a shortage of vehicles and communications equipment, and poor forensic capacity limited police effectiveness.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the armed forces and police (including the Coast Guard, National Guard, National Police, and Judiciary Police), and the government had somewhat effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption.

There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

Authorities investigated abuses by police, and most investigations resulted in legal action against those responsible. During the first quarter of the year, the National Police Council received 23 reports of police violence; most cases concerned physical abuse. The National Police Disciplinary Board reviewed the cases.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The National Police may not make arrests without a warrant issued by the Attorney General’s Office, unless police apprehend the person in the act of committing a felony. Neither the National Police nor Judiciary Police have the authority to conduct investigations unless mandated by the Attorney General’s Office. Even if there is incriminating evidence, suspected criminals are not arrested until a decision is made by the Attorney General’s Office. The law stipulates a suspect must be brought before a judge within 48 hours of arrest. In most cases, however, detainees waited more than 48 hours. The law provides a detainee the right to prompt judicial determination of the legality of the detention, and authorities respected this right. Attorneys inform detainees of the charges against them. There is a functioning bail system. Authorities allowed detainees prompt access to family members and to a lawyer of the detainee’s choice if the detainee could afford it. For a detainee or family unable to pay, the Cabo Verdean Bar Association appoints a lawyer.

The judicial system was overburdened and understaffed, and criminal cases frequently ended when charges were dropped before a determination of guilt or innocence was made.

Pretrial Detention: The director of the CCP noted that if detainees remained six months in prison without any judicial progress, they would be released according to the law. As of August 31, there were 359 persons in preventive detention.

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. The judicial system, however, was overwhelmed by the number of cases, lacked sufficient staffing, and was inefficient.

There is a military court, which by law may not try civilians. The military court provides the same protections as civil criminal courts.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Criminal defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence. They have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free interpretation as necessary, from the moment charged through all appeals. The law provides for the right to a fair and public nonjury trial without undue delay, but cases often continued for years. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Free counsel is provided for the indigent in all types of cases. Defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants have the right to confront or question witnesses against them and to present witnesses and evidence in their defense, the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and the right to appeal regional court decisions to the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ). The law extends the above rights to all citizens.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Courts are impartial and independent and handle civil matters including lawsuits seeking damages for, or an injunction ordering the cessation of, a human rights violation. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human right bodies. Both administrative and judicial remedies are available.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Cambodia

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

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

As of July the local nongovernmental organization (NGO) Cambodia Human Rights and Development Organization (ADHOC) reported four cases of extrajudicial killings.

In March the court sentenced Oeuth Ang to life imprisonment for the July 2016 murder of Kem Ley, an outspoken and popular social and political analyst. Police arrested Oeuth Ang, who claimed he killed Kem Ley because of a 12-million riel ($3,000) unpaid debt. Members of both Kem Ley’s and the killer’s families said the two men did not know each other. Noting this and other anomalies in the case, including the impoverished assailant’s possession of an expensive handgun, many observers believed a third party hired Oeuth Ang.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), also known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, was established to hold accountable senior leaders and those most responsible for crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979. The ECCC continued its investigations and trials during the year (see section 5).

b. Disappearance

The Venerable Meas Vichet, a well known monk, went missing on June 18 in Krobei Riel Commune, Siem Reap Province. A priest who was with him before his disappearance reported that Krobei Riel security officials detained them, forcibly removed their clothes, and beat them, claiming they had information on the murder of Kem Ley. At year’s end Meas Vichet remained missing.

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

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

There were credible reports military and police officials used physical and psychological abuse and occasionally severely beat criminal detainees, particularly during interrogation. As of July, ADHOC reported 10 cases of torture of detainees and prisoners, compared with 15 instances during all of 2016. NGOs reported it was common for police to abuse detained suspects until they confessed to a crime.

As of July, ADHOC reported 13 alleged physical assaults against civilians by local authorities, government agents, or private bodyguards of government officials.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions did not meet international standards. Conditions remained harsh and in many cases life threatening.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding was a problem. According to the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons (GDP), as of July authorities held more than 26,000 prisoners and detainees in 29 prisons designed to hold a maximum of 11,000 prisoners. GDP officials reported the government’s “war on drugs” had exacerbated overcrowding.

In most prisons there was no separation of adult and juvenile prisoners; of male and female prisoners; or of persons convicted of serious crimes, minor offenses, or in pretrial detention. According to the GDP, of 21,989 prisoners held in 2016, approximately 34 percent were in pretrial detention and 29 percent had received a final verdict; approximately 8 percent of prisoners were women; and 4 percent were minors. According to a local NGO, there were several pregnant women in prison as well as children living with their incarcerated mothers.

The GDP reported 76 prisoners died and three escaped in 2016. Local NGOs maintained that allowances for prisoner food and other necessities were inadequate in many cases. Observers continued to report authorities sometimes misappropriated allowances for purchasing prisoners’ food, exacerbating malnutrition and disease. Prisoners and detainees had access to clean water in only 18 of 29 prisons. Prisons did not have adequate facilities for persons with mental or physical disabilities. NGOs also alleged prison authorities gave preferential treatment, including increased access to visitors, transfer to better cells, and the opportunity to leave cells during the day, to prisoners whose families could pay bribes. According to a local NGO, “prisoner self-management committees,” organized groups of inmates created and directed by prison guards, sometimes violently attacked other prisoners. There was reported drug use in the prisons made possible by bribing prison officials.

There were seven government and three private drug rehabilitation centers in the country. Most observers agreed the majority of detainees in such facilities were there involuntarily, committed by police or family members without due process. According to the National Authority for Combating Drugs, no detainee was younger than 18 years. Observers noted employees at the centers frequently controlled detainees with physical restraints and subjected them to intense exercise.

Administration: There were no legal provisions establishing prison ombudspersons. Authorities routinely allowed prisoners and detainees access to visitors, although rights organizations confirmed families sometimes had to bribe prison officials to visit prisoners or provide food and other necessities. There were credible reports officials demanded bribes before allowing prisoners to attend trials or appeal hearings and before releasing inmates who had served their full term of imprisonment.

Prisoners could submit uncensored complaints regarding alleged abuse to judicial authorities through lawyers, but a large number of prisoners and detainees could not afford legal representation. The government investigates complaints and monitors prison and detention center conditions through the GDP, which produced biannual reports on prison management. The GDP did not release the reports despite frequent requests by civil society organizations.

Independent Monitoring: The government allowed, subject to preconditions and restrictions, international and domestic human rights groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), to visit prisons and/or provide human rights training to prison guards. Some NGOs reported cooperation by local authorities occasionally was limited, making it difficult to gain access to pretrial detainees. This was particularly true in high-profile cases such as the detention of opposition leader Kem Sokha and the earlier arbitrary detention of five ADHOC staffers. The Ministry of Interior required lawyers, human rights monitors, and other visitors to obtain permission prior to visiting prisoners–often from multiple government agencies that differed according to each case–and sometimes the government required NGOs to sign a formal memorandum of understanding delineating their “roles” during prison visits.

Although some local independent monitoring groups were able to meet privately with prisoners, others were not. A local human rights NGO that provides medical care to prisoners, reported the government periodically refused requests to visit convicted prisoners who were members of a political opposition party. Another NGO reported the government accused it of harboring political bias and using its visits to embolden political prisoners. OHCHR representatives reported they were usually able to hold private meetings when interviewing a particular prisoner of interest.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the government did not respect these prohibitions, notably with the arbitrary detention of five ADHOC staffers for 427 days on politically motivated charges.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The General Commissariat of the National Police, under Ministry of Interior supervision, manages all civilian police units. Police forces are divided into those with authority to make arrests, those without such authority, and judicial police, whose authority only extends to enforcing court warrants. The government permitted military police to arrest civilians if the officers met the training and experience requirements to serve as civilian police, if civilians were on military property, or when authorized by local governments. The military police, however, sometimes engaged in civilian law enforcement activities under the authority and direction of provincial or local governments, often in support of civilian police unable to exercise effective crowd control.

There were reports police officials committed abuses with impunity, and in most cases the government took little or no action. Government officials and their family members were also frequently immune from prosecution.

As of October, one local human rights organization tracked 34 instances of impunity, although it claimed that in reality the number was significantly higher. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for evaluating security force killings, and the law requires police, prosecutors, and judges to investigate all complaints, including those of police abuse. Judges and prosecutors, however, rarely conducted independent investigations. 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.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires police to obtain a warrant from an investigating judge prior to making an arrest, unless a suspect is caught in the act of committing a crime. Authorities frequently cited this exception when arresting opposition political figures, even if the alleged offenses occurred years before. Critics accused the government of employing this practice to circumvent laws providing lawmakers with parliamentary immunity. The law allows police to take a person into custody and conduct an investigation for 48 hours, excluding weekends and government holidays, before police must file charges or release a suspect. In felony cases of exceptional circumstances prescribed by law, police may detain a suspect for an additional 24 hours with the approval of a prosecutor. Nevertheless, authorities routinely held persons for extended periods before charging them.

There was a bail system, but many prisoners, especially those without legal representation, had no opportunity to seek release on bail. Authorities routinely denied bail for cases considered politically motivated.

Under the law accused persons may be arrested and detained for a maximum of 24 hours before being allowed access to legal counsel, but authorities routinely held prisoners incommunicado for several days before granting them access to a lawyer or family members. According to government officials, such prolonged detention frequently was a result of the limited capacity of the court system. The government did not provide access to a lawyer for indigent detainees.

Arbitrary Arrest: As of July local human rights NGO Licadho cited at least 38 arbitrary arrests, mostly of women participating in the “Black Monday” campaign, which began as a protest of the government’s detention of five current and former employees of ADHOC, but which the government claimed was intended to incite a “color revolution”–the government’s term for a mass movement in opposition to its rule. Two of the 38 arrests resulted in formal charges and conviction. The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and ADHOC recorded 35 arbitrary arrests of 21 different persons from May 2016 to March. The actual number of arbitrary arrests and detentions was likely higher because some victims in rural areas did not file complaints due to the difficulty of traveling to human rights NGOs’ offices or concern for their family’s security. Authorities took no legal or disciplinary action against persons responsible for the illegal detentions.

During the year Phnom Penh municipal authorities temporarily arrested dozens of homeless persons, persons with mental disabilities, drug users, or persons engaged in prostitution during systematic sweeps of city streets. Authorities placed the detainees in Prey Speu rehabilitation facility operated by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth located 15 miles from Phnom Penh. The center was notorious for abuses that led to the death of two detainees in 2015.

Pretrial Detention: The law allows for pretrial detention for a maximum of six months for misdemeanors and 18 months for felonies. In 2016 the Ministry of Interior reported 7,495 pretrial detainees were in custody. Authorities occasionally held pretrial detainees without legal representation. NGOs reported that authorities held many accused of minor crimes in pretrial detention for longer than six months.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: A backlog of court cases and long delays in obtaining judicial rulings interfered with a person’s right to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the government generally did not respect judicial independence. The courts were subject to influence and interference by the executive branch, which has the authority to promote, dismiss, and discipline judges at will. 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 CPP or the executive received appointments to the judiciary. Corruption among judges, prosecutors, and court officials was widespread. The judicial branch was very inefficient and could not assure due process.

Observers alleged the bar association 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. Impartial analysts revealed that many applicants to the bar paid high bribes for admittance. At times the outcome of trials appeared predetermined. For example, Prime Minister Hun Sen declared shortly before a Supreme Court hearing on the dissolution of the opposition CNRP that he was “99.99 percent certain” how the court would rule. There were reports local CPP leaders received orders to evict their CNRP counterparts even before the ruling was issued. In an earlier example, observers at the 2015 trial of 11 opposition activists on charges of insurrection reported that, shortly after judges retired to deliberate, judicial police surrounded the trial court and prepared to transfer the suspects to prison, indicating a guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion (see Political Prisoners and Detainees below).

A shortage of judges and courtrooms delayed many cases, according to NGO reports. 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. As in past years, NGOs asserted that rich or powerful defendants, including members of the security forces, often paid money to victims and authorities to drop criminal charges. Authorities sometimes urged victims or their families to accept financial restitution in exchange for dropping criminal charges or failing to appear as witnesses.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial; however, the judiciary rarely enforced this right.

Defendants are by law presumed innocent and have the right of appeal, but they often resorted to bribery rather than rely on the judicial process. Trials are often public and sometimes face delays due to court bureaucracy. Court staffers reportedly undertook efforts to speed case processing. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and consult with an attorney, confront and question witnesses against them, and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. In felony cases, if a defendant cannot afford an attorney, the law requires the court to provide the defendant with free legal representation; however, the judiciary lacked the resources to provide legal counsel, and most defendants sought assistance from NGOs, pro bono representation, or “voluntarily” proceeded without legal representation. In the absence of required defense attorneys in felony cases, trial courts routinely adjourned cases until defendants could secure legal representation, a process that often took months. Trials were typically perfunctory, and extensive cross-examination usually did not take place. The courts offered free interpretation. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

There was a critical shortage of trained lawyers, particularly outside the capital Phnom Penh. The right to a fair public trial often was denied de facto for persons without means to secure counsel. According to the bar association, as of October there were 1,019 lawyers (206 female) throughout the country, compared with 869 in 2016. A report by the International Commission of Jurists indicated the high cost of bribes needed to join the bar association was partly responsible for keeping the number of trained lawyers low, which in turn provided that existing lawyers had adequate opportunities for remuneration through legal or illegal channels.

NGOs reported sworn written statements from witnesses and the accused usually constituted the only evidence presented at trials. Authorities sometimes coerced confessions through beatings or threats, or forced illiterate defendants to sign written confessions without informing them of the contents. Courts accepted such forced confessions as evidence during trials despite legal prohibitions against doing so. The difficulty in transferring prisoners from provincial prisons to the appeals court in Phnom Penh meant that defendants were present at less than one-half of all appeals.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

As of November a local human rights NGO estimated authorities held at least 24 political prisoners or detainees.

On September 3, police arrested opposition CNRP President Kem Sokha on charges of treason. Several high-ranking CNRP officials went into hiding and most fled abroad. The government’s case against Kem Sokha centered on a four-year-old video of the CNRP leader telling an audience in Australia of his party’s work in grassroots organizing with advice from foreign experts. The government claimed this amounted to Kem Sokha “confessing” that a foreign country had instructed him on how to foment a “color revolution” in the country.

Following Kem Sokha’s arrest, Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to prosecute anyone involved in “protecting” the alleged traitor. He also threatened to reopen investigations into the killing of five trade unionists at a 2014 opposition-led rally in which thousands of garment workers protested the outcome of the disputed 2013 national elections. The prime minister’s threats targeted seven former CNRP members of parliament, including former CNRP vice president and protest leader Mu Sochua, all of whom were arrested following the protest on charges ranging from holding an illegal demonstration to violent insurrection. Also under threat were at least five prominent independent trade union leaders, all of whom were charged with insurrection and placed under court supervision. Although the security services were widely believed to have ordered and carried out the killings, the prime minister blamed the opposition for the violence, and he threatened action against the protest leaders. The prime minister and his lieutenants also publicly warned other opposition members they were subject to arrest for “collaborating” with Kem Sokha. The Supreme Court’s dissolution of the CNRP on November 16 effectively outlaws any participation in or identification with the party.

Separately on August 23, the Appeals Court agreed to split the appeal case of 11 CNRP activists jailed in 2015 for their alleged role in a 2014 protest that resulted in the injury of six protesters and 39 Daun Penh District security guards. The court ruled that one case would review the verdict and a second case would consider allegations of improper legal procedures. Some observers asserted the court reached verdicts without any evidence linking the activists to the alleged crimes and saw the convictions as punishment for the activists’ criticism of the country’s border demarcation with Vietnam, a politically charged issue.

National Assembly member Um Sam An, arrested in April 2016, remained imprisoned for accusing the government of selling land to Vietnam and of publicizing on Facebook what the government claimed were faked border maps–charges widely seen as politically motivated. Senator Hong Sok Hour, convicted on similar charges, received a pardon after apologizing to and praising the leadership of the prime minister. Both legislators had their immunity from prosecution stripped by the National Assembly on an irregular vote that fell short of the two-thirds majority required by the constitution, the same method the National Assembly used to strip Kem Sokha of his immunity.

Opposition politicians and civil society organizations reported authorities often arbitrarily denied access to prisoners whose incarceration they believed to be politically motivated. In the case of Kem Sokha, prison officials did not allow representatives of the CNRP, civil society, or foreign missions to visit him. He was only allowed visits by his legal team and wife, and prison authorities made audio and video recordings of these visits.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The country has a system in place for hearing civil cases, and citizens are entitled to bring lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations. Both administrative and judicial remedies generally were available; however, authorities often did not enforce court orders.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

In October the Ministry of Interior suspended a prominent local NGO advocating for land rights, ostensibly for alleged violations of the Law on Associations and Nongovernmental Organizations (LANGO), promulgated in 2015. The executive director was called in for questioning by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training.

Forced collectivization and the relocation of much of the population under the Khmer Rouge left land ownership unclear. The land law states that any person who peacefully possessed private or state land (excluding public lands, such as parks) or inhabited state buildings without contention for five years prior to the 2001 promulgation of the law has the right to apply for a definitive title to that property. Most citizens, however, continued to lack the knowledge and means to obtain adequate formal documentation of land ownership.

Provincial and district land offices continued to follow pre-2001 land registration procedures, which did not include accurate land surveys or opportunities for public comment. Land speculation, in the absence of clear title, fueled disputes in every province and increased tensions between poor rural communities and speculators. Some urban communities faced forced eviction to make way for commercial development projects.

Authorities continued to force inhabitants to relocate, although the number of cases declined in recent years. Some persons also used the threat of legal action or eviction to intimidate poor and vulnerable persons into exchanging their land for compensation at below-market values. As of July, ADHOC reported 45 new property-related conflicts between businesspersons and villagers, including accusations of land grabbing, theft of natural resources, economic land concessions, social land concessions, and evictions. The poor often had no legal documents to support their land claims. Some of those evicted successfully contested the actions in court, but the majority of cases remained pending.

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

Although the law provides for the privacy of residence and correspondence and prohibits illegal searches, NGOs reported police routinely conducted searches and seizures without warrants. The government installed closed-circuit television cameras in the politically neutral National Election Committee and routinely leaked personal correspondence and surreptitiously recorded telephone calls of opposition and civil society leaders to government-aligned media. Police, who arrested Kem Sokha on September 3, reportedly entered his house by force without a warrant.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Comoros

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions remained poor. The national prison in Moroni is the largest of three prisons in the country. The other two are in Anjouan and Moheli. Military detainees were held in military facilities. National or individual island authorities used various detention facilities as deemed appropriate, and detainees could be transferred from either Anjouan or Moheli to the national prison in Moroni, depending upon the nature of their offenses.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding was a problem. As of November the Moroni prison held 191 inmates, but according to International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) standards, the capacity was 60 inmates.

The law on child protection provides for juveniles ages 15 to 18 to be treated as adults in the criminal justice system. According to the governmental National Commission for Human Rights and Liberties (CNDHL), however, authorities routinely released juveniles ages 15 to 18 to the custody of their parents if they were not recidivists. Juveniles and adult prisoners were held together. As of November there were 10 juvenile male inmates in the Moroni prison held with adults. That prison also held two adult female prisoners in a separate cellblock. Detainees and prisoners normally received a single meal per day. Those who did not receive additional food from family members suffered. Other common problems included inadequate potable water, sanitation, ventilation and lighting, and medical facilities.

Administration: Prisoners could submit complaints without censorship, but investigations or follow-up actions almost never occurred.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted the ICRC and the CNDHL to monitor prisons. CNDHL representatives made regular and unannounced prison visits during the year without interference. Authorities required nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to request a visit permit from the prosecutor general.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Development Army and the Federal Police have responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country. The National Development Army includes both the gendarmerie and the Comorian Defense Force, and reports to the president’s cabinet director for defense. The National Directorate of Territorial Safety, which oversees immigration and customs, reports to the minister of interior, information, and decentralization. The Federal Police report to the minister of interior. The Gendarmerie’s rapid reaction Intervention Platoon also may act under the authority of the interior minister. When the gendarmerie serves as the judicial police, it reports to the minister of justice.

Each of the three islands has a local police force under the authority of its own minister of interior.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over police, and the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. Nevertheless, police used excessive force, and impunity was a problem. The ability of the army to investigate abuses by its personnel was uncertain.

In February the Ma-mwe electricity company shut off power to a high school in Moroni pending the payment of 800,000 Comorian francs ($1,800) it owed as the result of alleged fraud by the school. This led teachers and students to protest the closure and demand the release of the headmaster, who had been arrested. When gendarmes arrived, scuffles broke out and seven students were injured, including one who was shot and wounded. The government condemned this use of excessive force and stated that it would hold the gendarmes involved accountable.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires judicial arrest warrants as well as prosecutorial approval to detain persons longer than 24 hours without charge. The law provides for the prompt judicial determination of the legality of detention and for detainees to be informed promptly of the charges against them. A magistrate informs detainees of their rights, including the right to legal representation. These rights were inconsistently respected. The bail system prohibits those for whom bail is posted from leaving the country. Some detainees did not have prompt access to attorneys or their families.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. By law pretrial detainees may be held for no more than four months, although many were held longer. A magistrate or prosecutor may extend this period. Detainees routinely awaited trial for extended periods for reasons including administrative delay, case backlog, and time-consuming collection of evidence. Some extensions continued for several years. Defense attorneys occasionally protested such judicial inefficiencies.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: A person arrested or detained may challenge the legal basis of their detention, and the law provides for monetary damages if a court finds a detention improper.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides all defendants with the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly of charges and to a timely trial, but lengthy delays were common. The legal system incorporates French legal codes and sharia (Islamic law). Trials are open to the public, and defendants are presumed innocent. Trials are by jury in criminal cases. Defendants have the right to consult an attorney, and indigent defendants have the right to counsel provided at public expense, although the latter right was rarely observed. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials, question witnesses, and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Although the law provides for the assistance at no charge of an interpreter for any defendant unable to understand or speak the language used in court, none was provided. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. There is an appellate process.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through an independent, but corrupt court system. By law individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies. Court orders were inconsistently enforced.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Costa Rica

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution prohibits such practices. The Ombudsman’s Office received 132 complaints of police abuse, arbitrary detention, torture, and other inhuman or degrading treatment during the first six months of the year. Abuse by prison police was a recurring complaint, according to the Ombudsman’s Office, but very few of the accusers followed through and registered their complaints with the authorities. The government investigated, prosecuted, and punished police responsible for confirmed cases of abuse.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh due to gross overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions, difficulties obtaining medical care, and violence among prisoners.

