Mongolia is a multiparty parliamentary democracy governed by a democratically elected government. The 2017 presidential elections and 2016 parliamentary election were considered free and fair, although some observers expressed concern during the presidential elections about allegations of vote-buying and candidates’ involvement in corruption.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Human rights issues included corruption; trafficking in persons; violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; and harsh labor conditions for some foreign contract workers, especially those from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Government efforts to punish officials who committed abuses or to remedy discrimination were inconsistent.
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 this right, although it imposed some content restrictions, licensing could be problematic, and there was reported harassment of journalists. These problems contributed to occasional self-censorship.
Press and Media Freedom: Globe International, a local NGO specializing in freedom of the press and media, reported continued pressure from police, politicians, and large business entities on local media and press outlets.
The ownership and political affiliations of the media often were not disclosed to the public, and a Globe International survey found that 23.3 percent of journalists reported they did not cover some stories due to their media outlet’s financial and personal relationships with political officials and business elites. The Mongolian Center for Investigative Journalism also reported that journalists sometimes practiced self-censorship for the same reasons.
Violence and Harassment: Some journalists reported they faced violence, harassment, or intimidation by police. For example, according to the Federation of Mongolian Journalists, a police officer punched a television reporter in July.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Communications Regulatory Commission (CRC) regulations on digital content and television and radio service impose content restrictions in broad terms, for example on pornography or extreme violence. The government appoints members of the CRC, which grants television and radio broadcast licenses without public consultation. This process, together with a lack of transparency during the license-tendering process, inhibited fair access to broadcast frequencies and benefited those with political connections.
Libel/Slander Laws: Press representatives faced libel complaints by government authorities and private persons or organizations. The courts prosecuted the majority of libel and slander cases as petty offenses punishable by fines ranging from two million to 20 million tugriks ($770 to $7,700).
The law provides an exception during election campaign season, when fines of 450,000 to 5.4 million tugriks ($175 to $2,100) or imprisonment from one month to one year apply for spreading false information that defames political parties, coalitions, or candidates running for office. The law imposes additional restrictions against media during campaign periods; penalties include suspending a media organization’s license for six months for defamation and dissemination of false information.
Globe International expressed concern about some legislators who continually publicly espoused making libel and slander criminal offenses. In January, Speaker M. Enkhbold sued a journalist for defamation, claiming the journalist spread false information about him in an article published during the 2017 presidential campaign. Speaker Enkhbold did not appeal the first instance court’s dismissal of the case.
The law provides media an option to seek redress against a person who, by threats of violence, attempted bribery, or other means of intimidation, seeks to compel a media outlet (or other entity) to withhold critical information about that person. In such cases the media outlet may seek a criminal complaint or file a civil complaint against the threatening person. If convicted, that person is subject to a fine of from 450,000 to 2.7 million tugriks ($175 to $1,050), revocation of the right to travel from one to six months, one to six months’ imprisonment, or both.
By law individuals and groups may engage in the peaceful expression of views on the internet. The government restricted internet content deemed pornographic or presenting extreme violence. It maintained a list of blocked websites and added sites to the list for alleged violations of relevant laws and regulations, including those relating to intellectual property. At the end of September, the government had blocked 596 websites.
A CRC regulation places broad restrictions on obscenities and inappropriate content without defining objectionable content explicitly. The regulation requires websites with heavy traffic to use filtering software that makes publicly visible the internet protocol addresses of those commenting or sharing content.
There were reports police interviewed individuals following complaints they made derogatory online posts and comments. Such cases were routinely resolved outside the formal court process. For example, the parties might agree on the removal of the content, the issuance of an apology, or payment of a fine.
Internet access was widely available to the country’s urban population and was increasingly more available in rural areas. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 24 percent of the population had access to the internet in 2017.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The law provides 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 law 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 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to UNHCR-recognized refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.
In-Country Movement: An order aimed at curbing air and environmental pollution and traffic jams, effective until January 1, 2020, suspends migration from the countryside to Ulaanbaatar. The law exempts persons traveling to Ulaanbaatar for medical treatment or for work for longer than six months.
