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Afghanistan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

As the conflict intensified in the lead-up to the Taliban takeover, the pre-August 15 government came under increasing criticism for being either incapable or unwilling to act upon reports of human rights abuses, especially regarding targeted killings by the Taliban of journalists and civic activists. Media also came under increasing pressure to restrict coverage of the government’s responsibility for civilian victims of the conflict.

Since their takeover in August, the Taliban has intervened in the operations of international and nongovernmental organizations. Staff from several organizations reported the Taliban asked that staff obtain a security clearance from them and pay a 30 percent tax on salaries received by employees.

On September 15, Taliban falsely claiming to be acting under the authority of the Ministry of Interior conducted a search of the country office premises of an international NGO dedicated to the promotion of rule of law in Kabul, seizing assets and stating an intent to return to conduct further searches.

International NGOs reported in August and September that the Taliban conducted house-to-house searches for pre-August 15 government officials and others who worked for international and human rights organizations.

The Taliban takeover and the ensuing turmoil created an immediately nonpermissive environment for many international and nongovernmental entities, including human rights organizations. Historic Taliban practices and post-August 15 actions created a climate of uncertainty and fear, which curtailed the work of journalists, civic activists, and human rights defenders, many of whom left the country due to retaliation. Investigations and reports by journalists and human rights organizations, however, continued to bring to light human rights abuses and atrocities, including allegations of summary executions of persons associated with the previous government, as well as extrajudicial killings of journalists and activists. Taliban authorities often denied that those abuses were taking place.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Under the 2004 constitution, the pre-August 15 government was required to support the AIHRC. The AIHRC highlighted human rights problems, but it received minimal government funding and relied almost exclusively on international donor funds. Three Wolesi Jirga committees dealt with human rights: the Gender, Civil Society, and Human Rights Committee; the Counternarcotic, Intoxicating Items, and Ethical Abuse Committee; and the Judicial, Administrative Reform, and Anticorruption Committee. In the Meshrano Jirga, the Committee for Gender and Civil Society addressed human rights concerns. The Taliban takeover effectively curtailed almost all AIHRC operations and the operation of the pre-August 15 government’s parliament.

Albania

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman is the main independent constitutional institution for promoting and enforcing human rights. It is authorized by law to monitor and report on prisons and detention centers and conduct administrative investigation of complaints from citizens. Although the Ombudsman’s Office lacked the power to enforce decisions, it acted as a monitor of alleged human rights abuses, and institutions made efforts to meet its recommendations.

The Assembly has committees on legal issues, public administration, and human rights that review the annual report of the Office of the Ombudsman. The committee was engaged and effective in legislative matters.

Algeria

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic human rights groups operated with varying degrees of government restriction and cooperation. The law requires all civil associations to apply for operating permission, and at year’s end several major civil associations remained unrecognized but tolerated.

Amnesty International maintained an office and actively reported on human rights matters, but it did not receive official authorization to operate from the Ministry of Interior. Amnesty International has received authorization to open a bank account, although the organization awaits final documentation from the government to open the account.

Although the government did not renew the accreditation of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, the organization had members countrywide, received independent funding, and was one of the most active independent human rights groups. The Algerian League for Human Rights, a separate but licensed organization based in Constantine, had members throughout the country monitoring individual cases.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated budget restrictions and time constraints delayed the visit of several UN delegations in charge of human rights but asserted that the country responds to all UN requests stemming from special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.

The government officially recorded 3,200 forced disappearances during the 1990s and noted families remained dissatisfied with the government’s official response surrounding the disappearances of their family members. The government reported the working group was tasked with addressing questions posed by the families of “the disappeared.” The Foreign Affairs Ministry asserted the working group took on the role of a UN investigative body, which was outside its mandate and ran contrary to the country’s constitution. The ministry added that it extended invitations to the working group in 2014 and again in 2015, but UN financial and scheduling constraints delayed their visit. The ministry claimed the United Nations would not be able to visit until at least 2023 due to continued financial and scheduling issues.

The country joined the Human Rights Council in 2014 but continued to deny requests for visits from the UN special rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions (pending since 1998) and counterterrorism and human rights (pending since 2006), the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention (pending since 2009), and the UN Security Council Mali Panel of Experts on Sanctions (since 2016). The Foreign Ministry stated that even during the 1990s, the country did not record many extrajudicial executions, but the perception caused numerous human rights groups to request special rapporteurs.

On March 5, Rupert Colville, the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), called on authorities to put an end to violence against peaceful demonstrators of the Hirak movement. Colville expressed OHCHR’s concern regarding the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and the continued and increasing crackdown on Hirak members, as “authorities are responding in the same repressive manner seen in 2019 and 2020.”

In May, OHCHR urged authorities to stop using violence to disperse peaceful Hirak demonstrations. OHCHR also urged authorities to stop arbitrarily arresting and detaining protesters for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion, expression, and peaceful assembly. OHCHR called on authorities to conduct “prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of human rights violations and to ensure that the victims obtain reparations.”

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Human Rights Council (CNDH) has budget autonomy and the constitutional responsibility to investigate alleged human rights abuses, officially comment on laws the government proposes, and publish an annual report that is submitted to the president, the prime minister, and the two speakers of parliament. The CNDH releases the report to the public. The CNDH reported representation in 1,548 communes and five regional delegations located in Chlef, Biskra, Setif, Bechar, and Bejaia. The CNDH reported it had 123 local volunteers and 245 representatives.

The CNDH reported COVID-19 hampered its activities. Nevertheless, the CNDH noted that during the year it had conducted prison visits; ensured children were connected to their schools and facilitated distance learning; held sessions with the Danish Human Rights Institute, the Arab League, and Penal Reform International; interceded to guarantee that all citizens had equal access to health care; signed a convention with the Republic Ombudsman; and took steps to set up a database to track human rights-related statistics.

Between January 1 and September 30, the CNDH reported receiving 943 requests for assistance, examined 473 of them, and completed 46. The CNDH stated 424 remained under review. A CNDH representative reported the organization’s focus during the year was on health measures, especially for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and migrants.

Andorra

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The ombudsman’s main function is to defend and oversee the fulfillment and application of the rights and liberties included in the constitution and to ensure the public sector adheres to constitutional principles. The Ombudsman’s Office also covers all cases of discrimination in the private sector as well as in the protection of the rights of minors and persons with disabilities and protection against racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, and intolerant attitudes. The Ombudsman’s Office is independent from other institutions and provides its functions free of charge to interested persons.

The ombudsman enjoyed the government’s cooperation, operated without government interference, had adequate resources, published an annual report to parliament with recommendations, and was considered effective.

Angola

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated throughout the country. Some groups investigating government corruption and human rights abuses alleged government interference in their activities, particularly in provinces outside of Luanda. Civil society organizations faced fewer difficulties in contacting detainees than in previous years, and prison authorities permitted civil society work in the prisons, but COVID-19 preventive measures forced limited access by some civil society groups.

The law requires NGOs to specify their mandate and areas of activity. The government used this provision to prevent or discourage established NGOs from engaging in certain activities, especially those that the government deemed politically sensitive.

The government allowed local NGOs to carry out human rights-related work, but many NGOs reported they were forced to limit the scope of their work because they faced problems registering, were subjected to subtle forms of intimidation, and risked more serious forms of harassment and closure.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The state-funded Interministerial Commission for the Writing of Human Rights Reports included representatives from various government ministries. Leading civil society members decided not to participate on the commission because they did not believe the commission was independent or effective.

The 10th Commission on Human Rights of the National Assembly is charged with investigating citizen complaints of alleged human rights violations and makes recommendations to the National Assembly.

An Office of the Ombudsman, with a national jurisdiction, existed to mediate between an aggrieved public, including prisoners, and an offending public office or institution. The office had representative offices open in the provinces of Cabinda, Kwanza-Sul, Cunene, Huambo, and Luanda. It had neither decision-making nor adjudicative powers but helped citizens obtain access to justice, advised government entities on citizen rights, and published reports. These reports are presented annually to the National Assembly. The ombudsman is elected by the National Assembly.

During the year the government began the implementation and training of local human rights committees at the provincial, municipal, and communal levels. These committees were composed of government representatives, civil society members, journalists, religious representatives, and traditional authorities. The committees are tasked with gathering information and reporting monthly on human rights issues within their area.

Antigua and Barbuda

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: An independent ombudsman appointed by Parliament handles public complaints against police, government officials, and government offices. The ombudsman takes complaints, conducts investigations, and then makes recommendations to the relevant authorities.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A limited number of domestic human rights organizations operated in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities. Authorities were rarely cooperative or responsive to their views and requests. NGOs promoted awareness of domestic violence; women’s rights; rights of asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants; trafficking in persons; police abuse; and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) persons. These NGOs had little effect on changes to “legislation” to improve the protection of human rights. Local NGOs liaised with the United Nations, UNHCR, foreign diplomatic missions, representatives of the European Union, and international NGOs on human rights matters.

Government Human Rights Bodies: There is an “ombudsman,” whose portfolio includes human rights issues. The “ombudsman” investigates and reports on institutions that exercise administrative and executive powers and ensures that “legislation” and “court” decisions are properly implemented. The “ombudsman” can initiate investigations in response to media reports, complaints from individuals and organizations, or on its own initiative. The “ombudsman” was not always effective due to the lack of an enforcement mechanism.

Argentina

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and generally responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government has a human rights secretariat within the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Its main objective is to coordinate within the ministry and collaborate with other ministries and the judiciary to promote policies, plans, and programs for the protection of human rights. It published leaflets and books on a range of human rights topics.

NGOs argued that the government’s failure to fill the post of national ombudsman, vacant since 2009, undermined the office’s mandate to protect human rights.

The Prosecutor General’s Office of Crimes against Humanity investigated and documented human rights violations that occurred under the 1976-83 military dictatorship.

Armenia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Most domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restrictions, freely investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. The government’s prosecution of a Yezidi human rights defender, however, was a significant exception (see section 2.a.). While some government officials cooperated with and were responsive to their views, civil society organizations said that meetings with government officials (both online and in person) were few and the government ignored or did not seek NGO expert views in several important areas, such as freedom of speech and of the press. In other areas, such as reforms to foster an impartial, independent judiciary, the government collected civil society reports and recommendations, but it was unclear to what extent the recommendations were considered. The government did not act to protect civil society organizations from disinformation or threats, including threats to harm individual activists.

During the period preceding the June 20 parliamentary elections, politicians made statements threatening to restrict human rights NGO activities. For example former president Robert Kocharyan, who led the list of the Armenia Alliance, which became the largest opposition group in the National Assembly after the elections, stated that “the activities of ‘Soros offices’ [would] either be banned or severely restricted” if the Armenia Alliance controlled government. Individual human rights activists interpreted such statements by candidates as threats against their persons. In a trend that continued to grow through the year, human rights and other civil society organizations as well as individual human rights advocates engaged in election observation continued to be vilified and threatened, including receiving death threats. The government reportedly did not act to protect them from such threats. Some journalists who promoted democratic reforms also received threats.

The investigation into the November 2020 attacks on the offices of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Open Society Foundation-Armenia continued as of year’s end; the investigation into the November 2020 attack on the HCAV office was dropped after it was determined that damages did not cross a minimum legal threshold. Law enforcement authorities declined to combine the HCAV and Open Society Foundation cases, as HCAV had requested, which would have allowed the case to cross the threshold.

NGO members also continued to report increasing threats to their persons. One human rights activist reported that a photograph of her in the crosshairs of a target was posted in the apartment building where she lived. Intimidation also came from online trolls, media outlets, malign news outlets, and nationalist groups, many of which were affiliated with the former government and, some local experts alleged, Russian actors. Especially targeted were those promoting human rights, women’s and children’s rights, and deeper law enforcement and judicial reforms, particularly the Open Society Foundation.

After human rights activist Sashik Sultanyan gave an interview in which he described the challenges facing the Yezidi community in the country, authorities indicted him on July 29 for allegedly “inciting hatred.” International human rights organizations called Sultanyan’s remarks clear examples of legitimate protected speech and termed the prosecution malicious and a threat to democracy, concerns shared by the ombudsperson. They also noted procedural problems in the case, in particular that investigators refused to provide Sultanyan with information concerning the investigation or the grounds for opening it. One individual, interviewed as a witness in the case, reported that an investigator told him, “Western NGOs must be shut down.”

In a trend that began in 2020, increasing numbers of academics and other opinion leaders, including those advocating human rights, became reluctant to express their opinions in public, particularly online, due to hate campaigns. As a result constructive discourse around human rights and other important matters generally decreased. The government did not employ legislation adopted in 2020 that criminalizes public calls for violence to prosecute calls to harm civil society actors.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Human Rights Defender (the ombudsperson) has a mandate to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms from abuse at all levels of government. The office operated with independence and served as an effective advocate on individual cases. The office declined, however, to take on some cases related to LGBTQI+ persons.

In 2019 the government approved the Judicial and Legal Reform Strategy for 2019-2023 and action plan for its implementation that envisage the creation of a fact-finding commission to examine human rights problems. Although legislation to establish the commission was drafted, parliament had not yet adopted it. Human rights groups accused the ruling party of lacking the political will to establish the commission.

Australia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Human Rights Commission, an independent organization established by parliament, investigates complaints of discrimination or breaches of human rights under the federal laws that implement the country’s human rights treaty obligations. The commission reports to parliament through the attorney general. Media and NGOs deemed its reports accurate and reported them widely. Parliament has a Joint Committee on Human Rights, and federal law requires that a statement of compatibility with international human rights obligations accompany each new bill.

Austria

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: A human rights ombudsman’s office consisting of three independent commissioners examines complaints against the government. The ombudsman’s office is completely independent and has its own budget; parliament appoints its members. The ombudsman’s office effectively monitored government activities. A parliamentary human rights committee also provides oversight of the government’s actions with respect to human rights.

Azerbaijan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

While the government provided access to certain areas of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone under Azerbaijani control, it restricted access to other areas, limiting reporting from local and international journalists, as well as international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Leading human rights NGOs faced a hostile environment for investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. For example, in May human rights defender and former political prisoner Rufat Safarov was threatened with death. Police summoned the person who threatened Safarov, but no further action was reported. In February 2020 Safarov reported he himself had been detained and threatened by police with tougher measures if he did not stop criticizing authorities.

As of December 31, human rights defender Oktay Gulaliyev remained in a coma after having been struck by a car in 2019 while crossing a Baku intersection, causing head trauma that resulted in a cerebral hemorrhage and coma. Doctors did not perform surgery on him until the following day. Some activists and Gulaliyev’s sons stated the collision was an attack on Gulaliyev for his announced 2019 campaign against torture and his advocacy for those accused of wrongdoing by the government in connection with the 2018 unrest in Ganja, and that doctors had purposely withheld timely medical treatment after the accident. The sons and the activists also noted that authorities had warned Gulaliyev not to report on repression and torture. Other activists stated there was no evidence the collision was intentional and that Gulaliyev received standard care from a deeply flawed health-care system. On January 25, the Nasimi District Court sentenced the driver who hit Gulaliyev to two years and three months in prison. Gulaliyev’s family did not protest the sentence but called for an investigation of the doctors responsible for alleged delays in providing medical treatment after the accident.

The government continued to impose severe restrictions on the operations of domestic and international human rights groups. Application of restrictive laws to constrain NGO activities and other pressure continued at the same high level as recent years. Activists also reported that authorities refused to register their organizations or grants and continued investigations into their organizations’ activities. Some human rights defenders were unable to carry out their professional responsibilities due to various government obstacles, such as the frozen bank accounts of Intigam Aliyev and Asabali Mustafayev. In March 2020 human rights defender and journalist Elchin Mammad was detained based on allegations of theft and illegal possession of a weapon. In October 2020 he was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. On February 19, the Sumgayit Court of Appeal rejected Mammad’s appeals, and on July 7, the Supreme Court also rejected his appeals. Human rights defenders viewed the verdicts as politically motivated.

While the government communicated with some international human rights NGOs and responded to their inquiries, on numerous occasions it criticized and intimidated other human rights NGOs and activists. The Ministry of Justice continued to deny registration or placed burdensome administrative restrictions on human rights NGOs on arbitrary grounds.

Government officials and state-dominated media outlets engaged in rhetorical attacks on human rights activists and political opposition leaders (see section 3, Freedom to Participate in the Political Process), accusing them of attempting to destabilize the country and working on behalf of foreign interests.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government objected to statements from international bodies and criticized what authorities termed interference in the country’s internal affairs. Although government officials and members of the National Assembly had previously criticized the OSCE/ODIHR assessment of the 2018 presidential election, government officials referred to the ODIHR assessment of the 2020 National Assembly elections as “balanced.”

Government Human Rights Bodies: Citizens may appeal violations committed by the state or by individuals to the ombudsperson for human rights for Azerbaijan or the ombudsperson for human rights of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. The ombudsperson may refuse to accept cases of abuse that are more than one year old, anonymous, or already being handled by the judiciary. Human rights NGOs criticized the Ombudsperson’s Office as lacking independence and effectiveness in cases considered politically motivated.

Human rights offices in the National Assembly and Ministry of Justice also heard complaints, conducted investigations, and made recommendations to relevant government bodies, but they were similarly accused of ignoring violations in politically sensitive cases.

Bahamas

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Human rights organizations generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views. The government had yet to establish an ombudsman, although legislation was pending. The Ministry of Social Services had a council to investigate abuses directed at women, children, and persons with disabilities.

Bahrain

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Government officials sometimes met with local human rights NGOs but generally were not responsive to the views of NGOs they believed were politicized and unfairly critical of the government.

Domestic human rights groups were restricted by the government, with some activists imprisoned, exiled, or coerced into silence, according to international human rights organizations. Domestic human rights groups included: the Bahrain Human Rights Society, a licensed human rights organization in the country; the Bahrain Center for Human Rights which, although dissolved by the government in 2004, continued to operate and maintain an online presence; and the unlicensed Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. The unlicensed umbrella human rights organization, Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, issued numerous reports and had strong ties to international human rights NGOs.

The government imposed restrictions on domestic human rights groups, and they faced significant difficulties operating freely and interacting with international human rights organizations. Although there were no reports of the government depriving local NGO leaders of due process, local leaders and activists did report other types of harassment, including police surveillance, delayed processing of civil documents, “inappropriate questioning” of their children during interviews for government scholarships, and restricting their ability to travel internationally. Activists reported forgoing travel, in particular to international human rights events, fearing a reimposition of international travel bans.

Individuals affiliated with international human rights and labor organizations, or who were critical of the government, reported authorities indefinitely delayed or refused their visa applications, or at times refused entry to the country for individuals who possessed a valid visa or qualified for the country’s visa-free entry program.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ombudsman’s Office within the Ministry of Interior, the SIU within the PPO, and the PDRC worked with each other throughout the year. The Ombudsman’s Office maintained a hotline for citizens to report police abuse via telephone, email, WhatsApp, or in person. The National Intelligence Agency Office of the Inspector General, created as a result of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, worked with the Ombudsman’s Office. While both offices were responsible for addressing allegations of mistreatment and abuses by the security forces, there was little public information available regarding the activities of the agency’s parent Office of the Inspector General.

The PDRC monitored prisons, detention centers, and other places where persons may be detained, such as hospital and psychiatric facilities. The PDRC was empowered to conduct inspections of facilities, interview inmates or detainees, and refer cases to the Ombudsman’s Office or SIU. The Ombudsman also concurrently served as the PDRC chair. The NIHR conducted human rights workshops, seminars, and training sessions, as well as prison visits, and referred complaints to the PPO. It also operated a hotline for citizens and residents to file human rights-related complaints and offered a walk-in option for filing complaints.

On February 22, NIHR launched an online introductory meeting regarding its human rights training program, Foras (opportunities). The training was open to citizen students in local universities and abroad.

Many human rights groups asserted that investigations into police abuse were slow and ineffective, and they questioned the independence and credibility of investigations by government-sponsored organizations.

Local and international observers and human rights organizations continued to express concern the government had not fully implemented recommendations from the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, including dropping charges against individuals engaged in nonviolent political expression, criminally charging security officers accused of abuse or torture, integrating Shia citizens into security forces, and creating an environment conducive to national reconciliation.

Bangladesh

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated with some government restrictions, and they investigated and published their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were rarely cooperative and responsive to their reports.

Although human rights groups often sharply criticized the government, they also practiced self-censorship. Observers commented on the government’s strategy to reduce the effectiveness and inhibit operations of civil society, exacerbated by threats from extremists and an increasingly entrenched leading political party. Even civil society members affiliated with the ruling party reported receiving threats of arrest from the security forces for public criticism of government policies.

The government continued to restrict the funding and operations of the human rights organization Odhikar, which in turn continued to report harassment, intimidation, and surveillance by government officials and security forces, including disruption of their planned events. On February 14, the Supreme Court rejected the petition for dismissing the case against Odhikar’s secretary and director and ordered the case to proceed at the Cyber Crimes Tribunal. Odhikar’s NGO renewal registration remained pending at year’s end since 2014. On October 5, the case against Odhikar’s secretary Adilur Rahman Khan and director Nasiruddin Elan went to trial regarding alleged violations in 2013 of the Information and Communications Technology Act.

The government required all NGOs, including religious organizations, to register with the Ministry of Social Welfare. Local and international NGOs working on sensitive topics or groups, such as security force abuses, religious matters, human rights, indigenous peoples, LGBTQI+ communities, Rohingya refugees, or worker rights, faced formal and informal governmental restrictions (see sections 2.b. and 7.a.). Some of these groups claimed intelligence agencies monitored them. The government sometimes restricted international NGOs’ ability to operate through delays in project registration, cease-and-desist letters, and visa refusals.

The law restricted foreign funding of NGOs and included what rights groups reported were punitive provisions for NGOs making “derogatory” comments regarding the constitution of the country, its founding history, or constitutional bodies (that is, government institutions and leaders).

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government did not respond to a UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances request to visit the country. The Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in the country reported 158 other pending requests for UN special rapporteurs to visit the country since 2016, including the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions; the special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; and the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

On February 4, the United Nations Secretary General’s Spokesperson called for a full investigation by relevant authorities into allegations of corruption and illegality involving the army. The United Nations raised concerns regarding allegations the military purchased surveillance equipment from Israel. Bangladeshi military commanders claimed the equipment was bought for one of the Army units to be sent on UN peacekeeping missions, but a UN spokesperson responded surveillance equipment was not deployed with contingents in UN peacekeeping operations. Human rights groups alleged the country used surveillance equipment to target political opponents and dissidents (see section 2.a.).

On February 6, seven international human rights groups called on the United Nations to review its use of Bangladeshi peacekeeping troops around the world. Bangladesh is the largest overall contributor of uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping missions, with more than 6,800 personnel deployed in peacekeeping operations around the world.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has seven members, including five honorary positions. The NHRC’s primary activities are to investigate human rights abuses, address discrimination in law, educate the public on human rights, and advise the government on key human rights matters. Some human rights organizations questioned the independence and effectiveness of the NHRC, alleging the government used state institutions including the NHRC to implement its political agenda.

Barbados

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of human rights groups generally operated without government restriction and were able to investigate and publish their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ombudsman’s Office hears complaints against government ministries, departments, and other authorities for alleged injuries or injustices resulting from administrative conduct. The president appoints the ombudsman on the recommendation of the prime minister and in consultation with the opposition. Parliament must approve the appointment. The ombudsman submits annual reports to Parliament that contain recommendations on changes to laws and descriptions of actions taken by the Ombudsman’s Office.

Belarus

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Until July there were a number of active domestic human rights NGOs, although authorities were often hostile to their efforts, restricted their activities, selectively cooperated with them, and were not responsive to their views.

On July 14, authorities launched a countrywide crackdown on media and civil society organizations and activists, which included arrests of human rights defenders and legal proceedings to liquidate NGOs on various politically motivated charges that largely sought to prevent activists and NGOs from exercising their fundamental freedoms, including expressing criticism of the government, recording authorities’ human rights abuses, and assisting victims of said abuses. As of October, 275 NGOs had been liquidated. The last major independent media outlet was closed in August, and the last national human rights organization was closed in October. A number of human rights defenders chose to flee the country to avoid immediate arrest. In a November 19 interview with BBC, Lukashenka stated authorities would “massacre” all NGOs that had received funding from the West.

On January 21, the government opened a criminal investigation into activities of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, claiming the organization financed protest activities by reimbursing fines and defense lawyers’ costs for individuals with disabilities. Authorities claimed these activities purportedly constituted fraud and searched the NGO’s offices and the private residence of the organization’s accountant, Tatsiana Kryshtal, during which they confiscated computer equipment and cell phones. On February 2, the Financial Investigations Department of the State Control Committee detained the NGO’s leader, Siarhei Drazdouski, and his deputy, Aleh Hrableuski. Both were interrogated for more than seven hours without access to defense lawyers. Officers forced Hrableuski to undress and Drazdouski to sit still for hours in his wheelchair. As of July 31, Drazdouski was under house arrest and Hrableuski remained in pretrial detention. Authorities forcibly closed the NGO on August 3, and the investigation into Drazdouski and Hrableuski’s cases reportedly continued as of October (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities).

Because authorities deregistered most independent civil society organizations in the country, some NGOs, including Vyasna and Legal Assistance to the Population, were forced to continue their operations from outside the country.

Authorities harassed both registered and unregistered human rights organizations prior to the sector-wide deregistration of human right groups in July. They subjected them to inspections and threats of deregistration and reportedly monitored their correspondence and telephone conversations. During the year human rights activists were arrested as part of the regime’s crackdown on independent civil society organizations and activists. Human rights groups and activists who continued their work after deregistration faced harassment and threats of arrest for their activities.

On January 18, police detained Homyel-based Vyasna human rights advocate Leanid Sudalenka and volunteer Marya Tarasenka. On January 21, police detained Tatsiana Lasitsa, another Vyasna volunteer from Homyel, and authorities charged the three human rights defenders with participating in group activities grossly violating public order in connection with their efforts to assist victims of the regime’s human rights abuses after the 2020 election. After Tarasenka was charged, she was released on January 21 and fled the country. On November 3, a Homyel court sentenced Sudalenka to three years in prison and Lasitsa to two years and six months in prison.

On February 16, police searched offices and private residences of Vyasna advocates and Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) members in the framework of a criminal case on charges of participating in activities grossly violating public order. On July 14, authorities detained Vyasna leader Ales Byalyatski, deputy chair Valyantsin Stephanovich, and leading advocate Uladzimir Labkovich. At least seven other Vyasna members were also detained but released a few days later pending criminal charges. As of November seven Vyasna members remained in detention.

On February 12, authorities charged Vyasna human rights activist and volunteer coordinator Marfa Rabkova with participating in a criminal group and inciting social hatred. In September 2020 Rabkova was detained and later charged with criminal activity for the “training or other preparation of persons to participate in riots or funding such activities.” Vyasna asserted that Rabkova’s detention and charges were a politically motivated response to her efforts to train short-term election observers for the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections volunteer initiative and her work in documenting severe abuses of detainees. As of December Rabkova remained in detention. Vyasna considered Rabkova to be a political prisoner.

Prior to the July crackdown, the government largely ignored reports issued by human rights NGOs and rarely met with them. State-run media rarely reported on human rights NGOs and their activities.

Authorities may close an NGO after issuing only one warning that it violated the law, including the law on mass events. The law allows authorities to close an NGO for accepting what it considered illegal forms of foreign assistance and permits the Justice Ministry to monitor NGO activities and review their documents. NGOs must also submit detailed annual reports to the ministry regarding their activities, office locations, and total number of members. Authorities drew on these regulations when deregistering the majority of independent NGOs operating in the country during the year.

Authorities did not engage on human rights problems with international human rights NGOs or other human rights officials, and international NGO representatives often had difficulty gaining admission to the country in their official capacity. Authorities routinely ignored local and international groups’ recommendations on improving human rights in the country, as well as requests to stop harassing the human rights community.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: In 2018 the UN Human Rights Council appointed Anais Marin as the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country. The government continued to speak against “the politicized and senseless” mandate of the rapporteur, refused to recognize the mandate, and denied Marin entry to the country. In September 2020, 17 OSCE participating states invoked the Moscow Mechanism to establish an expert mission to examine and report on allegations of human rights violations and abuses in connection with the August 2020 presidential election. Belarus authorities did not cooperate with the expert mission or allow it access to the country. On November 4, 35 OSCE participating states invoked the OSCE Vienna Mechanism under which Belarus must answer a series of questions on the implementation of its human rights commitments as an OSCE member. The French ambassador to the OSCE, on behalf of the 35 OSCE participating states invoking the mechanism, noted that the Belarus OSCE delegation’s response “did not indicate a material change in the approach of the Belarusian authorities” regarding concerns raised about serious human rights violations and abuses in the country.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The country does not have an ombudsman or other national human rights institution. A standing commission on human rights in the lower chamber of the National Assembly was ineffective.

Belgium

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Federal and regional government ombudsmen monitored and published reports on the workings of agencies under their respective jurisdictions. The Interfederal Center for Equal Opportunities (UNIA) is responsible for promoting equal opportunity and combating discrimination and exclusion at any level (federal, regional, provincial, or local). The center enjoyed a high level of public trust, was independent in its functioning, and was well financed by the government.

In 2020 the government established the Federal Institute of Human Rights and nominated a board president and vice president in May. The institute is intended to intervene where other agencies, such as UNIA or the federal center for migration (Myria), do not act. The mission of the institute is to provide opinions, recommendations, and reports to the federal government, the Chamber of Representatives, the Senate, and other official bodies, to ensure that the fundamental rights arising from the international treaties to which the country is a party are carried out. The new body is competent only at the federal level, but an interfederal approach was also envisaged through a cooperation agreement between federal and regional authorities.

Belize

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The ombudsman, appointed by the government, acts as an independent check on governmental abuses. The Office of the Ombudsman holds a range of procedural and investigative powers, including the right to enter any premise to gather documentation and the right to summon persons. The office operated under significant staffing and financial constraints. The law requires the ombudsman to submit annual reports. The office does not have the power to investigate allegations against the judiciary or private entities. While the Office of the Ombudsman has wide investigative powers, it lacks effective enforcement authority; noncompliance by the offices being investigated severely limited the effectiveness of the Office of the Ombudsman. As of April the post of ombudsman remained vacant after the government did not renew the contract of Lionel Arzu and failed to name a replacement. In August, Arzu sued the government for making amendments to his three-year contract, signed under a former administration in 2020, without his consent. The changes included reductions in salary, allowances, and vacation days.

Benin

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views. Nevertheless, the government denied permits to some domestic human rights groups to protest government action. Human rights groups reported they did not share all their findings publicly due to fear of government reprisal.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Beninese Human Rights Commission has the power to investigate human rights complaints, issue instructions to government officials, and publish an annual human rights report. The country also had an ombudsman responsible for responding to citizen complaints of maladministration who was independent, adequately resourced, and effective.

Bhutan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views. According to international NGOs, local civil society organizations practiced self-censorship to avoid matters perceived as sensitive by the government. These included women’s rights, the environment, and human rights problems related to the Nepali-speaking community. Because the government categorized human rights groups established by the Nepali-speaking community as political organizations that did not promote national unity, these groups were not permitted to operate.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Assembly Human Rights Committee conducted human rights research on behalf of the National Assembly. The Civil Society Organization Authority has the legal authority to regulate civil society operations. Of 53 registered civil society organizations, 42 were categorized as public-benefit organizations and 11 as mutual-benefit organizations.