Physical Conditions: The prison population exceeded the designed capacity of prisons by 30 percent, according to official statistics dated June. Prison overcrowding made security and control difficult and contributed to health problems. Poor conditions included inadequate space for resting, deteriorated mattresses on the floor, and inadequate access to health services. Illegal narcotics were readily available in the prisons and drug abuse was common. The Ombudsman’s Office recorded 61 complaints of deficient conditions in prisons, including the migrant detention centers, during the first six months of the year. The Ministry of Justice was responsible for the prison system, while the Immigration Office ran the facility holding illegal migrants until they were deported or regularized their immigration status.

The San Sebastian, Gerardo Rodriguez, La Reforma, San Rafael, San Carlos, Limon, Pococi, Puntarenas, Liberia, Perez Zeledon, and Centro Adulto Joven (at La Reforma) prisons remained overcrowded, with the population in pretrial detention experiencing the most overcrowding. Authorities held male pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners on occasion. In San Sebastian, where most of these prisoners in pretrial detention were held, 705 prisoners lived in unsanitary conditions in a facility with a planned capacity of 556.

The detention center for undocumented migrants in Hatillo, a suburb of San Jose, was poorly ventilated, at times overcrowded, and it had no recreation area. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the government ombudsman monitored detention conditions, with UNHCR visiting monthly and the ombudsman preparing annual reports.

Security and administrative staffing were insufficient to care for the needs of prisoners, including ensuring their personal safety. The Ministry of Justice’s Social Adaptation Division reported 21 deaths in closed regime centers from January to August. Three of these deaths were homicides and four were suicides; the remainder were from natural causes.

Administration: Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to authorities without censorship and request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. If complaints were not processed, prisoners could submit them to the Ombudsman’s Office, which investigated all complaints at an administrative level. The Ombudsman’s Office, through the national prevention mechanism against torture, periodically inspected all detention centers.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by international and local human rights observers, including representatives from the Ombudsman’s Office. Human rights observers could speak to prisoners and prison employees in confidence and without the presence of prison staff or other third parties.

Improvements: In February prison authorities began providing some convicted prisoners with electronic ankle-monitoring devices. In June the Ministry of Justice inaugurated two new prison modules in San Rafael and Perez Zeledon, adding capacity for 640 and 256 inmates, respectively, which allow inmates to take part in activities including studying, working, and social rehabilitation. During the year the Ministry of Justice implemented some remodeling and other measures to reduce overcrowding at the San Sebastian prison, after a judge issued a resolution in 2016 ordering authorities to close the prison over a period of 18 months unless improvements were made.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The country has no military forces. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the 13 agencies that have law enforcement components, including the judicial branch’s Judicial Investigative Organization. The Ministry of Public Security is responsible for the uniformed police force, drug control police, border police, air wing, and coast guard. The Immigration Office of the Ministry of Interior is responsible for the immigration police. The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation supervises the traffic police, the Ministry of Environment supervises park police, and the Ministry of Justice manages the penitentiary police. Several municipalities manage municipal police forces. The government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year. The number of licensed private security services was significantly greater than the number of police (28,321 agents compared to 14,035 uniformed police officers). There were no reports of impunity involving the private security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires issuance of judicial warrants before making arrests, except where probable cause is evident to the arresting officer. The law entitles a detainee to a judicial determination of the legality of detention during arraignment before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. The law provides for the right to post bail and prompt access to an attorney and family members. Authorities generally observed these rights. Indigent persons have access to a public attorney at government expense. Those without sufficient personal funds are also able to use the services of a public defender. With judicial authorization, authorities may hold a suspect incommunicado for 48 hours after arrest or, under special circumstances, for up to 10 days. Special circumstances include cases in which pretrial detention previously was ordered and there is reason to believe a suspect may reach an agreement with accomplices or may obstruct the investigation. Suspects were allowed access to attorneys immediately before submitting statements before a judge. Authorities promptly informed suspects of any offenses under investigation. Habeas corpus provides legal protection for citizens against threats from police; it also requires judges to give a clear explanation of the legal basis for detention of and evidence against a suspect.

Pretrial Detention: A criminal court may hold suspects in pretrial detention for up to one year, and the court of appeals may extend this period to two years in especially complex cases. The law requires a court review every three months of cases of suspects in pretrial detention to determine the appropriateness of continued detention. If a judge declares a case is related to organized crime, special procedural rules require that the period of pretrial detention not exceed 24 months (although the court of appeals may grant one extension not to exceed an additional 12 months). Authorities frequently used pretrial detention. According to the Ministry of Justice, as of June 30, persons in pretrial detention constituted approximately 16 percent of the prison population. In some cases delays were due to pending criminal investigations and lengthy legal procedures. In other cases the delays were a result of court backlogs.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. The legal system faced many challenges, including significant delays in the adjudication of criminal cases and civil disputes and a growing workload.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

All defendants have the right to the presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, and to trial without undue delay. All trials, except those that include juvenile defendants, are public. Trials that involve victims or witnesses who are minors are closed during the portion of the trial in which the minor is called to testify. Defendants have the right to be present during trial and communicate with an attorney of choice in a timely manner, or to have one provided at public expense. Defendants enjoy the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and free assistance of an interpreter as necessary. Defendants may confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants, if convicted, have the right to appeal. Fast-track courts, which prosecute cases when suspects are arrested on the spot for alleged transgressions, provide the same protections and rights as other courts.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

An independent and impartial judiciary presides over lawsuits in civil matters, including human rights violations. Administrative and judicial remedies for alleged wrongs are available to the public. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private communications without appropriate legal authority. The International Telecommunication Union reported that in 2016, 66 percent of individuals used the internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. The law requires authorities to process the claims within three months of receipt, but decisions took an average of 10 months.

The number of persons seeking asylum increased significantly in recent years. The refugee unit received 3,156 asylum applications from January to June, mainly from Venezuela, El Salvador, and Colombia, compared with 4,470 in all of 2016.

The Appeals Tribunal, which adjudicates all migration appeals, as of July had a backlog of 1,056 asylum cases. UNHCR provided support to the Refugee Unit and the Appeals Tribunal to hire additional legal and administrative personnel to assist with reduction of the backlog.

Employment: Refugee regulations provide asylum seekers an opportunity to obtain work permits if they have to wait beyond the three months the law allows for a decision on their asylum claim. Few asylum seekers took advantage of this right, largely because they were unaware of their eligibility. The refugee unit failed to educate employers effectively about this right.

Access to Basic Services: By law asylum seekers and refugees have access to public services and social welfare programs, but access was often hampered by lack of knowledge about their status in the country and feelings of xenophobia among some service providers. For example, asylum seekers without employers (who constituted the majority of asylum seekers) faced restrictions when enrolling voluntarily as independent workers in the public health system.

Asylum seekers received provisional refugee status documents legalizing their status after appearing for an interview with the General Directorate of Immigration, for which the estimated wait time was approximately two months. Provisional refugee ID cards do not resemble other Costa Rican identity documents, so while government authorities generally accepted them, many Costa Rican citizens did not. Upon receiving refugee status, which typically took another nine months, refugees could obtain an identity document similar to those used by nationals at a cost of 37,400 colones ($66), renewable every two years.

Durable Solutions: During the year the government continued to implement a “Protection Transfer Arrangement” in coordination with UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration for refugee resettlement in third countries. The government was committed to local integration of refugees both legally and socially and to facilitating their naturalization process.

Temporary Protection: There were no programs for temporary protection beyond refugee status. Due to low recognition rates (approximately 13 percent of applicants received asylum during the first six months of the year), UNHCR had to consider a number of rejected asylum seekers as persons in need of international protection. UNHCR provided support and access to integration programs to individuals still pursuing adjudication and appeals. The individuals requesting refugee status were mainly from Venezuela, El Salvador, and Colombia; the majority were male adults and extended families.

STATELESS PERSONS

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs cooperated with UNHCR efforts on statelessness with indigenous populations and reported no cases of the recognition of a person’s status as stateless during the first six months of the year. There were no reports of stateless persons who were also refugees. There continued to be problems of statelessness of indigenous children and children of seasonal workers in the border areas with Panama and Nicaragua derived from the difficulties linked to birth registrations. Members of the Ngobe-Bugle indigenous group from Panama often worked on Costa Rican farms and occasionally gave birth there. In these cases parents did not register Ngobe-Bugle children as Costa Rican citizens at birth because they did not think it necessary, although the children lacked registration in Panama as well. Approximately 1,200 children were affected. Government authorities worked together with UNHCR on a program of birth registration and provision of identification documents to stateless persons known as “Chiriticos.” Mobile teams went to remote coffee-growing areas for case identification and registration. UNHCR and the National Civil Registry started a project along the northern border for individuals of Nicaraguan origin to facilitate procedures for late birth registration.

Cuba

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of long-term disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities, but there were several reports of detained activists whose whereabouts were temporarily unknown because the government did not register these detentions.

On October 23, police detained civil society activist Roberto Jimenez, a leader of the youth organization Active Youth, United Cuba, along with Cesar Ivan Mendoza Regal. Authorities did not permit Jimenez to contact family or friends during his 16-day detention and reportedly beat him and refused to tell him where he was being held. The international human rights organization Freedom House publicized Mendoza and Jimenez’s case and called on the government to provide information about their status. Authorities released Jimenez on November 8 after charging him for “illicit association, meetings, and protest,” a crime that can carry a three- to 12-month sentence. In the case of Mendoza, although no longer incommunicado, his family was still unaware of any charges brought against him more than two months after his detention.

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

The law prohibits abusive treatment of detainees and prisoners. There were reports, however, that members of the security forces intimidated and physically assaulted human rights and prodemocracy advocates, political dissidents, and other detainees and prisoners during detention and imprisonment, and that they did so with impunity. Some detainees and prisoners also endured physical abuse by other inmates with the acquiescence of guards.

There were reports of police assaulting detainees or being complicit in public harassment of and physical assaults on peaceful demonstrators (see section 2.b.).

State security forces held graffiti artist and political dissident Danilo Maldonado from November 26, 2016 to January 21 for spray-painting “se fue” (he’s gone) on a building the night of Fidel Castro’s death. According to Maldonado, prison authorities stripped him naked and held him in solitary confinement on International Human Rights Day, laced his food with sedatives, beat and gagged him on at least one occasion, and perpetuated a rumor that he would be shot and killed in a staged escape attempt. He said authorities moved him to six different prisons over the eight-week period to make it difficult for his family and girlfriend to visit him; routinely cancelled, denied, or changed visits; and did not provide adequate medical treatment.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions continued to be harsh. Prisons were overcrowded, and facilities, sanitation, and medical care were deficient. There were reports of prison officials assaulting prisoners.

Physical Conditions: The government provided no information regarding the number, location, or capacity of detention centers, including prisons, work camps, and other kinds of detention facilities.

Prison and detention cells reportedly lacked adequate water, sanitation, space, light, ventilation, and temperature control. Although the government provided some food and medical care, many prisoners relied on family for food and other basic supplies. Potable water was often unavailable. Prison cells were overcrowded. Women also reported lack of access to feminine hygiene products and inadequate prenatal care.

Prisoners, family members, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported inadequate health care, which led to or aggravated multiple maladies. Prisoners also reported outbreaks of dengue, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and cholera. There were reports of prisoner deaths from heart attacks, asthma, HIV/AIDS, and other chronic medical conditions, as well as from suicide.

Political prisoners were held jointly with the general prison population. Political prisoners who refused to wear standard prison uniforms were denied certain privileges, such as access to prison libraries and standard reductions in the severity of their sentence (for example, being transferred from a maximum-security to a medium-security prison). Political prisoners also reported that fellow inmates, acting on orders from or with the permission of prison authorities, threatened, beat, intimidated, and harassed them.

Prisoners reported that solitary confinement was a common punishment for misconduct and that some prisoners were isolated for months at a time.

The government subjected prisoners who criticized the government or engaged in hunger strikes and other forms of protest to extended solitary confinement, assaults, restrictions on family visits, and denial of medical care.

Administration: A legal department within the Attorney General’s Office is empowered to investigate allegations of abuse in the prison system. The results of these investigations were not publicly accessible. By law prisoners and detainees may seek redress regarding prison conditions and procedural violations, such as continued incarceration after a prison sentence has expired. Prisoners reported that government officials refused to accept complaints, or failed to respond to complaints.

Prisoners and pretrial detainees had access to visitors, although some political prisoners’ relatives reported that prison officials arbitrarily canceled scheduled visits. Some prisoners were able to communicate information about their living conditions through telephone calls to human rights observers and family members.

The Cuban Council of Churches, the largest Protestant religious organization, reported that it organized weekly chaplain services for all prisons in the country; the Roman Catholic Church also engaged in a prison chaplain program. Persons of other faiths were also allowed to practice their religion. There were isolated reports that prison authorities did not inform inmates of their right to access religious services, delayed months before responding to such requests, and limited visits by religious groups to a maximum of two or three times per year.

Independent Monitoring: The government did not permit monitoring of prison conditions by independent international or domestic human rights groups and did not permit access to detainees by international humanitarian organizations. Although the government pledged in previous years to allow a visit by the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment, no visit occurred during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court. Nevertheless, arbitrary arrests and short-term detentions continued to be a common government method for controlling independent public expression and political activity. Challenges of arrests or detentions were rarely successful, especially regarding detentions alleged to be politically motivated.

By law police have wide discretion to stop and question citizens, request identification, and carry out search-and-seizure operations. Police used laws against public disorder, contempt, lack of respect, aggression, and failing to pay minimal or arbitrary fines as ways to detain, threaten, and arrest civil society activists. Police officials routinely conducted short-term detentions, at times assaulting detainees. The law provides that police officials 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, but this law was frequently not followed. Arbitrary stops and searches were most common in urban areas and at government-controlled checkpoints at the entrances to provinces and municipalities.

Police and security officials continued to use short-term and sometimes violent detentions to prevent independent political activity or free assembly. Such detentions generally lasted from several hours to several days. The NGO Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) counted more than 4,800 detentions through November, compared with 9,940 in all of 2016. Members of the Todos Marchamos campaign, which included Damas de Blanco, reported weekly detentions of members to prevent demonstrations. Long-term imprisonment of peaceful government critics, while rare, sometimes occurred. In March the largest human rights and political opposition group, Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), published a list of 54 political prisoners throughout the country serving more than one month in prison for crimes such as contempt, “precriminal dangerousness,” failure to pay fines, and assault. According to UNPACU these individuals were in prison because they participated in peaceful protests and assemblies or otherwise defied the government.

The law allows a maximum four-year preventive detention of individuals not charged with an actual crime, with a subjective determination of “precriminal dangerousness,” 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 detention to silence peaceful political opponents. Multiple domestic human rights organizations published lists of persons they considered political prisoners, and at least five individuals appearing on these lists remained imprisoned under the “precriminal dangerousness” provision of the law as of December.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Interior exercises control over the police, internal security forces, and the prison system. The ministry’s National Revolutionary Police is the primary law enforcement organization. Specialized units of the ministry’s state security branch are responsible for monitoring, infiltrating, and suppressing independent political activity. The police supported these units by carrying out search-and-seizure operations of homes and headquarters of human rights organizations, arresting persons of interest to the ministry, and providing interrogation facilities.

The police routinely violated procedural laws with impunity and at times failed or refused to provide citizens with legally required documentation, particularly during arbitrary detentions and searches. Security force members also committed civil rights and human rights abuses with impunity.

Although the law on criminal procedure prohibits the use of coercion during investigative interrogations, police and security forces at times relied on aggressive and physically abusive tactics, threats, and harassment during questioning. Detainees reported that officers intimidated them with threats of long-term detention, loss of child custody rights, denial of permission to depart the country, and other punishments.

There were no official mechanisms readily available to investigate government abuses.

Undercover police and Ministry of Interior agents were often present and directed activities to disrupt efforts at peaceful assembly (see section 2.b.).

According to independent reports, state-orchestrated “acts of repudiation” directed against independent civil society groups and individuals, including the Damas de Blanco and other organizations, were organized to prevent meetings or to shame participants publicly (see section 2.a.). In August the human rights group Estado de SATS leaked a video of First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel giving a lecture in February to CP leadership during which he instructed party members to use such “acts of repudiation” as a tool to silence members of civil society who attempt to criticize the government during public forums or town hall events.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Under criminal procedures police have 24 hours after an arrest to present a criminal complaint to an investigative police official. The investigative police have 72 hours to investigate and prepare a report for the prosecutor, who in turn has 72 hours to recommend to the appropriate court whether to open a criminal investigation.

Within the initial 168-hour detention period, detainees must be informed of the basis for the arrest and criminal investigation and have access to legal representation. Those charged may be released on bail, placed in home detention, or held in continued investigative detention. Once the accused has an attorney, the defense has five days to respond to the prosecution’s charges, after which a court date usually is set. Prosecutors may demand summary trials “in extraordinary circumstances” and in cases involving crimes against state security.

There were reports that defendants met with their attorneys for the first time only minutes before their trials and were not informed of the basis for their arrest within the required 168-hour period.

Reports suggested bail was available, although typically not granted to those arrested for political activities. Time in detention before trial counted toward time served if convicted.

Detainees may be interrogated at any time during detention and have no right to request the presence of counsel during interrogation. Detainees have the right to remain silent, but officials do not have a legal obligation to inform them of that right.

By law investigators must complete criminal investigations within 60 days. Prosecutors may grant investigators two 60-day extensions upon request, for a total of 180 days of investigative time. The supervising court may waive this deadline in “extraordinary circumstances” and upon special request by the prosecutor. In that instance no additional legal requirement exists to complete an investigation and file criminal charges, and authorities may detain a person without charge indefinitely.

Arbitrary Arrest: Officials often disregarded legal procedures governing arrest, detaining suspects longer than 168 hours without informing them of the nature of the arrest, allowing them to contact family members, or affording them legal counsel.

Pretrial Detention: The government held detainees for months or years in investigative detention, in both political and nonpolitical cases. In nonpolitical cases, delays were often due to bureaucratic inefficiencies and a lack of checks on police.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

While the constitution recognizes the independence of the judiciary, the judiciary is directly subordinate to the National Assembly and the CP, which may remove or appoint judges at any time. Political considerations thoroughly dominated the judiciary, and there was virtually no separation of powers between the judicial system, the CP, 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.” Officials denied entry to some observers to trials during the year. Military tribunals may also have jurisdiction over civilians if any of the defendants are active or former members of the military, police, or other law enforcement agency.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a public trial, but politically motivated trials were at times held in secret, with authorities citing exceptions for crimes involving “state security” or “extraordinary circumstances.” Many cases concluded quickly and were closed to the press.

Due process rights apply equally to all citizens as well as foreigners, but courts regularly failed to protect or observe these rights. The law presumes defendants to be innocent until proven guilty, but authorities often ignored this, placing the burden on defendants to prove innocence. The law provides criminal defendants the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt.

The law requires that defendants be represented by an attorney, at public expense if necessary. Privately hired attorneys were often reluctant to defend individuals charged with political crimes or associated with human rights cases. Defendants’ attorneys may cross-examine government witnesses and present witnesses and evidence. Only state attorneys are licensed to practice in criminal courts.

Criteria for admitting evidence were arbitrary and discriminatory. According to reports, prosecutors routinely introduced irrelevant or unreliable evidence to prove intent or testimony about the revolutionary credentials of a defendant.

Defense attorneys have the right to review the investigation files of a defendant, but not if the charges involve “crimes against the security of the state.” In these cases defense attorneys were not allowed access until charges were filed. Many detainees, especially political detainees, reported their attorneys had difficulties accessing case files due to administrative obstacles. Interpretation was sometimes provided during trials for non-Spanish speakers, but the government claimed that limited resources prevented interpreters from always being available.

In trials where defendants are charged with “precriminal dangerousness” (see section 1.d.), the state must show only that the defendant has “proclivity” for crime, so an actual criminal act need not have occurred. Penalties may be up to four years in prison. Authorities normally applied this provision to prostitutes, alcoholics, young persons who refused to report to work centers, repeat offenders of laws restricting change of domicile, and political activists who participated in public protests.

The law recognizes the right of appeal in municipal courts but limits it in provincial courts to cases involving lengthy prison terms or the death penalty.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The government continued to hold political prisoners, but denied it did so and refused access to its prisons and detention centers by international humanitarian organizations and the United Nations.

The exact number of political prisoners was difficult to determine, though independent human rights organizations estimated there were 65 to 100 political prisoners. The government continued to deny holding any political prisoners and refused access to its prisons and detention centers by international humanitarian organizations and the United Nations. This lack of governmental transparency, along with systemic violations of due process rights, obfuscated the true nature of criminal charges, investigations, and prosecutions, allowing government authorities to prosecute and sentence peaceful human rights activists for criminal violations or “precriminal dangerousness.” The government used the designation of “counterrevolutionary” for inmates deemed to be political opposition, but it did not publicize those numbers. The government closely monitored organizations tracking political prisoner populations, which often faced harassment from state police.

On March 20, authorities sentenced Eduardo Cardet, director of the human rights organization Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), to three years in prison for assaulting a police officer. Amnesty International called Cardet a prisoner of conscience and stated that he was arrested because he spoke critically of Fidel Castro and the government. According to MCL and witness reports, authorities quickly and violently restrained Cardet after stopping him on his bicycle. Authorities claimed that Cardet shoved one of the officers when they stopped him. Cardet’s arrest took place five days after the death of Fidel Castro and two days after Cardet criticized the forced period of mourning, the prohibitions on music and alcohol, and other government actions during a radio interview with a Spanish news organization.

Political prisoners reported the government held them in isolation for extended periods. They did not receive the same protections as other prisoners or detainees. The government also frequently denied political prisoners access to home visits, prison classes, telephone calls, and, on occasion, family visits.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

It is possible to seek judicial remedies through civil courts for violations of administrative determinations, but independent legal experts noted that general procedural and bureaucratic inefficiencies often delayed or undermined the enforcement of administrative determinations and civil court orders. Civil courts, like all courts in the country, lacked independence and impartiality as well as effective procedural guarantees. No courts allowed claimants to bring lawsuits seeking remedies for human rights violations.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

In November 2016 the government passed a regulation governing the process by which nonprofit organizations, including religious organizations, may petition to reclaim property confiscated by the government at the beginning of the revolution. It was unclear if any organizations applied this procedure to reclaim property during the year.

