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Pakistan

Executive Summary

Pakistan is a federal republic. In May 2013 the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections, and Nawaz Sharif became prime minister for the third time. While judged to be mostly free and fair, some independent observers and political parties raised concerns about election irregularities. On July 28, the Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from office over corruption allegations. Parliament elected Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the new prime minister on August 1. Asif Ali Zardari completed his five-year term as president in September 2013 with Mamnoon Hussain (PML-N) succeeding him. Orderly transitions in the military (chief of army staff) and the judiciary (Supreme Court chief justice) solidified the democratic transition.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial and targeted killings; disappearances; torture; lack of rule of law, including lack of due process; poor implementation and enforcement of laws; and frequent mob violence and vigilante justice with limited accountability. Additional problems were arbitrary detention; lengthy pretrial detention; a lack of judicial independence in the lower courts; governmental infringement on citizens’ privacy rights; harassment of journalists, and high-profile attacks against journalists and media organizations. Government restrictions on freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, and freedom of religion and discrimination against religious minorities, and sectarian violence continued. Corruption within the government and police; lack of criminal investigations or accountability for cases related to rape, violence based on gender, gender identity and sexual orientation, sexual harassment, so-called honor crimes, and female genital mutilation/cutting remained problems. Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is a criminal offense; however, the government rarely prosecuted cases. Child labor resulting in frequent exposure to violence and human trafficking–including forced and bonded labor–persisted.

There was a lack of government accountability, and abuses often went unpunished, fostering a culture of impunity among the perpetrators, whether official or unofficial. Authorities seldom punished government officials for human rights abuses.

Terrorist violence and human rights abuses by nonstate actors contributed to human rights problems in the country. The military sustained significant campaigns against militant and terrorist groups. Nevertheless, violence, abuse, and social and religious intolerance by militant organizations and other nonstate actors, both local and foreign, contributed to a culture of lawlessness in some parts of the country, particularly in the provinces of Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). As of the end of October, terrorism fatalities stood at 1,084, in comparison with 1,803 fatalities in the full year 2016, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a database compiled by the public-interest advocacy organization Institute for Conflict Management that collects statistics on terrorism and low intensity warfare in South Asia.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Although some domestic and international human rights groups operated without significant government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases, the government increasingly restricted the operating ability of NGOs. Some groups that implicated the government, military, or intelligence services in misdeeds or worked on issues related to IDPs, conflict areas, or advocacy reported their operations were at times restricted. These groups faced numerous regulations regarding travel, visas, and registration that hampered their efforts to program and raise funds. International staff members of organizations, including those from the few successfully registered INGOs, continued to face delays or denials in the issuance of visas and no-objection certificates for in-country travel. The domestic NGO registration agreement with the government requires NGOs to “not use controversial terms like Peace and Conflict Resolution, IDPs, etc. in your annual reports or any other documents/correspondence/agreements.” Very few NGOs had access to KP, FATA, and certain areas in Balochistan.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The 2012 National Commission for Human Rights Bill authorized the establishment of an independent committee, the National Commission on Human Rights, and an independent Ministry of Human Rights was reconstituted in 2015. The Senate and National Assembly standing committees on law, justice, minorities, and human rights held hearings on a range of human rights problems, including honor crimes, police abuses in connection with the blasphemy law, and the Hudood Ordinance.

Rwanda

Executive Summary

Rwanda is a constitutional republic dominated by a strong presidency. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led a governing coalition that included four smaller parties. In August voters elected President Paul Kagame to a third seven-year term with a reported 99 percent of the vote and a reported 98 percent turnout. One independent candidate and one candidate from an opposition political party participated in the presidential election, but authorities disqualified three other candidates. International election monitors reported numerous flaws, including irregularities in the vote tabulation process. In 2013 elections for parliament’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, candidates from the RPF coalition and two other parties that supported RPF policies won all of the open seats. In 2015 the country held a constitutional referendum; the National Electoral Commission reported 98 percent of registered voters participated of which 98 percent endorsed a set of amendments that included provisions that would allow the president to run for up to three additional terms in office.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over state security forces (SSF).

The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary killings and politically motivated disappearances by security forces; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest; security forces’ disregard for the rule of law; prolonged pretrial detention; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights and on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; restrictions on and harassment of media and some local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); restrictions on freedom to participate in the political process and the ability to change government through free and fair elections; harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates, and individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control of social order; trafficking in persons; and restrictions on labor rights.

The government occasionally took steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, including within the security services, but impunity involving some civilian officials and some members of the SSF was a problem.

Saudi Arabia

Executive Summary

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

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

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

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

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

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The law provides that “the State shall protect human rights in accordance with Islamic sharia.” The government restricted the activities of domestic and international human rights organizations. The government did not allow international human rights NGOs to be based in the country but allowed representatives to visit on a limited basis. International human rights and humanitarian NGOs reported that the government was at times unresponsive to requests for information and did not establish a clear mechanism for communication with NGOs on both domestic human rights issues and on issues relating to the conflict in Yemen. There were no transparent standards governing visits by international NGO representatives. The HRC stated that the government welcomed visits by legitimate, unbiased human rights groups but added the government could not act on the “hundreds of requests” it received, in part because it was cumbersome to decide which domestic agencies would be their interlocutor.

The government often cooperated with and sometimes accepted the recommendations of the NSHR, the sole government-licensed domestic human rights organization. The NSHR accepted requests for assistance and complaints about government actions affecting human rights.

The government viewed unlicensed local human rights groups with suspicion, frequently blocking their websites and charging their founders with founding and operating unlicensed organizations. ACPRA applied for a license in 2008, which authorities did not grant. The government initially allowed its unlicensed operation, but it remained unclear which activities the group could undertake without risking punishment. The group was unable to raise operating funds legally, which limited its activities. In 2013 a court ordered the dissolution of ACPRA and confiscation of its assets (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association). Eleven founders of ACPRA were initially detained and eight remained in custody for their activities related to the organization.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The HRC is part of the government and requires the permission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before meeting with diplomats, academics, or researchers with international human rights organizations. The HRC president has ministerial status and reports to the king. The well resourced HRC was effective in highlighting problems and registering and responding to the complaints it received, but its capacity to effect change was more limited. The HRC worked directly with the Royal Diwan and the cabinet, with a committee composed of representatives of the Consultative Council and the Ministries of Labor and Social Development and Interior, and with Consultative Council committees for the judiciary, Islamic affairs, and human rights.

During the year the HRC and NSHR were more outspoken in areas deemed less politically sensitive, including child abuse, child marriage, prison conditions, and cases of individuals detained beyond their prescribed prison sentences. They avoided topics, such as protests or cases of political activists or reformers, that would require directly confronting government authorities. The HRC board’s 18 full-time members included four women and at least three Shia; they received and responded to complaints submitted by their constituencies, including problems related to persons with disabilities, religious freedom, and women’s rights. The Consultative Council’s Human Rights Committee also actively followed cases and included women and Shia among its members; a woman served as chairperson of the committee.

South Sudan

Executive Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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