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Iraq

Executive Summary

Note: This report was updated 3/29/17; see Appendix F: Errata for more information.

Iraq is a constitutional parliamentary republic. The outcome of the 2014 parliamentary elections generally met international standards of free and fair elections and led to the peaceful transition of power from former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Civilian authorities were not always able to maintain effective control of all security forces which include: the regular armed forces and domestic law enforcement bodies; the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a state-sponsored umbrella military organization composed of nearly 60, predominantly Shia components , which report directly to the prime minister; and the Peshmerga–the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) principal military force. Prime ministerial decrees on February 22 and July 27, as well as a November 26 parliamentary vote, boycotted by most Sunnis, established prime ministerial authority over the PMF; however at year’s end the command and control over the PMF remained inconsistent and ineffective.

Violence continued to divide the country, largely fueled by Da’esh’s actions. Violence occurred throughout the year as government forces fought to liberate territory lost to Da’esh, principally in Arab Sunni and some other minority and mixed areas. Armed clashes between Da’esh and government forces caused civilian hardship. At year’s end the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) declined to 3.03 million from a peak of 3.4 million in March. The decrease in IDPs was primarily due to Iraqis returning to their homes after those areas were liberated from Da’esh. The country also accommodated approximately 225,000 Syrian refugees, mostly in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR). Although donor funding increased, the government’s response fell short of rapidly rising humanitarian demands, and displaced populations became destitute, leading some citizens to seek refuge abroad.

Severe human rights problems were widespread. Sectarian hostility, widespread corruption, and lack of transparency at all levels of government and society weakened the government’s authority and worsened effective human rights protections. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), members of the Federal Police, and the Peshmerga committed some human rights violations, and there continued to be reports of PMF killing, torturing, kidnapping, and extorting civilians. Nonetheless, the terrorist organization Da’esh committed the overwhelming majority of serious human rights abuses, including attacks against: civilians, (particularly Shia but also Sunnis who opposed Da’esh); members of other religious and ethnic minorities; women; and children. Observers also reported other significant human rights-related problems: harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention and prison facilities; arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention, sometimes incommunicado; denial of fair public trial; insufficient judicial institutional capacity; ineffective implementation of civil judicial procedures and remedies; arbitrary interference with privacy and homes; child soldiers; limits on freedom of expression, including press freedoms; violence against and harassment of journalists; undue censorship; social, religious, and political restrictions in academic and cultural matters; limits on freedoms of peaceful assembly and association; limits on religious freedom due to violence by extremist groups; restrictions on freedom of movement; refugee and IDP abuse; both forced IDP returns and preventing IDPs from returning home; discrimination against and societal abuse of women and ethnic, religious, and racial minorities, including exclusion from decision-making roles; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; seizure of property without due process; and limitations on worker rights.

The government announced investigations into reports of PMF abuses, but results of the investigations or convictions were often not publicly available. Information about government investigations or prosecutions of abuses by officials and members of the security forces was also often not publicly available. The KRG High Committee to Evaluate and Respond to International Reports considered charges of Peshmerga abuse, largely against IDPs, and exculpated them in public reports and commentaries. Impunity effectively existed for government officials, security force personnel, including the Peshmerga, and militias.

Terrorists committed the majority of serious human rights abuses. Da’esh members committed acts of violence on a mass scale, including killings through the use of suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), executions including shootings and public beheadings, as well as use of chemical weapons. They also engaged in kidnapping, rape, enslavement, forced marriage, sexual violence, committing such acts against civilians from a wide variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds, including Shia, Sunni, Kurds, Christians, Yezidis, and members of other religious and ethnic groups. Reports of Da’esh perpetrating gender-based violence, recruiting child soldiers, trafficking in persons, and destroying civilian infrastructure and cultural heritage sites were credible and common. Secretary Kerry stated on March 17 that in his judgment, Da’esh was responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims, and was also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.

The government investigated some of Da’esh’s human rights abuses, and in some instances, results were publicly available. For example, on August 21, the Ministry of Justice announced the conviction, sentencing, and execution of 36 men convicted of involvement in the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre of hundreds of Shia Air Force recruits after trials international observers criticized as unfair.

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 Da’esh and other terrorist groups, some government forces, and militias acting outside government orders, had 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 Da’esh, and, to a lesser extent, the Shia PMF and Da’esh. During the year the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) recorded a total of 19,266 civilian casualties: 6,878 killed, and 12,388 wounded. These casualty figures do not include the civilian casualty figures for Anbar for the months of May, July, August, and December. The corresponding period in 2015 showed 7,515 killed and 14,855 wounded.

Some security forces were alleged to have committed extrajudicial killings, although the government’s identification and prosecution of specific killers were rarely made public. Ministry of Interior personnel allegedly tortured detainees to death, according to reports from human rights organizations. For example, Amnesty International (AI) reported receiving information that men wearing military and federal police uniforms unlawfully killed men and boys in a village north of Fallujah in October and in some cases tortured them beforehand (see section 1.c.).

Although officially under the command and control of the prime minister, some Shia PMF operated independently and with limited government oversight or accountability. According to multiple nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), more than 643 men and boys were reported missing near Saqlawiyah following the June liberation of Fallujah after PMF units intercepted them at ad hoc security screening sites. All 643 reportedly remained missing.

During the year Iraq witnessed frequent unlawful killings by unidentified gunmen throughout the country. For example, on February 11, a Kurd and a Turkmen Shia in Salah al-Din Governorate were killed in the center of Tuz Khurmatu in separate attacks; on April 29, a Sunni man in his 70s was killed in the Ma’qal area of Basrah; and on May 17, a local council member was killed outside his home in al-Amal al-Sha’abi neighborhood, northwest Kirkuk.

Terrorist activities continued throughout the year, particularly with Da’esh’s attacks on cities. Baghdad was most affected, and was the site of more than half of the total fatalities. UNAMI reported that Baghdad experienced attacks of IEDs on a nearly daily basis from January to October. Some attacks targeted government buildings or checkpoints staffed by security forces, while others targeted civilians. Da’esh reportedly carried out attacks against civilians in Baghdad’s Shia-majority neighborhoods. The largest was on July 3, when a coordinated bomb attack in Baghdad’s Shia district of Karrada resulted in 292 civilians killed and hundreds wounded.

During the year authorities discovered several mass graves. On August 30, the Associated Press reported that analysis of satellite imagery identified a possible mass grave site at Badoush Prison near Mosul, where more than 600 inmates died. Approximately 35 mass graves in Sinjar District were found. In May media outlets reported the discovery of a mass grave in western Mosul containing the remains of 80 Yezidis. A representative from the Yezidi Affairs Council in the IKR reported these individuals were likely victims of Da’esh, and the remains showed signs of brutal treatment in captivity.

UNAMI reported that IEDs, suicide vests, and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) caused at least half of all verified casualties during the year. Media reported that Da’esh IEDs infested Ramadi, which was nearly destroyed during fighting, which began with air strikes in July 2015 and ended with the capture of the city on February 6. Many civilians could not return to their homes because of the destruction and the threat of IEDs. UNAMI reported that IEDs placed in homes in Ramadi killed at least nine people in April. Spillover across the porous border from the conflict in Syria continued to destabilize the security situation in the country. The government’s lack of the border with Syria facilitated Da’esh’s movement of fighters and materiel into the country.

Ethnic-based fighting escalated in ethnically mixed governorates after liberation operations. For example, according to a January 31 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, following January 11 bombings claimed by Da’esh, members of Shia militias reportedly abducted and killed scores of Sunni residents in Muqdadiya, in Diyala Governorate, and demolished Sunni homes, stores, and mosques. None of those responsible within the Shia militias were brought to justice by year’s end. Media also widely reported instances when, after Sunni tribes turned against Da’esh and allied with the ISF, Da’esh conducted mass executions of tribesmen.

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

On May 3, the IKR press reported several killings for which the families of the deceased alleged KRG security forces were responsible. On August 13, Wedat Hussein Ali, a journalist working for ROJ News, was abducted and later found dead. Media reports indicated his injuries were consistent with torture and quoted Wedat’s family as saying the KRG internal security service had previously questioned him about his ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The press reported that the KRG internal security service temporarily detained several other journalists.

There were no known developments in other cases of arbitrary or unlawful killings reported in 2015.

b. Disappearance

Da’esh orchestrated most abductions, which focused on members of various ethnic and religious communities. There was no comprehensive account publicly available on the extent of the problem of disappeared persons.

In areas it controlled, Da’esh engaged in frequent abductions of members of the security or police forces, ethnic and religious minorities, and other non-Sunni communities. According to the director general for Yezidis in the KRG Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, more than 2,900 kidnapped Yezidi men, women, and children had been rescued from Da’esh captivity by year’s end, while another 3,735 Yezidis, mainly women and children, were believed to remain in Da’esh captivity. According to officials from the Turkmen Women’s Association, Da’esh militants have kidnapped 500 Turkmen Shia women and children from Tal Afar and Mosul since June 2014, all of whom remained in captivity at year’s end.

There were a number of disappearances and kidnappings that appeared to have been politically motivated. For example, on December 27, the Interior Ministry reported that unidentified gunmen broke into the home of female journalist and political activist Afrah Shawqi al-Qaisi in Baghdad and abducted her. Al-Qaisi regularly criticized the rampant corruption in the country. Prime Minister al-Abadi ordered the security forces to investigate the kidnapping and to “exert the utmost effort” to save her. There were no further developments by year’s end.

Some militias exploiting the security situation carried out kidnappings, either for personal gain or for sectarian reasons. On June 22, the council of al-Quarnah District raised concern about the rise of child abduction, demanding that the security forces take decisive actions against it.

In December 2015, unknown gunmen kidnapped 27 members of a Qatari hunting party in the Muthanna Desert. The kidnappers released one Qatari and one non-Qatari member of the hunting party. There were no further developments in the case, and the 25 other members of the hunting party remained missing at year’s end.

There were no known developments in other cases of disappearances from prior years.

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

Although the constitution expressly prohibits torture in all its forms under all circumstances, including cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, government officials as well as local and international human rights organizations documented instances of government agents committing torture and other abuses. Police throughout the country continued to use abusive and coerced confessions as methods of investigation, and courts continued to accept forced confessions as evidence. Da’esh, however, committed the overwhelming majority of such abuses.

As in previous years, abuse and torture occurred during arrest, pretrial detention, and after conviction. Former prisoners, detainees, and human rights groups reported that methods of torture and abuse included: putting victims in stress positions, beating, including on the soles of feet with plastic and metal rods, suffocating, burning, removing fingernails, suspending from the ceiling, overextending spines, denying sufficient water and the use of sanitation facilities, sexual assault, denying medical treatment, and threatening to rape female relatives of detainees or kill family members. A number of inmates reported that prison guards mistreated their families during visits.

International human rights organizations documented credible cases of torture and abuse in facilities of the Ministry of Interior and to a lesser extent in detention facilities of the Ministries of Justice and Defense, as well as in facilities of the KRG. The Human Rights Ministry and the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) noted that torture cases were underreported because many detainees were afraid to file complaints. HRW reported that widespread torture and systematic abuses continued in detention facilities and reported several instances of torture and rape of detainees. For example, according to NGOs, the men who had been convicted after confessing to taking part in the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre showed signs of torture. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported police and investigators continued to rely heavily on the evidence of secret informants or coerced confessions. Following confession, the coercion generally ceased.

The IHCHR could not confirm allegations of torture and systematic abuses in prisons and detention centers in part because the ministry was disbanded and the commission’s last meeting of the year was in May. In February the parliamentary Human Rights Committee confirmed one case of torture in a Ministry of the Interior detention center in Baghdad; it was the only case the committee reported.

Abusive interrogation under certain conditions reportedly occurred in some detention facilities of the KRG’s internal security unit, the Asayish, and the intelligence services of the major political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) Parastin and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) Zanyari. During monitoring visits to IKR prisons and places of detention between January 2015 and June 2016, UNAMI reported 70 detainees had raised allegations of torture or other ill treatment during the interrogation phase, or both.

Abuses by terrorist groups were widespread. For example, in March HRW reported Da’esh fighters beat a man in custody every day for 18 days to force him to confess to selling cigarettes. The report also said witnesses reported 15 female Da’esh guards biting a woman in public as punishment for not covering her face. On September 13, Da’esh reportedly cut off the feet of seven civilians from Hawija southwest of Kirkuk for urging residents to take up arms and rise-up against the organization. Human rights and humanitarian groups reported numerous cases of rape, forced labor, forced marriage, forced religious conversion, material deprivation, and battery.

There were no known developments in cases of torture and abusive treatment or punishment first reported in 2015.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions at some prison and detention facilities remained harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, abuse, and torture. There were also cases of food shortages and inadequate access to sanitation facilities and medical care.

Both the government and the KRG operated secret detention facilities during the year, according to international observers and to the head of the KRG parliamentary Human Rights Committee. There was no information available to verify whether–or the extent to which–they remained in use. In May HRW reported that Da’esh had set-up at least three prisons where former prisoners reported regular floggings and torture.

The Ministry of Justice reported that there were no accommodations for disabled inmates and the previously announced initiative by the ministry to establish facilities for disabled detainees had not been implemented by year’s end.

Physical Conditions: NGOs, such as AI, reported overcrowding in prisons was a serious problem as the number of detainees increased as a result of the capture of suspected Da’esh members. Detainee conditions and treatment of detainees were generally poor, according to UNAMI’s 2016 report, with overcrowding becoming a growing problem in most facilities. NGO contacts reported that due to the closure of prisons after Da’esh’s 2014 advances, some remaining prisons held more than twice their designed inmate capacity. Three of the 24 correctional facilities managed by the Iraqi Corrections Service (ICS)–the only government entity with legal authority to hold persons after conviction–were not operational due to the security situation.

Prisons also became overcrowded in the South due an increased incarceration rate of criminals involved in drugs and kidnapping, and the transfer of 1,000 prisoners from northern governorates to Basrah. For example, the sole prison in Muthanna Governorate should hold no more than 50 prisoners in each cell; however, observers reported more than 100 persons in one cell. Basrah central prison, with capacity of 1,100, held more than 2,500 inmates, and Ma’aqal Prison, with a capacity of 250, held 500 prisoners. Overcrowding exacerbated corruption among some police officers and prison administrators in the South, who reportedly took bribes to reduce or drop charges, cut sentences, or release prisoners early.

Many inmates lacked adequate food, water, exercise facilities, vocational training, and family visitation. Access to medical care was inconsistent. Some detention facilities did not have an onsite pharmacy or infirmary, and authorities reported that existing pharmacies were undersupplied. Moreover, NGO contacts reported a significant shortage of social workers at prisons. Women’s prisons often lacked adequate child-care facilities for inmates’ children, whom the law permits to remain with their mothers until the age of four. Limited infrastructure or aging physical plants in some facilities worsened marginal sanitation, limited access to potable water, and led to preparation of poor-quality food.

Authorities separated detainees from convicts in most cases. Prisoners facing terrorism charges were isolated from the general population and were more likely to remain in Interior Ministry facilities in harsher conditions.

Although the government held most juvenile pretrial detainees and convicts in facilities operated by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, international and local NGOs reported that authorities held some juveniles in Justice Ministry prisons, Interior Ministry police stations, and other Interior Ministry detention facilities. Due to a lack of facilities in Maysan Governorate, juvenile offenders and adults were jointly incarcerated.

On May 3, AI reported that Shia militia units were holding more than 1,000 detainees, including some as young as 15, without charge in “horrendous conditions at makeshift holding centers” in Anbar Governorate (see section 1.g.).

Da’esh reportedly continued to operate three facilities in areas under its control, including the Justice Ministry’s Badoush Prison in Mosul, and two Interior Ministry prisons in Ninewa Governorate. The condition of individuals detained in these facilities was unknown.

Published in its January-June report, UNAMI found overcrowding driven by terrorism-related detentions, such as in the Anti -Terrorism Directorate facility in Erbil. According to UNAMI, the KRG’s new detention facilities in major cities were well maintained, although conditions remained poor in many smaller detention centers operated by the KRG Ministry of Interior. In some KRG Asayish detention centers and police-run jails, KRG authorities occasionally held juveniles in the same cells as adults.

Administration: Although there were credible allegations of mistreatment in both central government and KRG facilities, especially in pretrial detention, there was no information indicating that authorities undertook credible investigations into the allegations, and no prosecutions resulted therefrom (see section 1.c.). According to the Iraqi Kurdistan Independent Human Rights Commission and IKR parliamentary Human Rights Committee, instances of torture have occurred in IKR prisons. UNAMI reported during monitoring visits to prisons and places of detention in the IKR that 70 detainees raised allegations of torture or other ill-treatment during their interrogation.

The Ministry of Justice reported that budgetary constraints had significantly reduced the number of its visits to prisons. There was no information available about censorship or action on the complaints.

Recordkeeping on prisoners and detainees was generally inadequate. The Ministry of Justice reported it employed new technology to keep track of prisoners and detainees. The fully digitalized ministry-wide tracking system keeps track of judicial records relating to detainees and decreased the likelihood of individuals being detained past their release date. Moreover, it reduced corruption opportunities as prison officials could no longer alter prisoners’ records in exchange for bribes. Despite these attempts at modernization, however, officials at the Ministries of Interior, Justice, and Defense, and at the Counterterrorism Service, indicated each entity maintained its own records, although some facilities held individuals detained by several entities, making it difficult to account for a facility’s total population. Additionally, human rights organizations reported that prison guards or arresting officers released detainees after the detainees paid a bribe, a practice that further contributed to inaccurate detainee recordkeeping.

International and local human rights groups reported that authorities in numerous cases denied family visits to detainees and convicts. In many cases guards allegedly demanded bribes when detainees asked to call their relatives or legal counsel.

Independent Monitoring: ICS prisons allowed regular visits by independent nongovernmental observers. The ICRC continued to have its customary access to Justice, Interior, Defense, and Labor and Social Affairs Ministry prisons and detention facilities. Authorities also granted UNAMI access to Justice Ministry prison and detention facilities in Baghdad. There were reports of institutional interference in prison visits, and in some cases institutions required advance notification to wardens and prison officials of visits by outside monitors.

The KRG generally allowed international human rights NGOs and intergovernmental organizations to visit convicted prisoners and pretrial detainees but occasionally delayed or denied access to some individuals, usually in cases involving terrorism. The UNAMI Human Rights Office and ICRC continued to receive regular access to IKR prisons and detention facilities.

Improvements: The Ministry of Justice reported that during the year it had installed surveillance cameras in all federal prisons, providing real-time information to a centralized office responsible for monitoring prisons. The camera system was meant to act as a deterrent to would-be abusers by allowing the government to record possible abuses for later investigation.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution provides some basic legal safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention. Emergency laws give security forces broad discretion over arrest and detention when the government has declared a national emergency, which authorities declared in Baghdad on April 30 after protesters breached the International Zone. During the year there continued to be many reports of arbitrary arrests and detentions.

The government made minimal progress by year’s end in improving enforcement of the rights governing arrest and detentions, despite the encouragement of an executive order and a reform law. In federal prisons the government reported the installation and use of video cameras to deter and record abuse.

In 2014 the prime minister issued an executive order to enforce the existing rights of detainees–a principal concern of Sunnis. The executive order prohibits the arrest or remand of individuals except by an order issued by a competent judge or court or in the conditions warranted by the code of criminal procedures. The authority that enforced the arrest warrant or detention is required within 24 hours of the detention to register in the government’s central electronic and manual registers the detainee’s name, place of detention, reason for detention, and legal article. The Ministry of Justice is then responsible for updating and managing these registers. The order requires the Ministries of Defense and Interior and the National Security Service to establish guidelines and mechanisms for commanders to register detainees’ details in this central register. The executive order also prohibits any entity, other than legally competent authorities, to detain any person.

On August 25, the Council of Representatives (COR) passed the amended amnesty law. The reformed law permits retrials for detainees convicted on the basis of forced confessions or from reliance on evidence provided by secret informants.

After bombings on April 4, security forces in the southern governorate of Dhi Qar arrested persons under the Antiterrorism Law. Local residents alleged that the ISF used the bombing as an excuse to arrest innocent Sunnis, IDPs, and civil activists. For example, security forces arrested Mufeed al-Shanoon and Sala’am Dlejan, civil activists in the reform protests from Nassiriyah. By the end of the year, of the original 31 arrested, authorities released 18 for lack of evidence.

In August the human rights staff of an international organization reported concerns about government security forces, the PMF, and Peshmerga detention and arrest of IDPs. With the cooperation of the Ministries of Interior and Justice, the international organization representative visited IDP detainees, but authorities prevented the representative from conducting confidential interviews. Numerous reports of arrests and temporary detention by government forces, the PMF, and Peshmerga of predominantly Sunni Arab IDPs continued throughout the year.

Prison authorities sometimes delayed the release of inmates who were exonerated or who had served their complete sentence unless the prison authorities received bribes. According to NGO contacts, inmates whom the judiciary ordered to be released continued to face delays from the Interior Ministry or other ministries to clear their record of other pending charges.

There were many reports of Shia PMF forces detaining Sunnis following the liberation of Da’esh-dominated areas. For example, reports persisted that up to 3,000 prisoners were illegally held by the hard-line militias, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and the terrorist Kata’ib Hizballah, advised by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force. The prisoners included Sunnis and others suspected of working with Da’esh, and were held in up to five makeshift jails, some for alleged crimes and some to exchange for ransoms that help fund militia activities.

According to the PMF spokesman, the Justice Ministry appointed a judge who was, at year’s end, working his way through 300 reported cases of abuse by militia members ranging from alleged prisoner abuse to summary executions. According to the spokesman, only approximately one-quarter of those accused were “genuine” militia members, and the rest were part of volunteer groups receiving no pay, medical, or survivor benefits from the government.

According to local NGOs and the head of the IKR parliamentary Human Rights Committee, prisoners held in KRG-administered Asayish prisons sometimes remained in detention for more than six months without trial. IKR police and internal security service officers in the IKR arrested protesters and activists critical of the KRG, and detained them for several days, according to NGO contacts and local press reporting. For example, Iraqi Kurdistan authorities in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah arrested 13 teachers on December 1, ahead of a demonstration over unpaid public-sector salaries.

Prime Minister Abadi said in an interview that some fighters participating in the battle for Fallujah had committed “mistakes.” A government spokesperson later announced the establishment of a human rights committee to investigate alleged abuses. As of year-end, there were no updates regarding the men and boys who were missing in Saqlawiyah or concerning the progress of the investigation.

Da’esh continued to seize persons in order to silence its critics in the areas it controlled. In October, Da’esh arrested five former imams in Mosul on charges of sedition, according to local media. During the first week of January, Da’esh abducted five male teachers from around Mosul city for refusing to propagate Da’esh doctrines.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The ISF consists of security forces administratively organized within the Ministries of Interior and Defense, the PMF, and the Counterterrorism Service. Interior Ministry responsibilities include domestic law enforcement and maintenance of order relying on the Federal Police, Provincial Police, Facilities Protection Service, Civil Defense, and Department of Border Enforcement. Energy police, under the Ministry of Oil, are responsible for providing critical infrastructure protection. Conventional military forces under the Defense Ministry are responsible for the defense of the country, but working with elements of the Interior Ministry, they often also carry out counterterrorism and internal security operations. The Counterterrorism Service reports directly to the prime minister and oversees the Counterterrorism Command, an organization that includes the three brigades of special operations forces.

The November 26 PMF law, one and a half pages long, was the latest in a series of efforts to place the PMF, composed of nearly 60 militia groups, under the ISF umbrella but reporting to the prime minister in a similar fashion as the Counterterrorism Service. Details on implementation, mission, and force structure of the PMF were not finalized as of year’s end.

The authorities reportedly initiated some investigations of security forces accused of committing human rights abuses. As in the previous year, the minister of defense publicly called for holding perpetrators of human rights abuses within the security forces accountable, but there was little information available on the outcome of any investigations or of official punishment for human rights violations. On June 4, the government announced an investigation into “transgressions against civilians” and the PMF’s killing of IDPs who fled Fallujah during the more than month-long struggle for its liberation. Authorities did not make public any findings of investigations by year’s end, except the PMF spokesman’s reference to a judge “working his way through” 300 reported cases of PMF abuse of which, he said, approximately one-quarter pertained to genuine militia members, while the rest pertained to “wannabe groups” like the Sunni Knights of Ninewa.