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

The constitution protects citizens’ privacy rights in their homes and correspondence, and police must have a warrant signed by a prosecutor or magistrate before entering or conducting a search. Nevertheless there were reports that government officials routinely and systematically monitored correspondence and communications between citizens, tracked their movements, and entered homes without legal authority and with impunity.

The Ministry of Interior employed a system of informants and neighborhood committees, known as “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 subjected foreign journalists, visiting foreign officials and diplomats, academics, and businesspersons to frequent surveillance, including electronic surveillance.

The CP is the only legally recognized political party, and the government actively suppressed attempts to form other parties (see section 3). The government encouraged mass political mobilization and favored citizens who actively participated (see section 2.b.).

Family members of government employees who left international work missions without official permission at times faced government harassment or loss of employment, access to education, or 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 reduced salaries and termination of employment, denial of acceptance into university, expulsion from university, and other forms of harassment.

On April 11, the University of Marta Abreu in Las Villas expelled university professor Dalila Rodriguez Gonzalez for having “a social and ethical attitude that undermines the teaching process and the instruction of students.” According to Rodriguez, university authorities did not tell her what specific attitude or behavior was inappropriate and did not offer her the opportunity to defend herself or appeal the decision. Rodriguez stated she believed authorities expelled her, in part, because her father was a human rights defender.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, only insofar as it “conforms to the aims of socialist society.” Laws banning criticism of government leaders and distribution of antigovernment propaganda carry penalties ranging from three months to 15 years in prison.

Freedom of Expression: The government had little tolerance for public criticism of government officials or programs and limited public debate of issues considered politically sensitive. State security regularly harassed the organizers of independent fora for debates on cultural and social topics to force them to stop discussing issues deemed controversial. Forum organizers reported assaults by state security, video surveillance installed outside of venues, and detention of panelists and guests on the days they were expected to appear.

Government workers reported being fired, demoted, or censured for expressing dissenting opinions or affiliating with independent organizations. Several university professors, researchers, and students reported they were forced from their positions, demoted, or expelled for expressing ideas or opinions outside of government-accepted norms. In April the University of Marta Abreu in Las Villas expelled first-year journalism student Karla Maria Perez for “counterrevolutionary projections, actions, membership in organizations, and online publishing.” The university’s government-affiliated student group, the Federation of University Students, supported this decision in an open letter, stating that Perez was a “known member of an illegal and counterrevolutionary organization that is against the principles, objectives, and values of the Cuban revolution,” and quoted Fidel Castro’s famous dictum, “Within the revolution, everything; against the revolution, nothing.”

During the year some religious groups reported greater latitude to express their opinions during sermons and at religious gatherings, although most members of the clergy continued to exercise self-censorship. Religious leaders in some cases criticized the government, its policies, and the country’s leadership without reprisals. The Catholic Church operated a cultural and educational center in Havana that hosted debates featuring participants expressing different opinions about the country’s future. Reverends Mario Travieso and Alain Toledano, both affiliated with the Apostolic Movement, reported frequent police harassment, including surveillance, threats, intimidation, and arbitrary fines. Both Travieso and Toledano claimed that the government was harassing them because of their outspoken criticism of certain government policies during their sermons.

Press and Media Freedom: The government directly owned all print and broadcast media outlets and all widely available sources of information. News and information programming was generally uniform across all outlets, with the exception of broadcasts of Venezuelan government news programming. The government also controlled nearly all publications and printing presses. The party censored public screenings and performances. The government also limited the importation of printed materials. Foreign correspondents in the country had limited access to and often were denied interviews with government officials. They also struggled to gather facts and reliable data for stories. Despite meeting government vetting requirements, official journalists who reported on sensitive subjects did so at personal risk, and the government barred official journalists from working for unofficial media outlets in addition to their official duties.

Violence and Harassment: The government does not recognize independent journalism, and independent journalists sometimes faced government harassment, including detention and physical abuse. Most detentions involved independent journalists who filmed arrests and harassment of Todos Marchamos activists or otherwise attempted to cover politically sensitive topics. Two journalists were detained, had their equipment confiscated, and were harassed for covering the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Some independent journalists reported interrogations by state security agents for publishing articles critical of government institutions.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The law prohibits distribution of printed materials considered “counterrevolutionary” or critical of the government. Foreign newspapers or magazines were generally unavailable outside of tourist areas. Distribution of material with political content–interpreted broadly to include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, foreign newspapers, and independent information on public health–was not allowed and sometimes resulted in harassment and detention.

The government sometimes barred independent libraries from receiving materials from abroad and seized materials donated by foreign governments, religious organizations, and individuals. Government officials also confiscated or destroyed cameras and cell phones of individuals to prevent them from distributing photographs and videos deemed objectionable, such as those taken during arrests and detentions. Activists reported interrogations and confiscations at the airport when arriving from the United States. On April 6, airport authorities detained Eliecer Avila, leader of the human rights organization Somos+, for six hours upon his return from a human rights conference in Colombia. Authorities reportedly confiscated Avila’s laptop computer, training materials, memory drives, and other personal belongings.

Libel/Slander Laws: The government uses defamation of character laws to arrest or detain individuals critical of the country’s leadership.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government restricted access to the internet, and there were credible reports that the government monitored without appropriate legal authority citizens’ and foreigners’ use of email, social media, internet chat rooms, and browsing. The government controlled all internet access, except for limited facilities provided by a few diplomatic missions and a small but increasing number of underground networks.

While the International Telecommunication Union reported that 39 percent of citizens used the internet in 2016, that number included many whose access was limited to a national intranet that offered only government-run email and government-generated websites, at a fraction of the price of open internet. Other international groups reported lower internet penetration, stating approximately 15 percent of the population had access to open internet.

The government selectively granted in-home internet access to certain areas of Havana and sectors of the population consisting mostly of government officials, established professionals, some professors and students, journalists, and artists. Others could access email and internet services through government-sponsored “youth clubs,” internet cafes, or Wi-Fi hot spots approved and regulated by the Ministry for Information, Technology, and Communications. Users were required to purchase prepaid cards in order to access the internet.

During the year the government increased the number of Wi-Fi hot spots to more than 500 countrywide and lowered the cost to one convertible peso (CUC) ($1) per hour, still beyond the means of some citizens, whose average official income was approximately 29 CUC ($29) per month. The cost of access to the national intranet was 10 cents per hour. Authorities reviewed the browsing history of users, reviewed and censored email, and blocked access to at least 41 websites considered objectionable. In addition to internet access at public Wi-Fi hot spots, citizens and foreigners could buy internet access cards and use hotel business centers. Access usually cost between five and 10 CUC ($5 to $10) an hour, a rate well beyond the means of most citizens.

While the law does not set specific penalties for unauthorized internet use, it is illegal to own a satellite dish that would provide uncensored internet access. The government restricted the importation of wireless routers, actively targeted private wireless access points, and confiscated equipment.

The use of encryption software and transfer of encrypted files are also illegal. Despite poor access, harassment, and infrastructure challenges, a growing number of citizens maintained blogs in which they posted opinions critical of the government, with help from foreign supporters who often built and maintained the blog sites overseas. The government blocked local access to many of these blogs. In addition a small but growing number of citizens used Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media to report independently on developments in the country, including observations critical of the government. Like other government critics, bloggers faced government harassment, including detention and physical abuse.

Human rights activists reported frequent government monitoring and disruption of cell phone and landline services prior to planned events or key anniversaries related to human rights. The government-owned telecommunications provider ETECSA often disconnected service for human rights organizers, often just before their detention by state security, or to disrupt planned activities.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The government restricted academic freedom and controlled the curricula at all schools and universities, emphasizing the importance of reinforcing “revolutionary ideology” and “discipline.” Some academics refrained from meeting with foreigners, including diplomats, journalists, and visiting scholars, without prior government approval and, at times, the presence of a government monitor. Those permitted to travel abroad were aware that their actions, if deemed politically unfavorable, could negatively affect them and their relatives back home. During the year the government allowed some religious educational centers greater space to operate.

Outspoken artists and academics faced some harassment and criticism orchestrated by the government.

Public libraries required citizens to complete a registration process before the government granted access to books or information. Citizens could be denied access if they could not demonstrate a need to visit a particular library. Libraries required a letter of permission from an employer or academic institution for access to censored, sensitive, or rare books and materials. Religious institutions organized small libraries. Independent libraries were illegal but continued to exist, and owners faced harassment and intimidation.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The government restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

Although the constitution grants a limited right of assembly, the right is subject to the requirement that it may not be “exercised against the existence and objectives of the socialist state.” The law requires citizens to request authorization for organized meetings of three or more persons, and failure to do so could carry a penalty of up to three months in prison and a fine. The government tolerated some gatherings, and many religious groups reported the ability to gather without registering or facing sanctions.

Independent activists faced greater obstacles, and state security forces often suppressed attempts to assemble, even for gatherings in private dwellings and in small numbers.

On August 19, more than 100 state security agents reportedly used force to break up a family-themed event organized by the political and human rights organization UNPACU. According to UNPACU president Jose Daniel Ferrer, approximately 50 activists, family members, and neighbors had gathered for a picnic on the banks of a river before authorities arrived and used violence and intimidation, including against minors, women, and elderly attendees, to disperse the gathering. Authorities reportedly severely beat five UNPACU members, with some suffering broken noses and at least one requiring stitches.

The government also continued to organize acts of repudiation in the form of mobs organized to assault and disperse those who assembled peacefully. Participants arrived in government-owned buses or were recruited by government officials from nearby workplaces or schools. Participants arrived and departed in shifts, chanted revolutionary slogans, sang revolutionary songs, and verbally taunted those assembled peacefully. The targets of this harassment at times suffered physical assault or property damage. Government security officials at the scene, often present in overwhelming numbers, did not arrest those who physically attacked the victims or respond to victims’ complaints and instead frequently orchestrated the activities or took direct part in physical assaults.

The government did not grant permission to independent demonstrators or approve public meetings by human rights groups or others critical of any government activity.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The government routinely denied citizens freedom of association and did not recognize independent associations. The constitution proscribes any political organization not officially recognized. A number of independent organizations, including opposition political parties and professional associations, operated as NGOs without legal recognition.

Recognized churches (including the Roman Catholic humanitarian organization Caritas), the Freemason movement, and a number of fraternal and professional organizations were the only associations legally permitted to function outside the formal structure of the state or the CP. Religious groups are under the supervision of the CP’s Office of Religious Affairs, which has the authority to deny permits for religious activities and exerted pressure on church leaders to refrain from including political topics in their sermons.

Groups must register through the Ministry of Justice to receive official recognition. Authorities continued to ignore applications for legal recognition from new groups, including several new religious groups as well as women’s rights and gay rights organizations, thereby subjecting members to potential charges of illegal association.

The government continued to afford preferential treatment to those who took an active part in CP activities and mass demonstrations in support of the government, especially when awarding valued public benefits, such as admissions to higher education, fellowships, and job opportunities.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

There continued to be restrictions on freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, and migration with the right of return. The government also controlled internal migration from rural areas to Havana.

Individuals seeking to migrate legally stated they faced police interrogation, fines, harassment, and intimidation, including involuntary dismissal from employment. Government employees who applied to migrate legally to the United States reportedly sometimes lost positions when their plans became known. Some family members of former government employees who emigrated from the island lost public benefits or were denied passports to travel and join their family members abroad.

The law provides for imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of 500 nonconvertible pesos (CUP) ($20) for first-time “rafters” (those who attempted to depart clandestinely, commonly using homemade vessels). Most persons caught attempting unauthorized departures via sea were detained briefly. In the case of military or police defectors, or those traveling with children, the punishment could be more severe. Prison terms were also more common for persons attempting to flee to the United States through the Guantanamo U.S. Naval Station.

Under the terms of the 1994-95 U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords, the government agreed not to prosecute or retaliate against migrants returned from international or U.S. waters, or from the Guantanamo U.S. Naval Station, after attempting to emigrate illegally if they had not committed a separate criminal offense. The government prevented independent trips to monitor repatriated Cubans outside of Havana. Some would-be migrants alleged harassment and discrimination, such as fines, expulsion from school, and job loss.

In-country Movement: Although the constitution allows all citizens to travel anywhere within the country, changes of residence to Havana were restricted. The local housing commission and provincial government authorities must authorize any change of residence. The government may fine persons living in a location without authorization from these bodies and send them back to their legally authorized place of residence. There were reports that authorities limited social services to illegal Havana residents. Police threatened to prosecute anyone who returned to Havana after expulsion.

The law permits authorities to bar an individual from a certain area within the country, or to restrict an individual to a certain area, for a maximum of 10 years. Under this provision, authorities may internally exile any person whose presence in a given location is determined to be “socially dangerous.” Dissidents frequently reported that authorities prevented them from leaving their home provinces or detained and returned them to their homes even though they had no written or formal restrictions placed against them.

Foreign Travel: The government continued to require several classes of citizens to obtain permission for emigrant travel, including highly specialized medical personnel; military or security personnel; many government officials, including academics; and many former political prisoners and human rights activists. It also used arbitrary or spurious reasons to deny permission for human rights activists to leave the island to participate in workshops, events, or training programs. For example, the CCDHRN reported that authorities denied at least 12 human rights defenders permission to leave during August alone.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The constitution provides for the granting of asylum to individuals persecuted for their ideals or actions involving a number of specified political grounds. The government has no formal mechanism to process asylum for foreign nationals.

Temporary Protection: On the small number of cases of persons seeking asylum, the government worked with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations to provide protection and assistance, pending third-country resettlement. In addition the government allowed foreign students who feared persecution in their home countries to remain in the country after the end of their studies, until their claims could be substantiated or resolved.

Cyprus

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. There were reports, however, that police engaged in abusive tactics and degrading treatment of suspects. Members of ethnic and racial minorities were more likely to be subjected to such treatment.

On September 5, the NGO Action for Equality, Support, and Antiracism (KISA) reported that a police officer brutalized a 60-year-old Turkish citizen on August 31, when he crossed the Ledra Palace checkpoint on his bicycle without showing a valid entry visa. KISA claimed the incident occurred in front of citizens who urged police to stop. The beating allegedly continued inside a police station in view of another officer who did nothing to stop it. KISA reported the incident to the Independent Authority for the Investigation of Allegations and Complaints against Police, and the authority investigated the complaint and recommended the criminal prosecution of the officer. The Office of the Attorney General ordered the officer’s criminal prosecution and rejected a police request for criminal prosecution of the complainant for resisting arrest and causing bodily harm to a police officer. The complainant remained in custody until the completion of the investigation and was deported to Turkey on October 7.

During the year the ombudsman, who also acts as the country’s national preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, received “a small number” of complaints of mistreatment and discriminatory and degrading behavior, including complaints of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, from inmates in the Central Prison and in detention centers. The ombudsman reported that most of the complaints were not sufficiently substantiated. Overall, the ombudsman established improvement in the treatment of prisoners and detainees in the Central Prison and in detention centers.

KISA reported that police sometimes used violence to suppress detainees’ protests in the Mennoyia Detention Center. Following a January 2016 visit to the country, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture stated that it still faced several problems, particularly regarding the independent monitoring of places of detention and the treatment of migrants.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions, including detention centers for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants pending deportation, did not sufficiently meet international standards, and prison overcrowding was a problem. Nicosia Central Prison, the only prison in the Republic of Cyprus, and all detention centers are operated by the government. In addition to Mennoyia Detention Center for Illegal Immigrants and the Central Prison, there are seven detention facilities suitable for over 24 hours of detention in the Republic of Cyprus. There are also holding cells in police stations for short-term detention.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding continued to be a problem for the male wing of Nicosia Central Prison, but to a lesser extent than in previous years. In 2016 the prison’s official capacity was 528; the maximum number of inmates held during the year was 624. In December 2016 a new wing for female prisoners was opened which has resolved the problem of overcrowding of female prisoners.

Prison authorities held juvenile pretrial detainees in cells separate from convicted juveniles, but the two groups shared the same grounds in their daily activities. Authorities reportedly held migrants detained on deportation orders together with detainees charged with criminal offenses in nearly all police stations. Such detentions are limited to a maximum of 48 hours.

During the year the ombudsman reported a further reduction in the number of migrant detainees in detention centers as a result of a policy instituted in 2015 to transfer them to the Mennoyia Detention Center within 48 hours. The Ministry of Justice reported that it runs a substitution program for drug addicts at the Central Prison, which is based on World Health Organization recommendations.

Approximately 44 percent of prisoners in the Central Prison were non-Cypriots convicted for criminal offenses. They were convicted for immigration and drug-related offenses, thefts, sexual offenses, and road accidents.

The ombudsman reported a further reduction in the number of detainees at Mennoyia Detention Center during the year but noted that there were still some rare cases of migrants and asylum seekers detained for deportation purposes for periods longer than the stated government policy, although there was no prospect they would be deported. A considerable number of detainees at Mennoyia Detention Center were awaiting a decision on their request for international protection or for adjudication of their appeals against the rejection of their asylum applications. Unlike in previous years, the ombudsman and NGOs did not encounter cases of detainees deported before final adjudication of their asylum applications. In previous years the ombudsman intervened and prevented some of the deportations. In a February 2016 report, the ombudsman warned that deportation of asylum seekers while court proceedings were still pending could amount to violation of the principle of nonrefoulement, which could bring into question the legality of the deportation order and detention.

Administration: Detention centers did not have facilities for religious observance.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, and such visits, unrestricted and unannounced, occurred during the year. The Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CTP) visited the Central Prison in February. The House of Representatives Committee on Human Rights and the Committee on Education and Culture also visited the prison.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Police enforce the law and combat criminal activity. The Cyprus National Guard, backed by a contingent of Greek military forces, the Hellenic Force in Cyprus, protects national security. The National Guard reports to the Ministry of Defense, which reports to the president, while police report to the Ministry of Justice and Public Order. The president appoints the chief of police.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police and the National Guard, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity during the year.

In June 2016 a police officer and his wife were shot and killed and a second officer was seriously injured in a mafia-style shooting while dining at an Ayia Napa resort restaurant with a local businessman rumored to be a major crime lord, who was also killed. Acting on findings of a criminal investigation into possible police complicity and case file mismanagement, on May 4, the attorney general ordered the criminal prosecution of the deputy police chief for leaking confidential information related to the case to the press. Seven other police officers and a prison warden faced disciplinary action in the absence of evidence to support their criminal prosecution. The deputy police chief was fired from the police force. His trial began on July 3.

From July to October, the attorney general ordered the criminal prosecution of police officers in six cases. From January to October, the police investigated 34 criminal cases against members of the police force.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires judicially issued arrest warrants, and authorities respected this requirement. Authorities may not detain a person for more than one day without referral of the case to a court for extension of detention. Most periods of investigative detention did not exceed 10 days before the filing of formal charges. Detainees were promptly informed of the charges against them, and the charges were presented in a language they could understand. The attorney general made efforts to minimize pretrial detention, especially in cases of serious crimes.

While attorneys generally had access to detainees, the CPT noted in a 2014 report that persons apprehended by police were usually able to speak in private with an ex officio lawyer only at the time of their first court appearance. In criminal cases the state provides indigent detainees with an attorney. To qualify for free legal aid, however, detainees require a court decision, based on their financial need, before a lawyer is assigned. In its report the CPT noted this system inevitably delayed detainees’ access to a lawyer.

There is a system of bail. The government claimed the right to deport foreign nationals for reasons of public interest, regardless of whether criminal charges had been filed against them or they had been convicted of a crime. Trial delays were common and partially caused by lengthy legal procedures, which caused a larger workload for the courts.

Detainees’ Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court to challenge the legal basis and length of their detention or for a writ of habeas corpus. If the application is successful, authorities should immediately release the detainee. NGOs reported a number of cases, however, of rejected asylum seekers and irregular migrants who successfully challenged their detention before the Supreme Court, but the administration immediately issued new detention orders and rearrested them.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

On March 1, the former deputy attorney general was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for conspiring to pervert the course of justice while in office. In 2015 the Supreme Court ordered his dismissal for conduct unbecoming a public official.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to appeal. Officials informed defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them. The constitution provides for fair and public trials without undue delay, and defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Authorities provide an attorney for defendants who are unable to afford one, and defendants are allowed adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Authorities provided free interpretation as necessary through all stages of the trial. Defendants have the right to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present evidence or witnesses on their behalf. The government generally respected the above rights and provided them to all defendants.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, permitting claimants to bring lawsuits seeking damages for or cessation of human rights violations, and citizens used this procedure. Individuals could appeal cases involving alleged human rights violations by the state to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) once they exhausted all avenues of appeal in domestic courts.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

According to the law, the minister of interior is the guardian of the properties of Turkish Cypriots who have not had permanent residence in the government-controlled area since 1974. Ownership remains with the original owner, but the sale or transfer of Turkish Cypriot property under the guardianship of the minister requires the approval of the government. The minister has the authority to return properties to Turkish Cypriot applicants after examining the circumstances of each case. Owners can appeal the minister’s decisions to the Administrative Court.

During the year Turkish Cypriots filed seven court cases seeking to reclaim property located in the government-controlled area, including one filed with the Administrative Court. The Administrative Court issued one decision accepting the application of the owner against the guardian’s decision to place the property under guardianship law. The court annulled the guardian’s decision.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Czech Republic

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

High prison populations and overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions in some prisons, cases of mistreatment of inmates, and generally unsatisfactory conditions for inmates with physical or mental disabilities remained the main concerns during the year.

The situation in migrant detention facilities improved significantly during the year as the number of migrants from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia entering the country significantly decreased. Children stayed with their families in one detention facility for irregular migrants but were able to leave the facility accompanied by staff.

Physical Conditions: Prison overcrowding was a problem. While an amnesty in 2013 temporarily relieved overcrowding, it did not improve services to prisoners, since the government cut prison staff proportionally. Facilities for prisoners serving their sentences were at almost 103 percent of capacity in the first seven months of the year in prisons for men. There was no overcrowding in prisons for women.

According to the Czech Prison Service, there were 43 deaths in prisons and detention facilities in 2016, of which nine were suicides; 11 of the deaths were still under investigation.

The public defender of rights (ombudsperson) reported mistreatment of inmates in two prisons and generally unsatisfactory conditions of imprisonment for convicts with physical or mental disabilities. She also noted inadequate prison health care standards due to a lack of physicians motivated to work in prisons.

Prisoners had limited access to hot water, which posed sanitary problems.

Administration: The ombudsperson investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions and made routine prison visits. On later visits, the ombudsperson reported that the conditions in the prisons noticeably improved.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by local and international human rights groups, such as the Helsinki Commission and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and by the media.

