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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT 2014/15

The state of the world’s human rights

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. Our vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards. 

Amnesty International’s mission is to conduct research and take action to prevent and end grave abuses of all human rights – civil, political, social, cultural and economic. From freedom of expression and association to physical and mental integrity, from protection from discrimination to the right to housing – these rights are indivisible.

Amnesty International is funded mainly by its membership and public donations. No funds are sought or accepted from governments for investigating and campaigning against human rights abuses. Amnesty International is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion. Amnesty International is a democratic movement whose major policy decisions are taken by representatives from all national sections at International Council Meetings held every two years. Check online for current details.

First published in 2015 by

Amnesty International Ltd

Peter Benenson House

1 Easton Street

London WC1X 0DW

United Kingdom

© Amnesty International 2015

Index: POL 10/001/2015

ISBN: 978-0-86210-488-7

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Original language: English

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording and/or otherwise without the prior permission of the publishers. To request permission, or for any other inquiries, please contact copyright@amnesty.org

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This report documents Amnesty International’s work and concerns through 2014. The absence of an entry in this report on a particular country or territory does not imply that no human rights violations of concern to Amnesty International have taken place there during the year. Nor is the length of a country entry any basis for a comparison of the extent and depth of Amnesty International’s concerns in a country.

Abbreviations

ASEAN

Association of Southeast Asian Nations

AU

African Union

CEDAW

UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

CEDAW Committee

UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

CERD

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

CERD Committee

UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

CIA

US Central Intelligence Agency

ECOWAS

Economic Community of West African States

EU

European Union

European Committee for the Prevention of Torture

European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

European Convention on Human Rights

(European) Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

ICC

International Criminal Court

ICCPR

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

ICESCR

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

ICRC

International Committee of the Red Cross

ILO

International Labour Organization

International Convention against enforced disappearance

International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

LGBTI

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex

NATO

North Atlantic Treaty Organization

NGO

Non-governmental organization

OAS

Organization of American States

OSCE

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

UK

United Kingdom

UN

United Nations

UN Convention against Torture

UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

UN Refugee Convention

UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees

UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression

UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

UN Special Rapporteur on racism

UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

UN Special Rapporteur on torture

UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women

UN Special rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

UNICEF

United Nations Children’s Fund

UPR

UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review

USA

United States of America

WHO

World Health Organization

Preface

The Amnesty International Report 2014/15 documents the state of the world’s human rights during 2014. Some key events from 2013 are also reported.

The foreword, five regional overviews and survey of 160 countries and territories bear witness to the suffering endured by many, whether it be through conflict, displacement, discrimination or repression. The Report also highlights the strength of the human rights movement, and shows that, in some areas, significant progress has been made in the safeguarding and securing of human rights.

While every attempt is made to ensure accuracy of information, information may be subject to change without notice.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT 2014/15

Part one: Foreword and Regional Overviews

Foreword

“Clashes between the government forces and armed groups turned my neighbourhood of Yarmouk, in Damascus, into a beehive. It was so busy. Yarmouk became a shelter for people fleeing from other neighbourhoods.

“I worked in humanitarian assistance and as a media activist, but the masked men didn’t differentiate between humanitarian workers and armed opposition fighters. I hid as more and more of my friends were arrested.

“I decided it was time to get out, and packed my bags. But where could I go? Palestinian refugees from Syria are not allowed to enter any country without a visa.

“I thought maybe Lebanon would be the least difficult option, but I heard that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are exposed to racism and deprived of many of their rights.”

A Palestinian refugee from Syria, who eventually fled to Europe via Egypt, Turkey, and a dangerous sea crossing to Italy.

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones.

Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world’s politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

International humanitarian law – the law that governs the conduct of armed conflict – could not be clearer. Attacks must never be directed against civilians. The principle of distinguishing between civilians and combatants is a fundamental safeguard for people caught up in the horrors of war.

And yet, time and again, civilians bore the brunt in conflict. In the year marking the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, politicians repeatedly trampled on the rules protecting civilians – or looked away from the deadly violations of these rules committed by others.

The UN Security Council had repeatedly failed to address the crisis in Syria in earlier years, when countless lives could still have been saved. That failure continued in 2014. In the past four years, more than 200,000 people have died – overwhelmingly civilians – and mostly in attacks by government forces. Around 4 million people from Syria are now refugees in other countries. More than 7.6 million are displaced inside Syria.

The Syria crisis is intertwined with that of its neighbour Iraq. The armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), which has been responsible for war crimes in Syria, has carried out abductions, execution-style killings, and ethnic cleansing on a massive scale in northern Iraq. In parallel, Iraq’s Shi’a militias abducted and killed scores of Sunni civilians, with the tacit support of the Iraqi government.

The July assault on Gaza by Israeli forces caused the loss of 2,000 Palestinian lives. Yet again, the great majority of those – at least 1,500 – were civilians. The policy was, as Amnesty International argued in a detailed analysis, marked by callous indifference and involved war crimes. Hamas also committed war crimes by firing indiscriminate rockets into Israel causing six deaths.

In Nigeria, the conflict in the north between government forces and the armed group Boko Haram burst onto the world’s front pages with the abduction, by Boko Haram, of 276 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok, one of countless crimes committed by the group. Less noticed were horrific crimes committed by Nigerian security forces and those working with them against people believed to be members or supporters of Boko Haram, some of which were recorded on video, revealed by Amnesty International in August; bodies of the murdered victims were tossed into a mass grave.

In the Central African Republic, more than 5,000 died in sectarian violence despite the presence of international forces. The torture, rape and mass murder barely made a showing on the world’s front pages. Yet again, the majority of those who died were civilians.

And in South Sudan – the world’s newest state – tens of thousands of civilians were killed and 2 million fled their homes in the armed conflict between government and opposition forces. War crimes and crimes against humanity were committed on both sides.

The above list – as this latest annual report on the state of human rights in 160 countries clearly shows – barely begins to scratch the surface. Some might argue that nothing can be done, that war has always been at the expense of the civilian population, and that nothing can ever change.

This is wrong. It is essential to confront violations against civilians, and to bring to justice those responsible. One obvious and practical step is waiting to be taken: Amnesty International has welcomed the proposal, now backed by around 40 governments, for the UN Security Council to adopt a code of conduct agreeing to voluntarily refrain from using the veto in a way which would block Security Council action in situations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

That would be an important first step, and could save many lives.

The failures, however, have not just been in terms of preventing mass atrocities. Direct assistance has also been denied to the millions who have fled the violence that has engulfed their villages and towns.

Those governments who have been most eager to speak out loudly on the failures of other governments have shown themselves reluctant to step forward and provide the essential assistance that those refugees require – both in terms of financial assistance, and providing resettlement. Approximately 2% of refugees from Syria had been resettled by the end of 2014 – a figure which must at least triple in 2015.

Meanwhile, large numbers of refugees and migrants are losing their lives in the Mediterranean Sea as they try desperately to reach European shores. A lack of support by some EU Member States for search and rescue operations has contributed to the shocking death toll.

One step that could be taken to protect civilians in conflict would be to further restrict the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. This would have saved many lives in Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists (despite unconvincing denials by Moscow of its involvement) and pro-Kyiv forces both targeted civilian neighbourhoods.

The importance of the rules on protection of civilians means that there must be true accountability and justice when these rules are violated. In that context, Amnesty International welcomes the decision by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to initiate an international inquiry into allegations of violations and abuses of human rights during the conflict in Sri Lanka, where in the last few months of the conflict in 2009, tens of thousands of civilians were killed. Amnesty International has campaigned for such an inquiry for the past five years. Without such accountability, we can never move forward.

Other areas of human rights continued to require improvement. In Mexico, the enforced disappearance of 43 students in September was a recent tragic addition to the more than 22,000 people who have disappeared or gone missing in Mexico since 2006; most are believed to have been abducted by criminal gangs, but many are reported to have been subjected to enforced disappearance by police and military, sometimes acting in collusion with those gangs. The few victims whose remains have been found show signs of torture and other ill-treatment. The federal and state authorities have failed to investigate these crimes to establish the possible involvement of state agents and to ensure effective legal recourse for the victims, including their relatives. In addition to the lack of response, the government has attempted to cover up the human rights crisis and there have been high levels of impunity, corruption and further militarization.

In 2014, governments in many parts of the world continued to crack down on NGOs and civil society – partly a perverse compliment to the importance of civil society’s role. Russia increased its stranglehold with the chilling “foreign agents law”, language resonant of the Cold War. In Egypt, NGOs saw a severe crackdown, with use of the Mubarak-era Law on Associations to send a strong message that the government will not tolerate any dissent. Leading human rights organizations had to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Egypt’s human rights record because of fears of reprisals against them.

As has happened on many previous occasions, protesters showed courage despite threats and violence directed against them. In Hong Kong, tens of thousands defied official threats and faced down excessive and arbitrary use of force by police, in what became known as the “umbrella movement”, exercising their basic rights to freedoms of expression and assembly.

Human rights organizations are sometimes accused of being too ambitious in our dreams of creating change. But we must remember that extraordinary things are achievable. On 24 December, the international Arms Trade Treaty came into force, after the threshold of 50 ratifications was crossed three months earlier.

Amnesty International and others had campaigned for the treaty for 20 years. We were repeatedly told that such a treaty was unachievable. The treaty now exists, and will prohibit the sale of weapons to those who may use them to commit atrocities. It can thus play a crucial role in the years to come – when the question of implementation will be key.

2014 marked 30 years since the adoption of the UN Convention against Torture – another Convention for which Amnesty International campaigned for many years, and one reason why the organization was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977.

This anniversary was in one respect a moment to celebrate – but also a moment to note that torture remains rife around the world, a reason why Amnesty International launched its global Stop Torture campaign this year.

This anti-torture message gained special resonance following the publication of a US Senate report in December, which demonstrated a readiness to condone torture in the years after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the USA. It was striking that some of those responsible for the criminal acts of torture seemed still to believe that they had nothing to be ashamed of.

From Washington to Damascus, from Abuja to Colombo, government leaders have justified horrific human rights violations by talking of the need to keep the country “safe”. In reality, the opposite is the case. Such violations are one important reason why we live in such a dangerous world today. There can be no security without human rights.

We have repeatedly seen that, even at times that seem bleak for human rights – and perhaps especially at such times – it is possible to create remarkable change.

We must hope that, looking backward to 2014 in the years to come, what we lived through in 2014 will be seen as a nadir – an ultimate low point – from which we rose up and created a better future.

Salil Shetty, Secretary General

AFRICA REGIONAL OVERVIEW

As Africa remembers the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, violent conflicts dogged much of the continent throughout 2014 – unfolding or escalating in a particularly bloody way in the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and Nigeria, and continuing unresolved in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan and Somalia.

These conflicts were enmeshed with persistent patterns of gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Armed conflicts bred the worst crimes imaginable, injustice and repression. Marginalization, discrimination and persistent denial of other fundamental freedoms and basic socioeconomic rights have in turn created fertile grounds for further conflict and instability.

In many ways, Africa continued to be viewed as a region on the rise. The development context and landscape in many countries is changing. Throughout 2014, rapid social, environmental and economic change continued to sweep across the continent. A fast growing population, rapid economic growth and urbanization combined to alter people’s lives and livelihoods at a remarkable pace. Many African states have made remarkable progress towards achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) despite steep challenges. The Africa MDG Report 2014 reveals that eight of the world’s top 10 best performers in accelerating rapidly towards the goals are in Africa.

However, many indicators left bitter reminders that rapid economic growth has failed to improve living conditions for many. While the overall poverty rate in Africa has dropped in the past decade, the total number of Africans living below the poverty line (US$1.25 per day) has increased. Two of the conflict-plagued nations, Nigeria (25.89%) and DRC (13.6%), account for almost 40% of the continent’s poor. Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world and it remains the second most unequal region in the world, after Latin America. All these point towards the nexus between conflicts and fragility on the one hand, and the denial of basic socioeconomic rights, social exclusion, inequality and deepening poverty on the other.

The impacts of repression and persistent denial of fundamental human rights in contributing to instability and violent conflicts were vivid in 2014, as demonstrated in Burkina Faso, CAR, South Sudan and Sudan. A trend of repression and shrinking of political space continued in many African countries during the year. In several, security forces responded to peaceful demonstrations and protests with excessive force. In far too many places, freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly continued to be severely curtailed. The trend was not only visible in countries ruled by authoritarian governments but also in those which are less authoritarian and in the process of or preparing for political transition.

Many African countries, including Kenya, Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, and countries in the Sahel region, faced serious security challenges in 2014, as a direct result of increased violence by radical armed groups, including al-Shabab and Boko Haram. Tens of thousands of civilians have lost their lives, hundreds have been abducted and countless others continue to live in a state of fear and insecurity. But the response of many governments has been equally brutal and indiscriminate, leading to mass arbitrary arrests and detentions, and extrajudicial executions. The year ended with Kenya enacting the Security Laws (Amendment) Act 2014, which amended 22 laws and which has far-reaching human rights implications.

Another common element in conflict situations across the Africa region has been impunity for crimes under international law committed by security forces and armed groups. 2014 not only saw a cycle of impunity continuing unabated, including in CAR, DRC, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, but it was also a year marked with a serious political backlash against the International Criminal Court (ICC). There was also an unprecedented political momentum in Africa championing immunity from prosecution for serving heads of state and officials for crimes against humanity and other international crimes. This culminated in a retrogressive amendment to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, granting immunity to serving heads of state or other senior officials before the Court.

2014 marked the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), the AU’s “standing decision-making organ for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts” in Africa. The AU and its PSC have taken some remarkable steps in response to the emerging conflicts in Africa, including the deployment of the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, the Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security, and several political statements condemning violence and attacks on civilians. But in many cases, these efforts appeared too little and too late, pointing to capacity challenges of the AU in responding to conflicts. In some instances, complicity by AU peacekeeping missions in serious human rights violations was also alleged, as with MISCA and specifically its Chadian contingent which withdrew from the mission in CAR following such allegations.

Nonetheless, failure to address conflict challenges in Africa goes beyond the level of the AU. In CAR, for example, the UN dragged its heels before eventually sending in a peacekeeping force that, although saving many lives, did not have the full resources needed to stem the continued wave of human rights violations and abuses. At other times there was silence. The UN Human Rights Council failed to respond effectively to the conflicts in Sudan, for example, despite a critical need for independent human rights monitoring, reporting and accountability. In Darfur, a review of investigations into the UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) was announced by the UN Secretary-General in July, in response to allegations that UNAMID staff had covered up human rights abuses.

Addressing the mounting challenges of conflicts in Africa calls for an urgent and fundamental shift in political will among African leaders, as well as concerted efforts at national, regional and international levels to end the cycle of impunity and address the underlying causes of insecurity and conflicts. Otherwise the region’s vision of “silencing the guns by 2020” will remain a disingenuous and unachievable dream.

Conflict – costs and vulnerability

Conflict and insecurity blighted the lives of countless people in Africa, and – with varying degrees of intensity – affected almost all countries. These conflicts were characterized by persistent abuses and atrocities committed by both government forces and armed groups.

CAR was plagued by a cycle of sectarian violence and mass atrocities, including killings, torture, rape, mutilation of bodies, abductions, forced displacement and the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Despite a ceasefire signed in July and the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission in September, the last months of 2014 were scarred by an escalating wave of attacks in the country’s central regions. Civilians were subjected to a range of human rights abuses during a surge in conflict between different armed groups. Fresh violence rocked the capital, Bangui, in October. All sides – Séléka, anti-Balaka and armed members of the Peulh ethnic group – systematically and with impunity – targeted civilians. The deployment of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA) in September raised hopes of change – yet just a month later there was a significant upsurge in violence across the country. This demonstrated the clear need to strengthen the capacity and reactivity of the international forces on the ground.

In neighbouring South Sudan tens of thousands of people – many of them civilians – were killed and 1.8 million forced to flee their homes in the conflict that erupted in December 2013. Government and opposition forces demonstrated a total disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. All parties to the conflict targeted and killed civilians on the basis of ethnicity, including those seeking safety in places of worship and hospitals. Sexual violence was widespread, as was rampant looting and destruction of property. Despite the scale of the abuses – and even though millions remained at risk of famine and disease – both sides ignored several ceasefire deals. The year ended with no meaningful signs of addressing impunity, including the findings of the AU’s Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, which remained unknown.

Following a deepening campaign of violence by the Islamist armed group Boko Haram during 2013, the armed conflict in Nigeria’s northeast intensified in scope and casualties, powerfully illustrating the threats to the stability of Africa’s most populous nation and to regional peace and security. The conflict intensified in smaller towns and villages in 2014 with more than 4,000 civilians killed since 2009. The abduction in April of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram was one emblematic case of the group’s campaign of terror against civilians, which continued unabated. On the other hand, communities already terrorized for years by Boko Haram became increasingly vulnerable to violations by the state security forces, which regularly responded with heavy-handed and indiscriminate attacks and with mass arbitrary arrests, beatings and torture. Gruesome video footage, images and eyewitness accounts gathered by Amnesty International provided fresh evidence of probable war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations and abuses committed by all sides.

Torture and other ill-treatment was routinely and systematically practised by Nigeria’s security services throughout the country, including in the context of the conflict in the northeast. Security officials were rarely held accountable. A pattern of mass arbitrary arrests and detentions carried out by the military in the northeast visibly escalated after the declaration of a state of emergency in May 2013, and there were ongoing reports of extrajudicial executions by the military and police by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, there was no apparent resolution in sight for already protracted conflicts.

Sudan’s conflicts in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile continued unabated, and spread to Northern Kordofan. Violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by all sides. In Darfur, widespread abuses and violence between warring communities and attacks by government-allied militias and armed opposition groups triggered a significant increase in displacement and civilian deaths.

An upsurge in violence by armed groups in eastern DRC, within the context of Operation Sokola 1, cost thousands of lives and forced more than a million people to flee their homes. The increased violence was also marked by killings and mass rapes by both government security forces and armed groups.

In southern and central Somalia, over 100,000 civilians were killed, injured or displaced in the ongoing armed conflict between pro-government forces, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Islamist armed group al-Shabaab. All parties to the conflict violated international human rights and humanitarian law. Armed groups forcibly recruited people, including children, and abducted, tortured and unlawfully killed others. Rape and other forms of sexual violence were widespread. The humanitarian situation deteriorated rapidly due to the conflict, drought and reduced humanitarian access. More than one million people were in humanitarian crisis and another 2.1 million in need of assistance at the end of 2014.

Warning signs of future conflicts were also visible. The Sahel region remained especially volatile, due to combined effects of political insecurity, surge of radical armed groups and organized crime, extreme poverty as well as social exclusion. This was illustrated in Mali, where internal armed conflict left the country in a state of persistent insecurity – particularly in the north where some areas remained outside the control of the authorities. Despite a peace agreement signed between the government and armed groups in 2013, armed groups committed abuses including abductions and killings, and outbreaks of violence persisted in 2014 even as peace discussions between the government and armed groups continued.

Violence and insecurity were heightened by a surge in acts of terrorism – as in Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, and across the Sahel region – which were often met by serious human rights violations by government forces. Abuses by armed groups included unlawful killings, abductions, torture and indiscriminate attacks. In Somalia, al-Shabaab factions tortured and unlawfully killed people they accused of spying or not conforming to their strict interpretation of Islamic law. They killed people in public – including by stoning – and carried out amputations and floggings. In Cameroon as well, Nigerian Islamist groups including Boko Haram killed civilians, carried out hostage-taking and abductions, and attacked human rights defenders.

Shrinking political space and persistent denial of fundamental rights

In far too many countries in Africa, a trend of repression and shrinking of political space continued during the year.

In Eritrea, no political opposition parties, independent media or civil society organizations were allowed to operate, and thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners continued to be held in arbitrary detention. In Ethiopia, there was renewed targeting of independent media including bloggers and journalists, arrests of opposition party members and peaceful protesters. Space for criticism of government’s policy towards human rights by civil society was almost non-existent in Rwanda . In Burundi, critical voices, including opposition members, civil society activists, lawyers and journalists, were restricted as the 2015 elections approached. Freedom of assembly and association was curtailed, with meetings and marches regularly prohibited.

In Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh marked his 20th anniversary in power – two decades characterized by severe intolerance of dissent in which journalists, political opponents and human rights defenders continue to be intimidated and tortured. The year ended with an attempted coup on the night of 30 December, leading to dozens of arrests and widespread crackdowns on media outlets. In Burkina Faso, a transitional government was installed in November to steer the country towards legislative and presidential elections in 2015. This followed the ousting of former President Blaise Compaoré after widespread popular protests against a bill to modify the Constitution.

Security forces responded to demonstrations and protests with excessive force in Angola, Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Senegal and Togo, among other countries. In most cases, the authorities failed to investigate excessive use of force and no one was held accountable.

In many countries, journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents faced widespread patterns of threats, arbitrary arrest and detention, beatings, torture, enforced disappearances and even death at the hands of government operatives or armed groups. Crackdowns or restrictions on rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly took place in Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Mauritania, Rwanda, Somalia, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In Angola, Burundi and Gambia new legislation and other forms of regulations further restricted the work of the media and civil society.

In Sudan, freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly continued to be severely curtailed despite the government’s expressed commitments to begin a national dialogue to achieve peace in Sudan and protect constitutional rights. The government continued to use the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) and other security forces to arbitrarily detain perceived opponents of the ruling National Congress Party, to censor media and to shut down public forums and protests.

South Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS) seized and shut down newspapers, and harassed, intimidated and unlawfully detained journalists, in a clampdown that restricted freedom of expression and curtailed public debate about how to end the armed conflict. A National Security Service Bill granting the NSS broad powers, including to arrest and detain without adequate provisions for independent oversight or safeguards against abuse, was passed by parliament and was awaiting presidential assent.

Impunity – failures to ensure justice

Impunity was a common denominator in Africa’s armed conflicts, with those suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes under international law rarely held to account.

In CAR, there were some arrests of lower-level members of armed groups, while the Prosecutor of the ICC announced the opening of a new preliminary examination into the violence. Such signs of hope were however the exception; impunity continues to fuel conflict in CAR. Almost all leaders of armed groups suspected of crimes under international law in the country remained at large at the end of the year.

In DRC, efforts to ensure accountability for crimes under international law committed by the Congolese army and armed groups achieved few visible results. The trial before a military court of Congolese soldiers for the mass rape of more than 130 women and girls, as well as murder and looting in Minova, concluded with only two convictions for rape out of the 39 soldiers on trial. Others accused were convicted of murder, looting and military offences.

A failure to ensure accountability was a systemic problem outside conflict zones also, with perpetrators of human rights violations largely able to operate freely. Torture and other ill-treatment persisted in countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Mauritania, Nigeria and Togo, largely because of failures to ensure accountability for these crimes.

Efforts to ensure accountability for international crimes, including crimes against humanity, committed during the 2007/2008 post-election violence in Kenya remained inadequate. At the ICC, the trial of Deputy President Samoei Ruto and Joshua Arap Sang continued, although undermined by allegations of witness intimidation and bribery. Charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta were withdrawn following the rejection of a petition filed by the ICC Prosecutor for a finding of non-co-operation by the Kenyan government. At the national level, there was no progress in ensuring accountability for serious human rights violations committed during the post-election violence.

On the other hand, in 2014 the ICC confirmed the verdict and sentence in the Thomas Lubanga Dyilo case – he had been found guilty in 2012 of the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities in DRC. In addition, Germain Katanga, commander of the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri, was found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes and sentenced to a total of 12 years’ imprisonment. Charges against Bosco Ntaganda for crimes against humanity and war crimes, including crimes of sexual violence, allegedly committed in 2002-2003 in Ituri, DRC, were confirmed by the ICC. The trial is scheduled for June 2015. The charges against former President of Côte d’Ivoire Laurent Gbagbo, accused of crimes against humanity, were confirmed by the ICC in June. The trial is currently set for July 2015.

Emerging national attempts to combat impunity for crimes under international law included the launch of an investigation in Mali into cases of enforced disappearance. Former Chadian President Hissène Habré remained in custody in Senegal awaiting trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers created by the AU following his July 2013 arrest on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990.

In March, Côte d’Ivoire surrendered Charles Blé Goudé to the ICC, who is accused of crimes against humanity committed during the post-election violence in 2010. In December, the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC confirmed four charges of crimes against humanity and committed him to trial before a Trial Chamber. In December, the Pre-Trial Chamber rejected Côte d’Ivoire’s challenge to the admissibility of the case against Simone Gbagbo, who is suspected of commission of crimes against humanity.

Encouragingly, a landmark decision on universal jurisdiction was passed in October by the Constitutional Court of South Africa (CCSA) in the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service v. Southern African Human Rights Litigation Centre and Another case. In that judgment the CCSA ruled that allegations of torture committed in Zimbabwe by and against Zimbabwean nationals must be investigated by the South African Police Service – based on the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Yet on the international and regional stage, there was serious backsliding on previous advances on international justice in Africa. Although the Rome Statute of the ICC has 34 state parties from Africa – more than any other region – politically expedient manoeuvring during 2014 undermined such bold progress by Africa towards ensuring accountability. Kenya proposed five amendments to the Rome Statute, including that Article 27 be amended to preclude the ICC from prosecuting heads of state and government while they hold office.

In May, AU ministers considering amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights agreed to extend the range of categories of people who could enjoy immunity from the court’s newly established criminal jurisdiction. The AU Assembly at its 23rd Ordinary Session subsequently approved this amendment which aims to grant sitting African leaders and other senior state officials immunity from prosecution for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – a backward step and a betrayal of victims of serious violations of human rights. Heads of state and government chose to shield themselves and future leaders from prosecution for serious human rights violations, rather than ensuring justice for victims of crimes under international law.

Irrespectively, the ICC will retain the power to investigate serving African heads of state and government of any state party to the Rome Statute for such crimes – but 2014 will be remembered as a year where some African states and the AU actively mobilized political efforts to undermine the ICC’s work.

Poverty and deprivation

Despite the continued rapid economic growth during the year, living conditions for many Africans have yet to improve. Many states have made remarkable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals but Africa still lags behind most other developing regions in achieving many of the targets by 2015. Poverty in Africa is continuing to decline, but the pace is not sufficient for the region to achieve the target of halving poverty by 2015. In fact, indications are that the total number of Africans living below the poverty line (US$1.25 per day) has increased. Other targets including reducing numbers of underweight children and maternal mortality are also unlikely to be met.

As African cities expanded at an unprecedented pace, rapid urbanization was accompanied by insecurity and inequality. Urban poverty left many without adequate housing and basic facilities, particularly those living in informal settlements or slums. Forced evictions left people without their livelihoods and possessions, and drove them deeper into poverty. In Angola, at least 4,000 families were forcibly evicted in Luanda province. In Kenya, courts continued to confirm the right to adequate housing and the prohibition on forced evictions. The High Court ordered the government to pay compensation of 33.6 million shillings (approximately US$390,000) to the residents of City Carton informal settlement in the capital, Nairobi, who were forcefully evicted from their homes in 2013.

The outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic in some countries in West Africa in March led to what the World Health Organization (WHO) described as the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was discovered in 1976. By late 2014, Ebola had claimed the lives of over 8,000 people across Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. More than 20,000 people were infected (suspected, probable and confirmed cases), and there were fears that a major food crisis could unfold in early 2015. Communities and health services were shattered or pushed to breaking point.

The most severely affected countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – already had very weak health systems, having only recently emerged from long periods of conflict and instability. In Guinea – where hundreds of people died, including at least 70 health workers – the government’s delayed response, and a lack of resources, contributed to the epidemic’s rapid and fatal spread.

All these not only point to failures by governments to respect, protect and fulfil the right to the highest attainable standard of health of their citizens but also the failures of the international community to respond to this crisis. By late 2014, leading aid agencies were calling for greater support from the international community. The UN said that it needed US$1.5 billion to stop Ebola from spreading for the period October 2014 - March 2015; as of December only US$1.2 billion had been donated. If the outbreak continues at its present rate, the UN estimates a further US$1.5 billion will be needed for the period April to September 2015.

Discrimination and marginalization

Hundreds of thousands of people were – or continued to be – displaced by armed conflicts, political persecution, or in search of better livelihood. Most were forced to flee their homes and livelihoods in arduous and dangerous attempts to find safety within their own countries or across international borders. Vast numbers of refugees and migrants languished on the frontline of further violations and abuses, many in camps with limited access to health, water, sanitation, food and education.

Their numbers were swelled monthly by thousands of people who fled Eritrea, most of them due to the system of indefinite conscription into national service. Many were at risk from human trafficking networks, including in Sudan and Egypt. In Cameroon, thousands of refugees from CAR and Nigeria were living in dire conditions in crowded camps in border areas after fleeing from armed groups. Many displaced by Sudan’s conflict – more than a million people – remained in the country, with at least 600,000 living in refugee camps in Chad, South Sudan or Ethiopia. The plight of thousands of Somali refugees in Kenya was exacerbated by a policy of forced encampment, which forced them from their homes in the towns and into squalid and overcrowded camps. Refugees and asylum-seekers in South Africa continued to be subjected to xenophobic attacks with little or no protection from the authorities.

Many other groups were also excluded from human rights protection or denied the means to get redress for abuses. Women can play an essential role in strengthening the resilience of conflict-affected societies, but were frequently marginalized from national peace-building processes. In many countries suffering conflict or hosting large populations of refugees or displaced people, women and girls were subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence, for example in South Sudan and Somalia. Violence against women was pernicious outside countries in conflict too, sometimes because of cultural traditions and norms, but also because in some countries gender-based discrimination was institutionalized by legislation.

For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people there was hope in 2014 when the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted a landmark resolution condemning acts of violence, discrimination and other human rights violations against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Other signs of hope for equality and justice included expressed commitments by Malawi to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity.

Nevertheless, people continued to be persecuted or criminalized for their perceived or real sexual orientation in many countries, including Cameroon, Gambia, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia.

In a retrograde trend, several countries strove to increase criminalization of people due to their sexual identity, either by entrenching already unjust laws or introducing new ones. Nigeria’s President signed the oppressive Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act into law, allowing discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Uganda’s introduction of an Anti-Homosexuality Act – although overturned by the country’s Constitutional Court because Parliament had passed it without quorum – left many LGBTI people, and those perceived as being so, continuing to face arbitrary arrests and beatings, evictions from homes, loss of jobs and mob attacks. Gambia’s President assented to a bill passed by parliament, the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2014, creating the offence of “aggravated homosexuality” – a vague definition open to wide-ranging abuse and carrying a life sentence. A homophobic bill was also before Chad’s parliament, threatening to impose sentences of up to 20 years’ imprisonment and heavy fines for people “found guilty” of same-sex activity.

Looking ahead

Throughout 2014, individuals and communities across the region built and strengthened understanding of, and respect for, human rights. By speaking out and taking action – sometimes at risk to their own lives and safety – this growing human rights movement provided a vision of justice, dignity and hope.

Nevertheless, the year was a potent reminder of the scale of Africa’s human rights challenges, and of the need for deeper and faster progress towards realizing all such rights.

Events sharply illustrated the urgent need for concerted and consistent action to defuse and resolve violent conflicts in Africa. Looking ahead, the AU Commission’s efforts in establishing a roadmap towards silencing all guns in Africa must be embraced and driven forwards. A far more robust, consistent and coherent approach to addressing conflict, based on international human rights law – by both international and regional institutions – is desperately needed.

Another essential prerequisite for peace, security and justice is for African states to withdraw their collective attack on international justice – including the work of the ICC – and instead stand firm on confronting impunity, both regionally and internationally, and work towards effective accountability for gross human rights violations and other crimes under international law.

The coming years are almost certainly going to be marked by profound change. Not least, the post-2015 framework that follows the Millennium Development Goals will be a historic opportunity for AU member states to agree on a human rights framework that could transform countless lives for the better. Accountability should be embedded in the post-2015 framework through robust targets and indicators on access to justice, and this must be combined with strengthening rights around participation, equality, non-discrimination, the rule of law, and other fundamental freedoms.

Americas Regional Overview

Across the Americas, deepening inequality, discrimination, environmental degradation, historical impunity, increasing insecurity and conflict continued to deny people the full enjoyment of their human rights. Indeed, those at the forefront of promoting and defending those rights faced intense levels of violence.

2014 saw mass public responses to these human rights violations the length and breadth of the continent, from Brazil to the USA and from Mexico to Venezuela. In country after country, people took to the streets to protest against repressive state practices. The demonstrations were a very public challenge to high levels of impunity and corruption and to economic policies that privilege the few. Hundreds of thousands of people joined these spontaneous mobilizations using new technologies and social media to rapidly bring people together, share information and expose human rights abuses.

These outpourings of dissatisfaction and demands that human rights be respected took place against the backdrop of an erosion of democratic space and continuing criminalization of dissent. Violence by both state and non-state actors against the general population, and in particular against social movements and activists, was on the rise. Attacks on human rights defenders increased significantly in most countries in the region, both in terms of sheer numbers and in the severity of the violence inflicted.

This growing violence was indicative of an increasingly militarized response to social and political challenges in recent years. In many countries in the region, it has become commonplace for the authorities to resort to the use of state force to respond to criminal networks and social tension, even where there is no formal acknowledgement that conflict exists. In some areas, the increasing power of criminal networks and other non-state actors, such as paramilitaries and transnational corporations, posed a sustained challenge to the power of the state, the rule of law and human rights.

Grave human rights violations continued to blight the lives of tens of thousands of people throughout the region. Far from making further advances in the promotion and protection of human rights for all, without discrimination, the region appeared to be going backwards during 2013 and 2014.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded 40 killings of human rights defenders in Colombia during the first nine months of 2014.

In October, the Dominican Republic publicly snubbed the Inter-American Court of Human Rights after the Court condemned the authorities for their discriminatory treatment of Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants.

In September, 43  students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college were subjected to enforced disappearance in Mexico. The students were detained in the town of Iguala, Guerrero state, by local police acting in collusion with organized criminal networks. On 7 December, the Federal Attorney General announced that the remains of one of the students had been identified by independent forensic experts. By the end of the year, the whereabouts of the other 42 remained undisclosed.

In August, Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed African American man, was fatally shot by a police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri, USA. People took to the streets following the shooting and in November to protest against a grand jury decision not to indict the officer. The protests spread to other major cities in the country, including New York in December, after a grand jury declined to indict a police officer for the death of Eric Garner in July.

Also in August, prominent campesino (peasant farmer) leader Margarita Murillo was shot dead in the community of El Planón, northwestern Honduras. She had reported being under surveillance and receiving threats in the days immediately prior to the attack.

In February, 43 people died, including members of the security forces, and scores more were injured in Venezuela during clashes between anti-government protesters, the security forces and pro-government supporters.

In El Salvador in 2013, a young woman known as Beatriz was refused an abortion despite the imminent risk to her life and the fact that the foetus, which lacked part of its brain and skull, could not survive outside the womb. Beatriz’ situation provoked a national and international outcry and weeks of sustained pressure on the authorities. She was finally given a caesarean in her 23rd week of pregnancy. The total ban on abortion in El Salvador continues to criminalize girls’ and women’s sexual and reproductive choices, putting them at risk of losing their lives or freedom. In 2014, 17 women sentenced to up to 40 years’ imprisonment for pregnancy-related issues requested pardons ; a decision on their cases was pending at the end of the year.

In May 2013, former Guatemalan President General Efrain Rios Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity. However, the conviction was quashed just 10 days later on a technicality, a devastating outcome for victims and their relatives who had waited for more than three decades for justice. Rios Montt was the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Army in 1982-1983 when 1,771 Mayan-Ixil Indigenous people were killed, tortured, subjected to sexual violence or displaced, during the internal armed conflict.

This long list of grave human rights abuses shows how, despite the fact that states in the region have ratified and actively promoted most regional and international human rights standards and treaties, respect for human rights remains elusive for many throughout the region.

Public security and human rights

Time and again, protests against government policies met with excessive use of force by the security forces. In Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, the USA and Venezuela, the security forces flouted international standards on the use of force in the name of protecting public order. Instead of sending a clear message that excessive force would not be tolerated, governments failed even to question or raise concerns about the violence meted out.

Early in 2014, Venezuela was shaken by mass protests for and against the government in various parts of the country. The protests and the response of the authorities reflected the growing polarization that has gripped the country for more than a decade. This wave of social discontent and violent clashes between demonstrators and the security forces were the setting for widespread human rights violations, including killings, arbitrary detentions, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Thousands of protesters were detained, many arbitrarily, and there were reports of torture or other ill-treatment. At least 43 people were killed and 870 injured, including members of the security forces, in the context of the protests and the security forces’ response to them.

Thousands of people in Brazil took to the streets to protest as the country prepared to host the 2014 World Cup. Demonstrators sought to express their discontent at increases in the cost of public transport and at the level of spending on the World Cup in contrast with the lack of sufficient investment in public services. The scale of the protests was unprecedented, with hundreds of thousands of people participating in mass demonstrations in dozens of cities. In many instances, the police response to the wave of protests in 2013 and 2014, including during the World Cup, was violent and abusive. Military police units used tear gas on protesters indiscriminately – in one case even inside a hospital – fired rubber bullets at people who posed no threat and beat people with batons. Hundreds were injured, including Sérgio Silva, a photographer who lost his left eye after being hit by a rubber bullet. Hundreds more were indiscriminately rounded up and detained, some under laws targeting organized crime, despite the absence of any evidence that the individual had been involved in criminal activity.

In the USA, the shooting of Michael Brown and the decision of the grand jury not to indict the police officer responsible sparked months of protests in and around Ferguson. The use of heavy-duty riot gear and military-grade weapons and equipment to police the demonstrations served to intimidate protesters exercising their right to peaceful assembly. Protesters and journalists were injured by the security forces who used rubber bullets, tear gas and other aggressive dispersal tactics in situations where such action was not warranted.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The Americas has some of the most robust anti-torture laws and mechanisms at the national and regional level. And yet throughout the region, torture and other ill-treatment remain widespread and those responsible are rarely brought to justice.

In a report, Out of control: Torture and other ill-treatment in Mexico, Amnesty International documented a worrying increase in torture and other ill-treatment in the country. It also highlighted a prevailing culture of tolerance and impunity for torture in Mexico during the past decade; only seven torturers have been convicted in federal courts and even fewer have been prosecuted at state level.

The incomplete and limited investigations into human rights violations committed in the case of the 43 disappeared student teachers in Mexico highlighted serious failures on the part of the Mexican government in investigating widespread and entrenched corruption and collusion between state officials and organized crime, as well as shocking levels of impunity.

Torture and other ill-treatment were frequently used against criminal suspects to obtain information, extract confessions or inflict punishment. Daniel Quintero, a 23-year-old student, was kicked and punched in the face and ribs and threatened with rape when he was detained for allegedly participating in an anti-government demonstration in Venezuela in February 2014. In the Dominican Republic, Ana Patricia Fermín received death threats in April 2014 after she reported that two of her relatives had been tortured while in police custody in the capital Santo Domingo. Her husband and one of the tortured men were shot dead by police in September.

Access to justice and the fight to end impunity

Meaningful access to justice remained out of reach for many people, especially those from the most deprived communities. Obstacles to justice included inefficient judicial systems, a lack of independence in the judiciary, and a willingness among some sectors to resort to extreme measures to avoid accountability and to protect vested political, criminal and economic interests.

Difficulties in getting access to justice were exacerbated by attacks against human rights defenders, witnesses, lawyers, prosecutors and judges. Journalists trying to expose abuses of power, human rights violations and corruption were also frequently targeted. In addition, the use of military courts to try members of the security forces who commit human rights violations persisted in a number of countries, including in Chile, Ecuador and the USA, amid concerns about the independence and impartiality of these processes.

There was some progress in the investigation and prosecution of human rights violations committed by military regimes in the last century, including in Argentina and Chile. However, impunity for thousands of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions in the region during the second half of the 20th century remained entrenched, largely owing to the lack of political will to bring those responsible to justice. Thousands of victims and their relatives continued to demand truth and justice in various countries including Brazil, Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.

Prison conditions

As incarceration rates have soared across the region over the past two decades, human rights groups have documented how Latin American jails have become nightmarish places where serving time is a battle to survive. Tens of thousands of people were held in pre-trial detention for long periods because of delays in criminal justice systems.

In most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, prisons were grossly overcrowded, violent and sometimes lacked even the most basic services. Lack of food and clean drinking water, unhygienic conditions, lack of medical care and the failure to provide transport for prisoners to attend their hearings so that their cases could progress through the courts were reported in many countries in the Americas region, as were attacks, including killings between inmates. Despite the fact that several of the region’s current leaders themselves spent time behind bars, prison conditions failed to move up the political agenda to any significant degree.

Across the USA, tens of thousands of prisoners remained in isolation in state and federal prisons, confined to their cells for between 22 and 24 hours a day in conditions of stark social and environmental deprivation.

Governments failed to take steps to address the urgent need for fully resourced plans to tackle these serious concerns. Very little progress was made in ensuring that prison facilities complied with international human rights standards and that prisoners’ rights to life, physical integrity and dignity were protected.

Rights of migrants and their descendants

Insecurity and social deprivation in their home countries drove increasing numbers of Central American migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, to cross Mexico en route for the USA. Migrants travelling through Mexico continued to face killings, abduction and extortion by criminal gangs, often operating in collusion with public officials, as well as ill-treatment by the Mexican authorities. Women and children were at particular risk of sexual violence and people trafficking. The vast majority of these violations are never investigated and the perpetrators remain at large. Deportations increased and administrative detention pending deportation continued to be the norm.

Between October 2013 and July 2014, 52,193 unaccompanied migrant children were apprehended in the USA, nearly twice as many as during the previous 12-month period. The US government estimated that the total number of apprehended unaccompanied children could exceed 90,000 by the end of November 2014 in border states such as Texas, Arizona and California. Many of these children were fleeing insecurity and poverty in their home countries. In addition, the unprecedented levels of gang-related violence and organized crime in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua spurred thousands of unaccompanied minors to migrate to the USA.

Discrimination against migrants and their descendants was pervasive, with states showing little political willingness to address the causes of such entrenched exclusion. In September 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court issued a widely criticized judgment which had the effect of retroactively and arbitrarily depriving Dominicans of foreign descent born between 1929 and 2010 of their Dominican nationality; the vast majority of those affected were of Haitian descent. This sparked an outcry at the national and international levels, including from the Haitian authorities.

Ángel Colón, a member of the Afro-descendant Garífuna community in Honduras, was released unconditionally in October 2014 after spending five years in a Mexican prison. He had been arrested in 2009 by police in Tijuana as he was travelling between Honduras and the USA. Police beat him, forced him to walk on his knees, kicked and punched him in the stomach and put a plastic bag over his head to provoke near asphyxiation. He was stripped and forced to lick clean the shoes of other detainees and perform humiliating acts. Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience detained, tortured and prosecuted because of discrimination based on his ethnic origin and his status as an undocumented migrant.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

After more than 20 years of fighting for their traditional land, in June an expropriation law was passed to return land to the Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous community in Paraguay. However, Indigenous Peoples in the region continued to encounter social, political and economic threats to their collective well-being and their very existence. Their cultural heritage, ancestral lands and right to self-determination were under constant attack. Both state and non-state actors, such as businesses and powerful landowners, continued to forcibly remove them from their lands in the name of social and economic development. Development programmes often resulted in environmental and cultural destruction and community displacement. Those living in voluntary isolation were at even greater risk, particularly in the Amazon Basin.

The right of Indigenous Peoples to meaningful consultation and free, prior and informed consent over development projects affecting them, including extractive industry projects, continued to be undermined, despite the fact that all states in the region have endorsed the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The failure to respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples had a negative impact on their livelihoods and also resulted in communities being threatened, harassed, forcibly evicted or displaced, attacked or killed as the drive to exploit resources intensified in the areas where they live. Their rights to oppose and demand their free prior and informed consent continued to be met with intimidation, attacks, excessive use of force, arbitrary detention and the discriminatory use of judicial systems. For example, in July, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the convictions of eight Mapuche in Chile were based on discriminatory stereotypes and prejudice.

Indigenous women continued to experience disproportionate levels of violence and discrimination. In May, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police admitted that 1,017 Indigenous women and girls had been murdered between 1980 and 2012, a homicide rate at least four times higher than that faced by women in the rest of the population. In January 2014, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Lima, Peru, closed the cases of over 2,000 Indigenous and campesino women who were sterilized in the 1990s without their full and informed consent. The 2,000 cases represented only a small proportion of a total of more than 200,000 women who were sterilized in the 1990s. None of the government officials responsible for implementing the programme that resulted in these forced sterilizations has been brought to justice.

Human rights defenders at risk

Human rights defenders continued to face attacks and abuses in reprisal for their legitimate human rights work in many countries including Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. Defenders faced a range of abuses including attacks on their life and physical integrity and on their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. They were also vilified in the press and by government officials and were victims of the misuse of the justice system in an effort to criminalize those who defend human rights. Very worryingly, in some countries, such as Colombia and Guatemala, local human rights organizations reported an increase in attacks against defenders. The perpetrators of these abuses were almost never brought to justice.

Defenders fighting against impunity, those working on women’s rights and those focusing on human rights issues related to land, territory and natural resources remained at particular risk.

Even in countries where mechanisms to protect human rights defenders at risk have been established, such as Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, in many cases protection measures were not granted or were not granted effectively and promptly. This was due in particular to a lack of political will and of resources to ensure effective implementation. In addition, there were concerns that a differentiated approach to protection measures that included a gender perspective had not been put in place.

With courage, dignity and tenacity human rights defenders throughout the region continued to fight for the realization of human rights for all, despite the very unsafe and hostile environment they faced.

Rights of women and girls

States in the region failed to put protecting women and girls from rape, threats and killings at the forefront of their political agendas. Slow and patchy implementation of legislation to combat gender-based violence remained a serious concern and the lack of resources available to investigate and prosecute these crimes raised questions about official willingness to address the issue. The failure to bring to justice those responsible for these crimes further entrenched impunity for gender-based violence and helped foster a climate where violence against women and girls was tolerated.

In August 2013, states in the region appeared to be moving forward when they reached a historic agreement in Montevideo, Uruguay, acknowledging that the criminalization of abortion causes increased maternal mortality and morbidity and does not reduce the number of abortions. In December, abortion was decriminalized in the Dominican Republic.

However, at the end of 2014, women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights continued to be violated with appalling consequences for their lives and health. In Chile, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Suriname, a total ban on abortion in all circumstances, including for girls and women pregnant as a result of rape or who experience life-threatening complications in their pregnancies, remained in place. Those seeking or providing an abortion risked lengthy imprisonment.

On taking office in March 2014, President Michele Bachelet promised that one of her priorities would be to reverse the total ban on abortion in Chile. In El Salvador, the future continued to look still bleak. At least 129 women have been incarcerated on pregnancy-related grounds in the past decade. Seventeen of these women were awaiting the outcome of a request for a state pardon at the end of the year. They were serving prison sentences of up to 40 years for aggravated homicide, having initially been charged with having an abortion.

In most countries where access to abortion services was granted in law in certain circumstances, protracted judicial procedures made access to safe abortion almost impossible, especially for those who could not afford to pay for private abortion services. Restricted access to contraception and information on sexual and reproductive issues remained a concern, particularly for the most marginalized women and girls in the region.

In some countries, the decriminalization of abortion in cases of rape was gradually becoming a reality. In Bolivia, the Constitutional Court ruled in February that the request for judicial authorization for an abortion that is the result of rape was unconstitutional. And in Peru Congress was discussing a draft bill to decriminalize abortion if the pregnancy is the result of rape at the end of the year. However, in Ecuador a similar attempt was blocked by President Rafael Correa in 2013.

Most countries in the region have passed laws to combat violence against women and girls in the private and public sphere. However, effective and fully resourced mechanisms to protect women and girls from violence were largely absent, especially in marginalized and poor communities.

Increasing rates of violence against women have been reported across the region. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed concern at the levels of violence against women and impunity, concluding that underlying societal beliefs about the inferiority of women have created a culture of discrimination within law enforcement and judicial institutions, resulting in negligent investigations and a lack of sanctions against perpetrators.

Armed conflict

The failure to stem the human rights consequences of the Colombian armed conflict, coupled with the failure to bring to justice the majority of those suspected of criminal responsibility in such crimes, threatened to undermine the long-term viability of any eventual peace agreement.

Peace talks held in Cuba between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) made progress. The negotiations offered the best chance in over a decade to put a definitive end to the region’s longest-running internal armed conflict. But all sides continued to commit human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, principally against Indigenous, Afro-descendant and campesino communities, human rights defenders and trade unionists.

The government continued to promote legislation to broaden the scope of military jurisdiction and make it easier for military courts to be assigned cases in which members of the security forces are implicated in human rights violations. This threatened to reverse the little progress that civilian courts had made to uphold the right of victims to truth and justice.

Counter-terror and security

President Barack Obama acknowledged that the USA used torture in its response to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the USA (9/11), but he remained silent on accountability and redress. By the end of 2014, 127 men were held at the US detention facility at Guantánamo, Cuba. The majority were held without charge or trial, while six were still facing trial by military commission and a government seeking the death penalty under a system falling short of international fair trial standards.

In late 2012, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) completed a review it had begun in 2009 into the secret detention and interrogation programme operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after 9/11. On 3 April 2014, the SSCI voted 11 to three to submit for declassification the summary of the report and its 20 findings and conclusions. The summary was finally released on 9 December, providing more damning detail of the human rights violations that were carried out in the programme, operated under presidential authority. The full report remained classified and out of public view, held, according to SSCI Chairperson Senator Dianne Feinstein, “for declassification at a later time”. Although there has for years been much information in the public domain about the CIA programme, no one has yet been brought to justice for the human rights violations, including the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance, carried out under that programme.

Death penalty

The USA was the only country in the region that carried out executions. However, here too momentum against the application of the death penalty continued to grow with the announcement in February that the Governor of Washington State would not allow executions there while he held that office. This followed Maryland’s abolition of the death penalty in 2013, bringing to 18 the number of abolitionist states. There were also strong indications that no executions would occur in Colorado under its current governor.

In the Caribbean several Greater Caribbean states reported empty death rows for the first time since 1980.

ASIA-PACIFIC REGIONAL OVERVIEW

The Asia-Pacific region covers half the globe and contains more than half its population, much of it young. For years, the region has grown in political and economic strength and is rapidly changing the orientation of global power and wealth. China and the USA tussle for influence. Dynamics among large powers in the region, such as between India and China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), were also significant. Trends in human rights must be read against this background.

Despite some positive developments in 2014, including elections of some governments that have promised improvements in human rights, the overall trend was regressive due to impunity, continuing unequal treatment of and violence against women, ongoing torture and further use of the death penalty, crackdowns on freedom of expression and assembly, pressure on civil society and threats against human rights defenders and media workers. There were worrying signs of rising religious and ethnic intolerance and discrimination with authorities either being complicit or failing to take action to combat it. Armed conflict in parts of the region continued, particularly in Afghanistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan, and in Myanmar and Thailand.

The UN released a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), which gave details on the systematic violation of almost the entire range of human rights. Hundreds of thousands of people continued to be detained in prison camps and other detention facilities, many of them without being charged or tried for any internationally recognizable criminal offence. At the end of the year these concerns were recognized in the UN General Assembly and discussed in the Security Council.

Refugees and asylum-seekers continued to face significant hardship. Several countries, such as Malaysia and Australia, violated the international prohibition of refoulement by forcibly returning refugees and asylum-seekers to countries where they faced serious human rights violations.

The death penalty continued to be imposed in several countries in the region. In December, the Pakistani Taliban-led attack on Army Public School in Peshawar resulted in 149 deaths, including 132 children, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Pakistan’s history. In response, the government lifted a moratorium and swiftly executed seven men previously convicted for other terror-related offences. The Prime Minister announced plans for military courts to try terror suspects, adding to concerns over fair trials.

Homosexuality remained criminalized in several countries in the region. In India, the Supreme Court granted legal recognition to transgender people and in Malaysia the Court of Appeal ruled that a law making cross-dressing illegal was inconsistent with the Constitution. However, cases of harassment and violence against transgender people continued to be reported.

An increase in activism by younger populations, connected by more affordable communications technologies, was positive. However, in the face of this group claiming their rights, authorities in many countries resorted to putting restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and attempted to undermine civil society.

Increase in activism

Younger populations, connected by affordable communication technologies and utilizing social media, claimed their rights as 2014 saw an increase in activism in the region, with women often at the forefront.

Elections provided the space for people to air their grievances and demand changes. In Indonesia’s July elections, Joko Widodo was swept into power after making campaign promises to improve human rights. In Fiji, peaceful elections in September – the first since the 2006 military coup – saw vigorous debate by society and the media, despite ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression. By the end of 2014, a year after elections and mass demonstrations in Cambodia, peaceful protests in the capital, Phnom Penh, had become an almost daily occurrence. 

Activists and human rights defenders increasingly came together to hold governments to account. In Myanmar in February members of the Michaungkan community resumed a sit-in protest close to Yangon’s City Hall after the authorities failed to resolve their land dispute case.

More human rights activists looked to the international arena for support. Vietnamese authorities allowed Amnesty International to visit the country for the first time in more than 20 years. Although several new groups were formed and activists increasingly exercised their right to freedom of expression, they continued to face harsh censorship and punishments. Despite the early release of six dissidents in April and June, at least 60 prisoners of conscience remained imprisoned.

In Hong Kong, thousands of protesters, predominantly led by students, took to the streets from September to call for universal suffrage. More than 100 activists were subsequently detained in mainland China for their support of the Hong Kong protesters, and at the end of the year 31 remained in detention.

Repression of dissent

In the face of increasing activism, authorities in many countries resorted to putting restrictions on freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. The crackdown on rights activism intensified during the year in China. Individuals associated with a loose network of activists called the New Citizens’ Movement were sentenced to between two and six and a half years’ imprisonment. Human rights defender Cao Shunli died in a hospital in March after being denied adequate medical treatment in detention.

In North Korea, there appeared to be no independent civil society organizations, newspapers or political parties. North Koreans were liable to be searched by the authorities and could be punished for reading, watching or listening to foreign media materials.

Military and security forces used excessive force to further repress dissent. In response to peaceful protests in Cambodia, security forces used excessive force including live ammunition against protesters, shooting dead protesting garment workers in January. Housing rights activists were jailed for peacefully protesting. The May coup in Thailand and imposition of martial law saw many people detained arbitrarily, political gatherings of more than five people banned and the trial of civilians in military courts with no right of appeal. Legislation was also used to restrict freedom of expression.

In Malaysia the authorities began using colonial-era sedition legislation to investigate, charge and imprison human rights defenders, opposition politicians, a journalist, academics and students. Media outlets and publishing houses faced sweeping restrictions under legislation requiring that licences be obtained for print publications, which could be arbitrarily revoked by the Minister of Home Affairs. Independent media outlets faced difficulty in obtaining licences.

In Indonesia, cases continued to be documented of the arrest and detention of peaceful political activists, particularly in areas with a history of pro-independence movements such as Papua and Maluku. Freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly remained severely restricted in Myanmar, with scores of human rights defenders, journalists, political activists and farmers arrested or imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights.

Human rights defenders have consistently faced heavy pressure from some governments. In Sri Lanka, a memorandum issued by the Ministry of Defence warned all NGOs to stop holding media events and not to disseminate press releases. This contributed to the already prevalent climate of fear and repression, with journalists and human rights defenders continuing to face physical attacks, death threats and politically motivated charges.

Trade unions are also facing increasing restrictions. In the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Kim Jung-woo, a trade union leader, was sentenced to imprisonment after he tried to prevent municipal government officials from dismantling sit-in tents and a memorial altar at a protest. He is at risk of being given a heavier sentence at the High Court after an appeal by the prosecution. There have also been attempts by the authorities to deregister some of the major unions, and lawsuits have been filed against them.

Politically motivated attacks against journalists were a worrying trend. In Pakistan, at least eight journalists were killed in direct response to their work, making the country one of the most dangerous for the media profession. In Afghanistan, there was an increasing number of journalists killed – those covering the election were particularly at risk. In Maldives, several journalists came under attack from non-state actors who have gone unpunished.

There has also been evidence of narrowing down media space. In Sri Lanka, intimidation continued, including temporarily closing down Uthayan newspaper. In Bangladesh, bloggers and human rights defenders were arrested and faced trial and imprisonment. Pakistan has seen suspensions of TV channels. Chinese state censors attempted to ban photos and block any positive mentions online of the pro-democracy protests, while allowing TV and newspapers to run only government-approved news.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment continued to be committed by governments in several countries.

Torture by police was seldom investigated or punished in the Philippines. Despite the ratification of the two key international treaties against torture, severe beatings as well as methods such as electric shocks and waterboarding continued to be employed by officers who torture mostly for extortion and to extract confessions. In December, Amnesty International reported in Above the Law: Police Torture in the Philippines that a pervasive culture of impunity is allowing torture by police to go unchecked.

China consolidated its position as a major manufacturer and exporter of a growing range of law enforcement equipment, including items with no legitimate policing function such as electric shock stun batons and weighted leg cuffs, as well as equipment that could be used legitimately in law enforcement but is easy to abuse, such as tear gas. Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread in China. In March, four lawyers who were investigating torture reports in a Legal Education Centre in Jiansanjiang, Heilongjiang Province, were themselves then arbitrarily detained and tortured. One lawyer reported he was hooded, handcuffed behind his back and suspended by his wrists, while police beat him.

In North Korea, hundreds of thousands of people remained detained in political prison camps and other detention facilities, where they were subject to gross human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions and torture and other ill-treatment.

Accountability mechanisms remained inadequate to deal with allegations of torture, often leaving victims and their families without access to justice and other effective remedies. In Afghanistan, allegations of human rights violations by National Directorate of Security (NDS) personnel continued, including torture and enforced disappearances. In Sri Lanka, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained widespread.

Prolonged pre-trial detention and overcrowding in prisons remained a serious concern in India. Indiscriminate arrests, slow investigations and prosecutions, weak legal aid systems and inadequate safeguards contributed to the problem. The Supreme Court directed district judges to immediately identify and release all pre-trial detainees who had been in prison for over half of the term they would have faced if convicted.

In Japan, the daiyo kangoku system, which allows police to detain suspects for up to 23 days prior to charge, continued to facilitate torture and other ill-treatment in order to extract confessions during interrogation. No steps were taken to abolish or reform the system to bring it into line with international standards. Torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners while in military detention, as well as by police, were reported in Thailand.

Armed conflict

In Afghanistan, the 13-year NATO mission reached its conclusion although a continued presence of international forces was agreed. Abuses by armed groups continued on a significant scale, with attacks at an all-time high in the first half of 2014. Pakistan also continued to see internal armed conflict in FATA, with the army launching a major operation in North Waziristan in June. US drone strikes resumed. The most devastating attack in the country’s history occurred in December when several militants from the Pakistani Taliban attacked Army Public School in Peshawar where 149 people were killed, including 132 children, and dozens injured in firing which targeted children and teachers and in suicide bombings.

The armed conflict in Myanmar’s Kachin and Northern Shan states continued into its fourth year, with violations of international humanitarian and human rights law reported on both sides, including unlawful killings and torture and other ill-treatment, including rape and other crimes of sexual violence. In Thailand, armed violence continued in the three southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and parts of Songkhla. Security forces were implicated in unlawful killings and torture and other ill-treatment, while attacks targeting civilians were believed to have been carried out by armed groups through the year, including the bombing of public places.

Impunity

A common theme was ongoing impunity for past and recent human rights violations including in the context of armed conflict. In India, state authorities often failed to prevent and also committed crimes against Indian nationals. Arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and extrajudicial executions often went unpunished. The overburdened criminal justice system contributed to justice being denied to those who suffered abuses, and to violations of the right to a fair trial. Violence by armed groups put civilians at risk.

There have been some convictions and arrests for past crimes. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (the Khmer Rouge Tribunal) convicted Nuon Chea, the former second in command of the Khmer Rouge regime, and Khieu Samphan, the regime’s former head of state, of crimes against humanity and sentenced them to life imprisonment. In the Philippines, retired Major General Jovito Palparan was arrested in August. He faced charges of abduction and illegal detention of university students.

Victims of past human rights violations and abuses continued to demand justice, truth and reparation for crimes under international law which occurred under the rule of former President Suharto (1965-1998) and during the subsequent reformasi period in Indonesia. No progress was reported on numerous cases of alleged gross violations of human rights that were submitted by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to the Attorney General’s Office after a preliminary pro-justicia inquiry was conducted.

In Sri Lanka, the UN Human Rights Council established an international inquiry into reports of war crimes committed during the civil war. Government officials and supporters threatened human rights defenders not to have contact with the investigators or to contribute to the inquiry. In April in Nepal, the parliament passed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Act, establishing two commissions, a TRC and a Commission on Enforced Disappearances, with the power to recommend amnesties, including for serious human rights violations. This was despite a Supreme Court ruling in January that a similar 2013 TRC ordinance with the power to recommend amnesties contravened international human rights law and the spirit of the 2007 Interim Constitution.

People on the move

Several countries violated the international prohibition of refoulement by forcibly returning refugees and asylum-seekers to countries where they faced serious human rights violations. In Malaysia in May, the authorities forcibly returned two refugees and one asylum-seeker who were under the protection of UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, to Sri Lanka where they were at risk of torture. Sri Lanka detained and forcefully deported asylum-seekers without adequately assessing their asylum claims.

Afghans continued to account for a very high number of refugees according to UNHCR. Neighbouring Iran and Pakistan hosted 2.7 million registered Afghan refugees. In March, UNHCR documented 659,961 Afghans who were internally displaced due to armed conflict, deterioration of security and natural disasters. There were concerns that displacement could increase following the security transition scheduled for the end of 2014 as local insurgents fought to occupy territory previously under the control of international forces.

Internal migrants also faced discrimination. In China, changes to the household registration system known as hukou made it easier for rural residents to move to small or mid-size cities. Access to benefits and services, including education and health care, continued to be linked to hukou status, which remained a basis for discrimination. The hukou system forced many internal migrants to leave their children behind in the countryside.

Migrant workers continued to face abuse and discrimination. In Hong Kong a high-profile trial began involving three women Indonesian migrant domestic workers. Their former employer faced 21 charges including causing grievous bodily harm with intent and failure to pay wages. In October, Amnesty International published a report based on interviews with migrant agricultural workers across South Korea, who under the Employment Permit System (EPS) endured excessive working hours, underpayment, denial of their weekly paid rest day and annual leave, illegal subcontracting and poor living conditions. Many were also discriminated against at work due to their nationality.

Australia’s hard-line approach to asylum-seekers continued, with those arriving by boat either sent back to their country of departure, transferred to offshore immigration detention centres on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island or Nauru, or detained in Australia.

Rising religious and ethnic intolerance

There were signs in 2014 of rising religious and ethnic intolerance and discrimination and authorities either being complicit or failing to take action to combat it. In Pakistan blasphemy laws continued to be linked to vigilante violence. Police were warned of some impending attacks on “blasphemy” suspects but failed to take adequate measures to protect them. Blasphemy laws also contributed to an atmosphere of intolerance in Indonesia. In November Amnesty International recommended repeal of Indonesia’s blasphemy law and called for all those imprisoned under it to be released immediately.