There were reports of torture and abuse throughout the country in Interior and Defense Ministry facilities. According to international human rights organizations, abuse took place primarily during detainee interrogations while in pretrial detention. The Interior Ministry did not release the number of officers punished during the year, and there were no known court convictions for abuse.

An NGO in Muthanna Governorate reported that guards on occasion beat prisoners for talking to outsiders about poor conditions and mistreatment inside the prison. On September 10, local media reported that authorities arrested and charged five police officers in the Rania District of Sulaimaniyah Governorate with torturing a man in their custody.

Problems persisted, including corruption, within the country’s provincial police forces. The army and federal police recruited and deployed soldiers and police officers on a nationwide basis. This practice led to complaints from local communities that members of the army and police were abusive because of ethno-sectarian differences.

Security forces made limited efforts to prevent or respond to societal violence. Although 16 family protection units, located in separate buildings at police stations around the country, operated under police authority to respond to claims of domestic violence made by women and children, they lacked sufficient capacity. The most recent report detailing the units’ work dated from 2014.

The two main Kurdish political parties, the KDP and PUK, had their own security apparatuses. Under the federal constitution, the KRG has the right to maintain regional guard brigades, supported financially by the government but under the KRG’s control. Accordingly, the KRG established a Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs. There are 14 infantry brigades and two support brigades under the authority of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, but the PUK and KDP controlled tens of thousands of additional military personnel.

The KDP had its own internal security unit, the Asayish, and its own intelligence service, the Parastin. The PUK also maintained its own internal security unit, known also as the Asayish, and its own intelligence service, the Zanyari. While the PUK and KDP took some nominal steps to unify their internal and external security organizations, they remained separate, since political party leaders effectively controlled these organizations through party channels. The KRG Independent Human Rights Commission routinely notified the Kurdistan Ministry of Interior when it received credible reports of police human rights violations. Local NGOs reported a sense of impunity among KRG security force officials; local human rights monitors reported an allegation of rape and manslaughter by mid-ranking officers during the year.

KRG security services detained suspects in areas the regional government controlled. The poorly defined administrative boundaries between the IKR and the rest of the country resulted in continuing confusion about the jurisdiction of security forces and the courts. Da’esh’s control of parts of these areas exacerbated this situation.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution prohibits “unlawful detention” and mandates that authorities submit preliminary documents to a competent judge within 24 hours of arrest, a period that may extend in most cases to a maximum of 72 hours. For offenses punishable by death, authorities may legally detain the defendant as long as necessary to complete the judicial process. According to local media and rights groups, authorities arrested suspects in security sweeps without a warrant, particularly under the antiterrorism law, and held some detainees for prolonged periods without charge.

The government arbitrarily detained individuals and often did not inform them promptly of the nature of the charges against them. The government periodically released detainees, usually after concluding that it lacked sufficient evidence for the courts to convict them. Many others remained in detention pending review of other outstanding charges. The law allows release on bond for criminal (but not security) detainees. Authorities rarely released detainees on bail. KRG internal security units held some suspects incommunicado without an arrest warrant and transported detainees to undisclosed detention facilities.

The law provides for judges to appoint paid counsel for the indigent. Attorneys appointed to represent detainees frequently complained that insufficient access to their clients hampered adequate attorney-client consultation. In many cases detainees were not able to meet their attorneys until their scheduled trial date. There were reports that defendants did not have access to legal representation during the investigation phase, appointed lawyers lacked sufficient time to prepare a defense, and courts failed to investigate claims of torture while in detention. The Human Rights Ministry, which was dissolved in August 2015, acknowledged the need for public defenders and judges far exceeded supply, resulting in delayed trials.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police and military personnel arrested and detained individuals without judicial approval, although there were no reliable statistics available regarding the number of such acts or length of detentions. Authorities often failed to notify family members of the arrest or location of detention, resulting in incommunicado detention.

Pretrial Detention: The Ministries of Justice, Defense, Interior, and Labor and Social Affairs are legally entitled to hold pretrial detainees.

Although there were no independently verified statistics concerning the number of pretrial detainees in government facilities, most individuals in Interior and Defense Ministry facilities were reportedly pretrial detainees. In February the Ministry of Justice stated there were approximately 30,000 detainees in the ministry’s correction centers, including 200 foreign detainees. NGOs noted actual detainee figures could be as high as 50,000. As of October 5, there were an estimated 1,681 pretrial detainees, including 82 women, at various KRG facilities, according to the KRG Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.

Lengthy detentions without due process and without judicial action were a systemic problem. The lack of judicial review resulted from several factors, including a large number of detainees, undocumented detentions, slow processing of criminal investigations, an insufficient number of judges and trained judicial personnel, authorities’ inability or reluctance to utilize bail or other conditions of release, lack of information sharing, bribery, and corruption. Overcrowding of pretrial detainees remained a problem in many detention facilities. There were allegations of detention beyond judicial release dates as well as unlawful releases.

According to some observers, authorities held many detainees for months or years after initial arrest and detention, particularly those detained under the antiterrorism law. Authorities sometimes held detainees incommunicado, without access to defense counsel or without formal charge before a judge within the legally mandated period. Authorities at times detained spouses and other family members of fugitives, mostly Sunnis wanted on terrorism charges, as proxies to pressure the fugitives to surrender.

KRG authorities also reportedly held detainees for extensive periods in pretrial detention. According to local NGOs and the head of the Iraqi Kurdistan parliamentary Human Rights Committee, prisoners held in regional government-administered Asayish prisons sometimes remained in detention for more than six months without trial. According to IKR judicial officials, IKR law permits extension of pretrial detention of up to six month under court supervision.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution grants detainees the right to a prompt judicial determination on the legality of their detention, and persons arrested or detained may obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. In practice individuals faced lengthy detentions without possibility of prompt release, regardless of guilt. Despite the 2014 executive order and the August 25 reform law concerning rights of detainees, NGOs widely reported that detainees had limited ability to challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court and that a bribe was often necessary in order to gain release. The law does not allow for compensation if a person was found to have been unlawfully detained.

Amnesty: There were no amnesty cases outside of the routine, religious holiday amnesties for minor crimes.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, although certain articles of law restricted judicial independence. The country’s security situation and political history left the judiciary weak and dependent on other parts of the government. Additionally, in 2013 the Supreme Court overturned a court order mandating the separation of the Federal Supreme Court and the Higher Judicial Council, thus allowing one individual to head both the court, which rules on issues related to federalism and constitutionality, and the council, which manages and supervises the court system, including disciplinary matters. Local and international media claimed the decision was politically motivated and undermined judicial independence.

There were reports that corruption influenced authorities’ willingness to respect court orders. For example, the Integrity Committee of the COR reported that Interior Ministry and Justice Ministry employees frequently demanded bribes from detainees to release them even after court orders for their release had been issued, or after their mandated jail term had expired.

Corruption or intimidation reportedly influenced some judges presiding over criminal cases at the trial level and on appeal to the Court of Cassation. The Commission of Integrity routinely investigated judges on corruption charges, but there were numerous reports that such investigations often were politically motivated.

Numerous threats and killings by sectarian, tribal, extremist, and criminal elements impaired judicial independence. Judges, lawyers, and their family members frequently faced death threats and attacks. Lawyers participated in protests demanding better protection from the government against threats and violence. Judges were also vulnerable to intimidation and violence. In January unidentified gunmen shot and killed an investigating magistrate in Diyala Governorate. In February the president of the Basrah Court of Appeal survived an assassination attempt near his house in Kut al-Hijjaj.

The Kurdistan Judicial Council is legally, financially, and administratively independent from the KRG Ministry of Justice, but the KRG Executive continued to influence politically sensitive cases.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides all citizens the right to a fair trial–but not necessarily a public trial–and the right to be present at their trial, with the assistance of free interpretation through all appeals, if necessary. Observers, including some government officials, the United Nations, and NGOs reported that trial proceedings fell short of international standards. Although investigative, trial, and appellate judges generally sought to enforce the right to a fair trial, defendants’ insufficient access to defense attorneys was a serious defect in proceedings. Many defendants met their lawyers for the first time during the initial hearing and had limited access to legal counsel during pretrial detention. Trials were public, except in some national security cases, but some faced undue delays.

Accused persons are innocent until proven guilty under the law, and detainees are required to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, as well as the right to a privately retained or court-appointed counsel, at public expense if needed. Nonetheless, officials routinely failed to inform defendants promptly or in detail of charges against them. Judges assemble evidence and adjudicate guilt or innocence. Defendants and their attorneys have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases before trial and have the right to confront witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence. In many cases, according to AI, forced confessions served as the only source of evidence without the corroboration of forensic evidence or independent witness testimony. The law provides the right to appeal, although there is a statute of limitations for referral; the Court of Cassation reviews criminal cases on appeal.

KRG officials noted that prosecutors and defense attorneys frequently encountered obstacles in carrying out their work and that prisoners’ trials were unnecessarily delayed for administrative reasons. According to the IKR’s Independent Human Rights Commission, detainees have remained in KRG internal security service facilities for extended periods even after court orders for their release.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The government did not consider any incarcerated persons to be political prisoners or detainees and stated that all individuals in prison had been either convicted or charged under criminal law or were detained and awaiting trial while under investigation.

It was difficult to assess claims that there were no political prisoners or detainees due to the lack of government transparency, prevalence of corruption in arrest procedures, slow case processing, and inaccessibility to detainees, especially those held in counterterrorism, intelligence, and military facilities. Political opponents of the government asserted the government imprisoned or sought to imprison persons for political activities or beliefs under the pretense of criminal charges ranging from corruption to terrorism and murder.

Niaz Aziz Saleh, who was convicted in 2012 of leaking KDP party information related to electoral fraud, remained in prison following the completion of his sentence in 2014, according to the chairman of the IKR Parliamentary Human Rights Committee.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for, or cessation of, human rights violations. Administrative remedies also exist, although due to the overwhelming security focus of the executive branch, coupled with an understaffed judiciary dependent on the executive, the government did not effectively implement civil or administrative remedies for human rights violations. In 2014 in collaboration with the IHCHR, the Higher Judicial Council established special courts to investigate human rights violations and reports of abuse wherever there is a court of appeal. On February 3, IHCHR members stated they had referred approximately 4,000 cases of human rights violations from 2015; however, the prosecutor dismissed hundreds of cases for lack of evidence or failure to complete required documents. At year’s end the courts had not issued any convictions for human rights violations.

KRG law provides for compensation to persons subject to unlawful arrest or detention. The KRG’s Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs handles compensation for unlawful arrests or detentions, and its Human Rights Commission reported that while approximately 8,000 cases (including many historical cases) received approval for compensation, the government was not able to pay compensation due to budget constraints.

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

The constitution mandates that authorities may not enter or search homes except with a judicial order. The constitution also prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, but security forces often entered homes without search warrants.

According to accounts by family members provided to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) Protection Cluster, some government forces and militia groups continued to force alleged Da’esh sympathizers out of their homes in Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, and Salah al-Din Governorates. For example, in late October local security forces in Kirkuk allegedly evicted hundreds of households perceived to be affiliated with Da’esh before destroying their homes, although public statements by local authorities denied government participation in the forced evictions. Similarly, the Protection Cluster reported that in Diyala Governorate, local authorities announced in October that more than 6,300 IDP families residing in and around the city of Khanaquin would be required to depart their homes and relocate to IDP camps, or return to their areas of origin. According to the Protection Cluster, the order was in reaction to security concerns regarding the displaced households’ possible affiliation with Da’esh.

A November 16 HRW report, Marked With An “X,” alleged that KRG forces, mostly Peshmerga, destroyed buildings and homes and, in many cases entire villages, making them uninhabitable. On April 4, the KRG, having been given access to HRW’s evidence and findings prior to the publication of its report, set up a committee to investigate the allegations of unlawful destruction of property and movement restrictions on IDPs in territory under KRG control. The committee proposed that the destruction might have resulted from Da’esh IEDs, was part of collateral damage from fighting or bombing, or was required by the de-mining process to ensure returning IDPs were not injured by IEDs and booby-traps left behind by withdrawing Da’esh.

According to a November 3 HRW report, fighters of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq detained and beat shepherds, including a boy, from a village near Mosul on suspicion of Da’esh affiliation, then stole about 300 sheep–the village’s entire flock.

During the year Da’esh fighters entered homes, destroyed or looted private property, and converted houses into operational bases. Media reported throughout the year that Da’esh opened markets called “Spoils of the Nazarenes” to sell electronics, furniture, and other items looted from Christian homes. In January Christian groups reported that Da’esh arranged a market where they sold 400 houses, 19 high-rise buildings, and 167 stores, warehouses, and shops in the Mosul area belonging to Christians. In September media reported that Da’esh terrorists destroyed more than 17,000 homes in Salah al-Din, according to Governor Ra’ed al-Jabouri. In September, Da’esh reportedly burned approximately 25 homes of ISF members and government employees around Hit, northwest of Ramadi.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution broadly provides for the right of free expression that does not violate public order and morality, express support for the banned Ba’ath party, or advocate altering the country’s borders through violent means. The main limitation on individual and media exercise of these rights was self-censorship due to credible fear of reprisals by the government, political parties, ethnic and sectarian forces, terrorist and extremist groups, or criminal gangs.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: Despite the constitutional protection for freedom of expression, government and KRG oversight and censorship interfered with media operations, at times resulting in closures of media outlets, restrictions on reporting, and interference with internet service. Individuals were able to criticize the government publicly or privately, but not without fear of reprisal. On April 27, the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission closed the Baghdad offices of al-Jazeera. The station’s Baghdad bureau chief reported the government closed the office because it did not approve of al- Jazeera’s editorial policies. The bureau chief also said unidentified armed men repeatedly threatened the bureau and its employees.

In April the media provided live coverage of Baghdad demonstrations, including protesters’ first breach of the International Zone. When a second breach occurred, local media were quiet, with no live coverage or commentary. According to directors of two satellite channels, they received calls from “officials” telling them that covering the protests exacerbated the situation and asked them to “tone it down.”

Press and Media Freedoms: An active media expressed a variety of views largely reflecting the owners’ political viewpoints. The media also self-censored to comply with government restrictions against violating public order and because of a fear of reprisal, particularly by nongovernmental forces, but also by political figures. Media outlets, unable to cover operating costs through advertising revenue, overwhelmingly relied upon political funding, which diminished their ability to report unbiased news. Political parties strongly influenced, or controlled outright, most of the several hundred daily and weekly print media publications, as well as dozens of radio and television stations.

On July 13, the parliament introduced legislation on freedom of expression and peaceful demonstrations. NGOs, such as the Iraqi Union for Freedom of Expression, voiced concern about the legislation, specifically, that the law called for a one-year minimum prison sentence for insulting a religious symbol or figure, and required 10 days’ notice to the government to obtain a permit for a protest.

International and local organizations reported arrests and harassment of journalists as well as closure of media outlets covering politically sensitive topics, including poor security, corruption, and weak governmental capacity. The deterioration in the security situation exacerbated harassment of journalists. Government and KRG security authorities sometimes prevented journalists from reporting citing security pretexts.

Local and national media extensively covered recurring protests in the South; however, security forces did not always allow coverage. For example, on February 12, security forces prevented a reporter for al-Baghdadiya TV from passing the security cordon to cover a demonstration. They told the reporter their security procedures prevented it.

On April 9, security forces wearing civilian uniforms reportedly attacked a Kurdistan News Network (KNN) cameraman in an Erbil mosque while the KNN crew was covering a protest there. As the cameraman attempted to film the protest, one of the uniformed security force members placed a weapon against the cameraman’s head to force him to stop.

In the IKR, government authorities continued to try, convict, and take legal action against journalists, despite a 2008 law that decriminalizes publication-related offenses. According to Kurdistan Journalist Syndicate officials, the 2008 law is the sole basis for prosecution of journalists for publication offense under the regional counterterrorism law, for public morality violations and other crimes.

While in December 2015 the KRG reopened Nalia Radio and Television (NRT) offices that it originally closed in October 2015, Gorran-affiliated KNN offices in Erbil and Dahuk Governorates remained closed because of KRG pressure.

Violence and Harassment: According to a report of the Committee to Protect Journalists, 10 journalists and media workers were killed during the year. Five Iraqi journalists were killed covering the war with Da’esh, four by unknown gunmen, and one in a bombing in Baghdad.

Reporting from Da’esh-controlled areas was increasingly difficult. Journalists covering armed clashes involving government, militia, and Da’esh forces faced serious threats to their safety, with several instances of journalists being killed or injured. Military officials, citing safety considerations, sometimes restricted access of journalists particularly to areas with active fighting, but primarily to outlets not affiliated with the ruling party.

Media workers often reported they were under pressure from persons and institutions, including politicians, government officials, security services, tribal elements, and business leaders, not to publish articles critical of them. Media workers reported accounts of government or partisan violence, intimidation, death threats, and harassment. Mohammed al-Jabari, a correspondent for al-Made Satellite TV in Basrah, said he received a threatening phone call from someone at the Basrah Intelligence Directorate. He said this person was upset because al-Jabari reportedly recorded him talking about the deteriorating security situation with other intelligence officers at the governorate building. Al-Jabari left Basrah because of the threat.

During his coverage of a local teachers’ demonstration, one of the security officers guarding the Basrah governor’s office verbally harassed and beat al-Sharqiya News Channel correspondent Mazin al-Tayyar when he asked why the demonstration coordinator and another protester were arrested.

In April according to the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, Sarmad al-Qasim, the editorial manager of the Lex News agency, received death threats for his work reporting government corruption in Diyala Governorate.

Throughout the IKR there were numerous beatings, detentions, and death threats against media workers. In some cases the aggressors wore military or police uniforms. Many attacks targeted independent and former opposition media, mainly the independent NRT; Payama Television, affiliated with the Kurdistan Islamic Group; and the KNN Television, affiliated with the Gorran Party. According to HRW, Wedat Hussein Ali, a Kurdish journalist who security services had previously interrogated, was abducted and later found dead on August 13 (see section 1.a.).

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The law prohibits producing, importing, publishing, or possessing written material, drawings, photographs, or films that violate public integrity or decency. The penalties include fines and imprisonment. Fear of violent retaliation for publishing facts or opinions displeasing to political factions inhibited free expression. Public officials reportedly influenced content through rewarding positive reporting with bribes, providing money, land, access to venues, and other benefits to journalists, particularly to members of the pro-government Journalists’ Syndicate. These restrictions extended to privately owned Iraqi television stations operating outside of the country.

In 2013 the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament passed the Access to Information Law, to provide for access to information for journalists, media outlets, and ordinary citizens. As of September, however, the KRG had not made efforts to implement the law. Moreover, local government, political parties, and officials, regularly discriminated against some media outlets regarding access to information based on party affiliation. For example, in KDP stronghold areas Dahok and Erbil, KDP-affiliated outlets Rudaw and KTV had access to all KRG departments, while in the PUK and Gorran stronghold of Sulaimaniyah, PUK-affiliated outlets such as GK TV and Kurdsat TV received more access to government and party information than other outlets.

All books published in the country as well as imported books required the Ministry of Culture’s approval and were therefore subject to censorship.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law prohibits defamation and provides penalties of up to one month in prison or a fine of 50,000 to 250,000 dinars ($45 to $225). Many in the media complained this provision prevented them from freely practicing their profession by creating a strong fear of prosecution, although widespread self-censorship impeded journalistic performance as well. Public officials occasionally resorted to libel charges under criminal and civil law, which in some cases resulted in punitive fines on individual media outlets and editors, often for publishing articles containing allegations of corruption. When cases went to court, the courts usually sided with the journalist, according to local media-freedom organizations.

Libel is a criminal offense under KRG law as well, and judges may issue arrest warrants for journalists on this basis.

Nongovernmental Impact: Journalists and family members were targets of terrorists, religious groups that rejected media independence, criminals, corrupt officials, and unknown persons or groups wishing to limit the flow of news. Journalists were harassed, kidnapped for ransom, or killed in deliberate attacks for reporting information critical of Da’esh.

In April an armed group threatened two civil activists in Amara after they criticized Ammar al-Hakim, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq president and Iraqi National Alliance chairman, on their Facebook pages. Hasaneen al-Manshad and Ali al-Dilfi wrote on Facebook that the Islamic parties were not fulfilling the needs of Iraqis and had failed to manage the country, in addition to criticizing Hakim’s speech. The two activists were at a friend’s wedding on April 7 when armed men from the Jihad and Construction Movement forcibly entered and threatened to kill them. The armed men held them at gunpoint until guests negotiated their release in return for the activists’ public apology to Hakim and deleting the offending Facebook posts.

INTERNET FREEDOM

There were overt government restrictions on access to the internet, and there were credible reports, but no official acknowledgement, that the government monitored e-mail and internet communications without appropriate legal authority. Despite restrictions, political figures and activists used the internet to criticize corrupt and ineffective politicians, mobilize protesters for demonstrations, and campaign for candidates through social media channels. According to the World Bank, approximately 17 percent of the population used the internet in 2015, compared with 5 percent in 2011.

The government acknowledged that it interfered with internet access in some areas of the country due to the deterioration in the security situation and Da’esh’s disruptive use of social media platforms. Representatives from the State Company for Internet Services reported they had pursued internet gateway projects that would give them greater control over incoming internet feeds as well as the ability to restrict internet content, but these projects had stalled. During the year there were reports that government officials attempted to have pages critical of the government removed from Facebook and Twitter for communications that the government considered “hate speech,” although they did not succeed in doing so.

There were no reports the Ministry of Communications imposed social media blackouts. Sporadically throughout the year, the government shut down the internet during school exams, reportedly so students could not cheat. Additionally, at times the government shut down the internet during protests for a few hours.

Da’esh also restricted access to the internet and telephone service in areas under its control.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

Social, religious, and political pressures significantly restricted the exercise of freedom of choice in academic and cultural matters. In all regions, various groups reportedly sought to control the pursuit of formal education and granting of academic positions. The country’s universities did not pursue gender-segregation policies. Da’esh continued to limit female education beyond the primary level in areas that it controlled.

Academic freedoms remained restricted in areas of active conflict and in Da’esh-controlled territory. Following Da’esh’s 2014 seizure of Mosul, the group began reshaping education at the elementary, high school, and university levels, including printing textbooks for elementary school children that glorify violence and Da’esh history. For example, local and international media reported that at Mosul University, Da’esh altered the programs of study to comply with Da’esh ideology in the colleges of law, fine arts, physical education, languages, social sciences, and archeology. Da’esh extremists also targeted libraries, museums, and academic institutions in violent attacks and abducted students and faculty.

Extremists and armed groups limited cultural expression by targeting artists, poets, writers, and musicians. For example, Iraqi media continued to report that Da’esh had issued a directive banning all stores in Mosul from selling movies or music CDs, and had instructed businesses to stock only CDs containing Quranic verses or religious programs. On February 16, Da’esh publicly beheaded 15-year-old Ayham Hussein of Mosul for listening to western music, according to an HRW report.

In the IKR, according to local NGOs, senior professorships continued to be easier to obtain for those with links to the traditional KDP and PUK ruling parties.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration “regulated by law.” Regulations require protest organizers to seek permission seven days in advance of a demonstration and submit detailed information about the applicants, the reason for the protest, and participants. The regulations prohibit all “slogans, signs, printed materials, or drawings” involving “sectarianism, racism, or segregation” of citizens. The regulations also prohibit anything that would violate the constitution or law; encourage violence, hatred, or killing; or prove insulting to Islam, “honor, morals, religion, holy groups, or Iraqi entities in general.” Provincial councils traditionally maintained authority to issue permits. Authorities generally issued permits in accordance with the regulations.

In April and May, thousands of protesters took to the streets in response to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s call for protests of the government’s failure to combat corruption and provide security. Protesters stormed the International Zone in Baghdad and overran the Council of Ministers’ Secretariat and the COR buildings, before ISF stopped them. Media reported security forces killed four and injured dozens of demonstrators with tear gas, water cannons, and live fire.