Improvements: During the year the Prison Service accepted the ombudsperson’s proposal to establish a transparent system for relocating convicts to prisons closer to their homes.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police report to the Ministry of Interior and are responsible for enforcing the law and maintaining public order, including protecting the border and enforcing immigration law. The General Inspectorate of Security Forces (GIBS), which reports to the Office of the Prime Minister, oversees police, customs, fire fighters, and the prison service, and is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct. The Ministry of Defense oversees the Army of the Czech Republic. Inspectors investigated allegations of criminal misconduct and carried out “integrity tests,” or sting operations, to catch violators in action. In 2016 inspectors opened proceedings in 247 cases nationwide. Authorities reported that police committed 170 crimes in 2016, a decrease of 62 since 2015, while members of the prison service committed 44 crimes, an increase of 15. Customs officers committed 10 crimes, compared with 12 in 2015.

Corruption remained a problem among law enforcement bodies. In the first six months of 2016, police investigated 19 cases of corruption, compared with 174 cases in 2015. The GIBS reported this was the lowest number of such crimes since 1994 and may reflect a shift of criminal activities to cyberspace. Police also investigated 51 public figures for abuse of power.

The Ministry of Interior has a police ombudsperson who serves as a mediator within the ministry. All public safety personnel employed by the ministry, including civilians, can approach the ombudsperson with suspicions of possible wrongdoing or improper activities. The ombudsperson focused primarily on prevention, transparency, and repression. In cases of suspected criminal misconduct, she forwards the case to the GIBS, which investigates police officers. The law requires the police ombudsperson to share all information about cases with the GIBS upon request, which led to privacy and confidentiality concerns.

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

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

In most cases police use judicial warrants to arrest persons accused of criminal acts. Police may make arrests without a warrant when they believe a prosecutable offense has been committed, when they regard arrest as necessary to prevent further offenses or the destruction of evidence, to protect a suspect, or when a person refuses to obey police orders to move.

Police must refer persons arrested on a warrant to a court within 24 hours. A judge has an additional 24 hours to decide whether to continue to hold the individuals. For suspects arrested without a warrant, police have 48 hours to inform them of the reason for the arrest, question them, and either release them or refer them to a court, after which a judge must decide within 24 hours whether to charge them. Authorities may not hold detainees for a longer period without charge.

The law provides for bail except in cases of serious crimes or to prevent witness tampering. A defendant in a criminal case may request a lawyer immediately upon arrest. If a defendant cannot afford a lawyer, the government provides one. The court determines whether the government partially or fully covers attorneys’ fees. Authorities generally respected these rights.

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence and the right to receive prompt and detailed information about the charges against them (with free interpretation as necessary). They have the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, the right to be present at their trial, and the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice or have one provided at public expense if they are unable to pay. They generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and have the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants have the right to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. They cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Convicted persons have a right of appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The constitution provides for a separate, independent judiciary in civil matters and for lawsuits seeking remedies for human rights violations. Available remedies include monetary damages, equitable relief, and cessation of harmful conduct. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported increased coherence between criminal and civil procedures that simplified the process for victims, although remedies and relief still required a lengthy legal process and were difficult to obtain, particularly for members of disadvantaged groups, such as the Romani minority. Plaintiffs may appeal unfavorable rulings that involve alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights. Administrative remedies are also available.

The law recognizes children, persons with disabilities, victims of human trafficking, and victims of sexual and brutal crimes as the most vulnerable populations. It lists the rights of crime victims, such as to claim compensation and access to an attorney.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The law provides for restitution of private property confiscated under the communist regime as well as restitution of, or compensation for, Jewish property seized during the Nazi era. Although it was still possible during the year to file claims for artwork confiscated by the Nazi regime, the claims period for other types of property had expired. The law allows for restitution and compensation for property of religious organizations, including Jewish religious communities, confiscated under the communist regime. Churches filed 7,671 claims for agricultural property and 2,172 claims for nonagricultural property. Churches are also to receive compensation of 59 billion korunas ($2.8 billion) for property that is not returnable. The law requires that the state pay compensation over a period of 30 years while simultaneously phasing out state subsidies for registered religious groups over a 17-year period.

The government has laws and mechanisms in place, and local NGOs and advocacy groups reported that the government made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens, though outstanding claims remain. Some NGOs outside the country continued to push for more progress, particularly on the disposition of heirless property and complex cases involving non-Czech citizens.

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

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

In December 2016 the Prague Municipal Court overturned the acquittal of Jana Necasova, the wife and then chief of staff of former prime minister Petr Necas, as well as three military intelligence officers, on charges of corruption and unwarranted surveillance of Necas’ former wife. The case was pending at the Prague District Court.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Denmark

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: Women and men were held in the same institutions, but in separate wings. According to the Danish Institute of Human Rights (DIHR), authorities continued occasionally to hold pretrial detainees with convicted criminals and to detain minors older than 15 with adults.

Independent Monitoring: The parliamentary ombudsman functioned as a prison ombudsman as required. The government additionally permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights observers and the media. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other independent nongovernmental organization (NGO) observers, regularly received access to police headquarters, prisons, establishments for the detention of minors, asylum centers, and other detention facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Police maintain internal security and, jointly with the Danish Immigration Service, is responsible for border enforcement at the country’s ports of entry. The Ministry of Justice oversees both services. The Armed Forces report to the Ministry of Defense and have responsibility for external security as well as some domestic security responsibilities, such as disaster response and maritime sovereignty enforcement. The Home Guard, a volunteer militia without constabulary powers under the Ministry of Defense, assisted the National Police in conducting border checks.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the National Police, the Danish Immigration Service, and the Armed Forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law allows police both to begin investigations and to make arrests on their own initiative based upon observed evidence or to enforce a court order following an indictment filed with the courts by public prosecutors.

The law mandates that Danish citizens and legal migrants taken into custody appear before a judge within 24 hours. The law requires police to make every effort to limit postarrest detention time to less than 12 hours. Authorities may hold irregular migrants up to 72 hours before bringing them before a judge or releasing them. During the 72-hour holding period, the National Police and the Danish Center for Human Trafficking can review an irregular migrant’s case to determine if the migrant is a victim of human trafficking. In addition the Ministry of Immigration and Integration can suspend the requirement for a 72-hour case review if the volume of asylum requests exceeds the ability of the government to complete reviews within 72 hours. Authorities can extend detention beyond 72 hours in cases where the migrant’s country of origin or identity cannot be positively verified to conduct additional research.

Authorities generally respected the right of detainees to a prompt judicial determination and informed them promptly of charges against them. There is no bail system; judges decide either to release detainees on their own recognizance or to keep them in detention until trial. A judge may authorize detention prior to trial only when authorities charge the detainee with a violation that could result in a prison sentence of more than 18 months or when the judge determines the detainee would seek to impede the investigation of the case, would be a flight risk, or would be likely to commit a new offense. The standard period of pretrial custody is up to four weeks, but a court order may further extend custody in four-week increments.

Arrested persons have the right to unsupervised visits with an attorney from the time police bring them to a police station. Police frequently delayed such access until the accused appeared in court for a remand hearing. The government provides counsel for those who cannot afford legal representation. Detainees have the right to inform their next of kin of their arrest, although authorities may deny this right if information about the detention could compromise the police investigation. Detainees have the right to obtain medical treatment, and authorities generally respected this right. Police may deny other forms of visitation, subject to a court appeal, but generally did not do so. While there were no known instances of authorities’ holding suspects incommunicado or placing them under house arrest, human rights observers expressed concern about the administrative use of solitary confinement in some cases, as well as a need to reduce the use and duration of remand custody while waiting for trial.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: A detainee has the right to challenge the lawfulness of his or her detention during initial court hearing, typically in a district court. Both the detainee and prosecutor can appeal the district court’s decision to a court of appeal, the (regional) high court. If a defendant is acquitted after being taken into custody or if the prosecution withdraws its charges, the former detainee may apply for financial compensation within two months of the final court judgment.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence; a prompt and detailed notification of the charges against them; a fair, timely, and public trial without undue delay; be present at their trial; communicate with an attorney of their choice (or have one provided at public expense if unable to pay); have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals; confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present one’s own witnesses and evidence; not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and appeal one’s case.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may bring civil lawsuits seeking damages for a human rights violation. The complainant may also pursue an administrative resolution. The law provides that persons with “reasonable grounds” may appeal court decisions involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights after they exhaust all avenues of appeal in national courts. Human rights groups asserted the law’s requirement of “reasonable grounds” unjustly targeted asylum seekers, who as a group have fewer legal appeal channels than citizens or legal residents.

PROPERTY RESITUTION

The government reports that Holocaust-era restitution has not been an issue and that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration, to which the government is signatory, were pending before authorities. The Law of Compensation to the Victims of the Occupation passed in 1945 provided a mechanism by which Danish citizens could be eligible to receive compensation and assistance regarding restitution. The related Compensation Council was decommissioned in 1996, and the mechanism for compensation was also repealed at that time. The Jewish Community in Denmark (Mosaiske) confirmed that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration were pending before authorities.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but government audits released in May found instances of interception of private data and communication by the intelligence services without appropriate legal authorization (see section 2.a., Internet Freedom).

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Djibouti

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

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

There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. According to political opposition members and domestic human rights organizations, security force use of excessive force resulted in deaths.

According to human rights groups, on May 28, Djibouti Port security personnel beat a dockworker who subsequently died on June 11 from injuries sustained during his arrest. In late March security personnel in Djibouti City reportedly strangled to death an urban Ethiopian refugee, Mohamoud Mohamed Kamil.

In 2015 the government investigated law enforcement officials and civilians allegedly responsible for killing as many as 30 persons gathering for a religious ceremony. The government did not find any law enforcement officials responsible for the deaths; several civilian cases related to the same incident remained pending.

Authorities seldom took known actions to investigate reported cases of arbitrary or unlawful killings from previous years or to try suspected perpetrators.

The government prioritized investigating and arresting alleged members of a rebel group after accusing the group of an April attack on two vehicles in the North.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices; however, there were reports security forces beat and tortured detainees.

Security forces arrested and abused journalists, demonstrators, and opposition members.

On March 8, domestic human rights groups alleged that Documentation and Security Service (SDS) personnel beat and tortured cartoonist Idriss Hassan Mohamed, breaking one of his legs, for Facebook posts criticizing the government.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

International organizations reported prison conditions remained harsh. The country had one central prison, Gabode, in the capital and a second, smaller regional prison in Obock, as well as small jails supervised by local police or gendarmes. These jails often served as holding cells before detainees were moved to the central prison. The Nagad Detention Facility, operated by police, primarily held irregular migrants and was not part of the prison system. There were reports police and gendarmes abused prisoners.

Physical Conditions: Gabode Prison had a maximum intended capacity of 350 inmates but often held more than 600, approximately 30 of whom were women. Conditions of detention for women were similar to those for men, although less crowded. There were generally fewer than 30 juvenile prisoners. Authorities allowed young children of female prisoners to stay with their mothers. Due to space constraints, authorities did not always hold pretrial detainees separately from convicted prisoners, nor were violent offenders always separated from nonviolent offenders. Authorities separated opposition supporters from the rest of the prison population and reportedly provided them with worse incarceration conditions than those for other prisoners. Authorities reportedly provided poor lighting and heating, limited potable water and ventilation, and inhuman sanitation conditions for the prison population.

Prisoners with mental disabilities, who constituted a growing percentage of the prison population, did not receive adequate care. They were kept in the infirmary, although separately from seriously ill prisoners.

Conditions in jails, which held detainees until their summary release or transfer to the central prison, were poor. Jails had no formal system to feed or segregate prisoners and did not provide medical services. Prisoners were fed, but not on a regular basis.

Conditions at the Nagad Detention Facility were poor, although detainees had access to potable water, food, and medical treatment. Authorities deported most detainees within 24 hours of arrest. While normally used for irregular migrants and prisoners of war, the government used the Nagad Detention Facility as a temporary holding place for civilians arrested during political demonstrations or engaged in political activity.

No public statistics were available on the number of overall prisoner and detainee deaths. On August 2, after seven years in prison, Mohamed Ahmed, also known as Jabha, who was accused of being a member of a rebel group, died in prison after government officials reportedly refused to provide him medical support.

Administration: Officials investigated reports of cases of inhuman conditions that they deemed credible. The government-sponsored National Commission for Human Rights in August conducted a tour of the prisons but did not release a report.

Independent Monitoring: The government granted prison access to foreign embassies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) only for cases of foreign citizens detained in the prisons. The government refused access to foreign embassy representatives to monitor prisons. Authorities allowed ICRC regional representatives based in Nairobi to visit the Nagad Detention Facility and the Gabode Prison quarterly and to conduct visits to individual detainees.

Improvements: In June an international organization led a fundraiser, including the participation of government officials, to provide hygiene kits to incarcerated women.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not respect these prohibitions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Security forces include the National Police under the Ministry of Interior, the army and National Gendarmerie under the Ministry of Defense, and the Coast Guard under the Ministry of Transport. An elite Republican Guard unit protects the president and reports directly to the presidency. A separate National Security Service also reports directly to the presidency. The National Police is responsible for security within Djibouti City and has primary control over immigration and customs procedures for all land border-crossing points. The National Gendarmerie is responsible for all security outside of Djibouti City and is responsible for protecting critical infrastructure within the city, such as at the international airport. The army is responsible for defense of the national borders. The Coast Guard enforces maritime laws, including interdicting pirates, smugglers, traffickers, and irregular migrants.

Security forces were generally effective, although corruption was a problem in all services, particularly in the lower ranks where wages were low. Each security force has a unit responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct, and the Ministry of Justice is responsible for prosecution. No known formal complaints of misconduct were filed during the year. Authorities took no known action to investigate complaints of misconduct from previous years. Impunity was a serious problem.

The National Police has a Human Rights Office and has integrated human rights education into the police academy curriculum.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires arrest warrants and stipulates the government may not detain a person beyond 48 hours without an examining magistrate’s formal charge; however, the government generally did not respect the law, especially in rural areas. Authorities may hold detainees another 48 hours with the prior approval of the public prosecutor. The law provides that law enforcement authorities should promptly notify detainees of the charges against them, although there were delays. The law requires that all persons, including those charged with political or national security offenses, be tried within eight months of arraignment, although the government did not respect this right. The law contains provisions for bail, but authorities rarely made use of it. Detainees have the right to prompt access to an attorney of their choice, which generally occurred, although there were exceptions. In criminal cases the state provides attorneys for detainees who cannot afford legal representation. In instances of unlawful detention, detainees could get court ordered release but not compensation.

Arbitrary Arrest: During the year government officials arbitrarily arrested journalists, opposition members, academics, and demonstrators, often without warrants.

For example, on January 19, gendarmes arrested former minister of education Adawa Hassan Ali Gaanta for posting on Facebook that he wanted to host a conference on Afar federalism. A week before his arrest, gendarmes reportedly entered his house, confiscating his computers, telephones, and other electronic devices.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem, and approximately 20 percent of the prison population was in pretrial detention. Prisoners often waited two, three, or more years for their trials to begin. Judicial inefficiency and a lack of experienced legal staff contributed to the problem.

Security officials allegedly held Abdo Mohamed Ismail for two months in pretrial detention. According to human rights groups, Ismail had no court hearing and died in prison on June 25.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

Authorities held Mohamed Ahmed (Jabha) in pretrial detention from June 2010 until October 2016. That month the Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed Jabha’s case for lack of evidence. Despite the court ruling, authorities appealed the decision. Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed stated at a National Assembly session that Jabha would remain in jail as long as he was prime minister. On June 18, the Criminal Court sentenced Jabha to 15 years’ imprisonment. On August 2, he passed away in prison (see section 1.c.).

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The legal system is based on legislation and executive decrees, French codified law adopted at independence, Islamic law (sharia), and nomadic traditions.

The law states the accused is innocent until proven guilty, but trials did not proceed in accordance with the presumption of innocence. Trials generally were public. A presiding judge and two associate judges hear cases. Three lay assessors, who are not members of the bench but are considered sufficiently knowledgeable to comprehend court proceedings, assist the presiding judge. The government chooses lay assessors from the public. In criminal cases the court consists of the presiding judge of the court of appeal, two lay assessors, and four jurors selected from voter registration lists. The law provides that detainees be notified promptly and in detail of the charges against them. Although the law requires the state to provide detainees with free interpretation when needed, such services were not always made available. Detainees have the right to prompt access to an attorney of their choice. Defendants have the right to be present, consult with an attorney in a timely manner, confront witnesses, present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, and generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Authorities generally respected these rights. The indigent have a right to legal counsel in criminal and civil matters but sometimes did not have legal representation. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right of appeal, although the appeals process was lengthy. The law extends these rights to all citizens.

Traditional law often applied in cases involving conflict resolution and victim compensation. Traditional law stipulates that compensation be paid to the victim’s family for crimes such as killing and rape. Most parties preferred traditional court rulings for sensitive issues such as rape, where a peaceful consensus among those involved was valued over the rights of victims. Families often pressured victims to abide by such rulings.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were arbitrary arrests of opposition supporters. For example, between March 13 and 22, SDS personnel arrested 19 members of the Movement for the Democratic Renewal and Development (MRD) after the MRD started soliciting funds for entrepreneurial activities among members. Nine of 19 MRD members had a court hearing, with authorities convicting four of “illegal political activities,” since the MRD is a banned party. Authorities released the remaining MRD members. SDS personnel reportedly confiscated MRD members’ funds and did not return them.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

In cases of human rights violations, citizens could address correspondence to the National Human Rights Commission. On a variety of matters, citizens could also seek assistance from the Ombudsman’s Office, which often helped resolve administrative disputes between government branches. Citizens could also appeal decisions to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The government did not always comply with those bodies’ decisions and recommendations pertaining to human rights.

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

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.

The government monitored digital communications intended to be private and punished their authors (see section 2.a., Internet Freedom).

While membership in a political party was not required for government jobs, civil servants who publicly criticized the government faced reprisals at work, including suspension, dismissal, and nonpayment of salaries.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Dominica

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

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

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, but authorities were investigating one police killing that occurred in February.

As of September, two officers were awaiting trial for the 2014 killing of a suspect while in custody. Cases against two other officers involved were dismissed, and another officer was discharged from the police.

In June 2016 a magistrate discharged the accused in the case of a police officer who allegedly shot a man in 2013. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions requested the magistrate send the case to the Criminal High Court for review, but during the year the case was dismissed because the deadline for submitting required documents to the court expired.

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: In the country’s sole prison, Stockfarm Prison, male juveniles were not separated from the adult male population.

Administration: There was no prison ombudsman to respond to complaints, but authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints. An independent committee composed of the chief welfare officer, chaplain, social workers, and senior retired civil servants investigated complaints and monitored prison and detention center conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers. As of September no independent human rights observers visited the prison.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Justice, Immigration, and National Security oversees the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force, the country’s only security force. The Financial Intelligence Unit, some of whose officers have arrest authority, reports to the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The police have a formal complaint procedure to handle allegations of excessive force or abuse by police officers.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police apprehended persons openly with warrants issued by a judicial authority. The law requires that authorities inform persons of the reasons for their arrest within 24 hours and bring detainees to court within 72 hours. Authorities generally honored this requirement. If authorities are unable to bring a detainee to court within the requisite period, the detainee may be released and rearrested at a later time. There was a functioning bail system. Criminal detainees had prompt access to counsel and family members. The state provides a lawyer if a defendant charged with murder cannot afford one.

Arbitrary Arrest: Following a February 7 opposition political meeting and a subsequent riot whose origins were not irrefutably linked to the political rally, police detained United Workers Party (UWP) Senator Thomason Fountaine on February 12-13, former UWP deputy leader Claudius Sanford on February 16, Dominica Freedom Party general secretary Johnson Boston on February 17, and UWP parliamentarian Joseph Isaac on February 20. Except for Fountaine, police took other opposition figures from their homes in the early hours of the morning, searched their homes, and detained them for questioning in connection with the February 7 events, including an alleged attempted coup. Police charged Sanford for obstructing a police officer, but the court dismissed the charge on April 28. Police released the others without charges. In July, Sanford filed charges of malicious prosecution and false imprisonment, requesting “interest” (damages), aggravated and exemplary damages, and cost against the government for unlawfully detaining him for 14 hours. In August Boston, Isaac, and Fontaine also filed charges of wrongful arrest and imprisonment.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy detention before trial was a problem due to judicial staff shortages. On average, prisoners remained on remand status for six to 24 months. As of August, 29 percent of detainees were awaiting trial.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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 severe backlogs and other problems in the judicial system.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence; prompt and detailed information about charges; a trial without undue delay; personal presence at their trial; communication with an attorney of their choice; adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; free assistance of an interpreter; challenge of prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and presentation of one’s own witnesses and evidence; freedom from being compelled to testify or confess guilt; and appeal. Attorneys are not provided at public expense to defendants who cannot pay, unless the charge is murder.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

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

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression.

Press and Media Freedom: Government officials at times did not permit journalists to attend parliamentary sessions.

Libel/Slander Laws: Defamation is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment or fines. While there were no active defamation suits against local journalists, there were three active libel cases against opposition leader Linton Lennox, and the government was suing a foreign-based blogger for libel. Public and private threats of lawsuits from a variety of sources, including the Skerrit government, were used against media members, leading to some self-censorship.

INTERNET FREEDOM

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

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 67 percent of the population had access to the internet in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

Following the February 7 public meeting and subsequent riot, the government denied the opposition a number of permits to hold public meetings, citing public safety.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

In-country Movement: The only internal restriction on movement applies to the Carib Reserve area. The land is collectively owned by the community and managed by the Carib Council, which must grant permission for a newcomer to live in the territory and to use the land.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: While the law provides for asylum or refugee status, as of August the government did not receive any cases to consider. The government has not established a system for determining when to grant asylum or for providing protection to refugees in general.

Dominican Republic

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

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

There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported more than 180 extrajudicial killings by police forces through early December.

In November the National Police arrested Fernando de los Santos, nicknamed “The Rope,” a former police lieutenant who had been wanted since 2011 for killing at least 35 persons while working as a police officer. Some of those killed were believed to be criminals wanted by the police, while others were killings for hire committed on behalf of drug traffickers, according to news accounts.

In July, Blas Peralta, a former transportation union president, was convicted of killing a man during the 2016 presidential campaign and sentenced to 30 years in prison. As of November his appeal was pending.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. The NHRC reported it continued investigating six unresolved disappearance cases of human rights activists that occurred between 2009 and 2014, which they believed were politically motivated.