Foreign Travel: Under the criminal code, at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office, courts can ban the departure of persons who are plotting criminal activity. The law requires that those subject to an exit ban receive timely notification. Authorities did not allow persons under exit bans to leave until the disputes leading to the bans were resolved administratively or by court decision, and bans may remain in place for years. According to reports 500 persons, including several foreign residents, remained banned from leaving the country.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: The constitution provides for granting asylum, and the government provided limited protections to foreign residents in the country while UNHCR adjudicated their refugee claims. The law establishes deportation criteria and permits the Agency for Foreign Citizens and Naturalization (the country’s immigration agency) to deport asylum seekers who it deems do not qualify.
Employment: The law does not afford a specific legal status to refugees and asylum seekers; by default, therefore, authorities usually treated them as irregular migrants and did not issued them work permits.
Access to Basic Services: Because the law does not provide for refugee status, asylum seekers generally did not have access to government-provided basic services such as health care and education. Refugees and asylum seekers could access private medical facilities with UNHCR support.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not always implement the law effectively, and corruption continued at all levels. Some officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The government implemented the second year of a three-year action plan, the National Program Combatting Corruption, adopted in 2016. The criminal code contains strict liability provisions for corruption and corruption-related offenses for public servants and government officials. For example, the code dictates that those sentenced for corruption may not work in public service.
The criminal code offers immunity from punishment to any persons who reported they bribed an official at the official’s request. In addition, an amendment criminalizes the misuse of an official position to offer or give preference to close associates or family members when awarding contracts. Nonetheless, private enterprises reported instances in which government employees pressured them to pay bribes to act on applications, obtain permits, and complete registrations.
Members of parliament are immune from prosecution during their tenure in all cases unless they are caught at the scene of a crime with damaging evidence against them.
Factors contributing to corruption included conflicts of interest, lack of transparency, lack of access to information, an inadequate civil service system, and weak government control of key institutions.
The IAAC is the principal agency responsible for investigating corruption, assisted at times by the NPA’s Organized Crime Division. Although questions about the IAAC’s political impartiality persisted, the public viewed the agency as effective. It utilized a standard operating procedure to guide the correct handling of investigations of corruption allegations. It permitted only electronic tender submissions and maintained a black list of companies that violated rules on government procurement. The IAAC conducted training for 6,000 public officials. It also sponsored several public awareness campaigns on television, in social media, and in press conferences that highlighted its work.
The IAAC gained investigatory responsibility for crimes committed by police and military personnel. Consequently, its workload increased fourfold over 2017; however, there were no plans to increase IAAC staffing. The IAAC also established a citizen’s oversight committee that consisted of 153 members from the public at the local level who monitor whether elected officials follow the anticorruption law.
Corruption: Corruption at all levels of government remained widespread. The politicization of anticorruption efforts presented an obstacle to effectively addressing corruption. Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party’s presidential candidate S. Ganbaatar was fined 1.44 million tugriks ($550) for violating the election law by accepting a donation of 50 million Korean won ($44,500) during the 2017 presidential election campaign.
A court convicted former minister of construction and urban development Z. Bayanselenge of abuse of power, ordered him to pay a fine of 19.2 million tugriks ($7,400), and banned him from holding state office for three years.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires civil servants to report holdings and outside sources of income for themselves, their spouses, parents, children, and live-in siblings. It also aims to prevent conflicts of interest between official duties and the private interests of those in public service roles, and to regulate and monitor conflicts of interest to specify that officials act in the public interest. The law requires candidates for public office to submit financial statements and questionnaires on personal business interests to be eligible to run.
Public officials must electronically file a private interest declaration with the IAAC within 30 days of appointment or election and annually thereafter during their terms of public service. The law provides that such declarations be accessible to the public and prescribes a range of administrative sanctions and disciplinary actions. Violators may receive formal warnings, face salary reductions, or be dismissed from their positions. The IAAC is required to review the asset declarations of public servants, including police officers and members of the military. According to the IAAC, all public officials filed the required documentation in a timely manner. The IAAC made public for the first time the financial disclosure short forms for approximately 40,000 of the country’s 170,000 public officials. The IAAC received a 2.5 percent increase in complaints related to alleged conflicts of interest.