Violent attacks on grounds of religious and ethnic identity continued on a significant scale. The failure of governments to address rising religious and ethnic intolerance was evident. The Myanmar and Sri Lankan governments failed to address ongoing incitement to violence based on national, racial and religious hatred by Buddhist nationalist groups despite violent incidents. The government of Myanmar also failed to allow equal access to full citizenship to Rohingyas. In Pakistan, Shi’a Muslims were killed in attacks by armed groups; Ahmadis and Christians were also targeted. Sri Lanka also saw violence against Muslims and Christians carried out by armed groups, and police failed to protect them or to investigate incidents.

Ethnic Tibetans continued to face discrimination and restrictions on their rights to freedoms of thought, conscience and religion, expression, association and peaceful assembly in China. Tibetan demonstrators were reportedly shot by police and security forces in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi), Sichuan Province, where a crowd had gathered to protest against the detention of a village leader. Uighurs faced widespread discrimination in employment, education and housing, and faced curtailed religious freedom, as well as political marginalization.

Some government authorities used religion as a justification for ongoing discrimination. In Malaysia the Federal Court rejected an appeal seeking to overturn a ban preventing a Christian newspaper from using the word “Allah” in its publications. The authorities claimed that the use of the word in non-Muslim literature was confusing and could cause Muslims to convert. The ban led to intimidation and harassment of Christians.

India marked the 30th anniversary of the massacre of Sikhs in 1984 amid ongoing impunity for this and other large-scale attacks against religious minorities.

Discrimination

People in many countries continued to face discrimination, particularly where authorities failed to take adequate measures to protect them and their communities.

Discrimination, including on the basis of gender, caste, class, ethnic origin and religion, persisted in Nepal. Victims were subject to exclusion, torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual violence. Women from marginalized groups, including Dalits and impoverished women, continued to face particular hardship because of multiple forms of discrimination. In India, Dalit women and girls continued to face multiple levels of caste-based discrimination and violence. Self-appointed village councils issued illegal decrees ordering punishments against women for perceived social transgressions.

The Japanese government failed to speak out against discriminatory rhetoric, or curb the use of racially pejorative terms and harassment against ethnic Koreans and their descendants, who are commonly referred to as Zainichi (literally “residing in Japan”). In December the Supreme Court ruled to ban the group Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai from using racially pejorative terms against Koreans, while holding public demonstrations near an ethnic Korean elementary school.

Discrimination against ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, including members of Tamil, Muslim and Christian communities, continued in Sri Lanka. Minorities were singled out for arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression and association.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Progress towards respect, protection and fulfilment of sexual and reproductive rights is still needed in many countries of the region.

In April, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the Reproductive Health Law, which paves the way for government funding for modern contraceptive methods and seeks to introduce reproductive health and sexuality education in schools. However, the Philippines still has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, criminalizing abortion on all grounds with no exceptions. In Indonesia, legislation was passed in July restricting to 40 days the time period for rape survivors to access legal abortion. It was feared that this shortened timeframe would prevent many rape survivors from being able to access safe abortion provisions.

Government efforts to eradicate gender discrimination against women and girls continued to be ineffective in reducing women’s risk of uterine prolapse in Nepal, where Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty launched the “My Body My Rights” campaign among women affected by the issue in rural communities.

Violence against women

Women across the region continued to face violence, including when seeking to exercise their rights. In Pakistan, for example, a jirga (traditional decision-making body) of Uthmanzai tribal chiefs from North Waziristan tribal agency threatened women with violence for seeking access to humanitarian assistance in displaced persons camps.

In India, the authorities did not effectively implement new laws on crimes against women that were enacted in 2013, or undertake meaningful reforms to ensure that they were enforced. Rape within marriage was still not recognized as a crime if the wife was over 15 years of age.

Children were forced to marry in several countries in the region. So-called “honour” killings were reported in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, the number of cases reported under the law on the Elimination of Violence against Women increased – although it was not clear whether this was due to an increase in crimes or in reporting. Crimes related to violence against women remained some of the most underreported crimes. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission registered 4,154 cases of violence against women for the first half of 2014 alone. Authorities approved or amended several laws which barred family members of both victims and perpetrators of crimes from testifying. Since most gender-based violence was reported as happening within the family, this made successful prosecutions in cases of forced and child marriage and domestic violence nearly impossible.

In Japan the results were made public of a government-appointed study which re-examined the drafting process of the Kono Statement (a government apology made two decades earlier to the survivors of the military sexual slavery system before and during World War II). Several high-profile public figures made statements to deny or justify the system. The government continued to refuse to officially use the term “sexual slavery”, and to deny effective reparation to its survivors.

There were further reports of women and children being subjected to violence, sometimes resulting in death, following accusations of sorcery in Papua New Guinea. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions highlighted sorcery-related killings as a major concern.

Death penalty

The death penalty was retained by several countries in the region; China continued its extensive use of the death penalty. 

Executions continued in Japan. In March a court ordered a retrial and the immediate release of Hakamada Iwao. Hakamada Iwao had been sentenced to death in 1968 after an unfair trial on the basis of a forced confession, and was the longest-serving death row inmate in the world.

In Viet Nam, executions continued and several individuals were sentenced to death for economic offences.

National and international criticism had some impact. In Malaysia, the executions of Chandran Paskaran and Osariakhi Ernest Obayangbon were postponed. However, death sentences continued to be imposed and reports indicated that executions were carried out in secret.

In January, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that undue delay in the carrying out of death sentences amounted to torture, and that the execution of people suffering from mental illness would be unconstitutional. It also laid down guidelines for safeguarding the rights of people under sentence of death.

In December, in the wake of the Pakistani Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan lifted a moratorium on executions and began executing prisoners convicted of terrorism-related charges. It was reported that more than 500 people are at risk of being executed.

Afghanistan continued to apply the death penalty, often after unfair trials. In October, six men were executed in Kabul’s Pul-e-Charkhi prison. The trial proceedings of at least five of the men in connection with a gang rape were considered unfair, marred by public and political pressure on the courts to hand down a tough sentence while the accused claimed to have confessed following torture by police in detention.

Corporate accountability

Companies have a responsibility to respect human rights. However, in several countries in the Asia-Pacific region that respect was not evident. Thousands of people remained at risk of being forcibly evicted from their homes and lands for large infrastructure and commercial projects in India. Particularly vulnerable were Adivasi (Indigenous) communities living near new and expanding mines and dams. In Papua New Guinea, tensions escalated at the site of Porgera gold mine between the mining company and local residents. In June, around 200 homes were burned to the ground by police enforcing an eviction. Reports were received of physical and sexual violence by police during the forced eviction.

December marked the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak disaster in India. Survivors continued to experience serious health problems linked to the leak and to continuing pollution from the factory site. Dow Chemical Company and Union Carbide failed to respond to a criminal summons issued by a Bhopal court. The Indian government is yet to clean up the contaminated factory site.

In Cambodia, conflicts over land and forced evictions continued. This led to increased protests and confrontations, often involving local authorities and private companies. In October a group of international law experts provided information to the ICC alleging on behalf of 10 victims that “widespread and systematic” land grabbing by the Cambodian government was a crime against humanity.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

Homosexuality remained criminalized in several countries in the region. On a positive note, in April in India, the Supreme Court granted legal recognition to transgender people in a landmark judgment. It directed authorities to recognize transgender persons’ self-identification as male, female or a “third gender” and put in place social welfare policies and quotas in education and employment. However, cases of harassment and violence against transgender people continued to be reported.

In a landmark decision in Malaysia in November, the Court of Appeal ruled that a Negri Sembilan Shari’a law making cross-dressing illegal was inconsistent with the Constitution. However, Amnesty International received reports about the arrest and imprisonment of LGBTI people purely on the basis of their sexuality, and they continued to face discrimination.

In October, Singapore’s Supreme Court upheld section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalizes consensual same-sex relations between men. In Brunei, the new Penal Code imposed death by stoning as a possible punishment for conduct that should not be criminal, such as extramarital sexual relations and consensual sex between people of the same gender, as well as for offences such as theft and rape.

In conclusion, the seismic geopolitical and economic shifts that are taking place in the Asia-Pacific region render it even more urgent that human rights safeguards are strengthened and lapses are redressed so that all people in the region can claim genuine citizenship without risk of sanction.

Europe and Central Asia Regional Overview

9 November 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War and, according to one commentator, “the end of history”. Celebrating the anniversary in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared “the fall of the Wall has shown us that dreams can come true” – and, for many in communist Europe, indeed they did. But a quarter of a century later, the dream of greater freedom remained as distant as ever for millions more in the former Soviet Union, as the opportunity for change has been ripped from people’s hands by the new elites that emerged, seamlessly, from the old.

2014 was not another year of stalled progress. It was a year of regression. If the fall of the Berlin War marked the end of history, the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the Russian annexation of Crimea clearly signalled its resumption. Speaking on the same day as Angela Merkel, former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev put it bluntly: “The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some are even saying that it’s already begun.”

The dramatic events in Ukraine exposed the dangers and difficulty of dreaming. Over 100 people were killed as the EuroMaydan protest reached its bloody conclusion in February. By the end of the year, over 4,000 more had died in the course of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, many of them civilians. Despite the signing of a ceasefire in September, localized fighting continued and there was little prospect of a rapid resolution by the end of the year. Russia continued to deny that it was supporting the rebel forces with both troops and equipment, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. Both sides were responsible for a range of international human rights and humanitarian law violations including indiscriminate shelling, which resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties. As law and order progressively broke down along the lines of conflict and in rebel-held areas, abductions, executions and reports of torture and ill-treatment proliferated, both by rebel forces and pro-Kyiv volunteer battalions. Neither side showed much inclination to investigate and rein in such abuses.

The situation in Crimea deteriorated along predictable lines. With its absorption into the Russian Federation, Russian laws and practices were employed to restrict freedoms of expression, assembly and association of those opposed to the change. Pro-Ukrainian activists and Crimean Tatars were harassed, detained and, in some cases, disappeared. In Kyiv, the huge task of introducing the reforms needed to strengthen the rule of law, eliminate abuses in the criminal justice system and combat endemic corruption was delayed by Presidential and Parliamentary elections and the inevitable distractions of the conflict still raging in the east. Little progress had been made in investigating the killings of EuroMaydan protesters by the end of the year.

The rupturing of the geopolitical fault line in Ukraine had numerous consequences in Russia, simultaneously boosting President Putin’s popularity and rendering the Kremlin more wary of dissent. The breakdown in east-west relations was reflected in the aggressive promotion of anti-western and anti-Ukrainian propaganda in the mainstream media. At the same time, the space to express and communicate dissenting views shrunk markedly, as the Kremlin strengthened its grip on the media and the internet, clamped down on protest and harassed and demonized independent NGOs.

Elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, the hopes and ambitions unleashed by the fall of the Berlin Wall receded further. In Central Asia, authoritarian governments remained entrenched in Kazakhstan, and even more so in Turkmenistan. Where they appeared to wobble slightly, as in Uzbekistan, it was more the result of in-fighting among the ruling elite than in response to wider discontent, which continued to be suppressed. Azerbaijan proved particularly aggressive in its repression of dissent; by the end of the year Amnesty International recognized a total of 23 prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan, including bloggers, political activists, civil society leaders and human rights lawyers. Azerbaijan’s presidency of the Council of Europe in the first half of the year failed to induce restraint. Indeed, more broadly in Azerbaijan, but also elsewhere in Central Asia, strategic interests consistently prevailed over principled international criticism and engagement on widespread human rights violations. Even for Russia, international criticism of the growing clampdown on civil and political rights remained strangely muted.

If Russia remained the market leader in popular, “democratic” authoritarianism, the trend was also observable elsewhere in the region. In Turkey, Recep Erdoğan demonstrated his vote-winning powers once again by comfortably winning the Presidential elections in August, despite a series of high-profile corruption scandals implicating him and his family directly. His response to these, as it had been to the Gezi protests the year before, was unflinching: hundreds of prosecutors, police officers and judges suspected of being loyal to one-time ally Fetullah Gülen were transferred to other posts. The blurring of the separation of powers in Hungary continued after the re-election of the ruling Fidesz party in April and, in moves that echoed developments further east, critical NGOs were attacked for supposedly acting in the interests of foreign governments. By the end of the year, a number of NGOs faced the threat of criminal prosecution for alleged financial irregularities.

Across the European Union (EU), entrenched economic difficulties and the dwindling confidence in mainstream political parties prompted a rise in populist parties at both ends of the political spectrum. The influence of nationalist, thinly-veiled xenophobic attitudes was particularly evident in increasingly restrictive migration policies, but it was also reflected in the growing distrust of supra-national authority. The EU itself was a particular target, but so too was the European Convention on Human Rights. The UK and Switzerland led the charge, with ruling parties in both countries openly attacking the European Court of Human Rights and discussing withdrawal from the Convention system.

In short, at no time since the fall of the Berlin Wall had the integrity of, and support for, the international human rights framework in the Europe and Central Asia region appeared quite so brittle.

Freedoms of expression, association and assembly

Throughout the former Soviet Union, autocratic governments maintained or strengthened their grip on power. The deterioration in the respect for the rights to freedoms of expression, assembly and association in Russia since the return of Vladimir Putin to the presidency accelerated. Penalties, including greater criminal liability for violations of the law on demonstrations, were increased. Small-scale spontaneous protests were routinely dispersed, however peaceful, with hundreds arrested and fined or sentenced to short periods of detention, during the course of the year. A few larger planned protests, such as the anti-war protests in March and September, were allowed to proceed. Independent critical NGOs were consistently portrayed in the media and by leading politicians as a fifth column acting in the pay and interests of nefarious foreign powers. Discredited by media smear campaigns, dozens of NGOs were also distracted by judicial proceedings, challenging the requirement to register themselves under the politically toxic label “foreign agents”; five dissolved themselves as a result.

In Belarus, the highly restrictive law on demonstrations continued to be applied in a way that effectively prohibited public protest. The few who attempted it endured brief periods of detention for their pains. In the lead-up to the Ice Hockey World Championship in May, 16 civil society activists were arrested and sentenced to between five and 25 days’ administrative detention. Eight were arbitrarily arrested in connection with a peaceful march commemorating the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. They were charged with “petty hooliganism” and “disobeying police orders”. Eight others, all known for their political activism, were detained in the days before the march under similar charges.

Civil society and political activists were particularly targeted in Azerbaijan. Ten leading human rights organizations were forced to shut down or cease their activities and at least six prominent human rights defenders were imprisoned on spurious charges related to their work. Bloggers and opposition youth leaders were typically charged with drug-related offences. Independent journalists continued to face harassment, violence and trumped-up criminal charges.

The situation in Central Asia showed no signs of improvement. There were still no genuinely independent media outlets, NGOs or political parties in Turkmenistan despite nominal legislative reforms in recent years supposedly designed to facilitate their emergence. Internet access and freedom of expression online continued to be severely restricted. In Uzbekistan, a few hardy human rights activists continued to operate, but were forced to do so under the radar and at considerable personal risk. In both countries, protest remained virtually impossible. In Kyrgyzstan civil society activists operated in a far freer environment, but continued to report harassment. Even here, however, the government proposed legislation that would abolish the right to establish unregistered associations and noises were made in Parliament about the introduction of a “foreign agents” law akin to that in Russia.

In Kazakhstan, the new Criminal Code introduced a number of offences that could be used to restrict the legitimate activities of NGOs, and the government likewise began to consider tighter restrictions on the foreign funding of NGOs. Public protests took place, but participants risked fines and detention. The freedom of the media shrank and the internet was subjected to ever greater restrictions; social networks and blogs were often restricted and internet-based resources blocked by court decisions taken in closed proceedings.

In Turkey, the ruling AK Party strengthened its influence over the media, mostly through the exploitation of public – and private – business ties. Critical independent journalists continued to be fired by nervous editors or displeased owners and self-censorship remained rife. Freedom of peaceful assembly, brutally supressed in 2013 during the Gezi protests, continued to be violated by restrictive legislation on demonstrations and the violent dispersal of peaceful protesters, whenever they threatened to congregate in large numbers or on particularly sensitive topics. In December, several journalists were detained under sweeping anti-terror laws for reporting on corruption allegations.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

The number of displaced people across the globe topped 50 million for the first time since the end of the Second World War. The response of the EU and its member states was, with few exceptions, driven above all by the desire to keep them out. This was shockingly obvious in the EU’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis. By the end of the year, only around 150,000 of the approximately 4 million Syrian refugees were living in the EU – roughly the same number as arrived in Turkey in a single week following the advance of the Islamic State on Kobani. EU countries pledged to take in only 36,300 of the approximately 380,000 Syrian refugees identified by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, as in need of resettlement. Germany offered 20,000 resettlement places. The UK, France, Italy, Spain and Poland, with a combined population of 275 million people, offered just over 2,000 places, amounting to 0.001% of their populations.

In the absence of safe legal routes for refugees and migrants to reach to Europe, and in the face of the EU’s determination to seal its land borders, record numbers attempted to reach Europe by sea – and record numbers drowned. By the end of the year UNHCR estimated that 3,400 refugees and migrants had lost their lives in the Mediterranean, making it the most dangerous sea route for migrants in the world.

For the first 10 months of the year, greater casualty numbers at sea were avoided thanks to Italy’s unilateral and impressive search and rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, which rescued over 100,000 people – over half of them refugees from countries including Syria, Eritrea and Somalia. In the face of significant pressure from fellow EU member states, however, the operation was terminated on 31 October. In its place, the EU offered a collective substitute, Operation Triton, co-ordinated by its border agency, Frontex, which was significantly reduced in scale, scope and mandate.

Those who managed to scale or circumvent the ever-higher, ever-longer fences along the EU’s external land borders risked being illegally pushed back by Spain, Greece and Bulgaria to Turkey and Morocco. At the end of the year, the ruling party in Spain tabled an amendment to the draft Law on Public Security that would legalize summary expulsions to Morocco from Ceuta and Melilla. Push-backs were increasingly supplemented by pull-backs, as the EU sought to strengthen its border control management with these countries.

Immigration detention centres – the dungeons of Fortress Europe – remained full, often to bursting. Irregular migrants and asylum-seekers, including families and children, continued to be detained in large numbers, often for lengthy periods and occasionally in appalling conditions.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The publication in December of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) detention programme exposed not just the shocking details of the abuses involved, but also the full extent of the complicity of European countries. Several hosted secret detention sites (Poland, Lithuania and Romania) or otherwise assisted the US government in the illegal transfer, enforced disappearance, and torture and other ill-treatment of dozens of detainees, including in particular the UK, Sweden, Macedonia and Italy. In none of these countries was there any significant progress in holding those responsible to account. While there were some positive developments in respect of individual complaints brought by victims in Poland, Lithuania and the UK (the European Court of Human Rights found in July that the Polish government colluded with the CIA to establish a secret prison in the country between 2002 and 2005), accountability continued to be undermined by evasion, denial and delays.

In June, the Irish TV channel RTÉ broadcast previously undisclosed evidence in the possession of the UK government relating to five torture techniques used by British security forces in Northern Ireland under internment powers in 1971 and 1972. The techniques closely resembled those used by the CIA 30 years later. The European Court of Human Rights had previously ruled that the techniques amounted to ill-treatment, not torture, in an inter-state case brought by the Irish government. In December, the Irish Government announced that it would seek a revision of the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling.

Torture and other ill-treatment remained pervasive throughout the former Soviet Union. Those accused of terror-related offences or suspected of belonging to Islamist groups were particularly susceptible to torture at the hands of national security forces in Russia and Central Asia, but throughout the region corrupt and poorly supervised law enforcement officials frequently resorted to torture or other ill-treatment to extract confessions and bribes. In the absence of effective, independent investigations, impunity for such abuses was, overwhelmingly, the norm.

In Turkey the routine use of excessive force by police in the course of demonstrations remained very much in evidence, even if torture in places of detention continued its downward trend. Justice continued to be denied or delayed for the handful of deaths and hundreds of seriously injured as a result of police abuses during the 2013 Gezi Park protests. Law enforcement officers in Greece and, occasionally, Spain continued to use excessive force to disperse demonstrations – encouraged here too by the prevailing impunity for such abuses.

The most dramatic protest-related abuses occurred in Ukraine, during and at the bloody conclusion of the EuroMaydan demonstration in Kyiv. At least 85 demonstrators, as well as 18 police officers, died as a direct result of the violence; there were no exact figures for the number of wounded. Following the first use of force by riot police on peaceful protesters on 30 November 2013, recurring incidents of abusive use of force, as well as arbitrary arrests and attempts to initiate criminal proceedings against demonstrators, took place in the early months of the year. At the end of February, firearms with live ammunition, including sniper rifles, were deployed, though it remained unclear which forces had used them and under whose orders they had acted. On the margins of the protest, several dozen EuroMaydan activists went missing. Some resurfaced later having been abducted and tortured; the fate of over 20 remained undisclosed at the end of the year.

After the downfall of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, the new authorities publicly committed to effectively investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the killings and other abuses committed in the course of EuroMaydan. However, apart from indicting the former senior political leadership, few if any concrete steps were taken in this direction. By the end of the year only a handful of low-ranking law enforcement officers had been convicted for EuroMaydan-related abuses.

Death penalty

At least three men were executed in Belarus, which remained the only country in the region to retain the death penalty in practice. All three executions took place despite requests by the UN Human Rights Committee for a stay so it could consider the three men’s cases.

Transitional justice

The trials of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić and former General Ratko Mladić continued at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), as it slowly worked its way through the few remaining cases pending before it. At the national level, progress in ensuring accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the various conflicts in the former Yugoslavia remained painfully slow. The number of new indictments remained low, trials dragged on and political attacks on national war crimes courts continued. War crimes courts, prosecutors and investigative units remained understaffed and under-resourced as the lack of political will to deliver justice increasingly hid behind the expressed desire to move on.

Across the region, civilian victims of war, including victims of sexual violence, continued to be denied access to reparations due to the failure to adopt comprehensive legislation regulating their status and guaranteeing their rights. In September, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina signed a regional co-operation agreement with a view to accelerating the to-date slow progress in resolving the fate and returning the bodies of the many thousands of people still missing since the conflict. The rights and livelihoods of relatives in all three countries continued to be undermined by the lack of legislation on missing persons.

In Northern Ireland, the mechanisms and institutions set up or mandated to address conflict-related human rights violations continued to operate in a fragmented and often unsatisfactory manner. The Historical Enquiries Team, set up in 2006 to re-examine all deaths attributed to the conflict, was closed following widespread criticism. Some of its work was planned to be transferred to a new unit within the Police Service of Northern Ireland, prompting concerns over the independence of future case reviews. The major Northern Ireland parties agreed in principle in December 2014 to take forward proposals set out a year earlier by US diplomat Richard Haass for two new mechanisms: a Historical Investigation Unit and an Independent Commission for Information Retrieval. Details of finance, resourcing, timeframes and legislation, however, were not completely resolved.  

Counter-terror and security

Across the region, governments remained tight-lipped about the extent of their surveillance of internet-based communications, despite the protestations of many in the wake of the revelations of the extent of the US surveillance programme by Edward Snowden in 2013. In the UK, Amnesty International and other NGO litigants sought unsuccessfully to challenge the human rights compatibility of the UK’s surveillance system through the courts and will now seek review in Strasbourg.

EU countries continued to use unreliable diplomatic assurances to return individuals considered a risk to national security to countries where they faced a risk of torture or other ill-treatment. The practice gained increasing currency in Russia as it sought to circumvent repeated European Court of Human Rights rulings staying the extradition of wanted individuals to Central Asian countries. Across the former Soviet Union, co-operating states frequently returned – both legally and clandestinely – terror suspects wanted in other countries in which they faced the very strong likelihood of torture.

The security situation in the North Caucasus remained volatile and security operations were routinely marred by serious human rights violations. In a particularly vivid illustration of law enforcement abuses, forces loyal to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov made good on his threat to seek reprisals against the families of perpetrators of a large-scale attack on Grozny in December, by burning down several houses.

In Turkey, broadly framed anti-terrorism legislation continued to be used to prosecute the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression, though new limits set on the maximum length of pre-trial detention resulted in the release of many.

Discrimination

Discrimination continued to affect the lives of millions across the region. Long-standing victims of prejudice, including Roma, Muslims and migrants bore much of the brunt, but anti-Semitism also remained widespread and sporadically manifested itself in violent attacks. There were both advances and setbacks in the respect for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

Political declarations, action plans and national strategies continued to have minimal impact on the lives of millions of marginalized Roma – invariably because they were not accompanied by the necessary political will to implement them and because they consistently failed to identify and tackle the main reason behind the social exclusion of Roma, namely prejudice and racism.

As a result, the discrimination of Roma in housing, education and employment remained widespread. Hundreds of thousands of Roma living in informal settlements continued to struggle to access social housing or were excluded by criteria that failed to recognize, let alone prioritize, their manifest need. Legislative initiatives designed to tackle the insecurity of tenure of those in informal settlements were mooted in a number of countries, but nowhere adopted. As a result, people living in informal settlements across Europe remained vulnerable to forced evictions.

The segregation of Roma in education remained widespread throughout central and eastern Europe, particularly in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, despite repeated promises by national authorities to address a long-identified problem. In a positive development, the EU initiated infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic for breach of EU anti-discrimination legislation (the Race Equality Directive) for the discrimination of Roma in education. Italy and a number of other undisclosed EU states were also being examined by the EU Commission for other possible breaches of the Race Equality Directive for discrimination against Roma in a range of areas – signalling at last, perhaps, a willingness on the part of the EU to enforce legislation adopted a decade ago.

In July, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the French ban on the complete covering of the face in public did not violate any of the rights set out in the European Convention of Human Rights, despite its obvious targeting of full face veils and the restrictions entailed on the rights to freedoms of expression, religious belief and non-discrimination of Muslim women choosing to wear them. In a perverse ruling with worrying implications for freedom of expression, the European Court justified the restrictions by reference to the nebulous requirements of “living together”.

Violent hate crimes – targeting in particular Roma, Muslims, Jews, migrants and LGBTI individuals – continued across the continent. Several countries, including a number of EU member states, still failed to include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds in hate crime legislation. Across the region, hate crimes remained under-reported and poorly investigated. Stand-alone hate crime offences and penal code provisions allowing discriminatory motives to be punished as an aggravating circumstance were frequently unused, as investigators failed to investigate possible discriminatory motives and prosecutors failed to charge perpetrators appropriately, or present relevant evidence in court.

A growing number of countries granted equal rights to same-sex partnerships (though rarely in respect of adoption) and successful, safe Pride marches were held for the first time in Serbia and Montenegro, under the watchful eye of the EU. Homophobia remained widespread, however, and growing tolerance in the west was often matched – indeed pointed to as a reason for – greater restrictions on the freedom of expression of LGBTI individuals further east. In Russia, LGBTI activists were routinely prevented from organizing public events, with local authorities often invoking legislation prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality among minors. Similar legislation was used to ban a book of fairy tales, including stories of same-sex relationships, in Lithuania. In Kyrgyzstan legislation banning the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations” was considered by Parliament. Attacks on LGBTI individuals, organizations and events were common occurrences throughout much of eastern Europe and the Balkans, and were rarely responded to appropriately by indifferent criminal justice systems.

Violence against women and girls

Gender-based and domestic violence remained pervasive across the region. According to a report published by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency in March, one in three women in the EU had suffered physical and/or sexual abuse since the age of 15. The entry into force of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence was therefore timely, but by the end of the year still only 15 countries had ratified the treaty.

Despite this positive development, victims of domestic and sexual violence continued to be poorly served by criminal justice and protection systems across the continent. A lack of shelters for victims of domestic violence and high attrition rates in the investigation and prosecution of allegations of sexual violence remained common problems throughout the region.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Access to abortion remained prohibited under all circumstances in Malta. Ireland and Poland both failed to fully implement European Court of Human Rights rulings, in 2010 and 2012 respectively, requiring that women be guaranteed effective access to abortion under certain circumstances. Despite this, the Committee of Ministers decided to close its monitoring of the execution of the judgment in the Irish case.

Middle East and North Africa Regional Overview

As 2014 drew to a close, the world reflected on a year that was catastrophic for millions of people across the Middle East and North Africa; a year that saw unceasing armed conflict and horrendous abuses in Syria and Iraq, civilians in Gaza bearing the brunt of the deadliest round of fighting so far between Israel and Hamas, and Libya come increasingly to resemble a failed state caught up in incipient civil war. Yemen too remained a deeply divided society whose central authorities faced a Shi’a insurgency in the north, a vocal movement for secession in the south, and continuing insurgency in the southwest.

With the year in view, the heady hopes for change that drove the popular uprisings that shook the Arab-speaking world in 2011 and saw longstanding rulers ousted in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen appeared a distant memory. The exception was Tunisia, where new parliamentary elections passed off smoothly in November and the authorities took at least some steps to pursue those responsible for the legacy of gross violations of human rights. Egypt, by contrast, gave far less cause for optimism. There, the military general who led the ousting of the country’s first post-uprising president in 2013 assumed the presidency after elections and maintained a wave of repression that targeted not only the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, but political activists of many other stripes as well as media workers and human rights activists, with thousands imprisoned and hundreds sentenced to death. In the Gulf, authorities in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were unrelenting in their efforts to stifle dissent and stamp out any sign of opposition to those holding power, confident that their main allies among the western democracies were unlikely to demur.

2014 also saw human savagery meted out by armed groups engaged in the armed conflicts in Syria and Iraq, notably the group calling itself Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). In Syria, fighters of IS and other armed groups controlled large areas of the country, including much of the region containing Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, and imposed “punishments” including public killings, amputations and floggings for what it considered transgressions of its version of Islamic law. IS also gained ascendancy in the Sunni heartlands of Iraq, conducting a reign of terror in which the group summarily executed hundreds of captured government soldiers, members of minorities, Shi’a Muslims and others, including Sunni tribesmen who opposed them. IS also targeted religious and ethnic minorities, driving out Christians and forcing thousands of Yezidis and other minority groups from their homes and lands. IS forces gunned down Yezidi men and boys in execution-style killings, and abducted hundreds of Yezidi women and girls into slavery, forcing many to become “wives” of IS fighters, who included thousands of foreign volunteers from Europe, North America, Australia, North Africa, the Gulf and elsewhere.

Unlike many of those who perpetrate unlawful killings but seek to commit their crimes in secret, IS was brutally brazen about its actions. It ensured that its own cameramen were on hand to film some of its most egregious acts, including the beheadings of journalists, aid workers, and captured Lebanese and Iraqi soldiers. It then publicized the slaughter in polished but grimly macabre videos that were uploaded onto the internet as propaganda, hostage-bargaining and recruitment tools.

The rapid military advances achieved by IS in Syria and Iraq, combined with its summary killings of western hostages and others, led the USA to forge an anti-IS alliance in September that came to number more than 60 states, including Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which then launched air strikes against IS positions and other non-state armed groups, causing civilian deaths and injuries. Elsewhere, US forces continued to mount drone and other attacks against al-Qa’ida affiliates in Yemen, as the struggle between governments and non-state armed groups took on an increasingly supranational aspect. Meanwhile, Russia continued to shield the Syrian government at the UN while transferring arms and munitions to feed its war effort without regard to the war crimes and other serious violations that the Syrian authorities committed.

IS abuses, and the publicity and sense of political crisis that they evoked, threatened for a time to obscure the unremitting and large-scale brutality of Syrian government forces as they fought to retain control of areas they held and to recapture areas from armed groups with seemingly total disregard for the lives of civilians and their obligations under international humanitarian law. Government forces carried out indiscriminate attacks on areas in which civilians were sheltering using an array of heavy weapons, including barrel bombs, and tank and artillery fire; maintained indefinite sieges that denied civilians access to food, water and medical supplies; and attacked hospitals and medical workers. They also continued to detain large numbers of critics and suspected opponents, subjecting many to torture and appalling conditions, and committed unlawful killings. In Iraq, the government’s response to IS’s advance was to stiffen the security forces with pro-government Shi’a militias and let them loose on Sunni communities seen as anti-government or sympathetic to IS, while mounting indiscriminate air attacks on Mosul and other centres held by IS forces.

As in most modern-day conflicts, civilians again paid the heaviest price in the fighting, as warring forces ignored their obligations to spare civilians. In the 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, the scale of destruction, damage, death and injury to Palestinian civilians, homes and infrastructure was appalling. Israeli forces carried out attacks on inhabited homes, in some cases killing entire families, and on medical facilities and schools. Homes and civilian infrastructure were deliberately destroyed. In Gaza more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed, some 1,500 of whom were identified as civilians, including over 500 children. Hamas and Palestinian armed groups fired thousands of indiscriminate rockets and mortar rounds into civilian areas of Israel, killing six civilians, including one child. Hamas gunmen also summarily executed at least 23 Palestinians they accused of collaborating with Israel, including untried detainees, after removing them from prison. Both sides committed war crimes and other serious rights abuses with impunity during the conflict, repeating an all too familiar pattern from earlier years. Israel’s air, sea and land blockade of Gaza, in force continuously since 2007, exacerbated the devastating impact of the 50-day conflict, severely hindered reconstruction efforts, and amounted to collective punishment – a crime under international law – of Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants.

The political and other tensions at play across the Middle East and North Africa in 2014 reached their most extreme form in the countries torn by armed conflict, but throughout the region as a whole there were institutional and other weaknesses that both helped fuel those tensions and prevented their ready alleviation. These included a general lack of tolerance by governments and some non-state armed groups to criticism or dissent; weak or non-existent legislative bodies that could act as a check on or counterweight to abuses by executive authorities; an absence of judicial independence and the subordination of criminal justice systems to the will of the executive; and a failure of accountability, including with respect to states’ obligations under international law.

Repression of dissent

Governments throughout the region continued to crack down on dissent, curtailing rights to free speech and other expression, including through social media. Laws criminalizing expression deemed offensive to the head of state, government or judicial officials, or even foreign government leaders, were used to imprison critics in Bahrain – where a court sentenced one prominent woman activist to three years in prison for tearing up a photograph of the King – as well as in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman and Saudi Arabia. In Iran, critics faced trial on charges including moharebeh (“enmity against God”), a capital offence. In the UAE, the authorities continued to sentence pro-reform advocates to long prison terms after unfair trials and introduced new anti-terrorism legislation so sweeping as to equate peaceful protests with terrorism, punishable by possible death sentences.

The UAE and some other Gulf states, including Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman, created or used powers to penalize peaceful critics by stripping them of their nationality, and thus their rights as citizens, potentially rendering them stateless. Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE exercised these powers during the year.

Freedom of association was widely curtailed. Many governments did not permit independent trade unions; some governments, including those of Algeria and Morocco/Western Sahara, required independent associations, including human rights organizations, to obtain official registration in order to operate legally but prevented their registration or harassed those that had registered previously. In Egypt, the authorities threatened the very existence of independent NGOs.

The right to peaceful assembly, so evident during the protests that shook the region in 2011, was greatly curtailed by many governments in 2014. Algerian authorities snuffed out protests by blocking access to venues and arresting activists. In Kuwait, the authorities continued to prohibit protests by members of the Bidun community, many of whom continue to be denied Kuwaiti nationality. Bahraini, Egyptian and Yemeni security forces used excessive force, including unnecessary lethal force, against demonstrators, causing deaths and injuries. Israeli soldiers and border police in the West Bank shot Palestinian stone throwers and others at protests against settlements, the wall/fence and other aspects of Israel’s longstanding military occupation.

Elsewhere, unidentified gunmen committed unlawful killings with impunity, sometimes targeting those who spoke up for human rights and the rule of law. In Libya, Salwa Bughaighis, a human rights lawyer who had been one of the leading voices in the 2011 uprising, was shot dead by gunmen who entered her Benghazi home shortly after she had criticized the country’s powerful but lawless armed groups in a media interview.

Justice system

Arbitrary arrests and detentions, prolonged detention without trial, enforced disappearances and unfair trials were common throughout the region, constant reminders of the corruption of criminal justice systems as tools of repression for the authorities. Thousands were held in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, with some detained without charge or trial and others jailed after unfair trials. Smaller numbers of detainees were also held in Bahrain, Iran, the UAE and elsewhere; some were subject to enforced disappearance. Israeli authorities held some 500 Palestinians in administrative detention without trial; thousands of other Palestinians were serving prison terms in Israel. Palestinian authorities in both the West Bank and Gaza continued to detain political opponents; in Gaza, military and other courts sentenced alleged “collaborators” with Israel to death.

In Libya, rival militia forces held thousands of detainees, some since the fall of Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, subjecting many of them to harsh and degrading conditions with no prospect of early release.

Across much of the region, courts tried and sentenced defendants with little regard for due process, often imposing long prison terms and sometimes death sentences on the basis of torture-tainted “confessions” and charges so broadly and vaguely framed as to virtually guarantee conviction. In Egypt, one judge issued preliminary death sentences against hundreds accused of taking part in deadly attacks on police stations after two fundamentally flawed trials; another judge sentenced three prominent media workers to lengthy prison terms without substantive evidence; and the new head of state decreed increased powers for notoriously unfair military courts to try civilians on terrorism and other charges. In both Bahrain and the UAE, courts did the government’s bidding when trying those accused on security-related charges or for causing offence to those in power; in both countries, courts imposed prison terms on family members campaigning for the release of their wrongly imprisoned relatives. Iran’s revolutionary courts continued to convict defendants on scarcely definable charges and handed down harsh sentences, including death. In Saudi Arabia, those targeted and sentenced to prison terms included lawyers who had acted as defence counsel in security-related trials and criticized the unfairness of the courts.

Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq remained the region’s principal state executioners; in all three, authorities carried out scores of executions of defendants, many of whom had been sentenced after unfair trials. Those executed in Saudi Arabia, where many victims – 26 in August alone – were publicly beheaded, included a man convicted of sorcery and others convicted of non-violent drugs offences. Egypt resumed executions in June after a break of more than 30 months, perhaps presaging a large-scale increase in executions once hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and others sentenced to death during the year have exhausted all appeals. Jordan also resumed executions in December after an eight-year hiatus. In Lebanon, courts continued to impose death sentences, but the authorities refrained from executing people, as did the authorities in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, who maintained longstanding de facto moratoriums on executions.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Throughout the region, security forces tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees in their custody, sometimes on an industrial scale. In Syria, children were among the victims and large numbers of deaths of detainees from torture or other ill-treatment were reported but often difficult to verify. In January, photographic evidence emerged of thousands of deaths of detainees, many apparently due to beatings or other torture or starvation in Syrian government detention. Torture was endemic in Egypt, where the victims ranged from minor criminal suspects to Muslim Brotherhood activists swept up in the government’s crackdown. Commonly reported torture methods in these and other countries included beatings on the soles of the feet, beatings while suspended by the limbs, prolonged standing or squatting in stress positions, electric shocks to the genitals and other sensitive areas, threats against the detainee and their family and, in some cases, rape and other sexual abuse. Often, torture was used to gather information leading to the detention of other suspects or to obtain “confessions” that could be used by courts to sentence government critics or opponents to prison terms, but it was also used to degrade, humiliate and mentally and physically scar the victims. Generally, the perpetrators used torture with impunity: governments frequently flouted their international legal obligation to independently investigate torture allegations, rarely prosecuted alleged torturers, and seldom if ever secured convictions when they did so.

Impunity

It was not only torturers who benefited from impunity. So too did the political and military leaders who were the architects of, or who ordered, the war crimes and other violations of international law committed by government forces during the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza and Israel, and those who presided over the large-scale human rights violations committed in Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and elsewhere. In Bahrain, the government committed to holding an independent investigation into torture in 2011 in response to the findings of an independent inquiry conducted by international experts, but it had not done so by the end of the year. In Algeria, the authorities maintained their long refusal to allow investigations into unlawful killings and other historical violations; in Yemen, the country’s former President and his close associates continued to benefit from immunity agreed when he relinquished office following protests in 2011 in which his forces killed many protesters. In Tunisia, the new authorities did prosecute some former senior officials and members of the security forces for unlawfully killing protesters during the uprising there, only for a military appeals court to reduce the charges and sentences to such an extent that most of those convicted walked free.

Amid the failure or incapability of national justice systems to address impunity in Syria, human rights groups including Amnesty International made repeated calls to the UN Security Council to refer the situations in Syria and in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), but these fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, Libya remained under ICC jurisdiction following a UN Security Council referral in 2011, but the ICC prosecutor failed to open new investigations despite a rash of new war crimes as the country returned to civil war.

Discrimination – ethnic and religious minorities

Amid the political turmoil, religious and ethnic divisiveness and sectarianism that gripped the region, governments and non-state armed groups viewed minorities with increased suspicion and intolerance. This was most brutally reflected in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, where many people were arrested, abducted, “ethnically cleansed” from their homes, or killed on account of their place of origin or their religion, but it was evident too in Libya, where killings on ethnic or tribal grounds were common and on the rise.

In the Gulf, the Iranian government continued to imprison Baha’is and bar them from higher education, and to restrict the rights of other religious minorities as well as those of Azeris, Kurds and other ethnic minorities, and were reported to have secretly executed Ahwazi Arab rights activists. In Saudi Arabia, the authorities maintained a crackdown on Shi’a critics of the government in the country’s oil-rich Eastern Province, sentencing rights activists to long prison terms and, in at least one case, the death penalty after unfair trials. In Kuwait, the government continued to withhold citizenship and its associated entitlements to tens of thousands of Bidun residents.

Refugees and internally displaced people

In 2014, the Syrian crisis surpassed other such crises to become the world’s worst in terms of refugee flows and internally displaced people. By the end of the year, approximately 4 million refugees had fled the conflict in Syria. The vast majority – about 95% – were being hosted in neighbouring countries: at least 1.1 million in Lebanon, more than 1.6 million in Turkey, more than 600,000 in Jordan, more than 220,000 in Iraq and more than 130,000 in Egypt, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. International relief efforts received insufficient funding to meet the needs of those displaced. In December, the UN’s annual Syria Regional Refugee Response plan for 2014 remained only 54% funded, and the World Food Programme was forced to temporarily suspend a food aid scheme to 1.7 million Syrians due to a lack of funding. In many places, the rapid influx of so many refugees placed huge burdens on the resources of the main host countries, sparking tension between refugee populations and host communities. Authorities in both Jordan and Lebanon took steps to bar the entry of Palestinian refugees from Syria and, increasingly, of anyone seeking refuge from Syria; the Egyptian authorities forcibly returned some refugees to Syria.

Within Syria, a further 7.6 million people were internally displaced, with many forced from their homes by fighting or sectarian attacks. Some had been repeatedly displaced; many were in locations beyond the reach of international humanitarian agencies or were trapped in areas besieged by government forces or non-state armed groups. Their situation was perilous in the extreme, with faint prospect of alleviation.

While nothing else matched the Syrian crisis for scale, its overflow into Iraq also saw thousands internally displaced there, due partly to IS violence and abuses but also to attacks and abuses committed by pro-government Shi’a militias. In Libya, thousands of people forced from the town of Tawargha in 2011 by Misrata armed militia continued to be prevented from returning to their homes and faced further displacement when the capital, Tripoli, and other areas plunged into armed conflict mid-year. In Gaza, Israeli bombing and other attacks destroyed thousands of homes, displacing thousands, during the 50-day armed conflict that began on 8 July. In Israel itself, the government detained newly arrived asylum-seekers from Sudan, Eritrea and other countries at a facility in the Naqab/Negev desert and returned others to their home countries under an ostensibly “voluntary” procedure that contained no guarantees of their safety and entailed a high risk of refoulement.

Migrants’ rights

Migrant workers fuelled the economies of many states across the region, not least in the oil and gas-rich states of the Gulf, where they performed vital roles in construction and other industries and in the service sector. Despite their importance to local economies, in most states migrant workers remained inadequately protected under local labour laws and were subject to exploitation and abuse. Qatar’s selection to host the football World Cup in 2022 ensured that its official policies and practices in relation to the workers it hired to build new stadiums and other facilities remained under scrutiny, and the government made promises of reform in response to pressure. Nevertheless, in Qatar as in other Gulf states, the sponsorship, or kafala, system used to recruit migrant workers and regulate their employment facilitated rights abuses that were exacerbated by a common absence of official enforcement measures to uphold migrants’ rights. Many migrant workers in the region were required by employers to work excessive hours without rest or days off, and were prevented by threat of arrest and deportation from leaving abusive employers.

Perhaps most vulnerable of all were the many thousands of women from Asia, in particular, who were employed as domestic workers, and could be subjected to physical or other abuse, including sexual abuse as well as other forms of labour abuse without any or adequate means of remedy. The Saudi Arabian authorities engaged in mass expulsions of “surplus” migrant workers to Yemen and other countries, often after first detaining them in harsh conditions. Elsewhere, in countries such as Libya where lawlessness prevailed, migrant workers faced discrimination and other abuses, including violence and armed robbery at checkpoints, roadblocks and on the streets.

Thousands of people, many of them prey to human traffickers and people smugglers, sought to escape and make new lives for themselves by boarding often overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Some made it to Europe; others were pulled from the sea by the Italian navy, and at least 3,000 were reported to have drowned.

Forced evictions

In Egypt, the authorities continued to evict residents of “informal settlements” in Cairo and elsewhere without providing adequate notice or alternative accommodation or compensation. Those affected included residents who had made their homes in areas that the authorities deemed “unsafe”, and whose removal they required to facilitate new commercial developments. The army also forcibly evicted at least 1,000 families living alongside the border with Gaza as part of efforts to create a “buffer” zone. The Israeli authorities also carried out forced evictions. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, they punitively destroyed the family homes of Palestinians who mounted attacks on Israeli civilians, and demolished dozens of homes of Palestinians which they said had been constructed illegally. In Israel, the authorities forcibly evicted Bedouin living in officially “unrecognized villages” in the Naqab/Negev region.

Women’s rights

Across the region, women and girls faced discrimination under the law and as a result of official policies, and were inadequately protected against sexual and other violence. Such discrimination was deeply entrenched and few improvements were apparent in 2014. Three years on since women demonstrated with unprecedented visibility during the popular uprisings that swept the region in 2011, they appeared to be among the main losers of the political changes that ensued. In Egypt, groups of men attacked and sexually assaulted women protesters in the streets around Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Tunisia was the notable exception. There, two police officers convicted of rape received lengthy prison terms, the government lifted Tunisia’s reservations to CEDAW and appointed an expert committee to draft a framework law to combat violence against women and girls. Algerian and Moroccan authorities also took some positive, albeit limited, legal measures, the former finally recognizing the right to compensation for women raped during the internal armed conflict of the 1990s, and the latter abolishing a Penal Code provision that allowed rapists to escape prosecution if they married their victim.

In the Gulf, despite their implacable mutual hostility on political and religious issues, the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia both had appalling records on women’s rights. In Iran, where many women’s rights activists have been detained or imprisoned in recent years, the authorities detained girls and women who protested about an official ban on their attending certain sporting events as spectators. In Saudi Arabia, the authorities arrested or threatened women who dared defy an official ban on driving. In both countries, authorities also enforced strict dress and behavioural codes for women, and retained laws that punish adultery with death. In Yemen, women and girls continued to face early and forced marriage and, in some provinces, high rates of female genital mutilation.

Amid a general failure by governments to afford women and girls adequate protection against sexual violence and violence within the family, the excesses of IS forces in Iraq, where possibly thousands of ethnic or religious minority women and girls were forcibly abducted and sold as “wives” or slaves to members of armed groups including IS, represented a new nadir, yet one that elicited only muted condemnation from religious leaders.

2014 was a year of appalling suffering throughout much of the Middle East and North Africa, one that saw some of the worst excesses in recent history and that, at its close, held few signs of early improvement. And yet, amidst the horrors, local actors and activists of many different political hues continued through various means to speak truth to power, to express defiance in the face of tyranny, to assist the wounded and the powerless, and to stand up not only for their own rights but for the rights of others, often at huge personal cost. It was the dauntless courage of such individuals, many of them aptly termed human rights defenders, that was perhaps the most remarkable, and enduring, feature of 2014, and that which holds the most hope for the future of human rights in the region.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT 2014/15

Part two: Country entries

AFGHANISTAN

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Head of state and government: Muhammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (replaced Hamid Karzai in September)

There was growing insecurity throughout the country in expectation of the planned withdrawal of 86,000 foreign troops in December, as the mandate of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) ended. The USA committed its troops to remain engaged in combat until the end of 2015. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported that casualties among civilians not involved in hostilities in Afghanistan were at an all-time high. The Taliban and other armed insurgent groups were responsible for more than 74% of civilian casualties, with 9% attributed to pro-government forces. A further 12% of casualties occurred during ground engagement between pro-Afghan government and Taliban insurgents and could not be attributed to any group. The remaining were as a result of the conflict. A lack of accountability in cases where civilians were killed or otherwise harmed unlawfully left many victims and their families without access to justice and reparation. During the year, the Parliament and the Ministry of Justice approved or amended a number of laws, including the Criminal Procedure Code, which barred family members of both victims and perpetrators of crimes from testifying. Since most gender-based violence was reported as happening within the family, this would have made successful prosecutions in such cases nearly impossible. The law was approved by both houses of parliament but was not signed and was rejected by then President Karzai following an outcry from national and international human rights organizations.

Background

With no clear winner in the April presidential election and a June run-off marred by accusations of massive and systematic fraud against both candidates, electoral deadlock ensued for five months. Following long negotiations and interventions by US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Special Representative in Afghanistan Jan Kubis, the two front runners agreed to form the country’s first unity government as election results were announced on 22 September. Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as President on 29 September, with rival candidate Abdullah Abdullah serving as chief executive, a role similar to that of a prime minister. By the end of 2014, the new cabinet had yet to be announced, three months after President Ghani was sworn into office.

In June, in response to international pressure to curb the financing of terrorism within Afghanistan’s jurisdiction, a bill against money laundering was approved by both houses of the Afghan Parliament and signed into law by then President Karzai.

On 30 September, President Ghani signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the USA and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with NATO, allowing 9,800 US and 2,000 additional NATO troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond the end of formal combat operations in December. Their role will largely be to provide training and mentoring to Afghan government forces.

Abuses by armed groups

Between 1 January and 30 June, the number of casualties among civilians not involved in hostilities reached 4,853, of which more than 70% were caused by the Taliban and other armed insurgent groups. This figure marked a doubling since 2009 and an increase of 24% on the same period in 2013. Of these, 1,564 deaths were recorded and 3,289 people injured.

UNAMA said that improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks claimed the highest number of casualties. Ground engagements caused two out of every five civilian casualties, with 474 killed and 1,427 injured. This represented 39% of all civilian casualties, an increase of 89% from 2013.

The Taliban and other armed insurgent groups frequently attacked targets within easy reach, causing large numbers of civilian casualties. Child casualties and women casualties both increased by 24% from 2013, accounting for 29% of all recorded casualties in the first half of 2014.

Between January and August 2014 the NGO Safety Organization in Afghanistan recorded 153 attacks on aid workers, resulting in 34 people killed and 33 injured. The government attributed the majority of these attacks to gunmen belonging to insurgent groups, including the Taliban.

Violations by international and Afghan government forces

ISAF and NATO forces continued to launch night raids and aerial and ground attacks, claiming dozens of civilian lives, despite completing the handover of responsibility for security to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in June 2013. UNAMA said that 9% of the total civilian casualties were caused by pro-government forces (8% to ANSF and 1% to ISAF/NATO forces) with ground combat and crossfire accounting for the majority of deaths. The total number of civilians killed by pro-government forces during the first six months of 2014 fell from 302 to 158, mostly due to reduced aerial military operations. The ANSF were responsible for greater civilian casualties due to their full involvement in military operations and ground engagement.

There were significant failures of accountability for civilian deaths, including a lack of transparent investigations and a lack of justice for the victims and their families.1

In May, the English High Court ruled as unlawful the detention policy adopted by UK forces in Afghanistan after reviewing the case of Serdar Mohammed, held since 2010. The Court found that his detention beyond the 96 hours permitted had been arbitrary, in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Following the ruling, the Afghan government ordered the UK to hand over 23 detainees held in two UK-run facilities in Helmand.

Violence against women and girls

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) registered 4,154 cases of violence against women in the first half of the year alone, a 25% increase on the same period in 2013. There was an increase in reported crimes against women and girls, but it was not clear whether this was due to an increase in violence or in awareness and access to complaint mechanisms for women. A 2013 UN report found that the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women was applied in only 17% of all reported cases of violence against women in Afghanistan.

In a move seen as positive by women’s and human rights groups, former President Karzai refused to sign into law the Criminal Procedure Code passed by the Afghan Parliament, which would have prohibited relatives of the accused from testifying in criminal cases. Since most gender-based violence was reported as happening within the family, this would have made successful prosecutions much more difficult to achieve and would have denied justice to victims of rape and domestic violence, as well as those subjected to underage and forced marriages. On the other hand, the reduction in the quota of women’s seats in provincial councils, and the absence of women in the peace negotiation process with the Taliban, constituted backward steps for women’s rights.

According to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, there were 4,466 cases of self-poisoning and 2,301 cases of self-immolation by women during the year, resulting in the deaths of 166 women. Gender-based violence was reported as the primary cause of these acts of self-harm, followed by conflict-related trauma and displacement.

On 30 April a cleric was arrested for tying up and raping one of his Qur’an pupils, a 10-year-old girl, in Kunduz province.2

Arbitrary arrests and detentions, and torture and other ill-treatment

Arbitrary arrests and detentions, including some incommunicado detention, continued under the intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the police. Suspects were routinely denied due process, including being denied access to a lawyer or to their families. Allegations continued of violations by NDS personnel, including torture and other ill-treatment and enforced disappearances.

At least 50 non-Afghan prisoners remained in US custody in Parwan detention facility (formerly known as Bagram) at the end of the year. Some were believed to have been held since 2002. Their identities and any possible charges against them remained undisclosed, as did details of their legal representation and access to medical care.

Freedom of expression – journalists

The government failed to investigate adequately and prosecute perpetrators of attacks on journalists and other media workers who were peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.

There was a reported 50% rise in the number of journalists killed in 2014 and a 60% increase in the number of attacks in the first half of the year, compared with 2013 figures.

Journalists were arrested, threatened, beaten or killed in apparently politically motivated attacks by government workers, international forces, insurgent groups and supporters of election candidates. According to Afghan media watchdog Nai, 20 journalists were attacked and seven killed. Journalists covering the presidential election were particularly at risk.

Refugees and internally displaced people

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, estimated that Afghans continued to account for the highest number of refugees in the world. Neighbouring Iran and Pakistan hosted 2.7 million registered Afghan refugees. In March, UNHCR documented 659,961 Afghans who were internally displaced due to armed conflict, deterioration of security and natural disasters.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation launched the landmark National Internally Displaced People (IDP) Policy on 11 February 2014, providing a legal definition for displaced people and establishing the government’s primary responsibilities in providing emergency assistance, long-term support and protection. There were concerns that displacement could increase, however, following the security transition scheduled for the end of 2014 as local insurgents fought to occupy territory previously under the control of international forces.

Displaced people continued to migrate to larger cities such as Kabul, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif. Inadequate makeshift shelters, overcrowding and poor hygiene, combined with harsh weather conditions, led to an increase in communicable and chronic diseases such as malaria and hepatitis. Efforts to eradicate the polio virus through vaccination programmes were impeded by opposition armed groups, including the Taliban, and cases continued to be reported.

Death penalty

Afghanistan continued to apply the death penalty, often after unfair trials.

On 8 October, six men were executed in Kabul Pul-e-Charkhi prison, less than two weeks after President Ghani’s inauguration. Five had been convicted in connection with the gang-rape of four women in Paghman district. A sixth man had been convicted in a separate case of a series of kidnappings, murders and armed robberies. On 28 September, then President Karzai signed the death warrants for the six men. The trial proceedings of five men were considered unfair and controversial, marred by public and political pressure on the courts to hand down a tough sentence while the accused claimed to have confessed following torture by police in detention.

President Ghani ordered a review of nearly 400 death row cases.

  1. Left in the dark: Failures of accountability for civilian casualties caused by international military operations in Afghanistan (ASA 11/006/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa11/006/2014/en/
  2. Afghanistan: Ten-year-old rape survivor faces “honour” killing (ASA 11/013/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa11/013/2014/en/

ALBANIA

Republic of Albania
Head of state: Bujar Nishani
Head of government: Edi Rama

Domestic violence remained widespread and survivors rarely received justice. Impunity for cases of torture and other ill-treatment continued. Access to habitable and affordable housing for people living in poverty, including Roma, remained very limited, despite government pledges. A former barracks designated as temporary accommodation for victims of forced eviction did not meet international standards.

Background

In June, the EU Council of Ministers approved EU candidate status for Albania, conditional on further judicial reform, combating corruption and organized crime and ensuring the protection of human rights, including the rights of Roma, anti-discrimination policies, and the implementation of property rights.

Albania’s first Pride march took place in May.

Enforced disappearances

The whereabouts of the body of Remzi Hoxha, an ethnic Albanian from Macedonia who was forcibly disappeared in 1995 by state security agents, was not revealed to his son, despite assurances by the Prime Minister in 2013 that the location of his grave would be identified.

Unlawful killings

Prosecutors reviewed the case of Aleks Nika, a demonstrator who died after being shot during anti-government demonstrations in January 2011 in the capital Tirana. In May, police officers who allegedly ill-treated some demonstrators during and after the protests were questioned. In July, the state prosecutor filed charges against the former General Director of Police and his deputy for failing to arrest six Republican Guard officers suspected of shooting at the demonstrators.

Housing rights

The Ministry of Urban Development and Tourism and the National Housing Authority proposed to increase the stock of social housing and access for those in inadequate housing. In February, the Ministry announced a new housing strategy to include Roma and Egyptians, to promote the legalization of informal settlements, and to improve access to water and sanitation. However, little progress was made.

In March 2014, a former barracks in the Shishtufinë area of Tirana was formally designated as the National Emergency Transition Centre for victims of forced evictions. Over 50 Roma families evicted from Rruga e Kavajes in Tirana had been resettled in Shishtufinë in October 2013. Conditions at the centre – which was located far from sources of employment and basic services – were inadequate and did not meet international standards for adequate housing.

On International Roma Day in April, some of the 100 Roma families at risk of eviction from Selita in Tirana demonstrated to demand alternative housing. The government rejected a proposed amendment to the law on the legalization of illegal construction in May, requested in a petition signed by 6,000 Roma and Egyptians which called for procedural protections against forced eviction and adequate alternative accommodation.

In July the UN Human Rights Committee issued an interim protection measure suspending the demolition of seven Roma families’ houses in Elbasan pending the hearing of their complaint and compensation claim.

The government failed to guarantee the legal right of homeless registered orphans up to the age of 30 to priority access to social housing. In May, on national Orphans Day, orphans demonstrated calling for education and housing, and describing the financial assistance provided by the state as derisory.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Impunity generally persisted for allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officers. In May, Parliament introduced a new Internal Issues and Complaints Service to combat police corruption and human rights violations. In August the Head of the Public Order sector of the State Police in Kukës was charged with abuse of office and unlawful deprivation of liberty, for the ill-treatment of a detainee.

Former political prisoners organized hunger strikes in protest against the government’s failure to fairly distribute compensation for their imprisonment by the communist government between 1944 and 1991, when thousands were imprisoned or sent to labour camps and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.

Violence against women

In June the High Council of Justice published a review of domestic violence cases in 38 courts, and recommended changes to the law and court practice. They found that criminal proceedings were slow and that courts violated procedural deadlines for reviewing protection orders and issuing decisions.

Some 3,094 incidents of domestic violence were reported to the police by the end of September, with women accounting for the majority of the victims. Just over a third (1,292) of these reports resulted in criminal proceedings.

By the end of September, 1,882 women had sought protection orders in civil proceedings; however, in the Tirana District Court, for example, more than two-thirds of applications for protection orders were withdrawn or discontinued. Where protection orders were issued they were often not enforced.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In response to EU pressure, Albania developed a new border management strategy. Over 500 undocumented migrants and refugees, including Syrians, were detained between January and June. Others were returned to Greece without access to an asylum process. By the end of September, over 12,000 Albanians had applied for asylum in EU member states, on grounds including domestic violence and discrimination against LGBTI people and Roma.

Algeria

People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
Head of state: Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Head of government: Abdelmalek Sellal

The authorities restricted freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, particularly in the run-up to April’s presidential election, dispersing demonstrations and harassing activists. Women faced discrimination in law and practice and remained inadequately protected against violence, despite proposed legislative reforms. Impunity prevailed for perpetrators of gross human rights abuses during the 1990s and acts of torture committed in subsequent years. Irregular migrants faced discrimination, abuse and arbitrary expulsion. Armed groups carried out lethal attacks. Death sentences were imposed; no executions were carried out.

Background

2014 saw continued social unrest caused by tensions between the Mozabite and Arab communities in the city of Ghardaia. There were demonstrations against unemployment, poverty and corruption in the oil and gas-rich south, as well as protests focused on President Bouteflika’s decision to run for re-election in April.

Following the election, the government opened consultations on proposed revisions to the Constitution but some political parties boycotted these consultations and most independent civil society organizations were excluded. At the end of the year the process appeared to have stalled.

There were new clashes between the security forces and armed groups, notably Al Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), mostly in southern and eastern Algeria. Foreign governments increased their security co-operation with Algeria following the attack in January 2013 by an armed group at the In Amenas gas extraction complex, in which dozens were killed and hundreds taken hostage, including foreign civilian workers. In September, an armed group calling itself Jund al-Khalifa (Soldiers of the Caliphate) abducted a French national in the Tizi-Ouzou region, an area where people had previously been kidnapped for ransom, and published a video on the internet showing him beheaded. His killing was in apparent reprisal for France’s participation in a US-led alliance fighting the Islamic State armed group in Iraq. In December, the government said its forces had killed the leader of Jund al-Khalifa and two of his associates.

Algeria became a member of the UN Human Rights Council in January but the government continued to fail to agree to long-requested visits by key UN bodies and experts, including those concerned with torture, counter-terrorism, enforced disappearances and the right to freedom of association. The authorities did not grant visas to Amnesty International staff to visit Algeria.1

Freedom of expression

Journalists and government critics faced restrictions and judicial harassment by the authorities. On 12 March, the security forces closed down Al-Atlas TV, a private television station that had reported on anti-government protests and given airtime to a number of government critics. The authorities accused Al-Atlas TV of broadcasting without a licence.2

On 10 June, a court sentenced Youcef Ouled Dada to two years’ imprisonment and a fine for posting a video on the internet showing police officers stealing from a shop during clashes in Ghardaia. The court convicted him of publishing photos and videos against the national interest and insulting a state institution. His sentence was confirmed on appeal.

Freedom of assembly

The authorities maintained a ban on all demonstrations in the capital Algiers although the security forces allowed some to go ahead without interference. In other cases, the police forcibly dispersed demonstrators, especially those from the Barakat (Enough) movement protesting against the President’s decision to stand for re-election for a fourth term of office in April, and arrested some demonstrators, often releasing them after a few hours in custody.3 Police also forcibly dispersed protests in other cities.

On 20 April, police used excessive force to disperse demonstrators in Tizi-Ouzou city who were commemorating the violent repression of protesters in 2001 in the Kabylia region. Witnesses reported that police beat unarmed protesters and fired plastic bullets, one of which hit Lounis Aliouat, blinding him in one eye. The authorities said they had suspended five police officers pending an investigation into the beatings but they did not disclose the outcome of the investigation.