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

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

The NHRC reported that police used various forms of physical and mental abuse to obtain confessions from detained suspects. According to the NHRC, methods used to extract confessions included covering detainees’ heads with plastic bags, hitting them with broom handles, forcing them to remain standing overnight, and hitting them in the ears with gloved fists or hard furniture foam so as not to leave marks.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions ranged from compliance with international standards in “model” prisons or correctional rehabilitation centers (CRCs) to harsh and life threatening in “traditional” prisons. Threats to life and health included communicable diseases, poor sanitation, poor access to health-care services, a lack of well-trained prison guards, and prisoner-on-prisoner violence, all of which were exacerbated in the severely overcrowded traditional prisons.

Physical Conditions: Gross overcrowding was a problem in traditional prisons. The Directorate of Prisons reported that as of June there were approximately 17,750 prisoners in traditional prisons and 8,960 in CRCs, a ratio that remained constant for the past several years because traditional prisons had not been phased out. La Victoria, the oldest traditional prison, held nearly 9,000 inmates, although it was designed for a maximum capacity of 2,011. The inmate population at all 19 traditional prisons exceeded capacity, while only two of 22 CRCs were over capacity. Both male and female inmates were held in La Romana Prison but in separate areas.

Police and military inmates received preferential treatment, as did those in traditional prisons with the financial means to rent preferential bed space and purchase other necessities.

According to the Directorate of Prisons, military and police personnel guarded traditional prisons, while a trained civilian guard corps provided security at CRCs. Reports of mistreatment and violence in traditional prisons were common, as were reports of harassment, extortion, and inappropriate searches of prison visitors. Some traditional prisons remained effectively outside the control of authorities, and there were reports of drug and arms trafficking, prostitution, and sexual abuse within prisons. Wardens at traditional prisons often controlled only the perimeter, while inmates ruled the inside with their own rules and system of justice. Although the law mandates separation of prisoners according to severity of offense, authorities did not have the capability to do so.

In traditional prisons health and sanitary conditions were generally poor. Prisoners often slept on the floor because there were no beds available. Prison officials did not separate sick inmates. Delays in receiving medical attention were common in both the traditional prisons and CRCs. All prisons had infirmaries, but most infirmaries did not meet the needs of the prison population. In most cases inmates had to purchase their own medications or rely on family members or other outside associates to deliver their medications. Most reported deaths were due to illnesses.

According to the Directorate of Prisons, all prisons provided HIV/AIDS treatment, but the NHRC stated that none of the traditional prisons was properly equipped to provide such treatment. In CRCs some prisoners with mental disabilities received treatment, including therapy, for their conditions. In traditional prisons the government did not provide services to prisoners with mental disabilities. Neither CRCs nor traditional prisons provided access for inmates with disabilities.

In October the Constitutional Tribunal declared the condition of some jails were a “gross and flagrant” violation of the constitution and ordered the Attorney General’s Office to take steps to improve them within 180 days or face a fine of approximately 21,450 pesos ($450) per day.

Administration: Prisoners could submit complaints regarding their treatment verbally or in writing to the human rights committees and most often did so through family members, lawyers, or human rights defenders. Public defenders provided legal services to prisoners and in some cases assisted with certain complaints. The NHRC director served as a prisoner advocate.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits and monitoring by independently funded and operated nongovernmental organization (NGO) observers and media. The NHRC, National Office of Public Defense, Attorney General’s Office, and CRC prison administration together created human rights committees in each CRC that were authorized to conduct surprise visits.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits detention without a warrant unless authorities apprehend a suspect during the commission of a criminal act or in other special circumstances but permits detention without charge for up to 48 hours. The constitution provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her detention in court, and the government generally observed this requirement. Arbitrary arrest and detention were problems, and there were numerous reports of individuals held and later released with little or no explanation for the detention. NGOs reported that many detainees were taken into custody at the scene of a crime or during drug raids. In many instances authorities fingerprinted, questioned, and then released those detainees.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Interior and Police oversees the National Police, Tourist Police, and Metro Police. The Ministry of Armed Forces directs the military, Airport Security Authority and Civil Aviation, Port Security Authority, and Border Security Corps. The National Department of Intelligence and the National Drug Control Directorate, which have personnel from both police and armed forces, report directly to the president.

The Internal Affairs Unit investigates charges of gross misconduct by members of the National Police. These cases involved physical or verbal aggression, threats, improper use of a firearm, muggings, and theft. Authorities fired or prosecuted police officers found to have acted outside of established police procedures.

Training for military and the National Drug Control Directorate enlisted personnel and officers and the National Police included instruction on human rights. The Ministry of the Armed Forces provided human rights training or orientation to officers of various ranks as well as to civilians during the year. The Border Security Corps conducted mandatory human rights training at its training facilities for border officers. The Graduate School of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Rights trained civilians and armed forces personnel. The school also had programs in which members of the armed forces and civilians from the Supreme Court, congress, district attorney offices, government ministries, National Police, and Central Electoral Board participated.

In October the National Police announced that officers and recruits applying to join the police force who were suspected of corruption would be required to take polygraph tests.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution provides that an accused person may be detained for up to 48 hours without a warrant before being presented to judicial authorities. The law also permits police to apprehend without an arrest warrant any person caught in the act of committing a crime or reasonably linked to a crime, such as in cases involving hot pursuit or escaped prisoners. Police sometimes detained suspects for investigation or interrogation longer than 48 hours. Police often detained all suspects and witnesses to a crime. Successful habeas corpus hearings reduced abuses of the law significantly. There was a functioning bail system and a system of house arrest.

The law requires provision of counsel to indigent defendants, although staffing levels were inadequate to meet demand. The National Office of Public Defense (NOPD) represented 80 percent of the criminal cases brought before the courts, covering 28 of 34 judicial districts. Many detainees and prisoners who could not afford private counsel did not have prompt access to a lawyer. Prosecutors and judges handled interrogations of juveniles, which the law prohibits by or in the presence of police.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police made sporadic sweeps or roundups in low-income, high-crime communities during which they arrested and detained individuals without warrants. During these operations police arrested large numbers of residents and seized personal property allegedly used in criminal activity. The Attorney General’s Office reported a decrease in arbitrary arrests connected to mass arrests at the scene of a crime due to training conducted in concert with human rights NGOs.

Pretrial Detention: Many suspects endured long pretrial detention. Under the criminal procedures code, a judge may order detention to be between three and 18 months. According to the Directorate of Prisons, as of November, 63 percent of inmates were in pretrial custody. The average pretrial detention time was three months, but there were reports of cases of pretrial detention lasting up to three years. Time served in pretrial detention counted toward completing a sentence.

The failure of prison authorities to produce detainees for court hearings caused some trial postponements. Many inmates had their court dates postponed because of a lack of transportation from prison to court or because their lawyer, codefendants, interpreters, or witnesses did not appear. Despite additional protections for defendants in the criminal procedures code, in some cases authorities held inmates beyond the legally mandated deadlines even when there were no formal charges against them.

Protracted Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: There were isolated cases of asylum seekers detained due to a lack of documentation (see sections 2.d. and 6).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, the government did not respect judicial independence and impartiality. Improper influence on judicial decisions was widespread. Interference ranged from selective prosecution to dismissal of cases amid allegations of bribery or undue political pressure. The judiciary routinely dismissed high-level corruption cases. Corruption of the judiciary was also a serious problem. The NOPD reported that the most frequent form of interference with judicial orders occurred when authorities refused to abide by writs of habeas corpus to free detainees.

The Office of the Inspector of Tribunals, which disciplines judges and handles complaints of negligence, misconduct, and corruption, received an increase in its budget and technical training, and as a result it opened more investigations. Eighteen judges and 295 administrative personnel were suspended and the cases referred to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a defense in a fair and public trial; however, the judiciary did not always enforce this right.

The District Attorney’s Office is required to notify the defendant and attorney of criminal charges. The law provides for a presumption of innocence, the right to confront or question witnesses, and the right against self-incrimination. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and consult with an attorney in a timely manner, and the indigent have a right to a public defender. Defendants have the right to present their own witnesses and evidence. The law provides for free interpretation as necessary. The constitution also provides for the right to appeal and prohibits higher courts from increasing the sentences of lower courts. The courts frequently exceeded the period of time provided by the criminal procedures code when assigning hearings dates.

Military and police tribunals share jurisdiction over cases involving members of the security forces. Military tribunals have jurisdiction over cases involving violations of internal rules and regulations. Civilian criminal courts handle cases of killings and other serious crimes allegedly committed by members of the security forces.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There are separate court systems for claims under criminal law, commercial and civil law, and labor law. Commercial and civil courts reportedly suffered lengthy delays in adjudicating cases, although their decisions were generally enforced. As in criminal courts, undue political or economic influence in civil court decisions remained a problem.

Citizens have recourse to file an “amparo,” an action to seek redress of any violation of a constitutional right, including violations of human rights protected by the constitution. This remedy was used infrequently and only by those with sophisticated legal counsel.

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

The law prohibits arbitrary entry into a private residence, except when police are in hot pursuit of a suspect, when a suspect is caught in the act of committing a crime, or if 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. Police conducted illegal searches and seizures, however, including raids without warrants on private residences in many poor neighborhoods.

Although the government denied using unauthorized wiretaps, monitoring of private email, or other surreptitious methods to interfere with the private lives of individuals and families, human rights groups and opposition politicians alleged such interference occurred. Opposition political parties alleged government officials at times threatened subordinates with loss of employment and other benefits to compel them to support the incumbent PLD party and attend PLD campaign events. The NOPD reported two cases in which police imprisoned family members of a suspect to compel the suspect to surrender.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views with some restriction.

Press and Media Freedom: Individuals and groups were generally able to criticize the government publicly and privately without reprisal, although there were several incidents in which authorities intimidated journalists or other news professionals. In October the Dominican Association of Dailies expressed concern that the president’s security detail mistreated journalists and impeded media participation at presidential events.

Violence and Harassment: Journalists and other persons who worked in media were occasionally harassed or physically attacked. Some media outlets reported that journalists, specifically in rural areas, received threats for investigating or denouncing criminal groups or official corruption. The Inter American Press Association reported that journalists suffered violent attacks from military and police security details of government officials, particularly while covering civil society-led protests. In July the Dominican College of Journalists denounced inaction by government officials after an attack on television reporter Indira Vasquez and cameraman Jose Manual de la Cruz. The journalists said they were assaulted by a businessman and his two sons while covering environmental damage caused by the excavation of aggregate material at the Bajabonico River in Puerto Plata.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The constitution provides for protection of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and includes a “conscience clause” allowing journalists to refuse reporting assignments. Nonetheless, journalists practiced self-censorship, particularly when coverage could adversely affect the economic or political interests of media owners. Some media outlets chose to omit the bylines of journalists reporting on drug trafficking and other security matters to protect the individual journalists.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law criminalizes defamation and insult, with harsher punishment for offenses committed against public or state figures than for offenses against private individuals. The Dominican College of Journalists reported that journalists were sued by politicians, government officials, and the private sector to pressure them to stop reporting. In 2016 the Constitutional Tribunal annulled several articles in the Law on Freedom of Expression that criminalized statements denouncing events that were of public interest and that authorities considered damaging. The court also ruled that media outlets, executive staff, and publishers are not liable for libel suits against individual journalists. While some observers proclaimed this relieved pressure on journalists by business interests that controlled much of the mainstream media, others described the ruling as benefiting business interests’ ability to distance themselves from protecting their editors and journalist teams. The law continues to penalize libel for statements concerning the private lives of certain public figures, including government officials and foreign heads of state.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content without appropriate legal authority; however, there were allegations that the government monitored private online communications. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 61 percent of citizens used the internet in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of peaceful assembly. Outdoor public marches and meetings require permits, which the government usually granted. On several occasions police used force to disperse demonstrations and injured demonstrators and bystanders.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights, with some exceptions. The government cooperated in a limited manner with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other noted persons of concern.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: During a December 2016 hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on human rights and statelessness in the country, civil society organization representatives said deportations of Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent continued. They said some deportations were arbitrary and consisted of taking persons across the border without any record. Monitoring of the border by the International Organization for Migration found that some of those deported were unaccompanied children. The Center for Migration Observation and Social Development in the Caribbean reported in October concern regarding the lack of information on accountability mechanisms stipulating that migration officials and other members of state security adhere to legal provisions for due process and other rights of migrants during deportations. It reported that abuses appeared to be greater when the deportations were carried out by military personnel than by officials of the General Directorate of Migration. In addition to deportation, undocumented Haitian victims faced increased vulnerability to trafficking.

The International Organization for Migration reported cases of individuals deported because authorities did not permit them to retrieve immigration or citizenship documents from their residences as well as deportations of women who left children behind in their residences.

A 2012 National Statistics Office and UN Population Fund (UNFPA) study estimated the total Haitian population in the country at 668,145, of whom 458,233 were identified as Haitian immigrants and 209,912 were categorized as persons of Haitian descent. The exact number of undocumented persons was unclear. During the year the statistics office and UNFPA conducted a survey to obtain more accurate and up-to-date statistics on immigrants in the country.

In 2014 the government promulgated the National Regularization Plan that enabled undocumented migrants in the country to apply for temporary legal residency. In July 2016 the government extended the expiration date of the temporary resident cards issued under the plan, marking the third time the government had done so. The plan granted temporary residency status to more than 260,000 irregular migrants (98 percent Haitian). According to census data, up to 280,000 Haitian migrants may not have applied or qualified for regularization and were subject to deportation. UN officials accompanied immigration authorities during interception procedures conducted in different provinces. According to the United Nations, deportation procedures were orderly, legal, and individualized, in compliance with applicable international human rights standards.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status. The government has an established refugee protection system but did not effectively implement it. In 2016 UNHCR recognized 787 asylum seekers, 93 percent of them Haitian, but the government historically recognized few of those claims. Of the more than 300 asylum-seeker cases between 2012 and 2016 that received a final decision, the government rejected 99 percent with the vague justification of “failure of proof.” NGOs concluded that this alone was evidence of systemic discrimination, as 99 percent of asylum seekers were also of Haitian origin.

The National Office of Refugees in the Migration Directorate of the National Commission for Refugees (CONARE) adjudicates asylum claims. CONARE is an interagency commission that includes the Foreign Ministry, National Department of Investigations, and General Directorate of Migration.

A 2013 CONARE resolution requires individuals to apply for asylum within 15 days of arrival in the country. Under this resolution, if an asylum seeker is in the country for more than 15 days and without applying for asylum, the individual permanently loses the right to apply for asylum. The resolution also rejects any asylum application from an individual who was in, or proceeds from, a foreign country where the individual could have sought asylum. Thus, the government makes inadmissibility determinations administratively before an asylum interview or evaluation by CONARE.

According to refugee NGOs, there was no information posted at ports of entry to provide notice of the right to seek asylum or of the timeline or process for doing so. Furthermore, the NGOs reported that immigration officials did not know how to handle asylum cases. UNHCR protection officers were occasionally and unpredictably granted access to detained asylum seekers. CONARE policies do not provide for protection screening in the deportation process. By law the government must afford due process to detained asylum seekers, and those expressing a fear of return to their country of nationality or habitual residence should be allowed to apply for asylum under the proper procedures. Nonetheless, there was generally neither judicial review of deportation orders nor any third-party review to provide for protection screening.

CONARE did not provide rejected asylum seekers details of the grounds for the rejection of their initial application for asylum or information regarding the process for appeal. Rejected applicants received a letter informing them that they had 30 days to leave the country voluntarily. Per government policy, rejected asylum seekers have seven days from receipt of notice of denial to file an appeal; however, the letter providing notice of denial does not mention this right to appeal.

Freedom of Movement: The government issued travel documents to approved refugees for a fee of 3,150 pesos ($65). Refugees commented that the travel document listed their nationality as “refugee” and not their country of origin. Asylum seekers with pending cases had only a letter to present to avoid deportation, which deterred freedom of movement.

Employment: The government prohibited asylum seekers with pending cases from working. This situation was further complicated by the long, sometimes indefinite, waiting periods for pending cases to be resolved. Lack of documentation also precluded refugees from certain employment. Employment was nonetheless a requirement for the government to renew refugees’ temporary residency cards.

Access to Basic Services: Approved refugees receive the same rights and responsibilities as legal migrants with temporary residence permits. This provided refugees the right to access education, employment, health care, and other social services. Nonetheless, UNHCR reported that problems remained. Only those refugees able to afford health insurance were able to access adequate health care. Refugees reported that their government-issued identification numbers were not recognized, and thus they could not access other services, such as opening a bank account or entering service contracts for basic utilities, but instead had to rely on friends or family for such services.

STATELESS PERSONS

Prior to 2010 the constitution bestowed citizenship upon anyone born in the country except children born to diplomats and children born to parents who are “in transit.” The 2010 constitution added an additional exception for children born in the country to parents without migratory status. In 2013 the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that undocumented migrants were considered “in transit” for purposes of citizenship transmission, and thus all children born to undocumented migrant parents were not Dominican citizens. The ruling retroactively revised the country’s citizenship transmission laws and stripped citizenship from approximately 135,000 persons, mostly the children of undocumented Haitian migrants, who had been conferred citizenship by virtue of jus soli since 1929.

Until 2012 the Haitian constitution did not permit dual citizenship. Therefore, individuals of Haitian descent who obtained Dominican citizenship at birth by virtue of birth on Dominican soil forfeited their right to Haitian citizenship. The 2013 Constitutional Tribunal ruling therefore stripped nearly all of those affected of the only citizenship they held. The IACHR, UNHCR, and Caribbean Community criticized the 2013 tribunal judgment. The IACHR found that the 2013 ruling implied an arbitrary deprivation of citizenship and that it had a discriminatory effect, stripped citizenship retroactively, and led to statelessness for individuals not considered citizens.

In 2014 President Medina signed and promulgated law 169-14 to regularize and (re)issue identity documents to individuals born in the country between June 16, 1929, and April 18, 2007, to undocumented migrant parents, who were previously registered in the civil registry (Group A), recognizing them as Dominican citizens from birth. Based on an audit of the national civil registry archives, that population was estimated to total 60,000. As of the end of 2015, according to media reports, the government had issued new citizenship documents to 13,495 persons and continued processing the remainder. Civil society reported an additional 6,000 Group A cases obtained new citizenship documents, bringing the estimate of known Group A cases whose citizenship was restored to 20,000. The law also creates a special path to citizenship for persons born to undocumented migrant parents who never registered in the civil registry, including an estimated 45,000-75,000 undocumented persons, predominantly of Haitian descent (Group B). Group B individuals were able to apply for legal residency under this law and apply for naturalized citizenship after two years. The law granted Group B individuals 180 days to apply for legal residency, an application window that closed on January 31, 2015. A total of 8,755 Group B individuals successfully applied before that deadline. NGOs and foreign governments expressed concern for the potentially large number of Group B persons who did not apply before the deadline. The government committed to resolve any unregistered Group B cases but had not identified the legal framework under which that commitment would be fulfilled. The government also committed not to deport anyone born in the country.

In 2015 the civil registry (known as the Central Electoral Board or JCE) announced it had transferred the civil records of the 54,307 individuals identified in Group A to a separate civil registry book and annulled their original civil registrations. The JCE invited those on the list to report to JCE offices and receive a reissued birth certificate. In 2015 civil society groups reported that many Group A individuals experienced difficulties obtaining reissued birth certificates at JCE offices. NGOs documented cases of individuals they determined qualified as Group A but were not included in the JCE’s audit results list. In response to complaints, the government created channels for reporting missing cases, delays, or failures to issue Group A nationality documents in JCE satellite offices, including a telephone line and social media accounts. NGOs reported the measures led to improved document issuance rates for Group A.

Dominican-born persons of Haitian descent without citizenship or identity documents faced obstacles traveling both within and outside the country. In addition undocumented persons may not obtain national identification cards or voting cards. Persons who did not have a national identification card or birth certificate had limited access to electoral participation, formal-sector jobs, public education, marriage and birth registration, formal financial services such as banks and loans, courts and judicial procedures, and ownership of land or property.

In April the IACHR placed the Dominican Republic on a “black list” reserved for countries with the most egregious violations of human rights because of its treatment of Dominicans of Haitian descent. The IACHR declared that the 2013 Constitutional Tribunal decision disproportionately deprived black, ethnically Haitian Dominicans of citizenship based on their race and national origin, and also that the government’s efforts had not fully mitigated the harmful impact of the ruling. The IACHR stated many of those affected by the ruling remained without a path to citizenship, and it questioned the legality, implementation, and viability of some of the solutions the government offered.

Ecuador

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

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

There were reports that police committed arbitrary or unlawful killings typically involving excessive use of force during routine law enforcement activities. A human rights nonprofit organization reported that on June 15 in Las Lajas, two police officers shot and killed Daniel Elias Jumbo Quizhpe while conducting an antismuggling operation. The two officers are under criminal investigation.

b. Disappearance

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

On March 17, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances called on the government to treat all pending cases of disappearances as forced disappearances. On June 14, a court held a hearing on the 2003 case known as “Las Dolores” in which 11 police officers were accused of the forced disappearance and extrajudicial killing of eight individuals, including Johnny Gomez Balda and Cesar Mata. The decision to move to trial came after a 14-year investigation; however, the judge decided to prosecute the defendants for the crime of kidnapping, which carries a punishment of five to seven years, instead of treating the crime as forced disappearance, which carries a punishment of 22 to 26 years.

In 2016 the Office of the Attorney General determined that law enforcement officers committed arbitrary detention in all 18 of the forced disappearance cases from 1984-2005 that were reported by the 2008-10 Truth Commission. On October 16, President Moreno signed compensation agreements for 24 of the remaining 119 victims of human rights abuses with pending cases documented by the Truth Commission.

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

While the constitution and law prohibit torture and similar forms of intimidation and punishment, there were a few reports that police officers and prison guards reportedly tortured and abused suspects and prisoners. The Ombudsman’s Office conducted random inspections of sites where freedom of movement was restricted, including prisons, mental health facilities, and treatment clinics, among others, and investigated alleged cases of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and punishment.