Bolivia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views, with some exceptions.

On September 10, a radical group known as the Wila Lluch’us called on its followers to burn down the home of human rights activist Amparo Carvajal. The government refused calls to denounce the group, claiming it did not exist. Wila Lluch’us subsequently confirmed its existence and its ties to the government but denied having called for violence against Carvajal.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution establishes a human rights ombudsman, subject to confirmation by both houses of Congress, with a six-year term. The ombudsman is charged with defending and promoting human rights, specifically defending citizens against government abuses. The constitution also gives the ombudsman the right to propose legislation and recommend modifications to laws and government policies. The ombudsman operated with inadequate resources. Civil society groups and several political figures contended the ombudsman lacked independence from the central government, in part because the MAS supermajority in Congress allowed for the nominee’s confirmation without meaningful debate.

Both houses of Congress had human rights committees that proposed laws and policies to promote and protect human rights. Opposition politicians accused the MAS of using the Ethics Committee within the Chamber of Deputies for political purposes. On June 24, the MAS-controlled committee accepted a complaint against 12 opposition legislators for having travelled to the United States “without permission.” The travelling legislators in question met with leadership from the Organization of American States, the IACHR, and Human Rights Watch. These legislators also denounced the arrest of former interim president Anez and the promotion of a false “coup” narrative related to the 2019 postelection unrest. (For information on former president Jeanine Anez, see section 1.d., Arbitrary Arrest.)

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were seldom cooperative and responsive to their views, and the Council of Ministers largely excluded NGOs from politically important or sensitive decisions or consultations on legislation that was being proposed for adoption. At times the government attributed the failure to consult with NGOs to pandemic meeting restrictions. NGOs continued, however, to expand cooperation with the government at lower levels.

Government officials in both the Federation and the RS entities did not attempt to limit NGO activities. Observers noted that some civil society representatives working on highly sensitive issues such as conflict-related crimes and combating corruption were subjected to threats and verbal assaults. Such threats often came by individuals via social media or graffiti on NGOs’ offices. Authorities would seldom successfully investigate such threats. NGOs can only be involuntarily dissolved if found in violation of the law.

Civil society organizations frequently lacked adequate funding, and most were dependent on either governmental or international assistance. Local governments generally extended support to NGOs, provided the governing parties did not consider them threats.

Botswana

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The small number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to domestic NGO views on most subjects. The government interacted with and provided financial support to some domestic organizations.

Government Human Rights Bodies: An ombudsman within the Office of the President handled complaints of maladministration, including some human rights abuses in the public sector, and the government generally cooperated with the ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman, however, lacked sufficient staff.

Brazil

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Many domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views. Federal and state officials in many cases sought the aid and cooperation of domestic and international NGOs in addressing human rights problems.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Some local human rights organizations were critical of the Ministry of Human Rights, stating that many positions were either unfilled or filled by individuals who did not support human rights and that the role of civil society in policy discussions had been severely reduced.

The Chamber of Deputies and the Senate had human rights committees and subcommittees that operated without interference and participated in several activities nationwide in coordination with domestic and international human rights organizations. Most states had police ombudsmen, but their accomplishments varied, depending on such factors as funding and outside political pressure.

The government operated several interministerial councils linking civil society to decision makers in the government on a range of human rights topics. Many of their activities were interrupted by the pandemic.

Brunei

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Neither domestic nor international human rights groups could operate freely due to government restrictions. No registered civil society organizations dealt directly with human rights, mostly due to self-censorship. A few domestic organizations worked on humanitarian issues, such as assistance for victims of domestic violence or provision of free legal counsel for indigent defendants. They generally operated with government support, and the government was somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views, although they reported practicing self-censorship and avoiding sensitive issues. Regional and other international human rights organizations occasionally operated in the country but faced the same restrictions as all unregistered organizations. In December 2019 the UN resident coordinator visited the country and noted that UN agencies already had some roles there, including the International Labor Organization’s work with the Ministry of Home Affairs on labor standards and the World Health Organization’s work with the Ministry of Health on public-health issues.

Bulgaria

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Human rights observers reported uneven levels of cooperation from national and local government officials.

The Civil Society Development Council remained suspended, after failing to start working in June 2020 due to objections by the Commission for Combating Corruption and Forfeiture of Illicit Assets and conflicting views within the government coalition regarding the election of council members.

Nationalist parties and NGOs routinely targeted human rights organizations and activists with accusations of treason and criminal offenses. In May vandals defaced the facade of the building where the office of the BHC was located with offensive graffiti.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The national ombudsman is an independent constitutional body elected by the National Assembly for a five-year mandate. The ombudsman reviews individuals’ complaints against the government for violations of rights and freedoms. The ombudsman can request information from authorities, act as an intermediary in resolving disputes, make proposals to end existing practices, refer information to the prosecution service, and request the Constitutional Court to abolish legal provisions as unconstitutional.

The Commission for Protection against Discrimination is an independent specialized agency for preventing and protecting against discrimination and ensuring equal opportunity.

A National Assembly permanent committee covers human rights, religious groups, and citizen petitions.

Burkina Faso

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and somewhat responsive to their views. In September the minister of humanitarian affairs suspended the activities of the Norwegian Refugee Council in IDP sites for criticizing the government’s humanitarian response (see section 2.d.).

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: On October 6, the minister of foreign affairs and the UN country representative for human rights signed a Memorandum of Understanding for opening a UN Human Rights Office, which the government had originally approved in May 2020.

Government Human Rights Bodies: During the year the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights organized several training sessions for security forces on the laws of armed conflict, provided assistance to victims of extremist and gender-based violence, and organized antistigmatization and social cohesion campaigns. The government sometimes assigned gendarmes as provost marshals to accompany deployed troops during military operations to verify detainees were afforded proper treatment and promptly taken before a military magistrate.

The Office of the Ombudsman addresses citizen complaints regarding government entities and other bodies entrusted with a public service mission. The ombudsman, whom the president appoints for a nonrenewable five-year term and who may not be removed during the term, was generally viewed as effective and impartial.

The government-funded National Commission on Human Rights provides a permanent framework for dialogue on human rights concerns. Its members include 15 representatives of human rights NGOs, unions, professional associations, and the government. In March the National Assembly adopted a bill that gives the commission the authority to act in matters regarding torture, strengthens the independence of commissioners, and, for the first time, sets aside funds to guarantee commissioners’ salaries. The bill also authorizes funds to reimburse commissioners for the previous three years’ salaries, which had not been paid.

Burma

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The regime did not allow domestic human rights organizations to function independently. Human rights NGOs were able to open offices and operate, but reported harassment, monitoring by authorities, and arbitrary detention. The regime, for example, sometimes pressured hotels and other venues not to host meetings organized by activists or civil society groups. Regime security forces also raided and damaged NGO offices. These restrictions went beyond standard COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The regime systematically denied attempts by the United Nations and other international organizations and NGOs to investigate human rights abuses or to access the locations of alleged abuses. Foreign human rights activists and advocates, including representatives from international NGOs, continued to be restricted to short-term visas that required them to leave the country periodically for renewal. Several international NGOs’ local partners were repeatedly asked to show financial statements and other documents that revealed their relationship with foreign funders.

The regime refused to cooperate with or grant access to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar created by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate alleged atrocities in the country.

The regime continued to refuse entry to the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the country. While the prior civilian government permitted the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for Burma to open an office in the country in 2019, the regime denied the envoy and her staff permission to enter the country after the coup.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission has the power to conduct independent inquiries, and in some cases may call for investigations into abuses. In fact the commission had limited ability to operate as a credible, independent mechanism. Before the coup, the commission investigated some incidents of human rights abuses, but no investigations took place after February 1. The commission released photos of commission members visiting prisons, labor camps, and police detention facilities between May and June. No findings from the visits were released. The NUG established a Human Rights Ministry, which pledged to document human rights abuses committed by regime security forces. The Independent Commission of Enquiry for Rakhine State has not been active since the coup.

Burundi

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups struggled to operate in the face of governmental restrictions, harassment, and repression, and government officials were rarely cooperative or responsive to their views. The law requires CSOs to register with the Ministry of the Interior, a complex process, which includes approval of an organization’s activities. Registration must be renewed every two years, and there was no recourse for organizations denied registration or renewal (see also section 2.a., Freedom of Association). By law an organization may be suspended permanently for “disturbing public order or harming state security.”

The government took notable actions regarding CSOs, including releasing human rights defenders (see also section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees, case of Germain Rukuki) and in April lifting sanctions against the organization PARCEM (Speech and Action for the Raising of Consciousness and the Evolution of Mentalities). The organization had been suspended in 2019 for undermining public order and security; media reported the organization was suspended because of a campaign it initiated, Ukuri Ku Biduhanze (“Truth on the challenges the country faces”), highlighting problems like malaria and food insecurity that were not being reported.

On April 27, Nestor Nibitanga, a former employee for the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons, was released as part of the large-scale presidential pardon. Nibitanga had been arrested in 2017 after authorities found human rights reports at his home that they claimed threatened state security and later sentenced him to five years in prison.

Human Rights Watch, the COI and other organizations continued to report that human rights defenders who remained in the country were subjected to threats, intimidation, and arrest. The COI’s report stated the positive gestures with regard to civil society were generally ad hoc symbolic gestures and that the government took measures aimed more at strengthening its control over the activities and functioning of CSOs than at reopening the democratic space. In February the Supreme Court pronounced a guilty verdict and life sentence for five human rights defenders, lawyers and NGO representatives living in exile (see section 1.e., Trial Procedures).

Numerous CSOs, especially those that focused on human rights, remained banned or suspended. President Ndayishimiye invited all citizens in exile to return to the country, but to date none of these organizations had applied for reinstatement. Ligue Iteka, officially banned since 2017, and other organizations without official recognition continued to monitor the human rights situation from abroad. Members of both recognized and unrecognized organizations reported being subjected to harassment and intimidation and took measures to protect the identities of their employees and sources.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government generally barred UN or other international bodies focused on human rights access to the country and refused to cooperate with such mechanisms. Some UN mechanisms also reported that individuals who cooperated with them faced acts of intimidation and reprisals or refused to cooperate due to such outcomes.

On May 31, the Office of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Burundi officially closed its doors. The government requested its closure in November 2020, arguing that the presence of a UN mission with an exclusively political character was no longer relevant.

The UN Human Rights Council created the three-member COI in 2016 to investigate and report human rights abuses since 2015. In October the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution approving a special rapporteur to replace the COI as the mechanism for monitoring and reporting on human rights in the country. In December Minister of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation Albert Shingiro told reporters that the government would “never” allow the special rapporteur to investigate the country.

Government officials refused to cooperate with the COI or allow it access to the country over the course of its mandate. Additionally, the COI reported that individuals who cooperated with the mechanism faced acts of intimidation and reprisals both in the country and neighboring countries.

In September the commission delivered its annual report, finding there was reason to believe that grave abuses of human rights and crimes against humanity continued to be committed in the country but on a smaller scale than during the elections period. The COI report found these abuses were primarily attributable to state officials at the highest level and to senior officials and members of the SNR, police, and Imbonerakure. Government officials dismissed the COI report. President Ndayishimiye said that any tendency to single out the country for special human rights mechanisms was counterproductive. He called on partners, including the UN Human Rights Council and other nations, to make “a fair and responsible reading” of the country’s efforts.

In April the AU’s Peace and Security Council removed the country from its agenda and terminated the AU’s mandate for human rights observers and military experts deployed in the country since 2016. The 10 civilians and three military AU monitors were the only external monitors in the country.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Parties to the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement of 2000 committed to the establishment of an international criminal tribunal, which had yet to be implemented, and a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was adopted into law in 2014. The TRC gathered testimony and conducted outreach activities under its mandate to investigate and establish the truth regarding serious human rights and international humanitarian law abuses committed in the country. The TRC was also mandated to establish the responsibilities of state institutions, individuals, and private groups.

Some CSOs and opposition political figures raised concerns that the TRC was deliberately focusing on the events of 1972 to favor the Hutu ethnic group. CSOs also raised concerns that in view of continued human rights abuses, political tensions, a climate of fear and intimidation, fears of retribution for testimony, and restrictions on freedom of expression, conditions were not conducive for an impartial or effective transitional justice process. CSOs cited concerns that the participation of ruling party members in deposition-gathering teams could reduce the willingness of some citizens to testify or share fully their stories. CSOs indicated that some of the TRC commissioners represented the interests of the ruling party and were not impartial and that a lack of qualified experts adversely affected the TRC’s ability to operate. On December 20, the TRC presented a report to the National Assembly and the Senate qualifying the 1972-1973 events as a genocide. According to the TRC’s president, the commission based its conclusion on “findings about the serious, massive and systematic human rights violations committed in 1972 and 1973 against the Hutu ethnic group by the government of Michel Micombero.” The National Assembly approved the report and confirmed that the 1972-1973 events qualify as a genocide against Hutus.

The Office of the Ombudsman has a mandate to investigate complaints regarding human rights abuses committed by civil servants, the judiciary, local authorities, public institutions, and any other public entities. The office is also focused on the establishment of community mediation and conflict prevention mechanisms.

The CNIDH, a quasi-governmental body charged with investigating human rights abuses, exercised its power to summon senior officials, request information, and order corrective action. In June the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) reaccredited the CNIDH with “A” status, the highest label of independence available, after it was provisionally downgraded in 2016 and suspended by GANHRI in 2018. Nevertheless, some observers continued to raise questions concerning the organization’s independence and ability to work on politically sensitive cases without government interference. The CNIDH was active in promoting and defending human rights including freeing opposition members imprisoned during the electoral period, increased interaction with the international community, advocacy to improve prison conditions and a focus on general human rights topics like gender-based violence, trafficking in persons, and children and worker’s rights. Over the course of the year, the CNIDH increased its reporting to the government and the public, including announcing for the first time it completed an investigation into allegations of torture by SNR employees.

Cabo Verde

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Commission for Human Rights worked on all nine inhabited islands to protect, promote, and reinforce human rights, rights of citizenship, and international humanitarian law in the country. Although independent, the commission remained inadequately staffed and funded.

Cambodia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

There were multiple reports of a lack of official cooperation with human rights investigations and in some cases, intimidation of investigators by government officials.

Approximately 25 human rights NGOs operated in the country. A further 100 NGOs’ work involved some human rights concerns, but only a few actively organized training programs or investigated abuses.

Human rights defenders faced increasing repression. On September 18, Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly ordered the arrest of political commentator Seng Sary, accusing him of joining the opposition party to create a revolution; the prime minister withdrew his order two days later, stating he had listened to Seng’s explanations and found them “reasonable.”

Defenders were detained without bail before trial and pending verdict.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: Although the government generally permitted visits by UN representatives with human rights responsibilities, authorities generally restricted access to opposition officials, including Kem Sokha. On September 23, Prime Minister Hun Sen met via videoconference with Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia. Government spokespersons regularly chastised UN representatives publicly for their remarks on a variety of human rights concerns.

Government Human Rights Bodies: There were three government human rights bodies: a Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Reception of Complaints in both the Senate and National Assembly; and the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, which reported to the prime minister’s cabinet. The Cambodian Human Rights Committee submitted government reports for international human rights review processes, such as the Universal Periodic Review, and issued responses to reports by international organizations and government bodies, but it did not conduct independent human rights investigations. Credible human rights NGOs considered the government committees of limited efficacy and criticized their role in vocally justifying the government crackdown on civil society and the opposition.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, which was established to investigate and prosecute leaders of the former Khmer Rouge regime who were most responsible for the atrocities committed between 1975 and 1979, continued operations. The chambers are a hybrid tribunal, with both domestic and international jurists and staff, governed by both domestic law and an agreement between the government and the United Nations. All investigations have officially ended, no new investigations were opened during the year, and no prosecutions were conducted in the trial chamber. Appeals and some preprosecution proceedings continued.

On August 16, the chambers’ Supreme Court heard an appeal in a case against Khieu Samphan, the Khmer Rouge head of state in the 1970s. In 2018 the chambers sentenced Khieu to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and genocide. Two separate cases, those of Khmer Rouge naval commander Meas Muth and Khmer Rouge official Yim Tith, remained under consideration before the chambers. As of September international jurists continued to advocate that the two defendants be brought to trial for similar charges, while Cambodian jurists continued to advocate for dismissal. As of November, the Pretrial Chamber had yet to resolve these disputes.

Cameroon

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups investigated and published findings on human rights cases. Government officials rarely were cooperative and responsive to their views. Government officials impeded many local human rights NGOs by harassing their members, limiting access to prisoners, refusing to share information, and threatening violence against NGO personnel. The government took no action to investigate or prevent such occurrences. The government criticized reports from international human rights organizations by accusing them of publishing baseless accusations.

On August 2, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report entitled Cameroon: New Abuses by Both Sides, which accused government forces of destruction of property, rape, killings, execution of civilians, and looting in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. In response military spokesman Cyrille Atonfack Guemo firmly rejected what he referred to as an “outrageous and provocative” report. In an August 5 statement, he declared, “Everything appeared to clearly indicate that the multiple positions taken by HRW are intended only to discredit the defense and security forces.”

In an August 26 press release, Minister of Territorial Administration Paul Atanga Nji announced an inquiry into the registration of all foreign NGOs operating in Cameroon. In the release Atanga Nji ordered them to deposit all required original documentation at his ministry by the end of September.

The order specifically asked for a dossier comprising an original copy of the document authorizing the organization in Cameron; two copies of the organization’s constitution; the instrument appointing the organization’s representative; a legalized photocopy of the national identity card or the representative’s passport that is less than three months old; a map indicating the location of the organization’s headquarters, or of its legal representative’s office and permanent telephone address; a complete list of nonnational staff working for the organization; their curricula vitae and certified copies of their passports; a complete list of local personnel including their work contracts; and the organization’s annual activity program. Minister Atanga Nji added that foreign organizations that did not submit the documents prior to the required deadline would be suspended (see also section 2.b, Freedom of association). As of October the Ministry of Territorial Administration had relaxed some of the requirements after strong pushback from civil society organizations and international NGOs.

Observers saw the minister’s decision as a strategy to intimidate human rights organizations and possibly ban those that highlighted government abuses. As in the previous year, human rights defenders and activists received anonymous threats from persons suspected to be affiliated with the government by telephone, text message, and email. In particular this was the case for the Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network was a consistent target of the government.

On July 21, Chief Warrant Officer Bako Jean Oscar, commander of research Brigade I in Bonanjo, Douala, summoned Maximilienne Chantal Ngo Mbe, executive director of Network for Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa, to appear before him on August 9. The summons did not contain further information on the case in question, and authorities refused to specify what charges, if any, they were investigating. Ngo Mbe received an additional summons on August 13 from the Legion Gendarmerie to appear on August 16 again without any specified reason; however, the date in question fell on a holiday so she was not required to appear. Ngo Mbe received a subsequent summons to appear before the Yaounde Scientific and Judicial police in November, ordering her to appear on December 28; however, her lawyers petitioned to have the date postponed until February 2022.

Government Human Rights Bodies: In 2019 the government passed a law establishing the Cameroon Human Rights Commission (CHRC), as a replacement for the existing National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms (NCHRF). During the year the president appointed 15 members to the CHRC, including James Mouangue Kobila, formerly acting chairperson of the NCHRF, as chairperson, and Galega Gana Raphael as the deputy chairperson. The CHRC became operational on April 29 after the team took the oath of office. Like the NCHRF, the CHRC is a nominally independent, government-funded institution. The law establishing the CHRC extended its mandate to protect human rights. While the CHRC coordinated actions with NGOs and participated in some inquiry commissions, it remained poorly funded.

Canada

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were largely cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Federal and provincial human rights commissions enjoyed government cooperation, operated without government or party interference, and had adequate resources. Observers considered the commissions effective. Parliamentary human rights committees operated in the House of Commons and the Senate. The committees acted independently of government, conducted public hearings, and issued reports and recommendations to which the government provided written, public, and timely responses. Most federal departments and some federal agencies employed ombudsperson. Nine provinces and one territory also employed an ombudsperson.

Central African Republic

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights abuses and violations of law. Government officials were typically cooperative and responsive.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The country’s independent National Commission on Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties has the authority to investigate complaints, including the power to call witnesses and subpoena documents. In March the commission investigated living conditions in Ngaragba Prison and the M’Baiki Prison. The commission publicized its findings in the local press.

Chad

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated in the country, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were sometimes cooperative and responsive to their views.

In August 2020 a court approved a request by a former member of the CTDDH to suspend Mahamat Nour Ibedou from his position as head of the organization. In December 2020 a new CTDDH general assembly was installed despite protests by sitting members of procedural violations. Observers believed the former member lacked standing to bring any legal action, the new general assembly lacked legitimacy, and authorities supported these actions to lessen the stature and capability of the CTDDH to investigate human rights problems. In May the Court of Appeals cancelled the order that suspended Ibedou from his post.

In late April and early May the headquarters of the Chadian League of Human Rights was encircled by police and military forces, preventing staff from entering their offices. These acts were denounced by the Observatory of International Federation of Human Rights.

Government Human Rights Bodies: To show solidarity with the human rights community, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights cosponsored, made remarks at, and attended conferences, training sessions, and launches of campaigns officially hosted by local and international NGOs aimed at protecting human rights. Local NGOs reported the ministry functioned independently yet was of limited effectiveness, due partially to conflicts of interest with state security forces.

In February 2020 the CNDH became operational. The commission’s mandate is to advise the government on human rights, conduct investigations, assess prison conditions, verify adequate protection against abuse and torture of prisoners, and provide recommendations to the government following investigations. Observers considered the CNDH to be substantially independent of the government and relatively effective.

Chile

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases, including multiple investigations into abuses during the 2019-20 civil unrest. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The INDH operated independently and effectively, issued public statements and an annual report, and proposed changes to government agencies or policies to promote and protect human rights. The Senate and Chamber of Deputies have standing human rights committees responsible for drafting human rights legislation.

China (Includes Hong Kong, Macau, and Tibet)

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The government sought to maintain control over civil society groups, halt the emergence of independent NGOs, and hinder activities of civil society and human rights groups. The government frequently harassed independent domestic NGOs and in many cases did not permit them to openly monitor or comment on human rights conditions. The government made statements expressing suspicion of independent organizations and closely scrutinized NGOs with financial or other links overseas. The government took significant steps during the year to bring all domestic NGOs under its direct regulatory control, thereby curtailing the space for independent NGOs to exist. Most large NGOs were quasi-governmental, and all official NGOs were required to have a government agency sponsor.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government remained reluctant to accept criticism of its human rights record by other nations or international organizations. The government sharply limited the visits of UN experts to the country and rarely provided substantive answers to queries by UN human rights bodies. A dozen requests for visits to the country by UN experts remained outstanding.

The government used its membership on the UN Economic and Social Council’s Committee on NGOs to block groups critical of China from obtaining UN accreditation and barring accredited activists from participating in UN events. The government also retaliated against human rights groups working with the United Nations.

Colombia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were typically cooperative and willing to listen to local human rights groups’ concerns.

Several NGOs reported receiving threats in the form of email, mail, telephone calls, false obituaries, and objects related to death, such as coffins and funeral bouquets. The government condemned the threats and called on the Attorney General’s Office to investigate them. Some activists claimed the government did not take the threats seriously.

The government announced advances in the investigations into attacks and killings of human rights defenders and assigned priority resources to these cases. The Attorney General’s Office reported that as of August 10, it had convicted and sentenced 89 persons for the homicides of human rights defenders.

Through July the Attorney General’s Office reported 961 active investigations into threats against human rights defenders. There were three convictions in cases of threats against human rights defenders during the year.

As of July the NPU’s protection program provided protection to more than 8,000 individuals. Among the protected persons were 4,000 human rights defenders and social leaders.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The ombudsman is independent, submits an annual report to the House of Representatives, and has responsibility for providing for the promotion and exercise of human rights. According to human rights groups, underfunding of the Ombudsman’s Office limited its ability to monitor violations effectively. The ombudsman, as well as members of his regional offices, reported threats from armed groups issued through pamphlets, email, and violent actions.

The National System for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law – led by a commission of 21 senior government officials, including the vice president – designs, implements, and evaluates the government’s policies on human rights and international humanitarian law. The Office of the Presidential Advisor for Human Rights coordinates national human rights policy and actions taken by government entities to promote or protect human rights.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives have human rights committees that served as forums for discussion of human rights problems.

Comoros

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A few domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: By law the governmental National Commission for Human Rights and Liberties is mandated to investigate human rights abuses and to make recommendations to concerned authorities. It was independent but lacked effectiveness.

Costa Rica

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ombudsman’s Office reviews government action or inaction that affects citizens’ rights and interests. The ombudsman is accountable to the National Assembly, which appoints the person to a four-year term and funds office operations. The ombudsman participates in the drafting and approval of legislation, promotes good administration and transparency, and reports annually to the National Assembly with nonbinding recommendations. International institutions and nongovernmental organization observers recognized the Ombudsman’s Office as an independent and effective instrument for promoting human rights.

A special committee of the National Assembly studies and reports on problems relating to the violation of human rights, and it also reviews bills relating to human rights and international humanitarian law.

Cote d’Ivoire

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several international and domestic human rights groups operated in the country, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials met with some of those groups, sometimes at very senior levels. While the government was somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views, depending on the topic or case, it was at other times defensive regarding more sensitive topics.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights is responsible for implementing the government’s policy on human rights. The National Council for Human Rights, an advisory body that consults on, evaluates, and creates proposals to promote and defend human rights, is partially dependent on funding from the government, and human rights organizations questioned its independence and effectiveness. The human rights council had 31 regional commissions and seven thematically focused departments. The civilian-controlled Special Investigative Cell within the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights investigates persons suspected of human rights abuses committed during the postelectoral crisis of 2010-11.

Crimea

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Most independent human rights organizations ceased activities in Crimea following Russia’s occupation. Occupation authorities refused to cooperate with independent human rights NGOs, ignored their views, and harassed human rights monitors and threatened them with fines and imprisonment.

Russia continued to deny access to the peninsula to international human rights monitors from the OSCE and the United Nations.

Croatia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

In most cases domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The country has an ombudsperson for human rights who investigated complaints of human rights abuses, as well as three additional ombudspersons for gender equality, persons with disabilities, and children. The law stipulates that parliament cannot dismiss the ombudsperson for human rights because of dissatisfaction with his or her annual report. Parliament may dismiss the other three if it does not accept their annual reports. Ombudspersons admitted that this limited their ability to do their jobs thoroughly and independently and imposed political influence over their work.

The law authorizes ombudspersons to initiate shortened procedures in cases where there is sufficient evidence of the violation of constitutional and legal rights.

Cuba

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The government did not recognize domestic human rights groups or permit them to function legally. Several human rights organizations continued to function outside the law, including UNPACU, Christian Liberation Movement, Assembly to Promote Civil Society, and Lawton Foundation for Human Rights. The government subjected domestic human rights advocates to intimidation, harassment, periodic short-term detention, and long-term imprisonment on questionable charges.

No officially recognized NGOs monitored human rights. The government refused to recognize or meet with NGOs that monitored or promoted human rights. There were reports that government agents harassed individuals who met with unauthorized NGOs.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government continued to deny international human rights organizations, including the United Nations, its affiliated organizations, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, access to prisoners and detainees, despite being a member of the UN Human Rights Council. The government continued to deny or ignore long-standing requests from the UN special rapporteurs on torture, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly to enter the country to monitor human rights.

Cyprus

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction and were able to investigate and publish their findings on human rights cases without interference. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

KISA reported that its deregistration as an NGO in December 2020 (see 2.b., Freedom of Association) and the subsequent blocking of its bank account by the government significantly limited its ability to operate. All of its applications to open a new organizational bank account were rejected by local banks. The organization was unable to complete previously awarded EU-funded projects due to its inability to access the funds in its bank account. Projects funded by the EU account for a majority of KISA’s operating budget, and the revocation of its formal NGO status restricted its ability to apply for new EU-funded projects. As a result of its deregistration, KISA was prevented from engaging with government agencies, participating in government-funded training, or applying for funding. Citing its removal from the associations’ registry, the Asylum Service denied KISA permission to visit migrant reception centers on September 24 and 30.

On September 20, Minister of Interior Nouris refused to appear before the House of Representatives Human Rights Committee meeting to which KISA was invited, citing the presence of a deregistered organization. The committee meeting addressed the treatment of a pregnant Syrian asylum seeker and her family on board a migrant boat authorities pushed back to Lebanon. Separately, the Cyprus Roma Association, the only civil society organization representing the Cypriot Romani community, reported that it did not have the resources to prepare the extensive financial documentation required to maintain its NGO registration and was therefore deregistered.

Government Human Rights Bodies: There is a government ombudsman, whose portfolio includes human rights, and a legislative Committee on Human Rights.

During her independent investigations, the ombudsman generally enjoyed good cooperation with other government bodies. NGOs complained, however, that the Office of the Ombudsman routinely refused to investigate their complaints on the grounds that similar complaints had been investigated in the past.

The legislative Committee on Human Rights, which most local NGOs considered effective, consists of nine members of the House of Representatives who are elected for a five-year term. The committee discussed a wide range of human rights problems, including trafficking in persons, treatment of asylum seekers, gender-based violence, including sexual abuse of women and children, prison conditions, and the rights of foreign workers. The executive branch does not exercise control over the committee.

Czech Republic

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without governmental restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views, although some politicians disparaged NGOs in public remarks.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Government has a commissioner for human rights as well as several advisory and working-level bodies related to human rights, including the Government Council for Human Rights, the Council for Roma Minority Affairs, the Council for National Minorities, and the Board for Persons with Disabilities. The Governmental Council for Coordination of the Fight against Corruption was placed under the Ministry of Justice, and the Agency for Social Inclusion was placed under the Ministry of Regional Development.

The ombudsman operated without government or party interference and had adequate resources. The ombudsman’s office issued quarterly and annual reports to the government on its activities in addition to reports and recommendations on topics of special concern.

Human rights observers generally regarded the office of the ombudsman as effective. The ombudsman elected in March 2020, however, was widely criticized by NGOs, the Romani community, and some politicians, who contended he had publicly downplayed the extent of discrimination faced by Roma and other minorities. The ombudsman also stated that the protection of human rights was not among the functions of his office. In addition to the public defender of rights, the country has ombudsmen for security forces and for education.

In addition to the public defender of rights, the country has ombudsmen for security forces and for education.

Newly approved government strategies on Roma issues and children require the establishment of separate ombudsmen for these two groups.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Elements of the SSF continued to kill, harass, beat, intimidate, and arbitrarily arrest and detain domestic human rights advocates and domestic NGO workers, particularly when the NGOs reported on or supported victims of abuses by the SSF or reported on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the East. IAGs repeatedly targeted local human rights defenders for violent retribution when they spoke out against abuses. Representatives from the Ministry of Justice and the ANR met with domestic NGOs and sometimes responded to their inquiries.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government cooperated at times with investigations by the United Nations and other international bodies but was not consistent in doing so. For example, the government refused to grant the United Nations access to certain detention centers, particularly at military installations such as military intelligence headquarters. The government and military prosecutors cooperated with the UN team supporting investigations related to the 2017 killing of two UN experts, Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, in Kasai Central Province. After a four-month recess, the trial involving more than 50 witnesses and suspects resumed on November 2.