Most protests in the South during the year were accompanied by a heavy security presence and were peaceful. One notable exception was in Nassiriyah on February 2, when a demonstration turned violent after protesters reached the Da’wa Party’s main office. They chanted that Prime Minister Abadi and former prime minister Maliki were “thieves,” “Iran’s spies,” and “corrupt.” Masked men with sticks came out of the office and began to beat the protesters. The police were present but did not intervene to stop the violence. The Dhi Qar Provincial Council formed an investigatory committee but did not identify any of the masked men or hold anyone responsible.

In some cases the government dismissed unauthorized protests or restricted protests for security reasons.

There were limited reports of violence or official interference in protests in the IKR. Media reported that on December 1, PUK authorities in the city of Sulaimaniyah arrested at least 13 teachers before a demonstration over unpaid public-sector salaries.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the right to form and join associations and political parties, with some exceptions. The government generally respected this right, except for the legal prohibitions on groups expressing support for the Ba’ath Party or Zionist principles. The law stipulates that any person who promotes Zionist principles, associates with Zionist organizations, assists such organizations through giving material or moral support, or works in any way towards the realization of Zionist objectives, is subject to punishment by death. There were no applications of this law after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime.

On July 30, parliament passed the Banning the Ba’ath, Entities and Racist Parties and Takfiri and Terrorist Activities Party Law, which observers portrayed as addressing the injustices of the de-Ba’athification process. Rather than ending the collective stigmatization of all those associated with the party, however loosely, the Banning of the Ba’ath Party Law arguably amplified rather than limited de-Ba’athification. Notably, while previous de-Ba’athification processes prevented individuals from political participation or certain economic benefits, this law criminalizes the very idea of “Ba’athism,” metes out lengthy prison sentences for those promoting “Ba’athist ideas,” and strikes at the heart of basic freedoms of expression, assembly, and protest, as well as the principle of nondiscrimination. The law specifically criminalizes “Ba’athists” participating “in any rallies, sit-ins, or demonstrations.” Given the broad and wide-ranging definitions of Ba’athist activities and ideas, its stated application to “any entity, party, activity or approach,” political parties, nongovernmental, civil society organizations and groups of citizens, demonstrating, protesting or simply holding meetings may violate the law.

Bureaucratic delays continued in the government’s NGO registration process. The slow process impeded development and legal protection of NGOs. NGOs can only register in Baghdad, and must periodically reregister. The NGO Directorate in the Council of Ministers Secretariat issued registration certificates to 244 NGOs, from January to August. The NGO Directorate reported 2,844 registered NGOs.

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 and foreign travel, but the government did not consistently respect these rights. IDPs had limited access to Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Najaf Governorates, and areas controlled by the KRG throughout the year. As of November approximately one million IDPs and 225,000 refugees were present in the IKR and areas under KRG security control. In late November hundreds of Sunni Turkmen IDPs from the Tal Afar area were denied entry into Dahuk, located in the IKR. The governor of Dahuk said he was concerned there were Da’esh elements among these IDPs, whose presence in the IDP camps in Dahuk among Yezidis might provoke revenge attacks on them.

The government generally cooperated with UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM),), and other humanitarian organizations to provide protection and assistance to IDPs, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other vulnerable populations. The government did not have effective systems to assist all of these individuals, largely due to funding shortfalls, lack of capacity, and lack of access. The security situation and armed clashes between the ISF and Da’esh throughout the year caused significant movement of civilians, further complicating the government’s coordination of relief efforts. The IOM estimated that, since the beginning of 2014, the conflict with Da’esh had caused more than 3.4 million individuals to become displaced, at least one million of whom have returned home. Security considerations in and near active combat areas, unexploded ordinance, destruction of infrastructure, and official and unofficial restrictions continued to limit humanitarian access to IDP communities.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: UN agencies, NGOs and the press reported that sectarian groups, extremists, criminals, and, in some alleged but unverified cases, government forces attacked and arrested refugees, including Palestinians, Ahwazis, and Syrian Arabs.

Local NGOs reported that abuse of Syrian refugees–often by other refugees–was common, including violence against women and children, child marriage, forced prostitution, and sexual harassment.

A 2011 memorandum of understanding between the government and the United Nations provided for the closure of Camp Ashraf in Diyala Governorate, and transfer to Camp Hurriya (in Baghdad) of members of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK), an Iranian dissident group. The UNHCR relocation program provided the means successfully to relocate all MeK members from Iraq to third countries during the year; the majority of MeK were moved to Albania.

In-country Movement: The law permits security forces to restrict in-country movement pursuant to a warrant, impose a curfew, cordon off and search an area, and take other necessary security and military measures in response to security threats and attacks. There were numerous reports that security forces, including the ISF and Peshmerga, as well as the PMF, selectively enforced regulations requiring residency permits to limit entry of persons into liberated areas under their control. UNAMI and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights received multiple reports that Kirkuk authorities denied Sunni Arab IDPs from Salah al-Din and Ninewa Governorates access to Kirkuk Governorate.

UNAMI reported that in some areas, civilians fleeing conflict zones were intercepted by armed groups and militia operating in support of the ISF, and were targeted for threats, intimidation, physical violence, abductions, destruction of property, and killings. There were a number of reports that IDPs faced hostility from local government authorities and populations, as well as threats of expulsion.

UNHCR reported that Kirkuk authorities also confiscated identification documents or served notices of eviction to IDPs from Salah al-Din, Anbar, and Diyala Governorates, provoking their departure from camps and urban centers. On September 22, authorities forcibly returned 330 IDP families from Laylan Camp to a checkpoint along the road to Salah al-Din, according to the Iraq Humanitarian Protection Cluster. From September 1 to 21, Protection Cluster partners documented the departure of more than 1,000 IDP families who had been targeted for expulsion by local authorities. Amnesty International reported that the PMF Units (predominantly Shi’a militias) and the Peshmerga forces prevented civilians, largely Sunni, from returning to their homes after Da’esh was pushed out.

The KRG, imposing what it stated were necessary security procedures, restricted movement across the areas it administered. Authorities required nonresidents of the IKR to obtain permits that authorized limited stays in the IKR. These permits were generally renewable. Iraqi citizens from outside the IKR who sought to obtain residency permits for KRG-controlled areas required sponsorship from a resident in the region. Citizens (of all ethno-sectarian backgrounds, including Kurds) crossing into the region from the South were obligated to enter at checkpoints and undergo personal and vehicle inspection. The government imposed similar restrictions on IDPs from Ninewa Governorate and the disputed territories.

KRG authorities applied restrictions more stringently in some areas than in others. The United Nations and international humanitarian organizations alleged that practices regarding the entry of IDPs and Iraqi refugees seeking to return were more or less restrictive depending upon the location of the checkpoint and the ethno-sectarian background of the displaced individuals. There were also reports that checkpoints into the IKR were sometimes closed for extended periods, forcing IDPs to wait to enter the region. Officials prevented individuals whom they deemed security threats from entering the region. IKR officials generally admitted minority IDPs into the IKR, although the security checks were occasionally lengthy. Entry often was more difficult for men, particularly Arab men traveling without family.

Due to military operations aimed at defeating Da’esh, ISF, including the PMF and KRG Peshmerga, increased the number of checkpoints and erected makeshift roadblocks in many parts of the country (see section 1.g.). In June, following the liberation of Ramadi and Fallujah from Da’esh in Anbar Governorate, thousands of residents fled those cities for surrounding areas. Most were prevented from leaving Anbar per an official government order, due to security and ethnocentric concerns. Some 70,000 individuals fled Fallujah during a three-day period in June when the Iraqi army secured safe exit routes, overwhelming local and international assistance efforts and leaving many stranded in the desert for days without aid. At least 600 IDPs from Fallujah were missing after Shia PMF units held them for screening. IDPs began returning to Fallujah and outlying areas in September, although there were credible reports that provincial authorities required some government workers to return before they were ready to do so. In September, IDPs in Laylan Camp in Kirkuk were informed that they must return to their areas of origin. UN agencies confirmed that confiscation of identification documents and other measures to force IDPs to return home continued.

Da’esh restricted freedom of movement, particularly in the West and North (see section 1.g.). Da’esh prevented citizens from leaving the cities of Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosul, and other places unless those citizens paid bribes to exit, left family members behind as collateral for their return, or agreed to relinquish property they owned in those cities. Da’esh severely restricted women’s freedom of movement in areas under its control. Patrols checked to make sure women wore suitable attire and that male relatives or guardians accompanied them outside the home. There were credible reports that Da’esh killed civilians trying to flee, including in the cities of Hawija, Qayara, and Mosul, when ISF moved to liberate those areas.

Foreign Travel: The government required exit permits for citizens leaving the country, but the requirement was not routinely enforced.

Exile: The constitution permits forced exile only of naturalized citizens and only if a judicial decision establishes that the individual obtained citizenship based on material falsifications. There were no reported cases of forced exile. After 2003 many former Ba’ath Party members sought refuge in neighboring countries, choosing self-imposed exile over possible prosecutions under de-Ba’athification laws, and later under the Anti-Terrorism Law. In 2011 another wave of prominent Sunni politicians left the country after the government began arresting Sunnis and dissidents, by expansively applying Anti-Terrorism Law provisions.

Emigration and Repatriation: The government failed to provide travel documents to hundreds of citizens awaiting deportation from the United States, essentially rendering these individuals stateless.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

The constitution and the national policy on displacement address IDP rights, but few laws specifically do so. The central government, the IKR, and international organizations, including UN agencies and NGOs, attempted to provide protection and other assistance to IDPs. Host communities were strained as the number of IDPs outside of camps increased. In 2014 the United Nations designated the humanitarian crisis as a Level Three emergency, its highest level, citing the scale, urgency, and complexity of the situation and has since extended the designation through February 2017.

Since 2014 the armed conflict has displaced more than 3.4 million persons, predominantly from Anbar, Ninewa, and Salah al-Din Governorates. In July and August, Salah al-Din Governorate experienced a significant increase in new IDPs resulting from the positioning of government forces in areas around Mosul in preparation for the operations for its liberation. From mid-June through mid-December, nearly 131,000 persons were displaced from Ninewa, Salah al-Din, and Erbil Governorates. One million IDPs from the 2006-08 sectarian conflict remained as of 2014, presumed to be included in the total IDP figure nationwide.

Sectarian violence and the advance of Da’esh displaced Sunni, Christian, Shia, Yezidi, Turkmen, Shabak, and Sabaean-Mandean families (see section 1.g.). While some of the displaced fled to areas outside their districts of origin, lack of secure corridors and fear of looting made others decide to stay. The government urged civilians in Mosul to remain in their homes, attempting to limit possible displacement during the Mosul operations.

The government’s focus on military operations to expel Da’esh and address IDPs’ immediate humanitarian needs, strained official efforts to promote safe, voluntary return or local integration. This challenge required the government to balance attempts to assist IDPs while maintaining good relations with host communities, including addressing their concerns about security threats posed by IDPs. UNHCR and other international organizations noted there was no national policy on IDP returns to homes of origin. In September the Ministry of Displacement and Migration and IKR’s Ministry of Interior signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a coordinated approach on IDP returns and other IDP issues. The Ministry of Displacement and Migration’s strategy recognized local integration as a legal option for IDPs; although in practice, new IDPs arriving from Da’esh-controlled areas (the large majority of whom were Sunni Arabs) faced difficulties being accepted in KRG-controlled areas or in areas held by Shia PMF units. The government attempted to integrate IDPs into local populations but also encouraged families to return to their original homes, in some cases before the families were willing to return.

Government assistance focused on the provision of financial grants, but it made neither the initial nor the successive payments consistently, particularly with the downturn in the economy. Faced with the large movements of IDPs across the country, the government provided food, water, and financial assistance to many but not all IDPs, including in the IKR. Many IDPs lived in informal settlements where they did not receive adequate water, sanitation, or other essential services. According to the IOM, as of November, 17 percent of IDPs lived in shelter arrangements that did not meet minimal safety or security standards, and approximately 64 percent resided in private arrangements, including host family residences, hotels, motels, and rented housing. The government and KRG worked with the United Nations to expand existing camp infrastructure.

In June nearly 85,000 IDPs from Fallujah and surrounding areas fled military operations to expel Da’esh. The unexpectedly large number of IDPs fleeing in a short period of time initially overwhelmed assistance efforts. Since June military shaping operations in villages south of Mosul displaced nearly 131,000 civilians. Many of them fled to overcrowded IDP camps in Debaga and elsewhere. The government worked with UN agencies and NGOs to provide food, shelter, health care, water and sanitation, and other essential services to IDPs in camps and other informal settlements. The government provided many of the IDPs in the camps with basic household goods.

All citizens are eligible to receive food under the Public Distribution System (PDS); however, PDS was implemented sporadically and irregularly. Not all commodities were distributed each month and not all IDPs were able to access the PDS in each governorate. Since the price of oil has dropped, the functioning of the PDS has been even more irregular. Iraqis could only redeem their PDS rations at their place of residence and within their registered governorate, thus losing access and entitlement following displacement.

Persons who did not register as IDPs in their current places of residence sometimes faced limited access to services. Local authorities often determined whether IDPs would have access to local services. Through the provision of legal aid, UNHCR and other humanitarian actors assisted IDPs in obtaining documentation and registering with authorities to improve access to services and entitlements. The IOM reported that some IDPs faced difficulty with registration due to lack of required documentation and administrative delays.

While humanitarian assistance generally reached IDPs in most of the country, access to those remaining in Da’esh-controlled areas was limited. Humanitarian personnel continued to attempt to provide assistance in these areas, but security and movement limitations constrained aid delivery.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government established a system, albeit flawed, for providing protection to refugees. According to UNHCR, there were approximately 267,000 refugees in the country, most of whom are asylum seekers arriving from Syria, with smaller numbers from Iran and Turkey. The government generally cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations to provide protection and assistance to refugees and IDPs in the country.

Refoulement: The government cooperated with UNHCR to prevent the deportation of refugees. UNHCR relocated refugees at risk of deportation to refugee camps or attempted to resettle them.

Employment: Refugees and asylum seekers are legally entitled to work in the private sector. Palestinian refugees, however, faced job insecurity when working in the public sector due to their ambiguous legal status; the government did not recognize their refugee status and did not allow them to obtain citizenship. Syrian refugees were able to obtain and renew residency and work permits both in refugee camps and in Erbil. Authorities, however, did not allow some Syrian refugees to continue their employment in refugee camps.

Durable Solutions: Ethnic Kurdish refugees from Syria, Turkey, and Iran in the IKR generally integrated well, although economic hardship plagued families and prevented many children, especially Syrians, from enrolling in formal school. Local integration remained the best and most likely option for the majority of Iranian Kurds. In September the KRG reported that approximately 60 percent of Syrian refugees in the IKR lived outside camps. Many worked in Erbil or found shelter with relatives in the IKR.

STATELESS PERSONS

UNHCR estimated that approximately 50,000 stateless persons lived in the country, many of them Syrian refugees. Many nonrefugee stateless individuals had previously been citizens and had already begun the process of reacquiring nationality.

As of 2006, the latest year for which data was available, an estimated 54,500 Bidoun individuals living as nomads in the desert near or in the southern governorates of Basrah, Dhi Qar, and Qadisiyah remained undocumented and stateless. Prolonged drought in the southern section of the country forced many individuals from these communities to migrate to city centers, where most obtained identification documents and gained access to food rations and other social benefits. Other communities similarly at risk of statelessness included the country’s Romani population, the Ahwazi community of Shia Arabs of Iranian descent, the Bahai religious minority community, inhabitants of the southern Marshlands, members of the Goyan and Omariya Turkish Kurdish tribes near Mosul, and nationals of South Sudan, which had not established a diplomatic presence in the country.

Stateless persons faced discrimination in employment and access to education. Many stateless persons, particularly Baha’i, were not able to register for identity cards, which prevented them from enrolling in public school, registering marriages, and gaining access to some government services. Stateless persons also faced difficulty obtaining public-sector employment and lacked job security.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. Despite violence and other past irregularities in the conduct of elections, citizens generally exercised this right.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2014 the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) conducted elections for both the Iraqi Council of Representatives and the provincial councils of Erbil, Dahuk, and Sulaimaniyah Governorates. International and local observers monitored the elections. Despite security concerns, monitors declared the elections credible and free from widespread or systemic fraud. There were limited reports of abuse or electoral irregularities. IHEC announced preliminary election results, and the Federal Supreme Court certified the results in 2014.

The loss of civil documentation related to a growing number of IDPs presented a challenge for future elections. IHEC representatives visited an IDP camp in Basrah to renew the voter registrations of camp residents but could not do so because several persons were missing identification documentation. The same lack of identification documents applied to many IDPs across the country.

In 2015 the IKR established the Kurdistan Independent High Electoral Commission, which has authority to supervise all elections and referenda within the IKR, previously under IHEC supervision. There were no elections or referenda in the IKR during the year.

In 2015 IHEC announced initial approval for a petition by Basrah Governorate residents to hold a referendum to make the governorate an autonomous region. As of December the referendum was not yet held because of insufficient funds, as well as declining political support for the initiative.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties and coalition blocs tended to organize along either religious or ethnic lines. Membership in some political parties conferred special privileges and advantages in employment and education.

The Iraqi Kurdistan Region Parliament (IKP) had not convened since October 2015, when KDP officials and politicians ordered their counterparts in Gorran Party, including IKP speaker Yousif Mohammed, to leave Erbil and not report to parliament. KRG security forces subsequently blocked Mohammed from returning to Erbil. Negotiations among IKR political parties to reactivate parliament continued sporadically throughout the year.

Participation of Women and Minorities: The constitution mandates that women must constitute at least 25 percent of parliamentary and provincial council membership. In the parliamentary elections, 22 women received sufficient votes to win seats in the 328-seat COR without having to rely on the constitutional quota, compared with five in 2010. More than 60 additional women were awarded seats based on the quota, bringing the total number of seats women held to 86. Despite an increase in the number of female parliamentarians, political discussions often marginalized female members of parliament. There was one woman in the Council of Ministers.

Of the 328 seats in parliament, the law reserves eight seats for minorities: five for Christian candidates from Baghdad, Ninewa, Kirkuk, Erbil, and Dahuk; one Yezidi; one Sabaean-Mandean; and one Shabak.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. Officials in all parts of the government often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and investigation of corruption was not free from political influence. Family, tribal, and religious considerations significantly influenced government decisions at all levels. Bribery, money laundering, nepotism, and misappropriation of public funds were common.

Corruption: On August 25, the COR used secret ballots to remove Defense Minister Khaled al-Obaidi from his office, and on September 21, it also removed Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari. The questioning and subsequent no confidence votes were reportedly to root out corruption, but media reported that some thought it was to advance the politically motivated agenda of former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The Commission of Integrity (COI) refrained from releasing the names of government officials in its semiannual report. In July the COI published a semiannual report covering activities from January to June. The commission investigated 13,226 cases of corruption, adjudicated 7,088 cases, and referred 1,891 cases to courts for trial. Six of the cases referred to the courts involved ministers, and 99 director general-level officials. The COI reportedly recovered 135.3 billion dinars ($130 million).

There were reports alleging that senior officials involved in bribery schemes held illicit funds in overseas accounts, making bribery more difficult to detect. In 2015 international media reported that the government launched a corruption investigation against the former deputy prime minister for energy affairs Baha al-Araji, accusing him of nine crimes, including property racketeering and financial corruption. Araji publicly acknowledged owning as many as seven houses, a hotel, and other properties. He also had 300 guards whose salaries were paid by the state. In February the COI announced Araji had been referred to the integrity court on charges of corruption, but at year’s end, no charges or arrest warrants had been filed against him. In 2015 the judiciary announced it had issued an arrest warrant for Minister of Trade Milas Muhammad Abdul Karim on corruption charges. The minister left his post, but the result of the corruption investigation by Iraqi Kurdistan Independent Human Rights Commission was not made public.

The Central Bank leads the government’s efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. Through the offices of Banking Supervision and Financial Intelligence, the Central Bank worked with law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to identify and prosecute illicit financial transactions. The investigatory capacity of authorities remained extremely limited, although they were successful in prosecuting money-laundering cases linked to financial transfers to Da’esh-controlled territories. The COI, which prosecutes money-laundering cases linked to official corruption, suffered from a lack of investigatory capacity. There also was a lack of political will to prosecute senior officials.

The Council of Ministers Secretariat has an anticorruption advisor, and the COR has an Integrity Committee. The Joint Anti-Corruption Council reporting to the Council of Ministers oversees and monitors compliance with the government’s 2010-14 anticorruption strategy. The secretary general for the Council of Ministers led the anticorruption council, which also included the chairperson of the Federal Board of Supreme Audit, the commissioner of the COI, and representatives from the offices of the inspectors general (IGs). When the agenda of the anticorruption council calls for high-level government participation, the Ministry of Interior’s head of economic crimes may attend. Despite the council’s mandate, the public generally regarded it as having little effect due to the scale of official corruption. The COI’s National Strategy to Combat Corruption (2015-19) aims to increase training and development of staff of the IG’s office and COI.

Lack of agreement about institutional roles, insufficient political will, political influence, poor transparency, and unclear governing legislation and regulatory processes hampered joint efforts to combat corruption. Although anticorruption institutions increasingly collaborated with civil society groups, organizing workshops, surveys, and training courses, the impact of expanded cooperation was limited. Media and NGOs continued to attempt to expose corruption independently, although their capacity to do so was limited. Anticorruption, law enforcement, and judicial officials, as well as members of civil society and media, faced threats and intimidation in their efforts to combat corrupt practices (see section 2.a.).

Government officials frequently contended that corruption investigations were highly politicized. In December 2015 the COI formed an investigative and oversight committee, consisting of the Iraqi High Judicial Council, the Board of Supreme Audit, and the parliament’s integrity committee, and, earlier in the year, added the public prosecutor. The results of the oversight committee’s investigations were not made public. The chairman of the COI investigative committee said the COI investigated 630 corruption cases from January through September, resulting in 18 arrest warrants against 18 ministerial-level officials, and 137 arrest warrants for directors general.

On August 11, the UN Development Program and the government signed an agreement to strengthen the capacity of the government to detect, investigate, and prosecute high-profile and complex corruption cases.

In August 2015 the prime minister announced, and the COR approved, a series of reforms designed to eliminate official corruption and to improve public services. The reforms went into effect in 2015, but implementation was inconsistent. Prime Minister Abadi’s plan called for the end of sectarian quotas in determining senior positions, as well as the establishment of an executive committee to select ministers, advisors, and directors general based on merit and competence.

The reforms reduced the number of government ministries from 33 to 22. Although the eliminated ministries lost their official mandate, working-level employees continued to be paid while the Council of Ministers engaged in protracted negotiations to merge ministries and reassign employees from eliminated ministries.

Approximately 500 staff members from the Ministry of Human Rights were transferred to the Iraq High Commission for Human Rights, whose Board had not met since May. The reform package authorized a high commission to reopen and investigate old corruption cases. The government subsequently referred 2,000 corruption cases to the courts for prosecution; however, the vast majority of these cases dated from 2003 to 2005.

The prime minister also called on the judiciary to appoint expert judges known for their integrity to investigate and prosecute corruption cases. In 2015 authorities appointed 34 new judges to courts across the country, and 19 integrity judges to Baghdad courts. The Baghdad Integrity Court–an investigation court that specializes in integrity cases–announced it was investigating dozens of corruption cases involving many government ministries. On March 22, the Integrity Court announced it had adjudicated 611 cases; the results of the court decisions were not publicly available. The court in Basrah had not issued any opinions by year’s end.

On July 7, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund approved a three-year $5.34 billion stand-by arrangement that calls for the government to take measures through June 2019 to combat corruption.

In March media reported on a corruption scandal involving the Ministry of Oil, South Oil Company, and Minister of Higher Education Hussein al-Shahristani. Unaoil, a company based in Monaco, allegedly funneled millions of dollars from U.S. and European clients to government officials as bribes for government contracts. No arrests were made by year’s end.