In May, a court imposed suspended six-month sentences on Mohand Kadi, a student, and Tunisian national Moez Benncir on charges of “participating in a non-armed gathering that may disturb public order”. Police had arrested both men on 16 April near a Barakat movement demonstration in Algiers, although both denied participating in it.4 Mohand Kadi’s sentence was confirmed on appeal.

Freedom of association

In January, the deadline for registering existing associations under Law 12-06 expired. The law imposed wide-ranging and arbitrary restrictions on associations, including NGOs and civil society organizations, and penalties of imprisonment for up to six months plus a fine for membership of unregistered, suspended or dissolved associations. While some associations were able to register, others remained in legal limbo as they waited for the authorities’ response to their registration application.

Amnesty International Algeria was one of a number of independent NGOs to file its registration application in accordance with the procedures set out in Law 12-06 but received no acknowledgement or other response from the authorities, despite repeated requests.

Women’s rights

The authorities took some steps to improve women’s rights. On 1 February, the adoption of Decree 14-26 provided for the first time for financial compensation to be paid by state authorities to women raped by members of armed groups during the internal conflict of the 1990s. At the end of the year it was unclear how many women had received compensation under Decree 14-26.

In June, the government proposed new legislation to criminalize physical violence against a spouse and indecent assaults on women when they are carried out in public. The proposed legislation would also make it a punishable offence to abandon a spouse or to use coercion or intimidation to obtain a spouse’s financial resources. The proposed law establishing a state fund to assist divorced women with custody of their children whose former husbands failed to pay them alimony was adopted by Parliament on 26 November. At the end of the year, the other proposed amendments were still awaiting enactment.

Despite these advances, women remained inadequately protected from violence, including sexual violence, under the law. For example, a provision under which men who rape girls under the age of 18 are granted immunity from criminal prosecution if they marry their victim remained in force. Women’s rights groups continued their long campaign for a comprehensive law to combat violence against women. Women also continued to face discrimination under the Family Code in relation to marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance.5

Impunity

The authorities took no steps to investigate thousands of enforced disappearances and other human rights abuses committed during the internal conflict of the 1990s and in subsequent years. Families of those forcibly disappeared continued to demand information about the fate of their relatives, including on the anniversary of the vote for the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, which gave immunity to the security forces and criminalized public criticism of their conduct.

The UN Human Rights Committee ruled on five cases of enforced disappearance and urged the authorities to investigate them thoroughly, bring the perpetrators to justice and provide effective remedies to the relatives of the disappeared.

The authorities took no steps to implement the UN Committee against Torture’s recommendations, issued in November 2013, on the death of Mounir Hammouche, who died in the custody of the Department for Information and Security (DRS) in December 2006. The Committee called for an impartial investigation into his death, with a view to ensuring the prosecution of those responsible for his torture, and for his relatives to be afforded full redress.

Counter-terror and security

Armed groups carried out a series of attacks targeting members of the security forces. In September, the Jund al-Khalifa armed group abducted and killed French national Hervé Gourdel, and posted a video on the internet showing him beheaded.

The authorities and the media reported scores of killings of members of armed groups by the security forces but disclosed few details of the circumstances in which these killings occurred, prompting fears that some may have been extrajudicial executions.

The DRS, despite reports of infighting among decision-makers over its role, continued to wield wide powers of arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention of terrorism suspects, facilitating torture and other ill-treatment. In June, the President issued Decree 14-183. This established a judicial investigation service within the DRS charged with preventing and suppressing acts of terrorism, acts that undermine state security and the activities of international criminal organizations deemed to threaten Algeria’s national security.

In March, the US authorities returned Ahmed Belbacha to Algeria from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where they had imprisoned him without trial for over 12 years. In 2009 an Algerian court sentenced him after a trial held in absentia to 20 years’ imprisonment. In December, he was acquitted of terrorism charges by the Algiers criminal court.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Migrants continued to face abuses including discrimination and arbitrary deportation. The government did not disclose how many migrants it expelled but they were reported to number several hundred, with many expelled without due process and safeguards.

Irregular or undocumented migrants remained vulnerable to violence, xenophobia and expulsion. In January, a woman from Cameroon was detained for illegally residing in Algeria when she went to the police in the city of Oran to report being raped.

Thousands of Algerian would-be migrants known as “harragas”, and foreign nationals, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, continued to attempt the hazardous sea crossing from Algeria to Europe, despite a 2009 law that criminalized “illicit” exit from Algeria using forged documents or through locations other than official border exit ports.

Death penalty

Death sentences were imposed; no executions have been carried out since 1993.

In November, Algeria voted in support of a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty.

  1. Algeria: Allow rights groups to visit: No response from Algiers to requests from UN Bodies : Joint statement (MDE 28/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE28/001/2014/en
  2. Algeria: Authorities shut down TV channel (MDE 28/003/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/documents/MDE28/003/2014/en/
  3. Algeria: Crackdown on peaceful assembly ahead of presidential elections (MDE 28/002/2014) https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/MDE28/002/2014/en/ Algeria: Key human rights concerns ahead of presidential elections (MDE 28/004/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/documents/MDE28/004/2014/en/ 
  4. Algeria: Two young men arbitrarily detained and prosecuted (MDE 28/006/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/documents/MDE28/006/2014/en/
  5. Algeria: Comprehensive reforms needed to end sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls (MDE 28/010/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde28/010/2014/en/

ANGOLA

Republic of Angola
Head of state and government: José Eduardo dos Santos

Freedom of association and assembly continued to be suppressed. Thousands of families were forcibly evicted. A youth was tried and acquitted for criminal defamation against the President and the trial of another man for criminal defamation against state officials commenced. The trial of state agents in connection with the disappearance of two men in 2012 started, was suspended and then restarted.

BACKGROUND

In January, President José Eduardo dos Santos became chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.

There were reports of sporadic political violence between members of the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola, MPLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola, UNITA).

From 28 April to 12 May, Angola hosted the 55th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the capital, Luanda.

Between 16 and 31 May, Angola conducted a general population and housing census. The census was the first since 1970, prior to independence. The preliminary results, which were released in October, set the population at above 24.3 million with 52% being women.

Angola’s human rights record was assessed under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in October.1 Angola accepted 192 out of a total of 226 recommendations made. It also took the remaining 34 recommendations under further consideration, including those related to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Housing rights – forced evictions

Authorities carried out forced evictions on a larger scale than in the past couple of years. At least 4,000 families had their homes demolished and were forcibly evicted in Luanda province. At least 700 of these families were left without adequate housing. There were also reports of evictions in other provinces, including Cabinda.

From 20 January a reported 2,000 families were forcibly evicted from their homes in the Chicala neighbourhood of Luanda. The houses had been earmarked for demolition for two years. Some of those forcibly evicted were rehoused in Zango in Luanda, while others were given tents in an undeveloped area in Kissama, about 100km from the city. It was only in September that they received land and iron sheets to construct houses.

From 28 May to 6 June a reported 600 families had their homes demolished and were forcibly evicted from the Areia Branca neighbourhood of Luanda. It is believed they were evicted to make way for construction of a hotel. Armed police, including riot police and a canine brigade, reportedly beat those being evicted. Most of the residents had lived in the area for six to 10 years and some reported that they had legal title to the land. The families were moved to a location in the Samba district of Luanda and reportedly remained there at the end of the year in makeshift cardboard houses.

Freedom of assembly

Police and security forces used force or the threat of force, as well as arbitrary detentions, to suppress peaceful demonstrations in Angola.2 On a number of occasions police detained demonstrators and beat them before leaving them hundreds of kilometres away from where they were detained. In July, young demonstrators began demonstrating in the informal settlements as part of what they call the project “Movement for Demonstrations in the Musseques” (o projecto Movimento das Manifestações nos Musseques, MMM). Musseques is the colloquial word for informal settlements in Angola. According to the youth organizers, the movement aimed to peacefully demonstrate for better living conditions in the informal settlements.

Police reportedly beat and arrested young people peacefully demonstrating on the anniversary of the 27 May 1977 killings. About 100 people reportedly met at Independence Square in Luanda to demonstrate and call for commissions of inquiry into the 1977 killings, as well as those of three activists in 2012 and 2013. Police detained 20 young people for several hours and reportedly beat them before leaving them in Catete, some 60km outside Luanda.

On 21 June, riot police used teargas and violently dispersed a peaceful protest of the Teachers’ Union, Sindicato Nacional de Professores (SINPROF), in Lubango and arrested 20 teachers. The teachers were demonstrating to demand overdue payment of their salaries. They were released on 23 June after acquittal in a summary trial.

Unlawful killings

Police and security forces continued to enjoy impunity for some cases of unlawful killings. Police and security forces were responsible for unlawful killings in various provinces including Luanda, Malanje, Lunda Sul and Lunda Norte.

In May, plain-clothed police officers identified as belonging to the 32nd Police Station of Kilamba Kiaxi district in Luanda reportedly shot and killed Manuel Samuel Tiago, Damião Zua Neto “Dani” and Gosmo Pascoal Muhongo Quicassa “Smith”. Witnesses stated that the youths had been in a vehicle parked outside a canteen in the 28 de Agosto neighbourhood of Kilamba Kiaxi. The police stopped beside the vehicle and reportedly fired shots at it. Manuel Samuel Tiago’s brother, who witnessed the scene, reported that his brother had got out of the car and pleaded with the police to stop shooting, but had been shot by the police officer. An investigation into the case was instituted. No further information was available by the end of the year.

In July a private security guard shot and killed Lucas Tiago in Cuango, Lunda Norte. Police and private security guards were reportedly in the area carrying out an operation against illegal diamond mining and in the process Lucas Tiago was shot in the back. This resulted in a confrontation between the other diamond miners and the police and security guards. Police and security guards reportedly arrested 22 miners. An investigation was instituted into Lucas Tiago’s death. No further information was available by the end of the year.

Freedom of expression

Authorities continued to subject individuals to criminal defamation charges. The appeals of two journalists, Armando Chicoca and William Tonet, against their individual convictions for criminal defamation in 2011, had still not been heard.

On 14 August, Manuel Nito Alves was tried and acquitted of criminal defamation against the President of Angola due to lack of sufficient evidence. The charges were brought against him in connection with commissioning T-shirts with words deemed to be offensive to the President. He had been arrested by police officers and State security agents on 12 September 2013, when he was 17 years old, as he was collecting the T-shirts in the store where the printing had been commissioned.

On 19 August, journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais was arraigned before the Luanda Provincial Court on charges of criminal libel brought against him by the head of the Intelligence Bureau at the Presidency, six other generals and the mining company Sociedade Mineira do Cuango (SMC). The charges related to a book, Diamantes de Sangue: Tortura e Corrupção em Angola (Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola) that had been published in Portugal. The book implicates the head of the Intelligence Bureau and the six generals in human rights violations in the diamond mines of the Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul provinces. Rafael Marques de Morais is reportedly being sued for US$1.2 million and could face a prison sentence. No trial date had been set at the time of writing.

Police beat and arrested journalists reporting on human rights violations. At least two journalists were detained for reporting on police activities.

On 2 February, police detained Queirós Anastácio Chiluvia, a journalist of the UNITA radio station, Rádio Despertar, as he attempted to report on shouts for help of detainees for a fellow detainee in the Municipal Police Command of Cacuaco. Queirós Anastácio Chiluvia was reportedly held for five days without charge before being tried and convicted on 7 February for insulting the police, defamation and working illegally as a journalist. He was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment which was suspended for two years.

Enforced disappearances

The whereabouts of journalist Milocas Pereira (who disappeared in 2012), Cláudio António “Ndela” and Adilson Panela Gregório “Belucho” (who both disappeared in 2013) were still unknown. A trial opened into the disappearance of two men in the Luanda Provincial Court.

On 18 November the trial of eight state agents for the abduction in May 2012 and subsequent murder of Silva Alves Kamulingue and Isaías Sebastião Cassule was restarted in the Luanda Provincial Court. It initially started on 1 September and was suspended on 4 September as one of the accused, the Head of the State Security and Intelligence Service at the time of the abduction, was promoted to the position of General reportedly by President Eduardo dos Santos. The trial had to be suspended as the Luanda Provincial Court does not have the jurisdiction to try a General. On 22 September, the President revoked the promotion and ordered an investigation into the process of promotion. No further information regarding the trial was available at the end of the year.

  1. Angola: Amnesty International submission for the UN Universal Periodic Review September 2014 (AFR 12/005/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR12/005/2014/en
  2. Punishing Dissent: Suppression of freedom of association, assembly and expression in Angola (AFR 12/004/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR12/004/2014/en

ARGENTINA

Argentine Republic
Head of state and government: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Women continued to face obstacles to accessing legal abortions. Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples remained a concern. Courts held trials for crimes committed during the military dictatorship. Reports of torture were not investigated.

Background

In December 2013, the police went on strike over pay sparking violence and looting around the country. At least 18 people were killed. The violence spread across many of the 23 provinces; hundreds of people were injured and thousands of businesses damaged.

Under the Universal Jurisdiction Principle, the justice system also investigated crimes against humanity committed during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco era (1936 to 1975). In April, the Spanish Court of Justice rejected petitions to extradite two former security agents to Argentina.

Also in April, in Tucumán Province, 10 defendants accused of the kidnapping and forced prostitution of Marita Verón in 2002 had their acquittals revoked and were sentenced to prison terms.

Women´s rights

More than half of jurisdictions did not have protocols in place for hospitals to guarantee access to abortions, which were legal if the pregnancy resulted from sexual abuse or put the woman´s life or health at risk. In March, the Supreme Court rejected the motion for a public hearing to evaluate the necessary measures to effectively enforce its March 2012 sentence, which dispelled any doubts about the legality of abortions.

In April, the authorities of a hospital in Moreno, Buenos Aires Province, denied a 13-year-old girl an abortion whose pregnancy was the result of rape, due to her gestation of 23 weeks and health, despite neither the World Health Organization nor international norms specifying terms for access to this right. The abortion was finally carried out in a private facility.1

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

Although the National Constitution recognized Indigenous Peoples’ rights to ancestral land and to participation in natural resource management, these rights were rarely fulfilled. In April, the La Primavera community (Potae Napocna Navogoh) in the Formosa Province rejected the land demarcation process, claiming that the provincial and national government had not respected their rights to consultation and free, prior and informed consent. At the same time, authorities were using the judicial system to prosecute individuals fighting for their rights. The leader of La Primavera, Félix Díaz, was tried in May for the theft of two police weapons during a 2010 community protest; he denied the allegations. Indigenous communities also faced violence at the hand of civilians; perpetrators were not brought to justice.

In March, the Comunidad India Quilmes, an Indigenous community in the northwest of the country, was attacked with firearms, bats and chains. Armed intruders assaulted and shot at the villagers and took over the community‘s holy site called “ciudad sagrada”. Seven residents were injured. The community was trying to reclaim their sacred land through the national judicial system. At the end of the year, no one had been prosecuted for the usurpation. Investigations into the attacks were under way.

Transitional justice

Throughout the country, courts conducted public trials for crimes against humanity committed under the military rule from 1976 to 1983. In Buenos Aires, 22 accused were prosecuted for their alleged involvement in the Plan Condor, an agreement between the military governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to eliminate their political opponents.

Also, trials were held for more than 100 defendants accused of crimes committed in the clandestine detention and torture centres in the School of Navy Mechanics in Buenos Aires, and La Perla in Córdoba, among others.

Impunity

18 July marked the 20th anniversary of the attack against the building of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires, which left 85 people dead. The government failed to provide justice and reparation to the victims. Iran refused to comply with an Argentine court order which called for the capture of five suspects. In 2013, the Argentine and Iranian governments signed an agreement to interrogate these suspects in Tehran, but the accord did not take effect. In Argentina, high-ranking officials, including former president Carlos Menem, were tried for diverting the investigation. The public trial was pending at the end of the year.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In April, the government regulated the National System for the Prevention of Torture but failed to create a National Committee, which should have been integrated with legislators, government officials and civil society organization representatives. The Committee’s functions would include visiting detention centres and establishing criteria for the use of force, control of overpopulation and transfer regulations.

Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment were not investigated, as in the cases of prisoners Marcelo Tello and Iván Bressan, imprisoned in the province of Santiago del Estero.2

In Mendoza, there were recurring reports of torture but no one was brought to justice. A number of jails were overcrowded and some prisoners were kept in isolation for more than 20 hours a day.3

  1. Argentina: Deben investigarse denuncias de tortura en Santiago del Estero www.amnistia.org.ar/noticias-y-documentos/archivo-de-noticias/argentina-99
  2. Argentina: La provincia de Mendoza tiene la obligación de investigar las denuncia de tortura en las cárceles www.amnistia.org.ar/noticias-y-documentos/archivo-de-noticias/argentina-103
  3. Argentina: El acceso al aborto no punible debe ser garantizado en la provincia de Buenos Aires y entodo el país www.amnistia.org.ar/noticias-y-documentos/archivo-de-noticias/argentina-91

ARMENIA

Republic of Armenia
Head of state: Serzh Sargsyan
Head of government: Hovik Abrahamyan

Peaceful protesters were dispersed by police using excessive force in several instances. Activists working on controversial issues were threatened and attacked.

Background

Between July and August, skirmishes in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border turned into heavy fighting resulting in the reported death of 13 Azerbaijani soldiers and five Armenians, including two civilians.

On 17 July, the Armenian government announced its plans to sign an agreement joining the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union by the end of the year, after it had opted out of signing the EU Association Agreement in 2013.

Freedom of assembly

Police broke up peaceful protests using excessive force on a number of occasions throughout the year. On 7 March, hundreds gathered outside the Ministry of Finance to protest against a controversial pension reform proposal. Police dispersed the peaceful protesters using excessive force. Three persons were arrested, fined and released the next day; two were allegedly ill-treated while in detention. On 23 June, police violently dispersed around 50 demonstrators in Yerevan protesting against electricity price increases, arresting 27. Later the same day, police officers physically assaulted three journalists waiting for the release of protesters outside the Kentron police station.

Women’s rights

On 5 November, staff of the NGO Women’s Resource Centre and other women’s rights activists were threatened and verbally assaulted as they were leaving a court room where they had been assisting a victim of domestic violence. In 2013, the Women’s Resource Centre had received anonymous death threats following its calls for gender equality legislation. No effective investigations into either of these incidents had been conducted by the end of the year.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

The adoption of a draft bill prohibiting all forms of discrimination was put on hold, while provisions expressly prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation were removed. The anti-discrimination bill was drafted as part of the requirements for Armenia’s EU Association membership, but was abandoned after the government opted instead to join the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union.

On 25 July 2013, a court in Yerevan sentenced two young men who threw Molotov cocktails into a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people friendly bar to two-year suspended sentences. Despite admitting the homophobic motives behind their attack, both men were amnestied in October 2013.

Conscientious objectors

By the end of the year, all 33 Jehovah’s Witnesses who had been detained for refusing to perform alternative service in previous years were released and required to perform alternative service.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Local human rights defenders continued to raise concern over high numbers of reported beatings and ill-treatment in police custody.

Authorities still had to effectively investigate the allegations of ill-treatment in custody of the opposition leader Shatn Harutyunyan. Shatn Harutyunyan and 13 other activists were arrested following clashes with the police on 5 November 2013, when they were attempting to march to the presidential building. Allegations of ill-treatment by two activists detained during protests on 7 March also remained without effective investigation.

AUSTRALIA

Australia 
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Sir Peter Cosgrove (replaced Quentin Bryce in March)
Head of government: Tony Abbott

Australia’s hard-line approach to asylum-seekers continued, with those arriving by boat either sent back to their country of departure, transferred to offshore immigration detention centres, or detained in Australia. Indigenous Peoples continued to be heavily over-represented in prisons despite comprising only a fraction of the population, with Indigenous youth being imprisoned at 25 times the rate of non-Indigenous youth. Regressive new legislation, introduced in the name of counter-terrorism and security, failed to protect the rights to privacy and freedoms of expression and movement.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Australia maintained its offshore processing policy, transferring anyone who arrived by boat after 19 July 2013 to Australian-run immigration detention centres on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island or Nauru. By 1 December 2014, approximately 2,040 asylum-seekers were detained in these centres, including 155 children on Nauru. Violence and possibly inadequate medical treatment resulted in the deaths of two asylum- seekers at the Australian-run immigration detention centre on Manus Island (see Papua New Guinea entry).

Australia continued to turn away boats containing asylum-seekers. By September, 12 boats with 383 people on board had been turned back at sea. An additional two boats were returned directly to Sri Lanka.

In October, the government introduced legislation to “fast track” the processing of over 24,000 asylum applications that had been suspended. The legislation removed a number of important safeguards and will allow people to be returned to other countries regardless of Australia’s non-refoulement obligations under international law.

Australia also maintained its mandatory detention policy for those arriving without valid visas. By 1 December, there were 3,176 individuals in detention centres in mainland Australia and on Christmas Island, including 556 children. In August, the government announced it would transfer the majority of children and their families from onshore detention centres to the community on bridging visas.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

Due to the failure of successive governments to effectively address Indigenous disadvantage, Indigenous Peoples continued to be over-represented in prisons. They comprised 27.4% of adults and 57.2% of juveniles in prisons, despite accounting for just 2.3% of all adults and 5.5% of youth in the general population.

In August, a young Aboriginal woman died in police detention in Western Australia when she was returned to custody twice by the local hospital with serious internal injuries. She had been detained to pay a fine, a policy that disproportionately affects Indigenous Peoples.

Between September and December, the Western Australian government demolished the majority of buildings in the remote Aboriginal community of Oombulgurri following a 2011 forced eviction. Many remote communities across Australia were at risk following the Federal government’s decision in September to discontinue funding essential and municipal services.

Counter-terror and security

National laws were introduced broadening intelligence agency powers, monitoring online activity and preventing the reporting of unlawful conduct by members of those agencies. New laws criminalized travel to areas abroad designated by the government as places where a listed terrorist organization was engaged in “hostile activity”, while shifting the evidentiary burden on to the accused. The operation of controversial preventative detention and control orders were extended and an ill-defined offence of “advocating” terrorism introduced.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Australia had its fifth periodic review before the UN Committee against Torture in November. The Committee criticized Australia for continuing with its policies of mandatory detention and offshore processing of asylum-seekers. It also raised concerns about overcrowding in prisons and the disproportionately high rates of Indigenous incarceration. The Committee called on Australia to swiftly ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. 

AUSTRIA

Republic of Austria
Head of state: Heinz Fischer
Head of government: Werner Faymann

Chronic neglect of detainees in preventive detention was exposed. Inquiries were ongoing into allegations of excessive use of force by police during demonstrations. Second-partner adoption was made legal for same-sex partners. Protection gaps remained in anti-discrimination legislation. A new humanitarian programme to grant refugee status to 1,000 Syrian nationals was launched. Asylum procedures remained long and the provision of independent legal advice to asylum-seekers was inadequate. Austria ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and the Arms Trade Treaty.

Prison conditions

Media investigations exposed structural shortcomings in the juvenile prison and preventive detention systems. In May, reports of the neglect of detainees prompted the Minister of Justice to accelerate the planned reform of the preventive detention system for dangerous offenders. Recommendations issued in October 2013 by a taskforce on the detention of juveniles, established by the Ministry of Justice, were gradually being implemented. Also in May, media reports revealed that in Stein prison a 74-year-old man held in preventive detention since 2008 had been gravely neglected for several months, including being left without medical care. Criminal investigations were opened against prison officials and guards.

Police and security forces

In January and May, clashes between police and protesters prompted allegations that police used excessive force to contain demonstrators. An inquiry by the Ombudsman Board was ongoing. In May, the Minister of the Interior told media that police officers could be equipped with body cameras. A group of experts was instructed to look into their use. The Minister reiterated the government’s rejection of a compulsory identification system for police officers.

Discrimination

Legal amendments were introduced to allow same-sex couples to adopt each other’s biological children, following a European Court of Human Rights judgment in February 2013. In all other circumstances, adoption continued to be denied to same-sex couples.

Despite the government’s commitment in the UN Universal Periodic Review follow-up process to fill protection gaps, the Anti-Discrimination Law did not ensure equal protection against all forms of discrimination. Gaps remained in particular as to protection against discrimination on the basis of religion and belief, age and sexual orientation in the access to goods and services.

Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants

In April, Austria launched a new humanitarian admission programme for 1,000 Syrian refugees from countries neighbouring Syria and committed to granting refugee status to all upon arrival.

The asylum procedure remained long, often lasting several years. The authorities failed to ensure effective and adequate access for all asylum-seekers to independent legal advice throughout the procedure.

Asylum-seekers’ access to adequate housing, social benefits and health care remained inadequate. Conditions in some reception centres were reportedly poor and unhygienic and in some cases amounted to degrading treatment.

Azerbaijan

Republic of Azerbaijan
Head of state: Ilham Aliyev
Head of government: Artur Rasizade

At least six prominent human rights defenders were imprisoned and leading human rights organizations forced to shut down or cease their activities. Independent journalists continued to face harassment, violence and trumped-up criminal charges. Freedom of assembly remained restricted. There were frequent reports of torture and other ill-treatment.

Freedom of association

NGO leaders continued to face threats and harassment from the authorities, including raids by security forces, the confiscation of equipment and imposition of travel bans. At least 10 leading human rights NGOs were prevented from operating as their bank accounts were frozen under a high-profile criminal investigation from May onwards.

Additional restrictions concerning NGO registration and activities were introduced in the law and used arbitrarily to open criminal proceedings against several NGO leaders. On 13 May, the Prosecutor General’s Office launched an investigation into a number of foreign and local NGOs leading to the arrest of six prominent human rights defenders in connection with their organizations’ activities.

Prisoners of conscience

The authorities continued to imprison government critics, political activists and journalists. At the end of the year, there were at least 20 prisoners of conscience.

Journalist Hilal Mammadov, sentenced in earlier years under charges of drug possession and treason, remained in prison.

  Khadija Ismayilova, an outspoken investigative journalist who had published extensively on corruption and human rights violations, was arrested on 5 December on charges of “inciting someone to attempt suicide”. She also faced separate charges of criminal libel. Khadija Ismayilova had been previously targeted and harassed by the authorities, including with the imposition of a travel ban prior to her arrest.

Online and social media activities critical to the authorities continued to be prosecuted on fabricated charges, typically drugs-related. Among these cases were Abdul Abilov and Rashad Ramazanov, both arrested and sentenced in 2013, to five and a half and nine years in prison respectively. Political activist Faraj Karimov, who co-ordinated popular Facebook groups calling for the resignation of the President, and his brother Siraj Karimov, were arrested in July on spurious drugs charges.

Nine activists from the pro-democracy youth organization NIDA were arrested between March and May 2013 and in January 2014 on trumped-up charges ranging from illegal drugs and weapon possession to organizing public disorder. They were sentenced to imprisonment ranging from six to eight years in May. All claimed innocence at the time of detention, although some later made confessions, allegedly under duress. Shahin Novruzlu and Bakhtiyar Guliyev were released on 18 October under a presidential pardon after they had sent clemency appeals to the President, thereby “recognizing” their crimes. Activists Zaur Gurbanli and Uzeyir Mammadli were released on 29 December following a presidential pardon. Mammad Azizov, Rashad Hasanov, Rashadat Akhundov, Ilkin Rustamzade and Omar Mammadov remained imprisoned.

Opposition activists Ilgar Mammadov, Tofig Yagublu and Yadigar Sadigov, arrested in 2013 on charges of inciting public disorder and hooliganism, were given prison sentences of seven, five and six (reduced to four on appeal) years respectively. On 22 May, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the actual purpose of Ilgar Mammadov’s arrest was to “silence or punish” him for criticizing the government.

In a major crackdown on human rights activists, six prominent NGO leaders were remanded on charges of fraud, illegal entrepreneurship and “abuse of power”.

On 26 May, Anar Mammadli, chairman, and Bashir Suleymanli, executive director, of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) were sentenced to five years and six months’ and three years and six months’ imprisonment respectively. EMDS had exposed electoral violations during the presidential election in October 2013.

Prominent human rights defender Leyla Yunus, director of the Peace and Democracy Institute, was arrested on 30 July, followed by her husband Arif Yunus’ arrest on 5 August. They were charged with “crimes” relating to their NGO work, including treason in connection with activities to promote peace and reconciliation with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Rasul Jafarov, founder of the NGO Human Rights Club (HRC), was arrested on 2 August. HRC had been denied registration since its establishment in 2010. Intigam Aliyev, a human rights lawyer renowned for helping in dozens of cases reaching the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), was arrested on 8 August 2014.

Former prisoners of conscience, human rights defenders Bakhtiyar Mammadov and Ihlam Amiraslanov, were released on 9 December 2013 and 26 May 2014 respectively under presidential pardon. Youth activist Dashgin Melikov was released on parole on 8 May 2014, and journalist Sardar Alibeyli was released on 29 December 2014.

Freedom of expression

Independent journalists continued to face threats, violence and harassment. On 26 December, the offices of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijani service were raided and sealed off by members of the Prosecutor’s Office without official explanation after confiscating documents and equipment. Twelve radio employees were detained and questioned, and released after signing a document on non-disclosure.

On 21 August, journalist and NGO activist Ilgar Nasibov was severely beaten by several men who stormed the office of the Democracy and NGO Development Resource Centre in Nakhichevan, an autonomous exclave of Azerbaijan. He suffered severe head injuries, including broken facial bones. The authorities opened an investigation against one alleged assailant. Charges were also brought against Ilgar Nasibov for allegedly stepping on the assailant’s foot first.

Freedom of assembly

Demonstrations remained effectively prohibited outside officially designated, and typically remote, areas. In central Baku, the capital, law enforcement authorities used violence and excessive force to prevent and break up “unauthorized”, peaceful assemblies throughout the year.

On 1 May, around 25 youth activists peacefully gathered in Sabir Garden, in Baku, to commemorate May Day. Within minutes, dozens of plain-clothed and uniformed police officers violently broke up their assembly. Protesters were beaten and dragged into police cars. Six were arrested, including two minors who were released the same day. The remaining four were sentenced to administrative detention ranging from 10 to 15 days.

On 6 May, some 150 people gathered peacefully outside the court building in Baku where NIDA activists were standing trial but were forcefully dispersed by plain-clothed and uniformed police officers. At least 26 protesters, including one journalist, were dragged into a bus and taken to a police station. Five were sentenced to administrative detention ranging from 15 to 30 days, and 12 protesters received fines of 300-600 manats (US$380-760) for participating in an “unauthorized demonstration”.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment was frequently reported, but allegations were not effectively investigated.

Kemale Benenyarli, an activist of the opposition party Azerbaijani Popular Front Party, was arrested on 6 May during the NIDA trial. She complained of beating and other ill-treatment inside Nasimi District Police Station after she refused to sign a “confession” written by the police. She was punched, dragged and locked in a cell, where she was kept without food or water until her trial the following morning. Another arrested protester, Orkhan Eyyubzade, reported being stripped naked, dragged by the hair, punched, kicked and threatened with rape after he engaged in an argument with police officers during his detention on 15 May.

Three of the arrested NIDA activists, Mahammad Azizov, Bakhtiyar Guliyev and Shahin Novruzlu, appeared on national television on 9 March 2013, “confessing” their plans to use violence and cause disorder during a forthcoming “unauthorized” street protest. Mahammad Azizov told his lawyer that he had been forced to “confess” under threats of prosecution against members of his family. Shahin Novruzlu, who was 17 at the time, was questioned without the presence of his legal guardian. Four of his front teeth were missing as a result of beating when he subsequently appeared in court. No investigation was launched into his ill-treatment.

BAHAMAS

Commonwealth of the Bahamas
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Dame Marguerite Pindling (replaced Sir Arthur Alexander Foulkes in July 2014)
Head of government: Perry Gladstone Christie

There were calls for resumptions in executions. Excessive use of force was reported and sentences had yet to be handed down in cases of torture or other ill-treatment in detention.

Background

A referendum on amendments to the Constitution on gender equality was postponed until 2015. The referendum followed recommendations made in a 2013 report by the Constitutional Commission, and had originally been scheduled for November 2014. There was opposition to these amendments, including from local churches, due to concern that they would allow same-sex marriage.

Violent crime continued to rise. In 2013, police reported the second highest homicide rate since 2000, with 120 murders. No further statistics on homicide rates were published in 2014.

Death penalty

There had been no executions in the Bahamas since 2000. Hundreds demonstrated in 2014 for the resumption of executions in order to reduce crime.

In March, the Bahamas rejected a call for abolition of the death penalty and reiterated its retentionist position at the OAS.

Excessive use of force

Torture or other ill-treatment and excessive use of force by police officers continued to be reported.

In April, Leslie Louis required medical treatment after police attempted to arrest him. He was allegedly beaten, but was not charged with any criminal offence. When his sister asked the police why he was being interrogated, she was pushed and grabbed by the throat.

Deaths in custody

By the end of the year, no judicial sentence had been handed down in the case of Aaron Rolle who died in police custody in February 2013. In May 2013, the coroner’s inquest found the death to be an “unlawful killing”.  

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

The sentencing of five marines before a military court in November 2013 was still pending at the end of the year. They were charged following allegations of ill-treatment of Cuban asylum-seekers at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre in May 2013.

A new migration policy put in place on 1 November resulted in dozens of arbitrary detentions of migrants, disproportionately targeting Haitians and Bahamian-Haitian communities with the risk of deportation without due process.  

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

In February, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration publicly advocated for greater tolerance in member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) towards LGBTI people. In August, the Bahamas’ first ever Pride event was cancelled due to threats and intimidation against the organizers.    

Women’s rights

Despite promises made during the Bahamas’ 2013 UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to criminalize marital rape, no legislation had been approved by the end of the year.

Bahrain

Kingdom of Bahrain
Head of state: King Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Head of government: Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa

The government continued to stifle and punish dissent and to curtail freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Security forces used excessive force to disperse protests, killing at least two people. Opposition activists sentenced after unfair trials in previous years continued to be held, including prisoners of conscience. Torture of detainees continued and a climate of impunity prevailed. Twenty-one Bahrainis convicted on terrorism charges were stripped of their nationality. The courts sentenced five people to death; there were no executions.

Background

Tension between the Sunni-dominated government and main opposition political associations remained high throughout the year following the suspension in January of the National Dialogue initiative. There were new protests by activists from the Shi’a majority population demanding political reform, including some violent protests, to which the security forces frequently responded with excessive force, including shotgun fire. In March, a bomb explosion at al-Daih village killed three police officers. In December, bomb attacks in the villages of Karzakan and Demistan killed a police officer and another person. The government banned the “14 February Coalition”, a youth movement, and two other organizations declaring them terrorist groups.

Bahrain’s first parliamentary elections since unrest broke out in 2011 were held on 22 November but were boycotted by the main opposition, led by al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the largest Shi’a political association.

Amendments to anti-terrorism legislation adopted in December increased police powers, allowing them to detain terrorism suspects incommunicado for up to 28 days.

Representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Bahrain from February to May to assess human rights training needs. In September, the government issued a mid-term review of its progress in implementing recommendations it had accepted at the UN Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain in 2012.

Freedom of expression

The authorities continued to clamp down on dissent. In February, shortly before the third anniversary of the outbreak of public protests in 2011, the government increased the penalty for publicly insulting the King, the Bahraini flag or the national emblem to between one and seven years in prison and a heavy fine.

Dr Sa’eed Mothaher Habib al-Samahiji, an ophthalmologist, was arrested on 1 July to serve a one-year prison term imposed on him in December 2013 on a charge of “publicly insulting the King” in a speech at the funeral of a protester killed by a police car. He was held at Jaw Prison, south of Manama, at the end of the year.

Other prisoners of conscience held at Jaw Prison included opposition leaders and human rights activists sentenced after unfair trials in previous years. Human rights defender Nabeel Rajab was released in May after completing a two-year prison term for “illegal gathering” but was rearrested in October on charges of insulting public institutions. He was released on bail in November but banned from travel, pending a court verdict on his case in January 2015. Activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was arrested in October and sentenced in November and December to prison terms totalling four years and four months, including three years on a charge of “insulting the King”. She was at liberty at the end of the year awaiting the outcome of an appeal. Women’s rights activist Ghada Jamsheer, arrested in September, faced trial on various charges, including assaulting a police officer. She was released on bail in December.

Freedom of assembly

All public gatherings in the capital Manama remained indefinitely banned under government decrees issued in 2013. However, sporadic protests were held in other places. The security forces arrested scores of people for participating in protests; some received prison sentences.

Ahmad Mshaima’ stood trial in May, five months after his arrest, charged with “illegal gathering with an intent to commit crimes and disturb public security”. He alleged that security officials tortured him in the days following his arrest, but the authorities did not investigate his allegations. He was released on bail in June but rearrested in November and sentenced in December to one year’s imprisonment on a charge of “insulting the King”.

In December, human rights defender Mohammad al Maskati and 10 other defendants were sentenced to six-month prison terms on charges of “illegal gathering”.

Freedom of association

The government restricted freedom of association using new powers that allowed the Minister of Justice to suspend or dissolve political associations on vague grounds. The Minister filed suspension cases against two main political opposition associations, Wa’ad and al-Wefaq, for alleged irregularities during their activities. The Ministry of Justice dropped its case against Wa’ad in November. In October a court ordered the suspension of al-Wefaq for three months. The court action began shortly after the Public Prosecution charged al-Wefaq’s leader, Sheikh Ali Salman, and his deputy with “meeting foreign officials without notifying” the government, after they met with the visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tom Malinowski. In late December, the authorities arrested Sheikh Ali Salman on charges including incitement to promote the change of the political system by force, threats and other illegal means.

Deprivation of nationality

In July, the King decreed amendments to the 1963 Nationality Law giving the courts new powers to strip Bahrainis of their nationality, including if they are convicted of terrorism offences. The law also allowed the authorities to revoke the nationality of people who live abroad continuously for more than five years without informing the Ministry of the Interior. Twenty-one people had their nationalities revoked by the courts in 2014. In August, the High Criminal Court revoked the citizenship of nine Bahraini men after it convicted them on terrorism-related charges. They also received prison sentences of up to 15 years after the court convicted them partly on the basis of “confessions” that some defendants alleged had been obtained through torture. In October, a court sentenced to deportation several people whose Bahraini nationality was arbitrarily revoked in 2012. The court considered that they had remained in the country illegally after their nationality was revoked. Their appeal was set for April 2015.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture continued to be reported despite the establishment of a number of official bodies to investigate allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in custody. In some instances, detainees complained that police or other security officials violently assaulted them during arrests and house searches, or while they were being transported to police stations or prisons in police vehicles, and during interrogation by Criminal Investigations Directorate officers, when they were held without access to their lawyers and families for several days. Methods of torture reported included severe beating, punching, electric shocks, suspension by the limbs, rape and threats of rape, and deliberate exposure to extreme cold.

Mohamed ‘Ali al-‘Oraibi alleged that security officials tortured him over five days following his arrest on 2 February at Manama International Airport when he arrived from abroad. He said officials kept him naked while they interrogated him, subjected him to electric shocks on his genitals, suspended him by his limbs and beat him with a stick, and sexually assaulted him. He was released on 17 April, pending further investigations. He complained to the authorities but no investigation into his alleged torture was known to have been conducted.

Excessive use of force

In March a royal decree (Decree 24 of 2014) was issued regulating the use of force and firearms.

The security forces regularly used excessive force to disperse opposition protests. Among other methods, they fired shotguns and tear gas at protesters, causing injuries and at least two deaths.

Sayed Mahmoud Sayed Mohsen, aged 14, died on 21 May after security forces fired tear gas and shotguns at protesters participating in a funeral procession on the island of Sitra. His family said he had shotgun pellets in his chest suggesting that he had been shot at close range. The Ministry of the Interior announced an investigation but had not disclosed its outcome by the end of the year.

Impunity

The number of investigations into torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained low and the authorities continued to detain some of those that the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry said had been tortured in 2011. In practice, despite a few prosecutions of low-ranking officers, the security forces operated with a large degree of impunity amid continuing reports of torture of detainees and the use of excessive force against protesters. The authorities prosecuted eight police officers in connection with the killing of one person and the death in custody of another. One officer, charged with assault, was acquitted; the others remained on trial at the end of the year. In the two years since trials of members of the security forces began, a total of 15 security officers were acquitted of torturing or killing protesters and six were sentenced to between six months’ and three years’ imprisonment in relation to deaths in custody and killings of protesters.

Two officers accused of causing the death of 16-year-old Hussein al-Jazairi at a protest on 14 February 2013 in al-Daih reportedly remained at liberty and did not stand trial in 2014. They faced charges of assault resulting in death, but were released on bail in May 2013 by the High Criminal Court. Hussain al-Jazairi died after he was hit in the chest by shotgun pellets fired at close range.

In September, the High Court of Justice in England quashed a ruling by the United Kingdom (UK) Crown Prosecution Service that the King of Bahrain’s son, Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, had diplomatic immunity in the UK. The High Court ruled that he could face prosecution in the UK for alleged complicity in torturing detainees in 2011 if he entered the UK.

Death penalty

The death penalty remained in force for murder and other crimes. The courts passed five death sentences during the year, one of which was annulled by the Court of Appeal in December. There were no executions.

Mahir Abbas al-Khabaz was sentenced to death on 19 February after he was convicted of killing a police officer in 2013. The court accepted a “confession” allegedly obtained through torture as evidence against him. An appeal court confirmed his death sentence and he was awaiting a final decision by the Court of Cassation at the end of the year.

Bangladesh

People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Head of state: Abdul Hamid
Head of government: Sheikh Hasina

Dozens of people were forcibly disappeared. Journalists and human rights defenders continued to be attacked and harassed. Violence against women was a major human rights concern. Police and other security forces committed torture with impunity. Factory workers continued to be at risk owing to hazardous safety standards in the workplace. At least one person was executed with no right to appeal against his death sentence.

Background

The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina continued in office after her party, the Awami League, was declared the winner in the January elections. The elections were boycotted by the opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, and its allies. More than 100 people were killed during opposition protests against elections, some after police opened fire on demonstrators who were often violent. None of these deaths were believed to have been investigated. Supporters of opposition parties reportedly attacked bus commuters with petrol bombs, killing at least nine people and injuring many others.

Verdicts by the International Crimes Tribunal, a Bangladeshi court set up in 2009 to try crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh independence war, were delivered amid a highly polarized political atmosphere. Supporters of these trials demanded death sentences for those on trial regardless of the strength of the evidence presented against them.

Enforced disappearances

The exact number of people who were forcibly disappeared was not known; some estimates suggested over 80. Of the documented cases of 20 people subjected to enforced disappearance between 2012 and 2014, nine people were subsequently found dead. Six had returned to their families after periods of captivity lasting from weeks to months, with no news of their whereabouts until their release. There was no news about the circumstances of the other five.

Following the enforced disappearance and subsequent killing of seven people in Narayanganj in April, three officers of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) were detained and investigated for their alleged involvement in abductions and killings; this rose to at least 17 RAB officers by the end of the year. This was the first such action since the formation of the battalion in 2004. Amnesty International welcomed the investigation as a move towards holding law enforcement officials accountable for alleged human rights violations. However, concerns continued that the government might drop the cases if public pressure to bring them to justice lessened. Apart from this case, there were no clear indications of a thorough investigation into other incidents such as the unexplained abduction and killing of Abraham Linkon in February.1

Freedom of expression

The government’s use of Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act severely restricted the right to freedom of expression. Under this section, those convicted of violating the Act could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison if the charges were brought against them before 6 October 2013; at that time, an amendment not only increased the maximum punishment to 14 years in prison but also imposed a minimum punishment of seven years.

Section 57 of the ICT Act criminalized a wide array of peaceful actions such as criticizing Islamic religious views in a newspaper article or reporting on human rights violations. At least four bloggers, two Facebook users and two officials of a human rights organization were charged under Section 57 of the ICT Act during 2013-2014. They included bloggers Asif Mohiuddin, Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob and Rasel Parvez; and human rights defenders Adilur Rahman Khan and Nasiruddin Elan.

More than a dozen media workers, including journalists, said that they had been threatened by security agencies for criticizing the authorities. The threats were usually in phone calls directly to the journalists, or via messages to their editors. Many journalists and talk show participants said they exercised self-censorship as a result.

Freedom of expression was also threatened by religious groups. In at least 10 instances, these groups were reported to have spread rumours that a certain individual had used social media to insult Islam, or had engaged in allegedly anti-Islamic activity in the workplace. At least five people were subsequently attacked; two were killed and others sustained serious injuries. The two killed were Ahmed Rajib2 and a Rajshahi University teacher, AKM Shafiul Islam, who died of stab wounds in November 2014, allegedly perpetrated by members of a group who denounced his opposition to female students wearing burqa in his class as “un-Islamic”.

Violence against women and girls

Violence against women remained a major human rights concern. A women’s rights organization, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, said its analysis of media reports showed that at least 423 women and girls were subjected to various forms of violence in October 2014 alone. The organization said that more than 100 of those women were raped, of whom 11 were then killed. More than 40 were subjected to physical violence because their families could not provide the dowry demanded by the husband or his family, 16 of whom died from their injuries. Women and girls were also subjected to domestic violence, acid attacks and trafficking.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment was widespread and committed with impunity. Police routinely tortured detainees in their custody. Methods included beating, suspension from the ceiling, electric shocks to the genitals and, in some cases, shooting detainees’ legs. At least nine people died in police custody between January and July 2014, allegedly as a result of torture.

Workers’ rights

Safety standards in factories and other workplaces were dangerously low. At least 1,130 garment workers were killed and at least 2,000 more injured when Rana Plaza, a nine-storey building that housed five garment factories, collapsed on 24 April 2013. It later emerged that managers had ordered workers to go into the building that day despite it having been closed on the previous day after cracks had appeared in the walls. A similar incident had occurred in 2012, when at least 112 workers died in a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Dhaka after managers stopped them from escaping, saying it was a false alarm.

Initiatives to provide compensation to the victims of workplace disasters involving the government, global brands and the ILO proved insufficient, and survivors continued to struggle to support themselves and their families.

Death penalty

Courts continued to impose death sentences. Eleven were imposed by the International Crimes Tribunal. One death sentence was imposed directly by the Supreme Court after the government appealed against the defendant’s life sentence by the Tribunal. He was executed in December 2013. Prisoners whose death sentences were upheld on appeal were at imminent risk of execution.

  1. Bangladesh: Stop them, now! Enforced disappearances, torture and restrictions on freedom of expression (ASA 13/005/2014)  www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa13/005/2014/en/
  2. Bangladesh: Attacks on journalists rise with tension around war crimes tribunal (PRE 01/085/2013)  www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2013/02/bangladesh/

BELARUS

Republic of Belarus
Head of state: Alyaksandr Lukashenka
Head of government: Mikhail Myasnikovich

Belarus remained the only country in Europe to carry out executions. Opposition politicians and human rights activists were detained for legitimate activities. The right to freedom of expression was severely restricted and journalists faced harassment. Severe restrictions on freedom of assembly remained in place. NGOs continued to be arbitrarily denied registration.

Death penalty

Following 24 months in which there were no executions, at least three men were executed in secrecy. Pavel Selyun and Ryhor Yuzepchuk, both sentenced to death in 2013, were executed in April and Alyaksandr Haryunou was executed in November. Judicial appeals and appeals sent to the President asking for clemency were rejected. In all cases, the UN Human Rights Committee requested that the sentences not be carried out until it had considered the respective communications; the Belarusian authorities proceeded with the executions regardless, in violation of their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). One other man, Eduard Lykau, was a death row prisoner at the end of the year.

In October, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that the execution of Vasily Yuzepchuk in 2010 constituted a violation of his right to life under Article 6 of the ICCPR. It was the third such ruling by the Committee against Belarus. The Committee also found that he had been subjected to torture in order to extract a confession, that his right to a fair trial had been violated and that his trial had failed to meet the necessary criteria for independence and impartiality.

Freedom of expression – media

Freedom of expression was severely restricted. The media remained largely under state control and was used to smear political opponents. Independent media outlets were harassed, and bloggers, online activists and journalists were subjected to administrative and criminal prosecution. State-run distribution outlets refused to disseminate independent periodicals and internet activity remained closely monitored and controlled.

In April, the authorities started using Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code ( “unlawful creation and dissemination of mass media produce”) to prosecute freelance journalists writing for media outlets based outside Belarus, claiming that they required formal accreditation as foreign journalists with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On 25 September, Maryna Malchanava was fined 4,800,000 roubles (US$450) by a court in Babruisk after an interview she had recorded locally was broadcast by Poland-based satellite TV channel, Belsat. At least three other Belarusian journalists were fined similar amounts under Article 22.9 and several others received police warnings or had administrative proceedings opened against them.

Freedom of assembly

The Law on Mass Events remained unchanged, effectively prohibiting street protests including by a single individual despite continuing calls from UN human rights mechanisms for Belarus to review its restrictive legislation on public assemblies and to decriminalize the organization of public events without official permission. Peaceful protesters were repeatedly arrested and sentenced to short periods of detention.

The annual rally to mark the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster took place in April. According to civil society representatives, 16 participants were arbitrarily detained in connection with the event. They included Yury Rubtsou, an activist from Homel, who was detained for wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “ Lukashenka, leave!” and accused of “ failing to obey police orders” and “swearing”. He was sentenced to 25 days’ administrative detention in a trial in which he appeared topless after police had confiscated his T-shirt. In August a criminal case was opened against him, purportedly for insulting the judge during his earlier court appearance, and in October he was sentenced in a closed court hearing to two years and six months’ imprisonment in an open regime prison (reduced by a year under an amnesty law). His appeal was pending at the end of the year.

In October a local activist and newspaper distributor, Andrei Kasheuski, was sentenced to 15 days’ administrative detention on charges which included holding an “unauthorized mass event” and wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Freedom to Political Prisoners” with a list of names on the back.

Prisoners of conscience

In the lead-up to the Ice Hockey World Championship on 9-25 May, 16 civil society activists were arrested and sentenced to between five and 25 days’ administrative detention. Eight were arbitrarily arrested during or immediately after they attended a peaceful march commemorating the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. They were charged with “ petty hooliganism” and “disobeying police orders”. Eight others, all known for their political activism, were detained in the days before the march under similar charges. They included former prisoner of conscience Zmitser Dashkevich, who had ended a three-year prison term in August 2013. Arrested outside his home on 24 April, Dashkevich was sentenced to 25 days’ administrative detention for “disobeying police orders” and “violating restrictions imposed on him following his release from prison”. His detention lasted almost the entire period of the championship.

Long-term prisoner of conscience and former presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich was awaiting transfer to a penal colony, scheduled for January 2015, to complete his six-year sentence for participating in post-election demonstrations. Originally sentenced in 2011, he was transferred to a strict regime prison in January 2012.

Eduard Lobau, an activist and member of youth organization Malady Front, was released in December having completed a four-year sentence for alleged random attacks on pedestrians.

On 21 June, the Chair of the Belarusian Human Rights Centre “Vyasna” and Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights, Ales Bialiatski, was released under a prison amnesty. He had served almost three years of a four-and-a-half-year sentence on charges of tax evasion.

Freedom of association

The authorities continued to restrict arbitrarily the right to freedom of association.

Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes activities by unregistered organizations, continued to be used to obstruct the legitimate activities of civil society organizations in Belarus.

In February, Minsk Central District Court rejected the complaint by Valyantsin Stefanovich, Deputy Chairman of the NGO Human Rights Centre “Vyasna”, against the blocking of the NGO’s website, with no right of appeal. The NGO’s registration applications had been repeatedly rejected. In 2011 the Prosecutor General’s Office restricted access to the website under Article 193.1.

In November, the authorities nullified the residence permit of Russian citizen and human rights defender Elena Tonkacheva who was given one month to leave the country. Her appeal was pending at the end the year. The permit was due to expire in 2017. Elena Tonkacheva is head of the human rights organization Centre for Legal Transformation and has been living in Belarus for 30 years. The authorities claimed that the decision was linked to her violating public traffic regulations by driving over the speed limit. It was widely believed that she had been targeted for her legitimate human rights activities.

BELGIUM

Kingdom of Belgium
Head of state: King Philippe
Head of government: Charles Michel (replaced Elio Di Rupo in October)

Detention conditions remained poor and offenders with mental health issues continued to be detained in inadequate structures with limited access to appropriate health services. In October, the newly appointed government committed to creating a National Human Rights Institution. Transgender people could not obtain legal gender recognition without complying with compulsory medical treatment such as sterilization.

Prison conditions

Overcrowding continued to have a detrimental impact on detention conditions. In March, according to official statistics, the inmate population exceeded the prisons’ maximum capacity by more than 22%. In January, the UN Committee against Torture raised concerns about poor prison conditions and recommended greater use of non-custodial measures.

The Committee also highlighted that offenders with mental health issues continued to be detained in psychiatric wards within regular prisons with very limited access to adequate health care. In January, the European Court of Human Rights found in Lankester v. Belgium that the detention of an offender in the psychiatric ward of a regular prison constituted degrading treatment.

Deaths in custody

In 2013, an investigation was launched into the death of Jonathan Jacob, who died in 2010 after being physically assaulted by police while in custody. The results of the investigation and the decision regarding its follow-up, due in October 2014, were still pending at the end of the year.

Discrimination

In March, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination raised concerns about allegations of racially motivated violence and ill-treatment by police against migrants, and recommended the strengthening of police complaints mechanisms.

In February, the European Committee against Racism and Intolerance highlighted that Muslims, and especially Muslim women wearing headscarves, continued to be discriminated against in access to employment and goods and services.

In 2013, the Board of Education of the Flemish Community (GO!) confirmed the general ban on religious symbols and dress in all its schools in the Flemish-speaking part of the country. On 14 October 2014, the Council of State found that the general ban violated the right to freedom of religion of a Sikh pupil who was forbidden to wear the turban in a secondary school.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

In January 2013, the government adopted a comprehensive roadmap to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. In May, a new law prohibiting discrimination on grounds of gender identity and expression was introduced.

While the roadmap included the commitment to amend the 2007 law on legal recognition of gender, plans regarding its amendments remained unclear at the end of the year. Transgender people were required to comply with criteria that violated their human rights in order to obtain legal recognition of their gender. These included psychiatric diagnosis and sterilization, as well as other compulsory medical treatments.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In January the Committee against Torture expressed concerns about the planned extradition and refoulement of third-country nationals to countries that provided diplomatic assurances. The Committee reiterated that such assurances did not mitigate the risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

In September, the European Court of Human Rights found that the extradition of Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian national, to the USA in October 2013 amounted to a violation of Articles 3 and 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Belgian authorities had ignored the interim measure issued by the Court on the extradition.

Violence against women and girls

In February 2014, a country-wide survey undertaken by Amnesty International found that a quarter of women in Belgium had allegedly experienced sexual violence at the hands of their partners and that 13% had been raped by someone other than their partners. A coordinated and comprehensive approach to combat these forms of violence was still lacking at the end of the year.

Benin

Republic of Benin
Head of state and government: Thomas Boni Yayi

Municipal elections initially planned for April 2013 had not been held by the end of 2014. In June 2013, the government resubmitted a bill for the revision of the Constitution. In November 2014 the Constitutional Court ruled against any revision of the Constitution that could prolong the term of office of the President. The Constitutional Court had previously ruled in 2011 that parts of the Constitution relating to the Presidential term could not be submitted to referendum.

Political prisoners

In May, President Boni Yayi pardoned Patrice Talon and his associate Olivier Bocco, both living in France, as well as six other people, including one woman, who had been detained in Benin since 2012 and 2013. In the first case, Patrice Talon, Olivier Bocco and four others were accused of attempting to poison the President in October 2012. In the second case, two men were accused of crimes against the security of the state following a suspected coup attempt in May 2013.

Freedoms of expression and assembly

A demonstration against police violence was held in March in Cotonou in response to the break-up by security forces of a peaceful demonstration by union members in December 2013, in which over 20 people, including six women, were injured.

In June, the Court of First Instance in Cotonou sentenced John Akintola, publishing director of L’Indépendant newspaper, to a three-year suspended prison term and a fine for “insulting the Head of State” following the publication of an article concerning possible illicit financing of trips abroad. The author of the article, Prudence Tessi, was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment and the newspaper was suspended for three months.

Death penalty

Thirteen people remained under sentence of death despite Benin’s ratification in 2012 of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

BOLIVIA

Plurinational State of Bolivia
Head of state and government: Evo Morales Ayma

Victims of human rights violations committed during past military regimes continued to be denied truth, justice and full reparation. Indigenous Peoples’ rights to consultation and to free, prior and informed consent and equal access to sexual and reproductive rights remained unfulfilled.

Background

In October, President Evo Morales was re-elected for a third term. More than 50% of parliamentary candidates were women. This was the result of the first time implementation of the 2010  Electoral Law gender equality clause.

In October, Bolivia accepted most of the recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review process, including to investigate past human rights violations and ensure a full and effective reparation, to review legislation that criminalizes abortion and to improve prison conditions. Concerns around these same issues had been highlighted by the UN Human Rights Committee in October 20131 and the UN Committee against Torture in May 2013.

Impunity and the justice system

Five decades after the military and authoritarian regime (1964–1982), no progress in providing justice to victims of political violence or measures to implement a mechanism to unveil the truth of the human rights violations committed during that period was made.2 The authorities ignored national and international bodies’ concerns about the lack of transparency and unfairness of the reparation process that ended in 2012 and in which just over a quarter of applicants qualified as beneficiaries.

In February 2014, a campsite of the victims’ organization, Platform of Social Activists against Impunity, for Justice and Historical Memory of the Bolivian People, outside the Ministry of Justice was set on fire3 and files and documents were destroyed. Preliminary investigations indicated that the fire was caused by an electrical fault. However, the organization complained that it was an intentional attack. Criminal investigations were ongoing at the end of the year. Investigations into an attack against a member of the same victims’ group in February 2013 were reported4 as being delayed.

In July, Bolivia’s second request to extradite former President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to Bolivia was filed in the USA. He faced charges in connection with the “Black October” case, when 67 people were killed and more than 400 injured during protests in El Alto, near La Paz, in late 2003. A previous extradition request was rejected in 2012. In May 2014, a Federal Judge in the USA had allowed a civil lawsuit against the former President and his Minister of Defence for their responsibility in the events.

Trial proceedings connected to the 2008 Pando massacre in which 19 people, mostly peasant farmers, were killed and 53 others injured, continued but were subject to delays.

Hearings in the case of 39 people accused of involvement in an alleged plot in 2009 to kill President Evo Morales continued. By the end of the year, there had been no investigations into allegations of lack of due process or into the killings of three men in 2009 in connection with the case. In March, the Prosecutor who resigned after denouncing political interference in the case and who was subsequently charged with involvement in extortion, requested political asylum in Brazil. In August, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated that the detention of one of the suspects in the case was arbitrary and recommended his immediate release and reparation.

In June, criminal proceedings against three judges of the Constitutional Court were initiated for breach of duty, among other crimes, before the Congress. The judges were suspended.

Violence against women and girls

According to a 2014 study by the Panamerican Health Organization, Bolivia has the highest rate of violence against women by an intimate partner and the second highest rate of sexual violence in the region. In October, a norm that regulates the budget and implementation of the 2013 Law 348 to guarantee women’s rights to a life free of violence was promulgated.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Although in February the Plurinational Constitutional Court decided that the request for judicial authorization for an abortion, as requested by article 266 of the Criminal Code, was unconstitutional, the implementation of the decision was still pending.

A 2012 bill on sexual and reproductive rights guaranteeing the right to receive information about sexual and reproductive health services to prevent unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, and the right to sexual education in schools, among other provisions, was still under discussion in the Congress.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

In November, 14 police officials were charged in connection with the excessive use of force in 2011 during a peaceful march against the construction of a road in the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park. The Prosecutor’s office dismissed the involvement of high rank civil authorities, as claimed by victims. Plans to build the road remained on hold following a controversial consultation with the affected Indigenous communities in 2012.

A new Mining Law passed in May excluded consultation with Indigenous Peoples for prospecting and exploration of mining activities and did not recognize the principle of free, prior and informed consent in relation to projects that are going to have an impact on them. A draft law on Free, Prior and Informed Consultation was finalized.

Human rights defenders

Concerns remained over the requirements specified by the 2013 law to grant legal identity to NGOs. Under this regulation, organizations have to specify their “contribution to the economic and social development” of the state. In 2013 the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that Bolivia eliminate these requirements because they placed restrictions on the organizations’ ability to operate freely, independently and effectively.

In January, members of the Consejo Nacional de Ayllus y Markas del Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ), who were holding a vigil outside the organization’s office in La Paz, were violently evicted by other Indigenous Peoples’ groups who adjudicated themselves the leadership of CONAMAQ. There were complaints that the police did not intervene to stop the violent eviction.

In March, the Danish NGO IBIS Dinamarca closed most of its projects in Bolivia after the government announced its expulsion from the country in December 2013, arguing that they were interfering in political issues and had contributed to divisions within the Indigenous movement.

Prison conditions

A lack of security and poor prison conditions remained a concern. Delays in concluding trials within a reasonable time, the excessive use of pre-trial detention and the limited use of alternatives to detention, all contributed to prison overcrowding. Presidential decrees enacted in 2013 and 2014 granting pardons and amnesties, intended to deal with over-population in prisons, were not having the expected outcome.

In August, the Ombudsman reported little progress in the investigation into the deaths of more than 30 inmates in Palmasola prison, Santa Cruz, in August 2013.5 

In September, four inmates died and a dozen were injured in clashes between inmates in El Abra prison, Cochabamba. Investigations were ongoing at the end of the year.

  1. Bolivia: Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (AMR 18/005/2013) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR18/005/2013/en
  2. Bolivia: “No me borren de la historia”: Verdad, justicia y reparación en Bolivia (1964-1982) (AMR 18/002/2014) www.amnesty.org/es/library/info/AMR18/002/2014/es
  3. Bolivia: Victims of military regimes’ campsite burnt (AMR 18/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR18/001/2014/en
  4. Bolivia: Protester attacked, police take no notice (AMR 18/001/2013) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR18/001/2013/en
  5. Bolivia: Las autoridades bolivianas deben investigar completamente la tragedia en la cárcel de Palmasola (AMR 18/004/2013) www.amnesty.org/es/library/info/AMR18/004/2013/es

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina 
Head of state: Rotating presidency – Bakir Izetbegović, Dragan Čović, Mladen Ivanić
Head of government: Vjekoslav Bevanda (Incumbent)

High levels of unemployment and dissatisfaction with government institutions prompted popular protests that spread throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and were accompanied by clashes between demonstrators and the police. The prosecution of crimes under international law continued before domestic courts, but progress remained slow and impunity persisted. Many civilian victims of war were still denied access to justice and reparation.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In February, popular protests, initially fuelled by the large-scale dismissal of the workforce of industrial companies in the Tuzla Canton, spread across the country, resulting in clashes between demonstrators and the police. Law enforcement officials subjected at least 12 detainees, some of them minors, to ill-treatment while in detention.

