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Guatemala

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

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

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. As of August 31, the National Civil Police (PNC) and its Office of Professional Responsibility (ORP), the mechanism for investigating security force abuses, reported no complaints of homicide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

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

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

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

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

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

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

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

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

Iran

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

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

The government and its agents reportedly committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, most commonly by execution after arrest and trial without due process, or for crimes that did not meet the international threshold of “most serious crimes.” As noted by the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Asma Jahangir, Revolutionary Courts continued to issue the vast majority of death sentences in the country, and trials lacked due process. Legal representation was denied during the investigation phase, and in most cases no evidence other than confessions, often reportedly extracted through torture, was considered.

The government made few attempts to investigate allegations of deaths that occurred after or during torture or other physical abuse or after denying detainees medical treatment. The death penalty may also be imposed on appeal, which deterred appeals in criminal cases.

In the context of the severe fair trial limitations mentioned above, there were at least 437 reported executions as of October, according to NGO Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC). The government officially announced 70 executions through October but did not release further information on many of those executions, such as the execution dates, names of those executed, or crimes for which they were executed.

Many executions continued to be carried out in public. According to reports by the IHRDC, there were at least 26 public executions during the year at Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj (also known as Gohardasht Prison). Reports indicated that these public executions were generally attended by hundreds of individuals, including children. The government also continued regularly to carry out mass executions. According to the NGO Iran Human Rights, at least 12 prisoners were hanged on February 15 at Rajai Shahr Prison.

The law provides for the death penalty in cases of conviction for murder, “attempts against the security of the state,” “outrage against high-ranking officials,” “moharebeh” (which has a variety of broad interpretations, including “waging war against God”), “fisad fil-arz” (corruption on earth, including apostasy or heresy), rape, adultery, drug possession and trafficking, recidivist alcohol use, consensual same-sex sexual conduct, and “insults against the memory of Imam Khomeini and against the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic.”

Prosecutors frequently used moharebeh as a criminal charge against political dissidents and journalists, accusing them of “struggling against the precepts of Islam” and against the state that upholds those precepts. Authorities have expanded the scope of this to include “working to undermine the Islamic establishment” and “cooperating with foreign agents or entities.” The judiciary is required to review and validate death sentences.

The majority of executions in the country continued to be for drug-related offenses. Drug offenders, like others, continued to be executed without due process.

In August parliament passed an amendment to the 1997 Law to Combat Drugs that would raise the threshold for the death penalty for drug-related offenses. Under the amended law, capital punishment applies to the possession, sale, or transport of more than approximately 110 pounds of natural drugs, such as opium, or approximately 4.4 to 6.6 pounds of manufactured narcotics, such as heroin or cocaine. According to the old law, capital punishment applied to similar offenses involving slightly more than 11 pounds of natural drugs or two-thirds of a pound of manufactured drugs. Capital punishment, however, still applies to drug offenses involving smaller quantities of narcotics, if the crime is carried out using weapons, employing minors, or involving someone in a leadership role in a trafficking ring or someone who has previously been convicted of drug crimes and given a prison sentence of more than 15 years. The Guardian Council approved the law, and it went into effect on November 14.

The Islamic Penal Code allows for the execution of juvenile offenders starting at age nine for girls and age 13 for boys.

The law allows the judge to determine whether the individual understood the nature and consequences of the crime committed, potentially offering an alternative punishment to the death penalty in certain cases, although reports threw into doubt whether these alternative punishments were applied.

According to an August report by Amnesty International, 89 juvenile offenders were on death row. The government executed at least four juvenile offenders during the year, including Alireza Tajiki, who was executed in August. Tajiki was arrested in 2012 at age 15 and sentenced to death for murder. Reports noted that Tajiki’s trial was unfair and relied on “confessions” Tajiki claimed were made under duress and torture.

In August spiritual leader Mohammad Ali Taheri was sentenced to death on charges of founding a cult and “corruption on earth.” The government labelled Taheri’s movement, variously referred to as Erfan-e Halgheh or Erfan Kayhani, a “satanic” and “deviant sect.” In 2014 Taheri had been sentenced to death on similar charges, although that sentence was annulled in 2015. According to media and NGO reports, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also detained dozens of Taheri’s followers during the year.