Widespread and pervasive corruption and lack of government transparency, including with regard to oil revenue, were major problems in the IKR. According to the Kurdistan Commission on Public Integrity, corruption in the IKR was extensive. Weak budgetary oversight and lack of training for personnel further hindered the commission from fighting corruption effectively. Allegations and rumors of missing oil revenue were rampant. On October 5, in an effort to improve its capability to deal with corruption, the KRG signed a master service agreement with major international accounting firms to conduct an independent audit of its oil production, marketing, and revenues.

According to local media reports, the KRG made efforts to prosecute corruption cases. On January 24, the IKR presidency confiscated 251 billion dinars ($276 million) from the ex-wife of the KRG minister of natural resources over allegations of corruption. On April 13, the head of the Kurdistan Region’s Central Bank and his deputy were arrested on charges of corruption related to an alleged illegal bond-trading scheme. During the year KRG officials at the director general level and below were arrested on corruption charges at the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs and Sulaimaniyah Immigration Department.

Financial Disclosure: The law authorizes the COI to obtain annual financial disclosures from senior public officials, including ministers, governors, and parliamentarians, and to take legal action for nondisclosure. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment. A unified system for enforcing annual financial disclosures did not exist. The COI has no jurisdiction over the IKR, but Kurdish members of the central government were required to conform to the law. The law obligates the COI to provide public annual reports on prosecutions, transparency, accountability, and ethics of public service.

The Kurdistan Commission on Public Integrity is responsible for distributing and collecting financial disclosure forms in the IKR. The commission reported that the Kurdistan region’s president, all members of its parliament, and all cabinet ministers had submitted financial disclosure reports for 2015. There was no information available indicating that public officials faced penalties for financial nondisclosure.

Public Access to Information: The law does not provide public access to government information. The IKR Information Law expands citizens’ rights to request information from the regional government, parliament, and court system, except in cases of national security or classified information. According to the IKR’s Human Rights Commission, the government had not implemented this law.

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

Domestic and international NGOs operated in most cases with little government interference. Due to the humanitarian crisis, the majority of local NGOs shifted their focus to providing assistance to IDPs and other communities the conflict has affected. In some instances these local NGOs worked in coordination with central government and Kurdistan regional government authorities. A number of NGOs also investigated and published findings on human rights cases. When NGOs alleged human rights abuses that concerned government actions or actions of ethnic or religious groups allied with the government, there were some reports of government interference.

NGOs faced capacity-related challenges, did not have regular access to government officials, and did not systematically serve as bulwarks against failures in governance and human rights abuses. Sustainability of domestic NGOs remained a key factor hindering the long-term development of the sector. The government rarely awarded NGOs contracts for services. While the law forbids NGOs from engaging in political activity, political parties or sects originated, funded, or substantially influenced many, although not all, domestic NGOs.

Some NGOs in the South alleged government officials interfered and harassed them, particularly regarding finances. One NGO representative in Dhi Qar said ISF frequently visited the NGO’s office, claiming that they needed to “check on things.” The governor of Maysan reportedly tried to control funding for local NGOs from international organizations. On September 21, the Maysan Provincial Council voted to limit the governor’s authority over NGOs operating in the province, according to the provincial council’s spokesperson, in order to curb the governorate’s interruption of local NGOs’ work.

Another NGO reported the government refused to register and license its women’s shelters. The government periodically asked the NGO to close them down, even though government officials “unofficially” referred women to the shelters. After each such closure, the shelters would reopen a few days later.

The IKR had an active community of mostly Kurdish NGOs, many with close ties and funded by the PUK and KDP political parties. Government funding of NGOs is legally contingent upon whether an NGO’s programming goals conform to already-identified priority areas. The region’s NGO Directorate established formal procedures for awarding funds to NGOs, which included a public description of the annual budget for NGO funding, priority areas for consideration, deadlines for proposal submission, establishment of a grant committee, and the criteria for ranking proposals. During the year local and international NGOs did not report difficulties registering with the regional government and obtaining permits for their operations in KRG-administered areas.

Reports indicated that Da’esh continued to threaten NGOs and civil society activists in areas under its control throughout the year.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government and the KRG sometimes restricted the access of the United Nations and other international bodies to sensitive locations, including Interior Ministry detention facilities.

Government Human Rights Bodies: In August 2015 the prime minister abolished the Ministry of Human Rights as part of his reform program to reduce the number of governmental ministries. Ministry staff and files were transferred to other ministries, including the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), which had not met since May 2015.

The constitution mandates the creation of an independent IHCHR. The law governing its operation provides for commissioners with four-year nonrenewable terms. No less than one-third of the 11 full-time and three reserve commissioners must be women, and at least one full-time member and one reserve member must be from a minority community. The law provides that the IHCHR be financially and administratively independent and have broad authority, including the right to receive and investigate human rights complaints, conduct unannounced visits to correctional facilities, and review legislation. By the end of the year, the commissioners had not been selected.

The KRG Human Rights Commission, which began operating in 2013, issues periodic reports on human rights, trafficking in persons, and religious freedom. The Commission reported KRG police and security organizations had generally been receptive to human rights training and responsive to reports of violations. In February, however, a court convicted the deputy head of the commission’s Dahuk office for interfering with a police investigation; his sentence was suspended.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Domestic violence remained a pervasive problem, and there was no law prohibiting domestic violence. The law did not always adequately protect rape victims. The law criminalizes rape (but not spousal rape) and permits a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if the victim dies. The law allows authorities to drop a rape case if the perpetrator marries the victim. There were no reliable estimates of the incidence of rape or information on the effectiveness of government enforcement of the law. Due to social stigma and societal and often familial retribution against both the victim and perpetrator, victims of sexual crimes did not usually report it to authorities or pursue legal remedies. International organizations reported that family-imposed movement restrictions, cultural norms, or stigmatization prohibited or discouraged female victims of sexual crimes from accessing psychosocial support services. Local NGOs in IDP camps in the IKR reported that some Ministry of Health professionals were unwilling to treat sexual assault survivors due to cultural norms, and if they did give care, it was inadequate due to capacity limitations in the health-care sector.

Humanitarian protection experts assessed that conditions in IDP camps were highly conducive to sexual exploitation and abuse, which due to existing social and religious norms, often went unreported.

On September 23, the government signed a joint agreement with UNAMI on the Prevention and Response to Conflict-related Sexual Violence. The government committed to working with the Office of the Special Representative and the UN system to develop and implement an action plan to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence.

Due to continuing Da’esh-perpetrated violence, women’s status continued to suffer severe setbacks (see also sections 1.g. and 6). During the year Da’esh continued: to kidnap women and girls; sell, rent, or gift them as forced “brides” (a euphemism for forced marriage or sexual slavery) to Da’esh fighters and commanders; and exploit the promise of sexual access in propaganda materials as part of its recruitment strategy. The Iraq Foundation, a local NGO, reported that Da’esh raped women; victims who refused were beaten until they passed out. According to an August 8 UN Population Fund report, Da’esh continued to sell Yezidi women and girls on slave markets.

In August the Council of Ministers launched the executive plan to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which was passed in 2000 and aimed to increase women’s participation in civic life. NGOs reported, however, that government activity to advance it was minimal. In December the government established the Department of Women’s Empowerment in the Office of the General Secretary for the Council of Ministers.

There is no law against domestic violence. Local and international NGOs and media reported that domestic violence often went unreported and unpunished, with abuses customarily addressed within the family and tribal structure. Harassment of legal personnel who sought to pursue domestic violence cases under laws criminalizing assault, as well as a lack of trained police and judicial personnel, further hampered efforts to bring perpetrators to justice.

Public policy prevents NGOs from maintaining shelters, which severely limited the number of NGO-run shelters available to victims of gender-based crimes and their ability to access health care and psychosocial support. The Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) recommended legislation to provide a legal status for women’s shelters administered by NGOs. While the government does not have a law that explicitly prohibits NGO-run shelters, current law allows the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to determine if a shelter can remain open. OWFI reported that many communities viewed the shelters as brothels and asked the government to close them down. To appease community concerns the ministry regularly closed shelters, only to allow them to reopen in another location and at a later date.

The Ministry of Interior maintained 16 family protection units around the country, which aimed to resolve domestic disputes and establish safe refuges for victims of sexual or gender-based violence. These units tended to prioritize family reconciliation over victim protection and lacked the capacity to support victims. Hotline calls went to the male commanders of the units, which did not follow a regular referral system to provide victims with services, such as legal aid or safe shelter. Victims of domestic violence in Basrah told UNAMI they feared approaching the family protection units, because they suspected that police would immediately inform their families of their testimonies. Shelters for victims of domestic abuse were limited; the family protection units in most locations did not operate shelters. Safe houses, which the government and NGOs operated, were often targets for violence. Minority Rights Group International, an EU-funded human rights organization, noted that the Ministry of Interior Family Protection Units, responsible for receiving complaints about domestic violence, recorded a total of 22,442 cases of family violence across the country between 2010 and November 2014, the latest date for which statistics were available.

The law in the IKR makes domestic violence, including physical and psychological abuse, threats of violence, and spousal rape, a crime. The government implemented the provisions of the law, creating a special police force to investigate cases of gender-based violence and establish a family reconciliation committee within the judicial system, but local NGOs reported that these programs were not effective at combating gender-based violence.

In the IKR, one privately operated shelter and four labor ministry-operated shelters provided some protection and assistance for female victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking. Space was limited, and service delivery was poor. NGOs played a key role in providing services, including legal aid, to victims of domestic violence, who often received no assistance from the government. Instead of using legal remedies, authorities frequently attempted to mediate between women and their families so that the women returned to their homes. Other than marrying or returning to their families, which often resulted in further victimization by the family or community, there were few options for women accommodated at shelters.

According to the KRG Human Rights Commission, there were 7,436 cases of violence against women, 125 cases of self-immolation, 64 suicides, 54 homicides, and 124 cases of rape and sexual abuse reported during the year.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The Family Violence Law, which went into effect in 2011 in the IKR, bans FGM/C, but NGOs reported the practice persisted, particularly in rural areas. UNAMI reported three women were arrested and charged with FGM/C this year. In coordination with the KRG High Council of Women Affairs, the KRG Ministry of Planning, and UNICEF, Heartland Alliance International conducted a FGM/C survey of 5,990 mothers of girls four to 14 years of age living in the IKR in 2015 and 2016. Among the mothers surveyed, 44.8 percent reported undergoing FGM/C themselves compared with 10.7 percent of their daughters, with higher rates of FGM/C in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah Governorates. International human rights organization WADI’s, and local women’s rights organization PANA’s, interviews indicated 25 percent of women in the central and southern parts of the country had been subjected to FGM/C.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor killings remained a serious problem throughout the country, although perpetrators were rarely punished. Some families arranged honor killings to appear as suicides. The law permits honor considerations to mitigate sentences. For example, a provision limits a sentence for murder to a maximum of three years in prison if a man is on trial for killing his wife or a female dependent due to suspicion that the victim was committing adultery.

UNAMI documented several cases of honor killings in Dhi-Qar, Basrah, and Muthanna. On January 16, authorities in Basrah found the body of a 15-year-old girl, reportedly an IDP. She had been decapitated, her head wrapped in a hijab, and thrown into a garbage can.

In March a Basrawi man confessed to the police that he killed his sister because he suspected she was in a sexual relationship. He was released from prison after 24 hours and never went to trial. In August police arrested a man after he stabbed his 20-year-old daughter to death for dating a fellow student at her university in Dhi Qar. He claimed that her death was an accident. At year’s end, the case was in court; he was not in prison.

There were multiple reports of women in Basrah and Dhi Qar Governorates committing suicide through self-immolation. Media usually reported these women killed themselves because of family problems.

Women and girls were at times sexually exploited through so-called temporary marriages, a practice more common in Shia than in Sunni traditions, under which a man gives the family of the girl or woman dowry money in exchange for permission to “marry” her for a specified period of time. Government officials and international and local NGOs also reported that the traditional practice of “fasliya”

–whereby family members, including women and children, are traded to settle tribal disputes–remained a problem, particularly in southern governorates.

A group called The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice distributed flyers in Maysan Governorate calling for single women to wear the abaya, a full-length, loose robe. Those who refused, according to the flyers, were depraved and unfit for marriage. The flyers also said women should not wear make-up, smile, or laugh with strangers. The Provincial Council held an urgent meeting of the security committee in response to the flyers, but the results of this meeting were not known.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual relations outside marriage, including rape or sexual solicitation that may occur during sexual harassment. The penalties include fines and imprisonment. The law provides relief from penalties if unmarried participants marry. No information was available regarding the effectiveness of government enforcement. The labor law that went into effect in February prohibits, for the first time, sexual harassment in the workplace. Due to social conventions and retribution against both the victim and perpetrator of sexual harassment, victims of sexual harassment usually did not pursue legal remedies. Because of the unequal social status of women, their fear of telling close relatives, and their distrust of the criminal justice process, victims rarely filed police complaints against their offenders. In most areas there were few or no publicly provided women’s shelters, information, support hotlines, and little or no sensitivity training for police.

UNAMI repeatedly highlighted the need for women’s shelters outside the IKR. Women and girls who were victims of sexual harassment or worst forms of abuse were often sent to prison or held in police lock-ups for their own protection in the absence of shelters. Some women, with no alternatives, became homeless.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, timing, and spacing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Due to general insecurity in the country and attendant economic difficulties, many women nonetheless received inadequate medical care. The United Nations reported that sexual and reproductive health services, trauma counselling centers, and reintegration support were severely limited, including in the IKR, where the majority of returned captives lived, often having suffered severe trauma at the hands of Da’esh. There were no reports of women having been denied access to contraception or maternal health services because of a spouse or other family member withholding permission. The Global Justice Center reported in April that Da’esh continued to force captive Yezidi women to have abortions because they viewed sex with a pregnant woman to be forbidden.

Discrimination: Although the constitution forbids discrimination based on gender, conservative societal standards impeded women’s ability to enjoy the same legal status and rights as men in all aspects of the judicial system. Throughout the country, women reported increasing social pressure to adhere to conservative social norms. Da’esh continued to impose severe restrictions on women’s movement and dress in areas it controlled, and Da’esh patrols were reportedly routine occurrences. The IHCHR reported cases of Da’esh executing women for not wearing the veil.

In March, UNAMI reported that women constituted 51 percent of the country’s IDPs. The UN representative for women’s affairs in Iraq, Hiba Qaskas, said the abolition of the Ministry for Women’s Affairs posed an additional challenge in addressing issues of conflict and displacement, especially since the majority of those displaced were women.

Law and custom generally do not respect freedom of movement for women. For example, the law prevents a woman from applying for a passport without the consent of her male guardian or a legal representative. Women could not obtain the Civil Status Identification Document–required for access to public services, food assistance, health care, employment, education, and housing–without consent of a male relative. This restriction affected women in conflict, according to local NGOs. In Da’esh-controlled areas, Da’esh forces reportedly forbade women from leaving their homes unless male relatives escorted them. Da’esh also prevented professional women from returning to work, with the exception of medical workers and teachers. In August 2015, as part of the prime minister’s reform package, authorities dissolved the Ministry of State for Women’s Affairs, which had functioned primarily as an advisory office without an independent budget. The former ministry was largely ineffective at solving problems facing women, according to civil society and international women’s rights groups. The NGO community called for the government to replace the ministry with another institution. By year’s end the government had not indicated how another ministry or institution would cover women’s issues or how the institution would be resourced.

Children

Birth Registration: The constitution states that anyone born to at least one citizen parent is a citizen. Failure to register births resulted in the denial of public services such as education, food, and health care. Single women and widows often had problems registering their children. Although in most cases authorities provided birth certificates after registration of the birth through the Ministries of Health and Interior, this was reportedly a lengthy and at times complicated process. The government was generally committed to children’s rights and welfare, although it denied benefits to noncitizen children. Families of noncitizen children had to pay for services, such as public schools and health services that were otherwise free.

Education: Primary education is compulsory for citizen children for the first six years of schooling and until the age of 15 in IKR. Equal access to education for girls remained a challenge, particularly in rural and unsecure areas. The net overall completion rate for primary school was 50 percent as of 2013, the latest-year data available. Children in rural areas faced greater education challenges. The IKR primary school completion rate was among the highest in the country, with 65 percent of children completing primary school on time. A lack of available schools, lack of identification documents, limited income with which to purchase required supplies, and a lack of transportation often prevented IDP children from attending schools.

The continuing conflict delayed the academic school year as IDPs throughout the country sheltered in schools. According to a June UNICEF report, 3.5 million school-aged children were unable to access school or any form of education. Nearly one in five schools was not functioning due to the conflict. Since 2014 UNICEF verified 135 attacks on educational facilities and personnel, and 797 schools were taken over as shelters for IDPs.

Child Abuse: Violence against children remained a significant problem. According to a UN-supported study in 2011 (the latest year for available comprehensive figures), 46 percent of girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were exposed to family violence. In 2013 the COR amended the social care law to increase protection for children who were victims of domestic violence. The amendment also called for protection and care of children in shelters, state houses, and orphanages. UNICEF reported in June that over the past 30 months, 1,496 children had been abducted and had been forced into fighting or had been sexually abused.

The KRG’s Ministries of Labor and Social Affairs, Education, and Culture and Youth continued to operate a toll-free hotline to report violations against, or seek advice regarding, children’s rights.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 15 with parental permission and 18 without. The government made few efforts to enforce the law. Traditional forced marriages of girls as young as age 11 continued, particularly in rural areas. According to UNICEF, approximately 975,000 girls in Iraq were married before the age of 15, twice as many as in 1990. Early and forced marriages, as well as abusive temporary marriages, were more prevalent in Da’esh-controlled areas. UNICEF reported that traditional cultural practices and economic hardships also motivated IDP and Syrian refugee families to marry girls at a young age. In December 2015 the KRG Women High Council launched a one-year education and awareness campaign against child marriage in the IKR.

Local and international NGOs reported that forced divorce–the practice of husbands or their families threatening to divorce wives they married when the girls were very young (ages 12 to 16) to pressure the girl’s family to provide additional money to the girl’s husband and his family–also occurred, particularly in the South. Victims of forced divorce were compelled to leave their husbands and their husbands’ families, and social customs regarding family honor often prevented victims from returning to their own families, leaving some adolescent girls abandoned.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information in women’s section above.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial exploitation of children, and pornography of any kind, including child pornography. During the year there were multiple reports of Da’esh forces abducting girls and forcing them into marriage with Da’esh fighters (see section 1.g.). Child prostitution was a problem, and anecdotal evidence suggested the problem was particularly serious among Syrian refugees in the IKR. Because the age of legal responsibility was nine years old in the central region and 11 in the IKR, authorities often treated sexually exploited children as criminals instead of as victims. Penalties for the commercial exploitation of children range from fines and imprisonment to the death penalty. No information was available regarding the effectiveness of government enforcement.

Displaced Children: Insecurity and active conflict between government forces and Da’esh caused the displacement of large numbers of children. Due to the conflict in Syria, many children and single mothers from Syria also took refuge in the IKR (see section 2.d.).

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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

A small number of Jewish citizens (estimated at less than 100) lived in Baghdad, and there were unconfirmed reports that small Jewish communities existed in other parts of the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts. In 2015 the KRG Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs opened a representative office for Kurdish Jews, which held the IKR’s first Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 10. According to unofficial statistics, there were 430 Jewish families in the IKR.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

Although the constitution states the government, through law and regulations, should care for and rehabilitate persons with disabilities in order to reintegrate them into society, there are no laws prohibiting discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or the provision of other state services. There were reports that persons with disabilities continued to experience discrimination due to social stigma. Although the Council of Ministers issued a decree ordering access for persons with disabilities to buildings and to educational and work settings, incomplete implementation limited access. Local NGOs reported many children with disabilities dropped out of public school due to insufficient physical access to school buildings, a lack of appropriate learning materials in schools, and a shortage of teachers qualified to work with children with developmental or intellectual disabilities. NGOs also reported that authorities denied some children with physical disabilities access to schools.

The minister of labor and social affairs leads a commission for persons with disabilities, designed to remain independent of the government. The KRG deputy minister of labor and social affairs leads a similar commission, administered by a special director within the ministry.

There is a 5 percent public-sector employment quota for persons with disabilities, but employment discrimination persisted, and observers projected that the quota was not likely met at year’s end (see also section 7.d.). Government and KRG officials reported they had few resources to accommodate persons with disabilities in prisons, detention centers, and temporary holding facilities. Mental health support for prisoners with mental disabilities did not exist.

The Ministry of Health provided medical care, benefits, and rehabilitation, when available, for persons with disabilities, who could also receive benefits from other agencies, including the Prime Minister’s Office. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs operated several institutions for children and young adults with disabilities. The ministry maintained loans programs for persons with disabilities for vocational training.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The country’s population included Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and Shabaks as well as ethnic and religious minorities, including Chaldeans, Assyrians, Armenian Orthodox, Syriacs, Yezidis, Sabean-Mandean, Bahai, Kaka’i, and a very small number of Jews. The country also had a small Romani community, as well as an estimated 500,000 citizens of African descent, referred to as “Black Iraqis,” who reside primarily in Basrah and the South. In April 2015 the Ministry of Religion in the IKR officially registered a variant of Zoroastrianism, locally known as Zaradashti, as a religion.

In October 2015 parliament passed The National Identity Card Law, which came into effect in February. This law automatically registers minor children as Muslims if they are born to at least one Muslim parent, or if either parent converts from another religion to Islam. Additionally, the law does not allow non-Muslims to self-identify with their ethnic group nor does it allow Muslims to convert to other religions.

In areas under its control, Da’esh committed numerous abuses against Yezidis, Shabaks, Christians, and other minority communities, including execution, kidnapping, rape, enslavement, forced marriage, forced abortions, expulsion, theft, forced conversions, and destruction of property. Activists from religious and ethnic minority communities faced the greatest risk. Other illegal armed groups also targeted ethnic and religious minority communities (see section 1.g.).

Many of the estimated 500,000 persons of African descent lived in extreme poverty with high rates of illiteracy and unemployment. “Black Iraqis” were not represented in politics and did not hold any high-level government positions.

There were reports of KRG authorities discriminating against minorities, including Turkmen, Arabs, Yezidis, Shabaks, and Christians, both in the disputed territories and in the three provinces that officially make up the Kurdistan region.

Although Arabs are the majority in most of the country, they are a minority in Kirkuk, and Arab residents of the city frequently charged that KRG security forces targeted Arab communities. Arab residents of Kirkuk alleged that local authorities used the pretext of terrorist attacks to impose curfews on them and arrest Arabs who lacked legal resident permits.

Kirkuk citizens, particularly members of the Sunni Arab community, faced pressure to return to their areas of origin. UNAMI received reports of evictions, confiscation of identity documents, or notifications to leave Kirkuk throughout the year. NGOs reported Kirkuk authorities confiscated identification documents of IDPs from Salah al-Din, Anbar, and Diyala Governorates. As of September local authorities notified approximately 6,000 families in Laylan Camp and in a dozen neighborhoods in Kirkuk that they had to return to their areas of origin (see section 2.d.). When confronted by international organizations and the diplomatic community about forced expulsions of IDPs, Kirkuk authorities denied issuing such an order. International organizations and NGOs continued to assert that the government was indirectly pressuring IDPs to leave.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Neither hate crime nor antidiscrimination laws exist, and there are no other criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the prosecution of crimes motivated by bias against members of the LGBTI community. Despite repeated threats and violence targeting LGBTI individuals, the government failed to identify, arrest, or prosecute attackers or to protect targeted individuals.

No law specifically prohibits consensual same-sex sexual activity, although the law prohibits sodomy, irrespective of gender. There was no data on prosecutions for sodomy.

Authorities relied on public indecency charges or confessions of monetary exchange (that is for prostitution, which is illegal) to prosecute same-sex sexual activity. Authorities used the same charges to arrest heterosexual persons involved in sexual relations with persons other than their spouses.

The law does not address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Societal discrimination in employment, occupation, and housing based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and unconventional appearance was common. Information was not available regarding discrimination in access to education or health care.