Freedom of expression – journalists

At least one journalist was beaten by police officers while recording the February protests. Intimidation of journalists by state officials persisted throughout the year, including beatings, death threats and a police raid on a newsroom. The authorities frequently failed to open investigations into complaints.

Discrimination

The 2009 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Sejdić-Finci v. BiH, which found the power-sharing arrangements set out in the Constitution to be discriminatory, remained unimplemented. Under the arrangements, citizens such as Jews and Roma who do not declare themselves as belonging to one of the three constituent peoples of the country (Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats) are excluded from running for legislative and executive office. The discriminatory nature of these arrangements was confirmed again in July when the European Court ruled in favour of the plaintiff in the Zornić v. BiH case.

A number of schools in the Federation continued to operate under the so-called “two schools under one roof” arrangement, resulting in discrimination and segregation based on ethnicity. Bosniak and Croat pupils attended classes in the same building while being physically separated and studying different curricula.

Roma continued to face widespread and systematic discrimination in accessing their basic rights, including to education, work and health care, entrenching the cycle of poverty and marginalization. Many Roma were particularly affected by the poor response of the authorities to the severe flooding in May.

The number of people at risk of statelessness, the majority of whom were Roma, reached a peak of 792 by April but had significantly decreased by the end of the year. However, a state-level law on free legal aid that would, among other provisions, have assisted Roma with registering in the national public registry and accessing public services, was still lacking.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people continued to face widespread discrimination. In February, three people were injured as a group of 12-14 masked men interrupted the LGBTI festival “Merlinka” staged at a cinema in Sarajevo. The men stormed the premises, shouted homophobic threats and physically attacked and injured the three festival participants. Following their participation in the Belgrade Pride in September, members of an LGBTI NGO based in Banja Luka received death threats. Although the Criminal Code of Republika Srpska contained provisions on hate crime, there was no investigation into the threats against the activists.

Crimes under international law

Proceedings continued at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić and former General Ratko Mladić, for genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war, including at Srebrenica. In October, the hearing in the Karadžić case ended.

The War Crimes Chamber of the State Court of BiH made slow progress in the prosecution of crimes under international law, and was undermined by repeated criticism by high-ranking politicians.

The Criminal Code continued to fall short of international standards relating to the prosecution of war crimes of sexual violence. Entity courts continued to apply the Criminal Code of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; impunity prevailed in the absence of a definition of crimes against humanity, command responsibility, and crimes of sexual violence. Impunity for war crimes of sexual violence remained rampant; between 2005 and the end of 2014 less than 100 cases had come to court. The estimated number of victims of rape during the war ranged between 20,000 and 50,000.

In April a Law on Witness Protection was adopted, but it applied only to witnesses testifying before the State Court of BiH. Adequate witness support and protection measures were absent at entity courts, despite the fact that half of all pending war crimes cases were due to be heard at this level.

Legislation that would enable effective reparation, including a comprehensive programme for victims of crimes under international law, and free legal aid services to victims of torture and civilian victims of war, had yet to be put in place. The harmonization of the entity laws regulating the rights of civilian victims of war was still not completed.

By the end of the year, the remains of 435 people had been exhumed at a mass grave in Tomašica village. The victims had disappeared and were subsequently killed by Bosnian Serb forces in the Prijedor area in 1992. In August, BiH signed a regional declaration on missing persons, and committed to establishing the fate and whereabouts of those 7,800 still missing. The Law on Missing Persons had not been implemented at the end of the year, leaving the families of the missing with no access to reparation.

BRAZIL

Federative Republic of Brazil
Head of state and government: President Dilma Rousseff

Serious human rights violations continued to be reported, including killings by police and the torture and other ill-treatment of detainees. Young and Black residents of favelas (shanty towns), rural workers and Indigenous Peoples were at particular risk of human rights violations. Protests that swept the country, particularly around the football World Cup, were often suppressed using excessive and unnecessary force by the security forces. Arbitrary detentions and attempts to criminalize peaceful protesters were reported in various parts of the country. Although legislation allowing same-sex marriage was approved, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people continued to face discrimination and attacks. Brazil continued to play a significant role on the international stage on issues such as privacy, the internet and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Some progress was made in addressing impunity for past grave human rights violations under the dictatorship (1964-1985).

Background

Brazil continued serving its third mandate in the UN Human Rights Council, where it was a key supporter of resolutions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. At the General Assembly, the Brazilian and German governments presented a resolution on privacy in the internet age, which was approved in December 2013. In April 2014, Brazil approved its Civil Framework for the Internet, ensuring the neutrality of the web and setting out rules to protect freedom of expression and privacy.

Human rights violations in the context of social protests

In 2014, thousands of protesters took to the streets in the run-up to and during the football World Cup in June and July. The protests echoed huge demonstrations that had taken place the previous year to express discontent over a number of issues including increased public transport costs, high spending on major international sports events and insufficient investment in public services. The police frequently responded to protests with violence. Hundreds of people were rounded up and arbitrarily detained, some under laws targeting organized crime, even though there was no indication that those detained were involved in criminal activity.1

In April, ahead of the World Cup, soldiers from the Army and Marines were deployed to the Maré complex in Rio de Janeiro. Initially, it was stated that they would remain until the end of July, but the authorities subsequently declared that the troops would remain there indefinitely. This raised serious concerns given the weak accountability mechanisms for human rights abuses during military operations.

By the end of the year, the only person convicted of offences related to violence during the protests was Rafael Braga Vieira, a Black homeless man. Although he was not taking part in a demonstration, he was arrested for “carrying explosives without authorization ” and sentenced to five years in prison. The forensic report concluded that the chemicals in his possession – cleaning fluids – could not have been used to create explosives, but the court disregarded the finding.

Excessive use of force

Military Police often used excessive and unnecessary force to disperse protesters.2

In Rio de Janeiro, military police used tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters on many occasions, including in confined spaces such as the Pinheiro Machado Health Centre in July 2013 and subway stations in June and September 2013 and June 2014.

Freedom of expression and association – journalists

According to the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism, at least 18 journalists were assaulted while working during the World Cup in cities including São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza. In Rio de Janeiro, on 13 July, the day of the World Cup final, at least 15 journalists were assaulted by police officers while covering a demonstration. Some had their equipment broken. In February, Santiago (Ilídio) Andrade, a cameraman, died after being hit by fireworks being used by protesters. The police arrested two men in connection with the killing. They were charged with intentional homicide and were awaiting trial at the end of the year.

Public security

Public security remained the context for widespread human rights violations.

According to official statistics, 424 people were killed by police in the state of Rio de Janeiro during security operations in 2013. The first six months of 2014 showed an increase in the number of such deaths, with 285 people being killed by police, 37% more than during the same period in 2013.

Claudia Silva Ferreira was shot and wounded by police officers in a shoot-out in the Morro da Congonha favela in March. While she was being taken to the hospital by police in the boot of their car, she fell out and was dragged along the ground for 350m. The incident was recorded and broadcast in the Brazilian media. At the end of the year, six police officers were under investigation, but remained at liberty.

Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, a dancer, was found dead in April 2014 following a police operation in the Pavão-Pavãozinho favela. The death sparked protests during which Edilson Silva dos Santos was shot dead by police. By the end of the year, no one had been charged in connection with the deaths.

In November, at least 10 people were killed, allegedly by off-duty military police officers, in the city of Belém in the state of Pará. Residents of the neighbourhood told Amnesty International that military police vehicles closed off streets prior to the killings and that people in unidentified cars and on motorcycles threatened and attacked residents.3 There were indications that the killings may have been a reprisal for the killing of a policeman.

Ten police officers, including the former commander of a battalion, were tried between December 2012 and April 2014 and convicted in connection with the murder of Judge Patrícia Acioli in August 2011. She had been responsible for sentencing 60 officers convicted of involvement in organized crime.

Prison conditions

Severe overcrowding, degrading conditions, torture and violence remained endemic in Brazil’s prisons. Several cases regarding prison conditions were submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Inter-American Court of Human Rights in recent years and conditions remained a serious concern.

In 2013, 60 detainees were murdered in the prison of Pedrinhas, in the state of Maranhão. More than 18 were killed in the prison between January and October 2014. Videos of beheadings were broadcast in the media. An investigation into the incident was continuing at the end of the year.

From April 2013 to April 2014 the courts sentenced 75 police officers for the killing of 111 prisoners in the 1992 Carandiru prison riots. The officers lodged appeals and remained on active service at the end of the year. The commander of the police operation had been convicted in 2001, although this was overturned; he was murdered by his girlfriend in 2006. The prison governor and the Minister of Public Security at the time of the riots were not charged in connection with the case.

Torture and other ill-treatment

There were several reports of torture and other ill-treatment at the time of arrest and during interrogation and detention in police stations.

In July 2013, Amarildo de Souza, a bricklayer, was detained by the police as he was returning home in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro. He died under torture in the custody of the local Pacification Police Unit. The police denied that Amarildo de Souza was ever in custody despite video footage showing that he had been detained. Twenty-five police officers were charged in connection with the case, including the commander of the unit, and six of them were detained awaiting trial at the end of 2014.

The National System to Fight and Prevent Torture, created by law in 2013, had yet to be fully established by the end of 2014. Although the System did not fully meet international standards in terms of its independence, it represented an important step forward in fulfilling the country’s obligations under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, which Brazil had ratified in 2007.

Impunity

The establishment of the National Truth Commission generated widespread public interest in the human rights violations committed under the 1964-1985 dictatorship. This led to the creation of more than 100 truth commissions in states, cities, universities and trade unions. These engaged in investigations into cases such as the enforced disappearance of former congressman Rubens Paiva in 1971. They also highlighted less well-known violations against Indigenous Peoples and rural workers, such as the military attacks (1968-1975) against the Waimiri-Atroari in the Amazon and the torture of peasant farmers during the Araguaia guerrilla conflict (1967-1974).

The Truth Commission published its final report on 10 December recommending that the 1979 Amnesty Law should not be an obstacle to criminal charges being brought against the perpetrators of serious human rights violations. The report also recommended several public security reforms such as the demilitarization of the police. Federal prosecutors trying to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice condemned the Amnesty Law as incompatible with international human rights treaties. To date, judges have rejected these arguments. However, at the end of the year, three bills were before Congress which proposed changes to the interpretation of the Amnesty Law so that it would no longer apply to agents of the state charged with crimes against humanity.

Human rights defenders

The National Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders continued to face numerous difficulties in fulfilling its mandate, including lack of resources, judicial insecurity, lack of coordination with state officials, and disputes about the scope of the programme and who should benefit from it. The authorities refused to include a woman sex worker known as “Isabel” in the programme. She had lodged a complaint about police violence against herself and her colleagues during their eviction in May 2014 from the building where they lived in Niterói, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. After lodging the complaint, Isabel was kidnapped and beaten by men who showed her photos of her son. Fearing for her safety, she left the area and was still in hiding at the end of the year.

In April 2013, two men were convicted of the murder in 2011 of José Cláudio Ribeiro and Maria do Espírito Santo, rural workers’ leaders in the state of Pará who had reported illegal logging. In August 2014, a retrial was ordered of a landowner accused of ordering their assassination; he had been acquitted of involvement in the killings in 2013. However, he evaded arrest and remained at liberty at the end of the year. Maria do Espírito Santo’s sister, Laísa Santos Sampaio received death threats because of her human rights work and was part of the National Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Although she received some protection, including a police escort, concerns for her safety persisted.

In the state of Rio de Janeiro, the government’s failure to guarantee the safety of the Fishermen’s Association of Guanabara Bay resulted in the closure of its headquarters. Its president and his wife have not been able to return to their home since November 2012 because of threats to their lives. Other fishermen from AHOMAR, such as Maicon Alexandre, also received death threats.

Land disputes and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights

Indigenous Peoples and Quilombola communities (descendants of former slaves) continued to face grave threats to their human rights.

In September 2013, the Guarani-Kaiowá community of Apika’y, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, occupied a sugarcane plantation that they claim as their traditional land. A local court ordered them to leave, but they refused to comply. At the end of the year they remained on the land but at risk of eviction. In 2007, the federal government had signed an agreement with public prosecutors to demarcate the community’s land until 2010, but the process was never completed.

At the end of the year, a bill was pending in Congress which, if passed, would transfer responsibility for demarcating Indigenous land from the Executive to the Legislature, where the agribusiness lobby was very strong. The new Mining Code proposal also puts traditional communities at risk of having corporate activity on their land without their permission, in breach of international law.

Quilombola communities continued to fight for recognition of their right to land. The slow process of resolving land entitlement claims resulted in conflict and left communities at risk of threats and violence from gunmen and local ranchers. The community of São José de Bruno in the state of Maranhão was under direct threat in October 2014 after a landowner invaded part of their land.

Thirty-four people were killed as a result of conflict over land in 2013, three of them in the state of Maranhão. Between January and October 2014, five people were killed due to conflict over land in the state. Impunity for these crimes continued to feed a cycle of violence.

Those responsible for the killing of Quilombola leader Flaviano Pinto Neto in October 2010 had not been brought to justice, despite the fact that a police investigation had identified four suspects.4

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

In May 2013 the National Council of Justice approved a resolution authorizing same-sex marriage, following a 2011 ruling by the Supreme Court. However, frequent homophobic statements by political and religious leaders continued. Conservative politicians vetoed attempts by the federal government to distribute human rights education materials in schools to curb discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Homophobic hate crimes were frequent. According to the NGO Bahia Gay Group (Grupo Gay da Bahia), 312 people were killed as a result of homophobic or transphobic hate crimes in 2013.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Religious groups continued to put pressure on the authorities to criminalize abortion in all circumstances – Brazilian law allows abortion in cases of rape, threat to the life of the woman and anencephalic foetuses. This limited range of possibilities results in many women resorting to clandestine, unsafe abortions. In September 2014, the cases of Jandira dos Santos Cruz and Elisângela Barbosa caused a national outcry. The two women died in Rio de Janeiro following clandestine abortions in clinics. The body of Jandira dos Santos Cruz was hidden from her family and burned by clinic employees.

Arms trade

Brazil signed the Arms Trade Treaty on 4 June 2013, the first day it was open for signature. By the end of 2014, it had yet to ratify the treaty. The Brazilian government did not publish data on arms exports and refused requests under the Freedom of Information Act from researchers and journalists for details of the country’s involvement in the arms trade, such as, for example, whether weapons had been exported to countries where mass human rights violations were being committed.

  1. Brazil: Protests during the World Cup 2014: Final overview: No Foul Play, Brazil! Campaign (AMR 19/008/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR19/008/2014/en
  2. Brazil: They use a strategy of fear: Protecting the right to protest in Brazil (AMR 19/005/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR19/005/2014/en
  3. Brazil: At least nine killed overnight in north Brazil (AMR 19/013/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR19/013/2014/en
  4. Brazil: Killers of community leader must be brought to justice (News story) www.amnesty.org/en/news/brazil-killers-community-leader-must-be-brought-justice-2014-10-30

BRUNEI DARUSSALAM

Brunei Darussalam
Head of state and government: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

Lack of transparency and scarcity of information made independent monitoring of the human rights situation difficult. Amid strong international criticism, the amended Penal Code came into force on 1 May, although it was announced that its implementation would be phased. The new Code, purporting to impose Shari’a law, contained a number of provisions that violate human rights, widening the scope of offences punishable by the death penalty, expanding the imposition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, restricting the rights to freedom of expression and religion or belief, and discriminating against women. Also in May, the country’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism.

Death penalty

The new Penal Code1 imposed death by stoning as a possible punishment for conduct that should not be criminal, such as extramarital sexual relations and consensual sex between people of the same gender, as well as for offences such as theft and rape. It also allowed for the imposition of the death penalty for child offenders and for offences such as mocking the Prophet Muhammad. However, while Brunei Darussalam retained the death penalty in law, it remained abolitionist in practice.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Brunei Darussalam has not ratified the UN Convention against Torture. The country’s new Penal Code significantly expanded the scope of corporal punishments that amount or could amount to torture (including death by stoning – see above).

A wide range of offences including theft were punishable by whipping or amputation. Judicial caning remained a common punishment for crimes including possession of drugs and immigration offences. At least three caning sentences were known to have been carried out in 2014. Under existing law, children could be sentenced to whipping; under the revised Penal Code children could also be sentenced to amputations. The Penal Code also introduced laws discriminating against women, including punishing abortion with public flogging.

Freedom of expression

Journalists continued to be censored. In February, the Sultan ordered a halt to criticism of the new Penal Code.

Freedom of religion

The Constitution protects non-Muslims’ right to practise their religion, but laws and policies restricted this right for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The revised Penal Code criminalized exposing Muslim children to the beliefs and practices of any religion other than Islam.

Counter-terror and security

The Internal Security Act (ISA) permitted detention without trial for indefinitely renewable two-year periods, and was used to detain anti-government activists. An Indonesian detained without trial under the ISA since February was initially refused visits by his embassy for two months.

  1. Brunei Darussalam: Authorities must immediately revoke new Penal Code (ASA 15/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA15/001/2014/en

BULGARIA

Republic of Bulgaria
Head of state: Rosen Plevneliev
Head of government: Boyko Borisov (replaced Georgi Bliznashki in November)

The reception conditions for asylum-seekers entering Bulgaria partially improved but concerns remained over access to Bulgarian territory and the integration of refugees. Prevention and investigation of hate crimes by the authorities was inadequate.

Background

In July, the government coalition headed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party resigned following heavy losses in the European Parliament elections. Its year in power had been plagued by protests against government corruption and backroom dealing sparked by the controversial appointment of Delyan Peevski, a prominent media mogul and MP, as head of the Bulgarian Security Agency. New parliamentary elections were set for October 2014, less than 18 months after the previous round, which was also prompted by the resignation of the government. Following the elections, a new government under Prime Minister Boyko Borisov from the GERB party was appointed in November.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In August 2013, Bulgaria experienced a large increase in the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants entering the country irregularly. By the end of 2013 over 11,000 people, many of them refugees from Syria, had crossed the border, compared to a total of 1,700 in 2012.

The Bulgarian authorities initially struggled to respond adequately. Hundreds of people in need of international protection ended up living for months in substandard conditions without access to asylum procedures. In January 2014, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, stated that asylum-seekers in Bulgaria faced a real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment due to systemic deficiencies in the Bulgarian asylum and reception system. It called on the EU Member States to suspend transfers of asylum-seekers back to Bulgaria.1 The reception conditions for new arrivals improved, thanks in large measure to EU and bilateral assistance. In April, UNHCR reviewed the situation in Bulgaria and found that despite progress made by the authorities, serious shortcomings remained. It lifted its call for the general suspension of transfers with the exception of certain groups, especially those with special needs.

The number of refugees and migrants dropped dramatically in 2014, to 3,966 by October as a result of a government policy adopted in November 2013 that aimed to decrease the number of people irregularly entering Bulgaria. A number of NGOs, including Amnesty International, documented violations including unlawful expulsions of people back to Turkey (push-backs) without giving them a chance to seek asylum, which the authorities strenuously denied. An official investigation was initiated only in one such case.  

Integration of refugees

Recognized refugees faced problems in accessing education, housing, health care and other public services. In August, the government rejected a plan prepared by the State Agency for Refugees and the Ministry of Labour for the implementation of the National Integration Strategy adopted earlier in the year.

According to the State Agency for Refugees, in September only 98 out of 520 registered refugee children were enrolled in school. This was due to the Schools Act which requires any new pupil to pass an exam in the Bulgarian language and in other subjects. A draft Law on Asylum and Refugees, which was intended to ensure unhindered access to primary education for refugee children, was not adopted due to the fall of the government.

Human rights defenders

A prominent human rights NGO, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), faced a tax inspection as well as harassment by far right groups. These were seen as intimidatory since the BHC is known for its criticism of the government’s human rights record, in particular the treatment of asylum-seekers and the failure to prevent and address hate crimes. In January, prompted by a request by VMRO-BND, an ultra-nationalist political party, the National Revenue Agency carried out a large-scale audit of the BHC’s finances for the period 2007-2012. The audit did not establish any breach.

On 12 September, a far right political party, the Bulgarian National Union, organized a rally under the slogan “Let’s ban BHC!” The rally concluded outside the offices of the BHC, where participants verbally abused staff and visitors. They reportedly also called for the banning of all NGOs in Bulgaria. The police officers present at the rally did not intervene to prevent or stop the harassment and verbal assaults. In November, in communication with Amnesty International, the Ministry of Interior denied any harassment or intimidation of BHC staff or visitors during the protest.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Concerns remained regarding the effectiveness and independence of investigations into allegations of police ill-treatment. Investigations into several allegations of the excessive use of force by police during the protests in the capital, Sofia, in June 2013 were still ongoing by the end of 2014.2

Hate crimes against ethnic minorities and migrants

In the second half of 2013, many violent attacks targeting ethnic and religious minorities, including migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, were reported by the media and NGOs, exposing shortcomings in the prevention and investigation of such hate crimes.3 In March, the European Court of Human Rights found in Abdu v. Bulgaria that authorities had failed to thoroughly investigate the racist motive associated with the physical assault of a Sudanese national in 2003.

Between July and September, Amnesty International researched 16 cases of alleged hate crimes against individuals and properties. The hate motive was investigated only in one of them.

Legislative gaps regarding hate crimes on other protected grounds, such as sexual orientation, gender identity or disability, persisted. In January, the government proposed a draft new Criminal Code closing some of these gaps, but it had not been adopted by the end of the year.

  1. Bulgaria: Refugees continue to endure bad conditions (EUR 15/001/2014)  www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR15/001/2014/en
  2. Bulgaria: Investigations into alleged excessive use of force during Sofia protests must be prompt and thorough (EUR 15/001/2013)  www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR15/001/2013/en
  3. Because of who I am: Homophobia, transphobia and hate crimes in Europe (EUR 01/014/2013)  www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR01/014/2013/en

BURKINA FASO

Burkina Faso
Head of state: Michel Kafando (replaced Blaise Compaoré in November)
Head of government: Yacouba Isaac Zida (replaced Luc Adolphe Tiao in November)

Concerns remained over the use of torture and other ill-treatment and excessive force by police and other security personnel. High levels of maternal mortality persisted.

Background

President Compaoré resigned at the end of October following widespread protests against a bill proposing constitutional amendments that would allow him to run for re-election in 2015. Following the bill’s withdrawal, a transitional government led by interim President Michel Kafando was sworn in in November to steer the country towards legislative and presidential elections.

TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT

In October, following a riot at MACO prison in Ouagadougou, at least 11  prisoners were repeatedly beaten and otherwise ill-treated by prison guards and accused of organizing an escape attempt. Two prisoners died following the riot, reportedly as a result of dehydration and lack of ventilation in their cell during a lockdown.

More than 30 prisoners alleged that they had been tortured and otherwise ill-treated at the time of arrest, and while being held in gendarmerie (military police) detention centres and police stations around the country in 2013 and 2014. One detainee described being tortured for a period of 17 days at the central Ouagadougou police station; his hands were handcuffed to his ankles, an iron bar was put underneath his knees and he was suspended in a squatting position between two tables. Other detainees also said they were beaten and forced to sign statements without knowledge of their content.

EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE

During protests in October and November, security forces used excessive, sometimes lethal, force against peaceful protesters, resulting in at least 10 deaths with hundreds more injured.

On 30 and 31 October, prison guards and gendarmes used excessive and lethal force to repress a prison riot and attempted escape at the MACO prison in Ouagadougou. Three prisoners were shot dead.

RIGHT TO HEALTH – MATERNAL MORTALITY

Concerns about high levels of maternal deaths remained. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 2,800 women died during or following childbirth in 2013. WHO also reported a persistently high unmet need for contraception information, services and goods.

The Ministry of Health, working with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and other agencies, launched the first National Family Planning Week in 2013 aimed at raising awareness about contraception and challenging persistent negative stereotypes about women and girls who take contraception.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

In a ruling in March, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights held that the Burkinabé state – in its failure to diligently investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the assassination of journalist Norbert Zongo and three of his companions, found burned to death in a car in 1998 – had violated the right to freedom of expression by causing “fear and worry in media circles”.

In another ruling in December, in the case of Konaté v. Burkina Faso, the Court ruled that imprisonment for defamation violated the right to freedom of expression while criminal defamation laws should be used only in limited circumstances. The Court ordered Burkina Faso to change its criminal defamation laws.

Burundi

Republic of Burundi
Head of state and government: Pierre Nkurunziza

Government repression of critical voices intensified during the year. Violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly increased. Members of the opposition, civil society activists, lawyers and journalists were among those who faced heightened restrictions as the 2015 elections approached. Meetings and marches were not allowed to take place. Allegations of harassment and violence committed by members of the ruling party’s youth wing, Imbonerakure, were not effectively investigated.

Background

Political tensions ran high as President Nkurunziza looked set to stand for a third term, a move perceived by many as a violation of Burundi’s Constitution. In March, the National Assembly narrowly rejected a bill proposing constitutional amendments that would have allowed the President to stand for a further term. Official statements indicated that the Constitutional Court would rule on the issue at a later date. Critics accused the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) of jeopardizing ethnic power-sharing principles agreed in Burundi’s post-conflict Arusha Accord.

The United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB), established in January 2011, closed at the end of 2014.

Strong criticism of the civil and political rights situation in Burundi was made by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the African Union (AU) and some donor countries, including France and the USA.

Freedoms of association and expression

The authorities refused to grant opposition groups, the press, the Burundian Bar Association and civil society organizations authorization to hold legitimate meetings and peaceful demonstrations.1

For example, in February, the Mayor of Bujumbura prevented the Burundian Bar Association from holding its General Assembly and another planned training workshop. In March, youth members of the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy ( MSD) were denied permission to hold a meeting at a local centre in the commune of Gihosha, Bujumbura, to discuss the proposed amendments to the Constitution. The authorities gave no explanation for their decision.

Political figures and opposition parties were subject to official interference, harassment and arbitrary arrest. For example, irregular arrest and trial proceedings in relation to corruption allegations against Frédéric Bamvuginyumvira limited his political activities. He was released from detention in March on health grounds.

Repressive legislation

The Press Law, promulgated in June 2013, provided for official restriction of press activities and freedom of expression. The law stipulates that journalists can be required to reveal their sources on a number of issues from public order to state security.

The Law on Public Gatherings was used to arbitrarily deny opposition groups and civil society permission to meet publicly or hold demonstrations.

Human rights defenders

Members of civil society organizations and the media, especially those working on potentially sensitive subjects relating to human rights or state accountability, were subject to harassment.

Leading human rights defender and prisoner of conscience Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was detained in May and charged with threatening state security and using false documents. He was arrested shortly after his comment that young men were receiving arms and uniforms and travelling to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo for military training was broadcast on the radio. He was provisionally released on medical grounds in September. His imprisonment sent a chilling signal to the rest of civil society that individuals reporting on sensitive subjects would be at risk of arbitrary arrest.2

In April, a march organized by civil society organizations to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the killing of Ernest Manirumva, Vice-President of the Anti-corruption and Economic Malpractice Observatory (OLUCOME), was prevented from going ahead. At the time when the march should have taken place, the Prosecutor General issued a statement claiming that the prosecution had incriminating evidence linking Gabriel Rufyiri, President of OLUCOME, to the death of Ernest Manirumva. No investigation had been initiated into the alleged involvement of several high-ranking members of the security services in the killing.

Impunity

Human rights abuses by Imbonerakure

Members of Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the CNDD-FDD, committed human rights abuses on the pretext of maintaining security. They prevented opposition party meetings and intimidated, attacked and even killed members of the opposition with impunity.

On 14 March, Ananias Nsabaganwa, a member of the Front for Democracy in Burundi, was visited at his home in the Commune of Busoni, Kirundo Province, by two local administrative officials, three members of Imbonerakure (including the head of Nyagisozi zone) and two soldiers. He was reportedly shot dead by one of the soldiers on the orders of one of the local officials and an Imbonerakure member.

In April, a leaked internal cable sent by the BNUB reported that in one province two members of the military had supplied Imbonerakure and demobilized soldiers with weapons and military and police uniforms. The government denied these allegations but took no steps to investigate them.

Extrajudicial executions

Most allegations of politically motivated killings carried out between 2010 and 2012 were not investigated. Victims and witnesses remained at risk because of the lack of effective protection mechanisms.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights agreed in June to consider a complaint from civil society groups and Track Impunity Always (TRIAL) in relation to four cases of extrajudicial executions.

Justice system

The justice system lacked material, financial and logistical resources. Generalized problems were regularly cited in relation to the judiciary including a heavy backlog of cases, a lack of transport to transfer suspects from detention facilities to court and cases not being opened or prepared for court by prosecutors. There were also reports of corruption within the judiciary and the authorities continued to fail to effectively investigate politically sensitive cases.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

On 15 May, a law establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was passed. The law failed to include clear language on the setting up of a special tribunal to prosecute individuals responsible for crimes under international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. The TRC officially began on 10 December 2014 as 11 Commissioners were sworn into office.

  1. Burundi: Locked down: A shrinking of political space (AFR 16/002/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR16/002/2014/en
  2. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa is a prisoner of conscience (AFR 16/003/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR16/003/2014/en

Cambodia

Kingdom of Cambodia
Head of state: King Norodom Sihamoni
Head of government:Hun Sen

Respect for the right to freedoms of expression, association and assembly deteriorated with a seven months’ ban on public gatherings. The authorities used excessive force against peaceful protesters, resulting in deaths and injuries. Human rights defenders and political activists faced threats, harassment, prosecution and sometimes violence. Impunity for perpetrators of human rights abuses persisted, with no thorough, impartial and independent investigations into killings and beatings. Two further convictions at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for crimes against humanity during the Khmer Rouge period resulted in life sentences; a second trial against the same defendants was ongoing. Thousands of people affected by land grabbing by private companies for development and agro-industry faced forced eviction and loss of land, housing and livelihood.

Background

In July the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) ended its year-long boycott of the National Assembly following an agreement with Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) over electoral reform. The opposition, which won 55 out of 123 seats in the July 2013 national elections, had alleged electoral fraud favouring the CPP.

Two new laws – the Law on the Organization of the Courts and the Law on the Status of Judges and Prosecutors – were enacted in July, along with an amended Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Supreme Council of Magistracy. The laws gave excessive powers over judges and prosecutors to the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Council of Magistracy, contrary to international standards.

Amid widespread criticism from human rights and refugee organizations, including UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, Cambodia signed a controversial Memorandum of Understanding with Australia in September to accept an unknown number of recognized refugees relocated from the Pacific island of Nauru. Australia undertook to fund the costs of relocation and services for the refugees for one year in Cambodia and to provide additional aid worth US$40 million over a four-year period.

Excessive use of force

Security forces used excessive force to respond to peaceful assemblies, leading to deaths and injuries. On 2 January, 10 men, including four human rights defenders, were beaten with wooden sticks and metal bars and then arrested during a violent operation by soldiers in response to mostly peaceful protests by striking garment factory workers.

The following day, four men were shot dead and 21 others injured when security forces fired live ammunition during violent clashes with striking garment workers and others in the Pur Senchey district of the capital, Phnom Penh. Although some protesters threw rocks, no threat was posed to the lives of security forces or others. The use of live ammunition appeared to be an unnecessary response and was therefore in violation of international standards. Dozens of people were hospitalized, including many with bullet wounds. Teenagers were among the casualties; Khem Saphath, a 16-year-old youth, was last seen with a gunshot wound and was presumed to have died.1

District security guards and plain-clothed men were deployed to break up peaceful demonstrations in Phnom Penh throughout the year. They used weapons including sticks, wooden batons, metal bars, electroshock weapons and slingshots. Human rights monitors and journalists were among those specifically targeted and beaten.

In June Cambodia rejected recommendations by states participating in the review of the government’s human rights record under the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review to investigate the use of excessive force against protesters and killings during demonstrations and to end impunity for such abuses. No one was held accountable for any of the deaths or injuries sustained.2

Freedom of assembly

On 5 January, the Ministry of Interior announced that demonstrations “must be provisionally suspended” following a three-day crackdown on protests that resulted in at least four deaths and 23  arrests. Official requests from individuals and groups for permission to hold gatherings in Phnom Penh were repeatedly rejected. In April, Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park – an area designated for peaceful assembly under the Law on Peaceful Demonstrations – was barricaded with barbed wire. Those who tried to gather despite the ban were violently dispersed by security forces. Restrictions on peaceful assembly were loosened and Freedom Park reopened in August following a political agreement reached between the government and opposition party.

In addition to the 10 men arrested on 2 January, another 13  workers were arrested on 3 January during the lethal clashes in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district. Some of the 23 arrested were severely beaten by security forces and denied access to medical care. All were charged with intentional violence and other crimes and detained. They were convicted in May following trials regarded by local observers as unfair; their sentences were suspended and all were released.

Eight officials of the opposition CNRP were arrested and charged with leading an “insurrection” following a violent clash between some CNRP supporters and district security guards at an attempted peaceful gathering at Freedom Park in July. They were all released a week later as the political agreement was reached. However, 10 youth activists and one CNRP official, five of whom were in pre-trial detention, were subsequently summoned for trial on 25 December on charges of “insurrection”; the trial was adjourned until January 2015. Legal action was initiated in September against six trade union leaders for “incitement”. Although they were not detained, the court issued supervision orders, meaning they could not take part in or organize protests.

In November, seven women housing rights defenders from the Boeung Kak community were imprisoned for a year after a summary trial for taking part in a peaceful street protest. Three other women and a Buddhist monk were also imprisoned for calling for their release outside the court.3 

Meetings and forums elsewhere in the country were also prevented by local authorities. In March and June the Cambodian Youth Network attempted to hold training sessions in Kampong Thom province on human rights issues, including illegal logging, but the sessions were disrupted by armed police. In June a planned public forum on illegal logging in Preah Vihear province was also banned.

Land disputes

Conflicts over land continued, with disputes over land grabbing, forced evictions, Economic Land Concessions and environmental concerns. This led to increased protests and confrontations, often involving local authorities and private companies. In April, local rights group the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) estimated that the total number of people affected since 2000 by land grabbing and forced evictions in 13 provinces monitored – about half the country – had passed half a million.

Land disputes remained unresolved, leaving thousands either without adequate housing and land, and therefore unable to make a living, or at risk of forced eviction. In March, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) re-submitted complaints to the relevant authorities on behalf of around 11,000 families involved in protracted disputes, some lasting more than 10 years. The families came from 105 communities in 17 of Cambodia’s 25 provinces.

Despite numerous promises from the authorities to find a solution, more than 100 out of 300 families forcibly evicted from Borei Keila in Phnom Penh in January 2012 remained homeless and living in harsh conditions.

In October a group of international law experts provided information to the ICC on behalf of 10  victims alleging that “widespread and systematic” land grabbing by the Cambodian government was a crime against humanity.

International justice

In August, Nuon Chea, 88, the former second-in-command of the Khmer Rouge regime, and Khieu Samphan, 83, the former head of state, were sentenced to life imprisonment by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC, Khmer Rouge tribunal). They were convicted of the forced movement of the population from Phnom Penh and elsewhere, and the execution of soldiers from the Khmer Republic, the regime toppled by the Khmer Rouge. Both appealed the sentences. Eleven reparation projects designed by victims with external funding were also endorsed by the ECCC.

Case 002/02 against the two men began in October focusing on alleged crimes against humanity at agricultural co-operatives and a security centre in Takeo province.

  1. Cambodia: Open letter urging an immediate investigation into the disappearance of Khem Saphath (ASA 23/002/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA23/002/2014/en
  2. Cambodia rejects recommendations to investigate killings of protesters: Human Rights Council adopts Universal Periodic Review outcome on Cambodia (ASA 23/005/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA23/005/2014/en
  3. Women defenders and Buddhist monk sentenced (ASA 23/007/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA23/007/2014/en

Cameroon

Republic of Cameroon
Head of state: Paul Biya
Head of government: Philémon Yang

Freedoms of association and assembly continued to be restricted. Human rights defenders were frequently intimidated and harassed by government security agents. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people continued to face discrimination, intimidation, harassment and other forms of attacks. The Nigerian Islamist armed group Boko Haram stepped up attacks in the northeastern region of Cameroon, including killings, burning villages and hostage-taking. Arbitrary arrests, detentions and extrajudicial executions of people suspected of being members of Boko Haram were reportedly carried out by security agents. Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Nigeria and the Central African Republic were living in crowded refugee camps in dire conditions.

Background

There were signs of instability across the country as a result of internal political tensions and external developments, including ongoing cross-border attacks by Boko Haram, and violence in neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR). Security forces including the Rapid Intervention Brigade (BIR) were responsible for human rights violations including killings, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions. Most of these violations were committed in the context of the fight against Boko Haram.

Extrajudicial executions

A number of people suspected of being linked to Boko Haram were allegedly killed by security forces, including by members of the BIR, in northern Cameroon. On 1 June, nurse Nzouane Clair René was shot dead near the town of Mora, following arrest by security forces. On the same day, Ousmane Djibrine and Gréma Abakar, traders travelling to a village market in Zigagué, were reportedly killed by BIR members in the village of Dabanga. On 15 June Malloum Abba was killed by BIR members in the village of Tolkomari. On 20 June Oumaté Kola was reportedly found shot dead in the Mozogo forest following his arrest by BIR members a few days earlier. The same day, Boukar Madjo was shot dead, allegedly by BIR members, in the town of Nguetchewé.

Enforced disappearances

Several cases of enforced disappearance were reported, especially in the extreme north of the country where security forces were fighting Boko Haram. Most of the reported cases were allegedly committed by members of the BIR.

On 2 June, Abakar Kamsouloum was reportedly arrested by security forces at his home in Kousseri and transferred to a military camp. His fate and whereabouts remained unknown to his family and local civil society organizations at the end of the year, despite several requests for information to the local authorities.

Abuses by armed groups

Boko Haram was responsible for human rights abuses, especially in the northeastern region. Houses were burned and a number of people were killed during raids on villages, often in punitive attacks for real or perceived co-operation with Cameroonian security forces.

Boko Haram fighters conducted several abductions in Cameroon during the year. Some of those abducted were released, reportedly often after payment of a ransom by the government. The authorities continued to refute this allegation. On 27 July, the residence of Cameroonian Vice-Prime Minister Amadou Ali was attacked by Boko Haram members in the village of Kolofata, close to the Nigerian border. Seventeen people were abducted including the Vice-Prime Minister’s wife. Several others including police officers were killed during the attack. All those abducted were released in October together with 10 Chinese workers who were abducted in May.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Thousands of refugees were living in dire conditions in crowded camps in border areas after fleeing violence in the CAR and Nigeria. At the end of the year there were around 40,000 refugees from Nigeria and some 238,517 from the CAR in the country. At least 130, 000 refugees from the CAR crossed into Cameroon following violence that erupted in the CAR between the Séléka and Anti-balaka armed groups in December 2013. Conditions were difficult in the camps and attacks on camps by unidentified armed groups were reported. These attacks led UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, to move refugees from border areas to more secure places within Cameroon.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

Discrimination, intimidation, harassment and violence directed towards LGBTI people remained of serious concern. LGBTI individuals, mostly men but also women, were arrested for alleged same-sex sexual activity. Some of those arrested were sentenced to prison terms of up to five years. Others were arbitrarily detained and later released.

On 1 October, five people, including one transgendered person, were arrested after police raided a home in the capital Yaoundé. They were later detained at a nearby police station and a sixth person was also detained when he visited those already in detention. Two of those arrested were released the same day. The other four were charged with prostitution and “ disturbance” and remained in detention until 7 October, when they were released pending an investigation.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders and groups were frequently intimidated, harassed and threatened. Offices of some human rights organizations were placed under surveillance and at times attacked, allegedly by security agents.

On the night of 12 June, the premises of the Central Africa Human Rights Defenders’ Network (REDHAC) were burgled by a group of eight unidentified armed men. They threatened to kill the guard before forcing their way into the offices, searching through documents and reportedly taking two television sets, three laptops, an iPad and some money. The incident was the fourth time REDHAC’s offices had been attacked, but despite the organization lodging complaints with the police, no concrete measure was taken by the authorities to effectively and fully investigate the incidents.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

People continued to be arrested and detained without charge by security forces including by members of the BIR in the context of its operation against Boko Haram in the northern regions. There were several cases of people being detained incommunicado. In most cases, detainees were prevented from receiving visits from family members, doctors or lawyers. There were also several reported cases of people being arbitrarily arrested and detained by the police and gendarmerie for civil matters, contrary to provisions of the Constitution and domestic legislation.

Freedoms of association and assembly

Perceived or actual opponents of the government continued to be denied the right to organize peaceful activities and demonstrations.

On 3 October, reggae singer Joe de Vinci Kameni, known as Joe La Conscience, was arrested by police outside the French consulate in Douala as he was preparing to start a peaceful demonstration. A local journalist was arrested alongside him and later released. Joe de Vinci Kameni was released on 9 October without charge.

Canada

Canada
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor General David Johnston
Head of government: Stephen Harper

There were systematic violations of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Attacks against two Canadian soldiers provoked a debate about terrorism and national security laws.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

In February, the government rejected a proposed mine in the traditional territory of the Tsilhqot’in people in the province of British Columbia, which an environmental assessment concluded would cause irreversible and profound harm to Tsilhqot’in culture and society.1 However, the federal government gave resource development precedence over Indigenous rights in a series of other large-scale projects, including the Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline, approved in June, and the Site C dam megaproject, approved in October.

In May, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples reported that the situation of Indigenous Peoples in Canada had reached “crisis proportions in many respects”, including “distressing socio-economic conditions” and a disproportionately high number of Indigenous people in prison.

In June, the Supreme Court for the first time recognized an Indigenous nation’s pre-colonial land title, upholding the right of the Tsilhqot’in to own and manage a large part of their traditional territories.

In September, Canada was the only state to take issue with part of the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples’ outcome document.

In October, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal heard concluding arguments in a case alleging discriminatory federal under-funding of child protection in First Nation Indigenous communities.

Women’s rights

In May, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported that at least 1,017 Indigenous women and girls were murdered between 1980 and 2012, four and a half times the homicide rate for all other women. Despite mounting demands, including by provincial and territorial governments, the federal government refused to initiate a national action plan or public inquiry.

In November, separate allegations of sexual assault and/or harassment against a radio host and two Members of Parliament sparked a national debate about violence against women.

Counter-terror and security

In January, it was revealed that a national security agency, Communications Security Establishment Canada, had monitored thousands of travellers’ electronic devices at a major airport and for days after they left the airport.

In May, the Supreme Court ruled that using Special Advocates in “immigration security certificate” hearings provided a fair process even though they were generally barred from communicating with the individuals concerned after accessing secret evidence.

In June, the Citizenship Act was reformed, allowing dual nationals convicted of terrorism and some other offences to be stripped of Canadian citizenship. There were concerns about dual tiers of citizenship and unfairness in the revocation procedure.

In July, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that Omar Khadr should be treated as a juvenile offender. He was apprehended by US forces in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old and held for 10 years at the US detention centre at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba until his transfer to Canada in 2012 to complete his prison sentence.

In October, two Canadian soldiers were killed in separate attacks; Patrice Vincent in St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu and Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa. The gunman who killed Nathan Cirillo then entered the Canadian Parliament and was killed by security officers. The government subsequently proposed law reforms to increase the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The bill did not address concerns about inadequate national security oversight.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In July, the Federal Court ruled that cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program for refugees were unconstitutional.

In October, the government proposed legislation allowing for provincial and territorial governments to deny social assistance to refugee claimants.

Also in October, a coroner’s inquest into the 2013 death by hanging of Mexican national Lucía Vega Jiménez in a Vancouver airport holding cell recommended changes to immigration detention.

There were concerns about the low numbers of Syrian refugees given resettlement places in Canada.

Freedom of expression

In May, the Special Commission on the events of Spring 2012 (Commission spéciale d’examen des événements du printemps 2012) criticized the Quebec provincial government’s handling of student protests in 2012, including policing tactics. The Quebec government rejected the Commission’s recommendations.

Numerous civil society organizations that criticized government policies were targeted for audits related to their charitable tax status and the permissibility of their advocacy work.

There were concerning disclosures about police surveillance of Indigenous land rights activists, including sharing the information with corporations.

Justice system

In October, the Supreme Court upheld the State Immunity Act, barring the family of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian/Iranian national who was tortured and died in Iranian custody in 2003, from bringing a lawsuit against Iran in Canada.

Corporate accountability

In May, the third annual report assessing the human rights impact of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was released. It failed to consider significant human rights concerns facing Indigenous Peoples in Colombia.

Lawsuits alleging human rights abuses were filed against Canadian mining companies Tahoe Resources in June and Nevsun Resources in November, in connection with their operations in Colombia and Eritrea respectively.

In November, changes to the Office of the Extractives Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor fell short of calls for an Ombudsperson with power to investigate companies and recommend sanctions and remedies for non-compliance. Corporate participation in the complaints process remained voluntary, although companies faced withdrawals of certain government services if they did not respect Canada’s CSR strategy.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

A bill which would add gender identity to the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code hate crime provisions was stalled in the Senate at the end of the year.

Despite repeated calls, the government did not ratify the Arms Trade Treaty or the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.

  1. Canada: Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, 112th Session (AMR 20/001/2014)

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Central African Republic
Head of state: Catherine Samba-Panza
Head of government: Mahamat Kamoun

Crimes under international law such as war crimes and crimes against humanity were regularly committed, including killings, mutilation of bodies, abductions, recruitment and use of child soldiers and forced displacement of populations. In December 2013 a coalition of the mainly Christian and animist anti-Balaka armed groups attacked the capital Bangui and the mostly Muslim Séléka forces retaliated, killing dozens of civilians. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) – which replaced the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) in September 2014 – has not stopped or prevented abuses in the region. Many of those suspected of criminal responsibility, including commanders of the Séléka, anti-Balaka, and their allies, have not been investigated or arrested and no action has been taken to bring them to justice.

Background

Violence continued in the Central African Republic (CAR) despite the deployment of MINUSCA, in September 2014, and the presence of French forces (known as Sangaris) and European Union forces (EUFOR). Deadly attacks against civilians, including on those in sites for internally displaced persons (IDP), by the anti-Balaka, Séléka and armed Peulh fighters (members of the Peulh ethnic group) continued. According to the UN, in mid-November, 7,451 military and 1,083 police personnel had been deployed to MINUSCA.

On 10 January, Séléka leader and CAR President Michel Djotodia resigned following pressure from the international community and CAR civil society organizations. Catherine Samba-Panza was sworn in as the new Transitional President on 23 January.

On 7 February 2014 the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced a new preliminary examination into crimes allegedly committed in the CAR since September 2012. In September, the Office of the Prosecutor announced its conclusion that there was a reasonable basis for investigating crimes defined under the Rome Statute committed in CAR since September 2012.

On 11 July, a Séléka congress designated former President Djotodia and former commander and Minister Nourredine Adam as the group’s president and vice-president respectively. Those two individuals are under UN and US sanctions for their alleged involvement in human rights violations and abuses.

Prime Minister André Nzapayéké and his entire cabinet resigned following the ceasefire agreement signed in July 2014 in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, by armed groups’ representatives, political parties, churches and civil society organizations. On 22 August, Transitional President Samba-Panza appointed the new Prime Minister Mahamat Kamoun.

On 7 August, a memorandum of understanding was signed between MINUSCA and the government to “establish a Special Jurisdiction created by national legislation, in which international judicial and prosecutorial executive functions would be attached to a national judicial body”. However, legislation for the “Special Criminal Court” has yet to be passed and no funding has been provided.

Fresh violence erupted in the capital Bangui in mid-October. A series of violent incidents occurred in Bangui, with MINUSCA forces facing protests and attacks. At least a dozen people were killed and thousands were forced to flee and live in camps for IDPs. Escalating violence by the Séléka, armed Peulh fighters and anti-Balaka was observed in the central region, especially around the city of Bambari. On 9 October 2014, a MINUSCA convoy was attacked leaving one peacekeeper dead, another severely wounded, and seven others injured. Sporadic clashes between anti-Balaka fighters and international forces, including EUFOR, continued. According to UNHCR, the October violence displaced some 6,500 people in Bangui, but that number could be higher. As of October 2014 there were 410,000 IDPs and some 420,000 people had fled to neighbouring countries.

On 29 October, the UN Panel of Experts on CAR released its final report which highlighted credible evidence of crimes under international law committed by armed groups. It also referred to the exploitation of natural resources by armed groups; the illicit transfer of arms and ammunition; arms proliferation; and violations of international humanitarian law, including attacks on schools and hospitals, sexual violence and the use of child soldiers.

By the end of 2014, anti-Balaka and Séléka groups lacked co-ordination, leading to the creation of various other groups among them. The mostly Muslim Séléka forces clashed with the mainly Christian and animist anti-Balaka militia. All sides systematically targeted civilians believed to support the other side’s fighters.

On 10 December, MINUSCA announced that it had arrested Abdel Kader “Baba Ladde”, leader of the Chadian armed group Popular Front for Recovery near Kabo at the border with Chad. Baba Ladde and members of his armed group had been accused of attacking civilians in northern CAR and recruiting child soldiers.

Abuses by armed groups

Abuses by Séléka

Séléka forces were allegedly responsible for serious human rights abuses, including killings, burning houses and villages mostly belonging to Christians, forced displacement of the populations and enforced disappearances. Christian communities frequently attributed responsibility for Séléka’s abuses to the country’s Muslim minority; acts of retaliation were reported and the already serious sectarian divisions deepened. No effective investigations were conducted into most incidents.

On 22 January, more than 100 Christian civilians including children were allegedly killed by Séléka fighters and armed Muslim civilians in Baoro. On 17 April, Father Wilibona was allegedly killed by Séléka and armed Peulh fighters after being ambushed at Tale village. On 26 April, 16 people, including 13 local leaders and three aid workers from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), were killed by a Séléka group, prompting MSF to reduce its CAR activities. On 7 July, 26 people were killed and 35 seriously wounded during an attack at a church and IDP site in Bambari. More than 10,000 people fled. On 1 October, Séléka fighters attacked an IDP camp next to the MINUSCA base in Bambari (which accommodated Christian and animist IDPs). Several people were killed. On 10 October, Séléka fighters attacked an IDP site in the Catholic Church compound in Dekoa. Nine civilians including a pregnant woman were killed and several wounded.

Abductions by Séléka

In April, the Séléka in Batangafo abducted a bishop and three priests. They were later released following negotiation between the authorities, the Catholic Church and Séléka commanders. Those allegedly responsible for the abduction were identifiable but no investigation was opened.

Abuses by the anti-Balaka

Anti-Balaka armed group members were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. They were the main perpetrators of abuses committed against Muslims in Bangui and in western CAR, especially following the former President’s resignation in January 2014, and the retreat of most Séléka forces to the northeastern region.

Since 8 January 2014, a series of deadly attacks on Muslims were carried out across western CAR. Some attacks were allegedly carried out in revenge for the previous killing of Christians by Séléka forces and armed Muslims. On 16 January, 20 civilians were killed and dozens injured outside the town of Bouar, when their vehicle was attacked by anti-Balaka militias. Some victims were hacked to death with machetes, others were shot. Among the victims was an 11-year-old girl. On 14 January, after stopping a truck in Boyali and demanding the Muslims get off, anti-Balaka fighters killed six members of a family: three women and three small children, aged one, three, and five. On 18 January, at least 100 Muslims were killed in the town of Bossemptele. Two days later, anti-Balaka fighters killed four Muslim women who had hidden in a Christian family’s house. On 29 September, Abdou Salam Zaiko, a Muslim from Bambari, was killed when the vehicle he was travelling in was attacked. According to witnesses, the anti-Balaka allowed the Christian driver and passengers to leave the vehicle, but killed Zaiko and other Muslim passengers. On 8 October, seven Muslim passengers in a car owned by Saidu Daouda were killed after the car was ambushed. On 14 October, in the Bangui neighbourhood of Nguingo, anti-Balaka members killed three civilians, seriously injured at least 20 more, and burned down 28 houses and a church. The attack was revenge for an earlier assault on some of their members by the local population following a previous attack by the armed group. Over 1,000 people fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s Equator province, while 100 took refuge at a Catholic Church compound. In September, Djimbété encampment for the Peulh ethnic group was attacked. Several people were killed including a six-year old boy.

Abuses committed by armed Peulh fighters

Armed Muslim Peulh fighters who were often allies of the Séléka conducted attacks killing and injuring mainly Christians, pillaging and burning villages and houses. In October, armed Muslim Peulh fighters allegedly carried out several attacks on villages around Bambari and in central and northern CAR. At least 30 people were killed.  

Violations committed by African Union peacekeepers

Chadian national army (ANT) members and those of the Chadian contingent of MISCA were allegedly involved in serious human rights violations. In some instances MISCA forces failed to protect civilians, while in others members of its contingents allegedly committed serious human rights violations with impunity.

On 4 February, members of the ANT allegedly shot dead three people in the town of Boali, while they were repatriating Chadians and Muslims to Chad. On 18 February, Chadian troops were responsible for killing at least eight people including children, when they indiscriminately opened fire on a crowd in Damara and at the PK12 neighbourhood of Bangui. On 29 March, troops opened fire on a market crowd in Bangui killing and injuring several civilians. Following criticism from the international community, the Chadian authorities withdrew their 850 soldiers from MISCA in April. On 24 March MISCA’s Congolese (Brazzaville) contingent were allegedly implicated in the enforced disappearance of at least 11 people, including four women, from the home of a local militia leader in Boali.

No MISCA peacekeepers had been investigated for human rights violations by the end of the year.

Prison conditions

The conditions and security at Bangui’s Ngaragba prison remained of concern. On 3 November, 584 prisoners were registered, including 26 minors. The prison’s capacity was 500 adults. In late November more than 650 inmates were held in cramped cells. There was a lack of adequate sanitation and protection against malaria. Prisoners defecated in plastic bags which they threw outside, jeopardizing their own health and that of people living nearby.

Anti-Balaka militia attacked the prison in January 2014 and killed at least four suspected Séléka members detained there. That led to the escape of all prisoners. CAR officials told Amnesty International that the anti-Balaka members who led the attack were well known to them. However, by the end of the year, no action had been taken to bring the perpetrators to justice.

On 24 November, a riot erupted at Ngaragba prison. Some prisoners, suspected of being anti-Balaka members, armed with at least three Kalashnikov rifles and hand grenades, attacked the prison guards and the UN contingent guarding the prison. According to witnesses, at least one UN peacekeeper and 13 inmates were wounded. The riot followed the death of a detainee allegedly for lack of medical treatment and harsh detention conditions. The detainees also demanded that their cases be heard in reasonable time, with some complaining of having been in detention for 10 months without trial.

Freedom of expression

The few journalists who remained operational were often victims of harassment and intimidation by armed groups and the transitional authorities. Several journalists were reportedly killed because of their work. No effective investigations were known to have been carried out into these incidents. On 29 April, two journalists were attacked in Bangui. Désiré Luc Sayenga, a Démocrate newspaper journalist, died after being knifed and shot by a group of young men. René Padou, who worked with the protestant church Radio La Voix de la Grâce, died after an armed group threw grenades and shot him. Both journalists had previously denounced crimes committed across the CAR.

Impunity

The transitional authorities and the UN failed to effectively investigate crimes under international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in CAR, therefore perpetuating the cycle of violence and fear. In July, Amnesty International published a dossier naming 20 individuals, including anti-Balaka and Séléka commanders, against whom it had credible evidence to suspect that they could be responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights abuses committed since December 2013. In December the organization revealed that some of these men were allegedly implicated in interference with the administration of justice and further crimes under international law between September and October 2014.

Chad

Republic of Chad
Head of state: Idriss Déby Itno
Head of government: Kalzeubé Payimi Deubet

Serious human rights violations continued to take place with almost total impunity. The rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly were frequently violated. Human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists were victims of harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention. People, including protesters, were killed by members of the security services during demonstrations.

Background

Issues related to economic, social and cultural rights were of great concern throughout the year. Across the country, people, including civil servants, organized demonstrations demanding pay increases and denouncing the high cost of living. Chad was hosting more and more refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), Sudan and recently Nigeria, putting pressure on the already scarce resources and creating tensions within the communities, especially in south, east and northwestern parts of the country. Individuals responsible for committing human rights violations, including members of the police, the gendarmerie and the National Intelligence Agency (ANS), continued to do so with almost total impunity.

Impunity

Members of the army and the Chadian component of the then African Union mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), who were involved in killing civilians and other serious human rights violations in the CAR, had impunity after they withdrew from MISCA on 3 April. On 29 March, Chadian troops opened fire at a crowd in a market in the PK12 district of Bangui, the capital of the CAR, killing and wounding dozens of people. Chadian troops were involved in other incidents including killings of civilians in the towns of Boali, Damara and in PK12 in February. On 19 July, President Idriss Déby appointed the Chadian rebel leader Abdel Kader “Baba Ladde” as préfet of Grande Sido prefecture at the border with the CAR. He was appointed despite the fact that he and members of his armed group Popular Front for Recovery (Front Populaire pour le Redressement, FPR) had been accused of serious human rights abuses including the recruitment and use of child soldiers in northern CAR. They had also been accused of setting fire to villages in northern CAR between January and July. He later fled Chad and on 10 December, he was arrested by UN peacekeepers near the town of Kabo in northern CAR, at the border with Chad. He was arrested on an arrest warrant issued by judicial authorities in Bangui in May and remained detained in the prison in Bangui at the end of the year.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

According to the UN Panel of Experts on CAR, three civil servants from the CAR, namely the sous-préfet of Markounda, the secretary-general of the sous-préfecture and the director of a public school, were arrested by Chadian security forces in the CAR on 17 May and taken to N’Djamena, the capital of Chad. The three were not released despite several requests from the CAR authorities.

On 23 June, two members of the UN Panel of Experts on CAR were arrested by Chadian defence and security forces at a border post in the CAR while conducting investigations. The UN Panel reported that its experts had identified themselves, explained their mandate, privileges and immunities but that they were forcibly driven from the border post to the town of Goré in Chad where they were detained for four hours, before being escorted back to the border and released.

Prison conditions

Conditions remained harsh in most of the country’s prisons. According to witnesses, conditions were worse in detention facilities where visits were not allowed. These were run by the police, the gendarmerie and the national security services. N’Djamena remained without a prison after the demolition of the city’s prison in December 2011. Detainees were held in a former gendarmerie barrack compound in Amsinéné on the outskirts of the city.

Harsh conditions in prisons frequently led to prison escapes and revolts. On 4 November, a revolt erupted in Amsinéné prison after the prison authorities had not allowed some prisoners to stay in the prison courtyard and forced them to stay in cells instead. In solidarity with the punished inmates, other prisoners gathered in the main courtyard. The gendarmes guarding the prison started shooting at the prisoners. According to various sources, at least one prisoner was killed and several others wounded.

Freedom of expression

Human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists regularly faced violations of their right to freedom of expression. They were frequently intimidated, harassed or arbitrarily arrested by security service officers and administrative authorities.

On 8 October, community Radio FM Liberté was suspended for seven days following a decision by the High Council for Communication. The station had broadcast a statement signed by 12 human rights NGOs criticizing the absence of fuel on the market.

Freedom of assembly

Trade unions and political and human rights groups were frequently denied the right to peaceful activities or protests. Most demonstrations were violently disrupted by security forces.

On 11 November, protesters, including teachers, demonstrating against the high cost of living in N’Djamena and the towns of Moundou and Sarh, were attacked by security forces. According to various sources, at least one person was killed and several were wounded after being shot.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

The government proposed a draft bill amending the penal code to criminalize same-sex conduct between consenting adults with jail sentences of between 15 and 20 years, and a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 CFA francs (US$100 to 1,000). The bill was not passed into law at the end of the year.

International justice

At the end of the year, the Extraordinary African Chambers (the Chambers) in Dakar, Senegal, was finalizing its investigation into alleged crimes by the former Chadian President Hissène Habré. The Chambers indicted him in July 2013 and, if the investigating judges decided that there was sufficient evidence, his trial would be scheduled to start in May 2015. Habré’s reign from 1982-1990 was marked by serious human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions.

On 14 November, the trial of 26 former state security agents connected to the Habré era commenced in Chad. International and local human rights organizations expressed concern that the trial could undermine the upcoming trial of Hissène Habré in Dakar, Senegal. In October, the Chambers requested Chad to send these suspects to Dakar but Chad declined to transfer them and refused another request by the Chambers to travel to Chad to interview them. There were also concerns from the victims and human rights organizations that the trial may not meet international fair trial standards.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Despite efforts by the international community and the authorities to assist the tens of thousands of people who recently fled into the country from the CAR and Nigeria, their living conditions remained dire. Shelter, food and medical facilities were needed by more than 150,000 refugees and Chadian returnees. Most of them were living in camps in southern Chad near the border with CAR. Throughout the year, violence caused by the armed group Boko Haram in Nigeria also forced thousands to flee to Chad, mostly to the area near Lake Chad; 368,000 refugees from Darfur were living in refugee camps in eastern Chad. Some 97,000 refugees from CAR who fled their country stayed in camps in southern Chad.

On 8 August, the authorities of Logone Oriental province in southern Chad forcibly and without prior notice relocated people from the Doba transit site to another site in the village of Kobitey.

CHILE

Republic of Chile
Head of state and government: Michelle Bachelet Jeria (replaced Sebastián Piñera Echenique in March)

Cases of police violence continued to be dealt with by military courts. Legal proceedings against those responsible for past human rights violations continued.

Background

In March, Michelle Bachelet Jeria took office promising to decriminalize abortion in certain circumstances. She also pledged to bring the anti-terrorism law and the military justice system into line with international standards.

Chile accepted most of the recommendations made under the UN Universal Periodic Review. These included a call for the 1978 Amnesty Law to be repealed and for reform to legislation regulating sexual and reproductive rights. In June, the UN Human Rights Committee made similar recommendations.1

Police and security forces

In August, the police made public the security protocols used during demonstrations. This followed repeated complaints about the lack of transparency of the methods used by the police to respond to protests. There had been repeated allegations of excessive use of force by police during protests since 2011.

Military justice system

Cases of human rights violations involving members of the security forces continued to be dealt with by military courts.2 Decisions by the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, upholding the right to due process and international human rights obligations, transferred some cases to ordinary courts.3

In May, a former police officer was sentenced to three years and 61 days’ imprisonment for fatally shooting 16-year-old Manuel Gutierrez Reinoso and injuring Carlos Burgos Toledo during a protest in 2011. However, as the sentence imposed was for less than five years, the officer was conditionally released. The family’s appeal against the sentence was pending before a higher military court at the end of the year.4

In 2013, a police officer was found responsible by a military court for inflicting serious injuries on journalist Víctor Salas Araneda and sentenced to 300 days’ conditional release and suspended from work. However, Víctor Salas Araneda, who lost the sight in his right eye while he was reporting on a protest in 2008, was not granted reparation.

Death in custody

In May, Iván Vásquez Vásquez died in custody in Chile Chico, Aysén region. The family’s lawyers argued that he was beaten to death and that more than one police officer was involved in the crime. A first autopsy indicated that suicide was not the cause of death, as initially indicated by the police. A police officer was charged by a military court with using unnecessary violence resulting in death. However, the charges were dropped in October after a second autopsy requested by the defence stated that the cause of death was suicide. Concerns remained around the impartiality of this autopsy. Full results of the autopsy were pending at the end of the year.