Government Human Rights Bodies: During the year the National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) published reports and made public statements on prison conditions, the Universal Periodic Review, and human rights violations during the COVID-19 state of emergency. It also held human rights training sessions for magistrates, visited detention centers, conducted professional development workshops for human rights defense networks in the interior, and followed up on complaints of human rights abuses from civilians.

Both the CNDH and the Human Rights Ministry continued to lack sufficient funding for overhead costs and full-time representation in all 26 provinces. A CNDH spokesperson reported the organization had received less funding than in previous years, hindering the implementation of programs in the provinces.

Denmark

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The parliamentary ombudsman investigated complaints regarding national and local public authorities and any decisions authorities made regarding the treatment of citizens and their cases. The parliamentary ombudsman can independently inspect prisons, detention centers, and psychiatric hospitals. A European ombudsman monitored the country’s compliance with EU basic rights, a consumers’ ombudsman investigated complaints related to discriminatory marketing, and two royal ombudsmen provided liaison between the Danish central government and those in the Faroe Islands and Greenland. These ombudsmen enjoyed the government’s cooperation, operated without government or political interference, and were considered effective.

Djibouti

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The government generally allowed a few domestic human rights groups that dealt with matters authorities did not consider politically sensitive to operate without restriction, conducting limited investigations and sometimes publishing findings on human rights cases. Government officials occasionally were responsive to their views. Government-sanctioned human rights groups regularly cooperated with local associations offering training and education to citizens on human rights matters such as migrant rights and human trafficking. Many of these associations had leaders who were also key officials of the government. Local human rights groups that covered politically sensitive matters could not, however, operate freely and were often targets of government harassment and intimidation.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government’s human rights organization CNDH was formed to serve as a watchdog for human rights abuses. Its members include technical experts, representatives of civil society and labor unions, religious groups, the legal community, the Ombudsman’s Office, and the National Assembly. By law the commission is a permanent institution with staff and regional offices. Staff were trained and assigned to regional facilities. The CNDH had limited independence as its reports were vetted by the government before being published. The CNDH last produced an annual report in 2019.

During the year CNDH signed several memoranda of understanding on cooperation in the field of human rights with the national police, the coast guard and three local civil society organizations.

The Ombudsman’s Office holds responsibilities that include mediation between the government and citizens on topics such as land titles, issuance of national identity cards, and claims for unpaid wages. Written records of the ombudsman’s activities were sparse, and it was unclear what actions they took to promote human rights.

Dominica

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights and advocacy organizations generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

At the June 24 the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP) regional summit in Venezuela, Prime Minister Skerrit accused nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) of being used in attempts to overthrow democratically elected governments and stated, “We have to fight against NGOs to expose them because they are not friends of the peoples of this region.”

Government Human Rights Bodies: According to the constitution, a parliamentary integrity commissioner has responsibility for investigating complaints against the government.

Dominican Republic

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international organizations generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. While government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views, human rights groups that advocated for the rights of Haitians and persons of Haitian descent faced occasional government obstruction.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution establishes the position of human rights ombudsman. The ombudsman’s functions are to safeguard human rights and protect collective interests. There is also a human rights commission, cochaired by the minister of foreign affairs and the attorney general. The Attorney General’s Office has its own human rights division.

Ecuador

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ombudsman’s Office is an administratively and financially independent body under the Transparency and Social Control branch of government focused on human rights. The Ombudsman’s Office regularly presented cases to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

On August 19, the National Court of Justice ruled against Ombudsman Freddy Carrion’s habeas corpus request. Carrion had been in pretrial detention since May 17 for alleged sexual assault. The National Assembly impeached and removed Carrion from office for nonfulfillment of duties on September 14. On October 20, the court found Carrion guilty of sexual abuse and sentenced him to three years in prison.

Egypt

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

International and local human rights organizations stated the government continued to be uncooperative with their efforts to investigate alleged abuses of human rights. On September 11, the government launched a five-year National Human Rights Strategy that included a focus on jobs, health care, clean water, food, and affordable housing, and initiatives to enhance civil society and free expression. It also called for human rights training for police and prison officers, whistleblower protections, reforms to pretrial detention, increased government and civil society collaboration on human rights matters, and continued prison inspections by the National Council for Human Rights and civil society, to improve respect of human rights. Activists and NGOs cited a lack of details on timelines or implementation of the strategy, and a focus on quality-of-life topics and not freedom of expression and association.

The Supreme Standing Committee for Human Rights, chaired by the minister of foreign affairs as an intragovernmental body, developed the strategy over 18 months of consultations with government and civil society leaders. Domestic civil society organizations acknowledged the consultations, but some criticized them as insufficient. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that with an October meeting between it and 50 NGOs led by the Supreme Standing Committee for Human Rights, consultations had begun to implement the strategy and plans for the Year of Civil Society in 2022, announced concurrently with the strategy. The Awqaf and Social Solidarity Ministries created human rights units in September and November, respectively, and the Ministry of Local Development revised its human rights unit in October, all in response to the cabinet’s order that each ministry and governorate establish a human rights unit.

Extended delays in gaining government approvals and an unclear legal environment continued to limit the ability of domestic and international NGOs to operate. State-owned and independent media at times depicted NGOs, particularly international NGOs and domestic NGOs that received funding from international sources, as undertaking subversive activities. Some NGOs reported receiving visits or calls to staff, both at work and at home, from security service officers and tax officials monitoring their activities, as well as harassment.

Human rights defenders and political activists were also subjected to governmental and societal harassment and intimidation, including through travel bans (see section 2.d.).

Well established, independent domestic human rights NGOs struggled to operate as a result of pressure from security forces throughout the country. Online censorship (see section 2.a.) restricted the roles of internet activists and bloggers in publicizing information concerning human rights abuses. Authorities sometimes allowed civil society organizations not registered as NGOs to operate, but such organizations reported harassment, along with threats of government interference, investigation, asset freezes, or closure.

The government continued investigations into the receipt of foreign funding by several human rights organizations, dropping the cases against several organizations that had been charged originally while continuing cases against others (see section 2.b.). Major international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, had not maintained offices in the country since 2014 due to security restrictions and lawsuits targeting their presence in the country.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: Authorities did not allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to prisoners and detainees.

Government Human Rights Bodies: On December 29, President Sisi ratified the House of Representative’s October 4 announcement of a new 27-person National Council for Human Rights headed by Ambassador Moushira Khattab, former minister of family and population and the first woman to head the council. According to the National Council for Women (NCW), 44 percent of the new members were women. The quasi-governmental council is charged with monitoring the human rights situation, issuing reports and recommending legislation that improves human rights.

Other government human rights bodies included the Supreme Standing Committee for Human Rights; Justice Ministry General Department of Human Rights; Prosecutor General Human Rights Office; State Information Service Human Rights Unit; Ministry of Foreign Affairs Human Rights and International, Social, and Humanitarian Department; Ministry of Local Development Human Rights Unit; Ministry of Social Solidarity Human Rights Unit; Awqaf Ministry Human Rights Unit; and human rights units in each of the country’s governorates.

El Salvador

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups critical of the Bukele administration and Nuevas Ideas party were subjects of government investigations and surveillance. Government officials were not cooperative and responsive to their views.

On June 2, President Bukele gave a speech announcing the beginning of “the battle of the people against the ideological apparatus,” referring to civil society organizations and media as an “internal enemy” that controls the people’s way of thinking.

On July 30, the president summoned representatives from civil society organizations for a four-hour closed-door meeting at the Presidential House. The civil society organizations reported that the president agreed to reduce confrontational speeches attacking the press and civil society and made a commitment to not persecute journalists or others critical of the government. Observers noted the president has not kept his promise.

On November 12, the Ministry of Finance presented to the Attorney General’s Office evidence of alleged money laundering and tax evasion by a nongovernmental organization dedicated to economic and social development. The ministry claimed their audit showed the organization moved $50 million to a tax haven on a Caribbean island. Although the press announcement did not include the name of the organization, representatives of the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development later confirmed they were the subject of the audit. They said that they were innocent of the accusations and claimed the organization and other NGOs who were critical of the actions of the government had been persecuted.

In November several members of NGOs, civil society organizations and journalists received an alert on their cellphones from Apple saying they may have been the target of state-sponsored espionage. Among the recipients of the alert were members of the Institute of Human Rights of the Central American University, Cristosal, and the Democracy, Transparency and Justice Foundation as well as journalists from El Faro, La Prensa Grafica, El Diario de Hoy, Disruptiva Magazine, Gato Encerrado magazine, Diario El Mundo, and independent journalists.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The principal human rights investigative and monitoring body is the autonomous PDDH, whose ombudsman is nominated by the Legislative Assembly for a three-year term. The PDDH regularly issued advisory opinions, reports, and press releases on prominent human rights cases. The PDDH ombudsman, Jose Apolonio Tobar, requested access to monitor conditions in the prisons but had not been allowed to enter the prisons since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. In addition the budget approved by the Legislative Assembly for the PDDH in the coming year was again significantly cut.

Equatorial Guinea

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The law restricts NGO activity. The country’s few domestic NGOs mainly focused on topics such as health, women’s empowerment, and elder care. The Center for Studies and Initiatives for the Development of Equatorial Guinea (CEIDGE) was one of the few NGOs that made public statements regarding government corruption and human rights abuses. After authorities revoked its charter in 2019, CEIDGE remained unable to conduct operations.

The government was generally suspicious of human rights activities, claiming human rights concerns were largely prompted by antigovernment exile groups and hostile foreign NGOs. Government officials rarely were cooperative and responsive to the views of human rights groups, although they cooperated in some areas, such as on combatting trafficking in persons and gender-based violence. Government officials used media outlets to try to discredit civil society actors, categorizing them as supporters of the opposition and critics of the government. The few local activists who sought to address human rights risked intimidation, harassment, unlawful detention, and other reprisals. Somos + conducted democracy events and advocated for the rights of citizens. Lack of accreditation hampered its effectiveness.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government did not generally cooperate with UN bodies focused on human rights matters or other international human rights organizations. The government did not fully cooperate with visits by representatives of human rights organizations. Members of international human rights NGOs continued to report difficulties obtaining visas to visit the country.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Commission on Human Rights, which is part of the Chamber of Deputies’ Committee for Complaints and Petitions, received citizen petitions. A government-funded Center for Human Rights and Democracy held human rights awareness campaigns. These human rights bodies were not fully operational, independent, or effective. An ombudsman and a coordinator for the government’s efforts to combat trafficking in persons were also not fully operational or effective.

Government officials responsible for addressing human rights problems functioned more to defend the government from accusations than to investigate human rights complaints or compile statistics.

Eritrea

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

International civil society organizations focused on human rights were generally not able to operate in the country. The government did not cooperate with such groups or with investigations into human rights abuses. No local human rights nongovernmental organizations operated in the country (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association).

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government did not permit visits by the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea and remained opposed to cooperating with her mandate.

Estonia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The legal chancellor, an independent official with a staff of more than 45, performs the role of human rights ombudsman. The chancellor reviews legislation for compliance with the constitution; oversees authorities’ observance of fundamental rights and freedoms and the principles of good governance; and helps resolve accusations of discrimination based on gender, race, nationality (ethnic origin), color, language, religion, social status, age, disability, or sexual orientation. The legal chancellor also makes recommendations to ministries and local governments, requests responses, and has authority to appeal to the Supreme Court. The chancellor compiles an annual report for the parliament. Public trust in the office was high, and the government was responsive to its reports and decisions.

Eswatini

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative but only sometimes responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: CHRPA is empowered by the constitution to investigate complaints of corruption, abuse of power, human rights abuses, and mismanagement of public administration. Local observers regarded CHRPA as both effective and independent. During the year CHRPA investigated 156 complaints, made findings of fact, appeared in court on behalf of aggrieved parties, issued recommendations to judicial and governmental bodies, and provided training on human rights to law enforcement officers. In October CHRPA presented a preliminary report on the civil unrest. According to the report, which focused solely on the events of June 28-29, 46 persons lost their lives and 245 individuals sustained gunshot wounds, a higher number than the government’s official statements on the unrest. The report was completed with technical and financial support from UNICEF, the UN Development Program, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and in collaboration with civil society partners. The assessment was presented to parliamentary committees and provided a platform for the government to conduct further investigations.

Ethiopia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

While a variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated in the country, persistent insecurity and government-imposed access restrictions limited the groups’ ability to conduct investigations and publish their findings on human rights cases. Authorities limited the access of domestic and international human rights organizations, media, humanitarian agencies, and diplomatic missions in certain geographic areas. Government officials were less cooperative than in 2020 and particularly sensitive to any investigation or reporting connected to the continuing conflict in the northern part of the country. Although the civil society organization (CSO) sector continued to expand, and more CSOs registered to establish themselves, the limited capacity of domestic human rights organizations, as well as their self-censorship due to fear of government retaliation, remained a challenge.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: International human rights groups were allowed to travel to most areas within the country to investigate and report but received a tepid reception from the government. As part of their joint investigation into human rights abuses in Tigray, OHCHR and the EHRC conducted 200 interviews in Mekelle, Wukro, Samre, Alamata, Bora, Maichew, Dansha, Maikadra, Humera, Gondar, and Bahir Dahir, as well as in Addis Ababa. On September 13, they released their initial findings and on November 3, published their final report. In June the African Union (AU) launched a human rights investigation into human rights abuses in the Tigray Region. Prime Minister Abiy initially welcomed the probe with the understanding it would work with the government; however, after the AU clarified that it was obliged to conduct the investigation independently, the government criticized and subsequently discredited the probe. On June 17, the government urged the AU inquiry to “immediately cease.”

On August 4, the Ethiopian Agency for Civil Society Organizations of Ethiopia announced the suspension of work permits of three foreign NGOs. The agency suspended the license of Doctors Without Borders Holland, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and the al-Maktoume Foundation. The reasons behind the ban ranged from operation in a restricted area to disseminating misinformation. Other accusations included employing workers without the correct permits, use of unauthorized and illegal satellite communications equipment, and a lack of COVID-19 protocol adherence. The agency later lifted its suspension of al-Maktoume’s work permit.

On September 30, the government declared seven UN officials persona non grata and expelled them from the country for meddling in internal affairs. Some reports suggested the expulsions were related to September 29 comments by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs under-secretary general Martin Griffiths criticizing the government and referring to the suffering in Tigray as “man-made” and the inability to deliver life-saving assistance as a “stain on our conscience.” The UN expulsions included an OHCHR investigator into the human rights situation in Tigray.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman has the authority to investigate complaints regarding administrative mismanagement by executive branch offices and officials, and to investigate prison conditions. A 2019 proclamation gives foreign nationals the right to present administrative complaints or rights abuse cases to the office.

The EHRC is an independent government agency accountable to parliament and responsible for investigating and reporting on the country’s human rights. The EHRC has the jurisdiction to observe elections. The law requires EHRC senior staff to be funded as full-time employees. The EHRC investigated human rights abuses across the country. The EHRC did not face adverse action from the government despite criticizing the government for disregarding the rule of law and abusing human rights, including through ethnic profiling of Tigrayans, arbitrary arrests of journalists, and ethnically and politically motivated killings.

Fiji

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

The law constrained NGO operations in several ways. For example, the law includes criticism of the government in its definition of sedition.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution establishes the human rights commission, with which citizens may lodge reports of human rights violations. The constitution prohibits the commission from investigating cases filed by individuals and organizations relating to the 2006 coup and the 2009 abrogation of the 1997 constitution. While the commission routinely worked with the government to improve certain human rights matters (such as prisoner treatment), observers reported it generally declined to address politically sensitive human rights matters and typically took the government’s side in public statements, leading observers to assess the human rights commission as progovernment.

Finland

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

The parliamentary ombudsman enjoyed the government’s cooperation, operated without government or party interference, and had adequate resources. The parliamentary ombudsman investigates complaints that a public authority or official failed to observe the law, to fulfill a duty, or appropriately to implement fundamental human rights protections.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Human Rights Center is an autonomous, independent institution administratively connected to the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The center’s functions include promoting the implementation of human rights, reporting on the implementation of human rights obligations, and cooperating with European and international bodies on human rights matters. The center does not have authority to investigate individual human rights abuses. A delegation of representatives from civil society who participated in promoting and safeguarding human rights frequently cooperated with the center.

The parliamentary Constitutional Law Committee analyzes proposed legislation for consistency with international human rights conventions. The committee deals with legislation relating to criminal and procedural law, the courts, and the prison system.

The law requires the ombudsman for children, the nondiscrimination ombudsman, and the ombudsman for equality impartially to advance the status and legal protection of their respective reference groups. These ombudsmen operate under the Ministry of Justice. Responsibility for investigating employment discrimination rests solely with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Responsibility for developing antidiscrimination policies and legislation as well as for the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations resides with the Ministry of Justice’s Unit for Democracy, Language Affairs, and Fundamental Rights. The Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations advocates for policy changes to improve integration.

The nondiscrimination ombudsman also operated as an independent government-oversight body that investigates discrimination complaints and promotes equal treatment within the government. The nondiscrimination ombudsman also acted as the national rapporteur on trafficking in human beings and supervised the government’s removal of foreign nationals from the country.

France

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights organizations generally operated, investigated, and published their findings on human rights cases without government restrictions. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The CNCDH advised the government on human rights and produced an annual report on racism and xenophobia. Domestic and international human rights organizations considered the CNCDH independent and effective. Observers considered the Defender of Rights independent and effective, with access to all necessary resources.

Following spring protests against police violence and racism, the National Assembly in September 2020 established an investigative committee to assess the ethics of police actions, practices, and law and order doctrine. On January 20, the committee presented the conclusions of its report and made 35 proposals aimed at re-establishing the balance between freedom to demonstrate, security of demonstrators, and protection of public order, which is the basis of the “relationship of trust between all citizens and the police.”

Following the April 14 Supreme Court ruling that the killer of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman, was unfit to stand trial because his cannabis use prior to the killing rendered him psychotic, the National Assembly on July 22 established a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the affair. The investigation will be able to summon police officers, witnesses, judges, ministers, and others to examine the case.

Gabon

Gambia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were usually cooperative and responsive to their views. The law requires NGOs to register with the National Advisory Council, which has the authority to deny, suspend, or cancel the right of any NGO, including international NGOs, to operate in the country.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman operated a National Human Rights Unit (NHRU) with a mandate to promote and protect human rights and support vulnerable groups. The NHRU addressed complaints regarding unlawful dismissal, termination of employment, unfair treatment, and illegal arrest and detention. Observers considered the NHRU to be effective and independent.

The National Human Rights Council is an independent government body responsible for improving human rights standards in the country and nurturing a culture of respect for rights and freedoms protected by the rule of law. The NHRC investigates allegations of human rights abuses by both governmental and nongovernmental actors, issues findings intended to hold wrongdoers responsible and prevent further abuses, and conducts outreach and proactive education to raise awareness of human rights topics. Observers considered it to be generally effective and independent.

The Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparation Commission’s report, published on December 24, provided detailed accounts of the Jammeh government’s wrongdoings, highlighted witness testimony describing the harms caused by the former government, and proposed recommendations to hold alleged perpetrators accountable. The comprehensive and specific document also acknowledged the obstacles facing efforts to obtain both accountability and reconciliation. Observers generally considered the TRRC to be independent and effective.

Georgia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups in most instances operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat responsive to their views.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: De facto authorities in the occupied territories continued to deny unimpeded access to the United Nations and other international bodies.

Government Human Rights Bodies: NGOs viewed the Public Defender’s Office, which has a mandate to monitor human rights and examine allegations of abuse and discrimination, as the most objective of the government’s human rights bodies. The constitution limits the public defender to one six-year term in office.

The Public Defender’s Office lacks authority to initiate prosecutions or other legal actions, but it may recommend action, and the government must respond. While the office generally operated without government interference and was considered effective, the office reported that government offices at times responded partially or not at all to inquiries and recommendations, despite a requirement to respond to information requests within 10 days and initiate follow-up action within 20 days.

The Public Defender’s Office retains the right to make nonbinding recommendations to law enforcement agencies to investigate individual human rights cases. The office must submit an annual report on the human rights situation for the calendar year but may also make periodic reports. The office may not report allegations of torture unless the victim gives clear consent or a monitor from the office witnessed the torture.

The Public Defender’s Office was increasingly marginalized by the ruling party amid the extreme polarization growing in the country’s political arena. Around the time of the fall 2020 parliamentary elections, high-ranking party leaders began attacking the public defender, claiming she was politically partial and unqualified. Frequent attacks continued during the year, in which ruling Georgian Dream party members criticized the public defender as biased. They threatened legal action against her for her statements on the treatment of jailed former president Saakashvili.

The Gali and Ergneti Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRM) were designed to cover issues in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, respectively, including human rights abuses reported in the occupied territories. They are intended to include security actors from the government, Russia, and de facto authorities of the Russian-occupied regions and be cofacilitated by the EUMM and UN for Gali, and the EUMM and OSCE for Ergneti. Several Ergneti IPRM meetings took place during the year in Ergneti, covering abuses in South Ossetia. The Gali IPRM did not meet, continuing a pause in meetings since 2017. The government fully supported and participated actively in Ergneti IPRM meetings.

Germany

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Several government bodies worked independently and effectively to protect human rights. The Bundestag has a Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid and a Committee for Petitions. The Petitions Committee fields complaints from the public, including human rights concerns. The German Institute for Human Rights has responsibility for monitoring the country’s implementation of its international human rights commitments, including treaties and conventions. The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (FADA) is a semi-independent body that studies discrimination and assists victims of discrimination. The Office of the Federal Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities has specific responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Justice Ministry’s commissioner for human rights oversees implementation of court rulings related to human rights protections.

Ghana

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to the views of such groups.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Established as an autonomous agency, CHRAJ had offices across the country, and mediated and settled cases brought by individuals against government agencies or private companies. CHRAJ operated with no overt interference from the government; however, some critics questioned its ability to investigate high-level corruption independently. Its biggest obstacles were low salaries, poor working conditions, and the loss of many of its staff to other governmental organizations and NGOs. Public confidence in CHRAJ was high, resulting in an increased workload for its staff.

The Police Professional Standards Board also investigated human rights abuses and police misconduct.

Greece

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views. COVID-19 pandemic mitigation restrictions, however, impeded access to reception and detention facilities for migrants on the islands and, in certain circumstances, to official camps on the mainland.

NGOs that reported on forcible returns to Turkey stated they faced potential intimidation by authorities. For example, 24 volunteers with the NGO Emergency Response Center International were arrested on charges of espionage and conducting a smuggling ring. According to UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor, human rights defenders were falsely accused of serious crimes and faced bureaucratic harassment for trying to help asylum seekers and refugees.

As of September 4, legislation tightened procedures for NGOs to conduct search and rescue operations in areas under Coast Guard jurisdiction. The law requires such NGOs to register, follow port authorities’ instructions, and act only when the Coast Guard is unable to intervene. Persons convicted of violating law are subject to one to three years’ imprisonment, substantial fines, or both. Human rights activists claimed the law aimed at intimidating and preventing NGOs from witnessing and recording pushbacks of asylum seekers at sea. Several NGOs, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, and opposition political parties opposed the law.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman, a state body considered independent and effective, investigated complaints of human rights abuses by individuals. Five deputy ombudsmen dealt with human rights, children’s rights, citizen-state relations, health and social welfare, and quality of life problems, respectively. The office received adequate resources to perform its functions. In its 2020 annual report, the office reported receiving 18,491 complaints, of which 81 percent were satisfactorily resolved.

The autonomous, state-funded National Commission for Human Rights advised the government on protection of human rights. It was considered independent, effective, and adequately resourced.

Grenada

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman has the authority to investigate complaints from individuals who object to government actions they deem unfair, abusive, illegal, discriminatory, or negligent.

Guatemala

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Many of these groups, however, were the subject of harassment and threats, and they faced pressure and attacks from government actors.

Several NGOs, human rights workers, and trade unionists reported threats, violence, and intimidation. UDEFEGUA reported five killings of human rights defenders from January through June and 551 attacks against human rights defenders in the same period, compared with 677 attacks in the same period in 2020. NGOs asserted the government did little to investigate the reports or prevent further incidents.

NGOs also reported the government, fringe groups, and private entities used threats of legal action as a form of intimidation. According to UDEFEGUA, from January to June, there were at least 26 new unfounded judicial cases filed against human rights defenders, compared with 13 for the same period in 2020. As of November the Foundation Against Terrorism, led by Ricardo Mendez Ruiz, had filed 31 new cases, both civil and criminal, against human rights and transitional justice NGOs, human rights defenders, and judicial workers in addition to more than 100 cases filed in 2020.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: On September 13, the government renewed the OHCHR mandate for one year. In 2020 the government reduced the OHCHR’s three-year mandate to one-year increments.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The PDH monitors the human rights set forth in the constitution and reports to congress. NGOs generally considered the PDH to be an effective institution but with limitations in rural areas. While the ombudsman attempted to operate independently and issued public reports and recommendations as in past years, because congress withheld part of the funding for the office, the institution was less effective than in previous years. In March the Constitutional Court ordered that congress disburse the allocated funds to the ombudsman. Congress did not comply with this order until November 24. The Congressional Committee on Human Rights drafts and provides guidance on legislation regarding human rights. The law requires all political parties represented in congress to have a representative on the committee. Some NGOs did not consider the committee to be an effective forum for human rights promotion and protection.

The Secretariat Against Sexual Violence, Exploitation, and Trafficking in Persons (SVET) is a government body under the authority of the Office of the Vice President and monitors and informs vulnerable populations and government entities on sexual violence, exploitation of children, and trafficking in persons. SVET reported congress withheld its funds by exercising line-item approval for all its projects.

The President’s Commission on Human Rights formulates and promotes human rights policy, represents the country in international human rights forums, enacts international recommendations on human rights, and leads coordination of police protection for human rights and labor activists.

In July 2020 President Giammattei announced a new 11-member, ministerial-level Presidential Commission for Peace and Human Rights to replace the President’s Commission, the Secretariat for Peace (created to enact government commitments in the 1996 Peace Accords), and the Secretariat of Agricultural Affairs, which mediates land conflict. Starting in August 2020 the three governmental entities replaced by the Presidential Commission for Peace and Human Rights had 90 days to transfer their files to existing institutions such as the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman and the Secretariat for Planning and Programming. As of November this had not been completed. Civil society expressed concern that dissolving the President’s Commission could lead to a lack of mechanisms for enacting the recommendations of international forums, such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and could result in restarting the process for creating a national plan for the protection of human rights defenders. As of November it was not clear which government entity would continue negotiations for Chixoy reparations (see section 1.e.).

Guinea

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Some domestic and international human rights groups monitored and attempted to disseminate information on human rights abuses. They generally operated without government restriction. Government officials rarely were cooperative and responsive to their views. Since September 5, CNRD officials included human rights groups as part of the national dialogue process. NGOs are required to renew their permits with the government every three years.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Institution for Human Rights promotes human rights awareness and investigates abuses. The institution was controversial from its inception because it was set up in a manner different than prescribed by law. It remained ineffective and lacked independence under the Conde administration.

The Conde government did not establish a truth and reconciliation commission as recommended in the Commission for National Reconciliation 2016 final report. Prior to September 5, the technical committee organized within the Prime Minister’s Office to establish the commission had not finalized the draft law on its profile, mandate, and members. The CNRD did not take any steps to establish the commission.

Guinea-Bissau

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Commission on Human Rights is a government human rights organization. It was independent but remained inadequately funded and ineffective.

Guyana

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating, and publishing their findings on human rights cases. These groups at times complained government officials were uncooperative and unresponsive to their requests. They stated that when officials responded, it was generally to criticize the groups rather than to investigate allegations.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The law provides for an ombudsperson to investigate official government actions or actions taken by government officials in exercise of their official duties. Observers reported the ombudsperson operated independently of government interference.

Haiti

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally cooperated with human rights groups, although they disagreed at times on the scope of certain issues and the most appropriate means of addressing them. The government generally consulted human rights groups, including the government’s independent OPC, on legislative matters.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: Despite UN efforts beginning in 2018 to open an in-country OHCHR, as of November the government had not signed a host-country agreement.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The OPC’s mandates are to investigate allegations of human rights abuse and to work with international organizations to implement programs to improve human rights. The government increased OPC funding by approximately 30 percent in the 2019-20 budget over the previous period. In July 2020 President Moise named a new minister-delegate responsible for human rights and the fight against extreme poverty, albeit with neither staff nor resources; Prime Minister Ariel Henry named a new minister-delegate in November.

When in session, the Chamber of Deputies has a Justice, Human Rights, and Defense Commission, and the Senate has a Justice, Security, and Defense Commission that cover human rights issues.

Honduras

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views, but some human rights organizations criticized government officials for lack of access and responsiveness.

Government Human Rights Bodies: A semiautonomous commissioner for human rights, Blanca Izaguirre, served as an ombudsperson and investigated complaints of human rights abuses. With offices throughout the country, the ombudsperson received cases that otherwise might not have risen to national attention. The Secretariat of Human Rights served as an effective advocate for human rights within the government. The Public Ministry’s Office of the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights handled cases involving charges of human rights abuses by government officials. The Public Ministry also has the Special Prosecutor’s Office for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators, and Justice Officials. There is also a Human Rights Committee in the National Congress. The Ministries of Security and of Defense both have human rights offices that coordinate human rights-related activities with the Secretariat of Human Rights.

Hong Kong

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups reported increasing government scrutiny, harassment, and restrictions, although some continued to investigate and publish their findings on human rights cases. The SAR used the NSL to force organizations expressing criticism of the PRC to cease operations, to self-censor, or to change operational procedures to protect their staff. The forced disbandment of multiple trade unions and other organizations created a chilling effect on the remaining groups that were historically critical of the central government.

In October Amnesty International announced it would close its Hong Kong office, as well as its Hong Kong-based regional office, by the end of the year. The organization stated that the NSL made it “impossible for human rights organizations in Hong Kong to work freely and without fear of serious reprisals from the government.”

PRC and SAR officials repeatedly accused local and international NGOs that alleged human rights abuses in the SAR of “sowing discord.”

A SAR court denied bail to a media executive in November in apparent response to international condemnation of the executive’s arrest as an infringement on freedom of the press. The court cited a statement by the Media Freedom Coalition, signed by 21 governments, as well as a separate statement by the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, as evidence of a close association among Cheung Kim-hung, CEO of Apple Daily parent company Next Digital, and “foreign political groups.”

Government Human Rights Bodies: There is an Office of the Ombudsman and an Equal Opportunities Commission. The government recruits commissioners to represent both offices through a professional search committee, which solicits applications and vets candidates. Commissioners were independent. Both organizations operated without interference from the SAR government and published critical findings in their areas of responsibility. NGOs stated that the Equal Opportunities Commission had a narrow mandate that did not allow for deep investigations, and limited support from the SAR government.