Due to stigma, intimidation, and potential harm including violent attacks, LGBTI organizations did not operate openly, nor were there gay pride marches or gay rights advocacy events. LGBTI persons often faced abuse and violence from family and nongovernmental actors. In addition to targeted violence, members of the LGBTI community remained at risk for honor crimes, since their conduct did not conform to traditional gender norms. LGBTI rights groups attributed the lack of publicized cases of attacks to the low profile of members of the LGBTI community, who altered their public dress and lifestyle to conform to societal norms. NGOs established shelters for individuals who feared attacks and continued to accommodate victims. They periodically received threats and relocated shelters for security reasons. Community activists reported that violence and intimidation continued.

In July, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr publicly stated that homosexuals should not be attacked as they suffered from psychological problems.

Da’esh published videos depicting alleged executions of persons accused of homosexual activity that included stoning and being thrown from buildings. In July, UNAMI reported a young man had been abducted and killed in Baghdad because of his sexual orientation. Sources reported the abductors were known members of armed groups. Some armed groups also started a campaign against homosexual persons in Baghdad, UNAMI reported at least three more LGBTI persons had disappeared since July.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

In July religious leaders, members of parliament, and Baghdad-based judges said some political parties sanctioned criminal networks seizing Christian property. Christian groups also reported they had submitted dozens of complaints to the parliamentary integrity committee, and in August had sent a letter, signed by Assyrian Member of Parliament Yunadim Kanna, to the prime minister outlining cases of illegal seizure of Christians’ real estate in Baghdad. According to Masarat, a domestic minority rights NGO, most Christians refused to file complaints due to fear that armed groups might abduct their families. Those who filed complaints reported police did not conduct thorough investigations.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution states that citizens have the right to form and join unions and professional associations. The law does not prohibit antiunion discrimination or provide reinstatement for workers fired for union activity. In August 2015 the COR approved a labor law (No. 37 of 2015) that allows workers to select representatives for collective bargaining, even if they are not members of a union, and affords workers the right to have more than one union in a workplace. The law went into effect in February 7. On October 25, the Council of Ministers ratified International Labor Organization Convention 87 on freedom of association and the rights to organize, but the COR had not voted on it at year’s end.

A Saddam Hussein-era law bans all public-sector trade union activity. The law also considers individuals state-owned enterprises employ (who made up approximately 10 percent of the workforce) as public-sector employees. Civil society organizations lobbied for a new trade union law to expand union rights.

Private-sector employees in worksites employing more than 50 workers may form workers committees–subdivisions of unions with limited rights–but most private-sector businesses employed fewer than 50 workers.

Labor courts have the authority to consider alleged labor law violations and disputes, but no information was available concerning enforcement of the applicable law, including whether procedures were prompt or efficient.

Strikers and union leaders reported that government officials threatened and harassed them during the year. They also asserted that ministries and state-owned enterprises used fines, demotions, suspension from work, and forced transfers to punish labor activists and discourage union activity. Unions reported authorities arrested labor leaders and activists for their activities. Union leaders also cited corruption within the government as a continuous problem, with government officials imposing arbitrary fines on workers for such activities as calling for demonstrations and traveling outside the country on union business without prior approval.

The law allows for collective bargaining in the private sector, although in practice, the government authorities sometimes violated private-sector employees’ collective bargaining rights. Some unions were able to play a supportive role in labor disputes, and they had the right to demand government arbitration.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor–including slavery, indebtedness, and trafficking in persons–but the government did not effectively monitor or enforce the law.

Foreign migrant workers, particularly construction workers, security guards, cleaners, handymen, and domestic workers, were subjected to forced labor, confiscation of travel and identity documents, restrictions on movement and communications, physical abuse, sexual harassment and rape, withholding of wages, and forced overtime. There were cases of employers withholding travel documents, stopping payment on contracts, and preventing foreign employees from leaving the work site.

Women were subjected to involuntary domestic service through forced marriages and the threat of divorce, and women who fled such marriages or whose husbands divorced them were vulnerable to further forced labor. Due to the deterioration in the security situation, female IDPs were increasingly vulnerable to economic exploitation and discriminatory employment conditions. According to local sources, Da’esh exploited as many as several thousand Yezidi and other minority women and girls sexually and economically and forced men and boys into military service (see also sections 1.g. and 6).

Also, see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The constitution and law prohibit child labor. The minimum age for employment is 15. The law limits working hours for persons younger than age 18 to seven hours a day and prohibits employment in work detrimental to health, safety, or morals of anyone younger than 18. The labor code does not apply to juveniles (ages 15 to 18) who work in family-owned businesses producing goods exclusively for domestic use. Since children employed in family enterprises are exempt from some protections in the labor code with regard to employment conditions, anecdotal reports of children performing hazardous work in family-owned businesses, such as in brick manufacturing and auto repair shops, continued. The new labor law introduced improvements to child labor regulations, such as increased fines and penalties for violators of the labor law. The new law abolished a Saddam-era decree that allowed children as young as 12 to work. The law also mandates employers–not workers or families–to bear the cost of annual medical checks for working juveniles (ages 15-18). Children between the ages of 12 and 14 were not required to attend school but were not permitted to work and thus were vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor. Violators are subject to imprisonment for a period of 30 days to six months or to a fine ranging from 100,000 dinars to 500,000 dinars ($91 to $455). Qualitative data on child labor practices was limited, particularly with regard to the worst forms of child labor, a factor that further limited enforcement of existing legal protections.

Child labor, including in its worst forms, occurred throughout the country. The inspection service of the labor ministry sought to comply with the law prohibiting child labor in the private and public sectors. Inspections continued, but due to capacity constraints as well as the focus on maintaining security and fighting terrorism, law enforcement personnel and labor inspectors’ efforts to monitor these practices were ineffective, and penalties for violations did not serve as a deterrent.

The NGO Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights documented many cases of displaced children who were forced to migrate with their families from their homes, and were subsequently forced to work. It also reported the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs did not maintain accurate statistics about displaced child workers. In July, UNICEF reported an estimated half a million children were in the labor market, a number which doubled since 1990.

There was no recent survey of the child labor situation in the IKR, but local NGOs reported that child labor increased due to the influx of Syrian refugees. The IKR’s Labor Ministry operated a 24-hour hotline for reporting labor abuses, including child labor; the hotline received approximately 200 calls per month.

There were reports that Da’esh and other armed groups recruited children to gather intelligence, staff checkpoints, patrol the streets, and serve as couriers (see section 1.g. and section 6, Children). There was no evidence that the government purposely recruited children into the armed forces. There were local press reports of families sending their children to beg in the streets. Local NGOs reported that organized gangs also recruited children to beg. In September the Labor Ministry launched a grants program to encourage low-income families to send their children to school rather than to beg in the streets.

See also the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution provides that all citizens are equal before the law without regard to gender, sect, opinion, belief, nationality, or origin. The law prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, social origin, political opinion, language, or social status, and any forms of sexual harassment in the workplace. The government was ineffective in enforcing these provisions. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on disability, age, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to women, foreign workers, and minorities (see section 6). The law gives migrant Arab workers the same status as citizens but does not provide the same rights for non-Arab migrant workers, who faced stricter residency and work visa requirements.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

In June the prime minister issued an order to cut senior civil servants salaries by 15 percent due to budget constraints. The COR rejected the order in July. The 2015 pay scale reduced salaries of senior civil servants and increased salaries of civil servants at the low end of the pay scale. The 2015 pay scale offered nonskilled workers a monthly salary of 170,000 dinars ($155) and 300,000 dinars ($273) for jobs that required a bachelor’s degree. The salary also included bonuses for employees with families and higher education degrees.

The law limits the standard workday to eight hours, with one or more rest periods totaling 30 minutes to one hour, and the standard workweek to 48 hours. The law permits up to four hours of overtime work per day and requires premium pay for overtime work. For industrial work, overtime should not exceed one hour per day. The government sets occupational health and safety standards. The law states that for hazardous or exhausting work, employers should reduce daily working hours. The law provides workers the right to remove themselves from a situation endangering health and safety without prejudice to their employment but does not extend this right to civil servants or migrant workers, who together made up the majority of the country’s workforce.

The Labor Ministry has jurisdiction over labor law, child labor, wages, occupational safety and health topics, and labor relations. The government did not enforce regulations governing working conditions. The ministry’s occupational safety and health staff worked throughout the country, but the lack of a law governing these inspections hindered compliance and enforcement efforts.

The legal and regulatory framework, combined with the country’s high level of violence and insecurity, high unemployment, large informal sector, and lack of meaningful work standards, resulted in unacceptable conditions for many workers. Workplace injuries occurred frequently, especially among manual laborers. A lack of oversight and monitoring of employment contracts left foreign and migrant workers vulnerable to exploitative working conditions and abusive treatment. Little information was available on the total number of foreign workers in the country, although some observers reported that large groups of migrant workers, many of them in the country illegally, lived in work camps, sometimes in substandard conditions. Due to the deterioration in security, and conflict throughout western and northern Iraq, many foreign workers departed the country, or their companies or home governments evacuated them. The government also deported dozens of foreign workers from the South because they lacked proper immigration documents.

On February 5, a fire in an Erbil hotel massage center resulted in at least 19 deaths. Press reports quoted the Erbil governor as identifying 15 of the victims as Philippine nationals; the remaining victims were Iraqi and Palestinian. The hotel reportedly lacked fire extinguishers and fire suppression systems.

In 2015 the Labor Ministry launched an income-generating loan program, with a budget of 10 billion dinars ($9.1 million), to assist unemployed persons, including recent college graduates, shopkeepers affected by terrorism, and IDPs. In February the ministry announced that the microloans had benefitted 43,079 persons since the start of the program.

Jordan

Executive Summary

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a constitutional monarchy ruled by King Abdullah II bin Hussein. The constitution concentrates executive and legislative authority in the king. The multiparty parliament consists of the 65-member House of Notables (Majlis al-Ayan) appointed by the king and a 130-member elected lower house, the Chamber of Deputies (Majlis al-Nuwwab). Elections for the Chamber of Deputies took place on September 20. International observers deemed the elections were organized, inclusive, and credible.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights problems were citizens’ inability choose their ultimate governing authority; restrictions on the freedom of expression, including detention of journalists, which limited the ability of citizens and media to criticize government policies and officials; and mistreatment and allegations of torture by security and government officials.

Other human rights problems included restrictions on freedom of association and assembly, poor prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and denial of due process through administrative detention, prolonged detention, and allegations of nepotism and the influence of special interests on the judiciary. The government continued to infringe on citizens’ privacy rights. The government prevented some refugees from coming into the country, deported other asylum seekers, and stripped some Palestinian refugees from Syria of their Jordanian citizenship prior to returning them involuntarily to Syria. Violence against women was widespread, and abuse of children persisted. Legal and societal discrimination and harassment remained a problem for women, religious minorities, religious converts, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. Trafficking in persons remained a problem. Discrimination against persons with disabilities was a problem. Legal and societal discrimination against persons of Palestinian origin remained widespread. The government restricted labor rights and local and international human rights organizations reported abuse of foreign domestic workers.

Impunity remained widespread, and the government did not take sufficiently strong steps to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed abuses. The government took limited steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed abuses, but the proceedings were not transparent, and information on the outcomes was not publicly available.

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 some reports of arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life. Local human rights organizations alleged that at least three individuals died in custody from torture during the year, but they did not publicly report specifics of the cases.

In April the National Coordinator for Human Rights announced that the police court was considering three cases of alleged torture by Public Security Directorate (PSD) personnel. The three police court cases, including the May 2015 death while in custody of Abduallah al-Zo’ubi and the September 2015 death while in custody of Omar al-Nasir, continued at year’s end.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports during the year of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The constitution bans torture, including psychological harm, by public officials and provides penalties of as long as three years’ imprisonment for its use, with a penalty of up to 15 years if serious injury occurs. While the law prohibits such practices, international and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to report incidents of torture and widespread mistreatment in police and security detention centers. Human rights lawyers found the law ambiguous and supported amendments to define “torture” better and strengthen sentencing guidelines.

The police court case against five police officers charged with the torture of Omar al-Nasir continued. Omar al-Nasir died in custody at the Criminal Investigation Department’s headquarters in Amman in late September 2015.

According to a report by the quasi-governmental National Center for Human Rights (NCHR), the PSD received and investigated 239 complaints of torture and mistreatment in police stations in 2015; 147 cases had no further action due to a decision by the police prosecutor, 45 were referred to the chief of a police unit for administrative punishment, and 27 remained pending. Authorities referred 20 complaints to the police court in comparison with one case in 2014. The NCHR received 92 complaints of torture and mistreatment in police stations in 2015.

The NCHR received complaints of torture and inhuman treatment, but did not report specifics of the allegations. Throughout the year a local NGO reported that, in an effort to humiliate detainees, government agents at times abused them during arrest or detention by making them remove their clothing and threatening them with rape. The NCHR reported in 2015 a sharp drop in complaints of torture and mistreatment at prisons and rehabilitation centers, while it observed an increase in complaints of torture and mistreatment against the Anti-Narcotics Department and the Criminal Investigation Department.

The 2015 NCHR report documented no effective steps by either the legislative or the executive powers to address torture and called for amending the law to give jurisdiction to ordinary courts to follow up on torture cases to ensure the trial and conviction of perpetrators of torture and that victims received compensation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in the country’s six older prisons were poor, while the eight new prisons met international standards. Authorities held migrants without legal work or residency permits, or charged with other crimes, in the same facilities as citizens. (For information on asylum seekers and refugees, see section 2.d.).

Physical Conditions: Significant problems in older prison facilities included inadequate health care, poor sanitation and ventilation, extreme temperatures, and insufficient basic and emergency medical care. In its 2015 report, the NCHR, identified as problems overcrowding; and limited health care, legal assistance for inmates, and social care for the inmates and their families. Detainees reported abuse and mistreatment by guards.

According to a report by the NCHR, in 2015 the PSD received 38 cases of allegations of torture and mistreatment in prisons and rehabilitation centers compared to 61 in 2014: authorities convicted 12 officers, but, in the other 30 cases, authorities took no further action for unspecified reasons. In 2015 the NCHR received eight complaints of torture and mistreatment at prisons and rehabilitation centers compared with 11 in 2014. According to NCHR there were 30 deaths in prisons in 2015, 26 of them were due to “natural causes,” one was due to “unnatural causes” (beaten to death by a fellow inmate), and three were suicides.

Officials and the NCHR reported overcrowding at most of the prisons, especially the prisons in and around Amman. The NCHR repeatedly recommended the closure of Jweideh Prison, citing deteriorating infrastructure and inmates’ complaints of poor social and medical care.

During the year the government closed eight temporary detention centers for failing to meet acceptable standards, and conducted renovations at an additional 17 temporary detention centers at police stations.

A 2014 law stipulates that juveniles and adult detainees should be held separately during the pretrial phases as well.

International and domestic NGOs reported that in some instances Islamist prisoners faced harsher prison conditions than other inmates.

Authorities often held pretrial detainees in the same detention facilities as convicted prisoners. The General Intelligence Directorate held some persons detained on national security charges in separate detention facilities. In 2015 the NCHR made an unspecified number of announced visits to directorate prisons, where the detainees complained of prolonged pretrial detention. The center received the following complaints about the Intelligence Directorate: solitary confinement and isolation of prisoners and prolonged detentions of up to one year. According to human rights activists and the 2015 NCHR report, the directorate held detainees in solitary confinement and did not allow unsupervised meetings with visitors, including their lawyers. There were also reports of mistreatment, abuse, and torture in their detention facilities. The 2015 NCHR report noted a decrease in the number of complaints related to the physical conditions of Intelligence Directorate detention facilities compared with previous years.

Although basic care was available in all correctional facilities, medical staff complained that correction facilities throughout the country lacked adequate facilities, supplies, and staff. The staff was unable to address deficiencies in care available to inmates. Most facilities were unable to conduct blood tests and had limited X-ray capabilities, forcing doctors to rely largely on patient self-reporting for certain conditions. If an inmate’s condition was too severe for treatment at the clinic, doctors recommended transfer to a local hospital.

Conditions in the women’s prison were generally better than conditions in most of the men’s prison, but overcrowding at Jweideh was sometimes a problem.

Administration: During the year the PSD instituted a requirement that all temporary detention centers must keep a logbook recording the health status of each prisoner before and after detention. Authorities took no steps systematically to use alternatives to prison sentences for nonviolent offenders. As of 2014 the Juvenile Law recommends that judges use alternative sentencing, including community service and vocational training, for juveniles, although authorities had not done so. There were limited post-release programs and poor classification of inmates. Some newer prisons, such as Umm al-Lulu Prison, offered a range of vocational training programs and employment opportunities for adult male prisoners. There were no prison ombudsmen. In some cases authorities severely restricted the access of prisoners and detainees to visitors. In some cases authorities did not inform the families regarding the whereabouts of detainees and banned family visits. Prisoners could observe their religious practices. Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities and, in some prisons, prison directors without censorship, but authorities rarely investigated allegations of poor conditions. Karamah, a team of government officials and NGOs, and the NCHR, a quasi-governmental organization, monitored prison conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some local and international human rights observers to visit prisons and conduct private interviews. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited prisoners and detainees in all prisons, including those controlled by the Intelligence Directorate, according to standard ICRC modalities. Authorities denied requests by local human rights observers to conduct monitoring visits independently of Karamah and the NCHR. The prime minister-appointed national human rights coordinator organized monitoring visits for several local and international NGO representatives to the Jweideh Prison on January 21 and, after its renovation, on November 15. The coordinator organized a similar visit to Swaqah Prison on March 17.

Improvements: Early in the year, the government completed renovations of the men’s section of Jweideh Prison to expand the living area for each inmate to meet international standards, including by installing fans in the rooms and toilets, and repairing the roof to prevent leaks. The renovations also created a new family visiting area, a dining hall, and an outdoor recreation area, renovated the mosque, clinic, and dentist’s office, upgraded the sewage, electricity, heating, and water systems, and expanded the facility’s capacity from 1,080 to 1,400.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the government did not always observe these prohibitions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The PSD controls general police functions. The PSD, the Intelligence Directorate, the gendarmerie, the Civil Defense Directorate, and the military share responsibility for maintaining internal security. The PSD, the Civil Defense Directorate, and the gendarmerie report to the Minister of Interior with direct access to the king when necessary, and the Intelligence Directorate reports directly to the king. Civilian authorities maintained control over security forces.

According to local and international NGOs, the government rarely investigated allegations of abuse or corruption, and when authorities investigated such allegations, there were few convictions and little to no public information or transparency about the investigation and sentencing. Local and international NGOs and activists alleged widespread impunity. Citizens may file complaints of police abuse or corruption with the PSD’s Ombudsman Bureau or at a police prosecutor stationed with each unit and at each prison. Citizens may file complaints of abuse and corruption by the gendarmerie directly with the PSD’s Ombudsman Bureau. An Intelligence Directorate liaison officer receives complaints against the directorate and refers them to Intelligence Directorate personnel for investigation. Citizens may also file complaints against the PSD, gendarmerie, and the Intelligence Directorate with the NCHR, several human rights NGOs, or the civilian prosecutor general.

The PSD’s Special Branch Unit is tasked with investigating allegations of police corruption. The PSD and the Intelligence Directorate try their personnel internally with their own courts, judges, and prosecutors; authorities rarely published reports about the proceedings. Trials rarely yielded substantive punishments for human rights violations, and authorities did not make such punishments public. Human rights activists cited fear of official retribution as a reason for the overall lack of official complaints of human rights violations.

Through June 30 the PSD Ombudsman Office had received eight complaints against officers that were allegations of harm (a lesser charge than torture that does not require a demonstration of intent). Authorities dismissed two cases for lack of evidence, and six remained pending. As of June 30, the PSD Ombudsman Office had received 32 other complaints against officers for disobeying the orders and instructions of a commander–such as an order to refrain from insulting inmates. Authorities dismissed four cases, and 28 remained pending.

The PSD includes a module on human rights in required annual training for all personnel. There is also a module on human rights in the required training for all new officers.

During the year there were few reported instances of security forces using excessive force with impunity and failing to protect demonstrators from violence. On June 13, a 14-year old boy died in Balqa Governorate during a police raid against suspected drug dealers. Police said the boy fell to his death as he ran from security forces. Two of the boys’ relatives suggested in an online video that the police were responsible for the boy’s death. The Public Security Directorate was investigating the incident. In 2015 the NCHR received 24 complaints concerning security personnel using excessive force during arrests and searches.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law allows authorities to detain suspects for up to 24 hours without a warrant in all cases. It requires that police notify authorities within 24 hours of an arrest and that authorities file formal charges within 15 days of an arrest. Authorities can extend the period to file formal charges to as long as six months for a felony and two months for a misdemeanor. According to local NGOs, prosecutors routinely requested extensions, which judges granted. The State Security Court authorizes judicial police to arrest and keep persons in custody for seven days prior to notification while conducting criminal investigations. This authority includes arrests for alleged misdemeanors. NGOs alleged that authorities transferred suspects to the State Security Court to extend the legal time from 24 hours to seven days for investigation prior to notification or transferred suspects from police station to police station to extend the period for investigation. The NCHR report criticized the lack of record keeping at police detention facilities, noting that records failed to note the exact time of arrest and the arresting employee.

The penal code allows bail, and authorities used it in some cases. Some detainees reported not having timely access to a lawyer or the ability to contact their relatives at the time of arrest, but authorities generally permitted family member visits, albeit sometimes up to a week after the arrest. Authorities appointed lawyers to represent indigent defendants charged with felonies carrying possible life sentences or the death penalty, although legal aid services remained minimal. The law provides the right to appear promptly before a judge or other judicial officer for a judicial determination of the legality of the detention. At times authorities held suspects incommunicado for up to one week or placed them under house arrest. A number of human rights activists alleged that authorities held arrestees incommunicado to hide evidence of physical abuse by security forces.

Arbitrary Arrest: In cases purportedly involving state security, security forces at times arrested and detained citizens in administrative detention without warrants or judicial review, held them in pretrial detention without informing them of the charges against them, and either did not allow defendants to meet with their lawyers or did not permit meetings until shortly before trial. Activists reported that, during the year, officials detained migrant laborers for working without authorization, being absent from their authorized workplace, or lacking proper residency permits. They reported employers physically abused or mistreated some of these detainees. On September 26, the Prisons Administration reported 1,058 persons were in administrative detention: 901 men and 157 women. In 2015 the NCHR reported 19,860 administrative detainees held throughout the year, some as long as five years.

The law allows the 12 provincial governors to detain administratively individuals suspected of planning to commit a crime or sheltering thieves, habitually stealing, or constituting a danger to the public. Authorities held these individuals in prison or house arrest without due process and often despite a finding of not guilty in legal proceedings. The governors may prolong detentions; authorities administratively detained some migrants for several months without charges. Governors used this provision widely, including to incarcerate women allegedly to protect them from becoming potential victims of honor crimes, although the detainees posed no threat to public safety.

Several international and national NGOs noted governors routinely abused the law, imprisoning individuals when there was not enough evidence to convict them and prolonging the detention of prisoners whose sentences had expired.

Pretrial Detention: The common practice of judges granting extensions to prosecutors prior to filing formal charges unnecessarily lengthened pretrial detention. Lengthy legal procedures, a large number of detainees, judicial inefficiency, and judicial backlog added to the problem of pretrial detention. Automation of several legal procedures in recent years reduced the average period of pretrial detention, according to local legal aid organizations.