Officials with authority to spend government funds are required to report expenditures and audit results on their ministry and agency websites. All transactions above one million tugriks ($385) are subject to reporting. Plans for budgets, loans, or bonds must be registered with the Ministry of Finance for monitoring and tracking, even after the originating officials have left their positions.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The criminal code outlaws sexual intercourse through physical violence, or threat of violence, and provides for sentences of one to 20 years’ imprisonment or life imprisonment, depending on the circumstances. The criminal code criminalizes spousal rape. Domestic violence is also a crime, for which perpetrators can be punished administratively or criminally, including in the latter case a maximum two years’ imprisonment. The government maintained a nationwide database of domestic violence perpetrators, and those who commit a second domestic violence offense are automatically charged under criminal law.
The nongovernmental National Center against Violence (NCAV) and the NPA both reported during the year that police response to domestic violence complaints improved. Moreover, better training of justice-sector actors and the enactment of 31 new regulations designed to improve the implementation of domestic violence law contributed to an increase in convictions for domestic violence during the year. Although the law provides alternative measures of protection for victims of domestic abuse, including restraining orders, procedural and other barriers made these difficult to obtain and enforce.
Despite improvements, domestic violence remained a serious and widespread problem. The NPA reported increased reporting of domestic violence by third parties. Combating domestic violence is included in the accredited training curriculum of the police academy and in all police officer position descriptions.
The NCAV expanded its activities designed to support victims, including training for medical personnel who delivered services to deaf victims of domestic violence.
According to the NPA, there were nine shelters and 10 one-stop service centers for domestic violence survivors run by a variety of NGOs, local government agencies, and hospitals. The one-stop service centers, located primarily at hospitals, provided emergency shelter for a maximum of 72 hours. The relatively small number of shelters located in rural areas presented a challenge for domestic violence victims in those areas. The NCAV, which operated three shelters in the country, including two in rural areas, did not receive government funding during the first nine months of the year despite a law that requires such funding.
Sexual Harassment: The criminal code does not include sexual harassment as a crime. NGOs said there was a lack of awareness and consensus within society of what constituted inappropriate behavior, making it difficult to gauge the extent of the problem.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights to women and men, including equal pay for equal work and equal access to education. These rights were generally observed, although women faced discrimination in employment.
The law sets mandatory minimum quotas for women in the government and political parties. It also outlaws discrimination based on sex, appearance, or age, although some NGOs noted authorities did not enforce this provision.
In most cases the divorced wife retained custody of any children; divorced husbands often failed to pay child support and did so without penalty. Women’s activists said that because family businesses and properties usually were registered under the husband’s name, ownership continued to be transferred automatically to the former husband in divorce cases.
No separate government agency oversees women’s rights, but the National Committee on Gender Equality, chaired by the prime minister and implemented by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, coordinates policy and women’s interests among ministries, NGOs, and gender councils at the provincial and local levels. The government’s National Program on Gender Equality 2017-21 and its related action plan seek the economic empowerment of women and equal participation in political and public life.
Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from one’s parents, and as of October births were immediately registered and a registration number issued through an online system jointly developed by the Ministry of Health, the National Statistics Office, and the State Registration Agency. In the past births generally were registered within one to three weeks, although residents of rural areas sometimes registered their children somewhat later. Failure to register could result in the denial of public services.
Child Abuse: The criminal code includes a specific chapter on crimes against children, including forced begging, abandonment, inducing addiction, engaging children in criminal activity or pornography, and the trafficking and abuse of children.
Child abuse was a significant problem and consisted principally of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The government’s Family, Child, and Youth Development Authority (FCYDA) and the NCAV noted that reporting of child abuse increased following enactment of obligatory reporting laws. The FCYDA also noted its continued operation of a hotline to report child abuse and the opening of an emergency service center, including a shelter, for child victims of abuse.
Child abandonment was also a problem. Some children were orphaned or ran away from home because of poverty-related neglect or parental abuse. Police officials stated they sent children of abusive parents to shelters, but some observers indicated many youths were returned to abusive parents. According to the FCYDA, as of November there were 1,045 children living in 31 care centers, including orphanages.