Hungary

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups operated with some government restrictions affecting their funding. Government officials were generally uncooperative and unresponsive to their views.

In June 2020 the ECJ ruled that the country’s law requiring NGOs that receive foreign funding to register and label themselves as “foreign-funded organizations” violated EU law. In February the European Commission opened an infringement procedure for failing to comply with the ruling. Subsequently in May, the government submitted and adopted legislation that repealed the law and at the same time mandated the SAO to report annually on NGOs that had an annual budget of more than $66,000 and were “capable of influencing public life.” Sports, religious, and national minority organizations were exempted. Civil society groups noted that the SAO’s function was to audit organizations that manage public funds and national assets and expressed concern that the SAO would selectively audit NGOs that criticize government policies.

In July the government failed to reach an agreement with Norway’s Foreign Ministry on $255 million in funds due to a dispute regarding the disbursement of its $12 million civil society component. Based on an initial agreement reached in December 2020, both parties (Hungary and Norway) should have agreed upon an independent organization to manage the allocation of grant funds to NGOs. Norway maintained that the organization’s independence from government influence remained a precondition to the agreement. Although it originally agreed to the selection criteria, Norway stated that the Hungarian government’s objection to the chosen organization breached the agreement and disqualified Hungary from receiving funds. Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein suspended payment of a previous grant to Hungary under similar conditions in 2014.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution and law establish a unified system for the office of the commissioner for fundamental rights (ombudsperson). The ombudsperson has two deputies, one responsible for the rights of national minorities and one for the interests of “future generations” (environmental protection). The ombudsperson is nominated by the president and elected by a two-thirds majority of parliament. The ombudsperson is solely accountable to parliament and has the authority to initiate proceedings to defend the rights of citizens from abuse by authorities and entities providing public services. The constitution provides that the ombudsperson may request that the Constitutional Court review laws. Ombudsperson recommendations are not binding, however. The ombudsperson is also responsible for collecting electronically submitted reports of public benefit, e.g., whistleblower reports on public corruption, and operates the national preventive mechanism against torture.

On January 1, the ombudsperson’s office took over the mandate and tasks of the abolished Equal Treatment Authority. In its report covering June 14-24, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions Subcommittee on Accreditation recommended the ombudsperson be downgraded to “B” status. Its report stated that the ombudsperson “did not effectively engage on and publicly address all human rights issues, including in relation to vulnerable groups such as ethnic minorities, LGBTI individuals, refugees, and migrants, as well as in constitutional court cases deemed political and institutional, (such as) media pluralism, civic space, and judicial independence. Failure to do so demonstrated a lack of sufficient independence.” The recommendation to downgrade the status of the position was not to take effect for a period of one year, giving the ombudsperson the opportunity to improve performance.

Iceland

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The parliament’s ombudsman, elected by parliament for a period of four years, secures the rights of the citizens to equal and impartial treatment in their dealings with public authorities. The ombudsman is independent from any governmental authority, including parliament, when exercising his or her functions. The ombudsman is party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and conducts periodic site visits to prisons and psychiatric hospitals. While the ombudsman’s recommendations were not binding on authorities, the government generally adopted them.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Judicial Affairs and Education was responsible for legislative oversight of human rights in the country. The committee was generally considered effective.

India

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Most domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. In some circumstances groups faced restrictions (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association). There were reportedly more than three million NGOs in the country, but definitive numbers were not available. The government generally met with domestic NGOs, responded to their inquiries, and acted in response to their reports or recommendations.

The NHRC worked cooperatively with numerous NGOs, and several NHRC committees had NGO representation. Some human rights monitors in Jammu and Kashmir were able to document human rights violations, but periodically security forces, police, and other law enforcement authorities reportedly restrained or harassed them. Representatives of certain international human rights NGOs sometimes faced difficulties obtaining visas and reported that occasional official harassment and restrictions limited their public distribution of materials.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The United Nations had limited access to Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states. In September UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet raised concerns regarding restrictions on public assembly, internet shutdowns, and the use of UAPA charges in the country.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The NHRC is an independent and impartial investigatory and advisory body established by the central government, with a dual mandate to investigate and remedy instances of human rights violations and to promote public awareness of human rights. It is directly accountable to parliament but works in close coordination with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Justice. It has a mandate to address official violations of human rights or negligence in the prevention of violations, intervene in judicial proceedings involving allegations of human rights violations, and review any factors (including acts of terrorism) that infringe on human rights. The law authorizes the NHRC to issue summonses and compel testimony, produce documentation, and requisition public records. The NHRC also recommends appropriate remedies for abuses in the form of compensation to the victims of government killings or their families.

The NHRC has neither the authority to enforce the implementation of its recommendations nor the power to address allegations against military and paramilitary personnel. Human rights groups claimed these limitations hampered the work of the NHRC. Some human rights NGOs criticized the NHRC dependence on the government funding and its policy of not conducting investigations that last more than one year. Some claimed the NHRC did not register all complaints, dismissed cases arbitrarily, rerouted complaints back to the alleged violator, and did not adequately protect complainants.

Of 28 states, 24 have human rights commissions, which operated independently under the auspices of the NHRC. Some human rights groups alleged local politics influenced state committees, which they claimed were less likely to offer fair judgments than the NHRC. The Human Rights Law Network observed most state committees had few or no minority, civil society, or female representatives. The group claimed the committees were ineffective and at times hostile toward victims, hampered by political appointments, understaffed, and underfunded.

The government closed the Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission in 2019 and ordered the NHRC to oversee human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. The NHRC has jurisdiction over all human rights violations, except in certain cases involving the military. The NHRC has authority to investigate cases of human rights violations committed by the Ministry of Home Affairs and paramilitary forces operating under the AFSPA in the northeast states.

Indonesia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights organizations generally operated without government restriction, except in Papua and West Papua, investigating and publishing findings on human rights cases and advocating improvements to the government’s human rights performance. Government representatives met with local NGOs, responded to their inquiries, and took some actions in response to NGO concerns. Some officials subjected NGOs to monitoring, harassment, interference, threats, and intimidation. On May 10, General Paulus Waterpauw stated that some NGOs and activists enflamed the situation in Papua and perpetuated the separatist movement there.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government generally permitted UN officials to monitor the human rights situation in the country, except in Papua and West Papua. Security forces and intelligence agencies, however, tended to regard foreign human rights observers with suspicion, especially those in Papua and West Papua, where their operations were restricted. NGOs continued to press the government to allow the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to visit Papua and West Papua to assess the human rights situation there.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Many independent agencies addressed human rights problems, including the Office of the National Ombudsman, the National Commission on Violence against Women, and the National Human Rights Commission. The government is not required to adopt their recommendations and at times avoided doing so. Some agencies, including the human rights and violence against women commissions, may refer cases to police or prosecutors.

The Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established to investigate human rights violations perpetrated by the government and the then active Free Aceh Movement between 1976 and 2005, has taken statements from victims, former separatists, and witnesses between 2016 and 2020. Budget constraints posed challenges for the commission.

Iran

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The government restricted the operations of, and did not cooperate with, local or international NGOs investigating alleged violations of human rights. The government restricted the work of domestic activists and often responded to their inquiries and reports with harassment, arrests, online hacking, and monitoring of individual activists and organization workplaces.

By law NGOs must register with the Ministry of Interior and apply for permission to receive foreign grants. Independent human rights groups and other NGOs faced harassment because of their activism, as well as the threat of closure by government officials, following prolonged and often arbitrary delays in obtaining official registration.

During the year the government prevented some human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists, and scholars from traveling abroad. Human rights activists reported intimidating telephone calls, threats of blackmail, online hacking attempts, and property damage from unidentified law enforcement and government officials. The government summoned activists repeatedly for questioning and confiscated personal belongings such as mobile phones, laptops, and passports. Government officials sometimes harassed and arrested family members of human rights activists. Courts routinely suspended sentences of convicted human rights activists, leaving open the option for authorities to arrest or imprison individuals arbitrarily at any time on the previous charges.

In his July report, UNSR Rehman stated he remained concerned regarding the continued intimidation and imprisonment of human rights defenders and lawyers. He noted forcible prison transfers and lack of medical care appeared to be used as reprisals against activists for starting peaceful protests inside prisons or undertaking hunger strikes (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees).

According to NGOs, including HRW and Amnesty International, the government’s human rights record and its level of cooperation with international rights institutions remained poor. The government continued to deny requests from international human rights NGOs to establish offices in or conduct regular investigative visits to the country. The most recent visit of an international human rights NGO was by Amnesty International in 2004 as part of the EU’s human rights dialogue with the country.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: During the year the government continued to deny repeated requests by the UNSR on the situation of human rights in Iran to visit the country.

On November 17, for the ninth consecutive year, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution expressing serious concern regarding the country’s continuing human rights violations, including death sentences imposed following unfair trials and reports of forced confessions obtained through torture, while underlining the disproportionate application of the death penalty to individuals belonging to minority groups, such as the Kurds and Baluch, who were particularly targeted for alleged involvement in political activities. The resolution repeated its call for the country to cooperate with UN special mechanisms, citing the government’s failure to approve repeated requests from UN thematic special procedures mandate holders to visit the country. The most recent visit by a UN human rights agency to the country was the 2005 survey of the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing. Miloon Kothari. The resolution also drew attention to the government’s continued failure to allow UNSR Rehman into the country to investigate human rights abuses despite repeated requests, in view of the absence of independent or transparent investigations into the regime’s killings of at least 304 protesters in November 2019. It further highlighted the government’s long-standing efforts to target Iranians, dual nationals, and foreign citizens outside its borders via harassment, killing, and abduction to Iran, where some faced trial and execution.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The High Council for Human Rights is part of the judicial branch of the government and lacks independence. As of October 8, the Raisi administration had not named a successor to former council head Ali Bagheri-Kani. The council continued to defend the imprisonment of high-profile human rights defenders and political opposition leaders, and it assured families they should not be concerned for the “security, well-being, comfort, and vitality” of their loved ones in prison, according to IRNA. In 2020 Bagheri-Kani continued to call for an end to the position of the UNSR for Iran and asserted that the country’s criteria for human rights was different because of the “religious lifestyle” of its citizens. There was no information available on whether the council challenged any laws or court rulings during the year.

Iraq

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated, in most cases with little government restriction or interference, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views. International NGOs reported that the government allowed their staff of certain nationalities to apply for visas on arrival after the government adopted a similar policy across visa categories. NGO staff then converted their visas to official work permits; however, international NGOs reported the process was time consuming and ad hoc.

Due to the ISIS-driven humanitarian crisis, many local NGOs focused on assisting refugees, IDPs, and other vulnerable communities. In some instances these NGOs worked in coordination with central government and KRG authorities. A few NGOs also investigated and published findings on human rights cases. There were some reports of government interference with NGOs investigating human rights abuses and violations involving government actors.

There were multiple reports of international and local aid workers being harassed, threatened, arrested, and accused of false terrorism charges in some cases. As of September the International NGO Safety Organization recorded 15 incidents against NGOs from January to October, with no fatalities reported.

NGOs faced capacity-related problems, did not have regular access to government officials, and, as a result, were not able to provide significant protections against failures in governance and human rights abuses. Domestic NGOs’ lack of sustainable sources of funding hindered the sector’s long-term development. 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 domestic NGOs. The government’s NGO Directorate announced November 24 that it would require any NGO to receive prior approval before conducting any surveys or questionnaires in the country. A group of local civil society organizations condemned the new directive and called it a “clear violation” of constitutional articles that enshrine the role of civil society and freedom of expression.

NGOs were prevented from operating in certain sectors (see section 6, Women). NGOs registered in Erbil could not operate outside the IKR and KRG-controlled disputed territories without additional permits from Baghdad (see section 2.b.). All NGOs, according to the law, were required to register with the NGO Directorate and in many cases provincial councils required additional local approval to allow NGOs to implement their activities. Additionally, NGOs registered with the federal government were not allowed to work in the IKR without registration and a permit from the NGO Directorate in the IKR.

The IKR had an active community of mostly Kurdish NGOs, many with close ties to and funding from political parties. Government funding of NGOs is legally contingent upon whether an NGO’s programming goals conform to already identified KRG priority areas. The KRG 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; nonetheless, NGOs reported the KRG had not provided funding to local NGOs since 2013.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government and the KRG sometimes restricted the access of UNAMI and other international organizations to sensitive locations, such as Ministry of Interior-run detention facilities holding detainees suspected of terrorism.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The IHCHR is constitutionally mandated. It has 12 full-time commissioners and three reserve commissioners with four-year, nonrenewable terms. The IHCHR was staffed by more than 650 employees, nearly half of whom previously worked for the Ministry of Human Rights, which was dissolved in 2015. The law provides for the IHCHR’s financial and administrative independence and assigns it broad authority to receive and investigate complaints of human rights violations and abuses, initiate lawsuits related to violations of human rights and conduct visits to and assessments of detention centers and prisons. Some observers reported the commissioners’ individual and partisan political agendas largely stalled the IHCHR’s work. In July the COR appointed an ad hoc committee to manage the IHCHR’s financial and administrative affairs. Before its October 7 dissolution in advance of the election, the COR failed to appoint new IHCHR commissioners after the existing commissioners’ terms expired in July. As a result, the IHCHR’s 650 operational staff went unpaid and carried out their duties on a voluntary basis for several weeks. On September 14, the COR announced it would appoint a COR staff member to administer the IHCHR’s financial matters and pay the salaries of IHCHR staff. The government reinstated the commissioners on an interim basis on November 10 pending the formation of a new COR and the selection of new commissioners.

NGOs declared the COR’s ad hoc committee undermined and violated the IHCHR’s legal, administrative, political, and financial independence.

Ireland

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The law obliges public bodies to take account of human rights and equality in the course of their work. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, an independent government organization, monitored adherence of public bodies to legal obligations. The commission was active throughout the year, holding consultations, training sessions, briefings, and policy reviews on human rights issues.

There is a human rights subcommittee of the parliamentary Committee on Justice, Defense, and Equality. It examines how issues, themes, and proposals before parliament take human rights concerns into account.

Israel, West Bank and Gaza

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of Israeli, Palestinian, and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views, and parliamentarians routinely invited NGOs critical of the government to participate in Knesset hearings on proposed legislation. Human rights NGOs have standing to petition the Supreme Court directly regarding governmental policies and may appeal individual cases to the Supreme Court.

On October 22, the government designated six Palestinian human rights NGOs under the country’s 2016 counterterrorism law, preventing any legal cooperation or support between the designated NGOs outside of Israel and NGOs operating in Israel. Domestic NGOs, particularly those focused on human rights abuses, continued to view the law requiring disclosure of support from foreign entities on formal publications as an attempt to stigmatize, delegitimize, and silence NGOs critical of the country’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The law mandates additional scrutiny of requests for National Service volunteers from NGOs that receive more than one-half of their funding from foreign governments.

The staff of domestic NGOs, particularly those calling for an end to the country’s military occupation of the West Bank and NGOs working for the rights of asylum seekers, stated they received death threats from nongovernmental sources.

According to HRDF, Israeli authorities repeatedly subjected B’Tselem’s field researcher in the South Hebron Hills, Nasser Nawaj’ah, to harassment, intimidation, and reprisal. On March 6, Shin Bet interrogators allegedly threatened that Nawaj’ah would end up like Harun Abu Aram, a Palestinian civilian who the IDF shot in the neck and paralyzed, if he continued his work. Nawaj’ah was subsequently detained and questioned by IDF soldiers at least four times in ensuing weeks.

On April 6, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that a travel ban against Amnesty International’s West Bank campaigner Laith Abu Zeyad imposed in 2019 for undisclosed “security reasons,” would remain in place. According to Amnesty International, the travel ban was a punitive measure against Abu Zeyad’s work as a human rights defender.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government generally cooperated with the United Nations and other international bodies aside from several high-profile cases. The country withdrew from UNESCO in 2019. The government continued its policy of nonengagement with the UN Human Rights Council’s “special rapporteur on the situation in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.” In 2020 the government suspended relations with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), following publication of a UN Human Rights Council database of companies and “business activities related to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” Since June 2020 the government had not extended OHCHR staff visas due to the suspension.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The state comptroller served as ombudsman for human rights problems. The ombudsman investigated complaints against statutory bodies subject to audit by the state comptroller, including government ministries, local authorities, government enterprises and institutions, government corporations, and their employees. The ombudsman is entitled to use any relevant means of inquiry and has the authority to order any person or body to assist in the inquiry.

Italy

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating, and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Office to Combat Racial Discrimination under the Department of Equal Opportunity in the Prime Minister’s Office assisted victims of discrimination. The Interministerial Committee for Human Rights of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Senate’s Human Rights Committee focused on international and high-profile domestic cases.

Jamaica

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Public Defender investigates abuses of constitutional rights and engages with claimants in a process to seek remediation from the government. The public defender is not authorized to appear in court but may retain attorneys to represent clients on the office’s behalf. The office may not investigate cases affecting national defense or actions investigable by a court of law. Parliament may ignore the findings of the Office of the Public Defender or decline to act on recommended actions. This limited the overall efficacy of the public defender.

Japan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were usually cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Justice’s Human Rights Counseling Office has more than 300 offices across the country. Approximately 14,000 volunteers fielded questions in person, by telephone, or on the internet, and provided confidential consultations. Counselling in 10 foreign languages was available in 50 offices. These consultative offices field queries, but they do not have authority to investigate human rights abuses by individuals or public organizations without consent from parties concerned. They provided counsel and mediation, and collaborated with other government agencies, including child consultation centers and police. Municipal governments have human rights offices that deal with a range of human rights problems.

According to the Ministry of Justice, regional legal affairs bureaus nationwide initiated relief procedures in 9,589 cases of human rights abuses in 2020. Of those, 1,693 were committed online, and 256 were cases of sexual harassment. There were 175 cases of human rights violations related to COVID-19. In one such case an individual found to be positive for COVID-19 was denied medical care when their local health authority learned their partner was a health-care provider. The health authority recommended the individual seek care from their partner rather than in an outside setting.

Jordan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses 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, although government officials were not always cooperative or responsive. A legal aid organization reported that lawyers continued to be harassed for following up on cases and were threatened with disbarment by the Jordanian Bar Association.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The NCHR, a quasi-independent institution established by law, received both government and international funding. The prime minister nominates its board of trustees, and the king ratifies their appointment by royal decree. The board of trustees in turn appoints NCHR’s commissioner general. The NCHR’s annual report assessing compliance with human rights sometimes criticizes government practices. The NCHR submits the report to the upper and lower houses of parliament and to the cabinet. NCHR recommendations are not legally binding, but the government coordinator for human rights (GCHR) in the Prime Minister’s Office is required to respond to the report’s recommendations and to measure progress towards international human rights standards.

Ministries’ working groups continued to meet and implement their responsibilities under the national human rights action plan, a 10-year comprehensive program launched in 2016 to reform laws in accordance with international standards and best practices, including improving accessibility for persons with disabilities. Developments on the action plan were regularly published on the ministries’ websites. Through September, 20 percent of the plan’s activities were completed, 42 percent remained ongoing, and 38 percent remained pending. In September the GCHR, in collaboration with local NGOs, launched a new national human rights abuse complaint mechanism and trained liaison officers to identify and respond to human rights abuses. Ministries affirmed commitment to the plan and expanded resources available to implement it in coordination with donors and NGOs.

The GCHR head and the Prime Minister’s Office human rights unit coordinate government-wide implementation of the national plan, including drafting and responding to human rights reports. The GCHR office conducted 38 activities during the year under the national human rights plan, including discussions of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations, inclusion of persons with disabilities in the public and private sectors, gender, trafficking in persons, and general human rights awareness workshops.

Kazakhstan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated with some freedom to investigate and publish their findings on human rights cases, although some government restrictions existed for human rights NGOs. International and local human rights groups reported the government monitored NGO activities on sensitive topics and practiced harassment, including police visits to and surveillance of NGO offices, personnel, and family members. Government officials often were uncooperative or nonresponsive to questions from NGOs.

Authorities had a mixed approach to relations with NGOs. Some NGOs faced difficulties in acquiring office space and technical facilities depending on their scope of work and relationship with authorities. On the other hand, government leaders participated – and regularly included NGOs – in roundtables and other public events on democracy and human rights.

National security laws prohibit foreigners, international organizations, NGOs, and other nonprofit organizations from engaging in political activities. The government prohibited international organizations from funding unregistered entities.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Presidential Commission on Human Rights is a consultative and advisory body that includes top officials and members of the public appointed by the president. The commission reviews and investigates complaints, issues recommendations, and monitors implementation of international human rights conventions. The commission does not have legal authority to remedy human rights abuses or implement its recommendations.

The commissioner on human rights (ombudsman) is recommended by the president and is elected by the Senate for a five-year term. The ombudsman reviews and investigates complaints concerning abuses of human rights by officials and organizations. The ombudsman issues recommendations, publishes reports on human rights, and serves as the chair of the Coordinating Council of the NPM.

The ombudsman did not have authority to investigate complaints concerning decisions of the president, heads of government agencies, parliament, cabinet, Constitutional Council, Prosecutor General’s Office, CEC, or courts, although the ombudsman may investigate complaints against individuals. The Ombudsman’s Office has authority to appeal to the president, cabinet, or parliament to resolve citizens’ complaints. The ombudsman cooperated with international human rights organizations and NGOs; met with government officials concerning human rights abuses; visited certain facilities, such as military units and prisons; and publicized the results of investigations. The Ombudsman’s Office also published an annual human rights report. During the year the office occasionally briefed media and issued reports on complaints it had investigated.

Domestic human rights observers stated that the Ombudsman’s Office and the human rights commission did not have the authority to stop human rights abuses or punish abusers. The commission and ombudsman avoided addressing underlying structural problems that led to human rights abuses, although they advanced human rights by publicizing statistics and individual cases. The commission and ombudsman aided citizens with less controversial social problems and matters involving lower-level elements of the bureaucracy.

Kenya

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating, and publishing their findings on human rights cases, although some groups reported experiencing government harassment. Officials were sometimes cooperative and responsive to the queries of these groups, but the government did not implement recommendations by human rights groups if such recommendations were contrary to its policies. There were reports officials intimidated NGOs and threatened to disrupt their activities (see section 2.b.). Less-established NGOs, particularly in rural areas, reported harassment and threats by county officials as well as security forces. Human rights activists claimed security forces conducted surveillance of their activities, and some reported threats and intimidation.

There were also reports that officials and police officers threatened activists who sought justice for police killings and other serious abuses. The intimidation included threats of arrest, warnings not to post information about police brutality, home and office raids, and confiscation of laptops and other equipment.

In July the government began the process of reviewing host country agreements for 115 international governmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations. Civil society activists expressed concern this process could be used to target organizations carrying out activities unaligned with government policy.

The Civil Society Reference Group condemned the July 15 killing of environmentalist Joannah Stutchbury at her home in Kiambu. According to the group’s statement, Stutchbury was killed because of her efforts to prevent individuals from excising parts of the Kiambu forest and wetlands. The group described her killing as evidence of a hostile and shrinking environment for human rights defenders. The Senate launched an inquiry into her killing, and a law enforcement investigation continued at year’s end.

In September the High Court ruled that four police officers and one civilian must stand trial for the 2016 triple homicide of International Justice Mission lawyer and investigator Willie Kimani, client Josphat Mwenda, and their driver Joseph Muiruri. The trial was underway at year’s end.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights reported security agencies continued to deny it full access to case-specific information and facilities to conduct investigations of human rights abuses as the constitution permits. The commission, however, noted improved access to detention facilities during the year.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights is an independent institution created by the constitution and established in 2011. Its mandate is to promote and protect human rights in the country. The body’s commissioners completed their terms in March 2020. In August the president officially announced the vacancies, and in September the government appointed a selection panel to interview and recommend nominees for formal appointment. The president nominated a new chairperson and four commissioners on December 29, but at year’s end they were awaiting parliamentary approval. The commission continued to function under the management of the CEO. Citing budget restrictions, the government again reduced the commission’s operating budget. The commission stated the budget was not sufficient to cover its expenses and fulfill its mandate. Its programmatic budget was entirely unfunded by the government, forcing the commission to secure funding from development partners.

The NPSC and IPOA, both government bodies, report to the National Assembly. The NPSC consists of six civilian commissioners, including two retired police officers, as well as the National Police Service inspector general and two deputies. The NPSC is responsible for recruiting, transferring, vetting, promoting, and disciplining National Police Service members.

The ODPP is empowered to direct the National Police Service inspector general to investigate any information or allegation of criminal conduct and to institute criminal proceedings in police abuse or corruption cases.

Police accountability mechanisms, including those of the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) and IPOA, maintained their capacity to investigate cases of police abuse. The IAU director reports directly to the National Police Service inspector general. The IAU did not hire any new officers or support staff during the year. It maintained 127 officers and 14 civilian support staff. Most investigators previously served in the Kenya Police Service and the Administration Police Service. The IAU conducts investigations into police misconduct, including criminal offenses not covered by IPOA. Between January and September, the IAU received approximately 715 complaints, down from 1,400 during the prior year. The EACC, an independent agency, investigates cases involving police corruption. IPOA also helps to train police officers on preventing abuses and other human rights issues but reported it did not conduct any human rights training during the year.

Between July 2020 and June 30, IPOA received 2,881 complaints, bringing the total since its inception in 2012 to 139,490 complaints. IPOA defines five categories of complaints. Category one complaints comprise the most serious crimes, such as murder, torture, rape, and serious injury, and result in an automatic investigation. In category two, serious crimes, such as assault without serious injury, are investigated on a case-by-case basis. Categories three to five, for less serious crimes, are generally not investigated, although during the year IPOA and the IAU entered regular dialogue about referring cases deemed less serious offenses for disciplinary action. If, after investigation, IPOA determines there is criminal liability in a case, it forwards the case to the ODPP. IPOA hired two new staff members between July 2020 and October and was in the process of replacing its CEO, who retired in August. IPOA’s budget for the financial year starting July 1 was reduced by approximately 1.6 percent due to economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and IPOA anticipated further budget reductions.

Although the law requires the NPSC to vet all serving police officers, it had not vetted any officers since the new commission took office in January 2019. Vetting required an assessment of each officer’s fitness to serve based on a review of documentation, including financial records, certificates of good conduct, and a questionnaire, as well as public input alleging abuse or misconduct. The NPSC reported it had vetted more than 15,000 officers since 2012.

Kiribati

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Together with foreign partners, the government offered training to police, nongovernmental organizations, and church-based groups to develop strategies to strengthen human rights institutions and policies and to reduce discrimination against women.

Government Human Rights Bodies: A Human Rights Task Force and a Human Rights Unit based in the Ministry of Justice provide human rights training and monitoring, and coordinate implementation of human rights treaties.

Kosovo

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated generally without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. The government was cooperative and sometimes responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution establishes the Ombudsperson Institution as the national human rights institution, mandated to monitor, protect, and promote the rights and freedoms of individuals from unlawful or improper acts, or failures to act, by public authorities.

The Ombudsperson Institution has authority to investigate allegations of human rights violations and abuse of government authority and acts as the National Preventive Mechanism against Torture. The Institution is the primary agency responsible for monitoring detention facilities. Based on powers granted by the Assembly, the Ombudsperson Institution can file amicus curiae briefs with basic courts on human rights-related cases. It can also make recommendations on the compatibility of laws and other sublegal or administrative acts, guidelines, and practices.

Kuwait

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights.

The government imposed limits on the operations of domestic and international human rights groups, although government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views. The law permits the existence of NGOs, but the government continued to deny registration to some. To be registered NGOs are required to demonstrate that their existence is in the public interest, conduct business beneficial to the country, have at least 50 citizen members and a board comprised entirely of citizens, and not undermine cultural values and norms as defined by the government. NGOs may not engage in political activity or encourage sectarianism.

Major local NGOs dedicated specifically to human rights included the Kuwait Society for Human Rights and the Kuwaiti Association of the Basic Evaluators of Human Rights. Most local registered NGOs were devoted to the rights or welfare of specific groups, such as women, children, prisoners, and persons with disabilities. These organizations operated with little government interference, and some suffered from a lack of government cooperation. A few dozen local unregistered human rights groups also operated discreetly but ran the risk of sanction if they were too vocal in calling out abuses. The government and various national assembly committees met occasionally with local NGOs and generally responded to their inquiries.

In May the Public Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the charges against human rights defender Hadeel Buqrais, officially closing her case, according to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. Frontline Defenders reported the Cybercrimes State Security Agency interrogated Buqrais in November 2020 over a tweet critical of discrimination against and mistreatment of the Bidoon community. Frontline Defenders reported that authorities questioned her regarding her human rights work and advocacy for the Bidoon community without the presence of her lawyer.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Assembly’s Human Rights Committee, which operates independently of the government, is a parliamentary body that primarily hears individual complaints of human rights abuses and worked with plaintiffs and relevant stakeholders to reach a mutual settlement. The committee had adequate resources and was considered effective. The number of grievances received by the committee was unavailable.

Kyrgyzstan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Numerous domestic and international human rights organizations operated actively in the country investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases; however, government officials at times were uncooperative and unresponsive to their views.

Government actions at times appeared to impede the ability of NGOs to operate freely.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government permitted visits by representatives of the United Nations and other organizations in connection with the investigation of abuses or monitoring of human rights problems in the country, including those of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, International Committee of the Red Cross, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and International Organization for Migration (IOM). The government provided international bodies largely unfettered access to civil society activists, detention facilities and detainees, and government officials.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman acts as an independent advocate for human rights on behalf of private citizens and NGOs and has the authority to recommend cases for court review. Observers noted the atmosphere of impunity surrounding the security forces and their ability to act independently against citizens, factors that limited the number and type of complaints submitted to the Ombudsman’s Office.

Although the ombudsman’s office exists in part to receive complaints of human rights abuses and pass the complaints to relevant agencies for investigation, both domestic and international observers questioned the office’s efficiency and political independence.

Laos

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups operated only under government oversight, and the government limited their ability to investigate or publish findings on human rights abuses.

The government intermittently responded in writing to requests for information on the human rights situation from international human rights organizations. The government maintained human rights dialogues with some foreign governments and continued to receive training in UN human rights conventions from international donors. In 2020 civil society representatives were, for the first time, included in the country’s delegation to its Universal Periodic Review.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government continued to support a National Committee on Human Rights, chaired by the foreign minister to the Prime Minister’s Office and composed of representatives from the government, National Assembly, the judiciary, and LPRP-affiliated organizations. The Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs acts as the secretariat for the National Human Rights Steering Committee and has authority to review and highlight challenges in the protection of human rights.

Latvia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often cooperated with NGOs and responded to their views and inquiries.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman is responsible for monitoring the government’s performance on human rights. The ombudsman reported good cooperation with the agencies he monitored and operated without direct government or political interference. The office encountered difficulties resolving problems that required state budget funding or changes in the law, but effectively addressed complex social-economic issues in the Constitutional Court. In its most recent report in 2019, the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) observed that the ombudsman’s mandate does not include providing independent assistance to victims of racism and racial discrimination. The ombudsman cannot enforce its recommendations or levy fines, although it may apply to the Constitutional Court to initiate proceedings against a public institution that has failed to address a source of discrimination. The ombudsman can also file a complaint in an administrative court if it is in the public interest or bring a case to the civil courts if the problem concerns a violation of equal treatment, ECRI stated. As required by law, the Office of the Ombudsman published an annual report describing its activities and making recommendations to the government.