The law criminalizes the act of detaining any person without a prosecutor’s order for more than 24 hours. According to human rights organizations, impunity was very common for such violations.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law does not have an explicit provision that entitles victims of arbitrary or unlawful detention to restitution. The Criminal Procedures Law does not provide for routine judicial review of administrative detentions ordered by the 12 governors. Detainees can bring civil lawsuits for restitution for arbitrary or unlawful detention or bring criminal lawsuits for illegal incarceration, but this rarely occurred in practice. Detainees must hire a lawyer with at least five years’ experience, must pay their own fees, and must present a copy of the order of detention. In the only known case of compensation for unlawful detention, in 2015 the Court of Appeals upheld a 2014 decision by the Amman Magistrate Court to award compensation to an Egyptian worker for unlawful detention. Authorities had administratively detained the worker for 13 months.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but allegations of nepotism and the influence of special interests by legal experts and human rights lawyers raised concerns about the judiciary’s independence. Additionally, judicial inefficiency and a large case backlog delayed the provision of justice. Authorities did not always respect court orders.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law presumes that defendants are innocent. According to the law, all civilian court trials, as well as State Security Court trials are open to the public unless the court determines that the trial should be closed to protect the public interest. State Security Court trials are generally open to the journalists and NGOs, but the court can decide to close them if it deems it in the public interest. Authorities occasionally tried defendants in their absence. Defendants are entitled to legal counsel, provided at public expense for the indigent in cases involving the death penalty or life imprisonment, but only at the trial stage. Most criminal defendants lacked legal representation prior to and at trial. Officials did not respect the right of defendants to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them or to a fair and public trial without undue delay. Authorities did not uniformly provide foreign residents, especially foreign workers who often did not speak Arabic, with translations and defense. Defendants may present witnesses and evidence and may question witnesses presented against them. Authorities generally granted defendants access to government-held evidence relevant to a case. Defendants can appeal verdicts; appeals are automatic for cases involving the death penalty. Defendants do not have the right to refuse to testify. Although the constitution prohibits the use of confessions extracted by torture, human rights activists noted that courts routinely accepted confessions allegedly extracted under torture or mistreatment.

Defendants before the State Security Court frequently met with their attorneys only one or two days before their trial began. Authorities did not accord defendants adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. In many cases, the accused remained in detention without bail during the proceedings. In the State Security Court, defendants have the right to appeal their sentences to the Court of Cassation, which has the authority to review issues of both fact and law.

The government allowed international observers to visit the State Security Court and the Police Court to watch court proceedings in October 2015 and March. One of the cases observed at the police court in March was the trial of five police officials accused of torturing and beating Omar al-Nasir to death in September 2015. The case remained pending at year’s end.

Civil, criminal, and commercial courts accord equal weight to the testimony of men and women. On the other hand, in sharia courts, which have jurisdiction over Muslim marriage, divorce, and inheritance cases, the testimony of one man equals that of two women.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

During the year the government detained and imprisoned activists for political reasons including criticizing the government, criticizing the government’s foreign policy, the publication of criticism of government officials and official bodies, criticizing foreign countries, and chanting slogans against the king. Citizens and NGOs alleged the government continued to detain other individuals for political reasons and that governors continued to use administrative detention for what appeared to be political reasons.

On June 14, authorities detained Amjad Qourshah, a professor of religious studies at the University of Jordan. The State Security Court charged him with harming relations with a foreign state under the Counterterrorism Law. Qourshah said that the charges related to videos he published in 2014 criticizing the country’s participation in the counter-Da’esh coalition. The State Security Court rejected six requests for bail from his lawyer before releasing him on bail on September 6. The charges were pending at year’s end.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals may bring civil lawsuits related to human rights violations.

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

The law prohibits arbitrary interference in private matters, but the government did not respect this prohibition. Citizens widely believed that security officers monitored telephone conversations and internet communication, read private correspondence, and engaged in surveillance without court orders. Citizens widely believed the government employed an informer system within political movements and human rights organizations.

Activists reported that Intelligence Directorate officials withheld documents and threatened to bar children of activists from entering or graduating from university.

Former prisoners alleged authorities banned citizens from obtaining security clearances needed for employment.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, but the government did not respect these rights. Authorities applied articles of the Counterterrorism Law, the Cybercrimes Law, and the penal code to arrest local journalists.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: The law permits punishment of up to three years’ imprisonment for insulting the king, slandering the government or foreign leaders, offending religious beliefs, or stirring sectarian strife and sedition. During the year the government restricted the ability of individuals to criticize the government by arresting a number of activists for political expression and for criticizing foreign governments. Authorities used laws against slander of public officials, blackmail, and libel to restrict public discussion, as well as employing official gag orders issued by the Media Commission.

On August 13, authorities arrested writer Nahed Hattar for posting an editorial cartoon on his Facebook page that included a personification of God. The prosecutor charged him with inciting sectarian strife and racism and insulting religion under the penal code. On September 8, authorities released him on bail. On September 25, a lone gunman shot and killed Hattar as he was entering the courthouse. Authorities detained the shooter. Hattar’s family stated that Hattar and his lawyer had requested additional protection, which the government did not provide. The same day authorities reportedly identified 10 social media users that they intended to refer to the prosecutor general for spreading hate speech related to the cartoon and the shooting.

On September 22, authorities detained social media personality Zain Karazon on charges of slander and libel. Karazon has a following of more than one million on social media platform Snapchat. Reasons for her arrest were unclear at year’s end. Some media sources speculated that a doctor or hospital sued her for criticizing a botched surgery, while other media sources suspected that someone had filed a suit related to a controversy involving a gay Lebanese online personality. On September 29, authorities released Karazon on bail. Charges were pending at year’s end.

In January the State Security Court found Ali al-Malkawi guilty of insulting the king and sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment. Since authorities had already detained al-Malkawi for six months, authorities sentenced him to time served and released him immediately after sentencing. Authorities had arrested al-Malkawi in July 2015 for a posting on his Facebook page criticizing Arab and Islamic inaction in protecting Burmese Muslims.

All public-opinion polls and survey research require authorization from the Bureau of Statistics, although the law was not enforced. NGOs stated that the measure could be enforced, even retroactively, and called for the government to rescind it.

Press and Media Freedoms: Independent print media existed, including several major daily newspapers, although such publications must obtain licenses from the state to operate. The independent print and broadcast media largely operated with limited restriction, and media observers reported government pressure, including the threat of large fines and prison sentences, to refrain from criticizing the royal family, discussing the Intelligence Directorate, using language deemed offensive to religion, or slandering government officials. The government influenced news reporting and commentary through political pressure on editors and control over important editorial positions in government-affiliated media. Journalists of government-affiliated and independent media reported that security officials attempted to influence reporting and place articles favorable to the government through bribes, threats, and political pressure.

The Audiovisual Law grants the head of the Media Commission the authority to close any unlicensed theater, satellite channel, or radio channel. The Media Commission cannot grant a new broadcasting license to a company unless all shares are Jordanian-owned. Additionally, those with licenses should not broadcast anything that would harm public order, social security, the economy, national security, or Jordan’s relations with a foreign country; incite hatred, terrorism, violent sedition; or mislead or deceive the public. There is a fine for broadcasting without a license. The cabinet, however, must justify the reasons for rejecting a license and allow the applicant to appeal the decision to the judiciary.

Authorities arrested or temporarily detained some journalists, and government officials or private individuals threatened some journalists.

On February 14, authorities arrested al-Ra’i journalist Zaid Murafai for publishing an article on a protest by judges and court employees regarding losses in their pension fund. The court charged Murafai with slander and defamation under the Cybercrimes Law, as well as reporting on a pending case. Authorities released Murafai on bail four days later; charges remained pending at year’s end.

The government has a majority of seats on the board for the leading semiofficial daily newspaper, al-Rai, and a share of board seats for ad-Dustour daily newspaper. According to press freedom advocates, the Intelligence Directorate’s Media Department must approve editors in chief of progovernment newspapers.

Media observers noted that, when covering controversial subjects, government-owned Jordan Television, Jordan News Agency, and Radio Jordan reported only the government’s position.

By law any book can be published and distributed freely. If, however, the Press and Publications Directorate deems passages religiously offensive or “insulting” to the king, it can request a court order to prohibit the distribution of the book.

Violence and Harassment: The government subjected journalists to harassment and intimidation.

In its 2015 semiannual report Media Freedom in the Arab World, the Center for Defending the Freedom of Journalists documented 15 incidents of serious violations against journalists in the country in 2015: 10 detentions, two cases of physical assault, two cases of humiliating treatment, and one injury.

The center documented 50 violations against 28 journalists covering the September 20 parliamentary elections. Violations included cases of poll workers obstructing journalists’ work, withholding information, and preventing photography. There was once case of deleting photographs from a camera.

On February 22, private television station Ro’ya News wrote that security officials beat and arrested one of their journalists who had been covering a protest in front of parliament.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government directly and indirectly censored the media. Journalists claimed that the government used informants in newsrooms and exercised influence over reporting and that Intelligence Directorate officials censored reporting. Editors reportedly received telephone calls from security officials instructing them how to cover events or to refrain from covering certain topics or events, especially criticism of political reform. Bribery of journalists took place and undermined independent reporting. On occasion, government officials provided texts for journalists to publish under their bylines. Journalists reported self-censorship due to the threat of detention and imprisonment for defamation for a variety of offenses and court-ordered compensation of as much as 150,000 Jordanian Dollars (JD) ($210,000). At times, editors in chief censored articles to prevent lawsuits. The government’s use of “soft containment” of journalists, including the withholding of financial support, scholarships for relatives, and special invitations, led to significant control of media content.

During the year the Media Commission issued several gag orders restricting discussion of certain topics in all forms of media, including social media. For example, the government issued gag orders restricting discussion of the court cases against Amjad Qourshah and Nahed Hattar, as well as the shooting of Nahed Hattar.

The annual report of the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists noted that 93 percent of journalists surveyed in 2015 said they practiced self-censorship.

The government continued to enforce bans on the distribution of selected books for religious, moral, and political reasons. The Media Commission banned 41 books during the year for violating public norms and values (such as by including sexual content), disrespecting religion, or insulting the king.

Libel/Slander Laws: Government prosecutors relied on privately initiated libel, slander, and defamation lawsuits to suppress criticism. Dozens of journalists, as well as members of parliament, faced libel and slander accusations filed by private citizens.

On January 5, authorities charged comedian Omar Zorba with slander and defamation under the Cybercrimes Law for criticizing a song that aired on the official television station promoting the national census. The presenter who hosted the segment filed the suit. Charges remained pending at year’s end.

On May 17, authorities arrested and detained ad-Dustour journalist Anas Sweileh for publishing an article on an abandoned building used by unemployed youth for repeated threats of suicide. The owner of the building filed a complaint. The court charged Sweileh with slander, defamation, and libel. Authorities released Sweileh on bail the same day; charges remained pending at year’s end.

National Security: The government used laws protecting national security to restrict criticism of government policies and officials. The government also issued gag orders restricting discussion on all forms of media after a fatal shooting by a lone gunman at an Intelligence Directorate office in Balqa on June 6 and a suicide bombing against a northeast border installation on June 21.

INTERNET FREEDOM

There were government restrictions on access to the internet. The law requires the licensing and registration of online news websites, holds editors responsible for readers’ comments on their websites, requires that website owners provide the government with the personal data of its users, and mandates that editors in chief be members of the Jordan Press Association. The law gives authorities explicit power to block and censor websites. Authorities blocked a news website for one week in August for a licensing issue. The website published a statement saying that the block was under a false legal pretext, and that some governmental and regulatory bodies were critical of the website’s having published articles attacking the mufti and the media commission.

The registration fee for a news website is 1,400 JD ($1,960). The owner and editor in chief can be fined between 3,000 JD ($4,200) and 5,000 JD ($7,000), in addition to criminal penalties, for website content that “includes humiliation, defamation, or disparaging individuals in a manner that violates their personal freedoms or spreads false rumors about them.”

According to journalists, security forces reportedly demanded websites remove some posted articles. The government threatened websites and journalists that criticized the government, while it actively supported those that reported favorably on the government. The government monitored electronic correspondence and internet chat sites. Individuals believed they were unable to express their views fully or freely via the internet, including by personal e-mail.

According to UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators published in September 2015, internet penetration was 76 percent during the year, up from 38 percent in 2010.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The government placed some limits on academic freedom. Some members of the academic community claimed there was a continuing intelligence presence in academic institutions, including monitoring academic conferences and lectures. The government monitored political meetings, speech on university campuses, and sermons in mosques and churches. Academics reported the Intelligence Directorate must clear all university professors before their appointment and that the university administration must approve all research papers, forums, reading materials, movies, or seminars, which in turn clears potentially controversial material through the Intelligence Directorate. Authorities edit commercial foreign films for sexual content before screening in commercial theaters.

On April 26, the government withdrew authorization for a planned concert by Mashrou’ Leila, a Lebanese alternative rock band. The Ministry of Tourism stated that the performance would have been at odds with the “authenticity” of the venue, a historic amphitheater. The band wrote that authorities unofficially told them that their political and religious beliefs were at odds with the country’s customs and traditions.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, but the government limited this right. Security forces generally permitted demonstrations and provided security at announced demonstrations.

On February 21, security forces disrupted a demonstration in front of parliament organized by several political parties against the draft elections law. Two female members of parliament participating in the protest accused security forces of using excessive force. Authorities arrested and later released three protesters who refused to disperse and one journalist covering the event. Security officials stated that the protesters did not have approval for the demonstration.

On June 22, authorities used force to disperse an eight-week-long protest in the central town of Dhiban. Eighteen unemployed youths demanded government assistance in finding employment. Gendarmerie used tear gas to disperse the protesters and removed a tent the protesters had erected. In response, several protesters threw rocks, burned tires, fired in the air, and chanted slogans against the government. Authorities arrested more than 30 individuals for throwing stones at security forces but released the majority at dawn the next day. The government detained three individuals for attempted murder, resisting arrest, firing live ammunition in the air, and insulting the king. Authorities released two on bail on July 17 and the third on July 29. Charges were pending at year’s end.

Several local and international NGOs reported that hotels required them to present letters of approval from the governor prior to holding training, private meetings, or public conferences. The government denied authorization for several events. Without letters of approval from the government and security services, hotels cancelled the events and trainings. In some cases NGOs relocated the events and training to private offices. Authorities denied permission to the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood association (which is not legally registered as an association or NGO by the government) and the Islamic Action Front (legally registered as a political party) to hold meetings and events on several occasions throughout the country.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the right of association, but the government limited this freedom. The law authorizes the Ministry of Social Development to reject applications to register an organization or to permit any organization to receive foreign funding for any reason. It prohibits the use of associations for the benefit of any political organization. The law also gives the ministry significant control over the internal management of associations, including the ability to dissolve associations, appoint new boards of directors, send government representatives to any board meeting, prevent associations from merging their operations, and appoint an auditor to examine an association’s finances for any reason. The law requires associations to inform the ministry of board meetings, submit all board decisions for approval, disclose members’ names, and obtain security clearances for board members from the Interior Ministry. The law includes penalties, including fines up to 10,000 JD ($14,000), for violations of the regulations. During 2015 the Ministry of Social Development introduced an application form for the approval process for associations that receive foreign funding. Associations criticized the procedure, which incorporated additional ministries into the decision process and removed the deadline for review of funding requests.

During the year NGOs reported that the government sometimes rejected requests for foreign funding, whereas such rejections were previously extremely rare. As of August 25, the ministry had received 250 applications for foreign funding. The government approved 170 applications, denied 10, and requested additional documentation for five applications. Sixty-five applications remained “under consideration.” NGO contacts reported that unexplained, months-long delays in the decision process increased significantly.

As of April the ministry registered 40 NGOs, dissolved 65, and warned 50. Authorities dissolved NGOs for violating the Associations Law.

Citizens widely suspected that the government infiltrated civil society organizations, political parties, and human rights organizations and their internal meetings.

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, although there were some restrictions. The United Nations reported that the government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

In-country Movement: The government placed some restrictions on the free internal movement of registered Syrian refugees and Syrian asylum seekers. From March 9 to June 21, the government admitted 21,300 vulnerable Syrian asylum seekers from the northeastern border where tens of thousands of Syrians had begun to gather along the Jordanian border. There were no reliable estimates as to what percentage of the population at the border were asylum seekers: UNHCR and the government agreed that the population included genuine asylum seekers, those wanting to remain in Syria but seeking safety from aerial bombardment, traffickers, smugglers, and armed actors. The government accommodated the admitted asylum seekers in a fenced-off section of Azraq camp pending additional security screening, as many had fled from Da’esh-controlled areas. Prior to June 21, authorities cleared approximately 5,000 persons and transferred them from the fenced-off section. Since June 21, after a suicide attack at a border crossing killed seven members of the Jordanian border guard force, approximately 16,000 refugees remained in the secured section of the camp, where they have restricted or limited access to health, education, psychosocial, and other services available in the rest of the camp. Authorities have cleared approximately 1,000 persons and transferred them since June 21. Authorities removed 201 from the camp and returned them to Syria. Similarly, since June 21, authorities have detained at Ruweishid transit center 380 Syrian asylum seekers who were in the process of transfer to Azraq camp when the suicide attack occurred and who continued to receive basic humanitarian assistance.

Authorities continued to subject Palestinian refugees from Syria held at Cyber City, a refugee camp in a closed government facility in Ramtha, to strict controls on their ability to leave the facility. Authorities allowed Palestinian residents of Cyber City to visit their relatives once per month, for two to three days at a time. Authorities made some exceptions for the sick and elderly to allow twice-monthly visits. Unlike Syrian refugees at Cyber City, Palestinian refugees were not entitled to the bailout system of a Jordanian guarantor. Authorities did not officially inform Palestinian refugees of the reasons for their restricted movement. On October 17, the government closed Cyber City and moved remaining residents to King Abdullah Park. Restrictions on movement of Palestinian refugees from Syria remained in place at King Abdullah Park.

Foreign Travel: Former prisoners and the 2015 NCHR report alleged authorities withheld passports and imposed travel bans against citizens.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: As of November 9, the government, in cooperation with UNHCR, reported more than 655,000 registered Syrian refugees, and hundreds of thousands of additional nonrefugee Syrians in the country. Additionally, UNHCR registered more than 70,000 other refugees or asylum seekers in the country.

The country’s laws do not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government lacked a formal system of protecting refugees. Although it is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, the government respected UNHCR’s eligibility determinations regarding asylum seekers, including those who entered the country illegally. A 1998 memorandum of understanding between the government and UNHCR, renewed in 2014, contains the definition of a refugee, confirms adherence to the principle of nonrefoulement, and allows recognized refugees a maximum stay of one year, during which period UNHCR must find a durable solution. The time limit is renewable, and, generally, the government did not force refugees to return to their country of origin. As of 2014 authorities required all Syrians in the country to obtain an official residency card from the Ministry of Interior. Among the requirements to obtain the new residency card, all Syrians over the age of 12 must obtain an individual health certificate, which costs five JD (seven dollars).

The government continued to limit the number of Syrians seeking asylum in the country, as well as the points of entry they may use. Generally, the government restricted entry of Syrians by air despite formal visa-free travel between the countries. Authorities did not allow Syrian asylum seekers, except severe medical cases, to enter along the more populated northwest border of the country. Instead, authorities allowed Syrian refugees seeking entry to cross only at one of the two informal borders crossings along the northeast desert border. The government limited the numbers of new arrivals on a daily basis between January and March. In March the government expedited the entry of 21,300 additional refugees at this informal border point between March and June but limited other refugees from crossing at these informal points. Since June 21, after a suicide attack at a border crossing killed seven Jordanian border guards, the government closed the border and declared the surrounding area a “closed military zone.” The government has restricted humanitarian access to the area. Based on Jordanian estimates, international organizations reported that between 70,000 and 100,000 Syrians camped at the northeast desert Jordan-Syria border throughout the year. Several international organizations, including UNHCR, publicly called on the government to grant entry to the asylum seekers, especially the sick, elderly, children, and pregnant women, many of whom had waited in the border area for months in substandard shelters, with limited food and water, and most without medical care. From August 2 to 4, the government allowed international organizations to deliver a one-month food ration across the border and to continue to deliver water daily. Other refugees, including many Iraqis and Yemenis, faced questioning at formal entry points, and authorities refused entry to many of them. The government’s 2013 announcement that it would not allow entry into Jordan of Palestinian refugees from Syria remained in effect throughout the year.

Refoulement: The government forcibly returned Syrian refugees and Palestinian refugees from Syria, including women, children, war-injured, and persons with disabilities to Syria. International organizations reported that the government carried out a preliminary screening of refugees waiting at the northeastern border and prevented some Syrians seeking refuge from entering the country. International organizations also reported that the government forcibly returned to Syria some refugees residing in Azraq camp and Ruwaished transit center after authorities had admitted them for additional screening via the informal border crossings in the northeast.

The government also returned to Syria some Syrian refugees found working illegally, living in informal tented settlements, or not presenting refugee documentation when moving internally, while forcing others to return to formal refugee camps. Authorities most often sent those subjected to refoulement to Dara’a Province, where many had no support network or way to return across battle lines to their homes, which were often within regime- or Da’esh-controlled areas.

Through September, the UNRWA was aware of 24 cases of refoulement of Palestinian refugees from Syria. The vulnerability of Palestinian refugees from Syria to deportation increased their risk of other abuses. For those who entered the country irregularly (without required documentation, or using Syrian identity documents), refoulement was a constant risk, and access to basic civil services–including renewal of identity documents, the registration of marriages, deaths, and births–was highly complex. The UNRWA reported that such activities could result in forced return to Syria, as well as detention and denaturalization.

Employment: In February the government announced it would allow Syrian refugees access to the formal labor market and committed to providing 50,000 opportunities for Syrians during the year. The Ministry of Labor issued nearly 32,000 work permits to Syrians between February and November. The government took several steps to expand and facilitate work permit issuance, including waiving fees and offering extended amnesties for those working illegally to regularize status. The government also revised work permit practices to allow Syrian workers in the agricultural sector to switch employers under the supervision of agricultural cooperatives, rather than requiring new work permits for each job transfer.

There have been some delays in implementing the new procedures at Ministry of Labor offices in governorates outside Amman, uncertainty among the refugee population on how to apply for the work permits, or whether they would lose eligibility to UNHCR assistance if they entered the legal workplace. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees continued to work in the informal economy. A government-commissioned study report on migrant workers published in July estimated that 26 percent of Syrian refugees are economically active in the Jordan labor market. Very few non-Syrian refugees had access to the formal labor market and because of the difficulties and expenses involved in seeking work authorization, many worked in the unofficial labor market. Through September 18, the Ministry of Labor reported apprehending nearly 13,000 illegal foreign workers, 3,000 of whom were Syrians. There were reports of administrative detentions and deportations of Syrian refugees for working without authorization, as well as reports of Syrian refugees forcibly moved from their areas of employment into one of the refugee camps for working without authorization.

Longstanding Palestinian refugees with Jordanian identity documents were well integrated into the Jordanian workforce. This was not the case, however, for the approximately 158,000 Palestinian refugees originally from Gaza, who were not eligible for Jordanian citizenship and were unable to work legally or access public services. Additionally, according to UNRWA, authorities deprived Palestinian refugees from Syria, the majority of whom were without Jordanian documents, of the opportunity to work.

Access to Basic Services: The government generally transported Syrian refugees who arrived at informal border crossings and whom authorities admitted to the country to Raba’a Sarhan reception center. Most were registered with the government; received food, water, and medical attention from UNHCR and the ICRC; and were transported by the International Organization for Migration to a refugee camp. Since 2014, authorities have limited entry to Syrians seeking access to asylum along the northeastern border. Although numbers fluctuated, international organizations reported, based on Jordanian estimates, that 70,000 to 100,000 Syrians camped at the northeast desert Jordan-Syria border throughout the year. An undetermined number were inside the country beyond an earthen berm in harsh desert conditions, and tens of thousands resided on the Syrian side of the border. Prior to the border closure on June 21, these Syrians had adequate food and water provided by international organizations but health and hygiene conditions were inadequate as was access to medical aid and shelter. After the border closure on June 21, humanitarian organizations did not have access to the population. Water deliveries continued, but organizations only made one delivery of a 30-day supply of food on August 2 to 4. Authorities did not permit the stranded population to enter Jordan or register as refugees. Authorities permitted some international organizations to visit or assess the situation of these refugees, although not regularly, and very rarely after June 21.

The government excluded Palestinian refugees from Gaza who entered the country following the 1967 war from services otherwise available to Palestinian refugees, such as access to public assistance or public medical services. They were eligible to receive UNRWA services.

As of August 31, 16,661 Palestinian refugees from Syria had recorded their presence in country with the UNRWA.