Impunity

Some progress was made in bringing to justice those responsible for human rights violations committed under General Pinochet’s regime. According to the President of the Supreme Court, by March there were 1,022 active cases, of which 72 related to allegations of torture. Official data from the Ministry of the Interior Human Rights Programme indicated that, by October, 279 people had been convicted in connection with these crimes; these convictions were not subject to appeal. At the end of 2014, 75 people were serving prison sentences in connection with these crimes.

In May, 75 former agents of the secret police (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional, DINA) were convicted in connection with the enforced disappearance of Jorge Grez Aburto in 1974.5 In October the Supreme Court convicted former DINA members, including its former head Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, of the enforced disappearance of Carlos Guerrero Gutiérrez and Claudio Guerrero Hernández, in 1974 and 1975 respectively.

Investigations into the torture of Leopoldo García Lucero were continuing at the end of the year. In August 2013, in its first ruling on a case of a Chilean torture survivor, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned the excessive delays in initiating the investigations into this crime.6

In June, the authorities announced legal reforms that would, if implemented, make torture a specific offence in the Criminal Code.

In September, the government announced its intention to speed up the discussion of a 2006 bill to overturn the 1978 Amnesty Law. The debate around the amnesty law was ongoing before the Congress at the end of the year.7

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

There were renewed allegations of excessive use of force and arbitrary detention during police operations against Mapuche Indigenous communities. There were particular concerns about abuses against minors in the context of the conflict.

In May, the Supreme Court confirmed the 18-year prison sentence of Celestino Córdova, a Mapuche machi (traditional healer), in connection with the deaths in January 2013 of Werner Luchsinger and Vivianne Mackay. The couple died following an arson attack on their house in the Vilcún community, Araucanía region. The Oral Criminal Court of Temuco, which ruled in the first instance, dismissed the prosecution’s allegation that this was a terrorist attack. The defence alleged that Celestino Córdova’s trial was politically motivated and had fallen short of international fair trial standards, and was another example of how the authorities dealt with the issue by criminalizing Mapuche land claims rather than seeking to resolve underlying issues.

In October, José Mauricio Quintriqueo Huaiquimil died after being run over by a tractor while he and other Mapuche were entering a farm in the Araucanía region. According to reports, they had gone to the farm in connection with a proposal they were preparing for the authorities about what part of the land could be given to them. The community had been occupying part of the farm with the owner’s agreement. A man suspected of responsibility for the death was detained and the investigation was continuing at the end of the year.

In April, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism published a report on his 2013 visit to Chile highlighting discrepancies between the national anti-terrorism law and the principle of legality and due process in the context of Mapuche proceedings. A bill to reform the anti-terrorism law was under discussion in Congress at the end of the year.

In May, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned Chile for human rights violations in its application of the anti-terrorism law against eight Mapuche sentenced in 2003. The Inter-American Court also ordered the state to adopt all necessary measures to ensure that court decisions in these cases were not enforced. The Inter-American Court argued that the stereotyping of the accused in these cases violated the principles of equality, and non-discrimination and equal protection before the law.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Abortion remained a criminal offence in all circumstances. A bill to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, threats to the life of the woman and foetal malformation was announced by the government but not submitted to the Congress.

Discrimination

In October, legislation on civil partnerships, including for same-sex couples, was passed by the Senate. At the end of the year, it was under discussion by the Deputies Chamber .

A bill on the right to gender identity that would allow people to change their name and gender on official documents was before the Senate at the end of the year.

  1. Chile: Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee: 111th session of the Human Rights Committee (7-25th July 2014) (AMR 22/003/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR22/003/2014/en
  2. Chile: Urge reformar la justicia militar (AMR 22/007/2014) www.amnesty.org/es/library/info/AMR22/007/2014/es
  3. Chile: Importante decisión del Tribunal Constitucional sobre la aplicación de la jurisdicción militar en un caso de tortura (AMR 22/005/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR22/005/2014/es; Chile: Corte Suprema resuelve a favor de una aplicación restrictiva de la justicia militar (AMR 22/006/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR22/006/2014/es
  4. Chile: “No sabía que existían dos tipos de justicia hasta que nos ocurrió esto” (22 August 2014) www.amnesty.org/es/news/chile-no-sab-que-exist-dos-tipos-de-justicia-hasta-que-nos-ocurri-esto-2014-08-22 
  5. Chile: Important conviction against 75 former agents of Pinochet in a case of enforced disappearance (AMR 22/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR22/001/2014/en
  6. Chile: 40 years on, Chile torture victim finally finds justice www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2013/11/years-chile-torture-victim-finally-finds-justice/
  7. Chile: Pinochet victims see justice within their grasp, 6 October 2014 (Press release) www.amnesty.org.au/news/comments/35724/

CHINA

People’s Republic of China
Head of state: Xi Jinping
Head of government: Li Keqiang

The authorities continued to severely restrict the right to freedom of expression. Activists and human rights defenders risked harassment and arbitrary detention. Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread and access to justice was elusive for many. Ethnic minorities including Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians faced discrimination and increased security crackdown. Record numbers of workers went on strike demanding better pay and conditions. In November 2013, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party in its Third Plenum issued a blueprint for deepening economic and social reforms, paving the way for modifications to family planning policies and China’s household registration system. The abolition of the Re-education Through Labour system was also announced in 2013. The Fourth Plenum in October 2014 focused on the rule of law.

Background

Throughout 2014, President Xi Jinping continued to pursue a high-profile anti-corruption campaign, targeting both low- and high-ranking officials. In July, state media announced that Zhou Yongkang, a former Minister of Public Security and Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee member, had been under investigation for alleged corruption since late 2013. He was the most senior official targeted in the campaign, in which, thus far according to official sources, more than 100,000 officials had been investigated and punished.

The UN Committees on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, reviewed China’s implementation of the ICESCR and CEDAW1 in May and October respectively. In December 2013 the UN Human Rights Council adopted the outcome document of China’s second Universal Periodic Review.

Arbitrary detention

The National People’s Congress officially abolished China’s notorious Re-education Through Labour system in December 2013. Following its abolition, the authorities made extensive use of other forms of arbitrary detention, including Legal Education Centres, various forms of administrative detention, “black jails”, and illegal house arrest. In addition, police frequently used vague charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “disturbing order in a public place” to arbitrarily detain activists for up to 37 days. Members of the Chinese Communist Party suspected of corruption were held under the secretive system of shuanggui (or “double-designation”) without access to legal assistance or their families.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread. In March, four lawyers who were investigating a Legal Education Centre in Jiansanjiang, Heilongjiang Province, were arbitrarily detained and tortured. One of them, Tang Jitian, said that he was strapped to an iron chair, slapped in the face, kicked, and hit so hard over the head with a plastic bottle filled with water that he passed out. He said he was later hooded and handcuffed behind his back and suspended by his wrists, while police continued to beat him.2

In a rare case, an appeal court in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, in August upheld the convictions of four people charged with torture. They and three others had been found guilty by the court of first instance of torturing several criminal suspects in March 2013, and were sentenced to between one and two and a half years in prison. Only three of the seven were police officers; the other four were “special informants” – ordinary citizens allegedly “helping” the police to investigate crimes. One of their victims died in custody after being tortured with electric shocks and beaten with a shoe.

Trade in torture instruments and misuse of law enforcement equipment

China consolidated its position as a major manufacturer and exporter of a growing range of law enforcement equipment, including items with no legitimate policing function such as electric shock stun batons and weighted leg cuffs. In addition, equipment that could be used legitimately in law enforcement but was easy to abuse, such as tear gas or riot control vehicles, has been exported from China without adequate controls even when there was a substantial risk of serious human rights violations by the receiving law enforcement agencies.3

Death penalty

In May, the Supreme People’s Court in a landmark ruling overturned the death sentence of Li Yan, a victim of domestic violence, and ordered a retrial. This was still pending at the end of the year. The Ziyang City Intermediate People’s Court had sentenced Li Yan to death in 2011 for the murder of her husband, ignoring evidence of sustained abuse.

In a rare case of acquittal, the High Court in Fujian Province in August overturned the death sentence of food stall owner Nian Bin for allegedly poisoning neighbours with rat poison. Nian Bin had originally been sentenced to death in 2008, despite his claim that he had confessed under torture.4 The High Court cited insufficient evidence but did not address the allegations of torture.

Similarly, in the case of Hugjiltu, a man from Inner Mongolia who was executed for rape and murder in 1996, in December the Inner Mongolia People’s Court declared his innocence and rescinded its original verdict. His family was awarded over 2 million yuan in compensation.  

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders continued to risk harassment, arbitrary detention, imprisonment, and torture and other ill-treatment for their legitimate human rights work.  Cao Shunli died from organ failure in a hospital in March after being denied adequate medical care in detention for an existing condition.5 She had been detained at a Beijing airport in September 2013 when on her way to a human rights training in Switzerland.

The crackdown on rights activism intensified during the year. Individuals associated with a loose network of activists called the New Citizens’ Movement were sentenced to between two and six and a half years’ imprisonment. The movement campaigned for equal education rights for children of migrant workers, abolition of the household registration system, greater government transparency and against corruption.6 More than 60 activists were arbitrarily detained or put under illegal house arrest in the run-up to the 25th anniversary in June of the violent crackdown in 1989 of pro-democracy protests in and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Several remained in detention awaiting trial, including prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang.7 In late September and early October, approximately 100  activists across China were detained for their support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Thirty-one remained in detention at the end of the year.8

Freedom of expression

The Chinese leadership increased its efforts to systematically restrict freedom of information. In late 2013, the Communist Party set up a group to “coordinate internet security”. However, a group member reportedly described the task as engaging in a battle “against ideological penetration” from “foreign hostile forces”.

In June, the All China Lawyers Association released draft regulations that would prohibit lawyers from discussing ongoing cases or writing open letters, or from criticizing the legal system, government policies and the Communist Party. Also in June, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television banned journalists from reporting on issues or areas outside their current field of reporting and from posting critical articles that had not been approved by their work unit.

The authorities continued to use criminal law to suppress freedom of expression, including by detaining and imprisoning activists whose internet postings were viewed more than 5,000 times or re-posted more than 500 times.

Criminal charges were brought against journalists. Gao Yu, a prominent journalist, was taken away in April and later detained on suspicion of “illegally disseminating state secrets internationally”. Xiang Nanfu, a contributor to Boxun, one of the largest independent Chinese language news sources, was detained in May. Both were shown on national TV “confessing” to their alleged crimes even before their trials began.

Ilham Tohti, a Uighur scholar and founder of the website Uighur Online, was sentenced to life imprisonment in September after being convicted of “separatism”. Articles from the website were the main evidence cited by the authorities. Ilham Tohti was denied access to legal counsel for five months after being detained, and was tortured and denied food in pre-trial detention.9

Freedom of religion

People practising religions banned by the state, or without state permission, risked harassment, arbitrary detention, imprisonment, and torture and other ill-treatment. In the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), the authorities stepped up already onerous restrictions on Islam with the stated aim of fighting “violent terrorism and religious extremism”. Numerous counties posted notices on their websites stating that students should not be permitted to observe Ramadan, and many teachers gave food and sweets to children to ensure that they did not observe the fast. Prohibitions on government employees and Communist Party cadres adhering to a religion were reinforced and several Uighur cadres were punished for downloading religious materials from the internet or “worshipping openly”. Outward signs of adherence to Islam such as beards or veils were often banned.

In Zhejiang province, a large-scale campaign against churches was carried out under the pretext of rectifying structures with building code violations. The authorities demolished churches and removed crosses and crucifixes. In May, a building of the Xiaying Holy Love Church in Ningbo was reportedly demolished because it was “eye-catching”. People practising banned religions, such as those worshipping Christianity in “house churches” or Falun Gong practitioners, continued to face persecution.

Reproductive rights

The changes to China’s family planning policies enabled married couples to apply to have two children if either parent is an only child. The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress formalized the changes in December 2013, and provinces began to implement them in 2014. Many restrictions on reproductive rights remained in place.

Migrant workers’ rights

Changes to the household registration system known as hukou made it easier for rural residents to move to small or mid-size cities. Access to benefits and services, including education, health care and pensions, continued to be linked to hukou status, which remained a basis for discrimination. The hukou system forced many internal migrants to leave their children behind in the countryside.

Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR)

Authorities ascribed numerous violent incidents which occurred in the XUAR or other regions to Uighur individuals, and used these to justify a heavy-handed response. In May, a “strike hard” campaign was launched to target “violent terrorism and religious extremism”, raising concerns that accused individuals would not receive fair trials. Top officials prioritized speed in making arrests and convening trials, while calling for greater “co-operation” between prosecuting authorities and courts. By 26 May, XUAR officials had announced the detention of over 200 suspected members of “terrorist and extremist groups” and the breaking up of 23 “terror rings”. On 29 May, at one of the several “sentencing rallies” since the launch of the campaign, 55 people, all believed to be Uighurs, were sentenced for crimes including terrorism in front of nearly 7,000 spectators in a stadium.10

On 28 July, state media reported that 37 civilians were killed when a “knife-wielding mob” stormed government offices in Yarkand County (in Chinese: Shache) and that security forces had shot dead 59 attackers. Uighur groups disputed this account, putting the death toll much higher and saying rather that police opened fire on hundreds of people who were protesting against the severe restrictions placed on Muslims during Ramadan. Uighurs faced widespread discrimination in employment, education, housing and curtailed religious freedom, as well as political marginalization.

Tibet Autonomous Region and Tibetan populated areas in other provinces

Ethnic Tibetans continued to face discrimination and restrictions on their rights to freedoms of religious belief, expression, association and assembly. Several Tibetan monastic leaders, writers, protesters and activists were detained.

In August, Tibetan demonstrators were reportedly shot by police and security forces in Kardze (in Chinese: Ganzi), Sichuan Province, where a crowd had gathered to protest against the detention of a village leader. At least four demonstrators died from their wounds and one protester committed suicide in detention.

Seven people set themselves on fire in Tibetan populated areas in 2014 in protest against repressive policies by the authorities; at least two died as a result. The number of known self-immolations since March 2011 rose to 131. The authorities targeted some relatives and friends of those who self-immolated for allegedly “inciting” or “abetting” such acts.

In some counties, family members of self-immolators, or those who have attended the Dalai Lama’s teachings, were sympathetic towards the “Dalai Clique” or had “connections overseas”, were barred from senior positions or from standing as candidates in village elections.

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Freedom of assembly

Large-scale protests took place in Hong Kong in 2014. On 1 July, organizers estimated that more than 500,000 people took part in a pro-democracy march, followed by a sit-in in the business district. More than 500 protesters were arrested the following night.11 Some reported they were not allowed access to lawyers and were not provided with food and water for several hours before being released without charge. In late September, thousands of students staged a week-long class boycott that culminated in a sit-in in front of the Civic Square, near the headquarters of the Hong Kong government. Later that night some of the protesters entered the fenced-off portion of the Civic Square. Police responded with pepper spray and contained 70 of the protesters in the Square, 20 of whom were arrested the following day.12

This led to calls for the start of a civil disobedience campaign – “Occupy Central” – to occupy streets in central Hong Kong. On 28 September, the police used tear gas and pepper spray in an attempt to disperse thousands of peaceful protesters who had gathered in streets near the administrative headquarters. On 3 October, counter-demonstrators attacked protesters, including sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating women and girls, while the police failed to intervene for several hours.13 Journalists covering the protests complained that police prevented them from doing their job. On 15 October, six police officers were filmed beating up a protester in a dark corner in the Admiralty protest zone.14 During the clearance of the Mongkok protest zone15 and outside the government complex in Admiralty, in late November police used arbitrary force against protesters, journalists and bystanders. The largely peaceful protests ended in mid-December and, according to Hong Kong Police Commissioner Andy Tsang, 955 people were arrested in relation to the Occupy protests and more arrests would be made later.

Freedom of expression

Fears for the right to freedom of the press were raised when Kevin Lau Chun-to, the former chief editor of Ming Pao newspaper, was removed from his post in January. Under Lau, Ming Pao had reported on alleged human rights violations and wrongdoings of high-ranking officials in Hong Kong and China.

In October, over 20 journalists from Television Broadcasts Limited, a local television station, issued an open letter criticizing perceived self-censorship by the broadcaster in its reporting of the police beating of “Occupy Central” protester Ken Tsang Kin-Chiu.

Migrant domestic workers

Thousands of the approximately 300,000 migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, nearly all women, were trafficked for exploitation and forced labour, and heavily indebted with illegal and excessive agency fees. The “Two-Week Rule”, which stipulates that after an employment contract ends migrant domestic workers must find new employment or leave Hong Kong within two weeks, and the requirement that migrant domestic workers must live with their employers, increased their risk of suffering human and labour rights abuses. Employers often subjected them to physical or verbal abuse; restricted their freedom of movement; prohibited them from practising their faith; paid them less than the statutory Minimum Allowable Wage; denied them adequate rest periods; and arbitrarily terminated their contracts, often in collusion with employment agencies. The Hong Kong authorities failed to properly monitor employment agencies and punish those who violated the law.

In December, the District Court began a high-profile trial involving three female Indonesian migrant domestic workers: Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, Nurhasanah and Tutik Lestari Ningsih. Their former employer, Law Wan-tung, faced 21 charges including causing grievous bodily harm with intent, assault, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages.16

Macau Special Administrative Region

Pro-democracy academics reported being targeted for their political participation and criticism of the government. Bill Chou Kwok-ping, an academic at the University of Macau and vice-president of Macau’s largest pro-democracy group, said he was suspended for “imposing political beliefs” on his students; after an inquiry, the university did not renew his contract. Another academic, Eric Sautede, a lecturer at the University of St. Joseph, lost his post in July; the university rector told a local Portuguese language newspaper it was due to Eric Sautede’s political commentary.

  1. China: Hong Kong SAR: Submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women: 59th session, 20 October – 7 November 2014 (ASA 17/052/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA17/052/2014/en
  2. China: Amnesty International calls for an investigation in to the allegations of torture of four lawyers in China (ASA 17/020/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA17/020/2014/en
  3. China’s trade in tools of torture and repression (ASA 17/042/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA17/042/2014/en
  4. China: Death row inmate freed after six years of trials and appeals (Press release)  www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/08/china-death-row-inmate-freed-after-six-years-trials-and-appeals/
  5. China: Fear of cover-up as Cao Shunli’s body goes missing (Press release)  www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/03/china-fear-cover-cao-shunli-s-body-goes-missing/
  6. China: Xu Zhiyong four year jail sentence shameful (Press release)  www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/01/china-xu-zhiyong-four-year-jail-sentence-shameful/ China: Three anti-corruption activists jailed on ‘preposterous’ charges (Press Release) www.amnesty.org/en/news/china-three-anti-corruption-activists-jailed-preposterous-charges-2014-06-19
  7. Tiananmen crackdown: Repression intensifies on eve of 25 anniversary (Press release) www.amnestyusa.org/news/news-item/tiananmen-crackdown-repression-intensifies-on-eve-of-25th-anniversary
  8. China: Release supporters of Hong Kong protests (Press release) www.amnesty.org/en/news/china-release-supporters-hong-kong-protests-2014-10-01
  9. China: Deplorable life sentence for Uighur academic (Press release)  www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/09/china-deplorable-x-year-jail-sentence-uighur-scholar/
  10. China: Shameful stadium ‘show trial’ is not justice (Press release) www.amnesty.org/en/news/china-shameful-stadium-show-trial-not-justice-2014-05-29
  11. Hong Kong: Mass arrests a disturbing sign for peaceful protest (Press release) www.amnesty.org/en/news/hong-kong-mass-arrests-disturbing-sign-peaceful-protest-2014-07-02
  12. Hong Kong: Police response to student pro-democracy protest an alarming sign (Press release) www.amnesty.org/en/news/hong-kong-police-response-student-pro-democracy-protest-alarming-sign-2014-09-27
  13. Hong Kong: Women and girls attacked as police fail to protect peaceful protesters (Press release) www.amnesty.org/en/news/hong-kong-women-and-girls-attacked-police-fail-protect-peaceful-protesters-2014-10-04
  14. Hong Kong: Police officers must face justice for attack on protester (Press release) www.amnesty.org/en/news/hong-kong-police-officers-must-face-justice-attack-protester-2014-10-15
  15. Hong Kong: Heavy-handed policing will only inflame protests (Press release) www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/11/hong-kong-heavy-handed-policing-will-only-inflame-protests/
  16. Hong Kong: The government has to put an end to the exploitation of migrant domestic workers (Press release)  www.amnesty.ca/news/news-releases/hong-kong-the-government-has-to-put-an-end-to-the-exploitation-of-migrant

COLOMBIA

Republic of Colombia
Head of state and government: Juan Manuel Santos Calderón

The peace talks between the government and the guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) continued to make progress, despite a three-week suspension of negotiations towards the end of the year. The two sides reached partial agreements on several key issues. The peace process emerged as a key theme in the May presidential election, which was won by the incumbent Juan Manuel Santos following a second round in June.1 The election campaign was marred by a scandal involving the wiretapping of government and FARC negotiators by elements within the security forces and intelligence services in an attempt to derail the peace process. Despite the ongoing peace talks, human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) continued to be committed by both sides, as well as by paramilitary groups operating alone or in collusion with or with the acquiescence of sectors of the security forces. Indigenous People, Afro-descendant and peasant farmer communities, women and girls, human rights defenders, community activists and trade unionists bore the brunt of the human rights consequences of the 50-year-long armed conflict. Such abuses included forced displacements, unlawful killings, hostage taking and abductions, death threats, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence. The government promoted legislation that threatened to exacerbate impunity and undermine the little progress made in recent years to bring to justice some of those suspected of crimes under international law and other human rights abuses and violations.

Internal armed conflict

The civilian population, especially Indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant farmer communities, as well as human rights defenders continued to be the most affected by the armed conflict. According to the latest figures available from the NGO CODHES (Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento), almost 220,000 people were forcibly displaced in 2013.

According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia, ONIC), 10 Indigenous people were killed for conflict-related reasons and at least 2,819 forcibly displaced in the first nine months of 2014.2 In 2013, 30 killings and 3,185 victims of forced displacement were recorded.

On 12 September, two Embera Dovida Indigenous leaders were killed in Alto Baudó Municipality, Chocó Department, reportedly by the guerrilla group, National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN).

Afro-descendant communities in the south western port city of Buenaventura were the target of a growing wave of violence, including killings and enforced disappearances, carried out mostly by paramilitaries and criminal gangs. Some of the victims were dismembered. The violence was concentrated in poor areas of the city earmarked for the development of port infrastructure and other economic projects.3

The sheer scale of human rights abuses was underscored by a report published by the state’s National Centre of Historic Memory in 2013. It concluded that between 1985 and 2012, almost 220,000 people were killed, 80% of them civilians. At least 25,000 people were the victims of enforced disappearances, carried out mostly by paramilitaries and the security forces. Some 27,000 people were kidnapped between 1970 and 2010, mostly by guerrilla groups, and more than 5 million people were forcibly displaced between 1985 and 2012. By November, the government had registered more than 7 million victims.

Peace process

The peace negotiations, held in Havana, Cuba, between the government and the FARC continued to offer the best chance in over a decade to put an end to hostilities. However, on 17 November, the government suspended talks in protest at the capture of an army general by the FARC in Chocó Department. He was released on 30 November and talks resumed on 10 December. On 17 December, the FARC declared a unilateral ceasefire that began on 20 December.

At the end of the year, the two sides had reached partial agreements on three of the six agenda items. A framework agreement on a fourth, on victims’ rights, was made public in June.

The framework agreement marked a significant step forward as both sides acknowledged their responsibility for human rights abuses, that victims’ rights lay at the heart of the peace process and that these rights were non-negotiable. The framework agreement did not, however, make an explicit commitment to guarantee justice for all victims. There were fears this could undermine the long-term viability of an eventual peace agreement.4

Social protest

Senior state officials claimed that a national strike by peasant farmers in April had been infiltrated by guerrilla groups. This placed demonstrators at risk of revenge attacks by paramilitaries. In May, paramilitaries sent a death threat to human rights defenders accusing them of organizing the strike, which they claimed was supported by guerrilla groups.5

Similar accusations by the authorities were made during protests by Indigenous communities in October 2013, a national peasant farmer strike in August 2013, and peasant farmer demonstrations in Catatumbo in June 2013. There were allegations that the security forces used excessive and disproportionate force during the protests. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that nine protesters, five bystanders and one police officer were killed with firearms during the protests in 2013.

Security forces

Extrajudicial executions by the security forces continued to be reported, albeit in fewer numbers than during the administration of President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010). However, the Office of the Attorney General failed to make progress in bringing to justice most of those responsible for these crimes, especially senior officers. Many cases continued to be referred to military courts. These courts, which are neither independent nor impartial, failed to deliver justice. According to the report on the situation of human rights in Colombia published by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in January, 48 cases of extrajudicial executions attributed to the security forces were transferred to the military justice system and “ numerous other cases were transferred directly by civilian prosecutors” in the first eight months of 2013.

Paramilitaries

The Justice and Peace Law (Law 975 of 2005), through which thousands of paramilitaries who laid down their arms in a government-sponsored process were to benefit from a maximum of eight years in prison in return for confessions about human rights violations, failed to respect the right of victims to truth, justice and reparation. The process began in 2005, but by September 2014, only 63 paramilitaries had been convicted of human rights violations under Law 975. Most of the 30,000 paramilitaries who reportedly laid down their arms failed to submit themselves to the limited scrutiny of Law 975.

These groups, which the government referred to as criminal gangs (bandas criminales, Bacrim), continued to operate and to commit serious human rights violations, either alone or in collusion with or with the acquiescence of sectors of the security forces. Such groups targeted human rights defenders, community leaders and trade unionists, as well as Indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant farmer communities.6

Around 160 paramilitaries who submitted themselves to Law 975 were eligible for release in 2014. Some were high-ranking leaders who had been in prison on remand but had served the maximum eight years stipulated in Law 975. Many were expected to return to their original areas of operation, raising concerns about the impact on the safety of victims and human rights defenders in these areas.

Guerrilla groups

Guerrilla groups committed serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, especially against communities in rural areas. Despite the FARC’s public commitment to end kidnappings, cases continued to be reported. The NGO País Libre reported 233 kidnappings in the first nine months of 2014, compared to 299 in the whole of 2013. Most kidnappings were attributed to common criminals, with guerrilla groups responsible for 21% and paramilitaries for 3% of the total.

Landmines, mostly laid by the FARC, continued to kill and maim civilians and members of the security forces. Guerrilla groups, as well as paramilitary groups, continued to conscript children, mostly in rural areas, forcing many families to flee their homes to protect their children. The FARC also carried out indiscriminate attacks that placed civilians at risk.

Impunity

Impunity remained a hallmark of the conflict, with very few perpetrators of human rights abuses held to account. The government’s support of legislation that threatened to boost impunity called into question its commitment to the right of victims to truth and justice.

In October, the government presented two bills to Congress. The first sought to expand the crimes that could be considered acts of service under the remit of the military justice system. The second could ensure that human rights violations committed by the security forces would not be investigated as criminal actions, but rather in a manner to determine whether or not they constitute breaches of international humanitarian law. This could result in those responsible escaping criminal prosecution by presenting the crime as a proportionate action in the course of armed conflict.

In September, 12 UN human rights experts warned that Senate Bill No. 85, which was under discussion in Congress at the time of writing, would be a step backwards for human rights: “[ I]f adopted, Bill No.85 could seriously weaken the independence and impartiality of the judiciary … Its adoption would also … represent a major setback in the Colombian state’s long-standing fight against impunity for cases of violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” The bill listed a number of crimes that would be dealt with exclusively by the military justice system, including homicide and breaches of international humanitarian law . Since extrajudicial executions are not a separate crime in the Criminal Code, they could be defined as homicide and thus investigated by military prosecutors.

In August 2013, the Constitutional Court had upheld the constitutionality of the Legal Framework for Peace, approved by Congress in June 2012. This could enable alleged human rights abusers to evade justice by giving Congress the power to limit criminal trials to those “ most responsible” for human rights abuses, and to suspend prison sentences handed down to paramilitary, guerrilla and security force combatants convicted of such crimes. But the Court ruled that the sentences of those “most responsible” could not be suspended if they were responsible for crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes. However, there was no clear definition of, or criteria to determine, “most responsible”.

Land restitution

The Victims and Land Restitution Law, which came into force in 2012, sought to provide full reparation, including land restitution, to some of the victims of the conflict. The legislation was an important step forward in efforts to acknowledge some victims’ right to reparation, but it remained flawed and its implementation progressed slowly. By August 2014, only some 30,000 hectares of land had been adjudicated to peasant farmers and only one 50,000-hectare territory to Indigenous communities. Official figures suggested that in the course of the conflict an estimated 8 million hectares of land had been subject to abandonment or dispossession.

Land claimants and those representing them, including human rights defenders and state officials, were threatened or killed, mostly by paramilitary groups.7 By August 2014, the Office of the Attorney General was investigating the killing of at least 35  individuals who had a suspected association with land restitution. On 8 July, Robinson Álvarez Quemba, a topographer working with the government’s Land Restitution Unit, was shot by an unidentified assailant while working in the municipality of San Roque, Antioquia Department. He died of his injuries three days later.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders faced grave dangers. The Office in Colombia of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded 40 killings of human rights defenders between January and September. This compared to more than 70 human rights defenders killed in 2013, according to the NGO Somos Defensores. Indigenous and Afro-descendant leaders, land activists and community leaders were among the victims. According to the NGO, National Trade Union School (Escuela Nacional Sindical), 20 members of trade unions were killed by 11 December; at least 27 were killed in 2013.

These attacks, as well as the theft of sensitive information, ongoing death threats and the misuse of the legal system to bring bogus charges against human rights defenders, undermined the work of human rights organizations and fostered a climate of fear. There was an increase in the number of death threats towards the end of 2014. In September and October, more than 100 human rights defenders, community leaders, peace activists, land restitution leaders, politicians and journalists, received a series of mass email death threats from several paramilitary groups.8 Only a few of those responsible for threats against and killings of human rights defenders were identified, let alone brought to justice.

The state’s protection programmes, coordinated by the National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección, UNP), continued to provide security to thousands of individuals at risk, including human rights defenders. But these programmes suffered from serious weaknesses, including severe delays in implementing security measures.

In September, the UNP was rocked by a corruption scandal in which senior UNP officials, including the administrative director and secretary general, were accused of taking kickbacks from private contractors to whom the UNP subcontracts most of its protection work. The UNP also acknowledged in September that because of a budget shortfall it would have to withdraw the protection schemes of some beneficiaries.

Violence against women and girls

All the parties to the conflict carried out rapes and other forms of sexual violence, primarily against women and girls. The authorities continued to fail to implement Constitutional Court Judicial Ruling 092 of 2008. This ordered the authorities to put an end to such crimes and to bring to justice those responsible.

In June, President Santos signed into law legislation on conflict-related sexual violence (Law 1719).9 The law defined such violence as a war crime and a crime against humanity. It addressed a number of specific practices that continued to be carried out in the conflict, including sexual slavery and sexual exploitation, and enforced sterilization, prostitution, abortion, pregnancy and nudity. Under the law, no statute of limitations is applicable in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

US assistance

US assistance to Colombia continued to fall. In 2014, the USA allocated some US$214.5 million in military and around US$164.9 million in non-military assistance to Colombia, compared to some US$228.6 million and around US$195.9 million, respectively, in 2013. In September 2014, 25% of the total military assistance for the year was released after the US Secretary of State determined that the Colombian government had made progress in improving human rights.

International scrutiny

In her report on the human rights situation in Colombia, published in January, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights congratulated the Colombian government on “its determined pursuit of a negotiated end to the internal armed conflict”, but noted that all parties to the conflict were still responsible for human rights abuses and violations. The report also stated that the unwillingness of state institutions “ to accept responsibility for human rights violations undermines further advances in human rights”.

In August, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published its report on the human rights situation in Colombia. The report welcomed progress in the peace talks but noted that the armed conflict continued to have a serious impact on human rights. It warned that the human rights situation could not be resolved without also addressing the problem of impunity.

In March, the IACHR requested that the Colombian government adopt precautionary measures for Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro and that his removal from office, ordered by the Office of the Procurator General in January, be suspended until the IACHR could rule on the case. The government initially refused to comply with the request and only reversed its decision after it was ordered to do so by Colombia’s Constitutional Court in April.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted the outcome of the September 2013 Universal Periodic Review of Colombia. Amnesty International welcomed Colombia’s support of recommendations to fight impunity, but reiterated its concerns that legislation to broaden the scope of military jurisdiction and the Legal Framework for Peace would seriously undermine efforts to combat impunity.

  1. Colombia: Open letter to Presidential candidates. Putting human rights at the heart of the election campaign (AMR 23/014/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR23/014/2014/en
  2. Colombia: Two Indigenous leaders killed, third at risk (AMR/23/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR23/001/2014/en
  3. Colombia: Death threats received in “humanitarian zone” (AMR 23/016/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR23/016/2014/en
  4. Historic Colombia-FARC declaration fails to guarantee victims’ right to justice  www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/06/historic-colombia-farc-declaration-fails-guarantee-victims-right-justice/
  5. Colombia: Paramilitaries threaten human rights activists (AMR 23/017/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR23/017/2014/en
  6. Colombia: Election candidates receive death threats (AMR 23/005/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR23/005/2014/en
  7. Colombia: Land rights activists threatened in Colombia (AMR 23/019/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR23/019/2014/en
  8. Colombia: Mass death threats to human rights defenders (AMR 23/030/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR23/030/2014/en
  9. Colombia: New law aims to address impunity for conflict-related crimes of sexual violence (AMR 23/24/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR23/024/2014/en

CONGO (REPUBLIC OF)

Republic of Congo
Head of state and government: Denis Sassou Nguesso

Serious human rights violations including cases of rape and other sexual violence, arbitrary arrests and detention, excessive use of force, and torture and other ill-treatment were committed, including during the mass forced expulsion of people from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Freedoms of expression, assembly and association were restricted.

REFUGEES’ AND MIGRANTS’ RIGHTS

More than 179,000 foreign nationals from the DRC, including refugees and asylum-seekers, were forcibly returned during police operation “Mbata ya Mokolo”. Some DRC nationals who remained were in hiding, fearing deportation. The operation was carried out by police in cities nationwide, ostensibly to reduce irregular immigration and criminality, and targeted people from the DRC in particular.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Freedom of expression including press freedom was seriously limited including in relation to proposed constitutional amendments to allow President Nguesso a third term in office. Journalists were subject to harassment and intimidation by the police and local authorities. Human rights defenders feared for their security and were consequently reluctant to denounce violations involving high-profile officers.

On 26 September, Cameroonian journalist Elie Smith was expelled following a statement by the Ministry of the Interior accusing him of “ seditious and subversive acts” and “ intelligence with foreign powers working against the interests of the Republic of Congo”. Local human rights organizations claimed that the decision was politically motivated.

On 23 September, freelance journalist Sadio Kanté was forced to leave the country, accused of illegal residence among other charges. She denied all the allegations.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Freedom of peaceful assembly, especially for trade unions and perceived or actual political opponents of the government, was severely restricted during the year.

On 4 November, police burst into the Brazzaville residence of Clément Mierassa, opposition leader and president of the Congolese Democratic Social Party, and disbanded a political meeting. According to witnesses, the police beat some of the participants. Around 30 arrests were made.

ARBITRARY ARRESTS AND DETENTIONS

Several cases of arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported during operation Mbata ya Mokolo targeting DRC nationals, including refugees and asylum-seekers legally living in Congo. Opposition party members, trade unionists and their family members were also frequently subject to arbitrary arrest and detention by the police.

On 4 January, police arrested Tamba Kenge Sandrine and her four children. They were released the same day without charge. The arresting officer had come to arrest her husband, Kouka Fidele, because of his trade union activities, and arrested his wife and children instead. Kouka Fidele spent several months in hiding, fearing arrest.

Jean-Bernard Bossomba “Saio”, a refugee from the DRC was arrested by the police on 22 May and detained in a national police cell in Brazzaville until 22 July. No formal charges were made. A former army officer in the DRC, he said that he feared for his security if returned there.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS

Reports were received in September alleging that Congolese police officers were raping women, including within refugee and asylum-seeker communities. At the end of the year, no action was known to have been taken by the authorities to investigate the allegations.

A five-year-old girl was raped, allegedly by police who, according to relatives, took her and other family members from their home in Brazzaville during the night. Officers separated the girl from the group before forcing them all to board a ferry to Kinshasa, DRC. The child was taken to hospital on arrival in Kinshasa, where it was confirmed that she had been raped. In September, Amnesty International researchers referred the girl to a specialized medical centre for additional treatment and psychological support.

IMPUNITY

Police officers suspected of committing serious human rights violations continued to enjoy impunity. Congolese soldiers accused of serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, while serving in regional peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic were not investigated.

In May the authorities announced that 18 police officers involved in human rights violations during the Mbata ya Mokolo operation had been suspended from their duties. It was not clear if the suspension remained in force at the end of year or if the authorities had conducted any investigations to establish whether police officers had been responsible for violations.

In June the African Union announced that it would open investigations into allegations of Congolese members of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) being implicated in the enforced disappearance on 24 March of at least 11 people in the Central African Republic. However, by the end of the year, no such investigations were known to have been initiated by the authorities.

CÔTE D’IVOIRE

Republic of Côte d’Ivoire
Head of state: Alassane Ouattara
Head of government: Daniel Kablan Duncan

Côte d’Ivoire was examined by the UN Universal Periodic Review mechanism which raised concerns about the adequacy of the government’s action on several issues including on women’s rights and the lack of (or selective) accountability for crimes committed during the post-electoral violence in 2010-2011. Hundreds of detainees awaited trial in connection with post-electoral violence. Côte d’Ivoire refused entry to more than 400 Ivorian refugees who had fled to Liberia during the post-electoral crisis. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people continued to face discrimination.

Background

In December 2013, the government renewed the mandate of the Special Investigation Commission tasked with investigating crimes committed during the 2010-2011 post-electoral violence as well as the mandate of the Commission for Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation (CDVR). The CDVR published its findings in December 2014 and expressed concern about selective justice.

In April 2014, Côte d’Ivoire was examined by the UN Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which raised concerns about the adequacy of the government’s action on several issues including: action to ensure accountability for crimes committed during the post-electoral violence in 2010-2011; measures taken to implement the national reconciliation process; efforts to ensure an open and free election campaign before the 2015 presidential elections; steps to ensure a safe and enabling environment for civil society; and women’s rights, including measures to prevent sexual violence.

In July 2014, Côte d’Ivoire refused entry to over 400 Ivorian refugees who had fled to Liberia during the post-electoral violence. Côte d’Ivoire claimed it was to prevent the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease, which was present in Liberia, but UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, had ensured that every refugee had had a medical screening. Despite the screenings more than 35,000 Ivorian refugees were waiting in Liberia for the Ivorian authorities to reopen the border.

In November, the government agreed to pay the outstanding wages and bonuses claimed by soldiers who had protested over two years of back pay and housing benefits. Also in November, the opposition party, Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), confirmed Laurent Gbagbo’s candidacy for the 2015 Presidential elections, despite the fact that he is awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). In December, the Abidjan Tribunal declared Laurent Gbagbo’s candidacy inadmissible.

Justice system

I n January and May, more than 180  political prisoners held in relation to post-electoral violence of 2010-2011 were released, some on a provisional basis in view of an upcoming trial in 2015. More than 600 detainees were awaiting trial in connection with the violence. Some political prisoners held in the Maison d’Arrêt et de Correction (MACA) Abidjan prison staged a hunger strike to protest against detention conditions and the slow judicial process. Three political detainees died in custody in the MACA in unclarified circumstances.

In July, the Minister of Justice announced that the investigation into the disappearance of journalist Guy André Kieffer would be reopened, as would the investigation into the death of Yves Lambelin, head of the Société immobilière et financière de la côte africaine ( SIFCA) who was killed during the post-electoral crisis.

The trial of 83 people, including Simone Gbagbo and Michel Gbagbo, wife and son respectively of the former President Laurent Gbagbo, and former senior officials of the Gbagbo administration, began in late December 2014. The accused face charges including threatening state security and the creation of armed groups.

International justice

Former President Gbagbo remained in ICC custody. In June, the ICC confirmed the charges against him and committed his case to trial. He will be tried for crimes against humanity. The trial is currently set for July 2015.

In March, Côte d’Ivoire surrendered  Charles Blé Goudé, accused of crimes against humanity committed during post-electoral violence, to the ICC. In December, the ICC confirmed four charges of crimes against humanity against him and committed him to trial.

In December, the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC rejected Côte d’Ivoire’s challenge to the admissibility of the case against Simone Gbagbo, who was charged by the ICC in February 2012 with murder, sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts, allegedly committed during the post-electoral crisis. Côte d’Ivoire has filed an appeal against the decision.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transGENDER and intersex people

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people faced increasing discrimination. In January, the office of Alternative Côte d’Ivoire, an organization working for the rights of LGBTI people living with HIV, was ransacked by a large mob. Computers were stolen, walls were daubed with homophobic slogans and a staff member was badly beaten. Police refused to respond or investigate the incident. The Director of Alternative Côte d’Ivoire’s house was also later attacked. A security forces member was reportedly among the attackers. Several staff members subsequently went into hiding.

Corporate accountability

Eight years after the dumping of toxic waste in Abidjan no medical study had been conducted to assess the long-term health implications of exposure to the waste. The company that made and sent the waste to Abidjan – oil trader Trafigura – has never disclosed the full information about the waste content and its potential impact; nor has it been properly held to account for its role in the dumping. In October 2014, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) confirmed that it will carry out an environmental audit of the dump sites in 2015.

Abuses by armed groups

In December 2013, the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) released a report on the Dozo, a group of traditional hunters who fought on behalf of Alassane Ouattara during the post-electoral crisis. The report documented serious human rights violations allegedly committed by members of the Dozo between March 2009 and May 2013, including unlawful killings, illegal arrest and detentions, looting and extortions. At least 228 people were killed, 164 others injured by bullets, machetes and knives, and 162  arbitrarily arrested and illegally detained. In addition, 274 cases of looting, arson and extortion were verified and confirmed, including in the regions of Gbôklé, Haut-Sassandra, Gôh, Cavally, Guemon, Tonkpi, Marahoué, Nawa, Indenie-Djuablin, Poro and Moronou.1

  1. Côte d’Ivoire: The Victors’ Law – the human rights situation two years after the post-electoral crisis (AFR 31/001/2013) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR31/001/2013/en

CROATIA

Republic of Croatia
Head of state: Ivo Josipovic
Head of government: Zoran Milanovic

Discrimination against Croatian Serbs and Roma continued. Same-sex partnerships were legally recognized. The rate of investigation and prosecution of war crimes remained at a low level.

Discrimination

Croatian Serbs

Croatian Serbs continued to face discrimination in public sector employment and the restitution of tenancy rights to social housing vacated during the 1991-1995 war.

In July, the Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional a referendum petition seeking to restrict the use of minority language rights to local self-government units where at least half of the population is from an ethnic minority. Although the referendum petition applied to the whole country, the referendum petitioners, a Croat veteran group, specifically sought to ban the use of bilingual public signs in the Cyrillic (Serb) alphabet in Vukovar. The current law on minority rights sets the threshold at one third of the population.

 

Roma

Many Roma continued to live in segregated settlements without security of tenure and with limited access to basic services such as water, electricity, sanitation and transport facilities. Four years after the 2010 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Oršuš and Others v. Croatia, many Roma children were still attending segregated classes. Discrimination in the labour market contributed to significantly higher rates of unemployment among Roma compared with other ethnic groups. Those living in rural areas and young women were particularly disadvantaged.

 

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

A Law on Life Partnership was adopted in July that granted equal rights to same-sex partnerships in all matters except adoption. The law introduced the institution of “partner-guardianship” to allow parents in same-sex partnerships to extend the full range of parental rights and obligations in relation to their children to their partners. The first same-sex partnership was registered in September. Three safe and successful Pride marches were held in Split, Zagreb and Osijek. In March, Croatia granted asylum to a gay man from Uganda who had sought protection following the criminalization of homosexuality in the country.

International justice

In November, an indictment was issued against a former member of the Croatian armed forces for crimes committed during Operation Storm in 1995. In March, Croat Army Officer Božo Bačelić became the first person to be convicted in national courts for war crimes committed during the same Operation Storm. Two further trials relating to war crimes committed during Operation Storm were ongoing by the end of the year. In total, eight members of Croatian military formations and 15 members of Serb formations stood trial for war crimes during the course of the year.

The European Court of Human Rights initiated communication with the government on 17 cases submitted by civilian victims of war alleging violations of the right to life due to the failure of the state to carry out effective investigations into the killing or disappearance of their relatives.

Croatia continued to stall on the adoption of a comprehensive legislative framework that would regulate the status of, and access to reparation for, all civilian victims of war. In a positive development in March, the Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs presented a draft Act on the Rights of Victims of Sexual Violence in the Homeland War, which would grant victims access to psychosocial and medical support, free legal aid, and monetary compensation. However, the draft law failed to specify the level of financial compensation that would be made available.

In August, Croatia signed a regional declaration on missing persons, and committed to pursuing measures to establish the fate and whereabouts of the 2,200 still missing in Croatia. Croatia had yet to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The rights of relatives of missing persons continued to be undermined by the absence of a law on missing persons.

CUBA

Republic of Cuba
Head of state and government: Raúl Castro Ruz

Freedoms of expression, association and assembly continued to be repressed. The number of short-term arrests increased sharply and politically motivated criminal prosecutions continued.

BACKGROUND

Amendments to the Migration Law which became effective in January 2013 facilitated travel abroad for all Cubans. Although government critics were allowed to travel abroad without hindrance, there were reports of documents and other materials being confiscated on their return to Cuba.

By the end of the year Cuba had still failed to ratify the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both of which it had signed in February 2008. The government did not respond to requests to visit Cuba from the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, sent in October 2013, or from the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, sent in March 2014. The authorities have not granted Amnesty International access to the country since 1990.

An exchange of prisoners between the USA and Cuba in December, and the announcement of the further release of over 50 political prisoners, raised hopes for significant human rights change amid efforts to normalize relations between the two countries, which decided to renew their diplomatic relations.

freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement

Criticism of the government continued to be repressed and was routinely punished by various means, including arbitrary and short-term detentions, “acts of repudiation” (demonstrations led by government supporters with the participation of state security officials), intimidation, harassment and politically motivated criminal prosecutions. The judicial system remained firmly under political control, gravely undermining the right to trial by an independent and impartial tribunal.

Government critics, independent journalists and human rights activists were frequently detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement. Activists were detained as a preventive measure to stop them from attending public demonstrations or private meetings.

There were increasing reports of government critics being threatened and also physically assaulted by state actors or individuals in their pay.

In June 2014, Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, director of the independent news agency Hablemos Press, received threatening telephone calls and was assaulted on the streets of the capital, Havana, by an unidentified individual, in what he believed was an attempt by the authorities to dissuade him from continuing his journalist activities.1

The government continued to exert control over all media, while access to information on the internet remained challenging due to technical limitations and restrictions on content. Independent journalists were systematically subjected to harassment, intimidation and detention for reporting information that was not sanctioned by the state apparatus.

In May, blogger Yoani Sánchez and her husband launched an online news website called 14 y medio. Shortly after it went live, the website was hacked and anyone accessing it from Cuba was redirected to a webpage which carried propaganda against Yoani Sánchez.

Prisoners of conscience

At the end of the year, five prisoners of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, remained imprisoned. Three of them, brothers Alexeis, Vianco and Django Vargas Martín, were sentenced in November on charges of “public disorder of a continuous nature” after having spent more than a year and a half in pre-trial detention. Alexeis was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, and Vianco and Django to two and a half years.2

Articles 72-90 of the Criminal Code which criminalize “dangerousness” and punish those deemed to be likely to commit a crime in the future, were increasingly used as a means to incarcerate government critics. Prisoners of conscience Emilio Planas Robert and Iván Fernández Depestre were sentenced to three and a half and three years’ imprisonment in October 2012 and August 2013 respectively for “dangerousness”. Emilio Planas Robert was accused of putting up posters in Guantánamo City with “anti-government” slogans.

Despite the relaxation of travel restrictions, 12 former prisoners of conscience arrested as part of the mass crackdown in 2003 and released in 2011 were not allowed to travel abroad as they were deemed to be serving their sentence outside prison.

Arbitrary Arrests and detentions

Short-term arbitrary detentions as a tactic to silence dissent increased sharply. The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported 8,899 politically motivated short-term detentions during 2014, an increase of more than 27% compared with 2013.

Members of the independent civil society organization Ladies in White faced constant harassment and every Sunday dozens were detained for several hours to prevent them from travelling to attend mass and carry out peaceful marches. The organization reported that 1,810 of its members had been arrested during 2013.

Dozens of government critics were arbitrarily detained or pressurized not to travel to Havana during the second summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States on 28 and 29 January. As a result of the arrests and the wave of intimidation, various meetings that were due to be held in parallel to the summit had to be cancelled.3

On 9 December, Ladies in White member Sonia Garro Alfonso, her husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González, and dissident Eugenio Hernández Hernández, were released and put under house arrest after having spent more than two and a half years in prison without trial. They were detained in March 2012 during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, accused of assault, public disorder and attempted murder.4

US embargo against Cuba

In September, the USA renewed the Trading with the Enemy Act, which imposes financial and economic sanctions on Cuba and prohibits US citizens from travelling to and engaging in economic activities with the island. In October 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted, for the 23rd consecutive year, a resolution calling on the USA to lift the unilateral embargo. US President Obama announced in December that he will engage in discussions with the US Congress in order to lift the embargo on Cuba.

  1. Cuba: Journalist threatened and attacked (AMR 25/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR25/001/2014/en
  2. Cuba: Sentencing of three brothers postponed (AMR 25/003/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR25/003/2014/en
  3. Cuba steps up repression on the eve of the CELAC summit (Press release) www.amnesty.org/press-releases/2014/01/cuba-steps-repression-eve-celac-summit/
  4. Cuba: Further information – Government critics under house arrest (AMR 25/005/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR25/005/2014/en

CYPRUS

Republic of Cyprus
Head of state and government: Nicos Anastasiades

Immigration authorities continued to routinely detain hundreds of migrants and certain categories of asylum-seekers in prison-like conditions for extended periods while awaiting deportation. Those detained included Syrian refugees. Some women detainees were separated from their young children.

Background

In February, the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders resumed negotiations regarding the reunification of the island after an 18-month break, but no progress had been made by the end of the year.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Irregular migrants, rejected asylum-seekers and certain categories of asylum-seekers were routinely detained for prolonged periods at the country’s main immigration detention facility in the village of Menoyia, while awaiting deportation. Syrian refugees were also detained despite Cyprus’ formal policy not to deport Syrian nationals.

People held at Menoyia were detained in cramped, prison-like conditions. Detainees complained about the limited time allowed to exercise outside, the quality of the food and the fact that their cells were locked between 10.30pm and 7.30am. A small number of migrant women were held in police stations pending deportation. In at least two cases, detained women were forcibly separated from their young children .1

In May, the UN Committee against Torture raised concerns about the routine and prolonged detention of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers; the detention conditions in Menoyia; and the reports that asylum-seekers were deported to their countries of origin despite facing a serious risk of torture or religious persecution. The Committee also criticized the fact that asylum-seekers were not protected from refoulement during the judicial review process and that there was no effective judicial remedy to challenge deportation decisions and halt deportations pending the outcome of appeals.

Trafficking in human beings

In April, a law was adopted with the aim of bringing national legislation on combating trafficking in line with EU and other international standards. However, the law did not provide for appeals against decisions by the Office of the Police for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings not to recognize an individual as a victim of trafficking. Concerns were also raised that police employed a definition of a victim of trafficking that fell short of international standards.

Enforced disappearances

Between January and August, the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus exhumed the remains of 65 people, bringing the total number of exhumations since 2006 to 948. Between August 2006 and August 2014, the remains of 564 missing individuals (430 Greek Cypriots and 134 Turkish Cypriots) had been identified and restored to their families. However, no perpetrators were identified or prosecuted for the disappearances and killings in either Cyprus or Turkey at the end of the year. The graves date from the inter-communal fighting which took place between 1963 and 1964, and during the Turkish invasion in 1974.

Torture and other ill-treatment

A report published in December by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture highlighted a number of allegations of ill-treatment by police officers that were received by the Committee’s delegates during their visit to Cyprus in September and October 2013. The allegations mainly concerned ill-treatment of foreign nationals during their transportation or interviews at police stations. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture also received a number of allegations concerning physical ill-treatment, verbal abuse and inappropriate use of tear gas by police guards against migrants held at the Menoyia immigration detention facility. Similar allegations were received by the UN Committee against Torture.

  1. Cyprus: Abusive detention of migrants and asylum-seekers flouts EU law (Press release) www.amnesty.org/en/news/cyprus-abusive-detention-migrants-and-asylum-seekers-flouts-eu-law-2014-03-18

CZECH REPUBLIC

Czech Republic
Head of state: Miloš Zeman
Head of government: Bohuslav Sobotka

Roma continued to face widespread discrimination. The European Commission initiated infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic for the discrimination against Roma pupils in education. The ill-treatment of persons with mental disabilities in state institutions was exposed. Muslims faced growing public hostility.

Background

In October, the police announced an investigation into allegations of the manipulation and buying of votes of Roma citizens in the local elections held the same month. According to NGOs monitoring the elections, the practice of vote-buying was used by a number of political parties in several regions.

 

Discrimination

Roma

In June, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights criticized the authorities for the large number of Roma pupils in so-called “practical schools” (former special schools), designed for pupils with mild mental disabilities. The Committee called on the government to abolish practices that lead to the segregation of Roma pupils and to phase out practical schools. It recommended that mainstream schools should provide inclusive education to children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and Roma pupils.

In September, the European Commission initiated infringement proceedings against the authorities for breaching the prohibition of discrimination in education set out in the EU Race Equality Directive.

In August, over four years after the government’s apology for the enforced sterilization of Roma women, the Human Rights Minister announced a draft law offering financial compensation of between 3,500 and 5,000 euros to individual victims. According to the NGO Czech Helsinki Committee, almost 1,000 women were forcibly sterilized between 1972 and 1991 and should be entitled to financial remedy.

In November, the government acknowledged that Roma continued to face discrimination regarding access to housing, education, health care and labour market. The government-commissioned report on the situation of the Roma minority highlighted obstacles in accessing affordable housing, including discrimination by private landlords. The report also highlighted the over-representation of Roma children in practical schools.

 

Hate crimes

In October, the Constitutional Court rejected an appeal by two perpetrators against the length of their sentences for an arson attack against a Roma family in April 2009. The attack had left a two-year-old Roma girl with burns to 80% of her body.

 

Muslims

The media reported occasional acts of vandalism on the Prague mosque, including daubing of islamophobic messages. The police were still investigating these incidents at the end of the year.

In September, over 25,000 people signed a petition calling on the authorities not to grant “enhanced rights” to the registered Association of Muslim Communities. The Law on Churches allowed religious organizations, which had been registered for 10 years, to apply for enhanced rights, including the right to teach religion in state schools and the recognition of religious wedding ceremonies. The petition called on the government not to permit the opening of Muslim schools and not to allow the teaching of Islam in state schools or Muslim worship in prisons. By the end of the year, the Association of Muslim Communities had not applied for “enhanced rights”.

In September, the Public Defender of Rights (Ombudswoman) held that a secondary school for nurses had discriminated against two women, a refugee from Somalia and an asylum-seeker from Afghanistan, by prohibiting them from wearing headscarves. The Public Defender clarified that the law did not restrict the use of religious symbols in schools and that the seemingly neutral prohibition of any covering of the head was indirectly discriminatory. A complaint by the Somali student to the Czech School Inspectorate was rejected.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Patients with mental disabilities continued to be ill-treated in mental health institutions. In June, the Mental Disability Advocacy Center and the League of Human Rights called on the government to immediately prohibit the use of net beds and other inhumane restraint techniques. In a report which assessed the situation in eight psychiatric hospitals, the NGOs provided evidence of the continuous use of restraint techniques, such as net beds, bed straps as well as the unregulated use of excessive medication. In response to the NGO report, the Public Defender of Rights visited six hospitals in August and also found evidence of the use of restraint techniques. She criticized the lack of effective monitoring of their use and called for legislative changes introducing greater safeguards.

Human rights defenders

In October, during a “week against anti-racism and xenophilia”, the websites of the NGOs Czech Helsinki Committee and Life Together (Vzájemné soužití) were attacked by far-right hackers. The personal email of the co-ordinator of an Amnesty International group in the city of Brno was also attacked by the hackers, who published the members’ internal communication on their websites. The Czech Helsinki Committee announced that it would submit a criminal complaint against the hackers.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Despite initial plans to start a small resettlement programme for Syrian refugees, the government decided in October to restrict its support to the provision of humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees with acute medical needs in Jordan.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Head of state: Joseph Kabila
Head of government: Augustin Matata Ponyo Mapon

The security situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remained dire and an upsurge in violence by armed groups claimed the lives of thousands of civilians and forced more than a million people to leave their homes. Human rights abuses, including killings and mass rapes, were committed by both government security forces and armed groups. Violence against women and girls was prevalent throughout the country. Plans to amend the Constitution to allow President Kabila to stay in office beyond 2016 prompted protests. Human rights defenders, journalists and members of the political opposition were threatened, harassed and arbitrarily arrested by armed groups and by government security forces.

Background

The Congolese army, with the support of the UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO (UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC), succeeded in defeating and disbanding the armed group March 23 (M23) in 2013. However, the conflict in eastern DRC did not end and other armed groups expanded their areas of operation and continued to target civilians.

In January, the government launched a military operation against the armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in Beni territory, North Kivu province. While “Operation Sokola 1” (“Operation Clean-up” in Lingala) forced the ADF rebels from their forest base, they regrouped and in October launched a series of attacks, killing and kidnapping civilians.1

Other armed groups remained active in North Kivu, Katanga, South Kivu and Ituri, committing serious human rights abuses against civilians.

Some fighters from the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) participated in a demobilization programme run by MONUSCO and a few were confined in government camps. However, others carried on armed activities in the east of the country. The MONUSCO Demobilization, Disarmament, Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration programme included former FDLR child soldiers.

In July, President Kabila appointed Jeannine Mabunda as his special envoy on sexual violence and recruitment of child soldiers.

In November, several hundred magistrates went on strike over pay.

Abuses by armed groups

Armed groups committed atrocities against civilians in eastern DRC, especially in northern Katanga, Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu. Abuses included unlawful killings, summary executions, forced recruitment of children, rape and sexual violence, large-scale looting, burning of homes and destruction of property. Attacks were characterized by extreme violence, sometimes ethnically motivated. Some of the fighting was for control over natural resources and trade. The violence was facilitated by easy access to weapons and ammunition.

Armed groups that committed abuses against civilians included: the FDLR; the ADF; Nyatura; the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA); the Nduma Defence of Congo (NDC) known as Mai Mai Sheka; and various other Mai Mai groups including Mai Mai Lafontaine, Mai Mai Simba and Mai Mai Bakata Katanga.

In June, attacks by Nyatura in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu, left at least four civilians dead and dozens of houses burned to the ground.

On the night of 6 June, in Mutarule, Uvira territory, South Kivu, at least 30  civilians were killed in an attack by an unidentified armed group. Most of the victims were from the Bafulero ethnic group. The attack took place just a few kilometres from a MONUSCO base.

Between early October and late December, the ADF allegedly carried out a spate of attacks on civilians in several towns and villages in Beni territory, North Kivu, and Ituri district, Province Orientale, killing at least 270 civilians and abducting others. The assailants also looted civilians’ property.

Between 3 and 5 November, FDLR fighters killed 13  people in Misau and Misoke villages, Walikale territory, North Kivu.

Violence against women and girls

Rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls remained endemic, not only in areas of conflict, but also in parts of the country not affected by armed hostilities. Acts of sexual violence were committed by armed groups, by members of the security forces and by unarmed civilians. The perpetrators of rape and other sexual violence enjoyed virtually total impunity.

Mass rapes, in which dozens of women and girls were sexually assaulted with extreme brutality, were committed by armed groups and by members of the security forces during attacks on villages in remote areas, particularly in North Kivu and Katanga. Such attacks often also involved other forms of torture, killings and looting.

Between 4 and 17 July, Mai Mai Simba combatants reportedly raped at least 23 women and girls in Mangurejipa village and mining sites located in surrounding areas in Lubero territory, North Kivu.

In October, dozens of women and girls were raped in Kansowe village, Mitwaba territory, Katanga province by special commando soldiers of the Congolese army deployed there to fight the Mai Mai Bakata Katanga armed group.

Between 3 and 5 November, at least 10 women were raped, allegedly by FDLR fighters, in Misau and Misoke villages, Walikale territory, North Kivu province.

Child soldiers

Armed groups recruited children. Many were subjected to sexual violence and cruel and inhuman treatment while being used as fighters, carriers, cooks, guides, spies and messengers.

Internally displaced people

The demise of the M23 armed group in 2013 facilitated the progressive closure of camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) around the city of Goma. However, due to the upsurge of armed group violence against civilians, new IDP camps had to be set up for people fleeing human rights abuses. By 17 December, about 2.7 million people were internally displaced within DRC. Most of the displacement took place in connection with the armed conflicts in North Katanga, North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri districts.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment were endemic throughout the country, and often took place during unlawful arrests and detention by state security services. Some cases of death under torture were reported. Police, intelligence officers and members of the presidential guard were all accused of responsibility for torture and other ill-treatment.

Communal violence

In Tanganyika district, Katanga, tensions between the Batwa and Luba intensified and led to a violent confrontation between the two communities. This added to the insecurity already caused by the activities of the armed group Mai Mai Bakata Katanga. The violence was marked by a deliberate targeting of civilians and serious human rights abuses. Members of both communities committed killings, abductions and acts of sexual violence. They used children in the violence and burned down and looted houses.

In June and July, more than 26 Batwa women and girls were captured and raped in Longa village, Kabalo territory, Katanga. Another 37 women from the same village were kidnapped and kept for sexual purposes by alleged Luba militias in Luala. At least 36 more women were raped when they were trying to flee to Nyunzu.

Impunity

Impunity continued to fuel further human rights violations and abuses. Efforts by judicial authorities to increase the capacity of the courts to deal with cases, including cases involving human rights abuses, had only limited success. Efforts to ensure accountability for crimes under international law committed by the Congolese army and armed groups also achieved few visible results.

The verdict in the trial for the mass rape of more than 130 women and girls, murder and looting committed in and around the eastern town of Minova by Congolese soldiers fleeing the advance of M23 rebels in November and December 2012 was handed down on 5 May 2014. Despite overwhelming evidence of mass rape in Minova, including victim and witness testimonies, only two soldiers of the 39 on trial were convicted of rape. Other accused were convicted of murder, looting and military offences.

The M23 leader, General Bosco Ntaganda, had turned himself in at the US embassy in Kigali in 2013 and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which had issued a warrant for his arrest in 2006. Other M23 leaders in exile in Uganda and Rwanda continued to enjoy impunity for the crimes they had reportedly committed in Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories.