A standing parliamentary committee on human rights and public affairs met weekly when parliament was in session. It considered initiatives related to human rights.

Lebanon

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were sometimes responsive to these groups’ views, but there was limited accountability for human rights abuses.

There was no information on reports from previous years of international and local human rights groups being targeted by security services for harassment.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights struggled to make legal changes to guide ministries in protecting human rights. As of September 28, neither the 10-member National Human Rights Institute nor the five-member National Preventive Mechanism against Torture located within it had a budget or commenced its work (see section 1.c., Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment).

Lesotho

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. According to some local NGOs, government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views; however, the TRC stated the government needed to take concrete action against the perpetrators of abuses.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The mandate of the independent Office of the Ombudsman is to receive and investigate complaints of government maladministration, injustice, corruption, and human rights abuses, and to recommend remedial action where complaints are justified.

The TRC continued its campaign for the establishment of a human rights commission meeting international standards. On May 28, Minister of Justice Lekhetho Rakuoane submitted a bill to parliament for the establishment of a National Peace and Unity Commission empowered to “facilitate the granting of amnesty to persons who make full disclosure of all relevant facts relating to gross human rights violations and political offences.” The government’s initiative also calls for public hearings and awarding compensation to victims. Civil society organizations urged consultations with a broad range of stakeholders, including victims.

Liberia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government had not implemented most of the recommendations contained in the 2009 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report. The law creating the commission requires that the president submit quarterly progress reports to the legislature on the implementation of TRC recommendations; however, President Weah had not done so since taking office in 2018. Instead, he submitted a written request to the Senate in 2019 asking for advice on how his administration should proceed in addressing the TRC recommendations. Among the TRC’s key recommendations was the establishment of a war and economic crimes court, for which there was significant support in the country. In 2019 Speaker of the House Bhofal Chambers prevented a prowar crimes court resolution, signed by two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives, from proceeding. The speaker defended his actions, saying that the establishment of the court was a contentious issue that required more consultations by members with their constituents.

In June and July the Senate deliberated an alternative proposal that would recommend the president establish a Transitional Justice Commission. That proposal recommended that the Transitional Justice Commission would, among other proposed activities, evaluate, rather than implement, the TRC recommendations. On August 19, the plenary of the House of Representatives voted in favor of a motion to allow House members to go back to their respective electoral districts to consult with their constituents before deciding on the establishment of a war crimes court.

The Independent National Commission on Human Rights has a mandate to promote and protect human rights; investigate and conduct hearings on human rights violations; propose changes to laws, policies, and administrative practices and regulations; and counsel the government on the implementation of national and international human rights standards. The Independent National Commission on Human Rights, however, publicly claimed it was poorly supported by the government and thus largely unable to fulfill its mandate.

On June 14, President Weah reconstituted the Board of Commissioners of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, naming human rights lawyer T. Dempster Brown as chairman.

The Human Rights Protection Unit of the Ministry of Justice convened coordination meetings that provided a forum for domestic and international human rights NGOs to present matters to the government, but the unit similarly complained about lack of support.

Libya

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several human rights groups operated in the country but encountered government restrictions when investigating alleged abuses of human rights. The GNU and affiliated nonstate armed groups used legal and nonlegal means to restrict some human rights organizations from operating, particularly organizations with an international affiliation.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: UNSMIL maintained its headquarters and staff in Tripoli. The GNU was unable to assure the safety of UN officials, particularly in areas of the country not under GNU control, but generally cooperated with UN representatives in arranging visits within the country.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Council for Civil Liberties and Human Rights, a national human rights institution created by legislative authority in 2011, was unable to operate fully in the country due primarily to political divisions between the east and west. The council maintained limited engagement with other human rights organizations and the UN Human Rights Council. It had a minimal presence in Tripoli. Its ability to advocate for human rights and investigate alleged abuses was unclear.

The GNU Ministry of Justice chaired an interagency joint committee to investigate human rights abuses in the country. The joint committee reportedly compiled quarterly reports on human rights conditions, but these reports were not publicly available. Domestic and international human rights organizations criticized the body for inactivity and noted that it lacked sufficient political influence to encourage reform. In June some domestic CSOs reported the Ministry of Interior closed an internal human rights office that former interior minister Fathi Bashagha established in 2018. The ministry stated it transferred the duties of the office, which included investigating reported human rights abuses by Ministry of Justice personnel, to the Department of Legal Affairs. Nevertheless, the reorganization reportedly had a detrimental impact on the Ministry of Justice’s ability to conduct human rights investigations.

Liechtenstein

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. In May, UNICEF published the results of a questionnaire and research on the rights of children in the country that it conducted between November 2019 and June 2020. UNICEF reported no government interference of any kind.

Government officials were cooperative and responsive to the views of human rights groups.

Lithuania

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsperson has three mandates: to investigate complaints regarding abuse of office or other abuses of human rights involving public administration; to implement the national prevention of torture mechanism under the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; and to serve as an accredited national human rights institution. In the last capacity, the parliamentary ombudsperson is responsible for reporting on and monitoring human rights problems, cooperating with international and domestic human rights organizations, and promoting human rights awareness and education.

The Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson (EOO) operates as an independent public institution accountable to parliament and is responsible for the enforcement of the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men and the Law on Equal Treatment, with responsibility for implementing and enforcing rights under the law.

A Children’s Rights Ombudsperson is responsible for overseeing observance of children’s rights and their legal interests. It may initiate investigations of possible abuses of such rights, either upon receipt of a complaint or on its own initiative.

The parliament’s Human Rights Committee prepares and reviews draft laws and other legal acts related to civil rights and presents recommendations to government institutions and other organizations concerning problems related to the protection of civil rights. It also receives reports from the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsperson.

Luxembourg

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government bodies dealing with human rights are the Ombudsman, Consultative Commission for Human Rights, the Ombudsman Committee for the Rights of Children, the Interministerial Committee on Human Rights, and the Center for Equal Treatment, which monitors issues related to discrimination based on race or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion or beliefs, disability, and age. All of these organizations are government-funded and are composed of government appointees, but they act independently of the government and of one another. The government provided resources for the continuous and unrestricted operation of the committees. As consultative bodies in the legislative process, the committees commented on the government’s bills and amendments to laws concerning human rights. They were also active in outreach efforts, informing the public about human rights and publishing annual reports on their activities.

The independent, government-wide Ombudsman (which is different from the Ombudsman Committee for the Rights of Children) handles human rights complaints against government institutions but only mediates between citizens and the public sector. It cannot receive complaints against the private sector, although many assistance institutions are private or run by not-for-profit organizations that often received government support. The Center for Equal Treatment can receive complaints against the private sector but cannot take cases to court on behalf of victims.

The Interministerial Committee on Human Rights seeks to improve interministerial cooperation and coordination on human rights issues and to strengthen the country’s internal and external human rights policies. It monitors the implementation of the country’s human rights obligations in consultation with national human rights institutions and civil society. Every ministry has a seat on the committee, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and chaired by the ambassador-at-large for human rights.

Madagascar

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Numerous domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were not always responsive to their views, but authorities allowed international human rights groups to enter the country, work, and consult freely with other groups. Authorities reacted to accusations of human rights abuses more frequently but more negatively than during previous years.

Several domestic NGOs worked on human rights, but few had the capacity to work effectively and independently.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Independent Human Rights Commission (CNIDH) is composed of 11 commissioners, each elected by members of a different human rights organization, have a mandate to investigate cases of, and publish reports on, human rights abuses. The government dedicated a budget for the commission to operate. In addition some international organizations and diplomatic missions provided some equipment. Some civil society organizations contested the way in which the existing board of the CNIDH was chosen. The CNIDH issued several communiques highlighting human rights abuses perpetrated by government officials and launched investigations on outstanding incidents. Nevertheless, its actions were limited; investigations did not lead to concrete sanctions or convictions.

Malawi

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, training civic educators, advocating changes to existing laws and cultural practices, and investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The MHRC, an independent government-chartered institution, is mandated by the constitution to promote and protect human rights and investigate human rights abuses. Despite its independent leadership, resource shortfalls resulted in a backlog of cases, delayed production of reports, and limited investigation of human rights abuses. The ombudsman and the law commissioner are ex officio members of the MHRC.

The Office of the Ombudsman is mandated to investigate cases of maladministration such as abuse of power, manifest injustice, oppressive conduct, and unfair treatment. Despite having a wider mandate under the constitution to investigate both public- and private-sector offenses, problems of limited capacity led the office to investigate only public officials and entities as the Ombudsman Act prescribes. According to the Office of the Ombudsman, it also prioritizes investigations relating to accountability of public resources. The office had 20 investigators, complemented by five full-time legal officers who handle the investigation of cases. During the year the Office conducted more than 50 public-awareness campaigns in seven of the country’s 28 districts, 46 radio programs on community radio stations, and three television programs on national television stations reaching approximately 3.8 million persons.

Malaysia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups operated subject to varying levels of government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases; however, the government was not always cooperative or responsive to their views.

Outside the political and human rights fields, the government generally allowed NGOs to function independently, met with representatives from some NGOs, and responded to some NGO requests. The government, however, also acted against some human rights defenders and NGOs. During the week preceding a July 31 Lawan (Fight) protest in Kuala Lumpur to demand the resumption of parliamentary sessions, a moratorium on the repayment of all loans, and the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin for his handling of the pandemic, authorities reportedly summoned at least 20 activists, including youth activist Sarah Irdina, who was detained for 10 hours and charged with sedition for her tweet about the upcoming event (see section 1.d., Arbitrary Arrest). A group of civil society organizations later reported that on the day of the protest, roadblocks, closure of the public square where protesters were gathering, police crowding, and ostentatious surveillance, including by drones and a helicopter, “obstructed the public’s freedom of expression and assembly.”

Government Human Rights Bodies: The official human rights commission SUHAKAM is headed by a chairperson and commissioners appointed by the king on the recommendation of the prime minister. Observers generally considered SUHAKAM a credible human rights monitor. It conducted training, undertook investigations, issued reports, and made recommendations to the government. SUHAKAM may not investigate court cases in progress and must cease its inquiries if a case becomes the subject of judicial action. Representatives of SUHAKAM asserted that the government was reluctant to engage with them, making implementation of reforms impossible.

Maldives

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

NGOs reported that obstacles to registering members limited their operations (see section 2.c.).

Government Human Rights Bodies: The HRCM is a constitutionally recognized independent institution with a mandate to promote and protect human rights under the constitution, Maldivian Islamic law, and regional and international human rights conventions ratified by the country. NIC is a constitutionally recognized independent institution with a mandate to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by law enforcement agencies and employees, and it has the authority to forward any cases with criminal elements to police for further investigation. Human Rights activists reported the HRCM and NIC appeared to be working more independently during the year. The HRCM reported government authorities were generally cooperative in investigations but noted they were reluctant or slow to act on their recommendations. NIC reported as challenges a lack of public awareness of its mandate, budgetary constraints, and a lack of trained technical staff. Both NIC and the HRCM reported having to rely on the MPS for training, technical analysis, including forensic analysis. The Child Rights Ombudsman is tasked with monitoring implementation of the Child Rights Protection Act. The ombudsman had not issued any reports as of October.

In December 2020 the president appointed a chief ombudsperson and two additional ombudspersons to oversee the Office of Transitional Justice (OOTJ), with a two-year mandate to investigate human rights violations by the state between 1953 and 2018. Civil society observers expressed concern that the OOTJ lacked adequate expertise to investigate cases covering a time span of 60 years. They also noted the two-year mandate provided insufficient time to adequately investigate the number of expected complaints.

Mali

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. According to human rights organizations, government and military officials were generally not transparent, cooperative, or responsive to calls for investigations and prosecutions of allegations of human rights abuses by the MDSF.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The CNDH was an independent institution that received administrative and budgetary assistance from the Ministry of Justice. The government provided the CNDH with office space and staff. The CNDH’s membership included civil society representatives. The CNDH issued statements on several cases of human rights abuses, including the January 3 French forces’ airstrike in Bounti and the house arrest of former transition officials.

The Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission was created in 2014 to accept evidence, hold hearings, and recommend transitional justice measures for crimes and human rights abuses stemming from the 2012 crisis when rebel and terrorist groups invaded the country and began attacking military bases and government entities. In the commission’s third public hearing in April, 14 victims testified on cases of forced disappearances. According to the UN secretary-general’s October report to the UN Security Council, as of September 6, the commission had heard testimony from 22,507 persons, up from 19,198 persons at the end of 2020.

Malta

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The ombudsman is empowered to investigate complaints regarding the activities of governmental bodies, including activities affecting human rights and problems involving prisoners and detainees. The president appoints the ombudsman with the consent of two-thirds of the House of Representatives. The ombudsman investigates complaints only when administrative or judicial remedies are not available. The ombudsman had adequate resources, operated independently, and was effective. In responding to complaints, the ombudsman submits recommendations to the public entity responsible for addressing the complainant’s grievance. The ombudsman has no power to impose or compel a remedy, but relevant public bodies accepted most of the ombudsman’s recommendations.

In November the Office of the Ombudsman issued a report stating that since 2018 the government had implemented 67 percent of its recommendations. The government responded that “all but 1.5 percent” of the ombudsman’s recommendations had been implemented.

The House of Representatives’ Standing Committees on Foreign and European Affairs and on Social Affairs has responsibility for human rights matters. The committees met regularly and normally held open hearings, except during closed hearings for national security reasons. For the most part, the committees had a reputation for independence, integrity, credibility, and effectiveness, with legislation enacted in the areas under their purview enjoying widespread public support.

The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) and the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities operated effectively and independently with adequate resources and oversaw human rights matters related to gender equality and disabilities. The prime minister, on the advice of or in consultation with the minister responsible for each entity, appoints members to these commissions, who serve for terms of two and three years, respectively. They may be reappointed at the end of their term.

Marshall Islands

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Mauritania

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restrictions, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views. Several domestic and international groups also reported evidence of a continued change in attitude under the new government, citing statements by government human rights bodies calling attention to international laws and conventions protecting human rights, as well as an increased willingness to work with human rights groups.

In May the government welcomed a visit from the Abolition Institute, an antislavery NGO that in 2017 authorities had denied entry to the country. During the May visit, the government allowed the group to freely conduct antislavery activities. Nevertheless, there were restrictions on some human rights groups, particularly those investigating cases of slavery and slavery-related practices. For example, authorities sometimes denied NGOs access to the prosecutor’s office or the victim when they were investigating a possible slavery or slavery-related case. On April 16, police detained two representatives of the antislavery NGO SOS Esclaves, one former victim of slavery, and one Swiss journalist. The four individuals had been investigating a possible case of slavery in the northern part of the country. Police released the four persons on April 19, but authorities reportedly kept the journalist’s professional equipment due to the journalist’s lack of prior authorization to operate the equipment.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Commissariat for Human Rights (CDHAHRSC) designs, promotes, and implements national human rights policies. The CDHAHRSC managed government- and internationally funded human rights and humanitarian assistance programs. The CNDH, an independent ombudsman organization, includes government and civil society representatives. It actively monitored human rights conditions and advocated for government action to correct abuses. The CNDH produced an annual report on human rights topics, conducted regular investigations, including prison and police detention center facility visits, conducted information caravans throughout the country to combat slavery, and made recommendations to the government.

Mauritius

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views; however, there were reports that relatives of human rights activists faced punitive job transfers in retaliation for the activists’ criticism of the government.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The president appoints an ombudsman to investigate complaints against public servants, including police officers and prison guards. Individual citizens, council ministers, or members of the National Assembly may request the ombudsman to initiate an investigation. As an alternative to filing judicial charges, the ombudsman may make recommendations to the appropriate government office for administrative responses to offenses committed by a public officer or other authority carrying out official duties. The ombudsman was independent and was adequately resourced and effective.

The Equal Opportunities Commission investigates allegations of discrimination and promotes equality of opportunity in both the private and public sectors. The commission was independent and was adequately resourced and effective.

The NHRC enjoyed the government’s cooperation and operated without government or party interference.

Mexico

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were mostly cooperative and responsive, with the president and cabinet officials meeting with human rights organizations, such as OHCHR, IACHR, and CNDH. Some NGOs alleged individuals who organized campaigns to discredit human rights defenders at times acted with tacit support from government officials.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The CNDH is a semiautonomous federal agency created by the government and funded by the legislature to monitor and act on human rights abuses.

The CNDH may call on government authorities to impose administrative sanctions or pursue criminal charges against officials, but it is not authorized to impose penalties or legal sanctions. If the relevant authority accepts a CNDH recommendation, the CNDH is required to follow up with the authority to verify that it is carrying out the recommendation. The CNDH sends a request to the authority asking for evidence of its compliance and includes this follow-up information in its annual report. When authorities fail to accept a recommendation, the CNDH makes that known publicly. It may exercise its power to call before the Senate government authorities who refuse to accept or enforce its recommendations.

All states have their own human rights commissions. The state commissions are funded by state legislatures and are semiautonomous. Some civil society groups, however, asserted that state commissions were subservient to the state executive branch. State commissions do not have uniform reporting requirements, making it difficult to compare state data and therefore compile nationwide statistics. The CNDH may take on cases from state-level commissions if it receives a complaint that the state commission has not adequately investigated the case.

Micronesia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Although there are no official restrictions, no local groups concerned themselves exclusively with human rights. Several groups addressed problems concerning the rights of women and children, and there were active women’s associations throughout the country. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Moldova

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Authorities in Chisinau did not have full access to or control over the Transnistrian region. According to local and international experts, de facto “authorities” in Transnistria continued to monitor and restrict activities of human rights NGOs. There were credible reports that human rights NGOs in the region conducted limited investigations of serious human rights violations due to fear of repression and harassment by the “authorities.”

Government Human Rights Bodies: There are three human rights bodies in the country: the Office of the People’s Ombudsman, the Agency for Interethnic Relations, and the Council for the Prevention of Discrimination and Ensuring Equality (Equality Council). The People’s Ombudsman and the Equality Council are independent institutions that report to parliament, while the Agency for Interethnic Relations is part of the government. The people’s ombudsman institution was partially operational during the year after the death of Ombudsman Mihail Cotorobai. On September 23, parliament appointed Natalia Molosag as the new ombudsman. The opposition and prominent NGOs criticized the move for failing to abide by parliamentary procedures in order to install an ombudsman favorable to the PAS-led government. On November 30, more than 100 NGOs requested Molosag resign after revelations surfaced that she had hired Dumitru Godorog, who was convicted in 2017 of crimes related to sex trafficking, for an official position. On December 2, Molosag resigned.

The law provides for the independence of the people’s ombudsman from political influence and appointment to a seven-year, nonrenewable term. The Office of the People’s Ombudsman may initiate an investigation based on complaints or on its own authority. Although the office lacks the power to enforce decisions, it acted as a monitor of human rights conditions, including in prisons and other places of detention. A separate ombudsman for children’s rights operates under the same framework within the Office of the People’s Ombudsman.

The Equality Council is responsible for reviewing complaints of discrimination and making recommendations but lacks enforcement powers and the ability to apply sanctions.

The Agency for Interethnic Relations oversees and implements state policies regarding interethnic relations and the use of languages in the country.

Parliament also has a separate standing committee for human rights and interethnic relations, but the committee’s powers and areas of oversight were narrow.

Monaco

Mongolia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were sometimes cooperative and responsive to their views.

Progovernment actors sometimes characterized such NGOs as “undesirables,” “troublemakers,” “foreign agents,” or “opponents of the state.”

On July 1, a new Law on Legal Status of Human Rights Defenders entered into force. The law establishes a mechanism for recognizing, promoting, and protecting human rights defenders.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The NHRC is responsible for monitoring human rights abuses, initiating and reviewing policy changes, and coordinating with human rights NGOs. The NHRC’s six commissioners are selected on a competitive basis and appointed by parliament for six-year terms. Officials reported government funding for the NHRC, provided by parliament, remained inadequate, and inspection, training, and public awareness activities were entirely dependent on external funding sources. The NHRC consistently supported politically contentious human rights issues, such as the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals, persons with disabilities, and ethnic minorities.

There was some collaboration between the government and civil society in discussing human rights problems.

Montenegro

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated, generally without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were usually cooperative and responsive to the views of international groups, but some domestic NGOs assessed this cooperation as uneven and noted that the government selectively ignored their requests for information under the Law on Free Access to Information. In its 2020 Progress Report on Montenegro, the European Commission stated that the amount of information classified by public institutions and withheld from the public grew, thus restricting the access of NGOs and the public to key policy decisions. The report added that this concern needed to be addressed as a matter of priority, including in reviewing the legal framework, to ensure civil society has genuine oversight in key policy areas.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The ombudsman served within the Office of the Protector of Human Rights to prevent torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment as well as discrimination. The Office of the Protector of Human Rights may investigate alleged government human rights violations and inspect such institutions as prisons and pretrial detention centers without prior notification. It may access all documents, irrespective of their level of secrecy, relating to detainees or convicts and talk to prisoners or detainees without the presence of officials. The office may not act upon complaints about judicial proceedings in process, except when the complaint involves delays, obvious procedural violations, or failure to carry out court decisions. The ombudsman may propose new laws, ask the Constitutional Court to determine whether a law violates the constitution or treaty obligations, evaluate particular human rights problems upon request of a competent body, address general problems important for the protection and promotion of human rights and freedoms, and cooperate with other organizations and institutions dealing with human rights and freedoms. Upon finding a violation of human rights by a government agency, the ombudsman may request remedial measures, including dismissal of the violator, and evaluate how well the agency implemented the remedial measures. Failure to comply with the ombudsman’s request for corrective action is punishable by fines of 500 to 2,500 euros ($575 to $2,880). The government and courts generally implemented the ombudsman’s recommendations, although often with delays. The ombudsman operated without government or party interference and enjoyed cooperation from NGOs.

Parliament has a 13-member Standing Committee for Human Rights and Freedoms and a 13-member Standing Committee for Gender Equality. The new Ministry of Justice, Human and Minority Rights, established in 2020, worked on its administrative capacity, but NGOs stated that dismissal of the minister in June affected its effectiveness. NGOs also noted difficulty identifying appropriate working-level points of contact within the ministry and across the government.

Morocco

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups investigated and published findings on human rights cases; however, the government’s responsiveness to, cooperation with, and restrictions on domestic and international human rights organizations varied, depending on its evaluation of the political orientation of the organization and the sensitivity of the issues.

The government did not approve the AMDH appeals during the year to register multiple regional branches. The organization regularly faced difficulties renewing the registration of its offices.

During the year activists and NGOs reported continuing restrictions on their activities in the country (see section 2.b, Freedom of Association). According to the government, registered organizations were authorized to meet within their established headquarters, but any meetings outside that space, including privately owned establishments and homes, were in public spaces and require authorization from the Ministry of Interior. Organizations stated that government officials told them their events were canceled for failing to follow required procedures for public meetings, although the organizations claimed to have submitted the necessary paperwork or believed the law did not require it.

Some unrecognized NGOs that did not cooperate officially with the government still shared information informally with both the government and government-affiliated organizations.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government cooperated with the United Nations and permitted requested visits.

Nonetheless, an October 1 report regarding the situation in Western Sahara, submitted by the UN secretary-general pursuant to the MINURSO mandate, noted that OHCHR was unable to conduct any visits to the region for the sixth consecutive year and urged the state and other parties to address outstanding human rights problems and enhance cooperation with OHCHR. The report noted that the human rights situation in Western Sahara has been adversely affected by COVID-19, especially about economic and social rights.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The CNDH is a national human rights institution established by the constitution that operates independently from the elected government. It is publicly funded and operates in conformity with the Principles of Paris, according to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions. The council filled the role of a national human rights monitoring mechanism for preventing torture. The CNDH oversees the National Human Rights Training Institute, which collaborated with international organizations to provide training to civil society, media, law enforcement, medical personnel, educators, and legal practitioners.

Via its regional offices in Dakhla and Laayoune, the CNDH continued a range of activities, including monitoring demonstrations, visiting prisons and medical centers, and organizing capacity-building activities for various stakeholders. It also maintained contact with unregistered NGOs. The CNDH also occasionally investigated cases raised by unregistered NGOs, especially those that drew internet or international media attention.

The Institution of the Mediator acted as a general ombudsman. It considered allegations of governmental injustices and has the power to carry out inquiries and investigations, propose disciplinary action, and refer cases to the public prosecutor.

The mission of the Interministerial Delegation for Human Rights (DIDH), which reports to the minister of state in charge of human rights, is to promote the protection of human rights across all ministries, serve as a government interlocutor with domestic and international NGOs, and interact with relevant UN bodies regarding international human rights obligations. The DIDH coordinated government responses to UN bodies on adherence to treaty obligations and served as the principal advisory body to the king and government on human rights.

Mozambique

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views. The government had yet to act on the registration request pending since 2008 of a local LGBTQI+ rights advocacy organization. The government frequently denied or delayed NGO access to areas where credible allegations of abuses by security forces occurred, particularly in Cabo Delgado Province. Human rights activists in Cabo Delgado Province reported harassment and intimidation by police in gaining access to and interviewing IDPs.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The CNDH is mandated to promote and defend the human rights provisions of the constitution. Its stated priorities include cases of law enforcement violence and torture, judicial corruption, and abuses of prisoner rights. The CNDH lacks authority to prosecute abuses and must refer cases to the judiciary. Commission members are chosen by political parties, civil society, the prime minister, and the Mozambican Bar Association. Although the CNDH was an active human rights advocate, its lack of resources and formal staff training in human rights hindered its effectiveness.

Namibia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views and were tolerant of NGO reports provided to the United Nations highlighting matters not raised by the government or pointing out misleading government statements. The Office of the Ombudsman, local human rights NGOs, and the Anti-Corruption Commission reported NamPol cooperated and assisted in human rights investigations.

Government Human Rights Bodies: There is an autonomous ombudsman with whom government agencies cooperated. Observers considered the ombudsman effective in identifying human rights abuses but stated the office lacked an enforcement mandate or the means to correct problems.

Nauru

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The government did not restrict the establishment or operation of local human rights organizations, but no such groups existed. No international human rights organizations maintained offices in the country.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Department of Justice had a Human Rights Section staffed by a human rights adviser, two human rights officers, and a liaison officer from the secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team. The section was generally effective.

Nepal

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. While government officials were generally cooperative with NGO investigations, the government placed administrative burdens on some international NGOs by complicating procedures for obtaining visas and compelling them to sign asset control documents. Some NGOs, particularly those with a Christian religious element, reported increasing bureaucratic constraints after the devolution of power to local level officials.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The NHRC investigated allegations of abuses, but insufficient staff (78 out of 309 positions were vacant as of August), and limitations on its mandate led some activists to view the body as ineffective and insufficiently independent. The NHRC claimed the government helped promote impunity by failing to implement its recommendations fully. The Nepal Police and Armed Police Force each have a Human Rights Cell (HRC) and the Nepali Army has a human rights directorate (HRD). The Nepali Army HRD and Nepal Police HRC have independent investigative powers. The Nepali Army’s investigations were not fully transparent, according to human rights NGOs.

During the year the government and judiciary did not significantly address most conflict-era human rights and humanitarian law abuses committed by the Nepali Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, and Maoist parties.

The country’s two transitional justice mechanisms, CIEDP and the TRC, are not fully independent. Human rights experts continued to report that neither had made significant progress on investigations or reporting. In February, the government extended the tenure of the TRC and CIEDP commissioners for six months and in July for another year.

Local human rights advocates cited continued legal shortcomings that pose obstacles to a comprehensive and credible transitional justice process in the country. For example, the law does not retroactively criminalize torture or enforced disappearance, and the statute of limitations for rape is only 180 days.

Additionally, the law does not specifically recognize war crimes or crimes against humanity, although the constitution recognizes as law treaties to which the country is a party. Critics also cited instances in which parliament failed to implement Supreme Court decisions. For example, in a 2015 ruling, the court nullified provisions of the law that would have granted the commissions discretionary power to recommend amnesty for serious crimes, because amnesty would violate the then interim constitution and international obligations. In April 2020 the Supreme Court rejected the government’s petition seeking review of the 2015 decision. As of September, the federal parliament had not amended the act in line with the Supreme Court verdict and international standards.

Netherlands

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Throughout the kingdom a variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: A citizen of the Netherlands may bring any complaint before the national ombudsperson, the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (NIHR), the Commercial Code Council, or the Council of Journalism, depending on circumstances. The NIHR acted as an independent primary contact between the Dutch government and domestic and international human rights organizations.

Citizens of Curacao and Sint Maarten may bring any complaint before their national ombudsperson. All citizens of the Dutch Caribbean islands can direct complaints to their public prosecutors or to NGOs.

New Zealand

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Justice funded the Human Rights Commission, which operates as an independent agency without government interference. The commission had adequate staff and resources to perform its mission.

The Office of the Ombudsman, responsible to parliament but independent of the government, is charged with investigating complaints about administrative acts, decisions, recommendations, and omissions of national and local government agencies; inspecting prisons; and following up on prisoner complaints. The office enjoyed government cooperation, operated without government or party interference, had adequate resources, and was considered effective. The ombudsman produced a wide variety of reports for the government that were publicly available.

The law mandates that the Department of Internal Affairs provide administrative assistance to significant public and governmental inquiries into, among other items, human rights abuses. The only large-scale inquiry underway during the year was an investigation into abuse in care.

Nicaragua

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The government imposed significant and increasing burdens on the limited number of human rights organizations it allowed to operate in the country. The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights remained deprived of its legal status, hindering its ability to investigate human rights abuses. The Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association continued to operate from exile in Costa Rica and focused more on the Nicaraguan exile community. Other human rights organizations faced significant harassment and police surveillance. Humanitarian organizations faced obstacles to operating or denial of entry, and government officials harassed and intimidated domestic and international NGOs critical of the government or the FSLN. Some NGOs reported government intimidation created a climate of fear intended to suppress criticism.

The government continued to prevent non-FSLN-affiliated NGOs and civil society groups from participating in government social programs, such as Programa Amor, which provides social protections to children and adolescents, and Hambre Cero, a program that distributes livestock for smallholder production. The government frequently used FSLN-controlled family cabinets and party-controlled CLSs to administer these programs. Government programs purportedly created to provide support for victims of the violence since 2018 benefited only FSLN party members. Increased government restrictions on domestic NGOs’ ability to receive funding directly from international donors seriously hindered the NGOs’ ability to operate. In addition, increased control over the entry of foreign visitors or volunteer groups into the country hindered the work of humanitarian groups and human rights NGOs. The Swedish NGO We Effect discontinued its activities in the country in December after 30 years of humanitarian aid work, citing difficulties in complying with the foreign agents law. Some groups reported difficulties in moving donated goods through customs and said government officials were rarely cooperative or responsive to their complaints.