On September 4, local media and human rights organizations reported new allegations of torture involving prisoners in the Turi prison center. Prisoners claimed they were tortured and subjected to other forms of degrading treatment including arbitrary beatings, exposure to extreme temperatures, and electroshock. According to daily newspaper La Hora, in August a doctor stated that an examination of a prisoner confirmed the prisoner’s claims of torture and other forms of degrading treatment. On August 15, Judge Alfredo Serrano acquitted 15 law enforcement officers and dismissed charges against another 32 officers who were under criminal investigation for cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners after conducting a raid in Turi prison center in Cuenca in May 2016. Both the Ombudsman’s Office and the public defender, David Ayala, criticized the judge’s decision. Local human rights organizations, including the Ecumenical Human Rights Commission (CEDHU) and the Regional Human Rights Advisory Foundation, called the prosecutor’s decision unjustified due to the extent of the injuries suffered by the prisoners.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh due to food shortages, overcrowding, harassment by security guards against prisoners and visitors, physical and sexual abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

Physical Conditions: The April 2016 earthquake, which damaged the penitentiary facility in the town of Portoviejo, exacerbated overcrowding in some prisons, causing relocation of prisoners to other facilities that were already over capacity. On June 29, the UN Latin American Institute for Crime Prevention and the Treatment of Offenders reported that the prison population was 73.5 percent above the designed capacity. In a July 10 article in the newspaper El Comercio, Minister of Justice, Human Rights, and Worship Rosana Alvarado reported that the country had 10,000 inmates beyond capacity in 37 prisons.

Prisoners and human rights activists complained of a lack of resources for inmates. Relatives of the inmates reported that public officials expected prisoners to buy provisions from the prison centers on a monthly basis and that prison officials did not allow families of inmates to provide basic supplies purchased outside of the prison, including clothing and toiletries.

In some facilities, health measures were sufficient only for emergency care. Prisoners reported that medicines often were not available and they had no access to dental care. Prisoners also complained of harsh living conditions, including sanitary problems, a lack of food, poor nutritional quality of the food, and lack of heating and hot water.

Protecting the health and safety of prisoners remained a problem. Human rights organizations remained concerned about the mixing of prisoners from various criminal gangs in prison units. On January 4 and October 4, local media reported fights between rival groups of prisoners resulted in serious injury to 10 inmates in each instance. CEDHU reported that as of August 25, it had received information concerning the killing of eight prisoners in their cells in the cities of Guayaquil, Santo Domingo, Tulcan, and Latacunga. On October 11, police raided a prison in Guayas as part of a law enforcement investigation called “Fortaleza 145.” During the raid, police arrested 22 prisoners for involvement in ordered killings and drug dealing.

On March 8, police detained 51 individuals in connection with the extortion of 67 inmates. The then minister of interior, Diego Fuentes, stated a criminal network extorted relatives of inmates by demanding payments between $200 and $800 (country’s official currency is U.S. dollar) in exchange for the inmates’ physical safety. According to local human rights organizations, prison authorities threatened family members of prisoners who died or suffered serious injuries to prevent them from making public complaints. On July 10, Minister Alvarado noted that searches and raids in prisons were necessary because “mafias” continued to operate in prison centers.

On September 20, a member of the National Assembly’s Justice Committee, Lourdes Cuesta, reported that she had received information of rape cases, the transmission of HIV, and beatings of prisoners in detention centers.

Administration: Public defenders assisted inmates in filing complaints and other motions. Some prisoners remained incarcerated after completing their sentences due to bureaucratic inefficiencies and corruption. It was extremely difficult to obtain a firm release date from prison authorities, and the onus was often on inmates to schedule their own review boards.

Independent Monitoring: Independent nongovernmental monitors complained that their access to prisoners was limited. According to the human rights nonprofit Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDH), prison authorities placed strict limits on who could visit prisoners and monitor prison conditions, which led to a “progressive isolation of prisoners.” Independent observers must submit in writing their reasons for visiting a prison, specifying general and specific objectives of the visit, as well as other information required by an administrative order. The CDH reported that many requests never received a response, which effectively prevented independent monitors from accessing prisons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and other laws prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, but there were reports that national, provincial, and local authorities in some cases did not observe these provisions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Police maintain internal security and law enforcement. The military is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities, including combating organized crime. Both police and military are in charge of border enforcement. Migration officers are civilians and report to the Ministry of Interior. The National Police are under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, and the military is under the supervision of the Ministry of Defense. The National Police’s internal affairs unit investigates killings by police and examines whether they were justified. The unit can refer cases to the courts. An intelligence branch within the military has a role similar to the police internal affairs unit. The law states that the State Prosecutor’s Office must be involved in all investigations concerning human rights abuses, including unlawful killings and forced disappearance.

Insufficient training, poor supervision, and a lack of resources continued to impair the effectiveness of the National Police. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police and the armed forces. The government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, although not all cases were fully investigated.

Police receive required human rights instruction in basic training and in training academies for specialized units. In the police academy, human rights training is integrated throughout a cadet’s four-year instruction. Additionally, there is a mandatory human rights training regimen concerning preservation of life and human rights, along with a human rights handbook. Authorities offered other human rights training intermittently.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires authorities to issue specific written arrest orders prior to detention and a judge must charge a suspect with a specific criminal offense within 24 hours of arrest. Authorities generally observed this time limit, although in some provinces initial detention was often considerably longer. Detainees have the right to be informed of the charges against them. By law if the initial investigation report is incriminating, the judge, upon the prosecutor’s request, may order pretrial detention.

Detainees have a constitutional right to an attorney. Those without financial means to pay for an attorney have the right to request a court-appointed attorney from the independent Public Defenders’ Office. Although the number of available court-appointed defenders was higher than in previous years, the high number of cases and limited time they had to prepare for the defense of the detainees continued to represent a disadvantage during trials.

Although the law entitles detainees prompt access to lawyers and family members, human rights organizations continued to report delays depending on the circumstances and officials’ willingness to enforce the law.

Arbitrary Arrest: On April 27, public officials released indigenous leader Jimpikit Agustin Wachapa after four months of arbitrary detention. In December 2016 police officers and military officials entered Wachapa’s house without a judicial order and transferred him to a maximum-security prison in the town of Latacunga. The Office of the Public Prosecutor later charged Wachapa with “instigation of discord,” and then deputy interior minister Diego Fuentes reported that the leader was seeking to incite public discord through a message posted on Facebook.

Pretrial Detention: Corruption and general judicial inefficiency caused trial delays. The country also lacked resources to train police, prosecutors, public defenders, and judges. On September 20, Justice and Human Rights Minister Alvarado reported to the National Assembly’s Justice Committee that 36 percent of inmates had not yet been sentenced.

Amnesty: On June 14, President Moreno pardoned environmentalist Patricio Marcelo Meza, who was arrested on June 6 and sentenced to six months in prison for assault and resistance during the 2015 indigenous demonstrations.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

While the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, outside pressure and corruption impaired the judicial process. Legal experts, bar associations, and human rights organizations reported on the susceptibility of the judiciary to bribes for favorable decisions and faster resolution of legal cases. Some judges reached decisions based on media influence or political and economic pressures in cases where the government expressed interest. Delays often occurred in cases brought against the government, whereas cases brought by the government moved quickly through the courts. There were credible reports that the outcome of many trials appeared predetermined. According to human rights lawyers, the government also ordered judges to deny all “protective measures,” i.e., legal motions that argued the government had violated an individual’s constitutional rights to free movement, due process, and equal treatment before the law. Lawyers and human rights activists stated the government initiated disciplinary action based on “inexcusable error” against judges who allowed protective measures against the government. On August 21, 40 judges filed a complaint against their removal from office as ordered by the Judicial Council, the governmental oversight entity for the judicial branch. The Judicial Council declared the dismissals were based on charges leveled by private parties. The affected former judges claimed they were removed from office for unjust cause. On August 22, private defense attorney Hernan Ulloa representing the affected judges alleged that the Judicial Council committed “crimes of influence peddling, illicit enrichment, and organized crime, following interference in the independence of the judicial branch.” The former judges demanded the resignation of the Judicial Council’s president Gustavo Jalkh, through the National Committee of Judges against Corruption. On August 28, Jalkh told media outlets the initiative was an attempt to destabilize the judicial branch before the partial renewal of the National Court of Justice.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, although delays occurred frequently. The law presumes defendants innocent until proven guilty. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly of the charges in detail. The accused have the right to consult with an attorney or to have one provided and to appeal. Defendants have the right to free assistance from an interpreter, but some defendants complained about the lack of an interpreter at court hearings. They have the right to adequate time and resources to prepare their defense, although in practice this was not always the case, and delays in providing translation services made this difficult for some foreign defendants. They also have the right to be present at their trial. The accused may also present evidence and call witnesses, invoke the right against self-incrimination, and confront and cross-examine witnesses.

Judges reportedly rendered decisions more quickly or more slowly due to political pressure or, in some cases, the payment of bribes. There were reported delays of up to one year in scheduling some trials.

Criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing congested dockets in criminal cases produced “simplified” proceedings in pretrial stages, resulting in summary proceedings against defendants with few, if any, due process protections.

The regular court system tried most defendants, although some indigenous groups judged members independently under their own community rules for violations that occurred in indigenous territory. On September 12, members of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and officials from the Judicial Council discussed the application of indigenous justice and expressed willingness to work together in strengthening the administration of justice in all spheres.

On July 13, media outlets reported that 121 Cuban citizens deported from Ecuador in June and July 2016 suffered mistreatment, illegal detention, and rushed deportation proceedings, allegations the government denied.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Civil courts and the Administrative Conflicts Tribunal, generally considered independent and impartial, handle lawsuits seeking damages for, or immediate ending of, human rights violations. Civil lawsuits seeking damages for alleged wrongdoings by the government rarely were filed, since such suits were difficult to prosecute and time-consuming, with some judges taking up to a decade to rule on the merits of a case.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Human rights groups denounced forced evictions by government authorities without due process or timely relocation to other housing. The evictions mostly affected Afro-Ecuadorian families in urban areas or indigenous families living near natural resource extraction projects. The government claimed that many of those evicted either were squatters or had purchased their land illegally. On October 12, local media reported that a joint operation by police and the Technical Secretariat for the Prevention of Irregular Human Settlements could result in the eviction of up to 200 families from their homes in southern Guayaquil within 48 hours if they could not produce proof of ownership. On July 7, indigenous organizations appeared before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to report human rights violations that led to forced displacement of their communities in 2016. According to human rights organizations, in some cases the government failed to provide timely restitution or compensation to evicted families.

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

The constitution and the law prohibit such actions, but there were reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Human rights, environmental, and labor activists and opposition politicians reported physical surveillance by authorities, including monitoring of their private movements and homes. According to some human rights activists, the physical surveillance was an act of intimidation intended to silence any potential criticism of the government. In the two weeks before the April presidential elections, representatives of a Catholic church reported detecting surveillance of their facility and religious services and receiving threatening telephone messages from unidentified callers warning the parish priest there would be consequences if he continued to politicize his sermons. In September, local media sources reported they obtained documents dating from 2010-14 detailing efforts by the National Intelligence Secretariat to spy on opposition parties, businesspersons, journalists, social movements, ecological groups, and indigenous organizations. The media sources claimed that public funds were used to record persons of interest and hack into personal email accounts in direct contravention of the penal code.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, but the government restricted this right. The government continued to use the communications law to limit the independence of the press.

Freedom of Expression: Generally, individuals could discuss matters of general public interest publicly or privately without reprisal, although various civil society groups, journalists, and academics argued that the law limited their freedom of expression and restricted independent media. Under the 2013 communication law, media outlets are also legally responsible for the opinions of their contributors. Independent of this law, the 2014 criminal code prohibits citizens from threatening or insulting the president or executive branch, and penalties for violators range from six months to two years’ imprisonment or a fine from $16 to $77.

Article 176 of the criminal code establishes a prison sentence of up to three years for those who “disseminate, practice, or incite any distinction, restriction, or preference on grounds of nationality, ethnicity, place of birth, age, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation, cultural identity, marital status, language, religion, ideology, socioeconomic status, immigration status, disability, or health status with the aim of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise of equal rights.” According to some legal experts, the article could restrict freedom of speech.

Press and Media Freedom: Freedom House continued to rate the country’s press status as “not free.” Regulatory bodies created under the communication law monitored and disciplined the media through a combination of legal and administrative sanctions. The domestic freedom of expression watchdog group Fundamedios reported 210 “attacks on freedom of expression” through June 30, including sanctions of media outlets under the communications law, cases of restrictions on digital rights, and the “abusive use of State power,” including the withdrawal of official publicity, forced correction, cancellation of frequencies and programs, and arbitrary dismissals of employees. Fundamedios noted that the number of attacks were unusually high during the first semester of the year, especially during the presidential campaign season (between January and April), compared with 2016. Fundamedios also reported that during the first three months of Moreno’s presidency, attacks on the media decreased and the government-aligned public media outlets became more objective and balanced both in their news reporting and in editorial pages. President Moreno encouraged dialogue with the media and specifically called on journalists to report on corruption. Although the communication law remains in place, media outlets reported a reduction in government attacks on the media.

Independent media remained active and expressed a wide variety of views, including those critical of the government, although many analysts and journalists noted the 2013 law had led to self-censorship in private media, pointing to a decrease in investigative reporting under the Correa administration.

The law limits the ability of media to provide election coverage during the official campaign period. A constitutional court ruling in 2012 affirmed the right of the press to conduct interviews and file special reports on candidates and issues during the campaign period, but it left in place restrictions on “direct or indirect” promotion of candidates or specific political views.

The law includes the offense of inciting “financial panic” with a penalty of imprisonment for five to seven years for any person who divulges false information that causes alarm in the population and provokes massive withdrawals of deposits from a financial institution that places at risk the institution’s stability. Some analysts viewed this as a warning to the media in their reporting on the country’s financial problems. Media outlets reported privately that they refrained from some financial reporting due to concern over possible legal consequences.

The government administered an estimated 30 media outlets and used its extensive advertising budget to influence public debate. The law mandates the broadcast of messages and reports by the president and his cabinet free of charge. During the Correa administration, the government increasingly required media stations to broadcast statements by the president and other leaders, thereby reducing the stations’ private paid programming. President Moreno reduced the amount of time required for presidential broadcasts to one 15-minute broadcast weekly. President Moreno replaced the general editor of the state-owned newspaper, El Telegrafo, which traditionally strongly advocated for the government and its policies, with former journalist Fernando Larenas.

The law calls for the redistribution of broadcast frequencies to divide media ownership between private media (33 percent), public media (33 percent), and community media (34 percent). Observers claimed this redistribution of frequencies would reduce the private media by almost 50 percent. Government officials asserted in public statements that the redistribution of frequencies guaranteed a more inclusive and diverse media environment. In the previous year, the Agency for Regulation and Control of Telecommunications and the Council for Regulation and Development of Information and Communication (known by its Spanish acronym CORDICOM) initiated a process to adjudicate 1,472 radio and television frequencies. In January well established, private radio outlets Radio Democracia and Radio Vision, among others, were told that they were at risk of losing their frequencies to government-associated community media outlets due to the government adjudication process. Opposition groups protested the government-run tendering process of airwaves for its lack of transparency and for taking place during an election year. As of August 26, the redistribution of frequencies was suspended.

Violence and Harassment: On February 16, media outlets reported that authorities found explosive devices targeting two female journalists, Janeth Hinostroza of Teleamazonas television station and Estefani Espin of Ecuavisa, three days prior to the 2017 general elections. Former president Correa and other high-level government officials criticized journalists and media outlets. In his last national televised address on May 21, Correa tore up a copy of the newspaper La Hora, labeled the media as his “greatest opponent” in his 10-year administration, and asked his followers to promote awareness in citizens to avoid being cheated by the “mercantilist press.”

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists working at private media companies reported instances of indirect censorship. On May 25, the Superintendence of Information and Communication (Supercom) fined a radio station $3,750 for insulting former president Correa. The director of the radio station, Luis Almeida, asserted that no infractions were committed, as analyst Jaime Verduga was exercising his freedom of thought and expression. Almeida also noted that Verduga repeated Correa’s own words, which were published by the government-owned digital media outlet El Ciudadano.

The law requires the media to “cover and broadcast facts of public interest” and defines the failure to do so as a form of prior censorship. Supercom decides prior censorship cases and can impose fines. Many private media complained that the government could decide what is of “public interest” and thus unduly influence their independent reporting. On April 27, three media outlets received a warning in writing from Supercom for transmitting results of exit polls that projected the opposition candidate as winner of the 2017 national elections on April 2. On April 21, Supercom fined seven outlets $3,750 for “prior censorship” due to their decision not to publish a series of articles by Argentine newspaper Pagina 12, alleging that opposition presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso had dozens of offshore accounts. Representatives of the affected media outlets argued that the original story was poorly reported and that the publishing of unverified allegations would have violated the law. The ruling remained in effect as of September 15. On August 24, a district administrative court nullified a $90,000 fine originally levied in 2014 against political cartoonist Bonil (Xavier Bonilla) of the daily newspaper El Universo. The court ruled that “opinions are not meant to inform” and that the constitution guarantees freedom of expression. The head of Supercom, Carlos Ochoa, announced that Supercom would contest the ruling.

The law also imposes local content quotas on the media, including a requirement that a minimum of 60 percent of content on television and 50 percent of radio content be produced domestically. Additionally, the law requires that advertising be produced domestically and prohibits any advertising deemed to be sexist, racist, or discriminatory in nature. Furthermore, the Ministry of Public Health must approve all advertising for food or health products.

Libel/Slander Laws: The government used libel laws against media companies, journalists, and private individuals. Libel is a criminal offense under the law, with penalties of up to three years in prison, plus fines. The law assigns responsibility to media owners, who are liable for opinion pieces or statements by reporters or others, including readers, using their media platforms. The law includes a prohibition of “media lynching,” described as the “coordinated and repetitive dissemination of information, directly or by third parties through the media, intended to discredit a person or company or reduce its public credibility.” The exact terms of this provision remained vaguely defined but threatened to limit the media’s ability to conduct investigative reporting. Supercom has the authority to determine if a media outlet is guilty of media lynching and to apply administrative sanctions. On June 5, former president Correa filed a complaint against journalist Martin Pallares for an article he published on April 21, alleging that Pallares uttered expressions in disrepute or dishonor against him, a crime punishable by 15 to 30 days’ imprisonment. On July 3, Judge Fabricio Carrasco found Pallares innocent of the charges of discrediting the president. On July 19, Judge Maximo Ortega de Ferrer accepted Correa’s appeal to review the July 3 ruling.

Actions to Expand Freedom of Expression, including for the Media: On inauguration day President Moreno announced that his government would end former president Correa’s practice of holding multihour, mandatory press events on Saturdays (often used by Correa to attack his opponents, particularly the media). Moreno subsequently highlighted the important role the press plays in the fight against corruption. Moreno invited civil society representatives and government agencies to address differences in opinion regarding the 2013 communication law through a national dialogue. Supercom officials participated in roundtable discussions on communication law reforms. Fundamedios noted in September that reported attacks against freedom of expression dropped more than 50 percent in the first three months of the Moreno administration, compared with the final three months of the Correa administration, adding, “The drastic drop in the number of attacks on freedom of expression reflects a new reality that could translate into an improvement in the exercise of this fundamental right in Ecuador.” Supercom issued fewer sanctions during the first three months of the Moreno administration.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet, but there were credible reports that the government censored online content and monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. A government regulation requires that internet service providers comply with all information requests from the superintendent of telecommunications, allowing access to client addresses and information without a judicial order. Freedom House evaluated the internet as partly free. The International Telecommunication Union reported a 54 percent internet usage rate in 2016.

While individuals and groups could generally engage in the expression of views via the internet, the government increasingly monitored Twitter and other social media accounts for perceived threats or alleged insults against the president and government officials. Some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and media outlets reported cyberattacks by unknown perpetrators that appeared politically motivated since they occurred during coverage of the 2017 general elections and when content was perceived as critical of the government. On August 25, Fundamedios reported attacks on its digital portal for two consecutive weeks. On May 22, Usuarios Digitales, an internet watchdog organization, reported 160 internet attacks on social networks and digital platforms between April 2016 and March 2017. The website of the national private media group El Comercio was hacked on a regular basis. The organization had a team of digital experts tracking internet attacks on a daily basis.

The law holds a media outlet responsible for online comments from readers if the outlet has not established mechanisms for commenters to register their personal data (including national identification number) or created a system to delete offensive comments. The law also prohibits the media from using information obtained from social media unless they can verify the author of the information. On April 17, the Ministry of Interior’s legal office filed a case against Luis Eduardo Vivanco, former editor in chief of La Horanewspaper, based on his tweets that “attempt to disparage the actions carried out by the government in its permanent fight against corruption.” On May 18, Vivanco appeared before the Office of the Public Prosecutor to render his testimony.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

While there were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events, academics reported that concerns over the process of awarding government contracts intimidated academics into practicing self-censorship. In December 2016 the National Assembly passed legislation eliminating public funding for research at universities that operate under international agreements. According to human rights organization Freedom House, “The legislation has the potential to undermine the sustainability of two graduate universities, Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar and Universidad Latinoamericana de Posgrado Lider en Ciencias Sociales (commonly referred to as FLACSO Ecuador.)”

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government limited freedom of association.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, and the government generally respected this right. Public rallies require prior government permits that usually are granted. The government often deployed a large security presence at demonstrations, and security forces generally respected the rights of participants.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, but the government took steps to limit this right. On October 23, President Moreno issued decree 193 to replace executive decrees 16 and 739 that regulated freedom of association. Human rights organizations claimed former president Correa used decrees 16 and 739, which required all social organizations, including NGOs, to reregister in a new online registration system within one year of the decree or face dissolution, to stymie opposition and limit foreign influence.

Decree 193 simplified the application process to obtain and maintain legal status for NGOs and social groups by relaxing and eliminating some bureaucratic hurdles. The decree closed loopholes that Correa exploited to infiltrate and divide NGOs, including the elimination of a clause forcing groups to provide membership to any person, even against the will of the other members. The government also ended the requirement that a state entity collect information through the country’s diplomatic missions abroad on the “legality, solvency, and seriousness” of foreign NGOs before they are allowed to work in the country. Civil society representatives said that the new decree was a step in the right direction but lamented that it leaves in place some Correa-era policies, including the right of the government to dissolve organizations for ill defined reasons.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. On January 28, then president Correa signed the Human Mobility Law, which codifies the legal protections guaranteed to migrants in the constitution, advances the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, and establishes provisions such as equal treatment before the law for migrants, nonrefoulement, and noncriminalization of irregular migration. The law entered into force on February 6. Large numbers of refugee seekers and the country’s economic slowdown strained the government’s immigration and social services, and it worked closely with local, international, and civil society organizations to cover assistance gaps when necessary.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Refugees, especially women and children, experienced sexual and gender-based violence. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and local NGOs reported that refugee women and children remained susceptible to violence, human trafficking, labor exploitation in sex trafficking, and forced labor. They also reported the forced recruitment of adolescents into criminal activity, such as drug trafficking and robbery, on the northern border, particularly by organized criminal gangs that also operated in Colombia.