In May, parliament rejected a legislative proposal on the domestication of the Rome Statute of the ICC, along with a proposal to create specialized criminal chambers to deal with crimes under international law committed before the entry into force of the Rome Statute.

Unfair trials

The judicial system was weak and suffered from a lack of resources. The courts were often not independent of outside influence and corruption was widespread. Legal aid was not available, so that many defendants did not have a lawyer, and the rights of defendants were frequently violated.

Prison conditions

The prison system continued to be under-funded. Prisoners and detainees were held in decaying facilities, with overcrowding and unhygienic conditions. Dozens died as a result of malnutrition and lack of appropriate medical care.

Insecurity for inmates was increased by the failure to separate women from men, pre-trial detainees from convicted prisoners and members of the military from civilians.

Human rights defenders

The demise of the M23 armed group contributed to some improvement in the situation for human rights defenders in Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories. However, human rights defenders and trade unionists across the country continued to face threats, intimidation and arrest by state security services and armed groups. Some were forced to flee after they received repeated death threats through text messages, anonymous phone calls, and visits at night by armed men.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

Arbitrary arrests and detentions continued to be routine throughout the country. Security services, in particular the national police, the intelligence services and the national army, carried out arbitrary arrests. They also frequently extorted money and items of value from civilians during law enforcement operations or at checkpoints.

A number of political opposition supporters who attended demonstrations calling for political dialogue and protesting against attempts to amend the Constitution were arbitrarily arrested and ill-treated.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression was significantly curtailed. In particular, opposition to the prospective amendment of the Constitution was severely repressed. Peaceful meetings and demonstrations were routinely banned or violently disrupted by the security services.

The main targets of repression were political opponents, members of civil society organizations and journalists. Some were arrested and ill-treated, some imprisoned after unfair trials on trumped-up charges. For example, one political opponent of the government – Jean Bertrand Ewanga of the opposition party Union pour la Nation Congolaise (UNC) – was imprisoned on charges of insulting the President. The Canal Futur television station, reportedly owned by opposition leader Vital Kamerhe, remained closed by the authorities throughout the year.

On 16 October, following the release by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) of a report on extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances during a police operation in Kinshasa, Scott Campbell, Head of the UNJHRO, was declared persona non grata by the Minister of the Interior and expelled from the DRC.2 Other UNJHRO officials also reported receiving threats after the report’s publication.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

More than 170,000 DRC nationals were expelled from the Republic of Congo to the DRC between 4 April and early September. Among them were refugees and asylum-seekers. Some of the expelled were allegedly arrested and detained incommunicado in Kinshasa.

Little assistance was provided by the DRC government, and as of September, more than 100 families were living on the streets of Kinshasa without tents, health care, food or any assistance.

International justice

On 7 March, the ICC convicted Germain Katanga, commander of the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI), of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The crimes were committed on 24 February 2003 during an attack on the village of Bogoro, in Ituri district. On 23 May, he was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment.

On 9 June, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Bosco Ntaganda allegedly committed in 2002 and 2003 in Ituri district.

Sylvestre Mudacumura, alleged commander of the armed branch of the FDLR, remained at large despite the issuance by the ICC of an arrest warrant for war crimes on 13 July 2012.

  1. DRC: Civilian death toll rises as rebels embark on campaign of sporadic slaughter www. amnesty.org/en/news/drc-civilian-death-toll-rises-rebels-embark-campaign-sporadic-slaughter-2014-10-31
  2. DRC: Rescind expulsion of UN official and investigate extra-judicial killings and disappearances (AFR 62/002/2014)  www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/4000/afr620022014en.pdf

Denmark

Kingdom of Denmark
Head of state: Queen Margrethe II
Head of government: Helle Thorning-Schmidt

The government refused to investigate allegations of unlawful surveillance practices following revelations by US whistleblower Edward Snowden. Legislation was amended to criminalize sexual abuse by a spouse. Asylum determination practices for lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum-seekers improved. Vulnerable asylum-seekers were held in detention.

Counter-terror and security

In June 2013, following revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden about the US National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of data traffic in European countries in co-operation with European intelligence agencies, Danish MPs and the public called on the Danish government to disclose whether foreign intelligence agencies had carried out or were carrying out surveillance activities in Denmark and, if so, whether this included surveillance of Danish citizens. The government announced in response that it did “not find reason to believe” that US intelligence agencies were carrying out “illegal surveillance activities targeting Denmark or Danish interests”. The government refused to investigate whether any such agencies had operated or were operating on Danish territory and to present an overview of the applicable laws clarifying the distinction between lawful and unlawful surveillance activities.

Police and security forces

In October, a joint working group of the National Police and the Police Trade Union presented a report on the introduction of identification numbers on police uniforms. The proposals lacked clarity on the visibility required of any such identification numbers.

Violence against women and girls

In June 2013, Parliament amended the criminal code to criminalize sexual abuse by a spouse where the victim was in a “helpless state” and to annul the possibility of reduced or rescinded criminal punishment if the perpetrator and the victim marry each other or remain married after a rape.

The government did not take steps to establish a national plan to improve the rights of and support to rape victims. Nor did it move to investigate the reason for the disproportionately high rate of attrition in investigating and prosecuting reported rapes.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

The Refugee Appeals Board amended its previous practice of refusing protection to asylum-seekers who were at risk of persecution at home due to their sexual orientation on the basis that they should “hide” their sexual identity. Since 2013, lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum-seekers at risk of persecution on grounds of the overall homophobic practices of their country of origin have been granted refugee status.

Since September 2013, asylum-seekers from areas in Syria affected by the ongoing armed conflict have been granted refugee status without any further individual assessment. In October 2014, the government presented a bill to introduce a temporary protection permit for all Syrian asylum-seekers. The bill proposed that family reunification procedures not be initiated during the first 12 months of the asylum-seekers’ stay in Denmark.

Vulnerable people – including victims of torture, unaccompanied minors and persons with mental illness – continued to be detained for immigration control purposes. The government maintained that the present practice of screening by a nurse of all asylum-seekers was sufficient to identify people who are unfit to be placed in detention.

In October, the Eastern High Court found that the “tolerated stay” of Elias Karkavandi, an Iranian citizen, had over time become “disproportionate”. Elias Karkavandi’s refugee status had been revoked in 2007 following the completion of a custodial sentence for drugs offences; he had spent seven years under the so-called “tolerated stay” regime, which barred him indefinitely from working, studying, marrying and living outside a designated reception centre.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Dominican Republic
Head of state and government: Danilo Medina Sánchez

The number of killings by police rose again. Most people of Haitian descent remained stateless following a September 2013 judgement by the Constitutional Court. Violence against women and girls remained widespread. Parliament failed to adopt legislation that could have advanced the protection of the rights of women and girls.

Background

In September 2013, the Constitutional Court issued a widely criticized judgement (TC 0168-13) which had the effect of retroactively and arbitrarily depriving Dominicans of foreign descent born between 1929 and 2010 of their Dominican nationality; the vast majority of those affected were of Haitian descent. This sparked an outcry at national and international levels, including by the Haitian authorities. As a consequence, the Dominican Republic and Haiti held a number of high-level bi-national meetings to discuss several issues of common interest, including migration and nationality.

The first Human Rights Ombudsman was appointed in May 2013, 12 years after the institution was established by law. However, a number of human rights organizations filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of the appointment. A ruling was pending at the end of 2014. The Ombudsman dealt with a number of cases, but failed to carry out a public information campaign about her Office’s role.

In June, the UN Human Rights Council examined the Dominican Republic’s human rights record under the Universal Periodic Review.

Police and security forces

The police continued to kill large numbers of people, often in circumstances suggesting that the killings may have been unlawful. Between January and June, the number of killings increased by 13% compared with the same period in 2013.1 Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by the police continued to be reported.

Although the Dominican Republic adopted the UPR recommendations aimed at expediting a comprehensive reform of the police, the adoption of a law reforming the police was not finalized. The National Security Plan, which was formally launched in March 2013, was not made public and there were no progress reports on its implementation.

Impunity

Many police officers alleged to have committed abuses were not brought to justice despite compelling evidence. The authorities failed to investigate the disappearance of three men – Gabriel Sandi Alistar, Juan Almonte Herrera and Randy Vizcaíno González – who were last seen in police custody in July 2009, September 2009 and December 2013 respectively.

The Office of the Prosecutor General reopened the investigation into the disappearance of Narciso González following a 2012 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights establishing the responsibility of the state. However, no significant progress had been made by the end of 2014.

Discrimination – Dominico-Haitians

A law introduced into Parliament by the President in response to the debate sparked by Constitutional judgement TC 0168-13 was adopted in May 2014 (Law 169/14). However, the law failed to provide for Dominican nationality to be automatically restored to those who had it under the domestic legal system in force between 1929 and 2010.2 In particular, the law established that those who had been registered at some point in the Dominican civil registry (group A) could access Dominican nationality after undergoing a process of regularization by the Central Electoral Board. However, the law obliges those who were never registered (group B) to undergo a lengthy process that requires them to register as foreigners, participate in the National Regularization Plan for Foreigners with Irregular Migration Status and then apply for naturalization two years later. Poor implementation of the law meant that only a minority of those belonging to group A were able to have their Dominican nationality recognized and only a few of those in group B were able to be registered. As a consequence, thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent remained stateless and continued to be prevented from exercising their human rights. In October, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that judgement TC 0168-13 and part of Law 169-14 violated the American Convention on Human Rights.3

In November, the Constitutional Court issued a judgement declaring the state’s acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights invalid.4

The Dominican authorities rejected all the recommendations to guarantee the right to a nationality and to adopt measures to identify, prevent and reduce statelessness.

Migrants’ rights

In December 2013, the government launched the National Regularization Plan for Foreigners with Irregular Migration Status. Following a first preparatory phase, the second phase of the plan started on 1 June 2014, giving migrants 12 months to apply for regularization. By 30 September only 200 out of the 68,814 people who applied had been regularized. According to migrants’ rights organizations, the small number was due to migrants facing difficulties in gathering the required, and costly, documentation and to the inadequate processing of applications by public officials, especially in the initial stages of the process.

The decree launching the National Regularization Plan banned the deportation of migrants who had applied for regularization. However, despite this, Dominican human rights organizations continued to report arbitrary mass repatriations throughout the year.

Violence against women and girls

In the first six months of 2014, the number of gender-based killings increased by 53% compared with the same period in 2013. The Office of the Prosecutor General reported a substantive increase in the number of convictions in cases of gender-based violence and in July adopted a protocol for the investigation of gender-based killings. Women’s rights groups continued to criticize the lack of coordination among relevant national institutions, the inadequacy of the budget allocated to preventing and punishing gender-based violence, and the failure to implement the agreed protocols for the provision of care to victims of gender-based violence. Parliament had yet to adopt a comprehensive law to prevent and address violence against women which had been approved by the Senate in 2012.

Sexual and reproductive rights

In September, the Lower Chamber started considering a draft law on sexual and reproductive health, which had been drafted with the participation of women’s rights groups.

Following a veto by the President of the Republic on the proposed reform of the Criminal Code, which maintained full criminalization of abortion, on 16 December the Congress adopted amendments decriminalizing abortions where pregnancy posed a risk to the life of a pregnant woman or girl, in cases where the foetus would be unable to survive outside the womb, and in cases where the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. The reform of the Criminal Code was enacted on 19 December and is supposed to enter into force within a year.5

Housing rights – forced evictions

Local NGOs continued to report cases of forced evictions and excessive use of force by police in some instances.

The latest version of the proposed amendments to the Penal Code criminalized the occupation of private property, sparking concerns that, if adopted, these provisions could be used to legitimize forced evictions.

  1. Dominican Republic: Killings at the hands of the police rise while reforms stall (Press release) www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/08/dominican-republic-killings-hands-police-rise-while-reforms-stall/
  2. Dominican Republic: Open letter to President Danilo Medina regarding Law 169/14 “establishing a special regime for people who were born in the national territory and irregularly registered in the Dominican Civil Registry and on naturalization” (AMR 27/008/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/amr27/008/2014/en
  3. Dominican Republic: Reaction to Court ruling shows shocking disregard for international law (Press release)    www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/10/dominican-republic-reaction-court-ruling-shows-shocking-disregard-international-law/
  4. Dominican Republic: Withdrawal from top regional human rights court would put rights of hundreds of thousands at risk (Press release)      www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/11/dominican-republic-withdrawal-top-regional-human-rights-court-would-put-rights-risk/
  5. Dominican Republic: Proposed reform puts women and girls at risk (AMR 27/016/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR27/016/2014/en
    Dominican Republic: Further information: President vetoes full ban on abortion (AMR 27/018/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR27/018/2014/en 
    Dominican Republic decriminalizes abortion (AMR 27/020/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR27/020/2014/en 

Ecuador

Republic of Ecuador
Head of state and government: Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado

Human rights defenders and government critics continued to be attacked and discredited. The right of Indigenous Peoples to consultation and to free, prior and informed consent was not fulfilled.

Background

Mass protests in opposition to government policies remained common. In July, Indigenous groups marched to the capital Quito to protest against the approval of a new law regulating water resources, which they claimed did not address all of their concerns.

In November 2013, the National Court upheld a ruling against US oil company Chevron for environmental damage. The court ruled that Chevron was liable to pay over US$9.5 billion to the Amazon Indigenous communities affected. In March, following a lawsuit filed by Chevron in the USA, a federal court blocked US courts from being used to collect the amount granted for rainforest damage, stating that the Ecuadorean court judgment was obtained by corrupt means. In October, victims of Chevron’s environmental damage sued the company’s directors before the International Criminal Court.

Sixty people, including six police officers accused of attempting to kill the President, were convicted of involvement in police protests over pay cuts in 2010, which were regarded by the government as an attempted coup. Another 36 were acquitted.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders continued to be attacked and discredited.

The Indigenous and environmental rights organization Fundación Pachamama remained closed, having been shut down by the authorities in December 2013 using an executive decree granting the authorities wide powers to monitor and dissolve NGOs. Days before the closure, members of Fundación Pachamama had participated in a demonstration outside the Ministry of Energy.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

In October the government apologized to the Kichwa People of Sarayaku, accepting that the state had put their lives and livelihoods at risk when in 2002 and 2003 it allowed an oil company to conduct exploration work in their territory. The Kichwa People of Sarayaku had won a legal battle before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2012. However, at the end of 2014 Ecuador had not yet finalized the removal of 1.4 tons of explosives left in the Indigenous community’s territory and had not regulated the right to consultation and free, prior and informed consent for all Indigenous Peoples as ordered by the Inter-American Court in 2012.

Government plans to exploit oil resources in Yasuni National Park, home to the Tagaeri and Taromenane Indigenous communities, continued to provoke public protests. In May, the Confederacion Kichwa del Ecuador (Ecuarunari), one of the country’s main Indigenous organizations, presented a legal action before the Constitutional Court arguing that the government was not complying with precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2006 in favour of the Tagaeri and Taromenane Indigenous communities. At the end of 2014 the Constitutional Court had not ruled on the legal action.

Repression of dissent

The authorities continued to clamp down on anti-government protests, in what appeared to be attempts to deter opposition.

In September over 100 protesters were detained for up to 15 days for taking part in anti-government demonstrations, amid reports of clashes between protesters and the police. Dozens of detainees complained of ill-treatment during arrest and while in police custody. Medical reports stated that scores of those detained had bruising and other injuries caused by blunt instruments. At the end of the year no investigation into these allegations had begun and the President publicly rejected the allegations.

Freedom of expression

In January, El Universo newspaper and caricaturist Javier Bonilla (known as Bonil) were fined and forced to retract the content of a caricature, under a 2013 Communications Law. The caricature portrayed police officers abruptly raiding the house of journalist Fernando Villavicencio, an outspoken critic of the government. Fernando Villavicencio was one of three men convicted in 2013 for slander against the President and given prison sentences of between 18 months and six years, later reduced to between six and 12 months. At the end of 2014 Villavicencio and one of the other men remained at large.

Impunity

In December 2013, the National Assembly passed a law guaranteeing the right to reparation to relatives and victims of human rights violations between 1983 and 2008 documented by the Truth Commission established in 2007.

In January 2014, former Police Chief Edgar Vaca was arrested in the USA pending his extradition. Edgar Vaca was one of 10 former police and military officers accused of torture and enforced disappearances during Febres Cordero’s presidency (1984 to 1988). This was the first case of members of the security forces being tried for crimes against humanity.

Sexual and reproductive rights

The New Penal Code enacted in January maintained the criminalization of abortion in case of rape unless the victim has a mental disability. Attempts to decriminalize abortion for all rape victims met with strong opposition from the President, who threatened to resign if such a proposal was even discussed in the National Assembly. The proposal was withdrawn and three Congress members of the ruling party were sanctioned.

Egypt

Arab Republic of Egypt
Head of state: Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (replaced Adly Mansour in June)
Head of government: Ibrahim Mahlab (replaced Hazem Beblawi in March)

The year saw a continued dramatic deterioration in human rights following the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. The government severely restricted freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Thousands were arrested and detained as part of a sweeping crackdown on dissent, with some detainees subjected to enforced disappearance. The Muslim Brotherhood remained banned and its leaders were detained and jailed. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained routine and was committed with impunity. Hundreds were sentenced to prison terms or to death after grossly unfair trials. Security forces used excessive force against protesters and committed unlawful killings with impunity. Women faced discrimination and violence. Some refugees were forcibly returned. Forced evictions continued. Dozens of people faced arrest and prosecution for their sexual orientation or identity. Courts imposed hundreds of death sentences; the first executions since 2011 were carried out in June.

Background

Presidential elections in May saw former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi elected as President. He took office in June, and in September pledged to uphold freedom of expression, judicial independence and the rule of law in a speech to the UN General Assembly. In practice, his government clamped down on free expression, widened the jurisdiction of military courts to try civilians, and allowed security forces to use torture and excessive force with impunity.

Over 1,400 people were killed in protests between July 2013, when Mohamed Morsi was ousted as President, and the end of 2014. The vast majority were killed by security forces dispersing sit-ins by Morsi supporters at Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda Squares in Greater Cairo on 14 August 2013. The crackdown also saw the arrest and detention or imprisonment of at least 16,000 people, according to official estimates published by the Associated Press news agency, with the activist group Wikithawra later estimating that over 40,000 people had been detained, charged or indicted. Most of those detained were Muslim Brotherhood supporters but they also included left-wing and secular activists and other government critics.

An upsurge in lethal attacks on the security forces by armed groups led to the deaths of at least 445 soldiers and security officers, according to official statements. Most attacks took place in Sinai, where at least 238 security forces officers were killed. After renewed attacks in October, the government declared a state of emergency in North Sinai, imposed a curfew, closed Egypt’s border with Gaza, and began constructing a “buffer” zone along it. Military reinforcements launched a “combing” operation to identify what they called “militants” within the area’s population, posing a risk of further human rights violations.1

International scrutiny

Members of the UN Human Rights Council examined Egypt’s human rights record under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism in November, recommending that the authorities combat torture, investigate excessive use of force by security forces, and lift restrictions on civil society. With the exception of the UPR, Egypt largely evaded international scrutiny in spite of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

Freedom of expression

The authorities targeted those who criticized the government or expressed dissent. Media workers who documented rights violations or questioned the authorities’ political narrative faced arrest and prosecution. Journalists who reported on army activities faced unfair trials before military courts.2

In June, a court in Cairo sentenced three staff members of the Al Jazeera English television station to between seven and 10 years’ imprisonment after a grossly unfair trial. The court convicted Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian dual national; Peter Greste, an Australian; and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian, on charges that included aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and reporting “false” news. The prosecution failed to produce any substantive evidence against them, or against other media workers who were tried in their absence. 

Some individuals faced prosecution and imprisonment on charges such as “inciting sectarian strife” and/or “defamation of religion”. The authorities also increased monitoring of social media.

Freedom of association

The authorities shut down groups linked to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group and other centres of opposition, and imposed onerous new restrictions on human rights organizations.

In April, the 6 April Youth Movement, one of the activist groups that led the 2011 uprising, was banned by a court which ruled that some of its members had committed offences that would “disturb peace and public order”.

In August, a court dissolved the Freedom and Justice Party, which was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood and won the largest number of seats in Egypt’s 2012 parliamentary elections.

Human rights organizations faced threats of closure and criminal prosecution, forcing many activists to scale down their work or leave the country. In July, the Ministry of Social Solidarity gave NGOs a 45-day deadline, later extended to November, to register under the repressive Law on Associations (Law 84 of 2002), warning that it would hold groups that failed to register “accountable”. The Ministry later announced that it would deal with NGOs on a case-by-case basis, following criticism from other states during Egypt’s UPR.

The authorities disrupted peaceful NGO activities, raiding the Alexandria offices of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights in May when it held a conference to support detained human rights activists.

In September, the government amended the Penal Code to prohibit the funding of acts harmful to Egypt’s national interest, territorial integrity or public peace. The government also proposed a new Law on Associations that, if enacted, would give the authorities additional powers to deny NGOs legal registration and curtail their activities and funding.

In November, Egypt’s Cabinet approved draft legislation which, if passed, would give the authorities sweeping powers to classify organizations as terrorist entities.

Freedom of assembly

Security forces ruthlessly suppressed protests, and courts jailed scores of people for protesting without authorization, among them supporters of Mohamed Morsi, prominent opposition activists, and left-wing and human rights activists.3 The authorities continued to enforce Law 107 of 2013 on protests, which required demonstrations to have prior authorization; security forces used excessive force against peaceful protesters.

Women university students Abrar Al-Anany and Menatalla Moustafa, and a woman teacher, Yousra Elkhateeb, were jailed in May for between two and six years for protesting peacefully at Mansoura University.

In November, a court in Alexandria sentenced 78  children to prison terms of between two and five years after convicting them of participating in an unauthorized protest in support of Mohamed Morsi.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

Thousands of actual and suspected government opponents were arrested during protests, at their homes or on the street. Many were not informed of the reason for their arrest and were arbitrarily detained and held in pre-trial detention for periods that in some cases exceeded one year, or else were brought before the courts and sentenced to lengthy prison terms after unfair trials. Many were also beaten or ill-treated during arrest or in detention. In some instances, security forces seized family members or friends if the wanted person was not present.

Enforced disappearances

Some detainees were subjected to enforced disappearance and held in secret detention at Al Azouly Prison within the Al Galaa military camp in Ismailia, 130km northeast of Cairo. Detainees were held at Al Galaa without official acknowledgement and were denied access to lawyers and their families. Detainees, who included alleged protest leaders and people accused of terrorism-related offences, were held at the camp for up to 90 days without judicial oversight and faced torture and other ill-treatment by military intelligence and National Security Agency (NSA) officers to extract “confessions”. Public prosecutors told families of the disappeared that they had no jurisdiction over military prisons.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment of criminal suspects was routinely used to extract confessions and punish and humiliate suspects. It reportedly led to several deaths of detainees. NSA officials particularly targeted members and alleged supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, some of whom they held and reportedly tortured in unofficial detention facilities, including NSA offices across the country.

Commonly reported methods of torture included electric shocks to the genitals and other sensitive areas, beating, suspension by the limbs while handcuffed from behind, stress positions, beatings and rape.

Al Azhar university student Omar Gamal El Shewiekh said that security officials arrested and tortured him after he participated in a protest in Cairo in March. He said that NSA officials subjected him to electric shocks and repeatedly inserted objects into his anus until he “confessed” to crimes on video. In May a court sentenced him to five years in prison on the basis of the forced “confession”.

Deaths in detention were reported, with some apparently attributable to torture or other ill-treatment or inadequate conditions in police stations.4

Ezzat Abdel Fattah died in Cairo’s Mattareya Police Station in May. A post-mortem report issued by the forensic authority found that he had injuries that included nine broken ribs, cuts and concussion.

The authorities failed to conduct genuine investigations into allegations of torture. When prosecutors did investigate, they generally closed cases citing lack of evidence. In some cases, victims and their families said that police threatened them to make them withdraw torture allegations.

Impunity

The criminal justice system failed to hold any members of the security forces accountable for gross human rights violations committed during the 2013 unrest, including the mass killings of pro-Morsi protesters at Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda Squares on 14 August 2013. On 7 June, an appeals court quashed the verdicts against four police officers convicted of killing 37 detainees in August 2013.

A court retrying former President Hosni Mubarak on charges of killing protesters during the 2011 uprising dismissed the case against him in November on a legal technicality. His Interior Minister and several security officials were also acquitted of the same charges.

A government-appointed fact-finding committee, established after security forces killed hundreds of protesters on 14 August 2013, announced its findings in November. Ignoring disparities between security forces casualties and protesters, it concluded that protesters had started the violence. The committee downplayed human rights violations by security forces, merely calling for them to receive training in policing demonstrations.

Unfair trials

Courts throughout Egypt sentenced hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition activists to long prison terms or to death after grossly unfair trials, often on trumped-up charges. Courts also sentenced children to death in contravention of international and Egyptian law.

Former President Mohamed Morsi faced four trials, including for capital offences. Other senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood were imprisoned and sentenced to death.

Trials before the criminal courts were riddled with due process violations. Some trials proceeded in the absence of the defendants and their lawyers . In others, judges prevented defendants or their lawyers from presenting evidence in their own defence or cross-examining prosecution witnesses. In many cases, courts convicted defendants despite an absence of substantive evidence against them.

Many trials were conducted within the Tora Police Institute, adjacent to the Tora Prison Complex, with families and independent media unable to attend. Defendants were also unable to communicate with their lawyers during court sessions because they were confined behind a dark glass screen.

The Public Prosecution increasingly did not seek to determine individual criminal responsibility, instead bringing identical charges against groups of accused, and relied heavily on reports and testimonies by police and security forces. The impartiality and independence of the investigations were thus brought into question.

In October, President al-Sisi decreed that military courts could try civilians for offences against “vital public facilities”. It was feared that the decision would see a return to mass unfair trials of civilians before military courts, including peaceful protesters and university students.

Women’s rights

Women continued to face discrimination in law and in practice, including high levels of gender-based violence.

In June, outgoing President Adly Mansour approved a law to combat sexual harassment. Renewed sexual assaults by mobs of men against women in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during President al-Sisi’s inauguration spurred the new administration to promise action. The authorities announced measures to combat violence against women, including improved policing and public awareness-raising campaigns; however, such measures had not materialized by the end of the year.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

Men suspected of having consensual sex with other men, as well as transgender people, faced arrest and prosecution on prostitution and public morality charges under the Law on Debauchery (Law 10 of 1961). The authorities subjected some to forcible anal examinations, which violate the prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment.

Security forces arrested over 30 men in a raid on a Cairo bathhouse in November, and the trial of 26 of the men on charges of “debauchery” began in December.

In a separate case, eight men received three-year prison terms in November for attending an alleged same-sex wedding on a Nile riverboat. An appeals court reduced their prison sentences to one year in December.

Discrimination – religious minorities

The authorities failed to tackle discrimination against religious minorities, including Coptic Christians, Shi’a Muslims and Baha’is. Coptic Christian communities, in particular, reported new sectarian attacks and faced restrictions on building and maintaining their places of worship.

Housing rights – forced evictions

Security forces forcibly evicted thousands of people from their homes in Cairo and Rafah, without informing them in advance or providing them with alternative housing or adequate compensation.5

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

The authorities failed to respect the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants. In August, they forcibly returned 13 Palestinian refugees to Syria and 180 Syrians to Syria, Lebanon and Turkey. At least six were returned to Gaza in December. Other refugees from Syria faced arbitrary arrest and were unlawfully detained.

Security forces arrested refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants who sought to enter or leave Egypt irregularly, sometimes using excessive force. Criminal groups operating in Sinai also reportedly held refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants captive.

Death penalty

The death penalty was used on an unprecedented scale. The courts imposed death sentences, many in the defendant’s absence, after grossly unfair trials. Most of those sentenced were convicted of taking part in violence during political unrest in 2013. They included many members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. The first executions since 2011 were carried out in June.

A court in El-Minya, Upper Egypt, sentenced 37 defendants to death in April, including at least two children, and a further 183 defendants to death in June after grossly unfair trials arising from attacks on police stations in 2013.6 The court had recommended the death penalty for over 1,200 defendants but reversed its decisions after consulting the Grand Mufti, a legal process that must take place under Egyptian law before a court formally hands down its sentence.

  1. Egypt: End wave of home demolitions, forced evictions in Sinai amid media blackout (News story) www.amnesty.org/en/news/egypt-end-wave-home-demolitions-forced-evictions-sinai-amid-media-blackout-2014-11-27
  2. Egypt: End military trial of journalists (News story) www.amnesty.org/en/news/egypt-end-military-trial-journalists-2014-02-25
  3. ‘The walls of the cell were smeared with blood’ – third anniversary of Egypt’s uprising marred by police brutality (News story)  www.amnestyusa.org/news/news-item/%E2%80%98the-walls-of-the-cell-were-smeared-with-blood-third-anniversary-of-egypt-s-uprising-marred-by-polic
  4. Egypt: Rampant torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions signal catastrophic decline in human rights one year after ousting of Morsi (NWS 11/125/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/news/egypt-anniversary-morsi-ousting-2014-07-02
  5. Egypt: Further information: Evicted families attacked by security forces (MDE 12/011/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE12/011/2014/en
  6. Egypt sentences a further 183 people to death in new purge of political opposition (NWS 11/117/2014)  www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/06/egypt-sentences-further-people-death-new-purge-political-opposition/

EL SALVADOR

Republic of El Salvador
Head of state and government: Salvador Sánchez Cerén (replaced Carlos Mauricio Funes Cartagena in June)

The total abortion ban remained in place and the implementation of legislation to combat violence against women was still weak. Impunity for human rights violations committed during the 1980-1992 armed conflict persisted, despite some steps to combat it.

Background

President Sánchez Cerén of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front took office.

Violent crime rose sharply. Official sources recorded 1,857 homicides in the first six months of 2014; the figure for the same period in 2013 was 1,048. The rise was thought to be due to the reported collapse of a truce between rival criminal gangs.

In June, the Legislative Assembly ratified amendments to the Constitution formally recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the state’s obligations to uphold them.

The ratifications of key international agreements, including ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, the International Convention against enforced disappearance and the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, were still pending at the end of the year.

During consideration of El Salvador’s human rights record under the UN Universal Periodic Review in October 2014, states called on El Salvador to ratify these international agreements. Several states also recommended that El Salvador decriminalize abortion and make safe abortion available, particularly in cases where the life or health of the woman was at risk or when the pregnancy was the result of incest or rape. Two states also recommended that women incarcerated for undergoing abortion or having a miscarriage be released. El Salvador responded that it would examine these recommendations and provide a response at the next session of the Human Rights Council in 2015.

Women’s rights

Between January and September, the police reported 216 killings of women, compared with 215 for the whole of 2013.1 This indicated that violence against women was once more on the increase following a period of sustained decrease since 2011. Despite some welcome progress in the implementation of the 2012 Special Comprehensive Law for a Life Free from Violence for Women, few cases of killings were prosecuted as the gender-based crime of femicide.

A unified database recording violence against women, provided for in the 2012 Special Law, was still not operational and only one state shelter for women fleeing violent partners was in place at the end of 2014.

In its 2014 report to the UN on the progress of the Millennium Development Goals, the government acknowledged that the total abortion ban was hampering efforts to reduce maternal mortality. Despite this, the total ban on abortion remained in place at the end of 2014. The state also acknowledged that “socio-cultural” and economic factors, lack of access to contraceptives and the prevalence of violence against women and girls were all impeding the achievement of the Goals.

 In December 2013, human rights organizations presented a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the state for the grave human rights violations suffered by a 22-year-old woman known as “Beatriz”. Beatriz, who suffers from lupus, had been refused an abortion despite the imminent risk to her life and the knowledge that the fetus, which lacked part of its brain and skull, could not survive outside the womb. Two months after she first requested the medical treatment she needed, and after 23 weeks of pregnancy, Beatriz was given a caesarean. The fetus survived just a few hours.

In April, after exhausting other legal avenues, the Citizens Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion presented a petition for a state pardon on behalf of 17 women, who were incarcerated on pregnancy-related grounds. They were serving sentences of up to 40 years in prison for aggravated homicide, having been initially charged with having had an abortion. Their cases raised serious concerns regarding the right to non-discrimination, as well as the rights to due process and fair trial, including the right to effective legal defence. The cases remained pending at the end of 2014; Congress was awaiting recommendations from the Supreme Court of Justice before issuing its decision.

Impunity

The 1993 Amnesty Law, which for over two decades has ensured impunity for those responsible for human rights violations during the 1980-1992 conflict, remained in place.

Tutela Legal, the Catholic Archbishopric’s human rights office, was shut down without warning in September 2013. There were serious concerns that its extensive archive of evidence relating to unresolved human rights cases dating back to the internal armed conflict might not be preserved. Survivors and relatives of the victims submitted a habeas corpus challenge to get access to the files; the case was pending before the Supreme Court at the end of 2014.

The office of the human rights organization Pro-Búsqueda, which works to find children who were the victims of enforced disappearance during the conflict years, was raided by three armed men in November 2013. During the raid, three staff members were held captive while information was set on fire and computers containing sensitive information on cases were stolen. The stolen computers contained information on three cases of enforced disappearance that were before the Supreme Court. Days before the attack, military officials accused of involvement in the disappearances failed to attend a hearing in one of the cases.2

At end of 2013, the Attorney General’s Office reopened the investigation into the 1981 El Mozote massacre in which more than 700 civilians, including children and elderly people, were tortured and killed by the military in the village of El Mozote and nearby hamlets over a three-day period. The investigation was continuing at the end of 2014.

In October 2013, the authorities issued a decree establishing a reparations programme for survivors who suffered human rights violations during the conflict.

In February 2014, the Supreme Court ordered that an investigation be reopened into the San Francisco Angulo massacre in which 45 people, mostly women and children, were killed, allegedly by members of the army, in 1981. The investigation was continuing at the end of the year.

In August, 32 years after the events, the state finally acknowledged the 1982 El Calabozo massacre, in which more than 200 people were killed by the army. However, no one had been brought to justice for the crime by the end of 2014.

  In October, in its ruling in the case of Rochac Hernandez et al. v. El Salvador, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the state responsible for failing to investigate the enforced disappearance of five children between 1980 and 1982 in the context of military counter-insurgency operations during the conflict .

  1. On the brink of death: Violence against women and the abortion ban in El Salvador ( AMR 29/003/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR29/003/2014/en
  2. El Salvador: Human rights organization’s office attacked (AMR 29/011/2013) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR29/011/2013/en

Equatorial Guinea

Republic of Equatorial Guinea
Head of state and government: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

Nine prisoners were executed in January shortly before a temporary moratorium on the death penalty was declared. Detainees and prisoners were routinely tortured. Several political opponents were arbitrarily arrested and held incommunicado for long periods without charge, including one man abducted from a neighbouring country by Equatorial Guinea security forces in December 2013. Military courts were used to try civilians.

Background

In February President Obiang signed a decree establishing a temporary moratorium on the death penalty, apparently to secure full membership of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries. Equatorial Guinea was granted full membership in July at the organization’s summit in Dili, East Timor.

In May, the UN Human Rights Council, under its Universal Periodic Review process, examined the human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea and made a number of recommendations. The government accepted most recommendations in principle, but rejected those urging ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

In October, President Obiang decreed a general amnesty for all those convicted or indicted for political crimes. This was one of the demands made by opposition political parties for their participation in a national dialogue in November. However, no prisoners were released and President Obiang stated that all convicted prisoners had been convicted of common crimes. In November, three independent opposition parties withdrew from the national dialogue on the basis that their demands, including the release of prisoners, had not been met.

Death penalty

Nine men convicted of murder were executed in late January, 13 days before the establishment of a temporary moratorium on the death penalty. This was the highest number of people known to have been executed in any one year over the past two decades, and the first known executions since 2010.1

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture by the security forces continued with impunity. Detainees and prisoners were also subjected to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Many were held incommunicado for long periods without charge or trial and denied adequate medical treatment.

Cipriano Nguema Mba, a refugee in Belgium since 2012, was abducted by Equatorial Guinea security personnel in December 2013 while visiting relatives in Nigeria. He was taken clandestinely to the National Security Headquarters in Malabo, where he was tortured. His ankles and elbows were tied together behind his back and he was then suspended from a metal bar and his whole body was beaten with batons. He was held incommunicado throughout the year.

Roberto Berardi, an Italian businessman in partnership with President Obiang’s eldest son Teodoro “Teodorín” Nguema Obiang in a civil construction company, was beaten and tortured on several occasions since his arrest in January 2013, first in Bata police station and subsequently in Bata prison. On one occasion, in January 2014, he was held down by prison guards and flogged. Throughout the year he was held in solitary confinement for long periods and was denied medical treatment for typhoid fever and emphysema. He was taken to hospital after he became very ill in June, but was returned to prison the following day against medical advice. According to his lawyer, the purpose of Roberto Berardi’s arrest was to prevent him testifying before the US Justice Department and other foreign jurisdictions about Teodorín Nguema Obiang’s alleged corruption. He remained in prison at the end of the year.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

Following Cipriano Nguema Mba’s abduction (see above), in January, 11 people suspected of having had contact with him, including two women, were arrested without warrants in Malabo, Mongomo and Ebebiyín, and held incommunicado. Five of the male detainees were released without charge in June. Four of the remaining six people were still detained incommunicado at the end of 2014. In July, the military judicial authorities charged Cipriano Nguema, Ticiano Obama Nkogo, Timoteo Asumu, Antonio Nconi Sima, Leoncio Abeso Meye (charged in his absence) and the two women, Mercedes Obono Nconi and Emilia Abeme Nzo, with “ threatening state security and the physical integrity of the head of state”. According to their lawyers, they were interrogated without their lawyers present and were not informed of the charges against them.

On 27 September they were tried by a military court, again without their lawyers present. Instead, they were allocated military officers with no judicial training as their legal counsel. Three days later they were convicted as charged. Mercedes Obono and Timoteo Asumu received 15-year custodial sentences, while the other defendants were each sentenced to 27 years’ imprisonment.

Prisoners of conscience

Agustín Esono Nsogo was released from prison in February 2014, after being held for 16 months without charge. He had been arbitrarily arrested and detained in Bata in October 2012 after exchanging money with a foreign national and accused of attempting to destabilize the country. His arrest and detention were politically motivated and unjustified.2

  1. Equatorial Guinea: Executions just weeks before announcement of a “temporary moratorium” on the death penalty raises serious questions (AFR 24/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR24/001/2014/en
  2. See Equatorial Guinea: Free Agustín Esono Nsogo (AFR 24/015/2013)  www.amnesty.org/en/documents/AFR24/015/2013/en/

ERITREA

State of Eritrea
Head of state and government: Isaias Afewerki

No political opposition parties, independent media, civil society organizations or unregistered faith groups were permitted to operate. There were severe restrictions on freedom of expression and association. Military conscription was compulsory, and frequently extended indefinitely. Thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners continued to be held in arbitrary detention, in harsh conditions. Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment was common. Eritreans continued to flee the country in large numbers.

Background

On 21 January 2013, around 200 soldiers took control of the Ministry of Information in the capital, Asmara, in an apparent coup attempt. The director of Eritrean state television was forced to read a statement on air containing the soldiers’ demands, including freeing all political prisoners, implementing the 1997 Constitution, and putting in place a transitional government. The broadcast was cut off mid-transmission.

In July 2013, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea observed “emerging fissures within the political and military leadership” in Eritrea. In October 2014, they also reported the continued use of coercive measures to collect the “diaspora tax” (a 2% levy on income imposed on Eritrean nationals living abroad) in a number of countries.

After hundreds of Eritreans drowned while trying to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013, four Eritrean Catholic bishops issued a letter in May 2014. In a rare public expression of dissent, they criticized the situation that led so many people to continue to leave the country.

Prisoners of conscience

Thousands of people were arbitrarily detained and held in incommunicado detention without charge or trial for various reasons, including: criticizing government policy or practice; for their work as journalists; for suspected opposition to the government; practising a religion not recognized by the state; evading or deserting national service conscription; or for trying to flee the country, or in the place of family members who had fled. In most cases relatives were not aware of the detainee’s whereabouts. Some prisoners of conscience had been in prison without charge or trial for two decades.

The government continued to refuse to confirm reports that nine of the 11 so-called G15 prisoners – a group of high-profile politicians detained since 2001 – had died in detention from a range of illnesses, as well as a number of the journalists arrested alongside them. There were unconfirmed reports that eight detainees held since 2005/2006, including government officials and medical doctors, were released in April 2014.

Freedom of religion

Only four faith groups were permitted to operate – the Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches, and Islam. Members of other banned groups, including Pentecostal and Evangelical Christian denominations, continued to be subject to arbitrary detention and torture and other ill-treatment for practising their religion.

Military conscription

National service continued to be mandatory for all men and women aged between 18 and 50, with no provision for conscientious objection. All school pupils were required to complete their final school year at Sawa military camp, effectively conscripting children into the military. The initial 18-month period of service continued to be frequently extended indefinitely, with minimal salaries and no choice over the nature of work assigned – a system that amounted to forced labour. Conscripts faced harsh penalties for evasion, including arbitrary detention and torture and other ill-treatment. Children at Sawa were kept in poor conditions and received harsh punishments for infractions.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment was reported to be widely used as punishment, interrogation, and as coercion. Common methods included tying prisoners in painful positions for long periods and prolonged solitary confinement.

Appalling prison conditions amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Many detainees were held in overcrowded underground cells or metal shipping containers, often in desert locations, suffering extremes of heat and cold. Food, water and sanitation were inadequate.

Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

As of January 2014 UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, reported 338,129 persons of concern originating from Eritrea, including 308,022 refugees and 30,038 asylum-seekers. Around 3,000 people fled the country each month.

Human trafficking networks continued to prey upon Eritreans fleeing the country, including in Sudan and Egypt. Victims were held hostage, sometimes for a year or longer, and subjected to violence by criminal groups attempting to extract ransom payments from their families. The UN Monitoring Group reported that it had identified a Swiss bank account that had been used to collect such payments.

In April 2014, 266 Eritrean refugees and asylum-seekers were released from detention in neighbouring Djibouti and transferred to a refugee camp in the south of the country.

International scrutiny

Eritrea faced increased international scrutiny. Appointed to the newly created role of UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea in October 2012, Sheila Keetharuth presented wide-ranging concerns and recommendations in reports to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2013 and June 2014, and to the UN General Assembly in October 2013 and October 2014. The Special Rapporteur’s requests for access to the country have not been granted since her appointment in 2012.

In June 2014, a three-member UN Commission of Inquiry was established for one year to investigate all alleged violations of human rights in Eritrea outlined in the reports of the Special Rapporteur.

Estonia

Republic of Estonia
Head of state: Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Head of government: Taavi Rõivas (replaced Andrus Ansip in March)

Legislation allowing unmarried, including same-sex, couples to register their cohabitation was passed. About 91,000 people remained stateless. Few asylum-seekers were granted protection and the number of asylum applications remained low. The government accepted the transfer of a Guantánamo detainee.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

On 9 October, parliament passed a gender-neutral Cohabitation Act, due to enter into force on 1 January 2016. The Act allows unmarried, including same-sex, couples to register their cohabitation. It also extends to them many of the rights of married couples, for example regarding benefits. Couples in a registered cohabitation agreement will be allowed to adopt the partner’s biological children.

Discrimination – ethnic minorities

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, stated that about 91,000 people (approximately 6.8% of the population) remained stateless; the vast majority were Russian speakers. Stateless people enjoyed limited political rights.

Efforts by the authorities to facilitate the naturalization of children born of stateless parents fell short of granting them automatic citizenship at birth, leaving Estonia in breach of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Ethnic minorities continued to be disproportionately affected by unemployment and poverty, leading to concerns that ethnic and linguistic discrimination could be a contributing factor. Language requirements for employment were reportedly placing ethnic minorities at a disadvantage.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

The number of asylum applications remained low. Approximately 120 were made in the first 10 months of the year, of which some 35 were from Ukrainian nationals. At least 20 people had been granted asylum as of the end of November. There was concern that asylum-seekers could be denied access to asylum at borders and refused entry.

Reports indicated that the provision of legal aid and interpretation to asylum-seekers had improved.

Counter-terror and security

In October, following a request from the USA, the government agreed to accept for resettlement a former Guantánamo detainee. Neither his identity nor the date of transfer were disclosed.

ETHIOPIA

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Head of state: Mulatu Teshome Wirtu
Head of government: Hailemariam Desalegn

Freedom of expression continued to be subject to serious restrictions. The government was hostile to suggestions of dissent, and often made pre-emptive arrests to prevent dissent from manifesting. Independent media publications were subject to further attack. Peaceful protesters, journalists, and members of opposition political parties were arbitrarily arrested. The Charities and Societies Proclamation continued to obstruct the work of human rights organizations. Arbitrary detention and torture and other ill-treatment were widespread, often used as part of a system for silencing actual or suspected dissent.

Background

Economic growth continued apace, along with significant foreign investment including in the agriculture, construction and manufacturing sectors, large-scale development projects such as hydroelectric dam building and plantations, and widespread land-leasing, often to foreign companies.

The government used multiple channels and methods to enforce political control on the population, including politicizing access to job and education opportunities and development assistance, and high levels of physical and technological surveillance.

The politicization of the investigative branch of the police and of the judiciary meant that it was not possible to receive a fair hearing in politically motivated trials.

Federal and regional security services were responsible for violations throughout the country, including arbitrary arrests, the use of excessive force, torture  and extrajudicial executions. They operated with near-total impunity.

Armed opposition groups remained in several parts of the country or in neighbouring countries, although in most cases with small numbers of fighters and low levels of activity.

Access to some parts of the Somali region continued to be severely restricted. There were continuing reports of serious violations of human rights, including arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial executions. There were also multiple allegations of the rape of women and girls by members of the security services.

Excessive use of force – extrajudicial executions

In April and May, protests took place across Oromia region against a proposed “Integrated Master Plan” to expand the capital Addis Ababa into Oromia regional territory. The government said the plan would bring services to remote areas, but many Oromo people feared it would damage the interests of Oromo farmers and lead to large-scale displacement.

Security services, comprising federal police and military special forces, responded with excessive force, firing live ammunition at protesters in Ambo and Guder towns and Wallega and Madawalabu universities, resulting in the deaths of at least 30 people, including children. Hundreds of people were beaten by security service agents during and after the protests, including protesters, bystanders, and parents of protesters for failing to “control” their children, resulting in scores of injuries.

Thousands of people were arbitrarily arrested. Large numbers were detained without charge for several months, and some were held incommunicado. Hundreds were held in unofficial places of detention, including Senkele police training camp. Some detainees were transferred to Maikelawi federal police detention centre in Addis Ababa. Over 100 people continued to be detained in Kelem Wallega, Jimma and Ambo by security service agents after courts ordered their release on bail or unconditionally.

Many of those arrested were released after varying detention periods, between May and October, but others were denied bail, or remained in detention without charge. Others, including students and members of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) opposition political party, were prosecuted and convicted in rapid trials on various charges relating to the protests.

Freedom of expression, arbitrary arrests and detentions

2014 saw another onslaught on freedom of expression and suggestions of dissent, including further targeting of the independent media and arrests of opposition political party members and peaceful protesters. Several attempts by opposition political parties to stage demonstrations were obstructed by the authorities. The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation continued to be used to silence dissidents. Opposition party members were increasingly targeted ahead of the 2015 general election.

In late April, six bloggers of the Zone 9 collective and three independent journalists associated with the group were arrested in Addis Ababa, two days after the group announced the resumption of activities, which had been suspended due to significant harassment. For nearly three months, all nine were held in the underground section of Maikelawi, denied access to family members and other visitors, and with severely restricted access to lawyers.

In July, they were charged with terrorism offences, along with another Zone 9 member charged in their absence. The charge sheet cited among their alleged crimes the use of “Security in a Box” – a selection of open-source software and materials created to assist human rights defenders, particularly those working in repressive environments.

Six of the group said they were forced to sign confessions. Three complained in remand hearings that they had been tortured, but the court did not investigate their complaints. The trial continued at the end of 2014.

Early in 2014, a “study” conducted by the national Press Agency and Ethiopian News Agency and published in the government-run Addis Zemen newspaper targeted seven independent publications, alleging that they had printed several articles which “promoted terrorism”, denied economic growth, belittled the legacy of former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and committed other “transgressions”. In August, the government announced that it was bringing charges against several of the publications, causing over 20 journalists to flee the country. In October, the owners of three of the publications were sentenced in their absence to over three years’ imprisonment each for allegedly inciting the public to overthrow the government and publishing unfounded rumours.

The OFC opposition party reported that between 350 and 500 of its members were arrested between May and July, including party leadership. The arrests started in the context of the “Master Plan” protests, but continued for several months. Many of those arrested were detained arbitrarily and incommunicado. OFC members were among over 200 people arrested in Oromia in mid-September, and further party members were arrested in October.

On 8 July, Habtamu Ayalew and Daniel Shebeshi, of the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) Party, and Yeshewas Asefa of the Semayawi Party were arrested in Addis Ababa. Abraha Desta of the Arena Tigray Party, and a lecturer at Mekele University, was arrested in Tigray, and was transferred to Addis Ababa. They were detained in Maikelawi and initially denied access to lawyers and family. In late October, they were charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Yeshewas Asefa complained in court that he had been tortured in detention.

The Semayawi Party reported numerous arrests of its members, including seven women arrested in March during a run to mark International Women’s Day in Addis Ababa, along with three men, also members of the party. They had been chanting slogans including “We need freedom! Free political prisoners!” They were released without charge after 10 days. In late April, 20 members of the party were arrested while promoting a demonstration in Addis Ababa. They were released after 11 days.

In early September, Befekadu Abebe and Getahun Beyene, party officials in Arba Minch city, were arrested along with three party members. Befekadu Abebe and Getahun Beyene were transferred to Maikelawi detention centre in Addis Ababa. In the initial stages of detention, they were reportedly denied access to lawyers and family members. In late October, party member Agbaw Setegn, was arrested in Gondar, and was also transferred to Maikelawi, and held incommunicado without access to lawyers or family.

On 27 October, editor Temesgen Desalegn was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for “defamation” and “inciting the public through false rumours”, in the now-defunct publication Feteh, after a trial that had lasted more than two years. The publisher of Feteh was also convicted in their absence.

People were detained arbitrarily without charge for long periods in the initial stages, or throughout the duration, of their detention including numerous people arrested for peaceful opposition to the government or their imputed political opinion. Arbitrary detention took place in official and unofficial detention centres, including Maikelawi. Many detainees were held incommunicado, and many were denied access to lawyers and family members.

Numerous prisoners of conscience, imprisoned in previous years based solely on their peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression and opinion, including journalists and opposition political party members, remained in detention. These included some convicted in unfair trials, some whose trials continued, and some who continued to be detained without charge.

Access to detention centres for monitoring and documenting the treatment of detainees continued to be severely restricted.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture took place in local police stations, Maikelawi federal police station, federal and regional prisons and military camps.

Torture methods reported included: beating with sticks, rubber batons, gun butts and other objects; burning; tying in stress positions; electric shocks; and forced prolonged physical exercise. Some detention conditions amounted to torture, including detaining people underground without light, shackled and in prolonged solitary confinement.

Torture typically took place in the early stages of detention, in conjunction with the interrogation of the detainee. Torture was used to force detainees to confess, to sign incriminating evidence and to incriminate others. Those subjected to torture included prisoners of conscience, who were arrested for their perceived or actual expression of dissent.

Defendants in several trials complained in court that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention. The courts failed to order investigations into the complaints.

In several cases, prisoners of conscience were denied access to adequate medical care.

Oromia region

Ethnic Oromos continued to suffer many violations of human rights in efforts to suppress potential dissent in the region.

Large numbers of Oromo people continued to be arrested or remained in detention after arrests in previous years, based on their peaceful expression of dissent, or in numerous cases, based only on their suspected opposition to the government. Arrests were arbitrary, often made pre-emptively and without evidence of a crime. Many were detained without charge or trial, and large numbers were detained in unofficial places of detention, particularly in military camps throughout the region. There was no accountability for enforced disappearances or extrajudicial executions during 2014 or in previous years.

In the aftermath of the “Master Plan” protests, increased levels of arrests of actual or suspected dissenters continued. Large numbers of arrests were reported, including several hundred in early October in Hurumu and Yayu Woredas districts in Illubabor province, of high-school students, farmers and other residents.

There were further reports of arrests of students asking about the fate of their classmates arrested during the “Master Plan” protests, demanding their release and justice for those killed, including 27 reported to have been arrested in Wallega University in late November.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Forcible returns

Ethiopian government agents were active in many countries, some of which cooperated with the Ethiopian authorities in forcibly returning people wanted by the government.

In January, two representatives of the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front were abducted and forcibly returned to Ethiopia from Nairobi, Kenya. They were in Nairobi to participate in further peace talks between the group and the government.

On 23 June, UK national Andargachew Tsige, Secretary General of the outlawed Ginbot 7 movement, was rendered from Yemen to Ethiopia. On 8 July, a broadcast was aired on state-run ETV showing Tsige looking haggard and exhausted. By the end of the year, he was still detained incommunicado at an undisclosed location, with no access to lawyers or family. The UK government continued to be denied consular access, except for two meetings with the Ambassador, to one of which Andargachew Tsige was brought hooded, and they were not permitted to talk privately.

In March, former Gambella regional governor Okello Akway, who has Norwegian citizenship, was forcibly returned to Ethiopia from South Sudan. In June, he was charged with terrorism offences along with several other people, in connection with Gambella opposition movements in exile.

FIJI

Republic of Fiji
Head of state: Ratu Epeli Nailatikau
Head of government: Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama

Laws, policies and practices failed to adequately protect human rights, placing sweeping restrictions on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Victims of serious human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment, were unable to seek redress in the courts due to widespread immunities for government officials and security forces.

Background

In September Fiji held its first election since the 2006 military coup. New electoral laws expanded restrictions on freedom of expression. A climate of fear and self-censorship prevailed. Abuses by security forces continued to occur, including one death in police custody in August.

Freedoms of expression, assembly and association

Rights to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association were criminalized, with people facing heavy fines and possible imprisonment under a number of decrees.

The Electoral Decree 2014 prohibited civil society organizations from ”campaigning”, including providing human rights education, on any issue relevant to elections. Breaching this Decree carried a penalty of FJ$50,000 (approx. US$27,000) and up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

In August a human rights organization, Citizens’ Constitutional Forum, was put under criminal investigation for breaching the Electoral Decree for organizing a series of public lectures on democracy and human rights.

In June the Media Industry Development Authority called for a criminal investigation against two university academics after they had called on police to stop the harassment and intimidation of journalists.

Workers’ rights

The Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree 2011 continued to violate key workers’ rights, including by limiting collective bargaining rights, curtailing the right to strike, banning overtime payments, and voiding existing collective agreements for workers in the sugar, aviation and tourism industries. Under electoral laws, trade union officials were not permitted to hold office in a political party or to engage in other political activities.

In January Daniel Urai, a trade union leader, was arrested and charged with participating in an unlawful strike, following a strike at a hotel in Nadi. The charges were dropped after two months.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Extensive immunities under the Constitution made it impossible to hold state perpetrators accountable for serious human rights violations such as torture and other ill-treatment. Members of the military and the police, as well as government officials, operated with civil and criminal immunity for violations of human rights. Many cases of torture and other ill-treatment, including several relating to recaptured prisoners, remained unaddressed.

In August Vilikesa Soko, who had been arrested on suspicion of robbery, died in police custody. The autopsy report showed that he suffered serious injuries consistent with assault, leading to multiple organ failure. While the new Police Commissioner promptly ordered an investigation into the death and suspended four police officers, no criminal charges had been brought against the alleged perpetrators at the end of the year.

Finland

Republic of Finland
Head of state: Sauli Niinistö
Head of government: Alexander Stubb (replaced Jyrki Katainen in June)

Asylum-seekers and migrants faced detention in unsuitable facilities. An investigation into Finland’s involvement in the US-led rendition programme failed to find evidence. Support for victims of sexual and gender-based violence remained insufficient. Transgender people faced obstacles to legal gender recognition.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Finland continued to detain asylum-seekers and migrants, including children. During 2013, approximately 1,500 migrants were detained under the Aliens Act, of whom the majority were held in police detention facilities. Ten unaccompanied children were held together with adults in the Metsälä detention centre. In September 2014, a new detention centre intended to hold families with children and other vulnerable individuals, connected with the Joutseno reception facility, was opened.

In January, the Ombudsman for Minorities began monitoring forced removals of refused asylum-seekers and migrants.

Counter-terror and security

In April, the Parliamentary Ombudsman published the results of his investigation into Finland’s alleged role in the US-led programme of rendition and secret detention. The Ombudsman found no evidence that Finnish officials had any knowledge of rendition flights by the CIA in Finland, but “could not give any guarantees” as some flight information was not included in the probe because it was no longer available.1

Violence against women and girls

Rape is still defined by the degree of violence or threats of violence used by the perpetrator, rather than the violation of sexual autonomy and physical and mental integrity.

Support for victims of gender-based and sexual violence remains insufficient and at risk of deterioration. Two women’s shelters were closed down in 2013, and only two crisis centres offered support to rape victims. Finland does not meet the shelter requirements set by the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention. Despite the government’s stated intention to ratify the Convention, its proposal published in September included neither a dedicated budget nor an action plan for extending the required services to victims of violence.

A survey published in March by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found that 47% of women had experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15 by a partner and/or non-partner. Only 10% of women contacted the police as a result of the most serious incident of violence by their partner.

In March, the CEDAW Committee recommended allocating adequate resources to a National Action Plan to prevent violence against women, establishing an institutional mechanism to co-ordinate and monitor any measures, ensuring sufficient and adequately resourced shelters, opening rape crisis centres and walk-in centres, and establishing a 24-hour helpline.

Discrimination – transgender people

Widespread prejudices and discriminatory legislation negatively affected the enjoyment of human rights by transgender individuals.2 Transgender people can obtain legal gender recognition only if they agree to be sterilized, are diagnosed with a mental disorder, are of age and can prove that they are single. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health finalized a draft law in November proposing the removal of the requirements regarding sterilization and single status; the bill had not been presented to Parliament by the end of the year.

Prisoners of conscience

Conscientious objectors to military service continued to be imprisoned for refusing to undertake alternative civilian service, which remained punitive and discriminatory in length. Since February 2013, the duration of alternative civilian service has been 347 days, more than double the shortest military service period of 165 days.

  1. Finland: CIA rendition probe findings ‘disappointing’ (Press release) www.amnesty.org/en/news/finland-cia-rendition-probe-findings-disappointing-2014-04-29
  2. The state decides who I am: Lack of legal gender recognition for transgender people in Europe (EUR 01/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR01/001/2014/en

France

French Republic
Head of state: François Hollande
Head of government: Manuel Valls (replaced Jean-Marc Ayrault in March)

Migrant Roma continued to be forcibly evicted from informal settlements; individuals and communities were often not consulted or offered adequate alternative accommodation. Concerns remained about the impartiality and thoroughness of investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by the police. Same-sex couples could enter into civil marriage following a change in the law in 2013.

Discrimination – Roma

Officially, more than 19,000 people lived in 429 informal settlements at the beginning of the year. Most of them were migrant Roma from Romania, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia. The French authorities continued to forcibly evict them throughout the year. According to the League of Human Rights and the European Roma Rights Centre, more than 11,000 individuals were forcibly evicted in the first nine months of the year.

On 31 January, the Minister of Housing announced a plan to provide long-term housing solutions to the inhabitants of informal settlements. On 28 February, an agreement was signed between the government and Adoma, a publicly funded accommodation provider, and some communities evicted from informal settlements were offered alternative housing.

In spite of these developments, most of the evicted individuals and families reportedly did not receive any alternative housing. For instance, on 18 June, some 400 individuals were forcibly evicted from La Parette, the largest informal settlement in Marseille. Only 18 families (150 people) were offered some form of alternative accommodation.

On 21 October, more than 300 individuals were forcibly evicted from the informal settlement Les Coquetiers in Bobigny, a Paris suburb, following an eviction order issued by the municipality. According to the authorities, 134 individuals were offered some rehousing solutions. More than 100 reportedly left the settlement before the eviction took place as they had not been offered any alternative accommodation. About 60 individuals were forcibly evicted and subsequently offered short-term accommodation in Paris.1

While the authorities did not collect official data on hate crimes against Roma, civil society organizations reported several violent attacks against Roma. Concerns remained that the authorities often did not take into account any alleged discriminatory motive in the investigation of these cases. The criminal investigation against four police officers who had injured a Roma man in November 2011, while carrying out a forced eviction in Marseille, was still ongoing at the end of the year.2

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

On 18 May 2013, civil marriage was made available to all couples irrespective of gender. Adoption rights were extended to married same-gender couples.

Despite repeated commitments by the government to reform abusive practices, transgender people continued to be subjected to psychiatric diagnosis and unnecessary medical treatments such as surgery and sterilization in order to obtain legal recognition of their gender.3

Discrimination – Muslims

Two judgments issued during the year failed to uphold Muslim women’s right to freedoms of expression, religion and belief, and non-discrimination. On 25 June, the Court of Cassation found that the management of a private kindergarten did not discriminate against a Muslim employee in 2008 when she was dismissed for wearing a headscarf in the workplace. On 1 July, in the case of SAS v. France, the European Court of Human Rights found that the 2011 law prohibiting the complete covering of the face in public did not constitute a disproportionate restriction of the right to freedom of religion.4

Police and security forces

In 2013, the Defender of Rights, an independent public authority, dealt with almost 1,000 allegations of acts of violence perpetrated by police. However, concerns remained about the impartiality and thoroughness of investigations into these allegations by judicial authorities.

In February 2014, the Court of Cassation reopened the case of Ali Ziri, an Algerian man who died in custody in 2009, which had been dismissed in 2012. On 19 November, the prosecuting authorities requested before the Rennes Appeal Court that further investigation be conducted into the case. However, on 12 December the Investigative Chamber of the Rennes Appeal Court confirmed the 2012 dismissal.

On 23 September, Raymond Gurême, an 89-year-old French Traveller, suffered several injuries allegedly as a result of excessive force during a police operation at the site where he lived. An investigation was ongoing at the end of the year.

On 26 October, 21-year-old Rémi Fraisse was fatally injured by an explosive anti-riot grenade thrown by National Gendarmerie officers during a demonstration against the Sivens dam project in the Tarn region. About 20 other complaints of police ill-treatment were reportedly filed by people protesting against the project. On 2 December, an internal investigation found that the National Gendarmerie officers abided by the law. Concerns remained about the impartiality and thoroughness of this investigation.

Torture and other ill-treatment

On 24 October the Lyon Court of Appeal authorized the extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov, a Kazakhstani banker and opposition leader, to Russia, from where he could be forcibly returned to Kazakhstan. At the end of the year, an appeal was pending before the Court of Cassation. If extradited, he risked facing unfair trial in Russia and torture or other ill-treatment in Kazakhstan.5

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

On 16 October 2013, President Hollande announced that 500 Syrian refugees would be resettled in France during 2014. Between 300 and 350 were resettled by the end of the year. On 27 March, 85 Syrian nationals were reportedly stopped by police on arrival at Paris Gare de Lyon railway station. They were not given the opportunity to claim asylum and were given one month to leave France.