Several domestic NGOs reported that the Ministry of the Interior purposefully denied receipt of their compliance documentation and withheld or unduly delayed providing certifications in order to revoke the legal status of NGOs. NGOs under government investigation reported problems accessing the justice system and delays in filing petitions, as well as pressure from state authorities. Many NGOs believed comptroller and tax authorities audited their accounts as a means of intimidation. While legally permitted, spot audits were a common form of harassment and often used selectively, according to NGOs. NGOs reported difficulties in scheduling meetings with authorities and in receiving official information due to a growing culture of secrecy. Local NGOs reported having to channel requests for meetings with ministry officials and for public information through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These requests were generally not processed. NGOs also reported government hostility or aggression when questioning or speaking with officials on subjects such as corruption and the rule of law. Groups opposing the construction of a proposed interoceanic canal also reported being harassed and placed under surveillance. Three members of the Farmworker’s Movement opposing the canal were arrested, including a presidential precandidate, and many more fled into exile.

The government enforced the law that requires any citizen working for “governments, companies, foundations, or foreign organizations” to register with the Interior Ministry, report monthly their income and spending, and provide prior notice of how the foreign funds are intended to be spent. The law establishes sanctions for those who do not register.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government did not allow the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) or IACHR to send working groups to monitor the human rights situation in the country. The government did not cooperate with these groups, as noted in OHCHR and IACHR reports.

The government continued to block the entrance of the OAS high-level commission to help resolve the country’s sociopolitical crisis. The government did not send a representative to any of the 2021 IACHR sessions. The attorney general participated in a May IACHR hearing on protective measures awarded to the human rights NGO CENIDH. The attorney general rejected any claims of wrongdoing and stated the government was acting according to its laws. In several instances progovernment supporters detained or harassed protesters protected by IACHR precautionary measures.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights, led since 2019 by Darling Rios, a sociologist with no previous human rights experience, and Adolfo Jarquin, also with no previous human rights experience, was perceived as politicized and ineffective. In 2019 the UN Human Rights Council demoted the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights from category A to B for its lack of independence.

Niger

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Human Rights Commission is responsible for investigating and monitoring a wide variety of human rights topics, including prison and detention center conditions and allegations of torture. The Office of the Mediator of the Republic served as the government ombudsman, including on some human rights topics. The National Human Rights Commission and the mediator operated without direct government interference, although they often failed to carry out their work effectively.

The National Commission for the Coordination of the Fight against Trafficking in Persons, which serves as the coordinating body for the National Agency for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons and the Illegal Transport of Migrants, is effective and independent.

Nigeria

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials sometimes cooperated and responded, but generally either dismissed allegations, did not provide a substantive response, or did not publicize any investigation they conducted. In the North East, there were reports that the military threatened NGOs and humanitarian organizations after aid provided by these organizations purportedly reached insurgent groups. State governments accused international NGOs of profiting from the conflict and aiding and abetting the insurgencies. In April the government ordered the international NGO Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development to suspend operations after it reportedly carried out firearm training in Borno State.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The law establishes the National Human Rights Commission as an independent nonjudicial mechanism for the promotion and protection of human rights. The commission monitors human rights through its zonal affiliates in the country’s six political regions. The commission is mandated to investigate allegations of human rights abuses and publishes periodic reports detailing its findings, including torture and poor prison conditions, but served more in an advisory, training, and advocacy role. During the year there were no reports of its prior investigations having led to accountability. The law provides for recognition and enforcement of damages awarded to plaintiffs, but it was unclear whether this happened.

North Korea

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

There were no independent domestic organizations to monitor human rights conditions or comment on the status of such rights. The government reported many organizations, including the Democratic Lawyers’ Association, General Association of Trade Unions, Agricultural Workers Union, and Democratic Women’s Union, engaged in human rights activities, but observers could not verify the activities of these organizations.

The international NGO community and numerous international experts continued to testify to the grave human rights situation in the country. The government decried international statements regarding human rights abuses in the country as politically motivated interference in internal affairs. The government asserted criticism of its human rights record was an attempt by some countries to cover up their own abuses and that such hypocrisy undermined human rights principles.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government continued to refuse to cooperate with UN representatives in the human rights field. The government prevented the UN special rapporteur from visiting the country to carry out his mandate, which it continued to refuse to recognize, and did not respond to his requests to visit the country. As the UN secretary-general’s report on the situation of human rights in the country noted, COVID-19 preventative measures made it impossible for international organizations and most diplomats to continue operating inside the country. As a result there was a significant decline in first-hand knowledge available to the international community concerning the human rights situation in the country.

In March 2021 the Human Rights Council cited its deep concern regarding the “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that, in many instances, constitute crimes against humanity, and about the impunity of perpetrators.”

The UN special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities has not visited the country since 2017. The visit did not focus on allegations of human rights abuses, and the government continued to resist the special rapporteur’s mandate.

North Macedonia

Norway

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The country has ombudsmen for public administration (the parliamentary ombudsman), children, equality and discrimination (the equality and antidiscrimination ombudsman, or LDO), and health-care patients. Parliament appoints the parliamentary ombudsman, while the government appoints the others. All ombudsmen enjoyed the government’s cooperation and operated without government interference. The parliamentary ombudsman and the Antidiscrimination Tribunal hear complaints against actions by government officials.

Although the ombudsmen’s recommendations are not legally binding, authorities usually complied with them.

Parliament’s Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs reviews the reports of the parliamentary ombudsman, while the Standing Committee on Justice and Public Security is responsible for matters relating to the judicial system, police, and the penal, civil, and criminal codes.

The National Human Rights Institution (NIM) is an independent body funded by the parliament. It submits an annual report to parliament on human rights in the country. By advising the government, disseminating public information, promoting education and research on human rights, and facilitating cooperation with relevant public bodies, the NIM makes recommendations to help ensure that the country’s international human rights obligations are fulfilled. The NIM also engaged in several topics of structural and institutional discrimination and encouraged the government to become increasingly involved in issues such as the treatment of children from minority groups by the child-welfare services and allegations of racial profiling by police.

The Freedom of Expression Commission was established in 2017 to examine the social, technological, legal, and economic frameworks for free speech and was scheduled to present its conclusions in 2022.

Oman

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

No independent, officially sanctioned human rights organizations existed in the country. There were civil society groups that advocated for persons protected under human rights conventions, particularly women and persons with disabilities. These groups were required to register with the Ministry of Social Development.

The law permits domestic and international actors to request permission to engage in human rights work, but none did because they believed the government was not likely to grant permission.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The OHRC, a government-funded commission made up of members from the public, private, and academic sectors, reported on human rights to the sultan via the State Council. The OHRC also published an annual report summarizing the types of complaints it received and how it handled those complaints. OHRC functions semi-independently with moderate effectiveness in protecting human rights in the country, based on limited public information.

Pakistan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Some domestic and international human rights groups operated without significant government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. The government increasingly restricted the operating ability of NGOs, however, particularly those whose work revealed shortcomings or misdeeds of the government, military, or intelligence services, or that worked on matters related to conflict areas or advocacy. These groups faced numerous regulations regarding travel, visas, and registration that hampered their efforts to program and raise funds. International staff members of organizations, including those from the few registered INGOs, continued to face delays or denials in the issuance of visas and no-objection certificates for in-country travel. The domestic NGO registration agreement with the government requires NGOs not to use terms the government finds controversial – such as countering violent extremism; peace and conflict resolution; IDPs; reproductive health; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) persons – in their annual reports or documents. The agreement also prohibits NGOs from employing individuals of Indian or Israeli nationality or origin. Few NGOs had access to certain parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the former FATA, or certain areas in Balochistan.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The 2012 National Commission for Human Rights Bill authorized the establishment of an independent committee, the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR). The first commission’s term expired in 2019, and authorities established a second commission in November. In April the Islamabad High Court asked the federal government to appoint members to the NCHR. Activists stated the government delayed the appointment of NCHR leadership positions to avoid facing accountability for human rights violations. A stand-alone Ministry of Human Rights was reconstituted in 2015. The Senate and National Assembly standing committees on law, justice, minorities, and human rights held hearings on a range of human rights problems.

Palau

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the President includes an Office of the Ombudsman, but the position has been vacant since 2016. The government held numerous meetings and training sessions on human rights topics during the year. The special prosecutor held outreach sessions throughout the country to inform community members of their right to complain to her office anonymously. She also created a website for citizens to lodge complaints, which received complaints that were investigated.

Panama

Papua New Guinea

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ombudsman Commission is responsible for investigating alleged misconduct and defective administration by governmental bodies, alleged discriminatory practices by any person or body, and alleged misconduct in office by leaders under the leadership code. Staffing constraints often caused delays in investigations and thus in the completion and release of reports.

Paraguay

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally cooperated with domestic NGOs and international organizations and met with domestic NGO monitors and representatives, but they rarely acted in response to NGO reports or recommendations.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The human rights ombudsman generally operated with independence, focusing on investigating misuse of public money and abuse of authority by public officials. The NMPT maintained its independence from other government offices, although its reports were not always acted upon. The Public Ministry maintained a special human rights unit in charge of investigating human rights abuses on behalf of the government. Several other government ministries had human rights offices to monitor compliance with human rights legislation. According to NGOs and civil society, however, there was no central point of contact to coordinate human rights issues.

Peru

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, and in particular the Vice Ministry of Human Rights and Access to Justice, oversaw human rights policies and issues at the national level. The Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, and Ministry of Labor and Employment Promotion also had significant human rights roles. These government bodies were generally considered effective. The independent Ombudsman’s Office operated without government or party interference. NGOs, civil society organizations, and the public considered the Ombudsman’s Office effective.

Congressional committees overseeing human rights included Justice and Human Rights; Women and the Family; Labor and Social Security; Andean, Amazonian, Afro-Peruvian Peoples, and Environment and Ecology; Health and Population; and Social Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities.

Philippines

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups operated in the country, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were under pressure not to cooperate with or respond to the views of international human rights organizations. Local human rights activists continued to encounter occasional harassment, mainly from security forces or local officials from areas in which incidents under investigation occurred. Leftist and human rights activists continued to report harassment by local security forces, including abuse of detainees by police and prison officials.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: On September 15, the International Criminal Court’s pretrial chamber approved prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s application to open an investigation into the situation in the Philippines. The investigation will analyze killings in Davao City and incidents related to the drug war from November 1, 2011, to March 16, 2019. Asked if the president would allow International Criminal Court investigators access to the country, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque stated the president would continue to assert national sovereignty “and independence from foreign interference.”

Government Human Rights Bodies: The CHR’s constitutional mandate is to protect and promote human rights; investigate all human rights violations, including those reported by NGOs; and monitor government compliance with international human rights treaty obligations. Approximately three-quarters of the country’s 42,000 villages had human rights action centers that coordinated with commission regional offices. Although the legislature slightly increased the commission’s budget for the fiscal year, despite the executive’s past efforts to reduce it, the commission nonetheless lacked sufficient resources to investigate and follow up on all cases presented to its regional and subregional offices. The commission’s budget for its witness protection program decreased in the year to 14.9 million pesos ($298,000) from 21 million pesos ($420,000) in each of the prior three years.

The Office of the Ombudsman is an independent agency that responds to complaints about public officials and employees. It has the authority to make administrative rulings and seek prosecutions.

The Presidential Human Rights Committee serves as a multiagency coordinating body on human rights problems. The committee’s responsibilities include compiling the government’s submission for the UN Universal Periodic Review. Many NGOs considered it independent but with limited ability to influence human rights policy. The committee also chairs the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture, and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty, and Security of Persons, also known as the AO35 committee. This body determines the appropriate mechanisms to resolve cases of political violence. It inventories all cases of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other grave violations and classifies cases as unresolved, under investigation, under preliminary investigation, or under trial. Committee undersecretary Severo Catura also serves as one of the eight spokespersons of the government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

The Regional Human Rights Commission is a constitutionally mandated body tasked with monitoring alleged human rights violations in the BARMM.

Poland

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution and the law entrust the ombudsperson with defending human and civil rights. The law states that the children’s rights ombudsperson is responsible for protecting the rights of children. The law entrusts the government plenipotentiary for equal treatment with the task of “implementing the principle of equal treatment.” Both ombudspersons are appointed by the Sejm and confirmed by the Senate. Civil society observers continued to assess the office of the human rights ombudsperson as independent and effective in defending human and civil rights, but the children’s rights ombudsman was not. In cooperation with NGOs, the ombudsperson processes complaints, conducts investigations, institutes and participates in court proceedings, undertakes studies, provides other public bodies with advice, appeals to authorities to take legislative or legal action, and conducts public information campaigns. The ombudsperson has no authority to mediate disputes between private entities, even in cases of racial discrimination. The ombudsperson presents an annual report to the Sejm on the state of human rights and civic freedom in the country.

The children’s rights ombudsperson serves as a guardian of children’s rights, in particular the right to life and health, the right to being brought up in the family, the right to decent social living conditions, and the right to education. The children’s rights ombudsperson processes complaints, conducts investigations, participates in court proceedings, and may demand concrete actions to be taken by public institutions to protect children’s rights.

The government plenipotentiary for equal treatment has a mandate to counter discrimination and promote equal opportunity for all. The plenipotentiary implements the government’s equal treatment policy, develops and evaluates draft acts, analyzes and evaluates legal solutions, and monitors the situation within the scope of application of the principle of equal treatment. The sitting plenipotentiary serves as a deputy minister in the Ministry of Family and Social Policy. As such, the position does not have the same institutional independence as the human rights ombudsperson and does not have a separate budget.

Both chambers of parliament have committees on human rights and the rule of law. The committees serve a primarily legislative function and consist of representatives from multiple political parties.

Portugal

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The country has an independent human rights ombudsman appointed by parliament who is responsible for defending the human rights, freedom, and legal rights of all citizens. The Ombudsman’s Office operated independently and with the cooperation of the government.

The ombudsman had adequate resources and published mandatory annual reports, as well as special reports on problems such as women’s rights, prisons, health, and the rights of children and senior citizens.

Parliament’s First Committee for Constitutional Issues, Rights, Liberties, and Privileges oversees human rights problems. It drafts and submits bills and petitions for parliamentary approval.

Qatar

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Researchers from international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and international unions such as the Building and Wood Workers’ International and the International Trade Union Confederation continued to visit and report on the country without interference from authorities. The government was often responsive to requests for meetings and jointly participated in public events hosted by human rights groups, including on sensitive topics such as labor rights.

Several quasi-governmental organizations were under a single entity, the Qatar Foundation, led by Sheikha Hind Al Thani, the sister of the amir. These organizations cooperated with the government, rarely criticized it, and did not engage in political activity. Some international NGOs had offices in the country and focused on labor rights with the permission of the government.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Under a mandate from the cabinet, the Human Rights Department at the Ministry of Interior and the Human Rights Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are to observe, report, and handle human rights matters. The cabinet mandates the NHRC, whose members by law have immunity and operate as an independent body, to issue an annual report on human rights conditions in the country. The 2021 NHRC report provided a list of recommendations including amending the Penal Code’s articles on freedom of expressions, improving prison conditions, and signing the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The NHRC typically handled petitions by liaising with government institutions to ensure timely resolution of disputes.

Republic of the Congo

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups occasionally faced government restrictions during their investigations and when publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were not cooperative with or responsive to international or domestic human rights groups. According to Freedom House, some domestic human rights groups did not report on specific human rights abuses due to fear of reprisal by the government. Among those arrested and detained after the March elections was Alexandre Dzabana Ibacka, the coordinator of a platform of human rights groups (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees).

The local NGO Observers Coalition for Human Rights was denied a permit to host a public march in March leading into the presidential election. Additionally, in February a coalition of local NGOs who conducted voter observation training was denied election observer status by the government.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government-sponsored Human Rights Commission (HRC) is the government human rights watchdog and is responsible for addressing public concerns regarding human rights. The HRC had little effectiveness or independence, and it undertook few activities directly responding to human rights concerns.

Romania

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally met with human rights NGOs and were cooperative and sometimes responsive to their views.

The Center for Legal Resources, an NGO that regularly visits centers for persons with disabilities and reports on alleged abuses observed during the visits, reported that directors of centers for persons with disabilities refused to grant the center’s staff access to documents on the medical, legal, and sociopsychological status of the centers’ residents despite an agreement with the Ministry of Labor granting the center the right to access such documents.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsperson has limited power and no authority to protect citizens’ constitutional rights in cases requiring judicial action. The ombudsperson is the national preventive mechanism implementing the optional protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. This gives the ombudsperson the power to conduct monitoring visits to places where individuals are deprived of their liberty, including prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and asylum centers.

The Office of the Children’s Ombudsperson is empowered to examine human rights complaints made by children or their legal representatives. The Council for Monitoring the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was authorized to make unannounced visits in centers and hospitals for persons with disabilities to check if the rights of these persons were respected, issue recommendations, and submit criminal complaints. Observers reported the council’s recommendations and reports were inaccurate and noted that conditions had not improved significantly since the council’s establishment in 2016. Human rights activists and media regarded the institution as ineffective and believed that the inspectors who drafted the reports lacked the necessary human rights expertise.

Each chamber of parliament has a human rights committee tasked with drafting reports on bills pertaining to human rights.

The National Council for Combating Discrimination is the government agency responsible for applying domestic and EU antidiscrimination laws. The National Council reports to parliament. It operated with the government’s cooperation and, for the most part, without government interference. Observers generally regarded the National Council as effective, but some criticized it for a lack of efficiency and political independence.

Russia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups operating in the country investigated and published their findings on human rights cases.  Government officials were rarely cooperative or responsive to their concerns.  Official harassment of independent NGOs continued and, in many instances, intensified, particularly of groups that focused on monitoring elections, engaging in environmental activism, exposing corruption, and addressing human rights abuses.  Some officials, including Tatyana Moskalkova, the high commissioner for human rights, and her regional representatives regularly interacted and cooperated with NGOs.

Authorities continued to use a variety of laws to harass, stigmatize, and in some cases halt the operation of domestic and foreign human rights NGOs (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association).  In an investigation published in February, the investigative outlet Proyekt reported that the harassment of renowned historian of the gulag and human rights activist Yuriy Dmitriyev had been supervised by Anatoliy Seryshev, an assistant to President Putin and former head of the FSB in Karelia.  Proyekt noted that Dmitriyev began to receive threats after Memorial, the human rights organization he led, published a list in 2016 of individuals who had participated in the Stalinist repressions, which included Vasiliy Mikhailovich Seryshev, a suspected relative of Anatoliy Seryshev.  On February 16, a court rejected Dmitriyev’s appeal and ordered him to serve out his 13-year prison sentence on charges that many observers assessed to be in retaliation for his work to expose Stalin-era crimes.  Memorial considered Dmitriyev to be a political prisoner (see Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Russia for 2020).

Officials often displayed hostility toward the activities of human rights organizations and suggested their work was unpatriotic and detrimental to national security.  Authorities continued to apply several indirect tactics to suppress or close domestic NGOs, including the application of various laws and harassment in the form of prosecution, investigations, fines, and raids (see sections 1.e. and 2.b.).

Authorities generally refused to cooperate with NGOs that were critical of government activities or listed as a foreign agent.  International human rights NGOs had almost no presence east of the Ural Mountains or in the North Caucasus.  A few local NGOs addressed human rights problems in these regions but often chose not to work on politically sensitive topics to avoid retaliation by local authorities.  One NGO in this region reported that the organization’s employees sometimes had to resort to working in an individual capacity rather than as representatives of the organization.

In November authorities initiated legal proceedings to close two key branches of the country’s most prominent and widely cited human rights association, Memorial.  On November 8, the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office filed suit in Moscow City Court to liquidate the Memorial Human Rights Center on the grounds that the group had “hidden information about the performance of the function of a foreign agent.”  The center was also accused of “justifying extremism and terrorism” by maintaining its widely referenced list of political prisoners, which included individuals Memorial assessed had been labeled as extremists or terrorists for political reasons.

On November 11, the Prosecutor General’s Office filed a parallel lawsuit seeking to liquidate International Memorial for alleged “systemic” violations of the country’s “foreign agent” NGO law.  On December 28, the Supreme Court ordered the closure of International Memorial, and the Moscow City Court concluded its proceedings and ordered the Memorial Human Rights Center to close the next day.  Russian and international human rights organizations widely decried the moves to close the branches of Memorial as politically motivated, incommensurate to the alleged offenses, and a grave blow to independent civil society in the country.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies:  Authorities refused to cooperate with the OSCE Moscow Mechanism rapporteur investigating human rights abuses in Chechnya in 2018 and did not permit him to visit the country.  Three years after the release of the rapporteur’s report, the government had not provided the OSCE a substantive response to the report.

Government Human Rights Bodies:  Some government institutions continued to promote human rights and intervened in selected abuse complaints, despite widespread doubt as to these institutions’ effectiveness.

Many observers did not consider the 168-member Civic Chamber, composed of government-appointed members from civil society organizations, to be an effective check on the government.

The Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights is an advisory body to the president tasked with monitoring systemic problems in legislation and individual human rights cases, developing proposals to submit to the president and government, and monitoring their implementation.  The president appoints some council members by decree, and not all members operated independently.  Experts noted that the head of the council and senior member of the ruling United Russia party, Valeriy Fadeyev, worked closely with government authorities and often echoed their assessment of well known human rights cases.  The high commissioner for human rights, Tatyana Moskalkova, was viewed as a figure with very limited autonomy.  The country had regional ombudspersons in all regions with responsibilities similar to Moskalkova’s.  Their effectiveness varied significantly, and local authorities often undermined their independence.

Rwanda

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic human rights groups operated in the country, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases, and international groups also published reports on human rights abuses. The government was often intolerant of public reports of human rights abuses and suspicious of local and international human rights observers, and it often impeded independent investigations and rejected criticism as biased and uninformed. Human rights NGOs expressed fear of the government and reported that state security forces monitored their activities and self-censored their comments. NGOs working on human rights and deemed to be critical of the government experienced difficulties securing or renewing required legal registration. For example, HRW had no representatives operating in the country since the government had previously refused to renew its lapsed memorandum of understanding with HRW.

The government conducted surveillance on some international and domestic NGOs. Some NGOs expressed concern intelligence agents infiltrated their organizations to gather information, influence leadership decisions, or create internal problems.

Individuals who contributed to international reports on human rights reported living under constant fear that the government could arrest and prosecute them for the contents of their work.

Some domestic NGOs nominally focused on human rights abuses, but self-censorship limited their effectiveness. Most NGOs that focused on human rights, access to justice, and governance matters vetted their research and reports with the government and refrained from publishing their findings without government approval. Those NGOs that refused to coordinate their activities with progovernment organizations and vet their research with the government reported they were excluded from government-led initiatives to engage civil society.

A progovernment NGO, the Rwanda Civil Society Platform, managed and directed some NGOs through umbrella groups that theoretically aggregated NGOs working in particular thematic sectors. Many observers believed the government controlled some of the umbrella groups. Regulations require NGOs to participate in joint action and development forums at the district and sector levels, and local governments had broad powers to regulate activities and bar organizations that did not comply.

The NGO registration process remained difficult, in part because it required submission of a statement of objectives, plan of action, and detailed financial information for each district in which an NGO wished to operate.

The government sometimes used the registration process to delay programming and pressure organizations to support government programs and policies (see also section 2.b., Freedom of Association).

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government sometimes cooperated with international organizations, but it criticized reports that portrayed it negatively as inaccurate and biased.

In 2012 the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, based in Tanzania, transferred its remaining genocide cases to the IRMCT, which maintained an office in Tanzania and continued to pursue genocide suspects. From 1994 through July 2019, the tribunal completed proceedings against 80 individuals; of these, 61 were convicted and 14 were acquitted. Two cases were dropped, and in the remaining three cases, the accused died before the tribunal rendered judgment. As of October 1, six suspects remained fugitives. The government cooperated with the IRMCT, but it remained concerned by the IRMCT’s past practice of granting early release to convicts, especially when those released had not professed remorse for their actions.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman was empowered to act on cases of corruption and other abuses, including human rights cases (see section 4). During the year the office did not, however, report carrying out any major human rights investigations.

The government funded and cooperated with the NCHR. According to many observers, the NCHR did not have adequate resources or independence to investigate and act on reported abuses and remained biased in favor of the government. Some victims of human rights abuses did not report them to the NCHR because they perceived it as biased and feared retribution by state security forces.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The country had a small number of domestic human rights groups that generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Health maintained a human rights desk to monitor discrimination and other human rights abuses beyond the health sector.

Saint Lucia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic human rights organizations, including the domestic Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association (SVGHRA), generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. The government held various meetings with civil society that included the SVGHRA. The SVGHRA’s viewpoints were often dismissed, however, due to the government’s perception that it was aligned with the opposition. Even when government officials shared the group’s concerns, senior officials reportedly intimidated their subordinates into investigating allegations of human rights abuses.

Samoa

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Observers considered the Office of the Ombudsman generally effective and able to operate free from government or political party interference. The government usually adopted its recommendations. The Office of the Ombudsman also houses the National Human Rights Institute.

San Marino

Sao Tome and Principe

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A small number of domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Human Rights Committee, under the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, was moderately effective. This committee reported no human rights abuses during the year.

Saudi Arabia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The law provides that “the State shall protect human rights in accordance with Islamic sharia.” The government restricted the activities of domestic and international human rights organizations.

The government often cooperated with and sometimes accepted the recommendations of the NSHR, the sole government-licensed domestic human rights civil society organization. The NSHR accepted requests for assistance and complaints regarding government actions affecting human rights. The government blocked websites of unlicensed local human rights groups and charged their founders with founding and operating unlicensed organizations (see 2.b., Freedom of Association).

The government did not allow international human rights NGOs to be based in the country and restricted their access to the country for visits; there were no transparent standards governing visits by international NGO representatives. International human rights and humanitarian NGOs reported the government was at times unresponsive to requests for information and did not establish a clear mechanism for communication with NGOs on both domestic human rights issues and issues relating to the conflict in Yemen.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: In March the Guardian reported that a senior Saudi official in Geneva was accused of threatening to “take care of” UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard during her investigation into the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The Washington Post later reported the unnamed official was Saudi Human Rights Commission president Awad al-Awad. He stated publicly that he had been present at the meeting but denied making any threatening remarks.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse, but their effectiveness was limited. The HRC is part of the government and requires the permission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before meeting with diplomats, academics, or researchers with international human rights organizations. The HRC president has ministerial status and reports to the king. The HRC worked directly with the Royal Court and the Council of Ministers, with a committee composed of representatives of the Shura Council and the Ministries of Labor and Social Development and Interior, and with the Shura Council committees for the judiciary, Islamic affairs, and human rights.

During the year the HRC and NSHR were more outspoken in areas deemed less politically sensitive, including child abuse, child marriage, and trafficking in persons. While they avoided topics such as protests or cases of political activists that would require directly confronting government authorities, they inquired into complaints of mistreatment by some high-profile political prisoners. The 18 full-time members of the HRC board included nine women and at least three Shia members; they received and responded to individual complaints, including those related to persons with disabilities, religious freedom, and women’s rights.

The Shura Council’s Human Rights Committee also actively followed cases and included women and Shia among its members.

The HRC and NSHR maintained records of complaints and outcomes, but privacy laws protect information concerning individual cases, and information was not publicly available. On June 29, the HRC stated it handled 4,593 complaints in 2020, a 9 percent increase over 2019.

The Board of Grievances, a high-level administrative judicial body that hears cases against government entities and reports directly to the king, is the primary mechanism to seek redress for claims of abuse. During the year the Board of Grievances held hearings and adjudicated claims of wrongdoing, but there were no reported prosecutions of security force members for human rights violations. Military and security courts investigated an unknown number of abuses of authority and security force killings. The HRC, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, provided materials and training to police, other security forces, the Ministry of Defense, and the CPVPV on protecting human rights.

Citizens may report abuses by security forces at any police station or to the HRC or NSHR. The Public Prosecutor’s Office announced in July the launch of the Ma’akom system, which allows citizens and residents to submit complaints directly regarding illegal detention or violations of detainee rights, using the online platform Absher, a hotline telephone number, or in person (see Administration in section 1.c., Prison and Detention Center Conditions).

Senegal

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative but rarely took action to address their concerns.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government’s National Committee on Human Rights included government representatives, civil society groups, and independent human rights organizations. The committee had authority to investigate abuses but lacked credibility, did not conduct investigations, and last released an annual report in 2001.

Serbia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of independent domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without major government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Cooperation between civil society groups and government institutions remained limited despite the establishment of the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue. Several international watchdog groups, such as Freedom House, continued to publish reports downgrading the country’s human rights and democracy ratings. This did not, however, prompt a significant response or action by government officials.

Civil society groups continued to be subject to criticism, harassment, investigation, and threats from some public officials as well as nongovernmental actors, including progovernment media outlets and several suspected government-organized NGOs. The number of threats and attacks against organizations, activists and journalists increased during the year, with a few activists and journalists experiencing physical attacks and questioning by police. In most cases of physical attacks against activists, police responded, and charges were filed. Prominent NGOs and media associations called on the minister for human and minority rights to condemn attacks against them. Some of the verbal attacks and threats against activists, such as those made by members of parliament against the CRTA and KRIK, prompted a response by the international community, which resulted in President Vucic publicly condemning the attacks.

In March, Aleksandar Martinovic, a parliamentarian from the ruling Serbian Progressive party, claimed in a session of parliament that some NGOs in the country were criminal enterprises; he also accused them of not paying taxes. Martinovic alleged that these organizations worked on behalf of foreign governments and mentioned the name, residence location, and car type of a director of one prominent NGO, which the individual believed increased their personal risk.

There was constructive cooperation between NGOs and the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue on certain human rights issues during the year, although cooperation between civil society and the ministry was limited in other areas.

Tensions continued between civil society and the government’s Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering (APML) due to unresolved issues from a 2020 investigation of civil society organizations and individuals. The APML argued this action was part of a legitimate risk analysis into vulnerabilities in the nonprofit sector, but several civil society organizations and some media outlets claimed it was a politically motivated “probe” of civil society finances. In protest, many civil society groups stopped cooperation and participation in APML-organized activities, including the 2021 National Risk Assessment for money laundering and terrorism financing and an APML-led working group’s questionnaire for a risk analysis of the nonprofit sector. In response to the 2020 investigation, in April the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism called on all members, including Serbia, to ensure that all Financial Action Task Force recommendations were not intentionally or unintentionally used to suppress the legitimate activities of civil society, noting that the monitoring body will pay particular attention to such situations arising among its membership.