The government allowed Syrian and other UNHCR-registered refugees to access public health and education facilities. Since 2014, authorities have charged Syrian refugees for health care at the same rates as uninsured Jordanians, who pay a nominal fee for most basic health services. Iraqi and other refugees must pay the foreigner’s rate for health care. The government continued to provide free primary and secondary education to Syrian refugee children, and the minister of education announced that all school-age Syrian refugees should have access to education by the end of the year. Non-Syrian refugees must pay to attend government schools. Public schools, particularly in the north of the country, were overcrowded and operated on a double-shift schedule to accommodate the high number of students. The government doubled the number of double-shift schools to allow an additional 50,000 Syrian refugee students access to formal education on top of the 145,000 enrolled last year. For those not eligible to access formal education, because they have been out of school for three years or more, the Ministry of Education is developing a catch-up program to reach another 25,000 students between the ages of nine and 12. As of November preliminary Ministry of Education enrollment data indicated authorities had enrolled 165,000 Syrian refugees in schools whereas authorities registered approximately 1,200 Syrian schoolchildren for the catch-up classes. Children over the age of 12 who are not eligible to enroll in formal education could participate in a Ministry of Education-run nonformal education dropout program. These three initiatives extend educational opportunities to nearly all school-aged Syrian refugees. Refugees had equal access to justice regardless of their legal status, but did not always exercise this right.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. As of November 9, there were 655,716 Syrian refugees, registered by the government and UNHCR. As of November there were 60,067 Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers registered with UNHCR. The government tolerated the prolonged stay of many Iraqis and other refugees beyond the expiration of the visit permits under which they had entered the country. As of November 9, there were 5,096 Yemenis, 3,222 Sudanese, 775 Somalis, and 1,375 other populations registered with UNHCR and resident in Jordan.

STATELESS PERSONS

Only the father can transmit citizenship. Women do not have the legal right to transmit citizenship to their children. Children of female citizens married to noncitizen husbands receive the nationality of the father and lose the right to attend public school or seek other government services if they do not hold legal residency, for which they must apply every year, and authorities do not assure continued residency. In guidelines announced by the government in 2014, if children of Jordanian mothers and noncitizen fathers apply and meet certain criteria, they may gain access to certain services enjoyed by citizens, including access to free primary and secondary education and subsidized health care; the ability to own property, invest, obtain a Jordanian driver’s license; and have employment priority over other foreigners. The minister of interior stated that this ruling affected 88,983 families, including 355,932 children, in which the father lacked Jordanian citizenship. An estimated 55,000 of these fathers were of Palestinian origin. To access these services, children must obtain a special identification card through the Civil Status Bureau. To qualify, applicants must prove the maternal relationship, that the Jordanian mother has been resident in Jordan for five years, and that the children currently reside in Jordan. In April the Civil Status Bureau began issuing identification cards to replace the initial certificates. By law the cabinet may approve citizenship for children of Jordanian mothers and foreign fathers, but this mechanism was not widely known, and approval rarely occurred.

Women may not petition for citizenship for noncitizen husbands, who may apply for citizenship only after fulfilling a requirement of 15 years’ continuous residency. Once a husband has obtained citizenship, he may apply to transmit citizenship to his children. Such an application could take years, and the government could deny the application. Activists did not identify any obstacles standing in the way of naturalization for men who fulfilled this residency requirement.

Syrian refugees were sometimes unable to obtain birth certificates for children born in the country if they could not present an official marriage certificate or other nationality documents, which were sometimes lost or destroyed when they fled, or government authorities confiscated them when the refugees entered the country. Refugee households headed by women faced difficulty in certifying nationality of offspring in absence of the father, which increased the risk of statelessness among this population. Authorities established civil registry departments and sharia courts in the Za’atri and Azraq camps to help refugees register births.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law does not provide citizens the ability to choose their ultimate governing authority. The king appoints and dismisses the prime minister, cabinet, and the upper house of parliament; dissolves parliament; and directs major public policy initiatives. Citizens have the ability to choose the lower house of parliament in generally credible periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage and conducted by secret ballot. Citizens also elect most mayors and members of municipal councils. The cabinet, based on the prime minister’s recommendations, appoints the mayors of Amman, Wadi Musa (Petra), and Aqaba, a special economic zone. Elections for the lower house of parliament took place on September 20. Elections for mayors and municipal councils took place in 2013.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On September 20, the government held parliamentary elections administered by the Independent Electoral Commission. The commission is an autonomous legal entity. It supervises and administers all phases of parliamentary elections and municipal elections, as well as other elections called for by the Council of Ministers. Local and international monitors noted the elections were generally credible and technically well administered. The commission instituted several changes to the election process: it used preprinted and standardized ballots with numerous security features, created a website to respond to public queries, instituted an automated text message response to inquiries about polling stations, and held videos and workshops to familiarize the public with the electoral process.

The elections took place under a new electoral law, passed by parliament and ratified by the king on March 13. The new electoral law establishes an open-list proportional electoral system. The election exhibited important technical advances in administration, but observers cited allegations of vote buying, ballot box tampering in one region, and other concerns. International and domestic observers of the election process expressed reservations about inadequacies in the electoral legal framework and stressed the need to allocate seats to districts proportionally based on population size.

Several Islamist parties participated in the September 20 parliamentary election, ending a six-year boycott. The Islamic Action Front lists won 15 seats, including 10 for party members, while other Islamist candidates and parties won at least 12 seats.

The government held municipal elections in 2013. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs administered the elections, while the commission, which at the time did not have the authority to run municipal elections, played an advisory and monitoring role. During the municipal elections, civil society election monitors reported several irregularities and incidents of violence. In 2014, parliament passed a constitutional amendment to broaden the mandate of the commission to oversee municipal elections.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The Political Parties Law places supervisory authority of political parties in the Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs. Political parties must have 150 founding members, all of whom must be citizens habitually resident in the country and not be a member of another non-Jordanian political organization, a judge, or affiliated with the security services. There is no quota for women when founding a new political party. Parties may not be formed on the basis of religion, sect, race, gender, or origin. The law stipulates citizens may not be prosecuted for their political party affiliation. The Committee on Political Party Affairs oversees the activities of political parties. The secretary general of the Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs chairs the committee, which includes a representative from the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Culture, the NCHR, and civil society. The law grants the committee the authority to approve or reject applications to establish or dissolve parties. It allows party founders to appeal a rejection to the judiciary within 60 days of the decision. According to the law, approved parties can only be dissolved subject to the party’s own bylaws, or by a judicial decision for affiliation with a foreign entity, accepting funding from a foreign entity, violating provisions of the law, or violating provisions of the constitution. In March parliament approved the bylaw on government funding for political parties. The bylaw stipulated 50,000 JD ($70,000) annual financial support to political parties older than one year with more than 500 members from seven governorates, at least 10 percent of whom are women. The law also included additional financial support for parties that join coalitions of at least 12 parties; win at least one seat in parliament; and open additional branches beyond the minimum of a headquarter and four branch offices. The law prohibits membership in unlicensed political parties. There were 50 registered political parties, but they were weak, generally had vague platforms, and were personality centered. The strongest and most organized political party was the Islamic Action Front.

In December 2015 the king ratified the Decentralization Law that establishes two councils to participate in the budgeting process at the governorate level: the Governorates’ Council will be 85 percent elected and 15 percent appointed, and the Executive Council fully appointed. The appointed council will be composed of technical experts from the central government. The majority-elected council has a 15 percent quota for women (10 percent elected and 5 percent appointed).

Participation of Women and Minorities: There are no laws limiting the participation of women and minorities in the political process, and they participated. The electoral law limits the parliamentary representation of certain minorities to designated quota seats. Human rights activists, however, cited cultural bias against women as an impediment to women participating in political life on the same scale as men. There is an 11.5 percent (15 seats) quota for women in the lower house of parliament and a 25 percent (243 seats) quota for women in municipal councils. In the parliamentary elections, voters elected 20 women to the lower house, five of whom won by outright competition outside the quota. The king appointed 10 female members to the upper house. Appointed on September 28, the 30-member cabinet included two female ministers: the minister of information and communications technology and public sector development; and the minister of tourism and antiquities. In the municipal elections, regulations allocated women 297 out of 970 municipal council seats (30 percent). The Municipalities Law includes a 25-percent quota for women for municipal council seats. The Decentralization Law includes a 15-percent quota for women on the elected governorate councils.

Citizens of Palestinian origin were underrepresented at all levels of government and the military. The law reserves nine seats in the lower house of parliament for Christians and three seats for the Circassian and Chechen ethnic minorities combined, constituting an overrepresentation of these minorities. In the parliamentary elections, nine Christians won seats, one of them on the national list that is open to all religions and ethnicities. The law stipulates that Muslims must hold all parliamentary seats not specifically reserved for Christians or on the national list. There were five Christians in the upper house of parliament. There are no reserved seats for the relatively small Druze population, but its members may hold office under their government classification as Muslims. Christians served as cabinet ministers and ambassadors. There were three Christian ministers in the cabinet. Muslims held all senior command positions in the armed forces as of September. In recent years few Christians remained in the military long enough to reach senior command positions, leaving for more lucrative private-sector jobs, according to Christian former military officers.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, although the government did not implement the law effectively. Officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. During the year there were some investigations into allegations of corruption but very few convictions. The use of family, business, and other personal connections to advance personal business interests was widespread. There were allegations of lack of transparency in government procurement, government appointments, and dispute settlement.

In May the king ratified a new anticorruption law that merged the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Ombudsman Bureau into the new National Integrity Center to promote efficiencies and reduce duplication. Parliament passed the law in April. The law shortened the statute of limitations from one year to six months.

Corruption: The Anti-Corruption Commission is the main body responsible for combating corruption, although the Anti-Money Laundering Unit in the Central Bank is responsible for combating money laundering. Despite increased investigations, some local observers questioned the commission’s effectiveness due to its limited jurisdiction, insufficient staff, legal obstacles, and the small number of investigations involving senior officials or large government projects. There were credible allegations that the commission failed to investigate cases involving high-level government officials.

The Ombudsman Bureau receives and investigates public complaints about corruption and misconduct by public officials.

There were no high-profile corruption convictions during the year. The commission received 1,072 complaints about corruption in 2015. It opened investigations into 460 cases, sent 63 to the PSD investigative liaison assigned to the commission, and six cases to the seconded prosecutor. The commission’s investigations resulted in 13 convictions in 2015. Its annual report does not provide details of the cases. The Ombudsman Bureau received 638 complaints in 2015 and accepted 423 for investigation.

The Anti-Corruption Commission’s prosecutor general levied charges in 66 corruption cases in 2015: 36 cases in the public sector and 30 in the private sector. Charges included embezzlement, fraud, forgery, bribery, wasting public funds, theft, failure to carry out job duties, lack of jurisdiction, and use of a stamp of a general directorate.

In September an online news site and Radio al-Balad published an investigation alleging that companies owned by relatives of several former members of parliament won millions of dollars in government tenders while they were in parliament.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires certain government officials (along with their spouses and dependent children) to declare their assets privately within three months of their assuming a government position. Officials rarely declared their assets. In the event of a complaint, the chief justice may review the disclosures. Under the law failure to disclose assets could result in a prison sentence of one week to three years or a fine of 5 to 200 JD ($7 to $280). As of September no officials were punished for failing to submit a disclosure.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to government information that is a matter of legal record but denies requests for reasons of national security, public interest, and personal freedoms. The government has 30 days to respond to requests for information. If a government official refuses to respond to a request, the requester can appeal to the governmental Information Council the decisions of which are nonbinding. The fees were not prohibitive and usually were associated with photocopy costs, if necessary. Journalists criticized the law, claiming that it permitted the government to deny requests without justification, or to refuse to respond, effectively denying the request.

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

A number of domestic and international human rights groups operated in the country with some restrictions. The law gives the government the ability to control NGOs’ internal affairs, including acceptance of foreign funding. NGOs generally were able to investigate and report publicly on human rights abuses throughout the year, although government officials were not always cooperative.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Center for Human Rights (NCHR) received both government and international funding. The prime minister nominates its board of trustees and then the king ratifies their appointment by royal decree. The government appoints NCHR’s commissioner general. The NCHR produces an annual report on domestic human rights that sometimes criticizes government practices. NCHR recommendations are not legally binding, and the government often ignores them. In February the prime minister established a permanent governmental committee headed by the national human rights coordinator to review NCHR recommendations, as well as progress towards implementing international human rights commitments. On March 19, the government launched a 10-year comprehensive national human rights action plan designed to bring the law in line with international standards and best practices. Ministries formed working groups for implementation and published the plan on their websites. Additionally, the National Human Rights Coordinator collaborated with and increased communication among government ministries, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, media, and the international community on human rights problems. The Office of the National Human Rights Coordinator published a semiannual report on the government’s progress regarding human rights on May 23. The National Human Rights Coordinator arranged semiannual meetings between government ministers, officials, and nongovernmental organizations.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law stipulates a sentence of at least 10 years of imprisonment with hard labor for the rape of a girl or woman 15 years of age or older. Spousal rape is not illegal. The Family Protection Law prescribes penalties of up to six months in prison for domestic abuse, but NGOs reported that judges rarely prosecuted cases under the Family Protection Law because judges considered its procedures unclear. Instead, they prosecuted domestic abuses cases under the penal code, as injury or sexual assault cases.

The government did not effectively enforce the law against rape, and violence and abuse against women was widespread. Women’s rights activists speculated that many incidents went unreported because violence against women remained a taboo subject due to societal and familial pressures. The PSD’s Family Protection Department reported 1,563 cases of domestic abuse as of September 30. Human rights activists stated that girls and women with disabilities were particularly at risk of gender-based violence.

Women may file complaints of rape or physical abuse with certain NGOs or directly with judicial authorities. As of September 30, the Family Protection Department treated and investigated 281 cases of rape or sexual assault against women. The Family Protection Department (FPD) actively investigated cases, but there were some reports of pressure on families to settle disputes via mediation instead of in the courts. NGOs reported that families often settled domestic abuse cases outside of the courts by requiring the abuser to sign before the governor or the FPD a statement promising not to reoffend. Spousal abuse is technically grounds for divorce, but husbands claimed religious authority to strike their wives. Observers noted that, while judges generally supported a woman’s claim of abuse in court, due to societal and familial pressure, as well as fears of violence such as honor killings, few women sought legal remedies.

On May 4, the government launched a National Framework on Family Protection to enhance coordination, improve the referral mechanism, and identify roles and responsibilities for service providers combatting family violence. Observers believed the framework was an improvement from the previous framework, but also pointed out the continued need to amend the Family Protection Law. The prime minister issued a circular on May 4 instructing the government to start implementing the framework.

The Family Protection Department continued to operate a domestic violence hotline and received inquiries and complaints via the internet and e-mail. The prosecutor general seconded a criminal prosecutor to the Family Protection Department headquarters so victims did not need go to the courts to file a criminal complaint. The department provided public information and training for government employees, including police, on domestic violence and rape. As of August 31, the government-run shelter Dar al-Wifaq al-Usari in Amman assisted 228 female victims of domestic violence and 58 children, according to the Ministry of Social Development. The government opened a second shelter for female victims of domestic violence in Irbid in October 2015. As of August 31, it had assisted 106 female victims of domestic violence and 34 children, according to the Ministry of Social Development. It provided reconciliation services to victims and their families and worked with NGOs to provide services, such as legal and medical assistance, as well as some vocational training. Observers noted the lack of a comprehensive approach for victims, such as psychosocial assistance.

The government-run center for trafficking victims in Amman, Dar al-Karamah, assisted 47 female victims of trafficking through September 30.

The government-run center for at-risk girls, Dar al-Khansa Juvenile Center, worked with NGOs to provide vocational training, education, and psychosocial assistance to minor female victims. As of November 1, the center had cared for 55 survivors of domestic violence or sexual abuse during the year, many of whom were at risk of additional violence from family members. It provided reconciliation services to victims and their families. Victims could only depart the shelter if a judge deemed reconciliation successful or if they transferred to another shelter at age 18.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The Ministry of Justice indicated that authorities referred four so-called “honor crimes” to the judicial system through September 29, with all four cases remaining under investigation, while NGOs reported 18 potential honor crimes through September. Activists reported that many such crimes went unreported. The Supreme Criminal Court’s panel of judges dedicated to cases involving honor crimes in recent years routinely imposed prison sentences of up to 15 years to perpetrators of such crimes. The Cassation Court, which reviews the Supreme Criminal Court rulings, generally decreased the sentences by half. The Supreme Criminal Court issued one ruling on an honor crimes case during the year, sentencing a father to one year in prison for killing his daughter.

Generally, when the victim’s family chose not to pursue the case, the government completely dismissed proceedings. In “honor crime” cases, the family of the victim and the family of the alleged perpetrator were often the same, since the perpetrator and victim usually were related. There were no reported instances of forced marriage as an alternative to a potential honor killing during the year, although NGOs noted that many cases of forced marriage occur shortly after an accusation of rape due to family and societal pressure before any formal trial begins. The penal code waives punishment for a rapist if he legally marries the victim and stays married for five years. Observers noted that if a woman marries her rapist, according to customary belief, her family members do not need to kill her to “preserve the family’s honor.”

On April 7, the prosecutor general detained a man in Irbid for further investigation related to the murder of his 16-year old sister in an apparent honor crime.

On April 27, the Supreme Criminal Court sentenced a father to one year in prison for killing his daughter in May 2015. The convicted man said he suspected his daughter had a romantic relationship outside of marriage, according to government officials and media reports. The case was pending with the Cassation Court. Through their administrative detention authority, governors continued to place potential victims of honor crimes in involuntary protective custody in the Women’s Correctional and Rehabilitation Center in Jweideh detention facility and Umm al-Lulu detention facility, where some women remained for more than one year. The Family Protection Department has a liaison officer at Jweideh detention facility. Authorities held minor female victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse under unclear legal status at the Dar al-Khansa Juvenile Center. Authorities can release a woman detained in protective custody only after her family signs a statement assuring her safety, and both the local governor and the woman agree to the release. One NGO continued to work for the release of these women through mediation with their families. The NGO also provided a temporary but unofficial shelter for such women as an alternative to protective custody and provided post-release rehabilitation and job placement assistance.

Sexual Harassment: The law strictly prohibits sexual harassment and does not distinguish between sexual assault and sexual harassment. Both carry a minimum prison sentence of four years at hard labor. The government did not enforce this law. Women’s groups stated that harassment was common, but many victims hesitated to file a complaint and rarely did so because they feared blame for inciting the harassment or consequences such as losing their job, or because they faced social and cultural pressure to remain silent. NGOs reported that refugees from Syria and foreign migrant workers, including garment workers and domestic workers, were especially vulnerable to gender-based violence, including sexual harassment and sexual assault, in the workplace.

Reproductive Rights: Couples have the basic right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and individuals were able to make such decisions free from discrimination and coercion. Contraceptives were generally accessible to all men and women, both married and single, and provided free of charge in public clinics. According to estimates in the UN Population Fund’s State of World Population 2015, 43 percent of women used a modern method of contraceptive, and 12 percent of women had an unmet need for family planning. Comprehensive essential obstetric, prenatal, and postnatal care was provided throughout the country in the public and private sectors.

Discrimination: The law does not provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women experienced discrimination in a number of areas, including inheritance, divorce, child custody, citizenship, pension and social security benefits, the workplace, and, in certain circumstances, the value of their testimony in a sharia court. In 2013, women owned only 20 percent of land and 25 percent of property, according to the Department of Statistics.

No specialized government office or designated official handles discrimination claims. The Jordanian National Commission for Women, a government-supported NGO, operated a hotline to receive discrimination complaints.

Under sharia law as applied in the country, female heirs receive half the amount that male heirs receive. A sole female heir receives only half of her parents’ estate, with the balance going to designated male relatives, whereas a sole male heir inherits all of his parents’ property. Women may seek divorce without the consent of their husbands in limited circumstances such as abandonment, spousal abuse, or in return for waiving financial rights. The law allows retention of financial rights under specific circumstances, such as spousal abuse. Special courts for each Christian denomination adjudicate marriage and divorce.

The law allows fathers to prevent their children under the age of 18 from leaving the country through a court order that is not available to mothers. Authorities did not stop fathers from exiting the country with their children when the mother objected.

The government provided men with more generous social security benefits than women. The government continued pension payments of deceased male civil servants to their heirs, but it discontinued payments to heirs of deceased female civil servants unless they were the sole income earner in the family. Laws and regulations governing health insurance for civil servants under the Civil Service Bureau do not permit married women to extend their health insurance coverage to dependents or spouses unless they are the sole income earner in the family. Divorced and widowed women may extend coverage to their children (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons, and section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: Only the father transmits citizenship. The government did not issue birth certificates to all children born in the country during the year. The government deemed some children–including children of unmarried women, orphans, or of certain interfaith marriages involving a Muslim woman and converts from Islam to another religion–illegitimate and denied them proper registration, making it difficult or impossible for them to attend school, access health services, or receive other documentation. Illegitimate and abandoned children already holding national identity numbers have identity cards that clearly marked them as different; such numbers impeded these children as adults from obtaining employment, housing, and government benefits.

Education: Education is compulsory from ages six through 16 and free until age 18. No legislation exists to enforce the law or to punish guardians for violating it. Children without legal residency do not have the right to attend public school. The Ministry of Education allows Syrians to enroll at local public schools, with the exception of students who have been out of school for three or more years who authorities did not permit to register. In some cases, authorities did not permit refugee children to register in school due to lack of documentation. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) helped cover the cost and provided a supplement to Jordanian teachers who worked in Za’atri and Azraq camps and in the host communities. The government doubled the number of double-shift schools to allow an additional 50,000 Syrian refugee students access to formal education in addition to the 145,000 enrolled in 2015. Additionally, the UNRWA operated 172 primary schools for approximately 120,000 Palestinian refugee children and opened enrollment to Palestinian refugee children from Syria as well as a limited number of Syrian refugees residing in the Palestinian camps. Some children of female citizens and noncitizen fathers must apply for residency permits every year, and authorities did not assure permission (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons). Children with disabilities experienced extreme difficulty in accessing constitutionally protected early and primary education.

Child Abuse: The law specifies punishment for abuse of children. For example, conviction for rape of a child younger than age 15 potentially carries the death penalty. Local organizations working with abused children pointed to gaps in the legal system that regularly resulted in lenient sentencing, particularly for family members. For example, the penal code allows judges to reduce a sentence when the victim’s family does not press charges. In child abuse cases, judges routinely showed leniency in accordance with the wishes of the family. As of September 30, authorities investigated 439 cases of child rape and sexual abuse.

The Juvenile Law places the age of criminal responsibility at 12 years. The law stipulates that juveniles charged with committing a crime along with an adult be tried in a juvenile court, except for crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the State Security Court, such as terrorism charges, drug charges, or other charges relating to national security. During the year the government trained and assigned judges, prosecutors, and social workers to the juvenile court, although local legal aid organizations noted the court was still understaffed. The State Security Court issued a judgment that it does not have jurisdiction over juveniles. Terrorism-related trials of juveniles took place during the year in front of the juvenile criminal court. The 2016 Narcotics Law again gives the State Security Court jurisdiction over all drug-related criminal offenders, including juveniles. The new law stipulates alternative penalties for juvenile offenders, including vocational training and community service. Police stations have no designated holding areas for juveniles.

The government continued to fund a child protection center that provided temporary shelter and medical care for abused children between the ages of six and 12. Through September the shelter housed 41 abused children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18. With the consent of both a judge and a guardian, a child as young as 15 years old, in most cases a girl, may be married. Several government sources estimated the rate of early marriage at 13 percent. In August, the Ministry of Justice reported that the rate of early marriage among Syrian girls was 35 percent, up from 32 percent reported in 2014. According to this year’s census, 3.7 percent of girls in the country between the ages of 13 and 18 were married. There was no data available on the number of unregistered marriages, but it was likely that many Syrian refugee early marriages were not registered.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law stipulates a penalty for the commercial exploitation of children of six months’ to three years’ imprisonment. The law also penalizes individuals who subject persons to trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation with a maximum of 10 years of hard labor and a fine of 2,000 to 50,000 JD ($2,800 to $70,000). The law prohibits the distribution of pornography involving persons under the age of 18 and provides for a fine of 300 JD to 5,000 JD ($420 to $7,000) or at least three months’ imprisonment. The law does not specifically prohibit the possession of child pornography without an attention to sell or distribute. The law penalizes those who use the internet to post or distribute child pornography with a fine of 500 to 5,000 JD ($700 to $7,000) or at least six months’ imprisonment. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18, although sexual relations between minors whose marriages the courts approved are legal.