Adultery remained punishable by death by stoning. According to the NGO Justice for Iran, provincial authorities have been ordered not to provide public information about stoning sentences since 2001. According to Iran Human Rights, in February a man and woman were sentenced to death by stoning by a criminal court in Lorestan Province.

Terrorist groups targeted civilians during the year. ISIS claimed responsibility for the June 7 terrorist attacks in Tehran, which killed at least 12 persons and injured dozens more at the parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

Iraq

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 ISIS and other terrorist groups, as well as some government forces, including the PMF, committed arbitrary or unlawful killings (see section 1.g.). During the year the security situation remained unstable due to widespread fighting between the ISF and ISIS; periodic clashes between the ISF, including the PMF, and Peshmerga; and the presence of militias in many liberated areas, as well as sectarian, ethnic, and financially motivated violence. From January 1 to June 30, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reported at least 2,429 civilians killed and 3,277 injured in the country.

Some government security forces allegedly committed extrajudicial killings; the government rarely made public its identification and prosecution of specific perpetrators of abuses and atrocities. Human rights organizations reported that both Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense personnel tortured detainees to death. Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that the Iraqi Army’s 16th division summarily executed suspected ISIS members it had detained.

During the year frequent unlawful killings by unidentified gunmen occurred throughout the country. For example, in May local police reported the killing of a member of a Sunni tribal militia operating under the umbrella of the PMF, and another injured, in an attack carried out by unknown gunmen in Baghdad. In August local police reported unknown gunmen killed a police officer stationed northwest of Kirkuk.

Terrorist and politically motivated violence continued throughout the year, including ISIS attacks on cities. Baghdad was particularly affected. UNAMI reported that from January to October Baghdad experienced IED attacks on a nearly daily basis. According to UNAMI, some attacks targeted government buildings or checkpoints staffed by security forces, while many others targeted civilians. ISIS carried out attacks against Baghdad’s civilian population, including car bomb and suicide bomber attacks on May 30 that killed at least 20 civilians; two IED attacks in the Muqdadiya District on July 27, killing two and injuring three; and an August 28 IED attack on a Sadr City market that reportedly killed 12 and injured 30.

During the year authorities discovered numerous mass graves, including in Anbar, Babil, and Ninewa Governorates. On February 9, the ISF uncovered two mass graves in Rutba, Anbar Governorate, reportedly containing the remains of as many as 25 ISF soldiers and civilians killed by ISIS in 2014. On February 15, Shlomo Organization for Documentation reported the discovery of a mass grave west of Mosul containing 150 remains, possibly of Christian civilians from the area. On August 25, the Iraqi Army announced it found two mass gravesites at Badoush prison and formed an investigative committee to exhume and investigate the remains; but the continuing strike of the forensic investigators of the Martyr’s Foundation, the government’s unit to investigate mass graves, prevented further action by year’s end.

Ethnic and sectarian-based fighting escalated in mixed governorates after liberation operations. For example, Arab residents reported that Shia Turkomen PMF units arrested, kidnapped, or killed Sunni Turkomen Arabs in Tal Afar after the ISF liberated the city from ISIS rule in August. None of those responsible within PMF units were brought to justice by year’s end. Additionally, media reported allegations that unknown groups kidnapped or threatened Arabs in Kirkuk, particularly in the weeks prior to the September 25 Kurdish independence referendum. For example, unknown gunmen reportedly abducted and killed two relatives of a Hawija-based ISIS leader in Daquq, south of Kirkuk August 23. On September 12, unidentified gunmen reportedly killed three persons from a family associated with an ISIS member in Mosul.

In June the Prime Minister’s Office established an investigative committee to review allegations the ISF committed abuses and atrocities. Regarding May 2016 torture allegations against the Ministry of Interior’s Emergency Response Division (ERD), on August 17, the Prime Minister’s Office stated, “The committee has concluded…that clear abuses and violations were committed by members of the ERD,” adding that the perpetrators of the abuses would face prosecution. At year’s end the investigative committee continued its work but had not yet publicly released its findings.

There were also reports of killings or other sectarian violence in the IKR. Minority groups reported threats and attacks targeting their communities in non-IKR areas that the KRG effectively controlled.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future