In May, on the day celebrating Serbia’s victory over fascism in World War II, several graffiti messages with threatening profascist content were sprayed on the walls of the premises of two civil society organizations. While the incident was reported to police, the perpetrators were not found. In October and again in November, unknown perpetrators sprayed graffiti on the headquarters of Women in Black in Belgrade. The group is an all-women, antiwar movement. The graffiti included the names of several convicted Serbian war criminals, including Ratko Mladic, and discriminatory language. Numerous civil society organizations expressed solidarity with the organization, which called for an investigation into the attack and a condemnation from the government. According to a report on the implementation of the 2019 Law on Free Legal Aid presented in February by the NGOs Initiative for Economic and Social Rights, A11, and Praxis, the introduction of the new law, which banned NGOs without a lawyer registered with the bar association from providing free legal aid, had negative effects. They claimed that more than two-thirds of local self-governments did not establish free legal aid services. Of the 45 self-government units that had such services, only 11 advertised the service through social welfare centers, which left traditional users of the service uninformed.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: In 2020 the European Commission for Human Rights (ECHR) dealt with 1,421 human rights related cases concerning the country, of which 1,413 were declared inadmissible or were dismissed. The ECHR delivered five judgments (concerning eight applications), four of which found at least one violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. In the first half of the year, there were 1,827 human rights-related cases pending before an ECHR judicial formation. On June 8, the president of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) addressed the UN Security Council and expressed concern regarding the country’s failure to arrest and transfer to the IRMCT defendants Petar Jojic and Vjerica Radeta to face charges of contempt of court. The defendants were accused of witness tampering, bribery, and intimidation while serving on the defense team for convicted Serbian war criminal Vojislav Seselj. Serbia argued that its agreement on cooperation with the IRMCT’s predecessor court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, did not apply to nonwar crimes cases like contempt of court, and pointed to a ruling in Serbia’s courts on the Jojic and Radeta case that confirmed this interpretation. The IRMCT disputed this interpretation.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Government bodies dedicated to the protection of human rights included the Office of the Ombudsman, the Office of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, and the Office of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection and the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue. All were active during the year.

The Office of the Ombudsman was responsible for responding to citizen complaints, identifying problems within state institutions, and making recommendations on remedies. The ombudsman was contacted in 2020 by 18,165 citizens, an increase of 67 percent from the previous year. In 2020, 5,056 official complaints were filed, an increase of approximately 54 percent from the previous year. The greatest number of citizen complaints concerned the work of the executive branch, most notably the work of ministries on measures to counter COVID-19.

On November 3, parliament adopted a new Law on the Ombudsman that extended the term in office from five to eight years. The new law also tasked the ombudsman with managing a national independent mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to serve as the National Rapporteur on trafficking in persons.

In November 2020 the commissioner for the protection of equality, Brankica Jankovic, was re-elected to office after a six-month gap following the expiration of her previous mandate that significantly impacted the functioning of her office. Despite this, in 2020 the office received more than 3,000 citizens’ referrals and acted in 1,188 cases, of which 674 were based on complaints involving the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination. Most of the complaints alleged discrimination based on health status and age, followed by national affiliation or ethnic origin, gender, and disability. During the year Commissioner Jankovic was vocal in her public condemnation of threats against civic activists and promotion of violence in the country’s media.

The commissioner for information of public importance and personal data protection was active in issuing opinions and advisories during the year. In 2020 the commission received 9,218 complaints.

The Ministry for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue organized 16 events as of September to facilitate dialogue and cooperation between state and nonstate actors on issues related to human and democratic rights. The ministry also drafted a new Law on Gender Equality and amendments to the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination, both of which were adopted in May. The Law on Gender Equality strengthened institutional mechanisms to ensure gender equality and specifies employers’ and public authorities’ obligations to implement related measures. The amendments to the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination expanded the list of those who can face discrimination.

Seychelles

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating, and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views. The Office of the President has the responsibility to engage with NGOs. The government consulted NGOs on most matters of national concern and appointments to boards of national organizations and agencies. An umbrella organization grouping various NGOs, Citizens Engagement Platform Seychelles, is the focal point for all NGO activities and receives funding from the government for projects and general operations, and the government regularly consulted it regarding the introduction of new legislation.

Government Human Rights Bodies: In October the Human Rights Commission embarked on a series of educational campaigns to improve the public’s knowledge and understanding of human rights. The commission also received a grant from the EU to do a three-year project for the promotion of human rights in the country. The project is expected to include training for government officials, including law enforcement officers as well as media and civil society.

The TRNUC heard cases of alleged human rights abuses and property expropriations throughout the year. Sessions were generally closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions but were televised and streamed online; however, during the year the TRNUC had most of its sessions postponed due to COVID-19 shutdowns. Many of the hearings were held in closed sessions in the year due to criticisms and attacks of complainants and witnesses on social media. The TRNUC heard cases regarding unlawful killings, disappearances, forced land acquisitions, and victimization related to the 1977 military takeover. The TRNUC may recommend amnesty, compensation, and refer crimes to the attorney general for prosecution. As of September the TRNUC heard 193 of the 360 admissible cases. The TRNUC chairperson criticized the government for not giving the commission the necessary resources to achieve its mandate. Two commissioners resigned, and the reasons for their resignation has not been made public. Those seeking amnesty from the TRNUC were called upon to complete procedures. The timeline to seek amnesty has since expired.

The constitution established the Office of the Ombudsman in 1993, and the ombudsman is appointed by the president from candidates nominated by the Constitutional Appointments Authority. The ombudsman may investigate any public authority up to and including the president, including complaints of abuse of fundamental rights and allegations of corruption by public officials.

Authorities rarely used the inquiry board (a police complaint office) but instead established independent inquiry commissions. Private attorneys generally filed complaints with police or published them in media outlets.

Sierra Leone

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restrictions, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to the views of local and international NGOs and generally acknowledged the problems presented. The government, including security forces, generally responded to human rights concerns raised by the HRCSL but was at times slow to support the HRCSL or implement its recommendations.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The HRCSL is the government’s primary institution dedicated to monitoring and investigating human rights abuses. The HRCSL operated without government or party interference. As an example of its work, in the Abolition of the Death Penalty Act 2021, parliament abolished the death penalty in July after initial drafting of the parliamentary bill by the HRCSL.

Singapore

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic human rights groups generally operated without government interference, but subject to close monitoring and legal restraints, and these organizations investigated and published their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views. NGOs were subject to registration according to the Societies Act or the Companies Act.

Some international human rights NGOs criticized the government’s policies in areas such as capital punishment, migrant workers’ rights, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and protection of the rights of LGBTQI+ persons. They charged that the government generally ignored such criticisms or published rebuttals.

Slovakia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.

Throughout the year some political figures made derogatory remarks toward minorities, including LGBTQI+ persons. In May Robert Fico, a member of parliament and chair of the opposition Smer-SD party criticized the justice minister during a parliamentary session for awarding grants to NGOs working on LGBTQI+ issues, accusing her of giving priority to the “physical needs of homosexuals” over the spiritual needs of the Slovak nation.

Several representatives of both the coalition and opposition parties criticized attempts by civil society and the ombudsperson to raise awareness of LGBTQI+ issues and human rights for Roma. In May parliament refused to formally recognize the ombudsperson’s annual report. Several members of parliament criticized the ombudsperson on the floor of parliament for her alleged partiality for purportedly defending the rights of the Roma while not standing up for the rights of alleged victims of violence by Roma.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The justice minister headed the Government Council on Human Rights and National Minorities, an advisory body including government officials and civil society representatives.

Maria Patakyova headed the Office of the Public Defender of Rights (ombudsperson) and submitted an annual report on human rights problems to parliament. Human rights activists credited Patakyova with raising the profile of fundamental rights problems in the country, despite criticism, obstruction, and a lack of interest from politicians.

Parliament has a 13-member Human Rights and National Minorities Committee that held regular sessions during the year. The committee remained without a chairperson due to disputes between the opposition and the ruling coalition and was left with one vice chair after another vice chair was appointed in May to head a different parliamentary committee. While the committee passed a resolution in July in support of addressing the issue of involuntarily sterilized women, NGOs consistently criticized the committee for failing to address serious human rights concerns as well as the absenteeism of some of its members.

The Slovak National Center for Human Rights acts as the country’s national human rights institution and as the dedicated equality body but was in the past criticized for inactivity by NGOs and members of the Government Council on Human Rights, National Minorities, and Gender Equality. Between the end of 2019 and September 2020, the institution operated without an officially appointed director after the management board failed on multiple occasions to elect new leadership. In 2020 the board elected Silvia Porubanova, a sociologist and expert on gender equality, as new center director. Under her leadership the center became more outspoken and visible, including on discrimination, gender equality, and LGBTQI+ issues. In celebration of Bratislava Pride Month in July, the center for the first time flew a rainbow flag.

Slovenia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Several civil society organizations alleged that the government took steps during the year to retaliate against them for their criticism of government policy. In April 2020 the government notified 15 NGOs that it was terminating their grant agreements with the previous government for projects related to civic education, media literacy, and assisting migrants and other vulnerable groups. Authorities stated that the funds were needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The NGOs pointed to anti-NGO rhetoric by the prime minister and other officials alleging the NGOs were partners of left-wing parties engaged in self-enrichment as an indication that the termination of the grant agreements was politically motivated. Most of the NGOs suspended their project activity.

In October 2020 the Ministry of Culture ordered 18 NGOs with offices in a state-owned building in Ljubljana to vacate the premises by the end of January or face a court-imposed eviction. The government explained that the action was necessary because the building was to be renovated, but the affected groups stated they believed the eviction was politically motivated. A total of 200 NGOs subsequently signed a letter protesting the government’s decision. In November 2020 the National Assembly Culture Committee asked the government to provide alternative premises for the NGOs. Between June and September, the Ministry of Culture issued eviction notices to 18 NGOs. All the affected NGOs filed complaints with the District Court of Ljubljana. As of year’s end, authorities had not acted to implement the eviction notices, pending a court ruling.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution provides for an independent human rights ombudsman to monitor violations of human rights. Individuals may file complaints with the independent ombudsman to seek administrative relief in the case of a human rights violation by the government. The human rights ombudsman was effective, adequately resourced, reported to parliament annually on the human rights situation, and provided recommendations to the government. The Office of the Advocate of the Principle of Equality raises awareness of and helps prevent all types of discrimination but reported that a lack of resources and personnel limited its effectiveness.

Solomon Islands

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution provides for an Office of the Ombudsman with power to subpoena and investigate complaints of official abuse, mistreatment, or unfair treatment. Although independent, a lack of resources limited its effectiveness.

Somalia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several local and international human rights groups operated in areas outside al-Shabaab-controlled territory, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views. Security concerns constrained NGOs’ ability to operate in southern and central areas of the country. International and local NGOs generally worked without major restrictions in Somaliland, although clan politics, localized violence, and perceived interference with traditional or religious customs sometimes curtailed NGO activity in these areas.

Authorities sometimes harassed or did not cooperate with NGOs, for example, by dismissing findings of official corruption. Harassment remained a problem in Somaliland.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: In October 2020 Somaliland issued a statement suspending all activities by UN agencies and other international humanitarian and development partners in its territory, but this matter was reportedly resolved, and the United Nations and other international humanitarian and development partners continued to operate during the year.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The provisional federal constitution calls for the formation of an independent national human rights commission and a truth and reconciliation commission within 45 days and 30 days, respectively, of the formation of the Council of Ministers in 2012, but these provisions were not implemented. There was no formal government mechanism for tracking abuses.

South Africa

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating, and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Although created by the government, the constitution establishes several state institutions tasked with supporting constitutional democracy. The task of these institutions is to promote and protect those rights within the Bill of Rights and operate independently. Among these is the South African Human Rights Commission, which is responsible for promoting the observance of fundamental human rights at all levels of government and throughout the general population. The commission has the authority to conduct investigations, issue subpoenas, and take sworn testimony. Civil society groups considered the commission only moderately effective due to a large backlog of cases and the failure of government agencies to adhere to its recommendations. Between November and December, the commission held a National Investigative Hearing into the July Unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng Provinces.

South Korea

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Some human rights organizations said the government restricted activities of certain NGOs focused on the DPRK. As of the end of August, the ministry reported no operation permit revocations for the year but noted judicial authorities were investigating one potential violation in April of the revised Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act. In 2020 the Ministry of Unification revoked the permits of two defector-led Republic of Korea-based NGOs that send leaflets across the border to the DPRK, citing national security concerns and several other grounds. Critics continued to view the revised law and related investigations as suppressing activists’ and defectors’ freedom of expression and disrupting civil society efforts to highlight human rights abuses in the DPRK and improve the lives of North Koreans.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Human Rights Commission of Korea, established as an independent government body to protect and promote the human rights enumerated in the constitution, does not have enforcement power, and its recommendations and decisions are nonbinding. It investigates complaints, issues policy recommendations, trains local officials, and conducts public-awareness campaigns. The Korean National Police Agency’s Human Rights Protection Division created a new team in July to investigate reported allegations of human rights abuses. If a report involves alleged police violations of human rights, a committee of nine members including six representatives of human rights organizations handles the investigation.

The Ombudsman’s Office reports to the independent Anticorruption and Civil Rights Commission and had adequate resources to fulfill its duties. The Ombudsman’s Office issued annual reports and interacted with various government institutions, including the Office of the President, the National Assembly, and ministries.

South Sudan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups investigated and published information on human rights cases and intercommunal and political violence, often while facing considerable government resistance. Government officials were rarely cooperative and responsive to their views and were often actively hostile. Reports outlining atrocities exacerbated tensions between the government and international organizations and NGOs. Government and opposition forces often blamed each other or pointed toward militia groups or “criminal” actors.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government sometimes cooperated with representatives of the United Nations and other international organizations. A lack of security guarantees from the government and opposition on many occasions, as well as frequent government violations of the status of forces agreement, including the restriction of movement of UNMISS personnel, constrained UNMISS’s ability to carry out its mandate, which included human rights monitoring and investigations. Security forces generally regarded international organizations with suspicion.

UNMISS and its staff faced harassment and intimidation by the government, threats against UNMISS premises and POC sites, unlawful arrest and detention, abduction, and restrictions on the importation of goods and equipment. The SSPDF regularly prevented UNMISS from accessing areas of suspected human rights abuses in violation of the status of forces agreement that allows UNMISS access to the entire country. The government did not formally inform UNMISS regarding arrest and detention incidents as required under the status of forces agreement.

There were credible reports during the year that the government harassed and intimidated civil society members cooperating with UN bodies, as well as those who sought to lobby foreign missions to pressure the government to respect civil liberties.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The president appoints members of the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, whose mandate includes education, research, monitoring, and investigation of human rights abuses, either on its own initiative or upon request by victims. International organizations and civil society organizations considered the commission’s operations to be generally independent of government influence. The commission cooperated with international human rights advocates and submitted reports and recommendations to the government.

While observers generally regarded the commission to have committed and competent leadership, severe resource constraints prevented it from effectively fulfilling its human rights protection mandate. Salaries and office management accounted for the bulk of its funding, leaving little for monitoring or investigation. The commission has not produced any substantive reporting since 2015.

The National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide remained largely inactive.

Spain

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The national ombudsman serves to protect and defend basic rights and public freedom on behalf of citizens. The Office of the Ombudsman was generally effective, independent, and had the public’s trust. The ombudsman is appointed by parliament but serves in an independent oversight capacity. On November 18, Angel Gabilondo became the national ombudsman after a four-year vacancy in the position.

Sri Lanka

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups investigated and published their findings on human rights cases. Government officials, however, were unreceptive to findings and employed bureaucratic obfuscation to inhibit the work of such organizations.

Numerous human rights defenders reported police and security services increased monitoring and surveillance of them through “burdensome and arbitrary” reporting requirements and harassment and intimidation during in-person home and office visits. These visits were often followed by additional visits, letters, or telephone calls, the frequency of these actions varying depending on the organization or individual’s mission or geographic location, with those in the north and east reporting the greatest number of follow-up actions. Individuals reported that the visits caused distress, anxiety, and other mental health problems for themselves and their families, as well as affected their work on advancing issues such as human rights, accountability, and transitional justice. See section 2.b. for additional examples.

The United Nations and Other International Bodies: On January 27, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a report raising concerns regarding the “deteriorating human rights situation” and called on the international community to take robust action, including urging the UNHRC to ensure more monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in the country and to mandate the collection and preservation of evidence of gross human rights violations for future prosecutions.

On March 23, the UNHRC passed Resolution 46/1 to address justice, accountability, and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. The resolution was cosponsored by 40 countries and included a mandate to establish a 12-person, $2.8 million OHCHR secretariat for the collection and analysis of information and evidence of gross human rights violations or serious violations of international humanitarian law. The government rejected the mandate and declared its provisions could not be implemented without the government’s consent.

During the year the government did not implement a mechanism to hold accountable military and security personnel accused of atrocities during the 1983-2009 civil war as called for in 2015 by UNHRC Resolution 30/1.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The HRCSL has jurisdiction to investigate human rights violations. The HRCSL consists of five commissioners and has divisions for investigations, education, monitoring and review, and administration and finance. The HRCSL accepts complaints from the public and may also self-initiate investigations. After an allegation is proven to the satisfaction of the commission, the HRCSL may recommend financial compensation for victims, refer the case for administrative disciplinary action or to the attorney general for prosecution, or both. If the government does not follow an HRCSL request for evidence, the HRCSL may summon witnesses from the government to explain its action. If the HRCSL finds the government has not complied with its request, the HRCSL may refer the case to the High Court for prosecution for contempt by the AGD, an offense punishable by imprisonment or fine. By statute the HRCSL has wide powers and resources and may not be called as a witness in any court of law or be sued for matters relating to its official duties. Since the passage of the 20th Amendment, rights groups assessed the HRCSL did not operate independent of and without interference from the government.

A memorandum of understanding between the United Nations, HRCSL, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Law and Order, finalized in 2018, determined the HRCSL is responsible for vetting military and police participants in peacekeeping operations.

Sudan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Unlike under the Bashir regime, under the CLTG, domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views, although some restrictions on NGOs remained, especially in conflict zones. After the military takeover, human rights groups feared government retribution.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: Access for UN agencies to Darfur, the Two Areas, and other conflict-affected regions vastly improved under the leadership of the CLTG; however, challenges remained, as travel into and around such areas were curtailed during periods of violence. This continued to be the case following the military takeover. The government also continued to restrict the number of visas issued for UN police for the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei. The country is a party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

In June and August, the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor visited the country. During the June visit, the CLTG allowed the prosecutor to meet with refugees and government officials in Nayla, Zalengi, and El Fasher. At the end of the August visit, the prosecutor signed a memorandum of understanding with the CLTG. In August the Council of Ministers also pledged to ratify the Rome Statute and committed to transfer Omar al-Bashir and other wanted individuals in domestic custody to The Hague. As of year’s end, ICC staff continued to visit the country to engage the government, but the country had neither joined the ICC nor transferred the remaining indictees.

In January the OHCHR in Khartoum and UNITAMS integrated their offices and had joint field offices in Khartoum, El Fasher, Kadugli, El Damazin, and Port Sudan. The CLTG cooperated with these offices. The CLTG allowed the OHCHR and UNITAMS to conduct assessments, including on human rights.

On November 12, the OHCHR designated Adama Dieng as expert on human rights in Sudan, following a special session of the UN Human Rights Council. The expert on human rights has the mandate to monitor the developing human rights situation in the country following the military takeover, in coordination with the UN Joint Human Rights Office in Sudan. As of year’s end, the expert on human rights had not visited the country.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Human rights defenders were allowed to file complaints with the National Human Rights Commission regarding perceived human rights abuses. The commission typically referred complaints back to the accused institution. While the commission was not formally dissolved and received permission to continue operating, the deputy chairman of the committee and four of the six commissioners resigned following the military takeover.

Suriname

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of independent domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. NGOs reported generally positive relationships with government officials, although officials were not always responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Human Rights Office of the Ministry of Justice and Police was responsible for advising the government on regional and international proceedings against the state concerning human rights. It was also responsible for preparing the state’s response to various international human rights reports. Its independence was limited, as it was exclusively under executive branch control. It did not solicit or investigate public complaints. The National Assembly has a commission dealing with human rights issues.

Sweden

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The country had nine national ombudsmen: four justice ombudsmen; the chancellor of justice; the children’s ombudsman; the consumer ombudsman; the child and school student ombudsman; and the equality ombudsman with responsibility for ethnicity, gender, transgender identity, religion, age, sexual orientation, and disabilities. There were normally ombudsmen at the municipal level as well. The ombudsmen enjoyed the government’s cooperation and operated without government or party interference. They had adequate resources, and observers considered them generally effective.

Switzerland

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The SCHR consists of a network of universities and human rights experts responsible for strengthening and supporting human rights capacities and bridging gaps between federal and cantonal authorities on human rights concerns. During the year the center published reports on human rights themes, such as on the rights of prisoners, asylum seekers, women in the judicial system, persons with disabilities, children, and members of the Roma and Sinti ethnic groups.

Thirteen cantons had ombudsman offices or municipal ombudsmen that assessed cases of misconduct by government agencies.  Some of the bigger cities (Basel, Bern, Luzern, Rapperswil-Jona, St. Gallen, Winterthur, and Zurich) had an ombudsman.  There was no federal ombudsman.

Syria

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The regime restricted attempts to investigate alleged human rights violations, criminalized their publication, and refused to cooperate with any independent attempts to investigate alleged violations. The regime did not grant permission for the formation of any domestic human rights organizations. Nevertheless, hundreds of such groups operated illegally in the country.

The regime was highly suspicious of human rights NGOs and did not allow international human rights groups into the country. The regime normally responded to queries from human rights organizations and foreign embassies regarding specific cases by denying the facts of the case or by reporting that the case was still under investigation, the prisoner in question had violated national security laws, or, if the case was in criminal court, the executive branch could not interfere with the judiciary. The regime denied organizations access to locations where regime agents launched assaults on antigovernment protesters or allegedly held prisoners detained on political grounds.

The regime continued to harass domestic human rights activists by subjecting them to regular surveillance and travel bans, property seizure, detention, torture, forcible disappearance, and extrajudicial killings (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees).

Terrorist groups, including HTS, violently attacked organizations and individuals seeking to investigate human rights abuses or advocating for improved practices. The SDF and other opposition groups occasionally imposed restrictions on human rights organizations or harassed individual activists, in some cases subjecting them to arbitrary detention.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The regime continued to deny access for the COI, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to document and report on human rights violations and abuses in the country. The regime did not cooperate fully with numerous UN and other multilateral bodies, resulting in restrictions on access for humanitarian organizations, especially to opposition-controlled areas. In addition, the regime did not allow the OPCW IIT to access the sites under investigation in Ltamenah, as required by UN Security Council Resolution 2118.

The UNWGEID continued to request information from the regime on reported cases of enforced disappearances, but it failed to respond. The regime also ignored UNWGEID requests for an invitation to visit the country, dating back to 2011. The regime similarly ignored UN and international community calls for unhindered access for independent, impartial international humanitarian and medical organizations to all regime’s detention centers.

Taiwan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Authorities were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Tajikistan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic human rights groups encountered increased difficulty monitoring and reporting on the general human rights situation. Domestic NGOs and journalists were careful to avoid public criticism of the president or other high-ranking officials and refrained from discussing issues connected to the banned IRPT. Human rights and civil society NGOs faced increasing pressure from the government. Authorities investigated several NGOs for alleged registration problems and administrative irregularities.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government facilitated visits to prison facilities by high-ranking officials from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime but continued to deny access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman made little effort to respond to complaints from the public. The ombudsman’s office met with NGOs to discuss specific human rights cases and general human rights problems in the country, but no government action resulted.

The government’s Office for Constitutional Guarantees of Citizens’ Rights continued to investigate and answer citizens’ complaints, but staffing inadequacies and inconsistent cooperation from other governmental institutions hampered the office’s effectiveness.

Tanzania

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. The overall climate for NGOs, however, shifted in the last few years. Some international organizations had delays in receiving work and residency permits, although progress was observed during the year. Some human rights NGOs continued to complain of a negative government reaction when they challenged government practice or policy.

To improve coordination between NGOs and the government at the district and regional level, the government appointed 26 regional assistant registrars (Community Development Officers) and 185 council assistant registrars. There remained concerns, however, regarding how the government could use this process to monitor or deregister organizations that are perceived to be antigovernment.

In August 2020 the government froze the bank accounts of the THRDC and arrested its director, Onesmo Olengurumwa, and actively sought to suspend or prevent the functioning of several others – including the NGO Inclusive Development for Change, and on Zanzibar, the Centre for Strategic Litigation (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity). On April 20, the government unfroze THRDC bank accounts, allowing the organization to restart its programing.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government generally cooperated with visits from UN representatives, such as special rapporteurs, as well as those from UN specialized agencies such as the International Labor Organization or other international organizations (but not including NGOs) that monitor human rights. UNHCR during the year reported increased bureaucratic hurdles to conducting work inside refugee camps (see section 2.f.).

Government Human Rights Bodies: The union parliamentary Committee for Constitutional, Legal, and Public Administration is responsible for reporting and making recommendations regarding human rights.

The CHRAGG operated on both the mainland and Zanzibar, but low funding levels and lack of leadership limited its effectiveness. The commission has no legal authority to prosecute cases but can make recommendations to other offices concerning remedies or call media attention to human rights abuses, violations, and other public complaints. It also has authority to issue interim orders preventing actions in order to preserve the status quo, pending an investigation. Human rights stakeholders expressed concerns that the government was censoring the human rights body, citing the failure of the CHRAGG to condemn human rights abuses.

Thailand

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights organizations operated in the country. NGOs that dealt with sensitive political matters, such as political reform or opposition to government-sponsored development projects, faced periodic harassment.

In November the prime minister announced an investigation into Amnesty International for its support of antigovernment activists and its critical statement on the November 10 Constitutional Court ruling.

Human rights workers focusing on violence in the southernmost provinces were particularly vulnerable to harassment and intimidation by government agents and insurgent groups. The government accorded very few NGOs tax-exempt status, which sometimes hampered their ability to secure funding.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: According to the United Nations, there were no developments regarding official visits previously requested by the UN working group on disappearances; by the UN special rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, and on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; or by the UN special rapporteurs on the situations of human rights defenders, migrants, internally displaced persons, torture, indigenous peoples, and sexual identity and gender orientation.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The independent National Human Rights Commission of Thailand has a mission to protect human rights and to produce an annual country report. On May 25, six (out of seven) National Human Rights Commissioners were formally approved following a four-year recruitment process; one appointment was still in process. The commission was chaired by former ambassador Pornprapai Kanjanarindr. The previous commission technically ended with the promulgation of the 2017 constitution, and critics asserted it was largely inactive following the resignations of three commissioners in 2019.

The commission received 593 complaints during the year ending September 30. Of these, 220 were accepted for further investigation and 157 related to alleged abuses by police. Human rights groups continued to criticize the commission for not filing lawsuits against human rights abusers on its own behalf or on behalf of complainants. The Office of the Ombudsman is an independent agency empowered to consider and investigate complaints filed by any citizen. Following an investigation, the office may refer a case to a court for further review or provide recommendations for further action to the appropriate agency. The office examines all petitions, but it may not compel agencies to comply with its recommendations. During the year ending September 30, the office received 2,992 new petitions, of which 694 related to allegations of police abuses.

Tibet

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Some domestic human rights groups and NGOs were able to operate in Tibetan areas, although under substantial government restrictions. Their ability to investigate impartially and publish their findings on human rights cases was limited. PRC law on the activities of overseas NGOs limits the number of local NGOs able to receive foreign funding and the ability of international NGOs to assist Tibetan communities. Foreign NGOs reported being unable to find local partners willing to work with them. There were no known international NGOs operating in the TAR. PRC government officials were not cooperative or responsive to the views of Tibetan or foreign human rights groups.

Timor-Leste

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials usually cooperated with these organizations, although the government did not always respond to their recommendations.

Government Human Rights Bodies: By law the independent PDHJ is responsible for the promotion of human rights and good governance and has its own budget and dedicated staff. It has the power to investigate and monitor human rights abuses and governance standards as well as make recommendations, including for prosecution, to relevant authorities. The PDHJ has satellite offices in Manufahi, Bobonaro, Oecusse, and Baucau municipalities. During the year the office received complaints related to COVID-19 emergency measures and investigated 53 human rights violations allegedly committed by the military, police, teachers, or public servants. There were no reports of significant government interference. The PDHJ, in cooperation with the UN Human Rights Adviser’s Unit, provided human rights training to the PNTL and the military.

Togo

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating, and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often met with human rights groups and participated in NGO-sponsored public events but typically were not responsive to NGO recommendations. Some NGOs, such as the Togolese League for Human Rights, reported experiencing intimidation and threats while conducting their work, particularly during election periods.

Government Human Rights Bodies: A permanent human rights committee exists within the National Assembly, but it did not play a significant policy-making role or exercise independent judgment. The CNDH is the government body charged with investigating allegations of human rights abuses and is nominally independent and somewhat effective in its investigations and deliberations.

The CNDH undertook several activities, including organizing meetings with human rights organizations and visiting prisons. For example, on July 22 and 23, the CNDH organized a workshop in Kpalime on the implementation of its prison reform recommendations. The meeting brought together representatives from relevant ministerial departments. Human rights organizations encouraged the CNDH to take a more active role in mitigating human rights abuses.

Tonga

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman oversees the rights of every citizen in the country, including members of the public service and vulnerable members of society such as women, children, prisoners, and persons with disabilities.

Trinidad and Tobago

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman investigates citizens’ complaints concerning the administrative decisions of government agencies. Where there is evidence of a breach of duty, misconduct, or criminal offense, the ombudsperson may refer the matter to the appropriate authority. The ombudsperson has a quasi-autonomous status within the government and publishes a comprehensive annual report. Both the public and the government had confidence in the integrity and reliability of the Office of the Ombudsman and the ombudsperson’s annual report.

Tunisia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups investigated and published without government restriction their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government’s primary agency to investigate human rights abuses and combat threats to human rights is the Ministry of Justice. Human rights organizations contended, however, that the ministry failed to pursue or adequately investigate alleged human rights abuses. Within the office of the president, the High Committee for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is charged with monitoring human rights and advising the president on related topics.

The government established the INPT in 2013 to respond to allegations of torture and mistreatment (see section 1.c.).

The government formally published the final report of the Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD) report in June 2020 but as of November had not issued its action plan, which by law should be published within one year of the report’s release. The report’s recommendations, which focused on how to avoid a recurrence of gross abuses of human rights committed by the government or those who acted in its name from 1955 to 2013, included “preservation of memory,” reconciliation, and institutional reforms.

On August 10, civil society organizations and trade unions called on President Saied to prioritize transitional justice in the government’s next steps, including by investigating the lack of follow-up to the IVD report. There was no official response to a 2020 statement by the civil society coalition for transitional justice urging the government and the Supreme Judicial Council to address challenges facing the Specialized Criminal Courts (SCCs), established to adjudicate cases referred by the IVD of human rights abuses and financial crimes. Among these challenges were the refusal of police unions to cooperate with the SCCs to deliver subpoenas and other requests, the regular rotation of SCC judges, and the judges’ part-time status. By year’s end none of the 204 cases referred, representing more than 1,100 victims of abuses committed between 1955 and 2013, had been resolved.

The National Human Rights Authority published a list of martyrs and wounded of the revolution in the official gazette on March 19. The list, prepared by a special committee within the Commission for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, contained the names of 129 martyrs and 634 injured who by their inclusion became eligible for compensation and access to medical care. The government, however, reportedly did not provide compensation or medical care to those on the list. The “Release the List” campaign, composed of civil society representatives, rejected the published list as incomplete. According to a statement by a victims’ association, those who wished to appeal omissions from the list could do so before the administrative court.

Turkey

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A limited number of domestic and international human rights groups operated throughout the country, although many faced continued pressure from the government during the year. Some had difficulty registering as legal entities with the Ministry of Interior. Others faced government obstruction and restrictive laws regarding their operations. Human rights groups reported the government was often unresponsive to their requests for meetings and did not include their input in policy formation. Human rights organizations and monitors as well as lawyers and doctors involved in documenting human rights abuses occasionally faced detention, prosecution, intimidation, and harassment, and their organizations faced closure orders for their activities.