Also in March, a circular by the Minister of the Interior concerning undocumented migrants instructed authorities to deport foreign nationals whose asylum claims had been rejected by OFPRA, the French Office for Refugees and Stateless People, through the priority asylum procedure. While these decisions could be appealed against before the National Court of the Right to Asylum, the appeal did not have the effect of suspending the deportation. A bill aimed at reforming asylum procedures was adopted by the National Assembly and was pending before the Senate.

On 10 July, the European Court of Human Rights found that the refusal of French authorities to issue visas for the purpose of family reunification to the children of two refugees and three migrants residing in France violated the applicants’ right to family life.

In October, more than 2,500 migrants and asylum-seekers, mainly from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Syria, were living in harsh conditions in the Calais region. Most were attempting to reach the UK. In May, the authorities forcibly evicted 700 migrants and asylum-seekers from informal settlements in the area following a reported outbreak of scabies.6 Discussions concerning the opening of a new reception centre were ongoing at the end of the year.

International justice

On 14 March, Rwandan national and former head of the Rwandan intelligence services Pascal Simbikangwa, was sentenced by the Paris Assize Court to 25 years’ imprisonment for genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity perpetrated in the context of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. This was the first case to come to trial on the basis of extraterritorial jurisdiction since the establishment in 2012 of a specialized investigative unit tasked to deal with cases concerning genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. At the end of the year, the unit was investigating more than 30 alleged crimes perpetrated abroad.

Freedom of assembly

Several demonstrations concerning the situation in Gaza, including two demonstrations scheduled to take place in Paris on 19 and 26 July, were prohibited on grounds of security. The demonstrations took place despite the ban. Although some incidents of violence occurred, concerns remained as to whether the decisions to ban them were necessary and proportionate.

  1. France: Bobigny forced eviction set to leave Roma families homeless (News story) www.amnesty.org/en/news/france-bobigny-forced-eviction-set-leave-roma-families-homeless-2014-10-20
  2. “We ask for justice”: Europe’s failure to protect Roma from racist violence (EUR 01/007/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR01/007/2014/en
  3. T he state decides who I am: Lack of legal gender recognition for transgender people in Europe (EUR 01/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR01/001/2014/en
  4. European Court ruling on full-face veils punishes women for expressing their beliefs (News story) www.amnesty.org/en/news/european-court-ruling-full-face-veils-punishes-women-expressing-their-religion-2014-07-01
  5. France: Stop extradition of Kazakhstani opposition activist at risk of torture (News story) www.amnesty.org/en/news/france-stop-extradition-kazakhstani-opposition-activist-risk-torture-2014-10-24
  6. France: Forced evictions add to climate of fear amid alleged hate crimes (EUR 21/003/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR21/003/2014/en

Gambia

Republic of the Gambia
Head of state and government: Yahya Jammeh

2014 marked 20 years since President Yahya Jammeh came to power.1 The authorities continued to repress dissent. The government continued its policy of non-co-operation with UN human rights mechanisms. Successive legislation was passed further restricting freedom of expression and increasing punitive measures against journalists. Human rights defenders and journalists continued to face imprisonment and harassment. The rights of lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people were further threatened. The year ended with an attempted coup on 30 December, leading to dozens of arrests and widespread crackdowns on media outlets.

Background

Gambia’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in October.2 Concerns by UN member states included Gambia’s restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, its renewed use of the death penalty, and discrimination and attacks on people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. 

During their visit to Gambia in November, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on torture were denied access to detention centres where prisoners were believed to be at risk of torture. They described torture as a “consistent practice” in Gambia and expressed concerns about the 2012 executions and the climate of impunity.3 In August, the authorities had unilaterally postponed the visit of the Special Rapporteurs, without adequate explanation.

In January 2013, President Jammeh suspended political dialogue with the EU following the inclusion of human rights on the agenda. Although discussions resumed in July 2013, little progress was made on implementing human rights commitments. In October 2013, President Jammeh announced Gambia’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth, which was collaborating with the Gambian authorities on capacity-building initiatives for the judiciary and establishing a national human rights commission.

Freedom of expression

Successive legislation was passed in recent years restricting the right to freedom of expression.

In August 2014, the National Assembly passed the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act that introduced the charge “absconding state officials”. This could be used to target individuals who expressed dissent and chose to remain outside the country.

In July 2013, the National Assembly passed the Information and Communication (Amendment) Act, allowing for penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment and hefty fines for offences including: criticizing government officials online; spreading “false news” about the government or public officials; making derogatory statements against public officials; and inciting dissatisfaction or instigating violence against the government.

In May 2013, the National Assembly passed the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act, broadening the definition of various offences and imposing harsher punishments for acts of public disorder, such as “hurling abusive insults” or “singing abusive songs”, and for giving false information to a public servant. For example, the Act increased the punishment for providing false information to a public servant from six months’ to five years’ imprisonment and/or a larger fine.  

Journalists

Journalists faced harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention for carrying out their legitimate work.4

Sanna Camara was arrested on 27 June and charged with publishing false information after writing an article on human trafficking in Gambia for the Standard newspaper. He was denied access to a lawyer or his relatives. He was released on bail the next day and ordered to report to the police headquarters several times per week over several months.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders faced harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and enforced disappearance. There were risks of reprisals against Gambians who sought to engage in relation to the UPR examination on Gambia and ahead of the visit of the UN Special Rapporteurs.

By the end of the year no investigation had been instigated into the unlawful arrest and torture of Imam Baba Leigh, a prominent human rights defender and Muslim cleric. He had been arrested by National Intelligence Agency (NIA) officers in December 2012 and placed in incommunicado detention. He was repeatedly tortured for publicly condemning the government’s use of the death penalty. He was released following a presidential pardon in May 2013 and subsequently left the country in fear for his safety.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Detainees were routinely tortured by law enforcement personnel as punishment and in order to force “confessions”.

Abdou Jeli Keita, an officer with the National Drug Enforcement Agency and a former journalist, was pushed into a car outside his home in Wellingara on 1 August by five men wearing civilian clothes, believed to be members of the security services. He was blindfolded and driven to an undisclosed location where he said he was detained and beaten. Abdou Jeli Keita was not charged, nor allowed access to a lawyer or his relatives. He was told by his captors that he was detained because he was suspected of publicizing information on poor prison conditions. He was released the following day.

On 18 December 2013, Amadou Sanneh, national treasurer of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), and two other UDP members, Alhagie Sambou Fatty and Malang Fatty, were convicted of sedition and sentenced to up to five years’ imprisonment. They were held incommunicado at the NIA headquarters for nearly a month prior to their trial in October 2013. All three alleged they were tortured to confess on national television. Alhagie Sambou Fatty and Malang Fatty had no legal representation throughout their detention and trial. The three men are prisoners of conscience.

Death penalty

In November, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of Lang Tombong Tamba and six others to life imprisonment. The seven men – Chief of Defence Staff Lieutenant General Lang Tombong Tamba, Brigadier General Omar Bun Mbye, Major Lamin Bo Badgie, Lieutenant Colonel Kawsu Camara, former Deputy Inspector General of Police Momodou B. Gaye, Gibril Ngorr Secka and Abdoulie Joof – were convicted of treason and sentenced to death in 2010. They had been sentenced to death for treason, contrary to the Constitution which permits the death penalty only for crimes “resulting in the death of another person”.

In a media interview in August 2013, President Jammeh justified the retention of the death penalty as being “divine law” and stated that he would not pardon anybody condemned to death. This would deny defendants’ right under international law to seek clemency.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

At least eight people, including three women and a 17-year-old youth, were arrested by men identifying themselves as agents of the NIA and Presidential Guards between 7 and 13 November and threatened with torture because of their presumed sexual orientation. They were told that if they did not “confess” their homosexuality, including by providing the names of others, a device would be forced into their anus or vagina to “test” their sexual orientation. Such treatment would violate international law prohibiting torture and other ill-treatment. A further six women were reportedly arrested on 18 and 19 November on the same grounds.5

In August, the National Assembly passed the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2014 which created the crime of “aggravated homosexuality”, carrying a life sentence. The wording of the Amendment was vague, making it open to wide-ranging abuse by the authorities. Among those who could be charged with “aggravated homosexuality” were “repeat offenders” and people living with HIV who were suspected of being gay or lesbian.6

In a speech on national television in February, President Jammeh attacked LGBTI rights, stating, “We will fight these vermin called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes – if not more aggressively.” In May, President Jammeh threatened Gambians seeking asylum as a result of discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Impunity

The government made no progress towards implementing the judgments of the ECOWAS Court of Justice in the enforced disappearance of journalist Ebrima Manneh, the torture of journalist Musa Saidykhan and the unlawful killing of Deyda Hydara.7

  1. Gambia: President Jammeh must put an end to 20 years of repression and impunity for human rights violations (AFR 27/009/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR27/009/2014/en
  2. Gambia: Deteriorating human rights situation: Amnesty International submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, October-November 2014 (AFR 27/006/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR27/006/2014/en
  3. Gambia: UN monitors denied prison access as they condemn “consistent practice” of torture (Press release) www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/gambia-un-inspectors-denied-prison-access-after-they-condemn-consistent-practice 
  4. Gambia: Further information: journalists acquitted and discharged (AFR 27/014/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR27/014/2014/en
  5. Gambia must stop wave of homophobic arrests and torture (News story)  www.amnesty.org/en/news/gambia-must-stop-wave-homophobic-arrests-and-torture-2014-11-18
  6. Gambia: “Aggravated homosexuality’’ offence carries life sentence (News story) www.amnesty.org/en/news/gambia-aggravated-homosexuality-offence-carries-life-sentence-2014-11-21
  7. Gambia: President Jammeh must put an end to 20 years of repression and impunity for human rights violations (AFR 27/009/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR27/009/2014/en

GEORGIA

Georgia
Head of state: Giorgi Margvelashvili
Head of government: Irakli Garibashvili

Religious and sexual minorities continued to face discrimination and violence and in several instances were unable to exercise their right to freedom of assembly. Opposition politicians were subject to violent attacks. Allegations of ill-treatment by police and penitentiary officials continued to be reported and were often inadequately investigated. Domestic violence against women remained widespread.

Background

On 27 June, the European Union signed the Association Agreement with Georgia.

Allegations of the selective prosecution of figures associated with the opposition party United National Movement (UNM) persisted. On 13 August, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office charged former President Mikheil Saakashvili in his absence with embezzlement and abuse of office. On 9 December, the OSCE trial monitoring, which focused on criminal cases against senior officials in President Saakashvili’s government, identified concerns related to a number of fair trial rights, including equality of arms between parties and the presumption of innocence.

Defence minister Irakli Alasania was sacked on 4 November following the arrests of five senior defence officials on 28 October, which he had dismissed as politically motivated. The officials were accused of misspending GEL 4.1 million (US$2.1 million) in what the prosecution claimed was a sham tender. Several ministerial resignations followed resulting in the breakdown of the parliamentary coalition.

In November, three detainees from the US detention facility at Guantánamo Bay were transferred to Georgia for resettlement.

On 24 November, the de facto authorities in Georgia’s Abkhazia region signed the Agreement on Alliance and Strategic Partnership with the Russian Federation making the breakaway territory even more dependent on Russia in defence, external relations and economic matters.

Discrimination

On 2 May, an anti-discrimination law was adopted but without provisions which had been included in an earlier draft. These would have introduced an independent oversight mechanism and financial penalties for violations.

Reported incidents of violent religious intolerance increased. The authorities failed to protect the rights of religious minorities, address recurring violence and effectively investigate attacks.

On 1 June, local Orthodox Christians in the town of Terjola, western Georgia, gathered to protest against the construction of a place of worship for Jehovah’s Witnesses. They threatened to use physical violence and destroy property. Several Jehovah’s Witnesses reported being harassed and intimidated by local residents, including receiving death threats and having stones thrown at their houses. Police issued written warnings to the alleged offenders but did not conduct any formal investigation.

In September, residents of the town of Kobuleti, western Georgia, repeatedly blocked an entry to the local Muslim boarding school and physically prevented staff and schoolchildren from entering the building. On the first day of the new school year, a pig was slaughtered at the building entrance and its head was nailed to the door. A criminal investigation was opened.

Freedom of assembly

On 22 October, clashes between the police and the local Muslim community broke out in the village of Mokhe, western Georgia, after the local authorities began to construct a library on the site of a derelict building which, the Muslim community claimed, was once a mosque. Police reportedly insulted and used disproportionate force against protesters, arresting 14. Several detainees were reportedly beaten, among them a woman who received serious injuries to her face. Three detainees were released the next day without charges while the others were fined 250 lari (US$140) each by the court in the town of Akhaltsikhe.

In May, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex activists abandoned plans to organize a public action to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) due to the lack of security guarantees by the authorities. In 2013, the IDAHO street event was thwarted by a violent attack by thousands of counter-demonstrators while the police failed to ensure people’s safety.

Police and security forces

A number of violent attacks against opposition politicians were reported in which the police failed to prevent violence.

On 9 June, Gigi Ugulava and Giga Bokeria, leaders of the opposition party United National Movement (UNM), were assaulted by members of the Georgian Dream Coalition (GDC) during a pre-election meeting with voters in the town of Tsageri. According to eyewitnesses, police officers standing nearby did not intervene to stop the violence.

On 30 September, the office of the NGO Free Zone, which was associated with the UNM, was attacked by about 50 people. Several staff members were injured as the police failed to arrive promptly despite the warnings of possible violence.

Torture and other ill-treatment

There were several reports of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in prison and in police custody. Official investigations were often slow and ineffective. Of the 18 cases of alleged ill-treatment in prison documented by the Public Defender (Ombudsman), in just one case an investigation was opened for charges of ill-treatment. No prosecutions were reported at the end of the year.

On 15 March, Irakli Kelbakiani reported being forced into a police car, beaten with hands and iron bats on his head, face and body, and asphyxiated by police officers. According to the initial incident report, bruises and other injuries were evident on his arrival at the police station.

Amiran Dzebisashvili reported that on 31 October he was forced inside a police car and threatened after he had testified in court that Vasil Lomsadze was beaten by police officers during his arrest on 27 October 2013. Vasil Lomsadze was standing trial for resisting arrest and allegedly attacking police officers during this incident. There had been no effective investigation into Vasil Lomsadze’s allegations of being beaten by police at the end of the year, despite several eyewitness accounts and his recorded injuries.

Violence against women and girls

At least 25 women and girls were reported to have been killed as a result of domestic violence. In several cases the victims had previously asked police for protection but had not received adequate support.

Right to privacy

The legislative amendments of 28 November allowed security agencies to retain direct access to communications surveillance amidst concerns that such an access can be misused by the agencies to bypass the judicial oversight for surveillance.

Germany

Federal Republic of Germany
Head of state: Joachim Gauck
Head of government: Angela Merkel

Humanitarian admission programmes for 20,000 Syrian refugees were approved. There were no improvements in the investigation of serious human rights violations by police. The National Agency for the Prevention of Torture remained under-resourced. Discriminatory attacks against asylum-seekers and minorities continued and concerns regarding the investigation and prosecution of these crimes remained. Human rights criteria for arms exports were implemented.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Between 2013 and 2014, Germany started three humanitarian admission programmes for 20,000 Syrian refugees from Syria’s neighbouring countries and Egypt. The main aim was extended family reunification. Three hundred refugees were offered resettlement through a UNHCR programme. In December, Germany also decided to offer resettlement to 500 refugees per year starting in 2015. In September, Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were legally defined as safe countries of origin, which reduced opportunities for nationals of these countries to seek protection. A law was passed allowing asylum-seekers to move freely within the country after three months of residence and to have unhindered access to the job market after 15 months. The amended Asylum Seekers Benefit Act, due to enter into force in April 2015, fell short of human rights standards particularly regarding health care.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The authorities failed to address obstacles in the effective investigation of allegations of ill-treatment by police. None of the federal states established an independent complaints mechanism to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations by the police. Except for the federal states of Berlin, Brandenburg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Schleswig-Holstein, there was no obligation for police officers to wear identity badges.

The National Agency for the Prevention of Torture, Germany’s preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, remained severely under-resourced, even though there was an increase of funds and a doubling of members for the Joint Commission of the Federal States, one of the two constituent bodies of the Agency. Contrary to international standards, the appointment procedure of the National Agency’s members lacked independence and transparency and excluded civil society.

Investigations and proceedings for excessive use of force by the Stuttgart Police in relation to the disproportionate use of water cannons during demonstrations in the city in September 2010 continued.

In September, the Federal Court of Justice upheld the December 2012 conviction of a police officer by the Magdeburg Regional C ourt, which convicted the officer for negligent homicide in connection with the death of Oury Jalloh, who died in a fire in a cell in a Dessau police station in 2005. The circumstances of Oury Jalloh’s death remained unclear.

Also in September, media reports exposed the repeated ill-treatment of asylum-seekers by private security personnel in three reception facilities in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Discrimination

In August 2013, the ad-hoc federal P arliamentary Committee of Inquiry published ground-breaking conclusions regarding the authorities’ failure to investigate a series of murders targeting minorities perpetrated by the far-right group National Socialist Underground (NSU). In particular, the authorities had failed to co-operate and to investigate the racist motive of the murders. The Committee recommended reforming the Criminal Code and the system used by police to collect data on “politically motivated crimes”, which included information on hate crimes.

In August 2014, the government proposed amending Section 46 of the Criminal Code to require courts to take into account racist, xenophobic or any other “degrading” motive when deciding sentences. The proposal was pending before Parliament at the end of the year.

In the first half of 2014, according to civil society data, there were 155 protests against the establishment of reception facilities for asylum-seekers, mostly by far-right groups. Eighteen attacks against asylum-seekers were also reported.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

The 1980 Law on Changing First Names and the Establishment of Sex Status in Special Cases remained in force, requiring transgender people to comply with mandatory criteria to legally change their gender and names. These included obtaining a psychiatric diagnosis and an expert assessment ordered by courts. These requirements violated transgender people’s rights to private life and to the highest attainable standard of health.1

Arms trade

In anticipation of more stringent EU regulations on surveillance technologies, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy ordered stricter controls on exports of surveillance technologies to countries which commit human rights violations. Germany ratified the UN Arms Trade Treaty in April and started implementing articles 6 and 7 on human rights criteria for arms exports and transfers before its entry into force, due on 24 December. However, data on arms exports licensed in 2014, including small arms components for Saudi Arabia, raised concern.

Corporate accountability

In November, the Foreign Office, in co-operation with other ministries, business representatives and civil society groups, took steps towards the introduction of a national action plan on b usiness and human rights to implement relevant UN guiding principles.

International justice

The first trial based on the 2002 Code of Crimes under International Law against Rwandan citizens Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni continued at Stuttgart Higher Regional Court.

On 18 February, the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court found Rwandan citizen Onesphore Rwabukombe guilty of abetting genocide. In this first German judgement regarding the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsi minority in 1994, Onesphore Rwabukombe was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment for aiding the commission of a massacre at the Kiziguro church compound.

  1. The state decides who I am: lack of legal gender recognition for transgender people in Europe (EUR 01/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR01/001/2014/en

Ghana

Republic of Ghana
Head of state and government: John Dramani Mahama

Ghana continued to hand down death sentences although an ongoing constitutional review process could lead to abolition. Domestic violence against women remained widespread.

Death penalty

Courts continued to hand down death sentences. No executions have taken place since 1993.

In March the Constitutional Review Implementation Committee submitted a draft bill to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to amend provisions of the 1992 Constitution; these included a proposal to abolish the death penalty. The bill was expected to be referred back to Parliament for approval before a referendum is conducted.

In March, in the case of Dexter Eddie Johnson v. Ghana, the UN Human Rights Committee condemned the use of automatic and mandatory death sentences in Ghana. It called on the government to provide Dexter Eddie Johnson with an effective remedy, including the commutation of his death sentence, and to adjust its legislation to avoid similar violations in the future. The government had not responded by the end of the year.

Violence against women and girls

Violence against women and girls remained widespread. A total of 16,275 cases were reported to the police-run Domestic Violence Support Unit in 2013. Although the law prohibits domestic violence, victims were not provided with adequate protection and legal assistance to lodge complaints with the Unit.

GREECE

Hellenic Republic
Head of state: Karolos Papoulias
Head of government: Antonis Samaras

Allegations of excessive use of force and ill-treatment by law enforcement officers persisted and continued to be inadequately investigated. Detention conditions remained very poor. The maximum length of administrative detention of irregular migrants was extended beyond 18 months. Unlawful push-backs of migrants across the Greece-Turkey border continued. New hate crime legislation was adopted in September amid growing concern at the levels of racist violence.

Background

In October the Public Prosecutor proposed the indictment of 67 members and leaders of Golden Dawn, a far right-wing party, for forming, directing or participating in a criminal organization. Fifty-seven individuals, including six MPs, were accused of a series of additional offences, including the murder in September 2013 of anti-fascist singer Pavlos Fyssas, causing “unprovoked bodily harm to migrants” and the unlawful possession of weapons.

In November, anarchist Nikos Romanos, detained at Korydallos prison near the capital, Athens, began a prolonged hunger strike in protest at the refusal of the authorities to allow him educational leave to attend a university course. He had been imprisoned in October after being convicted along with three other men of armed robbery. In February 2013, Nikos Romanos and two of the other men reported that they were tortured while in detention following their arrest in the northern town of Veroia. On 10 December, Nikos Romanos ended his hunger strike after a legislative amendment was passed allowing prisoners to attend campus courses while wearing electronic tags.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Strengthened border controls and greater co-operation with Turkish border guards contributed to a sharp decline in the number of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers entering Greece across its land borders. As a result, the number attempting to reach Greece by sea increased markedly in the first eight months of the year. By the end of the year more than 103 refugees and migrants, including many children, drowned or were unaccounted for while attempting the crossing.1

There were documented cases of frequent unlawful push-backs of irregular migrants across the Greece-Turkey border.

On 20 January, three women and eight children died when a fishing boat carrying 27 refugees sank near the island of Farmakonisi. Survivors said that the boat sank as Greek coastguards were towing their vessel towards Turkey during a push-back operation. The survivors also reported that they were stripped and beaten after they arrived at Farmakonisi. The authorities denied that any push-back or ill-treatment had taken place. In August, the Prosecutors of the Pireus Naval Court closed the case following a preliminary investigation.

National NGOs continued to document very poor detention conditions in areas where migrants and asylum-seekers were held for immigration purposes. Detainees faced considerable obstacles in applying for asylum. In March, the Minister of Public Order authorized the detention of irregular migrants pending deportation beyond the 18 months period allowed under EU law.

In September, the National Commission on Human Rights criticized the Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection for compromising the independence of the Asylum Appeals Board by failing to appoint any of the candidates it had proposed.

Reception conditions for refugees remained of serious concern. At the end of November, between 200 and 250 Syrian refugees, including many women and children, started a protest and subsequently a hunger strike at the Parliament square in Athens requesting the authorities to provide them with shelter and travel documents.

In July, a court in Patras found two foremen guilty of causing serious bodily harm by shooting at Bangladeshi migrant workers on a strawberry farm in Nea Manolada, in April 2013, following a dispute over pay and working conditions. The owner of the farm and another foreman were acquitted. At the end of October, the Supreme Court Prosecutor rejected a request made by two NGOs, the Hellenic League for Human Rights and the Greek Council for Refugees, to annul the verdict because of procedural flaws during the investigation and trial.

Discrimination

Hate crimes

Between October 2011 and January 2014, the Racist Violence Recording Network recorded more than 350 incidents of racist violence. The Network noted a decrease in organized racist attacks against migrants and an increase in hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in 2014. Between January and June, the Police Departments and Offices tackling racist violence recorded 31 incidents with a possible racist motive.

The response of the criminal justice system to hate crimes remained inadequate. Investigators continued to fail to investigate possible hate motives, prosecutors failed to present such evidence in court, and judges failed to consider racist or other hate motives an aggravating circumstance when sentencing offenders.

In a unanimous ruling in April, a court in Athens sentenced two Greek nationals to life imprisonment after convicting them of stabbing to death S. Luqman, a Pakistani national, in January 2013. Despite the trial prosecutor underlining the racist motive behind the attack, the court did not take it into account as an aggravating circumstance during sentencing.

A Joint Ministerial Decision, adopted in June, provided for the suspension of administrative detention and deportation orders issued against victims and witnesses of hate crimes. It also granted special residence permits to cover the time required for the prosecution and conviction of perpetrators.

In September, amendments to hate crime legislation were adopted that increased penalties for committing and inciting racist violence, criminalized Holocaust denial and included sexual orientation, gender identity and disability among the prohibited grounds for discrimination. A proposal that would have legally recognized same-sex unions was rejected.

Roma

Roma families continued to face forced evictions. Many Roma children were excluded from or segregated in education. Discriminatory police raids on Roma settlements continued.

By the end of the year, 74 Roma families living in a settlement in Halandri, Athens, continued to be at risk of forced eviction. Initial plans to evict the families in February were postponed following an injunction by the UN Human Rights Committee. In September, the Halandri municipal authorities sought to demolish 12 homes despite a renewal of the injunction. Following protests by the Roma residents, only five homes, which at the time were uninhabited, were demolished. The Decentralized Administration of Attika committed to finding an adequate alternative location to resettle the families.

In November, a court in the town of Messolonghi sentenced three men to eight months’ imprisonment with suspension for causing serious bodily harm to Paraskevi Kokoni, a Romani woman, and her nephew in October 2012. It was not clear whether the court took the hate motive into account during sentencing.2

Torture and other ill-treatment

In October, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture issued its report on its 2013 visit to Greece. It highlighted the large number of allegations of ill-treatment of people detained in police and border guard stations by law enforcement officials and a number of allegations of verbal abuse, including of a racist nature. The report criticized overcrowding, unhygienic conditions and inadequate health care in Greek prisons.

Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment against prisoners, migrants and refugees continued. In March, guards at Nigrita prison in northern Greece reportedly tortured to death Ilia Kareli, an inmate of Albanian nationality. In October, 13 prison guards were charged with “aggravated torture that caused death”.

Police used excessive force and misused chemical irritants against protesters and journalists on several occasions throughout the year. A large number of the reported abuses took place during two student protests, one against a university lock-out on 13 November, and another during a protest for the anniversary of the 1973 students’ uprising on 17 November. Sporadic convictions of offending law enforcement officers failed to dent the longstanding culture of impunity for police abuses.3

Despite legislative changes introduced in March extending the mandate of the Office for Incidents of Arbitrary Conduct to cover racist incidents and allowing for the Ombudsman to attend hearings, concerns remained over its effectiveness and independence.

Conscientious objectors

The arrests and convictions of conscientious objectors continued during the year. At least four conscientious objectors were convicted for insubordination and received suspended prison sentences. Six individuals refusing to serve both the military and the punitive alternative service were also arrested and detained for short periods.

Freedom of expression

In January, an Athens court convicted a blogger of “religious insult”. His 10-month prison sentence was suspended on appeal. The blogger had set up a Facebook page on which he satirized an orthodox monk who had died.

  1. Greece: Frontier of hope and fear – migrants and refugees pushed back at Europe’s border (EUR 25/004/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR25/004/2014/en
  2. We ask for justice: Europe’s failure to protect Roma from Racist Violence (EUR 01/007/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR01/007/2014/en
  3. A law unto themselves: A culture of abuse and impunity in the Greek police (EUR 25/005/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR25/005/2014/en

Guatemala

Republic of Guatemala
Head of state and government: Otto Pérez Molina

Impunity continued for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out during the internal armed conflict between 1960 and 1996. Violence against women and girls remained a concern. People protesting over hydroelectric and mining projects were subject to forced evictions and excessive use of force by the security forces. Guatemala retained the death penalty in law for ordinary crimes. However, no prisoners were on death row and no death sentences were handed down during the year.

Background

Street gangs and drug trafficking cartels contributed to a precarious public security situation. The authorities reported over 5,000 homicides committed during the year.

In June, the former National Director of Police, Erwin Sperisen, was convicted in Switzerland for his role in the extrajudicial execution of seven unarmed prisoners during a police operation in the El Pavón prison in 2006.

Violence against women and girls

Local human rights organizations reported over 500 killings of women during the year.

In May the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled against Guatemala in the case of María Isabel Franco, who was sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered in 2001, at the age of 15. The Court concluded that Guatemala had acted in a discriminatory manner due to María Isabel’s gender, and that in the context of pervasive violence against women, the authorities had not acted promptly when María Isabel’s mother alerted the police of her daughter’s disappearance.

Impunity

The right to truth, justice and reparation for victims of crimes against humanity during the internal armed conflict (1960 to 1996) remained a concern. Former President Efraín Ríos Montt was convicted in May 2013 of committing genocide and crimes against humanity against members of Maya-Ixil Indigenous community during his presidency. The Constitutional Court overturned his conviction 10 days later on a technicality. He had yet to be retried by the end of 2014.

In February, the Attorney General’s term was cut short by the Constitutional Court. There were concerns that her removal was the result of her role in ensuring that former President Ríos Montt was brought to trial, and her commitment to investigate human rights violations that occurred during the internal armed conflict.

In May, Congress passed a non-binding resolution stating that genocide had not occurred during the internal armed conflict. The resolution directly contradicted a 1999 UN investigation which concluded that genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity had occurred during the internal armed conflict, in which 200,000 people were killed and 45,000 people were forcibly disappeared. Over 80% of those killed and disappeared were of Indigenous Maya ethnicity.

In July, Fermín Solano Barrillas, a former member of the armed opposition during the internal armed conflict, was sentenced to 90 years in prison for directing the massacre of 22 people in 1988, in El Aguacate, Chimaltenango department.

Land disputes

Fearing impacts on their livelihoods, communities continued to oppose existing and proposed hydroelectric and mining projects, and protested against the lack of consultation around these projects.

In May 2013, in response to this opposition, the government proposed a moratorium on the issuing of new mining licences. Yet concerns remained that the proposed legislation to approve mining licences fell short of international standards and did not address Indigenous and rural communities’ concerns around lack of consultation and free, prior and informed consent.

In May, local activists occupying a mining site in San José del Golfo, Guatemala department, were forcibly removed by the police. The Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern at the use of excessive force by the security forces during their removal.

In June, local communities protested against the proposed construction of the Xalalá hydroelectric dam in Alta Verapaz and Quiché departments. In August, three people from the community of Monte Olivo, Alta Verapaz department were killed. They were reportedly shot by police officers during the forced eviction of a community opposed to the construction of a hydroelectric project in the area. By the end of the year nobody had been held to account for their deaths.

Human rights defenders

Attacks, threats and intimidation against human rights defenders and journalists continued during the year.

In August, Gustavo Illescas, a journalist with the Independent Media Centre in Guatemala, was threatened after he reported on police violence during the forced eviction in Monte Olivo (see above). A colleague was detained by masked men and told to convey a threatening message to Gustavo Illescas. The colleague was also beaten and sexually assaulted. By the end of the year nobody had been held to account for his ill-treatment or for the threats against Gustavo Illescas.

Guinea

Republic of Guinea
Head of state: Alpha Condé
Head of government: Mohamed Said Fofana

One of the largest Ebola Virus Disease outbreaks since the virus was discovered in 1976 hit the country; many essential provisions remained lacking. Security forces regularly used excessive force against civilians. Journalists were subjected to intimidation. Concerns about poor and inhumane conditions of detention, and torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, were highlighted by the UN Committee against Torture and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). At the end of the year, a preliminary examination by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) remained open from 2009.

Background

One of the worst Ebola outbreaks emerged in Guinea, quickly spreading to neighbouring countries. By the end of the year, more than 1,700 people had died, including at least 70 health workers.

Legislative elections took place in September 2013 after repeated delays. Violence between members of opposing political parties erupted both before and after the elections. International observers reported voting irregularities. The Supreme Court validated the results nearly two months later, resulting in protests and allegations of fraud. Prime Minister Fofana was reappointed in January 2014 and a new government was installed. The National Assembly convened for the first time in 2014 under President Kory Kondiano.

International scrutiny

The UN Committee against Torture and the OHCHR reviewed Guinea’s human rights record. The OHCHR reported that detainees and prisoners were held in squalid and overcrowded facilities that fell far short of international standards. In some cases minors were detained with adults and there were no prisons specifically for women. The OHCHR also documented 11  cases of death in detention due to lack of medical care. The Committee raised concerns about recent cases of torture, as well as detention conditions, confessions extracted under torture, and impunity for perpetrators of torture.

Excessive use of force

Security forces (police and the gendarmerie) continued to use excessive force against civilians in the capital, Conakry, and other towns, as well as in the southeastern forest region of Guinée Forestière.

In March, security forces in Guinée Forestière dispersed a peaceful demonstration of women with tear gas, batons and gunshots. The women were protesting against the hiring policy of a palm oil and rubber production company.

Four people were reportedly shot dead in March during a demonstration in Diécké. They included a student, Mathieu Maomy. No investigation had been opened by the end of the year.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment were widespread in detention centres throughout 2013 and 2014, resulting in at least one death in custody. Security forces continued to act with impunity.

The UN Committee against Torture recommended in its Concluding Observations that Guinea should conduct thorough, independent and impartial investigations without delay into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment. In addition the Committee urged Guinea to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation. The OHCHR documented cases of torture in the regions of Haute Guinée and Guinée Forestière, and urged the government to adopt a law prohibiting torture and to investigate torture in detention facilities.

Deaths in custody

In February, Tafsir Sylla died in hospital from his injuries after being beaten by police while resisting arrest in Fria. He had been arrested along with three others for consuming Indian hemp. The following day, hundreds of people protested by attacking the police station, the mayor’s office and the local prison, resulting in the escape of at least 20 prisoners.

Freedom of expression

There were continued restrictions on press freedom and journalists were targeted.

In September, police in Guinée Forestière confiscated the cameras of journalists and human rights defenders who were investigating the killings of eight men who had been attacked by the local population during an Ebola awareness campaign. The cameras were returned the following day with all the material deleted.

Impunity

Investigations continued into the massacre in the Grand Stade de Conakry on 28 September 2009, when security forces killed more than 100 peaceful demonstrators and injured at least 1,500 others. Dozens of women were raped and others disappeared. Moussa Dadis Camara, then head of the military junta, was questioned in Burkina Faso in July.

No progress was made towards bringing to trial gendarmes and police officers suspected of criminal responsibility for torturing detainees in 2011 and 2012. Between 2011 and the end of 2014, in Conakry and Fria, only seven officers were summoned to court by an investigating judge. They all failed to appear at their hearing, despite the legal obligation to do so.

International justice

Since 2009 Guinea has remained under preliminary investigation by the Prosecutor of the ICC for crimes committed on 28 September 2009 and in the aftermath of the massacre. The Office of the Prosecutor concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe that these amounted to crimes against humanity, including murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and enforced disappearances. A delegation from the Office of the Prosecutor visited Guinea in February 2014 and noted that investigations had advanced, but not sufficiently. In June, Sékouba Konaté, then Minister of Defence, submitted a list of suspects to the ICC Prosecutor.

Right to health – Ebola outbreak

Delayed responses by the government and the international community reportedly contributed to the rapid spread of the epidemic. Although Ebola response committees were eventually organized to co-ordinate provision of care and communication, many essential resources remained lacking.

In September, during an awareness-raising campaign by humanitarian workers in Womey, N’Zérékoré region, eight members of the delegation, including health workers, a journalist and members of a local radio station, were killed by villagers who suspected them of carrying the virus. Also in September, two members of the Guinean Red Cross were forced to flee the town of Forécariah when people threw rocks at their vehicle after the corpse of a woman which the health workers were carrying fell from a body bag.

Guinea-Bissau

Republic of Guinea-Bissau
Head of state: José Mário Vaz (replaced Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo in June)
Head of government: Domingos Simões Pereira (replaced Rui Duarte de Barros in July)

Persistent political tensions and human rights violations eased following elections in April and the setting up of a new government in July. Impunity for past human rights violations, including political killings in 2009, persisted. Social tension decreased following the resumption of international aid and the payment of arrears on some public sector salaries.

Background

After several postponements, parliamentary and presidential elections were finally held in April. The African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) won the parliamentary election. Presidential elections were won by José Mário Vaz of the PAIGC, with 61% of the vote.

Sanctions imposed by the international community following a coup in April 2012 were lifted in July and international aid resumed. The new government began paying salary arrears to public servants, which reduced social tension and the threat of strikes.

In September, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Integrated Peace-Building Office in Guinea-Bissau until November.

Also in September, President Vaz dismissed the Chief-of-Staff of the Armed Forces, General António Indjai, who led the April 2012 coup.

Police and security forces

Although the election campaign was largely peaceful, there were some reports of threats, beatings and abduction of politicians by security forces in the pre-election period, apparently intended to coerce support for certain presidential candidates. In February, the president and another leading member of the political party People’s Manifest publicly stated that they had received death threats, which they attributed to the security services.

In March, security personnel abducted Mário Fambé, a leading member of the Social Renewal Party, in the capital, Bissau, and took him to the Navy Headquarters where they beat him to persuade him to support their favoured candidate. He sustained serious injuries. The following day, soldiers took him to the Military Hospital for treatment and released him.

The day before the second round of presidential elections in May, some 12 members of the PAIGC were beaten by security officers in two separate incidents in Bissau and in the northern town of Bafata. They included some newly elected parliamentarians and at least two women.

There were no investigations into these incidents.

Impunity

By the end of the year, no one had been held accountable for human rights violations committed in the context of the 2012 coup, nor for the political killings that had occurred since 2009.

Justice system

A law against domestic violence which was promulgated in January, had not come into effect by the end of the year.

Nine people accused of an attack on a military base in Bissau in October 2012 and convicted in March 2013 after an unfair trial by a military court were released in September 2014. Three were released following an appeal to the High Military Court, which accepted that there was no evidence of their participation in the attack. The remaining six were released two weeks later following a presidential pardon.

Women’s rights

In February, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights visited Guinea-Bissau and found that gender inequality and discrimination were the main factors underlying poverty. She attributed the high maternal mortality rate to the fact that 60% of pregnant women did not receive adequate ante-natal care. In August the new government introduced free medical care for children under five years of age, pregnant women and the elderly.

GUYANA

Co-operative Republic of Guyana
Head of state and government: Donald Ramotar

Police ill-treatment remained a concern. Violence against women and girls was also a concern, and conviction rates for sexual offences remained low.

Background

Following commitments made during Guyana’s UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2010, the government finally began public consultations on corporal punishment in schools. However, consultations into the abolition of the death penalty, the repeal of legislation criminalizing consensual same-sex relations, and discrimination against LGBTI people, to which the government also committed in 2010, had yet to begin by the end of the year.

Following a vote of no confidence by the opposition in August, in November the President announced a suspension of the National Assembly for up to six months, citing among other things the urgent need to address “issues relating to economic growth”.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Colwyn Harding alleged that he was sodomized with a police baton during his arrest by police on 15 November 2013 in Timehri. On 2 June 2014, two police officers were charged with causing actual bodily harm, and one of them was also charged with common assault.

On 30 April, 15-year-old Alex Griffith was allegedly shot in the mouth by a police officer playing “Russian roulette” with his firearm. The police officer was investigating an armed robbery allegedly committed against a member of the officer’s family. The officer was charged in June with unlawful assault and discharging a firearm with intent to maim.

Both cases were still before the courts at the end of the year.

Violence against women and girls

Physical and sexual violence against women and girls remained a concern. According to reports, more than 140 cases of rape had been reported to the police by early September. Conviction rates for sexual offences remained low. The Ministry of Legal Affairs stated in April that there had been no conviction for sexual offences in any of the 22 cases heard in 2012 and 2013.

Implementation of the Sexual Offences Act, enacted in February 2013, and the National Domestic Violence Policy, launched in June 2008, remained very slow. Concerns were raised by women’s rights advocates that there was no political will to fully implement either act. For example, judicial, law enforcement and health officials had not received sufficient training on the new acts, and the public had not been sufficiently made aware of the important changes to protect the lives of women and girls that came into force with the enactment of these laws. A National Plan for the Prevention of Sexual Violence had yet to be drafted, despite the new legislation stipulating its creation.

Freedom of expression

In November, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requested precautionary measures on behalf of staff at the newspaper Kaieteur News after they received threats.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

Consensual sex between men remained criminalized. There were continuing reports of discrimination against LGBTI persons, particularly transgender persons.

Four transgender individuals were fired upon from a passing vehicle on the night of 7 April in central Georgetown. According to reports, the police refused to take their complaint, and Georgetown Public Hospital refused to treat them.

Death penalty

In December, Guyana voted for the fifth time against a UN resolution to establish a moratorium on executions, despite the promise to hold a national consultation on the issue.

HAITI

Republic of Haiti
Head of state: Michel Joseph Martelly
Head of government: Laurent Salvador Lamothe (resigned on 14 December)

More than 80,000 people made homeless by the January 2010 earthquake remained displaced. The authorities failed to establish durable measures to prevent forced evictions. Concerns remained over the overall lack of independence of the justice system. Several human rights defenders were threatened and attacked.

BACKGROUND

Long-overdue local and legislative elections for a third of seats in the Senate had not taken place by the end of 2014. This was largely due to disagreements between the government and parliament over the electoral council, as a result of which six senators refused to vote for the proposed reform of the electoral law. On 14 December, the Prime Minister resigned after a consultative commission appointed by the President had recommended his resignation among a number of measures to be taken to appease tensions. Concerns remained at the end of the year over the country’s political stability, as the terms of another third of the Senate and all members of the House of Deputies were due to expire in mid-January 2015.

In October, the UN Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for an 11th year and recommended a radical reduction of its military component.

Although a significant reduction in the number of cases was reported in the first half of 2014, the cholera epidemic persisted. At least 8,573 people died of cholera between October 2010 and July 2014. A lawsuit filed in October 2013 by Haitian and US human rights groups against the UN for its alleged responsibility for introducing the disease into Haiti in 2010 was pending before a US court at the end of 2014.

Following the establishment of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on human rights, a number of international and regional human rights conventions were signed or ratified. In October, the UN Human Rights Committee examined Haiti’s initial report.1

Internally displaced people

At the end of September, more than 80,000 people made homeless by the January 2010 earthquake were still living in 123 makeshift camps. Most of the displaced people who left the camps did so either spontaneously or after being allocated one-year rental subsidies. Following his visit to Haiti in July, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons highlighted the fact that, although there had been a significant reduction in the number of displaced people living in camps since July 2010, the majority of people who left the camps did not benefit from durable solutions.

Housing rights – forced evictions

There were fewer forced evictions from displacement camps and other informal settlements in 2014 compared with previous years. However, the authorities failed to provide remedies to victims of forced eviction2 and did not put in place sustainable measures to avoid forced evictions in the future.3

At the end of May, hundreds of families were made homeless after the government ordered the demolition of buildings in the centre of the capital, Port-au-Prince. The vast majority of affected people did not receive adequate notice of the demolition and only a tiny minority of house owners had received compensation at the time of the demolition.

Violence against women and girls

According to women’s rights organizations, violence against women and girls remained widespread. The government failed to publish consolidated statistics on gender-based violence. A bill on the prevention, prosecution and eradication of violence against women drafted in 2011 in collaboration with women’s rights groups had still not been introduced in parliament by the end of 2014. Haitian human rights organizations reported that, although the number of trials and convictions in cases of sexual violence had increased, these represented a tiny fraction of the reported cases.

Impunity

In February, the Port-au-Prince Court of Appeal reversed a 2012 decision by an investigative judge that former President Jean-Claude Duvalier could not be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. The Court appointed one of its sitting judges to investigate the allegations of crimes against humanity involving Jean-Claude Duvalier among others. However, the failure to provide additional resources to the judge or to disclose official documents which could be useful in the proceedings fuelled concerns about the capacity of the Haitian justice system to provide effective remedies to the victims of past human rights violations. Following the death of Jean-Claude Duvalier in October, national and international human rights organizations called on the authorities to continue the legal proceedings against his former collaborators.4

Justice system

Concerns remained about the overall lack of independence of the justice system. The High Council of the Judiciary, an institution considered key for the reform of the justice system, only started the process of vetting existing judges towards the end of the year. The failure to fill several judicial vacancies exacerbated the problem of prolonged pre-trial detention. At the end of June, pre-trial detainees accounted for more than 70% of the prison population.

In August, a judge investigating corruption charges against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide issued an arrest warrant against him after he failed to appear to answer a summons issued the previous day. In September, the same judge ordered that Jean-Bertrand Aristide be put under house arrest. The Port-au-Prince Bar Association and several Haitian human rights organizations challenged the legality of these decisions, which were widely considered to be politically motivated.

Human rights defenders

Several human rights defenders were attacked, threatened and harassed because of their legitimate human rights work.5 In the vast majority of cases, the authorities failed to carry out thorough and prompt investigations or to provide effective protection measures.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

A number of verbal and physical attacks against LGBTI people were reported during the year, most of which were not thoroughly investigated. According to LGBTI rights organizations, police officers were often reluctant to intervene in these cases and their responses to victims revealed deeply discriminatory attitudes towards LGBTI people.

Nobody was brought to justice for attacks against LGBTI people during and after country-wide marches against LGBTI rights in mid-2013.

  1. Haiti: Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee: 112th Session of the UN Human Rights Committee , 7-31 October 2014 (AMR 36/012/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR36/012/2014/en
  2. Haiti: Families at imminent risk of forced eviction (AMR 36/007/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR36/007/2014/en
  3. Haiti must take immediate action to prevent forced evictions and relocate internally displaced persons: Amnesty International oral statement to the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (AMR 36/008/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR36/008/2014/en
  4. Haiti: The truth must not die with Jean-Claude Duvalier (Press release)www.amnesty.org/press-releases/2014/10/haiti-truth-must-not-die-jean-claude-duvalier/
  5. Haiti: Activists fighting for justice threatened (AMR 36/011/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR36/011/2014/en 
    Haiti: Women’s human rights defenders threatened (AMR 36/010/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR36/010/2014/en 
    Haiti: Fear for safety of human rights defender: Pierre Espérance (AMR 36/009/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR36/009/2014/en 

HONDURAS

Republic of Honduras
Head of state and government: Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado (Replaced Porfirio Lobo Sosa in January)

Human rights violations and abuses against human rights defenders, journalists, women and girls, LGBTI people, Indigenous, Afro-descendant and campesino (peasant farmer) communities continued to be a serious concern. These violations took place in a context where impunity for human rights violations and abuses was endemic and where levels of organized and common crime were high.

Background

President Juan Orlando Hernández was sworn in on 27 January with a four-year mandate. His commitment to the implementation of the Public Policy and National Plan of Action on Human Rights, adopted in 2013, had yet to be reflected in specific policies, measures and actions at the end of the year.

According to UN figures, Honduras had the world’s highest homicide rate. Poverty and extreme poverty continued to undermine the realization of human rights for large sectors of society; more than 60% of the population were living in poverty and more than 40% in extreme poverty.

Police and security forces

In response to the high levels of crime and to the weakness, lack of credibility and widespread corruption of the National Police Force, some policing functions continued to be undertaken by the military and special groups including the Inter-institutional Security Force (Fuerza de Seguridad Interinstitucional – Fusina) created in 2014, and the TIGRES Unit (Investigation Troop and Security Special Response Group) and Public Order Military Police (Policía Militar de Orden Público), both created in 2013. Concerns were raised that these groups were not adequately trained in the respect and protection of human rights, following a number of cases of human rights violations committed during the exercise of policing functions in previous years.

Honduras also experienced a proliferation of firearms and of private security companies. It was legally permitted to possess and carry up to five firearms, and given the high levels of insecurity, many people carried firearms to protect themselves. Following a visit in 2013, the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries stated that private security companies were committing abuses with the permission or participation of the police and the military, and with impunity.

Justice system

The Attorney General’s Office continued to be overwhelmed by the high levels of violence and crime in the country. In April 2013, the then Attorney General stated that the Public Prosecution Service only had the capacity to investigate 20% of the country’s homicides. The Attorney General and his deputy were subsequently suspended and then removed from their posts. New officials were elected to these posts; however, human rights organizations described the election as unconstitutional, biased and lacking in transparency.

Human rights defenders

Scores of human rights defenders, including Indigenous and campesino leaders, LGBTI activists, justice officials and journalists were victims of human rights violations. They suffered killings, physical violence, kidnapping, threats, harassment and verbal attacks.

On 24 February, Mario Argeñal became the target of intimidation and harassment for demanding justice from the authorities for the death of his brother, journalist Carlos Argeñal, who was shot dead at his home in Danlí, department of El Paraíso on 7 December 2013.1

On 4 June, a member of the Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) was kidnapped in Tegucigalpa for two hours; she was physically attacked, almost strangled with a cable and robbed before being released.2

On 27 August, prominent campesino leader Margarita Murillo was shot dead in the community of El Planón, north western Honduras.3

In June, Congress discussed the first draft of the Law to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Defenders and Justice System Workers. In August, following national and international pressure, the draft law was finally shared with civil society. The law was yet to be approved at the end of the year, as was a mechanism for the effective protection of those at risk.

Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendant communities

Indigenous Peoples and Garífuna (Afro-descendant) communities continued to face discrimination and inequality, including in relation to their rights to land, housing, water, health and education. Large-scale projects continued to be carried out on their lands without their consultation or their free, prior and informed consent. Indigenous and Garífuna leaders faced fabricated criminal charges and were the target of attacks and intimidation in reprisal for their work in defence of human rights. On 17 July, members of a Garífuna community in north-eastern Honduras, including human rights defender Miriam Miranda, were temporarily abducted by armed men after discovering an illegal runway used by drug traffickers on the community’s territory.4

Land disputes

Longstanding land disputes between peasant communities and powerful landowners were one of the underlying causes of the high levels of violence faced by campesino communities, such as in the region of Bajo Aguán. In August, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed serious concerns about the situation in Bajo Aguán following a series of violent evictions as well as threats against and arrests of various campesino leaders, who had been beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the Commission in May.

Violence against women

Violence against women and girls was rife. Civil society groups reported 636 femicides in 2013, the highest number since 2005. Since 2013, the Honduran Criminal Code has recognized the crime of femicide. Between December 2013 and January 2014 there was a wave of killings of women sex workers in San Pedro Sula city, northern Honduras.5

Abortion continued to be banned in all circumstances. The government had yet to re-establish the legality of the emergency contraceptive pill, which had been prohibited in 2009 by decree (Acuerdo Ministerial) under the then de facto authorities.

  1. Honduras: Further information – brother of killed journalist at risk (AMR 37/004/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR37/004/2014/en
  2. Honduras: Surveillance and attacks on human rights NGO (AMR 37/007/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR37/007/2014/en
  3. Campesino leader shot dead in Honduras (AMR 37/010/2014) www.amnesty.org/es/library/info/AMR37/010/2014/es
  4. Afro-descendant community at risk in Honduras (AMR 37/009/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR37/009/2014/en
  5. Sex workers targeted and killed in Honduras (AMR 37/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR37/001/2014/en

HUNGARY

Hungary
Head of state: János Áder
Head of government: Viktor Orbán

The government launched smear campaigns against several NGOs for alleged funding irregularities and ordered audits of their accounts. Roma continued to face discrimination in access to health care, housing, and by law enforcement agencies. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the obligatory re-registration of religious organizations violated the right to freedom of religion.

Background

In general elections in April, the ruling Fidesz party secured a two-thirds parliamentary majority with 45% of the vote. The OSCE criticized the government for amending electoral legislation and noted that this and other legislation, including the Constitution, had been amended using procedures that circumvented the requirement for public consultation and debate.

Freedom of association – NGOs

The government adopted an increasingly hostile attitude towards critical civil society groups and NGOs, which they accused of acting in the pay and interests of foreign governments.1 In April 2014, the Chief of the Prime Minister’s cabinet alleged that Norway Grants – a government-backed funding vehicle for social cohesion projects in 16 EU member states – was financing groups linked to opposition parties. The Norwegian government and the NGOs in question dismissed the allegations.

In June, the Prime Minister’s Office ordered the Hungarian Government Control Office (KEHI) to carry out an audit of NGOs involved in distributing and receiving the European Economic Area (EEA)/Norway Grants. The Norwegian government and the NGOs in question strongly contested the legality of the audit, as the funds were not part of the Hungarian state budget and the authority to conduct or order audits of the grants resided with a Financial Mechanism Office in Brussels under bilateral agreements between Hungary and Norway.

In July, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights denounced the government’s “stigmatizing rhetoric… questioning the legitimacy of NGOs”. The Hungarian authorities continued with their allegations against NGOs. In a speech in July the Prime Minister referred to the NGOs involved with the Norway Grants as “paid political activists who are attempting to enforce foreign interests here in Hungary”.

On 8 September, police raided the offices of Ökotárs and Demnet, two of the NGOs responsible for the distribution of the Norway Grants. Their files and computer servers were confiscated. The basis of the police investigation was reportedly allegations of mismanagement of the funds.2

Also in September, the KEHI initiated procedures to suspend the tax numbers of the four NGOs involved in the distribution of Norway Grants, alleging non-co-operation with the government-imposed audit. The NGOs denied the allegations.

In October, the KEHI released a report based on its audit, and announced it would seek criminal sanctions against several NGOs. In December, the suspension of the tax numbers entered into force in the case of at least one of the NGOs in question. The NGOs aimed to challenge the suspension in a court of law.

In July, the first instance court held that the spokesperson of the Fidesz party damaged the reputation of an NGO, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, when he claimed that it was paid by “American speculators… to attack the Hungarian government”. The spokesperson appealed against the decision.

Discrimination – Roma

Roma were subjected to ethnic profiling and disproportionately targeted by the police for minor administrative offences. In September, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child noted that Roma continued to be denied health services, including emergency aid services, and were discriminated against by health practitioners.

About 450 residents of the predominantly Roma neighbourhood known as Numbered Streets, in the city of Miskolc, were put at risk of forced eviction and possible homelessness.3 In May, the local government adopted a decree declaring the houses in the neighbourhood “old and inadequate” and announced that the tenancy agreements would be terminated. The municipality stated that “there was no place for slums” in the city and that its plans to demolish the buildings were supported by 35,000 individuals who signed the petition calling for an eviction. In August, the municipality evicted two families; approximately 50 other families were expecting eviction notices at the end of the year.

Freedom of religion

In September, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights upheld a decision that Hungary violated the right to freedom of religion when it adopted a law in 2011 that required all recognized churches and religious organizations to re-register. The law only allowed them to do so if they could prove that they had existed in Hungary for at least 20 years and had at least 1,000 members. The European Court ruled that the government should reach an agreement with the churches on the restoration of their registration and on just compensation for any damages.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Asylum-seekers were frequently detained pending the determination of their claims. In a report published in May, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) stated that 40% of male first-time asylum-seekers were detained and that the judicial review of asylum detention was ineffective. In September, the HHC reported that in 2013 it observed 262 cases of expelled or returned individuals trying to enter Hungary through the Serbian-Hungarian border.

In September, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child criticized Hungary for holding children seeking asylum and unaccompanied migrant children in administrative detention.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In May, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the possibility of life imprisonment without parole – a provision included in the Constitution of Hungary adopted in 2011 – amounted to an inhuman and degrading punishment.

  1. Hungary: Stop targeting NGOs (EUR 27/002/2014)  www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/8000/eur270022014en.pdf
  2. Hungarian government must end its intimidation of NGOs (EUR 27/004/2014) www.amnesty.eu/content/assets/Doc2014/eur270042014en.pdf
  3. Hungary: Mayor of Miskolc must halt evictions of Roma (Press Release) (EUR 27/003/2014) www.amnesty.eu/en/news/press-releases/eu/hungary-mayor-of-miskolc-must-halt-evictions-of-roma-0771/#.VGowKvmsXu0

India

Republic of India
Head of state: Pranab Mukherjee
Head of government: Narendra Modi (replaced Manmohan Singh in May)

Impunity was widespread for human rights abuses by state and non-state actors. Despite progressive legal reform and court rulings, state authorities often failed to prevent and at times committed crimes against Indian citizens, including children, women, Dalits and Adivasi (Indigenous) people. Arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and extrajudicial executions often went unpunished. The overburdened and underfunded criminal justice system contributed to justice being denied to those who suffered abuses, and to violations of the fair trial rights of the accused. Violence by armed groups in Jammu and Kashmir, northeastern states and areas where Maoist forces operated continued to put civilians at risk.

Background

National elections in May saw a government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party come to power with a landslide victory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who campaigned on promises of good governance and development for all, made commitments to improve access to financial services and sanitation for people living in poverty. However, the government took steps towards reducing requirements to consult with communities affected by corporate-led projects. The authorities continued to violate people’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression. There was a rise in communal violence in Uttar Pradesh and some other states, and corruption, caste-based discrimination and caste violence remained pervasive.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

Arbitrary arrests and detentions of protesters, journalists and human rights defenders persisted. National Human Rights Commission data indicated that 123 illegal arrests and 203 cases of unlawful detention were reported from April to July. The authorities used laws authorizing administrative detention to detain journalists and human rights defenders in custody under executive orders without charge or trial. Adivasi villagers in Maoist-affected areas in central India also remained at risk of being arbitrarily arrested and detained.

“Anti-terror” laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which did not meet international human rights standards, were also used. In May, the Supreme Court acquitted six men convicted under anti-terror laws for attacking the Akshardham temple in Gujarat in 2002, ruling that there was no evidence against them and the investigation had been incompetent.

Abuses by armed groups

Human rights abuses by armed groups were reported in various regions, including Jammu and Kashmir, north-eastern states and central India. Armed groups killed and injured civilians and destroyed property in indiscriminate and at times targeted attacks. Their actions also displaced people. Clashes between security forces and armed Maoist groups led to several civilian deaths.

In the lead-up to national elections in May, armed groups allegedly killed local government officials and electoral officials in Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh states, in order to intimidate voters and disrupt elections.

In January and May, armed groups in Assam were accused of killing dozens of Muslims, and in December, they were accused of killing scores of Adivasis. Armed groups in other north-eastern states were also accused of targeting civilians, instigating violence and causing large-scale displacement.

Children’s rights

In August, the government introduced a bill to Parliament seeking to amend juvenile justice laws to allow for children aged between 16 and 18 to be prosecuted and punished as adults in cases of serious crimes. India’s official child rights and mental health institutions opposed the move.

Protests over the rape of a six-year-old girl in a school in Bangalore in July drew attention to the inadequate enforcement of laws on child sexual abuse.

Incidents of corporal punishment were reported from several states, despite its prohibition under law. Laws requiring private schools to reserve 25% of places at the entry level for children from disadvantaged families were poorly implemented. Dalit and Adivasi children continued to face discrimination in school.

In June, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the disparity in access to education, health care, safe water and sanitation among different groups of children. Child labour and child trafficking remained serious issues. In October, Kailash Satyarthi, a children‘s rights campaigner who works on these issues, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Communal violence

A string of communally charged incidents in Uttar Pradesh prior to elections led to an increase in tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities. Three people were killed in clashes in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh state, in July. Politicians were accused of, and in some cases criminally charged with, making provocative speeches. Communal clashes also occurred in some other states. In December, Hindu groups were accused of forcibly converting several Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.

In January, survivors of violence between Hindus and Muslims in Muzzafarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, in late 2013 were forcibly evicted from relief camps. Investigations into the violence were incomplete. Thousands of people, mainly Muslims, remained displaced at the end of the year.

November marked the 30th anniversary of violence in Delhi in 1984 which led to the massacre of thousands of Sikhs. Hundreds of criminal cases closed by the police citing lack of evidence were not reopened, despite large public demonstrations seeking an end to impunity.

Progress in investigations and trials in cases related to the 2002 violence in Gujarat, which killed at least 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, continued to be slow. In November, the Nanavati-Mehta Commission, appointed in 2002 to investigate the violence, submitted its final report to the Gujarat state government. The report was not made public.

Ethnic clashes over the disputed Nagaland-Assam border in August resulted in the deaths of 10 people and the displacement of over 10,000. Caste-based violence was also reported in several states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Corporate accountability

In September, the Supreme Court cancelled over 200 coal mining licences which it said were granted arbitrarily. The Environment Ministry weakened existing mechanisms for consultation with communities affected by industrial projects, particularly coal mining. The Ministry also lifted moratoriums on new industries in critically polluted areas.

The authorities and businesses failed to meaningfully consult local communities in several instances. In August, a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources conducted a public hearing towards expanding its alumina refinery in Lanjigarh, Odisha state, without addressing existing impacts or adequately informing and consulting affected communities.

In December, the government passed a temporary law which removed requirements related to seeking the consent of affected communities and assessing social impact when state authorities acquired land for certain projects.

Thousands of people remained at risk of being forcibly evicted from their homes and lands for large infrastructure projects. Particularly vulnerable were Adivasi communities living near new and expanding mines and dams.

December marked the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak disaster. Survivors continued to experience serious health problems linked to the leak and to continuing pollution from the factory site. In November, a Bhopal court asked for its criminal summons against the Dow Chemical Company to be re-issued, after the company failed to comply with an earlier summons. Also in November, the Indian government agreed to use medical and scientific data to increase a multi-million US dollar compensation claim against Union Carbide. The Indian government had yet to clean up the contaminated factory site.

Death penalty

In January, the Supreme Court ruled that undue delay in the carrying out of death sentences amounted to torture, and that the execution of people suffering from mental illness would be unconstitutional. The Court also laid down guidelines for safeguarding the rights of people under a sentence of death.

In April, three men were sentenced to death by a Mumbai court under a new law enacted in 2013 which introduced the death penalty for those convicted in multiple cases of rape. In December, the government introduced to Parliament an anti-hijacking bill which seeks to impose the death penalty for hijacking that results in the death of a hostage or security personnel.

Extrajudicial executions

Proceedings continued before the Supreme Court relating to a petition seeking investigations into over 1,500 alleged “fake encounters” – a term referring to staged extrajudicial executions – in Manipur state. Courts in Delhi, Bihar and Punjab convicted police personnel of being involved in fake encounter killings. The National Human Rights Commission ordered compensation for the families of people killed in a number of fake encounters. It also expressed concern about fake encounter killings in Uttar Pradesh by the state police.

In February, the country’s top investigative agency charged former officers of India’s internal intelligence agency with murder and kidnapping in an investigation into a fake encounter case in Gujarat in 2004. The Gujarat and Rajasthan state governments reinstated into service police officers on trial for their alleged involvement in fake encounter cases after they were released on bail from pre-trial detention.

In September, the Supreme Court laid down new requirements for investigations into deaths in encounters with the police, including that the deaths be investigated by a team from a different police station or a separate investigative wing.

Freedom of expression

Laws on criminal defamation and sedition which fell short of international standards were used to harass and persecute journalists, human rights defenders and others for peacefully exercising their right to free expression. The government also used broad and imprecise laws to curb free expression on the internet. Around the general election in May, a number of people were arrested for statements made about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which police said amounted to criminal offences.

The authorities also implemented and expanded large-scale surveillance of telephone and internet communications, without disclosing details of these projects or safeguards to prevent their misuse.

Impunity – security forces

Despite some signs of progress, almost absolute impunity for violations by Indian security forces continued. Legislation providing virtual immunity from prosecution such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Disturbed Areas Act were still in force in Jammu and Kashmir and parts of north-east India, despite ongoing protests.