Each province and all of Ulaanbaatar’s district police offices had a specialized police officer appointed to investigate crimes against, or committed by, juveniles. The FCYDA and Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs maintained 609 local task forces to prevent child abuse.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years, with court-approved exceptions for minors age 16 to 18 who obtain the consent of parents or guardians. There were no reports of underage or forced marriages.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Although illegal, the commercial sexual exploitation of children younger than age 18 years was a problem. According to NGOs there were instances in which teenage girls were kidnapped, coerced, or deceived and forced to work in prostitution. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. Violators of the statutory rape law (defined as sexual intercourse with a person younger than age 16 not involving physical violence or the threat of violence) are subject to a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Those who engaged children in prostitution or sexual exploitation are subject to a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, or life imprisonment if aggravating circumstances were present.
NGOs reported that online child pornography was relatively common. Although police took steps to improve their capacity to investigate such crimes and initiated the “unfriend movement” to increase protection of children online, technical expertise remained limited. Of 192 reported cases of child sexual abuse, police formally opened only 22 criminal cases for further investigation. The maximum penalty for engaging children in pornography under the criminal code is eight years’ imprisonment.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
The Jewish population was very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts. Neo-Nazi groups active in the country tended to target other Asian nationalities and not Jews.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, defining these as restrictions due to permanent impairment of the body or intellectual, mental, or sensory capacities. Prohibitions against discrimination in employment against persons with disabilities are limited.
The president has an adviser on disability issues, and the prime minister chairs the Council for Implementing the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which aims to enforce disabilities-related law; facilitate equal participation; and improve social, educational, health, and labor services for persons with disabilities.
In August the government established the Agency for Development of Persons with Disability under the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, with a mandate to improve living conditions, employment opportunities, and accessibility to infrastructure and education for persons with disabilities.
There is no explicit prohibition of discrimination in education, but the law charges the government with creating conditions to provide students with disabilities an education. Students with disabilities are by law allowed to attend mainstream schools. Nevertheless, children with disabilities faced significant barriers to education. The nongovernmental Association of Parents with Differently-abled Children maintained that government efforts to offer inclusive education for children with disabilities were insufficient due in part to government instability and consequent staffing shortfalls. This NGO and FCYDA also stated schools often lacked trained staff and the infrastructure to accommodate children with disabilities. Although the majority of children with disabilities began public schooling, the dropout rate increased as the children aged. Children with disabilities in rural areas were more likely to drop out of school because most separate schools for students with disabilities were in Ulaanbaatar.
The Mongolian National Association of Wheelchair Users expressed concern the medical system effectively limited the reproductive and sexual rights of women and girls with disabilities. The NGO also noted a case in which a woman with disabilities who was already the mother of two children underwent sterilization at her doctor’s urging.
Although the law mandates standards for physical access to new public buildings and a representative of persons with disabilities serves on the state commission for inspecting standards of new buildings, most new buildings were not constructed in compliance with the law. Public transport remained largely inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Emergency services were often inaccessible to blind and deaf persons because service providers lacked trained personnel and appropriate technologies. Moreover, domestic violence shelters were not accessible to persons with disabilities.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The criminal code prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, language, race, age, gender, social status, professional position, religion, education, or medical status. Violators are subject to a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. As of September no cases were known to have been prosecuted under the law.
NGOs continued to report that LGBTI individuals faced violence and discrimination both in public and at home based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. There were reports LGBTI persons faced greater discrimination and fear in rural areas than in Ulaanbaatar due to less public awareness and limited online media accessibility in rural areas. The nongovernmental LGBT Center received a number of reports of violence against LGBTI persons, most involving young LGBTI persons who either came out to their families or their families discovered they were LGBTI.
The LGBT Center noted that despite increased police awareness of abuses faced by the LGBTI community and capacity to respond to problems affecting LGBTI persons, there were still reported cases involving police harassment of LGBTI victims of alleged crimes. Authorities frequently dismissed charges when a crime victim was an LGBTI person.
There were reports of discrimination against LGBTI persons in employment.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Although there was no official discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS, some societal discrimination existed. The public generally continued to associate HIV/AIDS with same-sex sexual activity, burdening victims with social stigma and potential employment discrimination.