The HRA reported that its members have collectively faced a more than 5,000 legal suits since the group’s establishment, of which more than 200 were active at year’s end. These cases were mostly related to terror and insult charges. The HRA also reported that executives of its provincial branches were in prison. Others faced continued threats of police detention and arrest.

In March police detained a cochairman of the HRA, Ozturk Turkdogan, on terrorism charges. Police released Turkdogan under judicial control on the same day. Turkdogan reported that the charges against him were based on speeches and press statements he gave as part of his work for the HRA. The HRA noted that the detention appeared to have been retaliation for its criticism regarding the government’s handling of a hostage release operation in Gara, Iraq, in February that resulted in the death of 13 hostages. After the HRA released a statement calling for government accountability regarding the failed operation, Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu called it “that cursed association” and falsely accused it of not condemning killings of civilians by terrorist organizations.

In September a Diyarbakir court convicted lawyer and human rights defender Nurcan Kaya of “making terrorist propaganda” for her 2014 social media posts related to Turkey’s operations in Syria, many of which criticized state violence and human rights violations. She was sentenced to one year and three months in prison in a suspended sentence. Kaya was appealing the decision at year’s end.

The harassment, detention, and arrest of many leaders and members of human rights organizations resulted in some organizations closing offices and curtailing activities and some human rights defenders self-censoring.

Some international and Syrian NGOs based in the country and involved in Syria-related programs reported difficulty renewing their official registrations with the government, obtaining program approvals, and obtaining residency permits for their staff. Some noted the government’s documentation requirements were unclear.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ombudsman Institution and the National Human Rights and Equality Institution serve as the government’s human rights monitoring bodies. The Ombudsman Institution operated under parliament as a complaint mechanism for citizens to request investigations into government practices and actions, particularly concerning human rights problems and personnel issues, although dismissals under the 2016-18 state of emergency decrees did not fall within its purview. The Ombudsman Institution’s mandate extends only to complaints relating to public administration. The National Human Rights and Equality Institution reviews cases outside the Ombudsman Institution’s mandate. Independent observers assessed that both institutions were not financially nor operationally independent.

In 2020 the National Human Rights and Equality Institution received 685 applications as part of the national preventive mechanism against torture and found violations in one case. Of the applications, 236 related to health rights and conditions, 122 to physical conditions in prisons, 122 concerned mistreatment, and 98 were prison transfer requests.

The Ombudsman Institution received 90,209 applications for assistance in 2020, compared with 20,968 in 2019. Driving the increase were applications related to unfair practices at banks and financial institutions when applicants applied for economic assistance. In 75 percent of cases, the Ombudsman Institution provided advisory opinions to government institutions.

The Inquiry Commission on the State of Emergency Measures was established in 2017 to review cases and appeals related to purges and closures during the state of emergency (see section 1.e., Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies).

The Ministry of Justice’s Human Rights Department served as the ministry’s lead entity on human rights issues, coordinating its work with the ministry’s Victims’ Rights Department. It is responsible for developing the national human rights action plan, the latest version of which was released in March. Human rights groups reported that they had limited input into the plan and expressed skepticism that it would result in substantive changes, since previous versions of the plan had not been fully implemented and did not address root issues.

Parliament’s Human Rights Commission functioned as a national monitoring mechanism. Commission members maintained a dialogue with NGOs on human rights problems and conducted some prison visits, although activists claimed the commission’s ability to influence government action was limited.

Turkmenistan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

No domestic NGOs worked exclusively on human rights, although some worked on related social issues. The government refused to register organizations to work exclusively on human rights and made activity by unregistered organizations illegal. The government continued to monitor the activities of nonpolitical social and cultural organizations.

There were no international human rights NGOs with a permanent presence in the country, although the government permits international organizations, such as the OSCE, to have a resident mission. Government restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, and association severely restricted international organizations’ ability to investigate, understand, and fully evaluate the government’s human rights policies and practices.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances requested an invitation to visit the country in 2016. The working group again requested an invitation in January 2019 but had not conducted a visit by year’s end.

The country submitted its third periodic report to the UN Committee Against Torture in December 2020, but at year’s end the committee had not provided any recommendations in response.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Institute of State, Law, and Democracy is not an independent body, and its ability to obtain redress for citizens was limited. The institute, established in 1996, has a mandate to support democratization. The Interagency Commission on Enforcing Turkmenistan’s International Obligations on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law meets biannually to coordinate the implementation of a limited number of recommendations from international human rights bodies. Both houses of parliament have committees specifically tasked with protecting human rights within the country.

By law the ombudsman must be nominated by the president and confirmed by parliament. The law empowers the ombudsman to receive and review human rights violations reported by citizens and confirm or deny the violation and advise the complainant regarding legal redress. The ombudsman is obliged to submit an annual human rights report to the president and parliament, which shall be published and distributed via local media.

There was no information on appeals this year. In 2020 the office of Human Rights Ombudsperson received 305 written and 226 oral appeals. Only 111 of the written appeals were accepted for consideration. Sixteen requests from 2020 and one request from 2019 were satisfied.

Tuvalu

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

No nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) focused solely on human rights, although no known barriers exist to the establishment of human rights groups. Some NGOs that included human rights in their agenda, such as the Tuvalu National Council of Women, operated under the auspices of the Tuvalu Association of NGOs, composed primarily of faith-based organizations. Domestic organizations involved in human rights issues generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Nonetheless, the lack of local print and electronic media limited opportunities to publicize such information locally. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to local organizations’ views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman includes a national human rights institution to promote and protect human rights in the country.

Uganda

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated with government restrictions. The president continued repeatedly to accuse civil society of accepting funding from foreign donors interested in destabilizing the country and directed the blockage of funding and suspension of activities for some prodemocracy and human rights organizations. Human rights activists reported that the government took measures to “decrease foreign participation and bleed civil society organizations” by lengthening the registration approval process and increasing the annual visa fees for expatriate workers to 10 times their previous amount. Human rights activists reported that local government authorities declined to respond to repeated requests for approval of license-renewal documents from the NGOs Chapter Four, Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy Uganda, and Western Ankole Civil Society Forum.

Environment and land rights conservationists reported that police harassed and arrested human rights defenders working to protect the environment and communities’ access to land. On January 31, conservationist William Amanzuru reported that police had summoned him for questioning and charged him with robbery after his community confiscated 11 million shillings worth ($3,070) of charcoal. On May 24, police dropped their charges against Amanzuru.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The UHRC is the constitutionally mandated institution with quasi-judicial powers authorized to investigate allegations of human rights abuses, direct the release of detainees, and award compensation to abuse victims. The president appoints its board, consisting of a chairperson and five commissioners.

The UHRC pursues suspected human rights abusers, including in the military and police forces. It visits and inspects places of detention and holds private conferences with detainees on their conditions in custody. It investigates reports of human rights abuses, reports to parliament its annual findings, and recommends measures to improve the executive’s respect of human rights. The executive did not always implement UHRC recommendations. On July 16, the president appointed a chairperson and four commissioners to the UHRC whose absence since the death of the previous chairperson in 2019 had prevented the UHRC from presenting its human rights findings to parliament. Nevertheless, the UHRC made public statements prior to and after the appointment of these commissioners, raising concerns regarding human rights abuses such as extra judicial killings of suspects by police officers, excessive use of force while implementing COVID-19 restrictions, and harassment of journalists.

Ukraine

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.

Russia-led forces and authorities in Russia-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine routinely denied access to domestic and international civil society organizations. Human rights groups attempting to work in those areas faced significant harassment and intimidation (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association).

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution provides for a human rights ombudsperson, officially designated as parliamentary commissioner on human rights. In 2018 parliament appointed Lyudmila Denisova parliamentary commissioner on human rights. The Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner on Human Rights cooperated with NGOs on projects to monitor human rights practices in various institutions, including detention facilities, orphanages and boarding schools for children, and geriatric institutions. Commissioner Denisova took a proactive stance advocating on behalf of political prisoners held by Russia as well as Crimean Tatars, Roma, IDPs, and persons with disabilities.

United Arab Emirates

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The government generally did not permit domestic or international organizations to focus on domestic political or human rights issues.

The government directed, regulated, and subsidized participation by all NGO members in events outside the country. All participants were required to obtain government permission before attending such events. The government also restricted entry to the country by members of international NGOs. There were no transparent standards governing visits from international NGO representatives. The antidiscrimination law, which prohibits multiple forms of discrimination and criminalizes acts or expression the government interprets as provoking religious hatred or insulting religion, was used as a legal basis for restricting events such as conferences and seminars. The law also criminalizes the broadcasting, publication, and transmission of such material by any means, including audiovisual or print media, or via the internet, and prohibits conferences or meetings the government deems promote discrimination, discord, or hatred.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Human Rights Committee acts as the main liaison between human rights bodies in the country and supervises the implementation of a comprehensive national human rights plan. In December 2020 the committee launched the first stage of the consultative process for developing the National Human Rights Action Plan, covering matters such as women’s empowerment, humanitarian aid, interfaith acceptance and tolerance, labor rights, and workers’ welfare. That same month the government approved the formation of the National Human Rights Authority to advance the country’s efforts to protect human rights and safeguard the rights of women, children, workers, older persons, persons with disabilities, and the vulnerable, on the regional and international level. In August the country established the National Human Rights Institution, which aims to “promote and protect” human rights and “fundamental freedoms” in accordance with the constitution, federal laws and legislation, and relevant international conventions; in December the government announced the appointment of its secretary general and 12-member board of trustees.

Two recognized local human rights organizations existed: the quasi-governmental Emirates Human Rights Association (EHRA), which focused on human rights problems and complaints on matters such as labor conditions, stateless persons’ rights, and prisoners’ well-being and treatment; and the Emirates Center for Human Rights Studies, which focused on human rights education for lawyers and legal consultants. The EHRA claimed it operated independently without government interference, apart from requirements that apply to all associations in the country, although several EHRA members worked in the government, and the organization received government funding.

United Kingdom

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings of human rights cases. Government officials were routinely cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Parliament has a Joint Committee on Human Rights composed of 12 members selected from the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The committee investigates human rights matters in the country and scrutinizes legislation affecting human rights. It may call for testimony from government officials, who routinely comply.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is an independent, nondepartmental public body that promotes and monitors human rights and protects, enforces, and promotes equality across nine “protected” grounds: age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation, and gender reassignment. The sponsoring department was the Government Equalities Office. The commission was considered effective.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission, which is accountable to the Scottish Parliament, monitors and protects human rights in the region.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, sponsored by the Northern Ireland Office, and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, sponsored by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, monitor human rights in that province. Both entities were considered effective.

In Bermuda the Human Rights Commission is an independent body that effectively administered human rights law through the investigation and resolution of complaints lodged with it.

Uruguay

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The INDDHH is an autonomous agency with quasi-jurisdictional powers that reports to parliament. It is composed of five board members proposed by civil society organizations and approved by a two-thirds vote in parliament for five-year terms that can be renewed once. The INDDHH is tasked with the defense, promotion, and protection of human rights guaranteed by the constitution and international law. The INDDHH has six thematic reference teams to cover human rights issues on gender, children’s issues, historical human rights abuses, race or ethnicity, environment, and migrants. The INDDHH receives, investigates, and issues recommendations regarding formal complaints of human rights abuse. The NPM functions within the INDDHH, conducting regular monitoring of detention facilities and issuing reports and recommendations. The institution is also responsible for examining human rights violations that occurred between June 1968 and March 1985 under the responsibility or with the acquiescence of the State. The INDDHH was effective in achieving its human rights objectives.

Parliament’s special rapporteur on the prison system advises lawmakers on compliance with domestic legislation and international conventions. The special rapporteur oversees the work of the institutions that run the country’s prisons and the social reintegration of former inmates. The special rapporteur provided in-depth, independent analysis of the prison situation and carried out the role effectively and constructively.

The Secretariat for Human Rights of the Office of the President is the lead agency for the human rights components of public policy within the executive. The secretariat is led by a governing board composed of the secretary of the Office of the President of the Republic, who acts as chair, and the ministers for foreign affairs, education and culture, interior, and social development.

The Honorary Committee against Racism, Xenophobia, and All Other Forms of Discrimination under the Ministry of Education and Culture analyzes matters of racism and discrimination. The committee includes government, religious, and civil society representatives. It had not been allocated a budget since 2010 but received economic support from the government for some activities.

Uzbekistan

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic human rights groups operated in the country, although the government often hampered their ability to operate, investigate, and publish their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views, but at times the government harassed and intimidated human rights and civil society activists.

Harassment of activists continued to be a problem. Human rights activists and political opposition figures generally assumed that security agencies covertly monitored their telephone calls and activities.

There were numerous reported abuses similar to the following examples. On June 14, a senior police lieutenant came to the house of Fergana-based human rights defender Abdusalom Ergashev to take him to the Regional Department of Internal Affairs for a “conversation” with the investigator of the Regional Department of Internal Affairs Sherzod Dadajonov. Ergashev refused to go unless formally ordered to appear. Later investigator Dadajonov called Ergashev and invited him for a conversation, saying that he required a statement from him regarding his presence in Tashkent on May 26. Ergashev again refused, was subsequently ordered to appear, and questioned regarding his knowledge of the possible candidacy of Jahongir Otajonov for president and regarding Mukhammad Solikh, leader of the opposition Erk Party.

International NGOs, including those that focus on human rights, continued to face obstacles in legally registering. The government did not allow unregistered international organizations to open bank accounts, unreasonably restricted the duration of validity of international NGO worker visas, and impeded efforts to overcome Supreme Court rulings banning certain international NGOs from registering and operating in the country.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The goals of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office included promoting observance and public awareness of fundamental human rights, assisting in shaping legislation to comply with international human rights norms, and resolving cases of alleged abuse. The Ombudsman’s Office is tasked with mediation of disputes among citizens who contact it and makes recommendations to modify or uphold decisions of government agencies, but its recommendations are not binding. The Ombudsman’s Office is permitted to make unannounced inspections of prisons and had a separate division to investigate government abuse of businesses.

On September 11, a presidential decree was issued tasking the ombudsman to establish public groups to identify and prevent torture and to assigning a permanent regional ombudsman reporting directly to the Office of the Ombudsman.

The National Human Rights Center is a government agency responsible for educating the public and officials on the principles of human rights and democracy and for government compliance with international obligations to provide human rights information.

The Geneva-based UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances had yet to receive a response to requests to visit the country dating back to 2011. In its 2019 annual report, the Geneva-based UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances noted it still had seven outstanding cases from previous years. The working group reiterated its request to visit the country. The request was first issued in 2011.

Vanuatu

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: In consultation with other political leaders, the president appoints a government ombudsman to a five-year term. Investigating alleged human rights abuses is among the Office of the Ombudsman’s responsibilities. The office, however, does not have the power to prosecute, and the findings of its investigations are not admissible as evidence in court proceedings. The ombudsman referred cases deemed valid to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for action, but there were few prosecutions.

Venezuela

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of independent domestic and international human rights groups generally operated with restrictions from the Maduro regime. Major domestic human rights NGOs conducted investigations and published their findings on human rights cases. Regime officials were rarely cooperative or responsive to their requests. Domestic NGOs reported fear the regime would use the 2017 law against hate to justify widespread repression of their activities, jailing of the participants and organizers, and threats against family members. Some domestic NGOs reported threats against and harassment of their leaders, staff, and organizations, in addition to raids and detentions, but they were able to publish dozens of reports during the year. Some human rights activists reported regime authorities barred them from traveling abroad or that they feared not being able to return to the country if they traveled. NGOs played a significant role in informing citizens and the international community regarding alleged abuses and key human rights cases.

On March 30, the regime promulgated a decree that obligates NGOs to register in the unified registry of the Office Against Organized Crime and Terrorism Financing in the Ministry of Interior and Justice. Human rights watchdogs assessed the decree as a mechanism that would allow the Maduro regime to force civil society organizations to provide information with the intent of supervising and controlling their activities. Among the registration requirements were a list of international donors from whom they receive contributions, a list of the overseas headquarters of the organizations, and a list of all beneficiaries. Critics said the legal instrument criminalizes international cooperation and prequalifies the NGOs as terrorists. These new requirements and conditions were lightened in an amendment introduced on May 3, but it included four other mandatory registries for NGOs, raising concerns regarding the right to freedom of association.

NGOs noted the Maduro regime created a dangerous atmosphere for them to operate. The regime continued to implement increasingly stringent legal means aimed at controlling and supervising the actions of human rights and humanitarian organizations, including additional oversight of the banking operations of NGOs, resulting in raids, arrest warrants, and attempted prosecutions against members of organizations such as Azul Positivo, Accion Solidaria, Prepara Familia, Convite, Alimenta la Solidaridad, and Caracas Mi Convive.

Human rights organizations claimed they were subject to frequent internet hacking attacks and attempts to violate their email privacy. The regime targeted multiple humanitarian NGOs by issuing politically motivated arrest warrants against their staff and directors, raiding their facilities, and stealing their computers and other electronic devices.

The Maduro regime attempted to discredit and threaten NGOs with criminal investigations for allegedly illegally accepting foreign funds. Various regime officials accused human rights organizations on national television and other media of breaking the law by receiving funding from international donors.

The NGO Center for Defenders and Justice published a report that recorded 374 attacks and security incidents against human rights defenders and civil society organizations in the first half of the year, a 243 percent increase compared with the same period in 2020. In April alone there were at least 115 incidents. The NGO remarked that one of the mechanisms used by the Maduro regime to subdue human rights defenders was the Unified Registry of Obligated Subjects of the Office of Organized Crime and Terrorism Financing. The regime used the registry to seek information on external sources of support to civil society under the premise of terrorism or crimes against the state.

In February a draft law on international cooperation that threatened to restrict funding for NGOs was once more placed on the agenda of the illegal National Assembly. Although the law did not pass, the revival of the draft created a climate of fear among human rights NGOs and a hesitancy to seek international assistance.

In addition to the restrictions placed on fund raising, domestic NGOs also faced regulatory limitations on their ability to perform their missions. The law includes provisions eliminating the right of human rights NGOs to represent victims of human rights abuses in legal proceedings. The law provides that only the public defender and private individuals may file complaints in court or represent victims of alleged human rights abuses committed by public employees or members of security forces.

The OHCHR recorded 97 incidents related to human rights defenders, including journalists, union leaders, human rights activists, and civil society organizations. They included two killings, six acts of violence, 62 instances of criminalization, 17 accounts of threats and intimidation, and 10 cases of stigmatization. At least 16 members of the opposition were arbitrarily arrested; most were released shortly their detention.

On July 1, the OHCHR gave an update on the human rights situation, indicating it continued to receive credible reports of torture, new cases of forced disappearance, and other forms of Maduro regime-authorized violence and intimidation. The report also focused on the deteriorated condition of the country’s prisons and detention centers and discussed the regime’s pattern of voter intimidation and coercion.

On January 14, five human rights defenders and humanitarian workers of Azul Positivo – Johan Leon Reyes, Yordy Bermudez, Layners Gutierrez Diaz, Alejandro Gomez Di Maggio, and Luis Ferrebuz – were indicted on charges of “fraudulent handling of smart cards, money laundering, and criminal association.” On February 11, they were released on probation and subsequently required to report to court every 30 days.

On July 2, Javier Tarazona, director of the human rights NGO Fundaredes, was detained by SEBIN officers. Tarazona had gone to the Public Ministry to report the persecution he was suffering in Falcon State by police officers and unidentified individuals. He was arbitrarily detained along with Omar de Dios Garcia and Jose Rafael Tarazona, also human rights defenders. Regime attorney general Tarek William Saab accused Fundaredes members of issuing public accusations that incited hatred and compromised the peace of the country after Tarazona demanded an investigation into the alleged links of the country with Colombian guerrilla groups. As of November Tarazona remained in custody without trial and in need of medical treatment, but the other two had been released.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The Maduro regime was generally hostile toward international human rights bodies and continued to refuse to permit a visit by the IACHR, which last visited the country in 2002. In 2019 the regime and the OHCHR signed a memorandum of understanding that provided for the presence of two UN human rights officers, and in October the UN Human Rights Council voted to extend the mandate of the OHCHR until 2022. In 2019 the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to establish a one-year FFM to investigate “extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture, and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment committed in Venezuela since 2014.” The FFM was extended again in 2020 until 2022.

In September the FFM issued its second report demonstrating the Maduro regime had systematically deployed the judicial system since 2014 as a tool to attack and repress members of independent civil society and political opponents.

In November Chief International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan visited the country, culminating in the announcement of the opening of an investigation into crimes committed under the Maduro regime.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Throughout the year the Maduro regime gave its 2016-19 human rights plan minimal attention, with no announcements to renew or update the plan.

The TSJ continued to hold the National Assembly in “contempt” status, which diminished the purview and operational effectiveness of the assembly’s subcommission on human rights. The regime’s human rights ombudsman failed to advocate for citizen victims of human rights neutrally and objectively, especially in the most emblematic of cases. In September regime attorney general Tarek William Saab announced the formation of a new Office to Attend to Victims of Human Rights Abuses; the office showed limited public progress by year’s end.

Vietnam

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The government did not permit independent, local human rights organizations to form or operate, nor did it tolerate attempts by organizations or individuals to criticize its human rights practices publicly. Some activists reported receiving death threats from plainclothes individuals they believed were associated with the government. Authorities often asserted that human rights and democracy advocacy were acts against the Communist Party and state.

On July 16, police and security officers in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak detained at least 21 individuals who had reportedly participated in civil society training organized by a human rights NGO. The detained individuals were affiliated with two unregistered Protestant churches long targeted by authorities. One detainee said that approximately 30 police arrived at his house in personal protective equipment masquerading as health authorities. At least one victim reported that police officers beat him during interrogations and threatened to kill him for refusing to sign a confession. Another victim reported police shackled her ankles while detaining her and her infant. Interrogators reportedly questioned detainees on the civil society training; on their links to Pastor A Ga; their ties to diaspora Vietnamese; and meetings with foreign diplomats. Interrogators reportedly warned victims they were breaking the law by associating with unregistered churches, taking civil society training, researching the Law on Belief and Religion, and contacting any individuals outside the country. Authorities released all detainees within three days without charge.

West Bank and Gaza

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Palestinian human rights groups and international organizations reported restrictions on their work in the West Bank. Some of these organizations reported the PASF and PA police harassed their employees and pressured individuals and organizations not to work with them. Several PA security services, including General Intelligence and the Palestinian Civil Police, appointed official liaisons who worked with human rights groups.

Gaza-based NGOs reported that harassment and restrictions on civil society increased during the year. Hamas representatives appeared unannounced at their offices to seek tax payments, demand beneficiary lists and salary information, and summon NGO representatives to police stations for questioning. Humanitarian organizations continued to raise concerns regarding the shrinking operational space for international NGOs in Gaza, including Israeli travel bans affecting their Gaza-based staff.

Human rights NGOs alleged that Israeli authorities cited laws against terrorism or protecting national security to arrest or punish critics of the government or deter criticism of government policies or officials. In October Israeli minister of defense Benny Gantz announced that Israel was designating six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations, alleging connections to the PFLP terrorist organization (see section 2.b.).

Some Israeli and Palestinian human rights NGOs operating in the West Bank, Gaza, or both, including B’Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights, and Breaking the Silence, reported harassment from Israeli settlers and Israeli authorities (see also section 2.b., Freedom of Association). These groups as well as NGO Yesh Din and HRW reported some of their employees were subjected to questioning by security services, interrogations, intimidation, death threats, or physical assault. Yesh Din and B’Tselem reported some Palestinian field workers were detained for several hours at checkpoints after Yesh Din research materials were found in their possession. The NGOs claimed these behaviors increased during periods in which Israeli government officials spoke out against the NGOs’ activities or criticized them as enemies or traitors for opposing Israeli government policy. On December 25, an IDF soldier shot B’Tselem employee Sarit Michaeli in the face in Beita as she documented weekly protests there from a distance. Michaeli believed the rubber bullet that hit her was likely aimed at Beita residents.

According to the HRDF, Israeli authorities repeatedly subjected B’Tselem’s field researcher in the South Hebron Hills, Nasser Nawaj’ah, to harassment, intimidation, and reprisal. On March 6, Shin Bet interrogators allegedly threatened that Nawaj’ah would end up like Harun Abu Aram, a Palestinian civilian whom the IDF shot in the neck and paralyzed, if he continued his work. Nawaj’ah was subsequently detained and questioned by IDF soldiers at least four times in ensuing weeks.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many human rights organizations working in the Palestinian territories received administrative fines from Israeli authorities for violating COVID-19 regulations. On January 1, Yigal Bruner, Micha Rachman, and Arik Ascherman, the director of the NGO Torat Tzedek, arrived in the Jordan Valley to help Palestinian farmers plow their lands. During their work, Israeli police officers arrived in the area and fined each of them for violating COVID-19 regulations by going to a public place for no necessary reason. Ta’ayush activists Amiel Vardi, Michal Hai, Daniel Kronberg, and Michal Barkat reported the same experience the next day in the South Hebron Hills, as did several other human rights defenders in the following weeks. On January 20, the HRDF filed a request with the attorney general to cancel 13 administrative fines. While similar fines given within Israel were cancelled after a petition to the Supreme Court, fines given in the West Bank were not. By the end of the year, five human rights activists were indicted for violating COVID-19 regulations in the West Bank, and two trials had begun.

Palestinian, Israeli, and international NGOs monitored the Israeli government’s practices in the occupied territories and published their findings.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: PA officials generally cooperated with and permitted visits by representatives of the United Nations and other international organizations.

There were numerous reports Hamas harassed members of international organizations operating in Gaza, including UN organizations.

The Israeli government continued its policy of nonengagement with the UN Human Rights Council’s “special rapporteur on the situation in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.” In February 2020 the government suspended relations with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) following publication of a UN Human Rights Council database of companies and “business activities related to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The government of Israel continued its freeze on relations with the agency at year’s end, according to OHCHR. No OHCHR international staff visas were granted or renewed by Israel during the year to allow access to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As a result the agency’s 16 resident staff were forced to work remotely from outside Israel.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The ICHR continued serving as the PA’s ombudsman and human rights commission. The ICHR issued monthly and annual reports on human rights abuses within PA-controlled areas; the ICHR also issued formal recommendations to the PA. The ICHR was generally independent but faced resource shortages that limited its ability to work effectively. Local and international human rights NGOs cooperated with the ICHR.

Yemen

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

International human rights organizations stated their personnel were unable to obtain Saudi-led coalition permission to use UN flights into and out of Sana’a since 2017. Independent observers had to take commercial flights to government of Yemen-controlled areas in the south and then travel by land across dangerous front lines to other areas. The only internationally backed, independent monitoring group’s mandate was terminated during the year (see below).

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: On October 7, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted 18 in favor of and 21 against renewing the GEE’s mandate following assertions from members of the Saudi-led coalition that the group was not sufficiently independent; seven countries abstained. A group of more than 60 nongovernmental and civil society organizations issued a joint letter strongly condemning the UNHRC’s vote, calling the GEE “the only international and impartial body investigating serious violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law perpetrated by all parties to the armed conflict in the country.” They noted that “ending the GEE’s mandate will only entrench impunity, and act as a greenlight for all parties to the armed conflict to continue to commit war crimes and other serious violations.”

Prior to the end of its mandate, the GEE noted that the government of Yemen had not granted the group access to the country, and the Houthis had not granted access to areas under their control.

The government of Yemen and the Saudi-led coalition coordinated with the United Nations, particularly through the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen, to oversee delivery of commercial imports. All parties to the conflict impeded aid distribution by UN and humanitarian organizations. There were serious obstacles to delivery from checkpoints, road conditions, bureaucratic impediments, and armed conflict. Houthi interference, delays, and access constraints hampered aid organizations’ ability to fully assess and address humanitarian needs (see section 1.g., Other Conflict-related Abuse.).

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government of Yemen’s National Commission was established in 2015 to investigate all alleged human rights abuses since 2012. The commission consists of a chair and eight members with legal, judicial, or human rights backgrounds. The National Commission continued to investigate and report on human rights conditions during the year and conducted training with the United Nations. The UN deputy high commissioner for human rights in 2017 renewed its cooperation with the National Commission but noted its publications failed to comply with international recognized methodology and impartiality standards.

Zambia

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The HRC is an independent body established by the constitution to contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights. The HRC monitored human rights conditions, interceded on behalf of persons whose rights it believed the government denied, and spoke on behalf of detainees and prisoners.

Zimbabwe

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated in the country, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Such groups were subject to government restrictions, interference, monitoring, confiscation of materials and documentation, arrest, and other forms of harassment. Major domestic civil society actors included the Heal Zimbabwe Trust, Legal Resources Foundation, Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise, Women’s Coalition, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, Zimbabwe Election Support Network, Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, and Zimbabwe Peace Project.

The government harassed NGOs it believed would expose abuses by government personnel or oppose government policies. NGOs reported surveillance missions by unidentified individuals visiting and occasionally raiding NGO offices. According to many human rights NGOs, the state viewed NGOs as regime-change agents supported by the West. Government-controlled media as well as government-associated social media handles to disparage and attack human rights groups, especially those believed to communicate with western embassies or governments.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The ZHRC remained underfunded but managed to fulfill some of its constitutionally mandated functions. Through its website, a hotline, and mobile legal clinics, which were resurfacing after COVID-19 suspensions, the ZHRC conducted public outreach and accepted complaints from the public for investigation. The ZHRC, however, did not have sufficient personnel to investigate the number of complaints it received. Some NGOs questioned the ZHRC’s independence and effectiveness.

The government did not overtly attempt to obstruct the ZHRC’s work that was critical of government or security service actions.

The NPRC, which has the constitutional mandate to handle issues related to the Gukurahundi massacres, made no significant progress, in part due to limited funding. The government asserted resources would be made available to finance outcomes developed by chiefs with their communities, including access to documentation, counseling and psychological support, exhumations, burials, memorials, reparations, and social security benefits (including pensions, social welfare, education, and health services). Access to birth and death certificates and national identification documents in Matabeleland began to make it easier for Gukurahundi-affected populations to access documents with support from their chiefs.

The government portrayed the NPRC’s work as a durable and definitive solution to the 1980s massacres believed to have claimed more than 20,000 lives in Midlands Province and Matabeleland. Nevertheless, it bypassed the NPRC. In October 2020 the NPRC was reportedly excluded from meetings between the president and traditional chiefs on exhumations and reburial of victims’ remains. Critics argued traditional leaders were not adequately trained to lead discussions on reconciliation of rape, genocide, and disappearances, and that putting them in this position could alienate them from their communities. Chiefs and communities in Midlands Province also were excluded from discussions and procedure. Government spokesperson Nick Mangwana tweeted that the e Matabeleland approach would serve as a template in Midlands. The National Transitional Justice Working Group, a coalition of legal, religious, and civil society actors, asserted that this approach usurped the work of the NPRC. The working group called instead for public apologies by Mnangagwa and his administration for violations perpetrated during Gukurahundi.