Institutionalized Children: NGOs reported physical and sexual abuses occurred in government institutions. According to the NCHR, some juveniles in detention alleged mistreatment. Authorities automatically referred cases involving violence against persons with disabilities or institutionalized persons to the Family Protection Department. The community monitoring committee highlighted the pervasive use of physical discipline, physical and verbal abuse, unacceptable living conditions, and a lack of educational, rehabilitative, or psychosocial services for wards and inmates. NGOs noted that the Ministry of Social Development was responsive and followed up on reports from the community monitoring committee. Activists for orphans’ rights alleged that adult orphans and former wards of the state were especially vulnerable to forced and early marriage, labor trafficking, and sexual exploitation.

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 Parent Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

Aside from foreigners, there was no resident Jewish community in the country. Anti-Semitism was present in media. Editorial cartoons, articles, and opinion pieces sometimes negatively depicted Jews without government response. The national school curriculum, including materials on tolerance education, did not include mention of the Holocaust.

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 generally provides equal rights to persons with disabilities, but authorities did not uphold such legal protections. Disabilities covered under the law include physical, sensory, psychological, and mental disabilities. Activists noted the law on the rights of persons with disabilities lacked implementing regulations. The Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, a government body, worked with ministries, the private sector, and NGOs to formulate and implement strategies to assist persons with disabilities. Citizens and NGOs universally reported that persons with disabilities faced problems in obtaining employment and accessing education, health care, transportation, and other services, particularly in rural areas.

The government’s emergency call center has video-teleconference capability with sign-language interpretation available for persons with hearing disabilities. The PSD received 650 calls from persons with hearing disabilities through the beginning of September.

Human rights activists reported that institutions and rehabilitation centers subjected some persons with disabilities to negligence and cruel and inhuman treatment. On May 15, the Ministry of Social Development reported that it had withdrawn the operating license for one center for persons with disabilities for abuse, and since the beginning of the year had warned 15 other centers for violating rules and regulations.

The electoral law directs the government to verify that voting facilities are accessible to persons with disabilities and allows such persons to bring a personal assistant to the polling station; the Independent Electoral Commission has responsibility for implementing this law. Many polling stations visited by international observers during the September 20 parliamentary elections were not accessible to persons with disabilities as they were located up steps or on the higher floors of buildings. Polling center staff made efforts to assist voters. The Independent Electoral Commission allocated one polling center in each governorate to be accessible for the deaf and hearing-impaired. For the first time, the Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities was part of election monitoring teams. The council trained 118 observers specifically to monitor for accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Banks frequently refused to allow persons with vision disabilities to open a bank account independently and required blind applicants to bring two male witnesses to certify each transaction. Banks commonly refused to issue customers with vision disabilities automated teller machine cards.

According to the Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities and 2015 data, only 3 percent of children with disabilities enrolled in schools. The 2013 NCHR report noted that school classrooms were not fully accessible, and there were no qualified teachers for children with disabilities; these problems remained throughout the year. The council reported that educational accommodations were more readily available at the university level than in elementary and secondary schools. At all levels of education, authorities excluded children with certain types of disabilities from studying certain subjects and often could not access critical educational support services, such as sign-language interpretation. Authorities did not train general education teachers to work with students with various disabilities. Families of children with disabilities reported that teachers and principals often refused to include children with disabilities in mainstream classrooms. The Ministry of Education provided accessible transportation to specialized centers for children with disabilities, but not to mainstream schools. There remained insufficient capacity in specialized centers for all students who required accommodations. Students with significant intellectual disabilities fell under the authority of the Ministry of Social Development rather than the Ministry of Education.

The law tasks the Special Buildings Code Department with enforcing accessibility provisions and oversees retrofitting of existing buildings to comply with building codes. The vast majority of private and public office buildings continued to have limited or no access for persons with disabilities. Municipal infrastructure such as public transport, streets, sidewalks, and intersections was not accessible. A 2014 report by the Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Statistics, and the Washington Group found that 76 percent of persons with disabilities over the age of 15 years were economically inactive.

The law mandates that public- and private-sector establishments with between 25 and 50 workers employ at least one person with disabilities and that establishments with more than 50 workers must reserve 4 percent of their positions for persons with disabilities. The law lacked implementing regulations, and authorities rarely enforced it. Additionally, authorities exempted employers who state the nature of the work is not suitable for persons with disabilities from the quota. Employers, including the government’s Civil Service Bureau, frequently required potential employees with disabilities to present a medical letter certifying the bearer was competent to perform the job in question. Human rights activists considered the letter a significant barrier to participation in public life because some medical professionals were not aware of the full range of accommodations available and thus certified individuals as not able to perform certain tasks. Girls and women with disabilities were particularly at risk for gender-based violence.

Human rights activists and the media reported that children and adults with disabilities were vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse while in institutions, rehabilitation centers, or other care settings, including their family homes. The government operated some of these institutions, and some of the abusers were government employees. Media reported some instances of abuse of persons with disabilities by family members during the year; the government launched investigations into many of these cases and referred the victims for assistance.

The government provides tariff exemptions for the vehicles of persons with disabilities and reduces the costs of hiring domestic help for persons with disabilities. Approximately 10,000 persons with disabilities (some 17 percent of the total estimated population with disabilities) benefited from these measures in 2015.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Four groups of Palestinians resided in the country, many of whom faced some discrimination. Those who migrated to the country and the Jordan-controlled West Bank after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war received full citizenship, as did those who migrated to the country after the 1967 war and held no residency entitlement in the West Bank. Those still holding residency in the West Bank after 1967 were no longer eligible to claim full citizenship but could obtain temporary travel documents without national identification numbers, provided they did not also carry a Palestinian Authority travel document. These individuals had access to some government services but paid noncitizen rates at hospitals, educational institutions, and training centers. Refugees who fled Gaza after 1967 were not entitled to citizenship, and authorities issued them temporary travel documents without national numbers. These persons had no access to government services and were almost completely dependent on UNRWA services. Finally, Palestinian refugees from Syria who were able to enter the country, despite many being turned away at the border, had access to UNRWA services.

Palestinians were underrepresented in parliament and senior positions in the government and the military, as well as in admissions to public universities. They had limited access to university scholarships.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Authorities can arrest LGBTI individuals for violating public order or acting indecently in public, crimes under the penal code, although arrests were rare during the year. While consensual same-sex sexual conduct is not illegal, societal discrimination against LGBTI persons was prevalent, and LGBTI persons were targets of abuse. Activists reported discrimination in housing, employment, education, and access to public services. Some LGBTI individuals reported reluctance to engage the legal system due to fear their sexual orientation or gender identity would either provoke hostile reactions from police or disadvantage them in court. Activists reported that most LGBTI individuals were closeted and feared disclosure of their sexual identity.

During the year there were reports of individuals who left the country due to fear that their families would punish them because of their sexual orientation. There were also credible reports that an LGBTI individual was the victim of an “honor crime.”

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

HIV/AIDS was a largely taboo subject. Lack of public awareness remained a problem, because many citizens believed the disease exclusively affected foreigners and members of the LGBTI community. Society stigmatized HIV/AIDS-positive individuals, and they largely hid their medical status. The government continued its efforts to inform the public about the disease and eliminate negative attitudes about persons with HIV/AIDS, but it also continued to test all foreigners annually for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, syphilis, malaria, and tuberculosis. The government deported individuals who tested HIV-positive.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law, including related regulations and statutes, provides for the right to form and join free trade unions and conduct legal strikes, but with significant restrictions. There is no right to collective bargaining, although the labor code provides for collective agreements. The law identifies specific groups of public- and private-sector workers who may organize and defines 17 industries and professions in which trade unions may be established. The establishment of new unions requires approval from the Ministry of Labor and at least 50 founding members. The law requires that these 17 trade unions belong to the government-subsidized General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions, the country’s sole trade union federation. The law authorizes additional professions on a case-by-case basis to form professional associations. Authorities do not permit civil servants to form or join unions, and they cannot engage in collective bargaining. The constitution prohibits antiunion discrimination, and the law protects workers from employer retaliation due to union affiliation or activities. The law does not explicitly provide a worker fired due to antiunion views with the right to reinstatement.

Regulations refer conflicts during negotiations first to a mediator appointed by the Ministry of Labor. If the case is unresolved, it moves to the minister of labor and then to a mediation council composed of an employee representative, a labor representative, and a chair appointed by the minister of labor. The minister refers conflicts not settled by the council to a labor court with a panel of ministry-appointed judges. There are limits on the right to strike, including a requirement to provide a minimum of 14 days’ notice to the employer. The law prohibits strikes if a labor dispute is under mediation or arbitration.

The law allows foreign workers to join unions, but it does not permit them to create unions, head a union, or hold union office. In at least one sector, elections for the union board may have excluded some migrant workers from voting for their leaders because it was unclear whether they could vote for offices they could not hold. It remained unclear whether the law permits domestic and agricultural workers to create or join unions or whether the labor code grants them other protections. Labor court judges were divided over whether the entire labor code applied to domestic workers or whether only a specific regulation for domestic workers, cooks, gardeners, and similar workers applied. The government did not fully enforce applicable laws with effective remedies, and penalties were insufficient to deter violations.

The government did not fully respect freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Many worker organizations were not independent of the government, and government influence on union policies and activities continued.

The government subsidized and audited salaries and activities of the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions and monitored union elections. The government denied recognition to independent unions organized outside the structure of the government-approved federation. The government did not meet with these unions, and the lack of legal recognition often hampered their ability to collect dues, obtain meeting space, and otherwise address members’ workplace concerns. The General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions also reported trouble getting government recognition for trade unions in new sectors beyond the 17 established in law.

As of September 18, the Ministry of Labor reported 35 strikes and labor protests. There were no reports of threats of violence against union heads, although labor activists alleged that the security services pressured union leaders to refrain from activism that challenged government interests. Strikes generally occurred without advance notice or registration.

Labor organizations reported that management representatives used threats to intimidate striking workers. Labor organizations and industry representatives reported that workers also sometimes used threats and physical violence to retaliate against management officials or to coerce colleagues into participating in labor actions.

Foreign workers in the garment, construction, services, and agricultural sectors, whose residency permits are tied to work contracts, were vulnerable to retaliation by employers for participating in strikes and sit-ins. Participation in a legally unrecognized strike counted as an unexcused absence for the purpose of this law. The law allows employers to consider employment contracts void if a worker is absent more than 10 consecutive days, as long as the employer provides written notice. The Ministry of Labor sometimes prevented management from arbitrarily dismissing foreign workers engaged in labor or other activism, but its enforcement was inconsistent. Observers reported management’s common practice of refusing to renew foreign workers’ contracts due to “troublemaking” or attempting to organize in the workplace.

As of November 21, the Ministry of Labor received 3,176 labor complaints and settled 241 during the year.

While the Ministry of Labor received no complaints of antiunion discrimination during the year, observers noted that the labor code did not explicitly protect nonunionized workers from retaliation. This was particularly the case for foreign workers in all sectors as well as citizens working in the public sector on short-term contracts (day laborers).

Labor NGOs working to promote the rights of workers generally focused on promoting the rights of migrant workers. NGOs did not face additional or different government restrictions than those discussed in section 2.b.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor except in a state of emergency, such as war or natural disaster. The government made substantial efforts to enforce the law through inspections and other means. Labor activists noted that law enforcement and judicial officials did not consistently identify victims or open criminal investigations.

Police investigated and referred 28 cases of forced labor involving 54 potential victims to the prosecutor general as trafficking cases in 2015. In 2015 the Joint Anti-Trafficking Unit of the Public Security Directorate investigated 178 cases of nonpayment of wages, withholding of passports, breaches of contracts, inappropriate work conditions, and prolonged hours without overtime pay. Police referred 124 potential victims of forced labor to shelter services. In 2015 the Ministry of Justice recorded 13 convictions under the trafficking in persons law.

In the garment sector, the government inspected factories and investigated allegations of forced labor. According to NGOs reports of withholding passports continued to decline during the year, particularly those of workers in the garment sector. Forced labor or conditions indicative of forced labor occurred, particularly among migrant workers in the domestic work and agricultural sectors. Activists highlighted the vulnerability of agricultural workers due to minimal government oversight. Activists also identified domestic workers as particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to inadequate government oversight, social norms that excused forced labor, and workers’ isolation within individual homes. Labor inspectors did not regularly investigate reports of labor or other abuses of domestic workers in private homes, and inspectors could not enter a private residence without the owner’s permission except with a court order. NGOs and foreign embassy representatives reported the Joint Anti-Trafficking Unit preferred to settle potential cases of domestic servitude through mediation, rather than referring them for criminal prosecution.

The government continued its cooperation with foreign embassies to waive overstay fees for migrant domestic workers who wish to repatriate after a two-year stay in the country. The government also has a liaison officer permanently based at the international airport to facilitate voluntary repatriation of trafficking victims.

Government bylaws require recruitment agencies for migrant domestic workers to provide health insurance, workplace accident insurance, and insurance that reimburses the recruitment fees to employers when a worker leaves before fulfilling her contract. If the employer fails to pay the worker’s salary or return the worker’s passport, then the employer would not be entitled to the insurance payment. The bylaws give the Ministry of Labor the authority publicly to classify recruitment agencies based on compliance, and to close and withdraw the license of poorly ranked agencies. Under the bylaws the ministry closed seven recruitment agencies and temporarily suspended 18 agencies as of September; most had been the subject of repeated complaints.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law forbids employment of children younger than 16 years of age, except as apprentices in nonhazardous positions. The law bans those between the ages of 16 and 18 from working in potentially hazardous jobs, limits working hours for such children to six hours per day, mandates one-hour breaks for every four consecutive working hours, and prohibits work after 8 p.m. on national or religious holidays and on weekends.

There were instances of child labor, and many local and international organizations reported it was on the rise, particularly among the Syrian refugee community. Children worked in wholesale, retail, manufacturing, mechanical repair, agriculture, construction, quarrying, tour-guiding, and the hotel and restaurant industry. They also worked as street vendors, carpenters, blacksmiths, domestic workers, and painters, as well as in small family businesses. The Ministry of Labor reported that children faced occupation-specific hazards in employment that involved mechanical work and welding, where they often lacked the training and protective equipment to perform work safely. The Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, in collaboration with the International Labor Organization, the Labor Ministry, and the Department of Statistics, published the summary report of a national child labor survey in August. The survey showed that an estimated 76,000 children between the ages of five and 17 were working in the country, and that 44,000 of them were working in dangerous jobs. Approximately 1.9 percent of the four million children of all nationalities residing in the country were employed.

The Labor Ministry’s three-person Child Labor Unit was responsible for coordinating government action regarding child labor and, with the department’s labor inspectors, was responsible for enforcing all aspects of the labor code, including child labor. Through September 18, the ministry reported that labor inspectors found 1,271 child laborers (955 Jordanians and 316 Syrians), and issued 671 warnings and 1,007 violations. Authorities referred violators to an administrative labor court; the Ministry of Justice had no information on any child labor cases referred to criminal courts. The law provides that employers who hired a child younger than age 16 pay a fine of as much as 500 JD ($700), which doubles for repeat offenses.

Labor inspectors reportedly attempted alternative approaches before issuing official warnings and violations, such as issuing advice and guidance, ensuring safe work conditions, and cooperating with employers to permit working children to attend school concurrently.

The government’s capacity to implement and enforce child labor laws was not sufficient to deter violations. The government lacked capacity to monitor children working in the informal work sector such as children working in family businesses and the agricultural sector.

The Ministries of Labor, Education, and Social Development collaborated with NGOs aiming to withdraw children from the worst forms of labor.

According to a report by UNICEF and Save the Children, close to one-half of all Syrian refugee children in Jordan were the joint or sole family breadwinners with most of them involved in armed conflict, sexual exploitation, and illicit activities, including organized begging and child trafficking. Syrian refugee children worked in the informal sector without legal work permits. Syrian refugee children sold goods in the streets in many parts of the country and begged in urban areas.

Also, see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws do not prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation on the basis of race, sex, gender, disability, language, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, age, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, or social status.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, disability, national origin, and sexual orientation (see section 6).

Union officials reported that sectors employing predominantly women, such as secretarial work, offered wages below the official minimum wage of 190 JD ($266) per month. On August 24, news outlets published a report that the Social Security Corporation had identified 1,500 women doing secretarial work earning under the minimum wage. Many women said traditional social pressures discouraged them from pursuing professional careers, especially after marriage. According to the Jordanian National Commission for Women, one-half of the country’s university graduates were women, but women comprised only 13 percent of the labor force.

Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in employment and access to the workplace. Migrant workers, faced discrimination in wages, housing, and working conditions (see section 7.e.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

In 2012 the government raised the national minimum wage to 190 JD ($266) per month, and the poverty level was set at 366 JD ($512) per month for a family of five. According to the World Bank, nearly one-third of Jordanians were living below the poverty line at some point throughout the year. The minimum wage increase excluded noncitizens and all workers in the garment industry. Citizen workers in the garment industry received a minimum wage of 190 JD ($266) per month; noncitizen workers in the garment industry received a minimum wage of 110 JD ($154) per month, although many had base wages slightly above the minimum wage. Authorities granted this exemption in part because employers often provided room and board for noncitizen workers in this sector. Some garment factories continued to deduct room and board from foreign workers’ already lower salaries.

The law sets a standard workweek of 48 hours and requires overtime pay for hours worked in excess of that standard. The law provides for 14 days of paid annual leave per year, which increases to 21 days after five years of service. Workers also received additional national and religious holidays designated by the government. Employees are entitled to one day off per week. The law permits compulsory overtime under certain circumstances such as conducting an annual inventory, closing accounts, preparing to sell goods at discounted prices, avoiding loss to goods that would otherwise be exposed to damage, and receiving special deliveries. In such cases actual working hours may not exceed 10 hours per day, the employee must be paid overtime, and the period may not last more than 30 days. There is no cap on the amount of consensual overtime.

The government set occupational health and safety standards. Employers are required to abide by all such standards set by the Ministry of Labor. The law requires employers to protect workers from hazards caused by the nature of the job or its tools, provide any necessary protective equipment, train workers on hazards and prevention measures, provide first aid as necessitated by the job, and protect employees from explosions or fires by storing flammable materials appropriately.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcement of labor laws and acceptable conditions of work. Ministry inspectors enforced the labor code but were unable to assure full compliance; there were 215 inspectors for the entire country, an insufficient number to enforce the labor code effectively. Employees may lodge complaints regarding violations of the labor code directly with the Ministry of Labor or through organizations such as their union or the NCHR. The ministry opened an investigation for each complaint.

Labor standards apply to the informal sector, but the Labor Ministry lacked the capacity to detect and monitor workplace violations. Authorities did not consistently apply all the protections of the labor code to domestic and agricultural workers, because their applicability was not clear. Labor contacts stated that agricultural and domestic workers, cooks, and gardeners were not entitled to social benefits from the Social Security Corporation.

The government took action to prevent violations and improve working conditions. As of September 18, the 215 labor inspectors conducted 60,617 inspections and issued 5,415 warnings and 4,621 violations nationwide. Labor inspectors warned 1,064 workplaces of closure and closed 516 for lack of compliance. The Labor Ministry placed a special focus on enforcing compliance in the Qualifying Industrial Zones, which largely employed migrant garment workers. The ratio of labor inspectors to workers or places of employment was significantly higher in these zones than for the general population. The government required export garment manufacturers to participate in the Better Work Jordan program to improve labor standards. As of September, 73 factories required by the government to join Better Work Jordan were active members of the program; four factories had yet to submit their registration.

Wage, overtime, safety, and other standards often were not upheld in several sectors, including construction, mechanic shops, day labor, and the garment industry. Some foreign workers faced hazardous and exploitative working conditions in a variety of sectors. Authorities did not effectively protect employees who attempted to remove themselves from situations that endangered their health and safety. Union leaders and the media reported that female citizen workers were more likely to encounter labor violations; including wages below the minimum wage and harassment in the workplace. According to Labor Ministry statistics, the gender gap in wages in the private sector was 41 percent, and 28 percent in the public sector.

Because there was no limit on consensual overtime, the Labor Ministry permitted employees in some industries, such as the garment sector, to work excessive workweeks, reportedly as much as 80 to 100 hours per week.

In the garment sector, foreign workers were more susceptible than their citizen counterparts to dangerous or unfair conditions, including mandatory overtime, delayed payment of wages, deductions for room and board, and unacceptable dormitory conditions. As of September the Labor Ministry closed 418 workplaces for recruiting foreign workers without work permits. Better Work Jordan found that compliance regarding coercion improved. Indebtedness of migrant garment workers to third parties and involuntary or excessive overtime persisted.

Employers subjected some workers in the agricultural sector, the vast majority of whom were Egyptians, to exploitative conditions. According to a domestic NGO, agricultural workers usually received less than the minimum wage, worked excessive hours without adequate compensation, and lived in substandard housing. Some employers in the agricultural sector also reportedly confiscated passports. Egyptian migrant workers were also vulnerable to exploitation in the construction industry; employers usually paid them less than the minimum wage, and they lacked basic training and equipment necessary to uphold occupational health and safety standards.

Domestic workers, overwhelmingly migrants, often faced unacceptable working conditions. Many domestic workers reported to local NGOs and their embassies that they received insufficient food, no private accommodations, no health care, no days off, and long delays in or nonpayment of wages. While domestic workers could file complaints in person with the Labor Ministry Domestic Workers Directorate or the PSD, many domestic workers complained there was no follow-up on their cases either from the ministry or from the PSD. Callers to a domestic-worker hotline of the Labor Ministry reported that live operators were available only during government business hours, or seven hours a day during the workweek. After-hours calls required the caller to leave a message and a callback number, which posed particular difficulties for domestic workers who had access only to their employers’ telephones. Advocates for migrant workers reported that hotline instructions in Arabic were difficult for noncitizens to understand and that some key languages were still missing from the hotline translation service.

In August 2015 the prosecutor general charged a Jordanian woman in Irbid with premeditated murder after she allegedly beat an Indonesian domestic worker in her employ to death. The victim died in October 2015, and the forensic report showed that the worker died due to brain hemorrhage. The case was pending at year’s end.

Advocates for migrant domestic workers reported that domestic workers who sought government assistance or made allegations against their employers frequently faced counterclaims of criminal behavior from their employers. Employers could file criminal complaints or flight notifications against domestic workers with police stations. Even when domestic workers benefited from initiatives such as the general amnesty that waived immigration overstay fines, such alerts on file with police could prevent them from leaving the country.

During the year dozens of domestic workers from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka sought shelter at their countries’ embassies in Amman. The government-run shelter for victims of trafficking assisted 47 women victims of trafficking through September 30, including workers from Bangladesh and the Philippines. Most of the domestic workers reportedly fled conditions indicative of forced labor or abuse, including unpaid wages and, to a lesser extent, sexual or physical abuse. By law employers are responsible for renewing foreign employees’ residency permits but often failed to do so for domestic employees. As a result authorities considered most of the domestic workers sheltered by embassies illegal residents, and many were stranded because they were unable to pay the daily overstay fees of 1.50 JD ($2.10) to depart the country. The government continued its cooperation with foreign embassies to waive overstay fees for migrant domestic workers who wished to repatriate after a two-year stay in the country, a policy that has been in place since 2013 and greatly reduced the number of domestic workers stranded at their embassies’ shelters.

As a result of poor working conditions experienced by some of its citizens, Indonesia prohibited its citizens from traveling to Jordan as domestic workers. Some human rights organizations argued that these bans heightened the vulnerability of foreign domestic workers who turned to unscrupulous recruitment agencies to migrate illegally to the country.

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