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

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

Following an earthquake on April 16 that struck the Pacific coast, the government declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Esmeraldas, Guayas, Los Rios, Manabi, Santo Domingo, and Santa Elena. According to the final status report from the Secretariat of Risk Management on May 18, the earthquake claimed 663 lives and injured 6,274 persons. More than 40,000 persons were internally displaced following the earthquake, and approximately 29,000 were sheltered in public spaces, including sports stadiums. According to the International Organization for Migration, as of October 21, at least 12,000 persons remained in official and informal shelters.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The law’s implementing regulation establishes a two-step procedure for asylum seekers to apply for refugee status with a right to appeal rejections in the second stage of the process. The government limits applications for asylum to persons who enter the country within the previous 90 days. While an improvement over the previous 15-day time limit, experts noted that the admissibility procedure and a lack of qualified staff still hampered the granting of protection to deserving cases and remained the main challenges to refugee protection in the country.

The Human Mobility Law establishes a maximum of 120 days for the application process. During this process an applicant receives a humanitarian visa until the refugee status is adjudicated and all appeals are exhausted. Once the government grants refugee status to an individual, that person becomes a temporary resident. An individual with refugee status may apply for a visa renovation within two years or apply for permanent residence. An international NGO reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was in the process of implementing the new legal provisions, including the issuance of humanitarian visas. An international organization stated that a significant number of Venezuelan migrants were arriving in the country. The government noted an increase in the entry and exit of Venezuelans across the border. On August 4, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Ecuador hosted 60,560 refugees, 98 percent of whom were Colombian and that an average of 418 persons entered the country each month seeking asylum.

Access to Basic Services: Forty percent of refugees and asylum seekers resided in isolated regions with limited basic services, primarily along the northern border, or in poor urban areas of major cities such as Quito and Guayaquil. According to UNHCR and NGOs providing social services to refugees, refugees continued to encounter discrimination in employment and housing. In September 2016 UNHCR and the Civil Registry signed an agreement that would enable recognized refugees to receive national identification cards that facilitate their access to education, employment, banking, and other public services. As of October, however, the Civil Registry had not started to issue national identification cards to recognized refugees. UNHCR reported that technical issues with the software and system to produce these cards led to delays.

Durable Solutions: The main durable solution was local integration, although there were many obstacles to achieve sustainable local integration. Discrimination; difficulty in obtaining adequate documentation; and limited access to formal employment, services, and housing with basic services affected refugees’ ability to assimilate into the local population. Few refugees were able to naturalize as citizens or gain permanent resident status, due to the expensive and lengthy legal process required.

Temporary Protection: While there is no legal provision for temporary protection, the government and NGOs provided humanitarian aid and additional services, such as legal, health, education, and psychological assistance, to refugees recorded as having crossed the border during the year. Most government assistance ended after denial of official refugee status.

As an associate member of Mercosur (Southern Common Market), Ecuador issues temporary visas to citizens of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay, and the government waived the visa application fee for Colombian and Paraguayan citizens. Foreigners in an irregular migratory status in the country were eligible to apply for the visa. While the Mercosur visa does not provide any safeguard against forced repatriation, UNHCR noted that many persons opted for the visa, since it was faster than the refugee process and carried less social stigma. Visa recipients are able to work and study for two years. The visa is renewable, but the requisites for such renewal were unclear to refugee advocates.

Eritrea

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

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

International nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported that the government committed arbitrary killings with impunity and subjected detainees to harsh and life-threatening prison conditions.

The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea presented her fourth report at the Human Rights Council on June 14. The report did not refer to arbitrary killings; however, a 2015 UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) report, which covered from 1991 through 2015, found that authorities had widely committed extrajudicial executions and arbitrary killings since independence. Despite requests to the government, the COI was denied access to visit the country. In June the special rapporteur reported that her requests to visit had also been denied. The COI’s findings–based on interviews conducted outside of the country–included extrajudicial killings, before the border war with Ethiopia, of veterans with disabilities and political opponents, including Muslim scholars and others; extrajudicial executions of political opponents, smugglers, and others for less serious or “speculative” crimes; mass killings of members of certain ethnic groups; and systematic execution by the armed forces of soldiers accused of cowardice or desertion during the border war.

The COI found the government, largely the armed forces and particularly the border surveillance division, had a shoot-to-kill policy to prevent its citizens from crossing the border into Ethiopia. According to the COI, this policy had been in effect for a “considerable period of time.” The COI’s June 2016 report stated it had “reliable evidence” that the policy still existed but was “not implemented as rigorously as it was in the past.” Doctors without Borders reported during the year it was common for Eritreans crossing the border to Ethiopia to be shot at or to witness others being targeted.

b. Disappearance

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 the disappearances, or investigate or punish those responsible for such disappearances. 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. Disappeared persons included those detained for political and religious beliefs, journalists, individuals suspected of evading national service and militia duties, and persons not known to have committed any offense.

There were no known developments regarding the situation or well-being of members of the G-15, a group of former ruling party members and officials who called for reforms, and journalists whom the government detained in 2001.

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

The law and the unimplemented constitution prohibit torture. Reports of torture, however, continued.

According to NGO and UN reports, security forces tortured and beat army deserters, national service evaders, persons attempting to flee the country without travel documents, and members of certain religious groups.

According to the COI’s June 2016 report, the government continued to engage in the widespread use of torture. The COI’s 2015 report found that officials used mistreatment such as extreme forms of restraint, rape, or beatings to cause severe physical and psychological pain during interrogations and to punish detainees and conscripts, and this mistreatment constituted torture. The COI found officials had either directly ordered torture or that it was inflicted with their consent and acquiescence. According to the COI, “The recurrence, coherence, and similarities of the many torture incidents… is a clear indication of the existence of a deliberate policy to inflict torture in a routine manner in the context of investigations and interrogations as well as during national service.” Authorities refused permission to the COI to visit the country. The COI received approximately 300 accounts of torture and mistreatment occurring between 1991 and 2015.

Lack of transparency and access to information made it impossible to determine the numbers or circumstances of deaths due to torture or poor detention conditions.

In 2015 the COI reported sexual violence against women and girls was widespread in military training camps, that the sexual violence by military personnel in camps and the army amounted to torture, and the forced domestic service of women and girls in training camps amounted to sexual slavery. In a 2015 report, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) expressed concern regarding reports of women in national service frequently subjected to sexual violence, including rape.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Detention conditions reportedly remained harsh, leading to serious health damage and in some instances death.

Physical Conditions: There were numerous official and unofficial detention centers, some located in military camps. The Ministry of Justice oversees prisons run by the police, and the Ministry of Defense oversees those run by the military. The law requires juveniles be held separately from adults. There is a juvenile detention center in Asmara, but authorities held some juveniles, particularly teenagers, with adults, due to overcrowding in that center. When police arrested mothers, their young children sometimes were held with them. Severe overcrowding was common.

Data on the prevalence of death in prison and detention facilities were not available, although persons reportedly died from harsh conditions, including lack of medical care and use of excessive force. The government did not take action against persons responsible for detainee deaths.

Tsehaye Tesfamariam, a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, reportedly died in November 2016 after his release from Me’eter camp in 2015 due to illness and lack of adequate medical care during detention. He had been detained since 2009.

Authorities held some detainees incommunicado in metal shipping containers and underground cells without toilets or beds. 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. The government did not provide adequate basic or emergency medical care in prisons or detention centers. Food, sanitation, ventilation, and lighting were inadequate, and potable water was sometimes available only for purchase.

Former detainees and other sources reported harsh detention conditions in police stations and in prisons for persons held for evading national service and militia duties.

Authorities placed political prisoners in solitary confinement more often than other detainees.

Administration: It was impossible to verify whether authorities released prisoners after they served their sentences. Recordkeeping procedures were not transparent, and the government did not routinely announce the release of prisoners. There were no prison ombudsmen to respond to complaints.

Prisoners and detainees did not have consistent access to visitors. The government did not inform foreign embassies when their respective citizens were arrested, nor did it grant consular access to detained dual-national citizens. Authorities generally did not permit family visits with persons detained, arrested, or convicted for reasons purportedly involving national security, but it permitted visits with those held for other reasons. Authorities did not permit religious observance for some prisoners and detainees, although at least one detention center had a facility where authorities permitted inmates to conduct religious observances. International religious organizations claimed authorities interrogated detainees regarding their religious affiliation and asked them to identify members of unauthorized religious groups. Prisoners and detainees could not submit complaints to judicial authorities, and authorities did not adequately investigate or monitor prison or detention center conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government did not permit monitoring by independent government or nongovernmental observers or permit international bodies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to monitor prison conditions during the year. The government also did not provide the ICRC with information about or access to Ethiopian and Djiboutian prisoners of war detained in the country.

The June 2016 COI report noted that international observers and representatives of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights were last able to visit the Sembel Prison and Rehabilitation Center in February 2016. Their report stated, however, the visit was short and did not allow for a full assessment.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law and unimplemented constitution prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but such acts remained widespread.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Police are responsible for maintaining internal security, and the armed forces are responsible for external security, but the government sometimes used the armed forces, the reserves, demobilized soldiers, or the civilian militia to meet domestic as well as external security requirements. Agents of the National Security Office, which reports to the Office of the President, are responsible for detaining persons suspected of threatening national security. The armed forces have authority to arrest and detain civilians. Police generally do not have a role in cases involving national security.

Impunity for abuse was the norm. There were no known internal or external mechanisms to investigate security force abuse or government actions to reform the security forces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law stipulates that, unless there is a crime in progress, police must conduct an investigation and obtain a warrant prior to making an arrest, but this seldom occurred. In cases involving national security, police may waive the process. Detainees must be brought before a judge within 48 hours of arrest and may not be held more than 28 days without being charged with a crime. Authorities generally detained suspects for longer periods without bringing them before a judge, charging them with a crime, or telling them the reason for detention. Authorities sometimes arbitrarily changed charges during detention. The government promoted the assumption that they detained persons held without charge due to national security concerns.

The law provides for a bail system, but bail was arbitrarily denied, bail amounts were capriciously set or not set, and release on bail sometimes involved paying bribes.

Detainees held on national security grounds did not have access to counsel. Other detainees, including indigent persons, often did not have such access either. Incommunicado detention was widespread. Detainees did not have routine access to visitors.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrest occurred frequently. Security force personnel detained individuals for reasons that included suspicion of intent to evade national and militia service, criticizing the government, attempting to leave the country, and unspecified national security threats. Authorities also continued to arrest members of unregistered Christian groups, primarily for their refusal to perform national service.

Authorities sometimes arrested persons whose papers were not in order and detained them until they were able to provide evidence of their militia status or demobilization from national service. The government contacted places of employment and used informers to attempt to identify those unwilling to participate in the militia.

There were occasional reports, particularly from rural areas, that security forces detained and interrogated the parents, spouses, or siblings of individuals who evaded national service or fled the country.

Persons arrested in previous years for refusing to bear arms on grounds of conscience and for participating in unregistered religious groups remained in detention.

Pretrial Detention: The government held numerous detainees without charge or due process. Detainees were not always told the reason for their arrest. Authorities brought few, if any, persons detained purportedly on national security grounds to trial. The percentage of the prison and detention center population in pretrial detention was not available.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees were not able to challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law and unimplemented constitution provide for an independent judiciary, but executive control of the judiciary continued, and the judiciary was neither independent nor impartial. Judicial corruption remained a problem. 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.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The unimplemented constitution provides for the right to a fair, timely, and public trial, with an exception that allows the court to exclude the press and public for reasons relating to morals or national security. In practice, however, the right to such a trial was generally not respected.

The unimplemented constitution provides for the presumption of innocence and for defendants to be informed promptly and in detail of charges in a language they understand. The law does not specifically address the provision of adequate time or facilities to prepare one’s defense, the right of defendants to confront witnesses, or the provision of free interpretation from the moment charged through all appeals, although courts generally accorded these rights to defendants in cases courts did not deem related to national security. There is no right for defendants to refuse to testify. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with attorneys or to present their own evidence if they do not wish an attorney. Prosecution and defense lawyers are court appointed and have the right to present evidence and witnesses. Defendants who are unable to pay for an attorney are not provided one at public expense.

Courts of first instance are at the regional level. Each party to a case has the right to one appeal. Decisions rendered by any regional court may be appealed to the next appellate court. Should the appellate court reverse a decision of the lower court, the party whose petition was not sustained may appeal to the five-judge upper appellate court. If the lower appellate court upholds the decision of a regional court, there is no second appeal.

Special courts have jurisdiction over both corruption and national security cases. Judges serve as prosecutors and may request that individuals involved in cases testify. Special court judges are predominantly military officials. The special courts report to the Ministry of Defense and the Office of the President. Trials in special courts are not open to the public, and the court’s decisions are final, without appeal.

Community courts headed by elected officials were widely used in rural areas and generally followed traditional and customary law rather than formal law. There are approximately 320 community courts. Local administrators in rural areas encouraged citizens to reconcile outside the court system for less serious cases. Trials in community courts were open to the public and heard by a panel of judges. Judges are elected by the community.

In 2015 the government published revised penal, criminal procedure, civil, and civil procedure codes. The codes had yet to be put into full effect by year’s end. Some judges applied the new codes while others did not.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The government continued to hold an unknown number of detainees without charge or trial, including politicians, journalists, members of registered and unregistered religious groups, and persons suspected of not completing national service or evading militia practice (see also section 1.b., Disappearance). Like other prisoners, the government did not permit any access to political detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There are no civil judicial procedures for individuals claiming human rights violations by the government.

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

The law and the unimplemented constitution prohibit arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, but the government did not respect these rights.

Many citizens believed the government monitored cell phones in particular since authorities required permits to use subscriber identity module (SIM) cards. To obtain a SIM card, citizens must present proof of completion of or exemption from national service, a PFDJ membership card, and a letter of recommendation from their regional office to the Telecommunications Ministry. Diplomats must provide a residence permit, a house lease agreement, a work permit, a supporting letter from their embassy, two photographs, a diplomatic identification card, and two copies of their passport and visa. Other foreign citizens reported the need for a blood test and x-ray to screen for hepatitis C and tuberculosis. It was not clear whether the presence of those conditions would result in refusal of a SIM card.

The government used an extensive informer system to gather information.

Without notice, authorities reportedly entered homes, threatened family members, and sometimes took fathers away without explanation. Reports, particularly from rural areas, stated that security forces detained and interrogated the parents, spouses, or siblings of individuals who evaded national service or fled the country. Militia groups reportedly checked homes or whole neighborhoods to confirm attendance at national service projects.

Some girls, women, and men married and had children to avoid national service.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Estonia

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The law prohibits such practices, but there were reports that police 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 declined from previous years. In 2016, authorities filed three cases against police officers for excessive use of force. During the first seven months of the year, there was one court case against a former police officer. A police officer threatened and physically assaulted one young man and used excessive force against another. On June 30, the Parnu County Court found a police officer guilty of using excessive force in 2016, sentencing the officer conditionally to 18 months in prison with two years’ probation and requiring him to complete a social program.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: In inspecting several institutions during the year, the legal chancellor found a number of deficiencies in prison and detention center conditions, particularly in the latter where officials held detainees for short periods. Some facilities were inadequate in terms of the availability of medical care and fire safety. The continuing use of the worn, outdated Soviet-era prison in Tallinn for a large number of prisoners remained a problem. Recreational facilities in the prison were few and in poor condition. The legal chancellor reported inmates did not have sufficient access to legal documentation in some prisons and detention centers and that there were shortcomings in the application of restraints, including handcuffs, as well as excessive video surveillance and inadequate documentation of the medical condition of detainees.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers, including human rights groups, the media, and international bodies.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Police and Border Guard Board and the Internal Security Service maintain internal security. The army is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. The Police and Border Guard Board and the Internal Security Service report to the Ministry of the Interior. The Estonian Defense Forces report to the Ministry of Defense. The Prosecutor’s Office leads investigations and prosecutes cases in court. The Police and Border Guard Board and the Internal Security Service investigate civilian cases, while the military police investigate defense force cases. The government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Police and Border Guard Board, the Internal Security Service, and the army, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate abuse. There were no reports of impunity during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Apart from those arrested during the commission of a crime, the law requires that in making arrests, authorities must possess warrants issued by a court based on evidence and must inform detainees promptly of the grounds for their arrest. There is a functioning bail system and other alternatives for provisional release pending trial. Authorities may hold individuals for 48 hours without charge; further detention requires a court order. Police generally complied with these requirements. Criminal procedure rules provide for a maximum detention of two months during preliminary investigations in cases where the accused is a minor and four months in cases of second-degree (less serious) crimes. Detainees are entitled to immediate access to legal counsel, and the government pays for legal counsel for indigent persons. There were no reports that authorities held individuals incommunicado or under house arrest.

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence, prompt and detailed notification of the charges (with free interpretation if necessary), a fair and public trial without undue delay, presence at their trial, communication with an attorney of choice, adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, as well as the right to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and to present one’s own witnesses and evidence. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right to appeal. A single judge, a judge together with public assessors, or a committee of judges may hear cases. In criminal proceedings, an attorney is available to all defendants at public expense, although individuals often preferred to hire their own attorneys. In civil proceedings the government provides an attorney for indigents. Authorities generally respected these rights and extended them to all residents regardless of citizenship.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations in domestic courts. They may appeal unfavorable decisions to the European Court for Human Rights after exhausting all domestic remedies.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government has laws and mechanisms in place for property restitution, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups reported no issues with the government’s resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Finland

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

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

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

On August 18, police shot, wounded, and arrested a 22-year-old Moroccan asylum seeker, Abderrahman Bouanane, after he killed two women and wounded eight other persons in a terrorist attack in Turku.

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: There were some instances of overcrowding, violations of prisoners’ rights, and substandard sanitation.

The parliamentary ombudsman’s annual report (last published in 2016) criticized the law allowing police to detain prisoners in temporary holding facilities and stated police employed this option too frequently.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights observers, including regularly scheduled visits by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), most recently in June 2016.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police maintain internal security. Both Finnish Customs and the Border Guard have law enforcement responsibilities related to their fields of responsibility. The Border Guard has additional law enforcement powers to maintain public order when it operates in joint patrols and under police command. The defense forces are responsible for safeguarding the country’s territorial integrity and providing military training. The defense forces also have some domestic security responsibilities, such as assisting the national police in maintaining law and order in crises, participating in search and rescue operations, and providing aid in the event of a natural disaster or catastrophe. The national police and Border Guard report to the Ministry of the Interior; the Ministry of Defense oversees the defense forces.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police, the defense forces, the Border Guard, and Finnish Customs. The government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires police to have a warrant issued by a prosecutor to make an arrest. Police must obtain a warrant within three days if an individual is arrested while committing a crime. Arrested persons must receive a court hearing within three days of arrest, and police must promptly inform detainees of the charges against them. There is no system of bail, but most defendants awaiting trial are eligible for conditional release on personal recognizance. The law provides for a detainee’s prompt access to a lawyer. Persons detained for “minor” criminal offenses, however, do not have a right to an attorney from the outset of detention or prior to interrogation. The government must provide lawyers for the indigent. Authorities respected most of these rights.

The most recent CPT report, released in 2015, stated that delays in notification of custody remained widespread, especially for apprehended foreign nationals who were not residents of the country. Persons who did not speak Finnish appeared to be at a particular disadvantage.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution and law allow anyone who is deprived of liberty by arrest or detention to challenge in court the lawfulness of his/her detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Authorities generally informed detainees promptly and in detail of the charges against them. Trials are fair and public, and take place without undue delay. Defendants have a right to be present at their trial and to consult an attorney of their choice in a timely manner before trial. The government provides attorneys at public expense if defendants face serious criminal charges that can result in imprisonment or significant fines. Authorities give defendants adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. Defendants are provided free interpretation as necessary from the moment an individual is charged through all appeals. They can confront and question witnesses for the prosecution and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right of appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies through domestic courts for human rights violations. Persons may appeal court decisions involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights after they exhaust all avenues of appeal in national courts.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government reports Finland did not confiscate property belonging to Jews during the Holocaust-era, that Holocaust-era restitution has not been an issue, and that no litigation or restitution claims were pending before authorities regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration, to which the government is signatory.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Swaziland

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

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

During the year there were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Police investigated unlawful killings and referred cases to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions as appropriate, but there was no evidence suggesting the state prosecuted perpetrators.

For example, on May 17, the Times of Swaziland reported that government game rangers shot and killed a suspected poacher. According to an eyewitness account, the suspect was unarmed, mentally challenged, and raising his hands in the air when rangers shot and killed him. Despite protests and demands from the public that the rangers be held accountable, there was no indication that authorities took legal or disciplinary measures against them by year’s end.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution prohibits such practices. Security officials who engage in such practices may be punished, and some officers were brought to court on charges, but no convictions or administrative punishments were reported during the year. Police stated that they investigated allegations of torture cited by Amnesty International, but their findings were not made public.

According to the Royal Swaziland Police Service (RSPS), police investigated complaints of police abuse and referred cases to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions as appropriate. At year’s end the RSPS reported several cases of police abuse under investigation but provided no details on the nature of the investigations. There was one reported case of prosecution during the year. A police officer who shot and killed a jaywalker was convicted of murder, sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment, and serving the sentence at year’s end.

There were credible reports of use of excessive force by community police and security forces during the year. For example, on February 18, police shot and injured Pastor Njabulo Madonsela after he failed to heed police orders to stop. Madonsela was suspected of dealing in marijuana; however, none was found in his car. Police officers involved in the shooting were charged with using excessive force. Prosecution of the case was pending at year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh due to overcrowding, food shortages, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

Physical Conditions: Statistics released by His Majesty’s Correctional Services (HMCS) in June indicated there were 3,380 sentenced inmates, which exceeded the prison system’s holding capacity by 283 inmates. A majority of offenders were young persons. Women and men were detained together at police stations after arrest due to space constraints.

Some prisoners died while incarcerated, both during police investigation and during pretrial detention.

Although authorities provided potable water and food to pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners, sanitation, lighting and medical care were inadequate. Pretrial detainees depended on family members or friends to provide food. Facilities were of mixed quality; some were old and dilapidated, others such as the women’s prison were newer and well maintained.

The Swazi Observer newspaper and international nongovernmental organization (NGO) Save the Children reported juvenile prisoners faced inhuman and degrading treatment at the juvenile centers, including physical assault and strip searches of female juvenile prisoners. For example, in July and August the Swazi Observer and AllAfrica Global Media website reported that during a search for contraband prison guards wearing surgical gloves ordered a dormitory of inmates to strip naked and face the wall. Wearing surgical gloves, they hit inmates on their buttocks with fists and, according to one inmate, “squeezed their (genitals) like one does when milking a cow.”

Administration: There was a prisoner complaint system. Authorities claimed to have investigated allegations of inhuman conditions and documented results of such investigations, but results were not made public. Authorities allowed prisoner access to visitors but did not allow religious observance to prisoners of faiths other than Christianity.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted very limited monitoring of prison conditions. Independent monitoring groups found it difficult to access prison facilities during the year, and none issued public reports. The government routinely denied prison access to local human rights organizations. Authorities permitted international officials and NGOs working on programs to fight HIV to enter prisons and detention centers, although sometimes with difficulty.

Authorities generally did not allow journalists or other independent monitors inside prisons without permission from the commissioner of correctional services. NGOs also were required to obtain permission from the commissioner to visit prisons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The king is the commander in chief of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force (USDF), holds the position of minister of defense, and is the commander of the RSPS and the HMCS. He presides over a civilian principal secretary of defense and a commanding general. Approximately 35 percent of the government workforce was assigned to security-related functions.

Civilian authorities failed at times to maintain effective control over security forces. The RSPS is responsible for maintaining internal security as well as migration and border crossing enforcement. The USDF is responsible for external security but also has domestic security responsibilities, including protecting members of the royal family. The prime minister oversees the RSPS, and the principal secretary of defense and the army commander are responsible for day-to-day USDF oversight. The HMCS is responsible for the protection, incarceration, and rehabilitation of convicted persons and keeping order within HMCS institutions. HMCS personnel, however, routinely worked alongside police during protests and demonstrations. While the conduct of the RSPS, USDF, and HMCS was generally professional, members of all three forces were susceptible to political pressure and corruption.

Traditional chiefs supervised volunteer rural “community police,” who have the authority to arrest suspects concerning minor offenses for trial by an inner council within the chiefdom. For serious offenses suspects were handed over to the RSPS for further investigations.

Impunity was a problem. Although there were mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, there were few prosecutions or disciplinary actions taken against security officers accused of abuses. The internal RSPS complaints and discipline unit investigated reports of police abuse and corruption but did not release its findings to the public. In most cases the RSPS transferred police officers found responsible for violations to other offices or departments within the police system. Police academy training for recruits included human rights components in line with regional standards. Some officers also attended additional training programs that included a human rights component.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires warrants for arrests, except when police observe a crime being committed, believe a person is about to commit a crime, or conclude evidence would be lost if arrest is delayed. The law requires authorities to charge detainees with the violation of a statute within a reasonable time, usually within 48 hours of arrest or, in remote areas, as soon as a judicial officer is present to assume responsibility. Authorities did not always charge detainees according to these norms. There is a bail system, and suspects may request bail at their first appearance in court, except in serious cases such as those involving murder or rape. In politically motivated prosecutions, bail was often set at inordinately high levels. In general detainees could consult with lawyers of their choice, to whom they were generally allowed prompt access. Lawyers may be provided to indigent defendants at public expense in capital cases or if conviction of a crime is punishable by life imprisonment. There were reports of detainees held incommunicado.

Arbitrary Arrest: Unlike in prior years, there were no reports of arbitrary arrest. Instances of the detention of protesting students were of short duration.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was common. Judicial inefficiency and staff shortages contributed to the problem, as did the police practice of prolonging detention to collect evidence and prevent detainees from influencing witnesses if released. There were instances in which the length of detention equaled or exceeded the sentence for the alleged crime.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Individuals who are arrested or detained are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis of their detention and obtain release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the king’s power to appoint all members of the judiciary negates judicial independence. The judiciary was generally impartial in nonpolitical criminal and civil cases not involving the royal family or government officials. In cases involving government policy, however, the High Court sometimes exercised independence. In September 2016 for example, High Court judges found several sections of Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) and the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSAA) unconstitutional, a ruling contrary to the government’s position. Although the government appealed this ruling, on August 25, large parts of the case were made moot by the government’s acceptance of legislative amendments to the STA. The amendments brought the language in the act defining a terrorist incident into line with international standards.

Judicial powers are based on two systems: Roman-Dutch law and a system of traditional courts that follows traditional law and custom. Neither the Supreme Court nor the High Court, which interprets the constitution, has jurisdiction in matters concerning the Offices of the King or Queen Mother, the regency, chieftaincies, the Swazi National Council (the king’s advisory body), or the traditional regiments system. Unwritten traditional law and custom govern all of these institutions. Courts were unwilling to recognize many of the fundamental rights provided for in the constitution and instead relied on antiquated civil laws, which often reduce or disregard these rights. The king appoints Supreme Court justices on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission, which is chaired by the chief justice. Supreme Court justices must be Swazi citizens, and are subject to mandatory retirement at age 75. The Supreme Court hears cases throughout the year.

Most citizens who encountered the legal system did so through the 13 traditional courts. Each court has a presiding judicial officer called a president appointed by the king. These courts adjudicate minor offenses and violations of traditional law and custom. By law traditional courts are not to try cases involving non-Swazis but in fact did so. Authorities generally respected traditional court rulings.

The director of public prosecutions has the legal authority to determine which court should hear a case. The director delegated this responsibility to public prosecutors. Rather than refer a case to the director, police often referred cases not properly investigated to one of the traditional courts because the standard of evidence required for conviction was not as high as in the civil judicial system. Persons convicted in the traditional courts may appeal to the High Court. Prolonged delays during trials in the magistrate courts and High Court were common.

Military courts are not allowed to try civilians and do not provide the same rights as civil criminal courts. For example, military courts may use confessions obtained under duress as evidence and may convict defendants based on hearsay.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. A defendant enjoys the right to be informed of charges promptly, in detail, and with free interpretation if necessary. The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial without undue delay, except when exclusion of the public is deemed necessary in the “interests of defense, public safety, public order, justice, public morality, the welfare of persons under age 18, or the protection of the private lives of the persons concerned in the proceedings.” Aside from these exceptions, the judiciary generally enforced this right. Court-appointed counsel is provided to indigent defendants at government expense with free assistance of an interpreter for any defendant who cannot understand or speak English or Siswati in capital cases or if the crime is punishable by life imprisonment. Defendants and their attorneys have access to relevant government-held evidence, generally obtained during pretrial consultations from the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutors have discretion to withhold information they deem privileged or not relevant to the case. Defense lawyers reported not having access to state evidence in politically sensitive cases. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants may question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants and prosecutors have the right of appeal up to the Supreme Court. The law generally extends the foregoing rights to all citizens.

The traditional courts operate under traditional authorities, including local chiefs. In general chiefs preside over traditional courts as court presidents. Traditional courts hear both civil and minor criminal matters. Although by law the courts may not impose fines above 240 emalangeni ($18) and prison sentences above 12 months, there were reported cases in which traditional courts imposed sentences exceeding these limits.

Traditional courts are empowered to administer customary law only “insofar as it is not repugnant to natural justice or morality” or inconsistent with the provisions of any civil law in force, but some traditional laws and practices violate civil laws, particularly those involving women’s and children’s rights. Defendants in traditional courts are not permitted formal legal counsel but may speak on their own behalf, call witnesses, and be assisted by informal advisors. Traditional law and custom provide for an appeals process, but the process is long and cumbersome. Judicial commissioners within the traditional legal system may adjudicate appeals or refer appeals to a court within the civil judicial system on their own volition or if desired by plaintiffs or defendants.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees during the year. In prior years politically motivated cases often involved lengthy pretrial detention and excessively high bail with stringent conditions. It was common practice in these cases to release prisoners on bail without setting a trial date, which involved travel restrictions and a time-consuming and sometimes costly requirement to report frequently at police stations. In some cases the government did not file charges or waited many years to do so.

For example, in 2014 the government charged Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer, and Bheki Makhubu, editor of the only independent magazine in the country, The Nation, with contempt of court for criticizing the judiciary. After a lengthy and irregular trial, they were convicted and sentenced to serve two years in prison. Maseko appealed the sentence and conviction. In 2015 the Supreme Court ruled that Makhubu and Maseko were wrongfully convicted, and both were acquitted and released. Maseko and Makhubu filed a suit against the government for wrongful arrest that remained pending at year’s end.

Maseko was also charged with sedition stemming from statements criticizing the country’s governance, and Makhubu was charged with “scandalizing the court” for an article he wrote. Maseko’s sedition trial remained suspended at the request of the crown to await resolution of a challenge to the constitutionality of the STA and the SSAA upon which the charges were based. On August 25, the adoption of amendments bringing the STA into line with international standards made pursuit of this case unlikely (see section 1.e.).

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The judiciary tries civil as well as criminal cases, including suits for damages against government agents. Administrative remedies are available under civil service rules and regulations. The government respected domestic court decisions. Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations, including appeal to international courts or bodies.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

In February 2016 the RSPS evicted 22 farmers and their families from their homes. The eviction fulfilled a 2014 court order for the farmers to vacate property belonging to the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation. The farmers had cultivated sugarcane on the land for decades under a royal concession granted by former king Sobhuza II. This complex case culminated with the 2014 High Court order requiring the farmers to vacate the land. During the February eviction, the deputy sheriff, escorted by RSPS officers, ordered the farmers to return the keys to the staff compounds and forbade them from entering the premises. No restitution or compensation was provided to the farmers.

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

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 government did not always respect these prohibitions and broadly construed exceptions to the law. 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.

During the year police conducted random checks for irregular immigrants, weapons, stolen vehicles, and evidence of other criminal activities through roadblocks and searches in homes. Police entered homes and businesses and conducted searches without judicial authorization. They conducted physical surveillance of members of labor unions, political groups, religious groups, and others. Members of civil society and prodemocracy groups reported the government monitored email, Facebook, and internet chat rooms, and police monitored certain individuals’ telephones. Individuals who criticized the monarchy risked exclusion from the patronage system of the traditional regiments (chiefdom-based groupings of men dedicated to serving the king) that distributed scholarships, land, and other benefits. Both undercover and uniformed police appeared at labor union, civil society, arts, and business functions.

For example, on September 1, officers from Piggs Peak Police Station entered the home of another police officer suspected of having illicit drugs and cash without a search warrant. The officer whose house was searched stated he sustained minor injuries in a scuffle with the officers who illegally entered his house.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

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

The Bahamas

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

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

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The Ministry of National Security reported four fatalities in police operations during the year; in each case the government reported the suspect was armed. Six police shootings from 2015 remained pending before the Coroner’s Court.

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Foreign male prisoners frequently reported threats and targeting by prison guards at the Bahamas Department of Corrections (BDOC). For example, a Bahamian-U.S. dual citizen reported in June that BDOC officials placed a bag over his head and beat him with a golf club.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions failed to meet international standards in some areas, and conditions at the government’s only prison remained harsh due to overcrowding, poor nutrition, and inadequate sanitation.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate access to medical care and drinking water remained problems in the men’s maximum-security block. In October the Ministry of National Security reported the block held 975 inmates in spaces designed to hold approximately 375 inmates when constructed in 1953. The minister of national security reported that the BDOC facility, originally built to hold 1,000 prisoners, held 1,676 inmates as of October. The ministry reported one prisoner death; the matter was before the Coroner’s Court of Inquiry.

Inmates reported receiving only two meals per day, and often only one, with a meal sometimes consisting only of bread and tea. Fresh fruit and vegetables were rare to nonexistent. Prisoners also reported infrequent access to drinking water and inability to save potable water due to lack of storage containers for the prisoners. A few cells also lacked running water, and in those cells, inmates removed human waste by bucket. Sanitation was a general problem, with cells infested with rats, maggots, and insects. A University of The Bahamas study reported that in the maximum-security block, which housed 58 percent of the prison population, inmates removed waste matter using buckets.

Prison inmates complained about the lack of a full-time dentist and a failure to appoint a staff psychiatrist. Prisoner access to a primary care physician was sporadic.

Administration: An independent authority does not exist to investigate credible allegations of inhuman conditions. Migrant detainees did not have access to an ombudsman or other means of submitting uncensored complaints, except through their national embassy or consulate.

Independent Monitoring: Human rights organizations complained that the government did not consistently grant requests by independent human rights observers for access to the BDOC facility, the Carmichael Road Detention Center (CRDC), and the two juvenile centers. The government maintained additional bureaucratic procedures for some civil society organizations to gain access to the detention center, making it difficult to visit detainees on a regular basis.

Improvements: The BDOC acquired 20 industrial washers during the year for cleaning prisoner bedding and clothing, and the Ministry of National Security reported instituting a standardized cleaning program to improve hygiene conditions in the prison.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions, with the exception of immigration raids. The constitution provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, although this process sometimes took several years.

Numerous Haitian migrants reported being detained by immigration officials and solicited for bribes of 1,000-3,000 Bahamian dollars (B$) ($1,000-$3,000).

Government officials sometimes held migrant detainees who presented a security risk at the BDOC facility; migrants previously remained in custody without charges for up to three years.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) maintains internal security. The small Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) is primarily responsible for external security but also provides security at the CRDC and performs some domestic security functions, such as guarding foreign embassies. The Ministry of National Security oversees both the RBPF and RBDF. The RBDF augments the RBPF in administrative and support roles.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the RBPF, RBDF, and Department of Immigration. Authorities automatically placed under investigation police officers involved in shooting or killing a suspect. Police investigated all cases of police shootings and deaths in police custody and referred them to a coroner’s court for further evaluation. The Police Complaints and Corruption Branch, which reports directly to the deputy commissioner, is responsible for investigating allegations of police brutality or other abuse.

In addition to the Complaints and Corruption Branch, the independent Police Complaints Inspectorate Office typically investigated complaints against police, but it had not met as of September 4.

From January to October, 101 complaints were lodged with the Complaints and Corruption Branch, with assault, unethical behavior, missing property, damage, unlawful arrest, assault with a deadly weapon, extortion, neglect of duty, and stealing the most common, in descending order. The RBPF received and resolved these complaints through its Complaints and Corruptions Branch. The RBPF took action against police misconduct, consistently firing officers for criminal behavior.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Authorities generally conducted arrests openly and, when required, obtained judicially issued warrants. Serious cases, including suspected narcotics or firearms offenses, do not require warrants where probable cause exists. The law provides that authorities must charge a suspect within 48 hours of arrest. Arrested persons must appear before a magistrate within 48 hours (or by the next business day for cases arising on weekends and holidays) to hear the charges against them, although some persons on remand claimed they were not brought before a magistrate within the 48-hour period. Police may apply for a 48-hour extension upon simple request to the court and for longer extensions with sufficient showing of need. The government generally respected the right to a judicial determination of the legality of arrests. The constitution provides the right for those arrested or detained to retain an attorney at their own expense; volunteer legal aides were sometimes available. Minors under age 18 receive legal assistance only when charged under offenses before the upper courts; otherwise, there is no official representation of minors before the courts.

A functioning bail system exists. Individuals who could not post bail were held on remand until they faced trial. Judges sometimes authorized cash bail for foreigners arrested on minor charges; however, foreign suspects generally preferred to plead guilty and pay a fine.

Pretrial Detention: Attorneys and other prisoner advocates continued to complain of excessive pretrial detention due to the failure of the criminal justice system to try even the most serious cases in a timely manner. The constitution provides that authorities may hold suspects in pretrial detention for a “reasonable period of time,” which is interpreted as two years. Authorities used an electronic ankle-bracelet surveillance system in which they released selected suspects awaiting trial with an ankle bracelet on the understanding that the person would adhere to strict and person-specific guidelines defining allowable movement within the country.

Authorities detained irregular immigrants, primarily Haitians, while arranging for them to leave the country or until they obtained legal status. The average length of detention varied significantly by nationality, willingness of governments to accept their nationals back in a timely manner, and availability of funds to pay for repatriation. Authorities usually repatriated Haitians within one to two weeks. In a 2014 agreement between the governments of the Bahamas and Haiti, the government of Haiti agreed to accept the return of its nationals without undue delay, and both governments agreed that Haitian migrants found on vessels illegally in Bahamian territorial waters would be subject to immediate repatriation. In return the Bahamian government agreed to continue reviewing the status of Haitian nationals with no legal status and without criminal records who either had arrived in the Bahamas before January 1985 or had resided continuously in the Bahamas since that time. Authorities held irregular immigrants convicted of crimes other than immigration violations at the BDOC facility where, after serving their sentences, they often remained for weeks or months pending deportation.

Human rights groups expressed concern that unaccompanied minors were not held in a safe house but were detained in the CRDC with adults.

The government continued to enforce the 2014 immigration policy that clarified requirements for non-Bahamian citizens to carry the passport of their nationality and proof of legal status in the country. Some international organizations alleged that enforcement focused primarily on individuals of Haitian origin, that rights of children were not respected, and that expedited deportations did not allow time for due process. There were also widespread, credible reports that immigration officials physically abused persons who were being detained and that officials solicited and accepted bribes to prevent detention or secure release.

Activists for the Haitian community acknowledged that alleged victims filed few formal complaints with government authorities, which they attributed to a widespread perception of impunity for police and immigration authorities and fear of reprisal among minority communities. The government denied these allegations and publicly committed to carry out immigration operations with due respect for internationally accepted human rights standards, including the involvement of the Ministry of Social Services, where warranted, in cases involving children, scaled enforcement based on the ability to provide adequate housing for detainees, and full investigations of any allegations of abuse.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, sitting judges are not granted tenure, and some law professionals asserted that judges were incapable of rendering completely independent decisions due to lack of job security. Procedural shortcomings and trial delays were problems. The courts were unable to keep pace with the rise in criminal cases, and there was a growing backlog.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, to a fair and free public trial without undue delay, to be present at their trial, to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to receive free assistance of an interpreter, and to present their own witnesses and evidence. Although defendants generally have the right to confront adverse witnesses, in some cases the law allows witnesses to testify anonymously against accused perpetrators in order to protect themselves from intimidation or retribution. Authorities frequently dismissed serious charges because witnesses either refused to testify or could not be located. Defendants also have a right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt and to appeal.

Defendants may hire an attorney of their choice. The government provided legal representation only to destitute suspects charged with capital crimes, leaving large numbers of defendants without adequate legal representation. Lack of representation contributed to excessive pretrial detention, as some accused lacked the means to pursue their cases toward trial.

Numerous juvenile offenders appear in court with an individual who is court-appointed to protect the juvenile’s interests (guardian ad litem). A conflict arises when the magistrate requests “information” about a child’s background and requests that the same social worker prepare a probation report. The Department of Social Services prepares the report, which includes a recommendation on the eventual sentence for the child. In essence the government-assigned social worker tasked with safeguarding the welfare of the child is the same individual tasked with writing the report to the judge recommending the appropriate punishment for the child.

A significant backlog of cases awaiting trial remained a problem. Delays reportedly lasts five years or more, although the government increased the number of criminal courts and continued working to clear the backlog. Once cases went to trial, they were often further delayed due to poor case and court management, such as inaccurate handling or presentation of evidence and inaccurate scheduling of witnesses, jury members, and accused criminals for testimony.

Local legal professionals also attributed delays to a variety of longstanding systemic problems, such as slow and limited police investigations, limited forensic capacity, lengthy legal procedures, and staff shortages in the Prosecutor’s Office and the courts.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, and there is access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions; however, in migrant villages witnesses reported immigration officers’ habitual warrantless entry of homes without probable cause. Many Haitians claimed that immigration officers targeted their dwellings once their undocumented status was discovered, demanding multiple bribes.

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, a relatively effective–albeit extremely backlogged–judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression. Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without significant restriction.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law criminalizes both negligent and intentional libel, with a penalty of six months’ imprisonment for the former and two years for the latter. In contrast with 2016, the government did not make use of criminal libel laws during the year.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authorization. The internet was widely available on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands, and the International Telecommunication Union estimated that 80 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events. The Plays and Films Control Board rated and censored plays and films for public viewing.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Migrants credibly accused police and immigration officers of excessive force and warrantless searches, as well as frequent solicitations of bribes by immigration officials. Widespread bias against migrants, particularly those of Haitian descent, continued.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: The government had an agreement with the government of Cuba to expedite removal of detainees. The announced intent of the agreement was to reduce the amount of time Cuban migrants spent in detention; however, concerns persisted that it also allowed for information sharing that heightened the risk of persecution of detainees and their families.

Access to Asylum: According to the government, trained individuals screened applicants for asylum and referred them to the Immigration Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration for further review. Government procedure requires that the ministry forward approved applications to the cabinet for a final decision on granting or denying asylum. Throughout the year the government worked to develop institutionalized asylum procedures to enhance the processing of asylum seekers and refugees. Authorities did not systematically involve UNHCR in asylum proceedings, but they sought advice on specific cases during the year and granted UNHCR greatly improved access to interview detained asylum seekers awaiting deportation.

STATELESS PERSONS

The government did not effectively implement laws and policies to provide certain habitual residents the opportunity to gain nationality in a timely manner and on a nondiscriminatory basis. Children born in the country to non-Bahamian parents, to an unwed Bahamian father and a non-Bahamian mother, or outside the country to a Bahamian mother and a non-Bahamian father do not acquire citizenship at birth.

Bahamian-born persons of foreign heritage must apply for citizenship during a 12-month window following their 18th birthday, sometimes waiting many years for a government response. The narrow window for application, difficult documentary requirements, and long waiting times left multiple generations without a confirmed nationality. These restrictions primarily affected those of Haitian descent, due to their preponderance among the irregular migrant population.

There were no reliable estimates of the number of persons without a confirmed nationality. The government asserted that a number of “stateless” individuals had a legitimate claim to Haitian citizenship but refused to pursue it due to fear of deportation or loss of future claim to Bahamian citizenship. Such persons often faced waiting periods of several years for the government to decide on their nationality applications and, as a result, lacked proper documentation to secure employment, housing, access to health services, and other public facilities.

Individuals born in the country to non-Bahamian parents were eligible to apply for “Belonger” status that entitled them to work and to have access to public high school-level education and a fee-for-service health-care insurance program. Belonger permits were readily available. Authorities allowed individuals born in the country to non-Bahamian parents to pay the tuition rate for Bahamian students when enrolled in college and while waiting for their request for citizenship to be processed. The lack of a passport prohibits students from accessing higher education outside the country, thereby limiting their education and economic opportunities. In October the government repealed its policy of barring children without legal status from government schools. Community activists alleged that some schools continued to discriminate, claiming to be full so as not to admit children of Haitian descent.