In January, the army dismissed without trial charges of murder and conspiracy filed against five of its personnel by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The Supreme Court had ruled in 2012 that the army should try its personnel by court-martial for the extrajudicial executions of five villagers from Pathribal, Jammu and Kashmir, in 2000. In September, an army court-martial convicted five soldiers of killing three men in an extrajudicial execution in Machil, Jammu and Kashmir state, in 2010. In November, an army investigation charged nine soldiers in a case involving the killing of two Kashmiri teenagers in Budgam district.

Perpetrators of past violations in Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur, Punjab and Assam continued to evade justice.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

The Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition seeking a review of its ruling in December 2013 which effectively recriminalized consensual same-sex sexual activity by upholding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. In the run-up to the 2014 parliamentary elections, prominent political parties committed to decriminalizing homosexuality.

In April, the Supreme Court granted legal recognition to transgender people in a landmark judgment. It directed authorities to recognize transgender persons’ self-identification as male, female or a “third gender” and put in place social welfare policies and quotas in education and employment. However, cases of harassment and violence against transgender people continued to be reported.

Workers’ rights

The lack of effective regulation of visa brokers and rogue recruiting agents continued to put Indian migrant workers travelling to Middle East countries at risk of human rights abuses including forced labour and human trafficking.

Hundreds of Indian migrants including 46 nurses were stranded in Iraq as fighting between armed groups and the Iraqi government intensified. In June, 39 Indian migrants in Iraq were abducted and were believed to be still held by armed groups at the end of the year.

Bonded labour remained widespread. Millions of people were forced to work as bonded labourers in industries including brick-making, mining, silk and cotton production, and agriculture. A number of cases were reported of domestic workers, mostly women, suffering abuses by their employers.

Prisoners of conscience

Adivasi activists and prisoners of conscience Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi were granted bail by the Supreme Court in February. Soni Sori stood for parliamentary elections in May.

Manipuri activist Irom Sharmila continued her 14-year hunger strike, demanding the repeal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act. She was detained on charges of attempted suicide and was released on 20 August by a court which ruled that the charges were baseless. However, she was rearrested two days later for the same alleged offence.

Prolonged pre-trial detention

Prolonged pre-trial detention and overcrowding in prisons persisted. As of December 2013, over 278,000 prisoners – more than two-thirds of the country’s prison population – were pre-trial detainees. Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims continued to be disproportionately represented in the pre-trial prison population. Indiscriminate arrests, slow investigations and prosecutions, weak legal aid systems and inadequate safeguards against lengthy detention periods contributed to the problem.

In September, the Supreme Court directed district judges to immediately identify and release all pre-trial detainees who had been in prison for over half of the term they would have faced if convicted. Following advocacy by Amnesty International India, the government of Karnataka state directed state authorities to set up review committees to monitor lengthy pre-trial detention.

Freedom of association

Authorities used the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act to harass NGOs and civil society organizations that received funding from abroad. In particular, groups critical of large infrastructure, mining and nuclear power projects faced repeated queries, threats of investigations and blocking of foreign funding by the government.

In June, media organizations reported on a classified document prepared by India’s internal intelligence agency, which described a number of foreign-funded NGOs as “negatively impacting economic development”.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment continued to be used in state detention, particularly against women, Dalits and Adivasis. A deeply flawed anti-torture bill lapsed with the end of the central government’s term in May.

In August, the Bombay High Court directed the installation of closed-circuit television cameras in all police stations in Maharashtra to curb the use of torture.

Women’s rights

Violence against women remained widespread. The authorities did not effectively implement new laws on crimes against women that were enacted in 2013, or undertake important police and judicial reforms to ensure that they were enforced. Rape within marriage was still not recognized as a crime if the wife was over 15 years of age. A number of public officials and political leaders made statements that appeared to justify crimes against women, contributing to a culture of impunity.

Reports of crimes against women rose, but under-reporting was still considered to be widespread. Dalit women and girls continued to face multiple levels of caste-based discrimination and violence. Self-appointed village councils issued illegal decrees ordering punishments against women for perceived social transgressions.

In April, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women drew attention to the inability of the authorities to ensure accountability and redress for survivors of violence. In July, the CEDAW Committee recommended the government allocate resources to set up special courts, complaints procedures and support services to better enforce laws.

In November, 16 women died after participating in a botched mass sterilization drive in Chhattisgarh. The government’s target-driven approach to family planning continued to allow for compromises on the quality of health care and curtailed women’s right to choose appropriate family planning methods.

INDONESIA

Republic of Indonesia
Head of state and government: Joko Widodo (replaced Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in October)

Security forces faced persistent allegations of human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment. Political activists from the Papua region and Maluku province continued to be arrested and imprisoned for their peaceful political expression and at least 60 prisoners of conscience remained imprisoned. Intimidation and attacks against religious minorities continued. A new Islamic Criminal Code by-law in Aceh province, passed in September, increased offences punishable by caning. There was a lack of progress in ensuring truth, justice and reparations for victims of past human rights violations. No executions were reported.

Background

Joko Widodo was inaugurated in October as the new President; he had made pledges during his election campaign to address serious past human rights abuses, protect freedom of religion, reform the police and open up access to the Papua region.1 On 30 April and 1 May, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights reviewed Indonesia’s initial report. In June the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child reviewed Indonesia’s third and fourth periodic reports.

Police and security forces

Reports continued of serious human rights violations by the police and military, including unlawful killings, unnecessary or excessive use of force, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and enforced disappearance.

In February, seven people were tortured or otherwise ill-treated during arrest and interrogation after police and military personnel raided a gathering organized by the armed Papuan pro-independence National Liberation Army in Sasawa village, Yapen Islands district, Papua province. Security officers chained the men’s hands together and beat and kicked them. They were forced to crawl around the village as the beatings continued and at least two men alleged that they were given electric shocks by the police. According to their lawyers, none of the men were involved or had links with the armed pro-independence struggle. They were each charged with rebellion, convicted and sentenced to three and a half years’ imprisonment in November by the Sorong District Court. No independent investigation into the incident had begun by the end of the year.

In March, eight men from the Suku Anak Dalam Indigenous community of Bungku village, Batanghari district, Jambi province, were tortured or otherwise ill-treated after protesting against the operation of a palm oil company near their village. Puji Hartono died from his injuries after his hands were tied behind his back with a rope and he was beaten by military personnel and company security guards. Titus Simanjuntak was stripped and beaten by military personnel and forced to lick his blood stains on the floor while being stepped on. Police officers watched as the abuses took place. In August, the Palembang military court convicted six military personnel of ill-treatment and sentenced them to three months’ imprisonment. At the end of the year, no one was known to have been held accountable for the killing of Puji Hartono.

In October, six military personnel were convicted by a military court in Medan of the abduction and ill-treatment of Dedek Khairudin and sentenced to between 14 and 17 months’ imprisonment. Dedek Khairudin was subjected to enforced disappearance in November 2013 after being detained by a military intelligence officer from the Army Resort Military Command (Korem 011/LW) and at least eight marines from Pangkalan Brandan region in North Sumatra province. His whereabouts remained unclarified at the end of the year.

In December, at least four men were killed and over a dozen injured when security forces, both police and military, allegedly opened fire on a crowd that was protesting at the Karel Gobai field near the Paniai District Military Command in Papua province. The crowd was protesting against soldiers from the Special Team Battalion 753 who had allegedly beaten a child from Ipakije village. No one had been held accountable for the attack by the end of the year.

Freedom of expression

Cases continued to be documented of the arrest and detention of peaceful political activists, particularly in areas with a history of pro-independence movements such as Papua and Maluku.

On 25 April, 10 political activists from Maluku province were arrested by police for planning to commemorate the anniversary of the Republic of South Maluku (RMS) movement’s declaration of independence and carrying “Benang Raja” flags – a prohibited symbol of the movement. Nine of them were subsequently charged with “rebellion” under Articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code (crimes against the security of the state). Their trial began in September and had not been completed by the end of the year.

Two French journalists were arrested on 6 August in Wamena, Papua province, after making a documentary on the separatist movement in the Papuan region. In October, they were convicted by the Jayapura District Court of immigration violations and sentenced to four months’ imprisonment. Areki Wanimbo, Head of the Lani Besar Tribal Council (Dewan Adat) who had met the two journalists, was also arrested by police on the same day and accused of supporting separatist activities. He was later charged with “rebellion” and was awaiting trial at the end of the year.

At least nine people remained detained or imprisoned under blasphemy laws solely for their religious views or the manifestation of their beliefs, or for the lawful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.2

In June, Abraham Sujoko was convicted by the Dompu District Court in West Nusa Tenggara province for “defamation of religion” under Article 27(3) of the Information and Electronic Transaction Law. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 3,500,000 rupiah (US$288). Abraham Sujoko had posted a video of himself on YouTube saying that the Ka’bah (an Islamic holy shrine in Mecca) was a “mere stone idol”, and had urged Muslims not to face it while praying.

Freedom of religion

Harassment, intimidation and attacks against religious minorities persisted, fuelled by discriminatory laws and regulations at both national and local levels.

In May, the Bekasi city authority issued a decree to close the Al-Misbah Ahmadiyya mosque in Bekasi, West Java province, referring to a 2008 Joint Ministerial Decree forbidding the Ahmadiyya community from promoting their activities and spreading their religious teachings. The Bekasi local government police then locked and sealed the mosque. On 26 June, the local government in Ciamis district, West Java province, closed down the Nur Khilafat Ahmadiyya mosque, citing the need to “maintain religious harmony” and to stop the spread of a “deviant interpretation of Islamic teaching”. Days before, hundreds of supporters of hardline Islamist groups had protested outside the office of the local district chief demanding the closure of the mosque. In October, the local government in Depok district, West Java, closed down the Al-Hidayah Ahmadiyya mosque to prevent “social disharmony”.

By the end of the year, a displaced Shi’a community from Sampang, East Java, who were attacked and evicted by an anti-Shi’a mob in 2012, remained in temporary accommodation in Sidoarjo and prevented from returning to their homes. The authorities failed to provide remedies for a displaced Ahmadiyya community in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, forcibly evicted by a mob from their homes in 2006.

Concerns about the “forced relocation of religious minorities, particularly Shi’a and Ahmadiyya communities, which were instigated by mobs and based on religious incitement” were raised by the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing in March. In May, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights raised concerns about the situation of several groups, including displaced religious communities, which suffered “multiple discriminations”.

In November, the newly elected Minister of Religious Affairs and the Minister of Home Affairs both stated that the government would make the protection of minority rights one of its priorities.

Impunity

Victims of past human rights violations and abuses continued to demand justice, truth and reparation for crimes under international law which occurred under the rule of former President Suharto (1965-1998) and during the subsequent reformasi period. These included unlawful killings, rape and other crimes of sexual violence, enforced disappearances, and torture and other ill-treatment. No progress was reported on numerous cases of alleged gross violations of human rights that were submitted by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to the Attorney General’s office after a preliminary pro-justicia inquiry was conducted by the Commission.

Former President Yudhoyono failed to act on certain recommendations by Parliament from 2009: to bring to justice those involved in the enforced disappearance of 13 pro-democracy activists in 1997 and 1998, to conduct an immediate search for activists who had disappeared, and to provide rehabilitation and compensation to their families.

By the end of the year, Komnas HAM had completed only two out of five pro-justicia inquiries into “gross human rights violations” during the Aceh conflict (1989-2005). These included the 1999 Simpang KKA incident in North Aceh when the military shot dead 21  protesters, and the Jamboe Keupok case in South Aceh where four people were shot dead and 12 burned alive by soldiers in May 2003.

An Aceh Truth and Reconciliation by-law (qanun) passed in December 2013 was not implemented. No progress was reported on a new law on a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

More than 10 years after the murder of prominent human rights defender Munir Said Thalib, the authorities had failed to bring all the perpetrators to justice.

The government failed to implement recommendations made by the bilateral Indonesia-Timor-Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship, in particular to establish a commission for disappeared persons tasked with identifying the whereabouts of all children from Timor-Leste who were separated from their parents around the 1999 independence referendum.

Cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment

At least 76  people were caned in Aceh for Shari’a offences including gambling, drinking alcohol and adultery during the year. In September, the Aceh parliament passed a new by-law, the Islamic Criminal Code, which expanded the use of caning as punishment to other “crimes”, including same-sex sexual relations and intimacy between unmarried couples. There were concerns that the definition and evidentiary procedures related to the offence of rape and sexual abuse in the by-law did not meet international human rights standards. The Aceh Islamic Criminal Code applied to Muslims in Aceh province. Non-Muslims could also be convicted under the by-law of offences not currently covered by the Indonesian Criminal Code.

Women’s rights

By the end of the year, the House of Representatives had yet to pass a Domestic Worker Protection Bill, leaving millions of domestic workers, the majority of them women and girls, vulnerable to economic exploitation and human rights abuses.

Sexual and reproductive rights

In February the Ministry of Health issued a new regulation withdrawing a 2010 regulation authorizing certain medical practitioners, such as doctors, midwives and nurses, to conduct “female circumcision”. By the end of the year, the government had yet to pass specific legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation.

Government Regulation No. 61/2014 on Reproductive Health, an implementing regulation to the 2009 Health Law, was issued in July 2014, restricting to 40 days the time period for rape survivors to access legal abortion. It was feared that this shortened timeframe would prevent many rape survivors from being able to access safe legal abortion.

Death penalty

No executions were reported. At least two death sentences were handed down during the year and at least 140 people remained under sentence of death.

  1. Indonesia: Setting the agenda – human rights priorities for the new government (ASA 21/011/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA21/011/2014/en
  2. Prosecuting beliefs: Indonesia’s blasphemy laws (ASA 21/018/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA21/018/2014/en

IRAN

Islamic Republic of Iran
Head of state: Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei (Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran)
Head of government: Hassan Rouhani (President)

The authorities restricted freedoms of expression, association and assembly, arresting, detaining and prosecuting in unfair trials minority and women’s rights activists, journalists, human rights defenders and others who voiced dissent. Torture and other ill-treatment remained prevalent and were committed with impunity. Women and ethnic and religious minorities faced pervasive discrimination in law and practice. Flogging and amputation sentences were reportedly carried out, some in public. Executions continued at a high rate; juvenile offenders were among those executed. Judges continued to impose sentences of execution by stoning, although none were reported to have been carried out.

Background

The June 2013 election of Hassan Rouhani as President raised hopes that his administration would introduce much needed human rights reforms, but little had been achieved by the end of 2014. Attempts by the administration to relax official controls on academic freedom, for example, prompted a backlash from conservatives within parliament.

Negotiations continued between Iran and the USA and other states amid persistent tensions over Iran’s nuclear development programme and the impact on Iran of international financial and other sanctions. In November 2013, an interim agreement had brought Iran some relief from these sanctions in return for concessions on nuclear enrichment.

A Charter of Citizens’ Rights proposed by the presidency and opened for consultation in 2013 remained in draft form throughout 2014. It failed to afford adequate protection of human rights, in particular the rights to life, non-discrimination, and protection from torture.

The UN Human Rights Council renewed the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran in March but the Iranian authorities continued to block visits to Iran by him or other UN Human Rights Council experts.

In October, the UN Human Rights Council considered Iran’s human rights record under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. The Council noted Iran’s dire human rights situation and the authorities’ failure to implement the recommendations they had accepted following the 2010 UPR. Iran withheld its position on all the recommendations made until the next session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2015.

Freedoms of expression, association and assembly

The authorities maintained curbs on freedom of expression and the media, including by jamming foreign satellite broadcasting and closing media outlets. Authorities retained the mandatory dress code for women and the criminalization of dress code violations under the Islamic Penal Code. Opposition figures, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karoubi and Zahra Rahnavard remained under house arrest without charge or trial, despite their deteriorating health.1 Scores of prisoners of conscience were serving prison terms for peacefully exercising their human rights. Among them were government critics, journalists, lawyers, trade unionists, student activists, and minority and women’s rights activists.

The authorities continued to target journalists, who faced arrest, detention, imprisonment and flogging for critical reporting of the authorities.2 In August, two photographers who criticized in writing a book of photographs published by a government official in the city of Qazvin, northwest Iran, were sentenced to floggings.

Online activists also faced prosecution. In May, a Revolutionary Court in Tehran convicted eight people on charges including “insulting religious sanctities” and “insulting the authorities” for posts on the website Facebook, and sentenced them to prison terms of between seven and 20 years.

Although the Supreme Leader, President Rouhani and other senior officials all used social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to communicate, the authorities continued to filter such websites. In September, a senior judiciary official instructed the Minister of Communications and Information Technology to take measures within a month to “block and effectively control the content” of social media websites after the circulation of jokes deemed offensive to the former Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. The authorities said they had arrested 11 people in relation to the jokes.

In October, authorities in the cities of Tehran and Esfahan arrested protesters who were demanding an end to violence against women following a series of acid attacks against women in Esfahan. One of those arrested remained in detention at the end of the year. At least four journalists were also arrested in connection with their coverage of the acid attacks.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment, particularly during pre-trial detention, remained common, facilitated by routine denial of access to lawyers and the virtual impunity of perpetrators. Methods reported included prolonged solitary confinement, confinement in uncomfortably small spaces, severe beatings, and threats against detainees’ family members. The authorities generally failed to investigate allegations of torture and prosecute and punish those responsible.

The authorities systematically denied detainees and prisoners access to adequate medical care, including for injuries resulting from torture or health problems exacerbated by harsh prison conditions.

A revised Code of Criminal Procedure passed in April failed to address the inadequacy of national laws to afford detainees effective protection against torture and other ill-treatment. It denied detainees access to lawyers for up to one week after arrest in cases concerning national security and some other offences, and provided no clear and comprehensive definition of torture conforming to international law.

State security and intelligence agencies operated their own detention facilities outside the control of the State Prison Organization, in breach of national law. Torture and other ill-treatment was common in these facilities. In some cases, the authorities subjected death row prisoners to enforced disappearance by moving them to such facilities prior to execution.

Sentences of flogging and amputations continued to be imposed for a wide range of offences, including alcohol consumption, eating in public during Ramadan, and theft. These sentences were increasingly implemented in public.

In April, security officials assaulted prisoners held in Section 350 of Tehran’s Evin Prison during a search of their cells, beating and injuring many of them. The authorities reportedly failed to investigate the incident or prosecute and punish the perpetrators.3 In August, authorities reportedly used excessive force against inmates of Ghezel Hesar Prison in the city of Karaj who protested against the transfer of 14 death row prisoners to solitary confinement prior to execution.

Unfair trials

The judiciary continued to lack independence and remained subject to interference by the security authorities. Trials, particularly those before Revolutionary Courts, were largely unfair.

The new Code of Criminal Procedure enhanced detainees’ access to lawyers but did not guarantee access from the time of arrest, required to help safeguard detainees against torture. The Code allowed prosecutors to prevent lawyers accessing some or all of the case documents against their clients if they determine that disclosure would impede “discovery of the truth”, and in cases relating to national or external security, hindering the right to adequately prepare a defence. In August, Parliament’s Judicial and Legal Commission submitted a bill proposing postponement of the Code’s planned entry into force in October, due to the “existence of serious problems and barriers for [its] implementation”. Additionally, the bill, in a regressive move, proposed amendments to 19 articles, which largely aimed to reverse the improvements made in the new Code including with regard to access to lawyers.

Courts continued to convict defendants in the absence of defence lawyers or on the basis of “confessions” or other evidence obtained through torture or other ill-treatment. In some cases, the authorities broadcast detainees’ “confessions” on television before trial, breaching the presumption of innocence.

In September, the cabinet passed a Bill of Attorneyship, drafted by the judiciary, and submitted it to Parliament for approval. The draft bill discriminated against non-Muslims by disqualifying them from membership of the Board of Directors of the Iranian Bar Association, and threatened the independence of the Association.

Discrimination – ethnic and religious minorities

President Rouhani’s appointment of a special adviser on ethnic and religious minorities did not result in a reduction in the pervasive discrimination against Iran’s ethnic minority communities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijanis, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen, or against religious minorities, including Ahl-e Haq, Baha’is, Christian converts, Sufis and Sunni Muslims.

Discrimination against ethnic minorities affected their access to basic services such as housing, water and sanitation, employment and education. Ethnic minorities were not permitted to use their minority language as a medium of instruction in education and were denied adequate opportunities to learn it.

Members of ethnic minority groups also faced a high risk of prosecution on vague charges such as “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth”, which could carry the death penalty. The authorities secretly executed at least eight Ahwazi Arabs after they were convicted on charges that included “enmity against God” after grossly unfair trials, and refused to hand over their bodies to their families. By October, the authorities held at least 33 Sunni men, mostly members of the Kurdish minority, on death row on charges of “gathering and colluding against national security”, “ spreading propaganda against the system”, “membership of Salafist groups”, “corruption on Earth” and “enmity against God”. Converts from Shi’a to Sunni Islam faced increased persecution.4

In December, the authorities used threats of immediate execution and other punitive measures against 24 Kurdish prisoners who were on hunger strike in protest against conditions in Ward 12 of Oroumieh Central Prison, West Azerbaijan Province, where they and other political prisoners were held.5

 The authorities subjected Baha’is to further persecution by closing down their businesses and destroying their cemeteries. Dozens of Baha’is remained in prison.

In September, the authorities arrested over 800 Gonabadi Dervishes at a peaceful protest held in Tehran in solidarity with nine imprisoned Gonabadi Dervishes who were on hunger strike. The hunger strikers had demanded that the authorities respect the civil rights of Gonabadi Dervishes and treat them as equal members of society.6

Dissident Shi’a clerics and others who expressed alternatives to the official interpretation of Shi’a Islam, as well as atheists, remained at risk of persecution, including arrest, imprisonment and possible execution.

Women’s rights

Women remained subject to widespread and systematic discrimination in law and practice. Personal status laws giving women subordinate status to men in matters such as marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance remained in force.

Two population-related draft bills under parliamentary consideration threatened to reduce women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services, thereby affecting their rights to life, privacy, gender equality and the freedom to decide the number and spacing of their children. One draft bill aimed to prevent surgical procedures aimed at permanently preventing pregnancies by imposing disciplinary measures on health professionals who conducted such procedures. The other bill sought to reduce divorces and remove family disputes from judicial decision-making, hence prioritizing preservation of families over addressing domestic violence. Neither law had been enacted by the end of the year. A proposed law to afford women protection against violence made no progress and the authorities failed to take steps to address violence against women and girls, including early and forced marriages, marital rape and domestic violence.

Women also faced restrictions on employment. Official statistics from September showed that the number of women in employment had fallen by 100,000 annually over the previous eight years. In August, the Head of the Public Buildings Office of the Police said that no women should be employed in coffee shops or traditional Iranian restaurants except in their kitchens, out of public view. In July, the Tehran Municipality reportedly prohibited its managers from recruiting women to secretarial and other administrative posts. Official efforts to create gender-segregated workplaces intensified.

Authorities had also banned women musicians from appearing on stage in 13 of Iran’s 31 provinces by the end of the year. In June, security authorities arrested women who participated in a peaceful protest outside Azadi Stadium, a Tehran sports venue, to demand equal access by women to sport stadiums.7

Right to privacy

All sexual conduct between unmarried individuals remained criminalized.

The authorities continued to persecute individuals on account of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. The revised Islamic Penal Code maintained provisions criminalizing all consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. The Code made such conduct subject to punishments ranging from 100 lashes to the death penalty.

Iranian authorities blocked and banned publication of any material discussing homosexuality or sexual conduct outside heterosexual marriages, using the Cyber Crimes Law’s provisions on “ crimes against chastity” and “ sexual perversion”.

Individuals who did not conform to stereotypical norms of femininity and masculinity continued to face discrimination and violence. Transgender individuals were denied legal gender recognition and were denied their rights, including to education and employment, unless they underwent gender reassignment surgeries. In February, Iran’s official Football Federation barred seven women footballers from competition on grounds of their “ gender ambiguity”.

Right to education

The authorities continued to restrict the right to education, maintaining the exclusion of hundreds of students from Iran’s universities because of their peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression or other human rights, and systematically denying Baha’is access to higher education. Dozens of other students and academics, including some associated with the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education suppressed by the government in 2011, remained in prison. Efforts by the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology to allow some banned students and academic staff to return to universities did not result in concrete measures to end arbitrary exclusions of students from higher education.8 Such attempts were opposed by conservatives within Parliament.

The gender quota system used by the authorities to reverse the trend towards greater participation by women in higher education remained in place, but saw some relaxation in the 2013-2014 academic year. Official policies aimed at keeping women at home pursuing “traditional” roles as wives and mothers continued.

Death penalty

Iran retained the death penalty for a wide range of offences, including vaguely defined crimes such as “enmity against God”, and 2014 saw the authorities maintain a high rate of execution. Some executions were carried out in public.

Under the revised Islamic Penal Code, courts continued to impose death sentences for offences that did not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” under international law, and others such as “insulting the Prophet of Islam”, that should not be considered crimes.9

In many cases, courts imposed death sentences after proceedings that failed to respect international fair trial standards, including by accepting as evidence “confessions” elicited under torture or other ill-treatment. Detainees were frequently denied access to lawyers during pre-trial investigations.10

Scores of juvenile offenders, including some sentenced in previous years for crimes committed under the age of 18, remained on death row, and others were executed. Courts sentenced further juvenile offenders to death.11 The revised Islamic Penal Code allowed the execution of juvenile offenders for qesas (retribution-in-kind) and hodoud (offences carrying fixed penalties prescribed by Islamic law) unless it is determined that the offender did not understand the nature of the crime or its consequences, or the offender’s mental capacity is in doubt. International law prohibits the death penalty for children under 18.

The revised Islamic Penal Code also retained the penalty of stoning to death for the offence of “adultery while married”. At least one stoning sentence was reported to have been imposed in Ghaemshahr, Mazandaran province; no executions by stoning were reported.

  1. Iran: Release opposition leaders under house arrest three years on (MDE 13/009/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/009/2014/en
  2. Jailed for being a journalist (MDE 13/044/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/044/2014/en Iran: Iranian-American detained for journalism (MDE 13/065/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/065/2014/en
  3. Justice is an alien word: Ill-treatment of political prisoners in Evin Prison (MDE 13/023/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/023/2014/en
  4. Iran: No progress on human rights: Amnesty International Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, October-November 2014 (MDE 13/034/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/034/2014/en
  5. Iran: Alleged juvenile offender among 10 hunger strikers threatened with immediate execution (News story)www.amnestyusa.org/news/news-item/iran-alleged-juvenile-offender-among-10-hunger-strikers-threatened-with-immediate-execution
  6. Iran: Hunger striking Dervishes critically ill (MDE 13/051/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/051/2014/en
  7. Iran: Jailed for women’s right to watch sports (MDE 13/048/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/048/2014/en
  8. Silenced, expelled, imprisoned: Repression of students and academics in Iran (/015/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/015/2014/en
  9. Iran: Facing death for “insulting the Prophet”: Rouhollah Tavana (MDE 13/012/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/012/2014/en Iran: Death sentence for “insulting the Prophet”: Soheil Arabi (MDE 13/064/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/064/2014/en
  10. Execution of young woman a bloody stain on Iran’s human rights record www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/iran-execution-young-woman-another-bloody-stain-human-rights-record
  11. Iran: Juvenile offender at risk of execution in Iran: Rasoul Holoumi (MDE 13/040/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/040/2014/en; Iran: Juvenile offender nearing execution (MDE 13/0037/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/037/2014/en; Iran: Kurdish juvenile offender facing execution: Saman Naseem (MDE 13/049/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/049/2014/en

Iraq

Republic of Iraq
Head of state: Fuad Masum (replaced Jalal Talabani in July)
Head of government: Haider al-Abadi (replaced Nuri al-Maliki in September)

There was a marked deterioration in human rights as armed conflict intensified between government security forces and fighters of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) armed group, which gained control of large parts of central and northern Iraq. IS fighters committed widespread war crimes, including ethnic cleansing of religious and ethnic minorities through a campaign of mass killings of men and abduction and sexual and other abuse of women and girls. Government forces carried out indiscriminate bombing and shelling in IS-controlled areas, and government-backed Shi’a militias abducted and executed scores of Sunni men in areas under government control. The conflict caused the deaths of some 10,000 civilians between January and October, forcibly displaced almost 2 million people and created a humanitarian crisis. This was exacerbated by the continuing influx of thousands of refugees from Syria, mostly to Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region. The government continued to hold thousands of detainees without charge or trial, many of them in secret detention with no access to the outside world. Torture and other ill-treatment in detention remained rife, and many trials were unfair. Courts passed many death sentences, mostly on terrorism charges; more than 1,000 prisoners were on death row, and executions continued at a high rate.

Background

Armed conflict flared in January between government security forces and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) armed group, a month after the authorities forcibly dispersed a year-long protest camp set up by members of the Sunni community in Ramadi, Anbar province. Government forces used indiscriminate shelling to regain control over Fallujah and parts of Ramadi from ISIS, killing civilians and causing damage to civilian infrastructure. Anbar province remained in conflict throughout the year amid allegations that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had undermined efforts by tribal leaders to broker a solution.

The government’s failure to resolve the crisis, among other factors, left Anbar unable to stem the rapid military advance of ISIS, whose fighters seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June and then much of Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninevah and Salah al-Din provinces. This sparked a dramatic resurgence in sectarian tensions and massive displacement of communities at risk from armed attacks by ISIS or government air strikes. Ethnic and religious minorities were particularly targeted by ISIS, which forced all non-Sunni and non-Muslims out of the areas under its control.

On 30 June, ISIS declared a “caliphate”, renamed itself Islamic State (IS) under the leadership of Iraqi-born Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, and called on Muslims around the world to declare allegiance to him.

In August, IS fighters seized control of the Sinjar region, killing and abducting large numbers of its Yezidi inhabitants who were unable to flee. Following IS advances and the public beheading of UK and US nationals in IS captivity, a US-led international coalition of 40 countries began air strikes against IS in August, and increased military support and training to Iraqi government forces and Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting against IS.

Parliamentary elections took place in April amid violence that saw two members of the Independent High Electoral Commission and at least three candidates killed, and attacks by gunmen on polling stations in Anbar, Diyala and other predominantly Sunni areas. Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, mostly Shi’a, won the largest bloc of seats but he did not secure a third term as Prime Minister and was replaced in September, following domestic and foreign demands for a more inclusive government.

The proposed Ja’fari Law, intended as a personal status law for Shi’a communities in Iraq, was withdrawn after widespread criticism that it could undermine the rights of women and girls, including by legalizing marriage for girls as young as nine.

Tension between the Baghdad authorities and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the north eased following an interim agreement in November over oil revenues and KRG contributions to the federal budget.

Internal armed conflict

Government forces and Shi’a militias armed and backed by the government committed war crimes and human rights violations, predominantly targeting Sunni communities. In Anbar, Mosul and other areas under IS control, government forces carried out indiscriminate air strikes in civilian areas, including with barrel bombs, that killed and injured civilians. In September, Prime Minister al-Abadi called on the security forces to cease all shelling of civilian areas, but air strikes in IS-controlled areas continued, with ensuing civilian casualties.

Security forces and Shi’a militias abducted or detained Sunnis and carried out scores of extrajudicial executions with impunity. In areas where they regained control from IS, they also destroyed homes and businesses of Sunni residents, in reprisal for the alleged support for IS by members of those communities. KRG Peshmerga forces also carried out reprisal destruction of homes of Sunni Arab residents in areas they recaptured from IS.

Abuses by armed groups

Armed groups carried out indiscriminate suicide and car bomb attacks throughout Iraq, killing and injuring thousands of civilians. As they gained control of much of northwestern Iraq, IS fighters embarked on a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in which they committed war crimes, including mass summary killings and abductions that targeted religious and ethnic minorities, including Christians, Yezidis, Shi’a Turkmen and Shi’a Shabaks.

Hundreds of detainees, mainly Shi’a, were killed by IS fighters who seized Badush Central Prison, west of Mosul, in June. In July, IS fighters forced thousands of Christians from their homes and communities, threatening them with death unless they converted to Islam, and in August carried out deadly mass attacks against the Yezidi minority. IS fighters who attacked the Sinjar region abducted thousands of Yezidi civilians, summarily killing hundreds of men and boys as young as 12 in Qiniyeh, Kocho and other villages. Hundreds, possibly thousands, including entire families remained missing. Hundreds of women and girls were subjected to sexual abuse.

IS fighters also killed members of the Sunni community they suspected of opposing them or of working for the government, its security forces or previously for US forces in Iraq. In October, IS killed over 320 members of the Sunni Albu Nimr tribe in Anbar as the government sought to mobilize and arm Sunni tribes to fight against IS.

IS fighters carried out summary killings of hundreds of people they captured, including government soldiers. In June, they summarily executed more than 1,000 soldiers and army volunteers taken prisoner as they fled unarmed from Camp Speicher, a major military base in Tikrit. IS posted video footage of some of the killings on the internet.

IS forces destroyed or desecrated historical sites and places of worship across all ethnic and religious communities, established Shari’a courts in areas they controlled and called for those who had worked for the government or US forces to repent. They issued strict rules on individual behaviour, requiring women and girls to wear face veils and to be with a male relative outside the home, segregating males and females at schools and workplaces, and banning smoking and “western-style” activities and lifestyles.

Violence against women and girls

Women and girls, mainly from the Yezidi community, were abducted by IS fighters and subjected to forced marriage, rape and other sexual abuses. They were also reportedly sold as slaves and sexually exploited, both within Iraq and in IS-controlled areas of neighbouring Syria. By November, more than 200 women and chidren, some only a few months old, had managed to escape from IS captivity. Among them was an 18-year-old woman who was abducted with other relatives when IS fighters raided the Sinjar area in August and forcibly “married” to an IS fighter who repeatedly raped her and beat her after she tried to escape. She escaped together with a girl aged 15 who had also been abducted and given to an IS fighter as a “wife”. Other women were victims of unlawful execution-style killings for criticizing the IS or disobeying its orders. In October, IS killed a former parliamentarian, Iman Muhammad Younes, after holding her in captivity for weeks.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

The authorities held thousands of detainees without charge or trial under provisions of the anti-terrorism law. In February, the head of the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee alleged that around 40,000 detainees remained in prison awaiting investigations. Many were held in prisons and detention centres run by various government ministries.

A letter sent by the Central Investigation Court to the Head of the Supreme Judicial Council in 2013, published in April 2014, reported that authorities continued to carry out unlawful arrests using a list containing partial names of thousands of suspects that the Anti-terrorism General Directorate had sent to police stations in connection with sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007. This was believed to have led to the detention of the wrong people on the basis that part of their names corresponded to partial names on the list.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment remained common and widespread in prisons and detention centres, particularly those controlled by the Ministries of the Interior and Defence, and were committed with impunity. These centres were blocked to inspection by the Independent High Commission for Human Rights. Interrogators tortured detainees to extract information and “confessions” for use against them at trial; sometimes detainees were tortured to death. Government representatives attending the Universal Periodic Review of Iraq at the UN Human Rights Council said the authorities had investigated 516 torture cases between 2008 and 2014, with many resulting in prosecutions, but provided no details and did not identify the security agencies responsible.

’Uday Taha Kurdi, a lawyer and father of two, died in June after 15 days of detention by Anti-terrorism General Directorate officials in Baghdad. In a letter to the Iraqi Lawyers’ Union in July, the Ministry of the Interior said that ’Uday Taha Kurdi had suffered a “health problem” in detention and had been taken to hospital, where he died. The Ministry also said that a judge had concluded that ’Uday Taha Kurdi, whose brother was held on terrorism charges, was “from the IS leadership” and belonged to “a terrorist family”, and that he had told the judge, when asked, that he had not been tortured. The Supreme Judicial Council said his death resulted from kidney failure, not torture as alleged. However, photographs of ’Uday Taha Kurdi’s body taken at the morgue and obtained by Amnesty International showed that he had sustained bruises, open wounds and burns – consistent with allegations of torture – prior to his death.

Unfair trials

The criminal justice system remained deeply flawed. The judiciary lacked independence. Judges and lawyers involved in trials of members of armed groups continued to be targets for killings, abductions and assaults by armed groups. Trials, particularly of defendants facing terrorism charges, were frequently unfair; courts returned guilty verdicts on the basis of torture-tainted “confessions”, which were often broadcast on the government-controlled al-Iraqiya TV channel. Other guilty verdicts were based on evidence from secret, unidentified informants, including in cases that resulted in death sentences.

In November, a Baghdad court sentenced former leading Sunni parliamentarian Ahmed al-‘Alwani to death on terrorism-related charges after a grossly unfair trial. Security forces had arrested him in December 2013 after they forcibly dispersed a year-long protest in Anbar.

Freedom of expression

Journalists worked in extremely hazardous conditions and faced threats from both state and non-state actors. Some were victims of targeted killings or assassination attempts; others were physically assaulted.

In March, Mohammad Bdaiwi al-Shammari, a university professor and Baghdad Bureau Chief for Radio Free Iraq, was shot dead at a checkpoint in Baghdad by a Presidential Guards officer during an argument over access to the presidential complex. In August, a court sentenced the officer to life imprisonment.

In June, the government-controlled Communications and Media Commission issued “mandatory” guidelines regulating media activities “during the war on terror”, demanding that media outlets not make public information about insurgent forces, and requiring them to not criticize government forces and to report on government forces only in favourable terms.

Journalists were abducted and executed by IS in areas under their control. In October, Ra’ad Mohammed Al-‘Azawi, cameraman for Sama Salah al-Din TV Channel, was beheaded in Samarra, after a month in captivity, reportedly for refusing to co-operate with IS.

Internally displaced people

Almost 2 million people were forced from their homes due to the fighting in the Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninevah and Salah al-Din provinces, with half of them fleeing to Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, which by November was also hosting some 225,000 refugees from Syria. Thousands of Iraqi refugees returned to Iraq from Syria and elsewhere but could not return to their homes, swelling the number of internally displaced persons.

The unprecedented scale of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq led the UN to categorize it at the highest level of emergency and advised governments to afford international protection to Iraqi asylum-seekers and safeguard them from forcible return.

Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Although Kurdish Peshmerga forces battled against IS in several areas of northern Iraq, the three provinces that comprise the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region remained largely immune from the violence engulfing much of the rest of Iraq until November, when a car bomb exploded outside an Erbil governorate building killing at least four and injuring 22 others.

The KRG authorities continued to target those who openly criticized official corruption or expressed dissent. The executive authorities continued to interfere in the judiciary, influencing trials. Incidents of torture and other ill-treatment continued to be reported. People arrested on terrorism charges were held incommunicado without access to family or lawyers for prolonged periods.

KRG authorities continued to detain journalist Niaz Aziz Saleh, held since January 2012 for allegedly disclosing details of election rigging, without charge or trial. General Security (Asayish Gishti) in Erbil reportedly refused repeatedly to take him to court to stand trial.

Death penalty

Courts continued to impose death sentences for a range of crimes. Most of the defendants had been convicted on terrorism-related charges, often after unfair trials. In April, the Justice Ministry said 600 prisoners were on death row at al-Nassiriya Prison alone, where new execution facilities were installed. In August, the Justice Minister said that a total of 1,724 prisoners were awaiting execution, including some whose sentences had still to be finally confirmed.

The authorities continued to carry out large numbers of executions, including multiple executions. On 21 January, the authorities executed 26 prisoners less than a week after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Iraqi authorities to impose a moratorium on executions. Rebuffing this call during a joint press conference with Ban Ki-moon, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that his government did “ not believe that the rights of someone who kills people must be respected”.

Ireland

Republic of Ireland
Head of state: Michael D. Higgins
Head of government: Enda Kenny

Abortion legislation and guidance failed to comply with Ireland’s human rights obligations. Transgender individuals faced barriers to legal gender recognition. Responses to victims of past institutional abuse fell below adequate standards of truth, justice and reparations.

Sexual and reproductive rights

The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act (the Act) was enacted in 2013 to respond to the 2010 European Court of Human Rights decision in A, B and C v. Ireland, with the stated aim of ensuring pregnant women’s or girls’ access to abortion when there is a “real and substantial risk” to their life as permitted under the Constitution. Neither the Act nor related guidance published in September 2014 provided sufficient assistance to medical professionals in assessing when a pregnancy posed such a risk to life, or adequately protected the rights of the pregnant woman or girl. In December, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers closed its examination of the implementation of the A, B and C v. Ireland decision.1

The Act recriminalized abortion in all other circumstances, with a potential penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.

In July, the UN Human Rights Committee criticized the criminalization of abortion, and the Act’s requirements of excessive scrutiny of pregnant and suicidal women or girls which could lead to further mental distress. The Committee called on Ireland to revise its laws, including its Constitution, to provide for access to abortion in cases of rape, incest, serious risks to the health of the woman or girl, and fatal foetal impairment.

Discrimination

Transgender people

In December the government published a bill proposing legislative provision for legal gender recognition.2 The bill’s proposals fell short of human rights standards, including by requiring transgender individuals to dissolve their marriages or civil partnerships before applying for legal gender recognition.3

People with disabilities

Independent registration and inspections of residential care centres for people with disabilities began in November 2013. In December 2014, a current affairs television programme revealed secretly recorded evidence of abusive treatment, and denial of basic rights and autonomy, of three people in one centre, raising wider concerns about other centres.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

There were continuing delays in the determination of individuals’ asylum or other protection needs, with many people remaining for years in ”direct provision” accommodation unsuitable for long-stay residence, especially for families, children and victims of torture.

Violence against women and children

In February 2013, the government published a report purporting to clarify the state’s interaction with the religious-run “Magdalene Laundries”. The report and the ex gratia compensation scheme announced thereafter fell below adequate standards of truth, justice and reparations.4

In June, following international outcry at allegations of past abuses of women and children in so-called ”mother and baby homes”, operated by religious orders with state funding between the 1920s and 1990s, the government committed to establishing an independent Commission of Investigation.5

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

In July legislation was enacted creating the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission as the new National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), the result of a merger between the Irish Human Rights Commission (the former NHRI) and Ireland’s equality body. The legislation contained two definitions of human rights, limiting the new NHRI’s enforcement and powers to a narrow definition which excluded the majority of economic, social and cultural rights.

The government-appointed Constitutional Convention recommended several amendments to the Constitution, including providing for equal access to civil marriage for same-sex couples and removing the offence of blasphemy; the government accepted both recommendations and committed to putting them to referendum in 2015. In February, the Convention recommended constitutional incorporation of economic, social and cultural rights.

Ireland ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure in September.

In December, the government requested that the European Court of Human Rights review its 1978 judgment in Ireland v. United Kingdom, a landmark case concerning the torture and ill-treatment of 14 Irish nationals held by UK authorities under internment powers in Northern Ireland during 1971-72 (see UK entry).6

  1. Ireland: Submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Pre-sessional working group (EUR 29/003/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR29/003/2014/en
  2. The state decides who I am: Lack of legal gender recognition for transgender people in Europe (EUR 01/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR01/001/2014/en
  3. The state decides who I am: Lack of legal gender recognition for transgender people in Europe (EUR 01/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR01/001/2014/en
    Ireland: Transgender people ‘short-changed’ by new bill (Press release) www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/12/ireland-transgender-people-short-changed-new-bill/
  4. Ireland: Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee (EUR 29/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR29/001/2014/en
  5. Ireland: ‘Tuam babies’ mass grave allegations must spark urgent investigation (Press release) www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/06/ireland-tuam-babies-mass-grave-allegations-must-spark-urgent-investigation/
  6. Ireland: Decision to reopen “Hooded Men” court case triumph of justice after four decades of waiting (Press release) www.amnesty.org/press-releases/2014/12/ireland-decision-reopen-hooded-men-court-case-triumph-justice-after-four-de/

Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

State of Israel
Head of state: Reuven Rivlin (replaced Shimon Peres in July)
Head of government: Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli forces committed war crimes and human rights violations during a 50-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip that killed over 1,500 civilians, including 539 children, wounded thousands more civilians, and caused massive civilian displacement and destruction of property and vital services. Israel maintained its air, sea and land blockade of Gaza, imposing collective punishment on its approximately 1.8 million inhabitants and stoking the humanitarian crisis. In the West Bank, Israeli forces carried out unlawful killings of Palestinian protesters, including children, and maintained an array of oppressive restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement while continuing to promote illegal settlements and allow Israeli settlers to attack Palestinians and destroy their property with near total impunity. Israeli forces detained thousands of Palestinians, some of whom reported being tortured, and held around 500 administrative detainees without trial. Within Israel, the authorities continued to demolish homes of Palestinian Bedouin in “unrecognized villages” in the Negev/Naqab region and commit forcible evictions. They also detained and summarily expelled thousands of foreign migrants, including asylum-seekers, and imprisoned Israeli conscientious objectors.

Background

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians mounted rapidly amid the collapse of US-sponsored negotiations in April, a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement, and Israel’s continuing illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank and blockade of Gaza. The tensions flared into renewed armed conflict in July following the killing of at least 15 Palestinians by Israeli forces since the beginning of the year, the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank by Palestinian men affiliated to Hamas, the reprisal killing of a Palestinian youth by Israelis, and rocket-firing from Gaza into Israel. The Israeli military launched an offensive, Operation Protective Edge, on 8 July against the Gaza Strip while Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups increased rocket firing into southern Israel. After 10 days of air strikes, Israel launched a ground invasion in Gaza, withdrawing shortly before a US and Egypt-brokered ceasefire took effect after 50 days of hostilities.

The ceasefire brought an end to open conflict but tension remained acute, particularly in the West Bank. Community relations were inflamed by a series of attacks by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians, including one on worshippers in a synagogue; new killings of Palestinians, including protesters, by Israeli forces; the government’s announcement of new land expropriations and plans to build additional housing units for settlers in East Jerusalem; and the Israeli authorities’ decision in November to temporarily close access to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, preventing worshippers from reaching the Al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites. Growing international recognition of Palestine as a state also contributed to tensions.

In December , Prime Minister Netanyahu dismissed two ministers for reasons including disagreements on a proposed “Nation-State Bill” defining Israel as a state for the Jewish people. The Knesset voted for dissolution and the holding of new elections in March 2015, upon the Prime Minister’s initiative.

Armed conflict

Israel’s Protective Edge military offensive, which Israel said it launched in response to an upsurge in rocket firing into Israel by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, killed more than 2,000 inhabitants of Gaza, including more than 1,500 civilians, among them some 539 children. Israeli air and ground attacks damaged or destroyed thousands of civilian homes and internally displaced around 110,000 Palestinians, as well as severing power generation and water supplies, and damaging other civil infrastructure. In Israel, indiscriminate rockets and other weapons fired by Palestinian armed groups from Gaza in breach of the laws of war killed six civilians, including one child, injured dozens and damaged civilian property.

During the 50 days of conflict before a ceasefire took effect on 26 August, Israeli forces committed war crimes, including disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks on Gaza’s densely populated civilian areas as well as targeted attacks on schools sheltering civilians and other civilian buildings that the Israeli forces claimed were used by Hamas as command centres or to store or fire rockets. On the night of 30 July, Israeli artillery fire hit the Jabaliya elementary school where more than 3,000 civilians had taken refuge, killing at least 20 and injuring others. It was the sixth time a school being used by the UN to shelter civilians had been attacked since the conflict began three weeks earlier.

Israeli forces also attacked hospitals and medical workers, including ambulance staff seeking to assist the wounded or retrieve the bodies of those killed. Dozens of homes were destroyed or damaged by missiles or aerial bombs with families still inside. For example, in eight cases documented by Amnesty International, Israeli strikes on inhabited houses killed at least 104 civilians, including 62 children. Often the Israeli military gave no reason for specific attacks.

In the days immediately leading up to the ceasefire, Israeli forces launched attacks that destroyed three multistorey residential buildings in Gaza City and a modern commercial centre in Rafah, amid vague assertions that the residential buildings housed a Hamas command centre and “facilities linked to Palestinian militants” but without providing any compelling evidence or explanation why, if there were legitimate military reasons to justify the attacks, less destructive means were not selected.

Israeli authorities sought publicly to shift the blame for the large loss of life and wholesale destruction caused by the Israeli offensive in Gaza onto Hamas and Palestinian armed groups on the grounds that they fired rockets and other weapons from within or near civilian residential areas and concealed munitions in civilian buildings.

Freedom of movement – Gaza blockade and West Bank restrictions

Israeli forces maintained their land, sea and air blockade of Gaza throughout the year, effectively imposing collective punishment on the territory’s approximately 1.8 million, predominantly civilian, inhabitants, with all imports and exports, and any movements of people into or out of Gaza, subject to Israeli approval; Egypt’s continued closure of its Rafah border crossing kept Gaza effectively sealed. The already severe humanitarian consequences of the blockade, in force continuously since June 2007, were evidenced by the sizeable proportion of Gaza’s population that depended on international humanitarian aid for their survival, and were greatly exacerbated by the devastation and population displacement caused during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.

Israeli forces policed the blockade using live fire against Palestinians who entered or approached a 500m-wide buffer zone that they imposed inside Gaza’s land border with Israel, and against fishermen who entered or approached the “exclusion zone” that Israel maintains along the full length of Gaza’s coast. Israeli forces shot dead seven Palestinian civilians in or near the buffer zone before Operation Protective Edge, and another after the ceasefire, when the buffer zone was to be reduced and the permitted fishing zone extended. Shooting incidents remained frequent; some fishermen were also shot and wounded by Israeli navy forces.

In the West Bank, Israel continued its construction of the wall/fence with attached guard towers, mostly on Palestinian land, routing it to afford protection to illegal settlements while cutting off Palestinian villagers from their lands. Palestinian farmers were required to obtain special permits to access their lands between the wall and the Green Line demarcating the West Bank’s border with Israel. Throughout the West Bank, Israeli forces maintained other restrictions on the free movement of Palestinians by using military checkpoints and restricting access to certain areas by preventing Palestinians using bypass roads constructed for the use of Israeli settlers. These restrictions hindered Palestinians’ access to hospitals, schools and workplaces. Furthermore, Israel forcibly transferred Palestinians out of occupied East Jerusalem to other areas in the West Bank.

Restrictions were tightened further during Operation Brother’s Keeper, the Israeli authorities’ crackdown following the abduction of three Israeli teenage hitchhikers in the West Bank in June. Operation Brother’s Keeper saw a heightened Israeli military presence in Palestinian towns and villages, the killing of at least five Palestinians, mass arrests and detentions, the imposition of arbitrary travel restrictions and raids on Palestinian homes.

Excessive use of force

Israeli soldiers and border guards unlawfully killed at least 50 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and continued to use excessive force, including live fire, during protests against Israel’s continued military occupation, when arresting political activists and during Israel’s 50-day military offensive against Gaza. Some killings may have amounted to extrajudicial executions. In September, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that the number of Palestinians wounded by Israeli forces in the West Bank – more than 4,200 since the start of 2014 – already exceeded the 2013 total, and that many of those wounded, including children, had been hit by rubber-coated metal bullets fired by Israeli forces. As in previous years, soldiers and border guards used live fire against protesters, including those who threw stones and other projectiles, who posed no serious threat to their lives.

Impunity

The authorities failed to conduct independent investigations into alleged war crimes and human rights violations committed by Israeli forces during Operation Protective Edge and refused to co-operate with an international investigation appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. However, they apparently co-operated with the UN Secretary-General’s Board of Inquiry, established to look into incidents relating to UN buildings in Gaza.

In August, the military’s Chief of General Staff ordered an inquiry into more than 90 “exceptional incidents” during Operation Protective Edge where there was “reasonable ground for suspicion of a violation of the law”. In September, it was announced that the Military Advocate General had closed investigations into nine cases and ordered criminal investigations into 10 others.

Authorities also failed to carry out adequate investigations into shootings of Palestinians during protests in the West Bank despite compelling evidence that Israeli forces repeatedly used excessive force and resorted to live fire in circumstances where such lethal means were unwarranted.

Detention without trial

Hundreds of Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories were held without charge or trial under administrative detention orders issued against them on the basis of secret information to which they and their lawyers had no access, and were unable to effectively challenge. The number of administrative detainees more than doubled following the security forces’ round-up of Palestinians after the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June, rising from nearly 200 in May to 468 in September.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Palestinian detainees continued to be tortured and otherwise ill-treated by Israeli security officials, particularly Internal Security Agency officials, who frequently held detainees incommunicado during interrogation for days and sometimes weeks. Methods used included physical assault such as slapping and throttling, prolonged shackling and stress positions, sleep deprivation, and threats against the detainee and their family. Reports of torture increased amid the wave of arrests that followed the abduction of Israeli teenagers in June.

The authorities failed to take adequate steps either to prevent torture or to conduct independent investigations when detainees alleged torture, fuelling a climate of impunity.

Housing rights – forced evictions and demolitions

In the West Bank, Israeli forces continued to demolish Palestinian homes and other structures, forcibly evicting hundreds from their homes often without warning or prior consultation. Families of Palestinians who had carried out attacks on Israelis also faced demolition of their homes as a punitive measure.

Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel living in “unrecognized” and newly recognized villages also faced destruction of homes and structures because the authorities said that they had been built without permission. Israeli authorities prohibited all construction without official permits, which were denied to Arab inhabitants of the villages, while also denying them access to basic services such as electricity and piped water supplies. Under the 2011 Prawer Plan, the authorities proposed to demolish 35 “unrecognized” villages and forcibly displace up to 70,000 Bedouin inhabitants from their current lands and homes, and relocate them to officially designated sites. Implementation of the plan, which was adopted without consultation with the affected Bedouin communities, remained stalled following the resignation in December 2013 of the government minister overseeing it. Official statements announced its cancellation, but the army continued to demolish homes and other structures.

Conscientious objectors

Military tribunals continued to impose prison sentences on Israeli citizens who refused to undertake compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. At least six conscientious objectors were imprisoned during the year. Omar Sa’ad was released in June after serving 150 days in a military prison and then declared unsuitable and exempted from military service.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Asylum-seekers in need of international protection were denied access to a fair determination process. Authorities held more than 2,000 African asylum-seekers in indefinite detention in a facility in the Negev/Naqab desert.

The authorities held more than 2,200 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers at Holot, a desert detention facility opened after the government rushed through Amendment 4 of the Prevention of Infiltration Law in 2013. In September, the High Court of Justice struck down Amendment 4, under which the authorities had taken powers to automatically detain all newly arrived asylum-seekers for one year, ruling that it infringed the right to human dignity. The Court ordered the government to close the Holot facility or establish an alternative legislative arrangement within 90 days. In December, the Knesset passed new amendments to the law that would allow the authorities to continue automatic detention of asylum-seekers.

Eritrean and Sudanese nationals, who made up more than 90% of an estimated 47,000 African asylum-seekers in Israel, continued in practice to be denied access to fair refugee determination procedures. By the end of the year, Israeli authorities had extended refugee status to just two Eritreans and no Sudanese, dismissing many other claims without due consideration. Asylum-seekers were prohibited by law from taking paid work and had little or no access to health care and welfare services. Meanwhile, the authorities pressured many to leave Israel “voluntarily” under a process that paid them to withdraw their asylum claims and return to their home countries or travel to third countries. More than 5,000 Eritrean and Sudanese nationals were reported to have accepted “voluntary return” in the first 10 months of the year, some leaving after facing imminent risk of detention, despite fears that they faced persecution or torture in the countries from which they had fled. Some were reported to have been detained when they returned to Sudan and accused of spying for Israel.

Israel allegedly maintained secret agreements with certain African countries allowing for the transfer of asylum-seekers under conditions which denied them access to a fair refugee determination process in Israel or any protection from possible subsequent transfers to their home countries, including in cases where such returns amounted to refoulement.

Italy

Republic of Italy
Head of state: Giorgio Napolitano
Head of government: Matteo Renzi

Over 170,000 refugees and migrants trying to reach Italy from North Africa on unseaworthy vessels were rescued at sea by Italian authorities. The government’s decision to stop a dedicated operation to save lives at sea, Mare Nostrum, at the end of October raised concerns that the death toll could increase significantly. The authorities failed to ensure adequate reception conditions for the high number of seaborne refugees and migrants. Discrimination against Roma continued, with thousands segregated in camps. Italy failed to introduce the crime of torture into domestic legislation and to establish an independent national human rights institution.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Over 170,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy by sea, including more than 10,000 unaccompanied children, the vast majority having departed from Libya. 156,362 had been rescued through Operation Mare Nostrum (OMN) by the end of October. A further 13,668 people were rescued by Italian authorities in November and December. Despite these unilateral efforts, over 3, 400 refugees and migrants were believed to have drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean. On 31 October, the government announced OMN’s end, to coincide with the start on 1 November of the smaller, border control-focused Operation Triton by Frontex, the EU border management agency. NGOs expressed concern that this would place people’s lives at risk.1

The authorities struggled to ensure adequate reception conditions for the tens of thousands of refugees and migrants who disembarked in Sicily and other southern ports, including traumatized shipwreck survivors, and to adequately protect thousands of unaccompanied children.

There was no progress in investigating the circumstances of the deaths of some 200 people who drowned when a trawler carrying over 400 mostly Syrian refugees and migrants sank on 11 October 2013. There was concern that failures by Maltese and Italian authorities might have delayed their rescue.

In October, in the case of Sharifi and Others v. Italy and Greece, the European Court of Human Rights found that Italy had violated the prohibition of collective expulsions and exposed four Afghan nationals, who had arrived irregularly, to the risk of ill-treatment and other violations by returning them to Greece, as well as to the further risk of torture and death in case of deportation to Afghanistan.

Refugees and asylum-seekers, including children, remained at risk of destitution.

In April, the Parliament passed legislation requiring the government to abolish the crime of “irregular entry and stay” within 18 months. Irregular migrants re-entering the country following an expulsion would still face criminal sanctions. However, “irregular entry and stay” remained a crime at the end of the year.

In September, the Ministry of the Interior authorized police to use force to ensure the collection of fingerprints during the identification of refugees and migrants. This was immediately followed by reports of excessive use of force in the course of identification procedures.

In October, legislation was adopted reducing the maximum period of detention for irregular migrants pending deportation from 18 months to 90 days. Conditions in detention centres for irregular migrants remained inadequate.

Migrant workers continued to be exploited and remained vulnerable to abuse and were often unable to access justice.

Discrimination – Roma

Thousands of Roma families continued to live in poor conditions in segregated camps and centres, including more than 4,000 in Rome alone. The government failed to implement the National Strategy for the Inclusion of Roma, especially with regard to adequate housing. Several forced evictions of Roma were reported across the country.

A European Commission inquiry into possible breaches by Italy of the EU Race Equality Directive in relation to access by Roma to adequate housing was ongoing.

Roma families transferred from the authorized camp of Cesarina in Rome in December 2013, to allow for its refurbishment, continued to live in inadequate conditions in a Roma-only reception facility. Rome municipal authorities stated they would return the families to the camp once works were completed. No alternative adequate housing options were made available.

Roma remained excluded from accessing social housing. Rome housing authorities did not withdraw a January 2013 circular discriminating against Roma families living in authorized camps in the allocation of social housing. However, in June, in the context of the inquiry regarding the EU Race Equality Directive, they stated that they intended to apply the circular in a non-discriminatory manner.

Counter-terror and security

The Italian Constitutional Court ruled in February that the government enjoyed absolute discretion to invoke the “state secrets” doctrine in national security-related cases. The Court of Cassation, Italy’s highest court, affirmed the Constitutional Court ruling and annulled the convictions of high-level Italian intelligence officials, convicted in relation to the abduction of Usama Mostafa Hassan Nasr (known as Abu Omar) from a Milan street in 2003. Following his abduction, Abu Omar had been handed over to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and rendered to Egypt, where he was tortured.

In March, the Court of Cassation upheld the convictions of three CIA officials, including former Rome CIA chief Jeff Castelli and former Milan CIA chief Robert Seldon Lady, for the abduction of Abu Omar. The Court ruled that the CIA operatives were not covered by diplomatic immunity. In total, 26 US nationals had been convicted in their absence in the Abu Omar case.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Attempts to incorporate the crime of torture into national legislation failed again, a 25-year breach of Italy’s obligations under the UN Convention against Torture.

In November, the Court of Cassation annulled the conviction for perjury against Francesco Colucci, who was head of police in Genoa when scores of protesters were tortured and otherwise ill-treated during the 2001 G8 summit meeting. Francesco Colucci had been convicted of perjury for trying to shelter from accountability the then national head of police, Gianni De Gennaro, and a senior official of the police special operations branch of Genoa. The statute of limitation for the offence expired in December rendering a retrial impossible.

Overcrowding and poor conditions remained common throughout the prison system. Legislation to reduce the length of prison sentences for certain offences and to increase the use of non-custodial sentences was adopted in August 2013 and February 2014 to ease overcrowding. A national ombudsperson for the rights of detainees was also created. The measures followed a 2013 European Court ruling that Italy had violated the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment by subjecting detainees to excessively harsh conditions due to overcrowded cells and insufficient living space.

Deaths in custody

Despite progress in a few cases, concerns remained about the lack of accountability for deaths in custody as a result of flawed investigations and shortcomings in judicial proceedings.

In April, the Perugia court of appeal upheld the conviction of a prison officer for falsifying documents and failing to assist Aldo Bianzino, who died in a Perugia prison two days after his arrest in 2007. The ruling confirmed that there were failings in the initial investigation.

In July, in the case of Giuseppe Uva, who died at a hospital in Varese shortly after being stopped by police in 2008, a trial started against seven police officers for manslaughter, unlawful arrest and abuse of authority. In October 2013, a judge had refused the prosecutor’s request to close the case and had ordered a fresh investigation. Forensic examinations in December 2011 revealed that Giuseppe Uva may have been raped and otherwise ill-treated.

In October, the Rome court of appeal acquitted the doctors, nurses and police officers charged with manslaughter in the case of Stefano Cucchi, who died a week after his arrest in the prison wing of a Rome hospital in 2009. Forensic evidence was inconclusive. Stefano Cucchi’s family was concerned that signs of ill-treatment had been downplayed.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

Italy failed again to establish a national human rights institution in accordance with the Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (Paris Principles), despite having repeatedly committed to doing so.

  1. Lives adrift: Refugees and migrants in peril in the central Mediterranean (EUR 05/006/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR05/006/2014/en

JAMAICA

Jamaica
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Patrick Linton Allen
Head of government: Portia Simpson Miller

Police brutality remained a concern. Attacks and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people continued. Steps were taken to deal with the issue of impunity. Jamaica retained the death penalty.

Background

Levels of homicide remained high, mainly in marginalized inner-city communities, although there was a decrease on 2013 figures. The Jamaica Constabulary Force reported that 699 people had been killed up to 14 September, 15% fewer than in the corresponding period for 2013.

Police and security forces

Following rising numbers in police killings in recent years (210 in 2011, 219 in 2012 and 258 in 2013), 2014 saw a reduction in the number of police killings according to the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), an independent police oversight agency. By the end of October, 103 civilians had been killed by police, compared with 220 for the same period in 2013. A number of people were killed in circumstances suggesting that they may have been extrajudicially executed.

Following the death of Mario Deane in suspicious circumstances in police custody in August, in September the Ministers of Justice and National Security announced a review of the detention system in order to “develop a strategic response to the issue of the treatment of persons in lock-ups and correctional facilities”.

The Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organizations) Act, which is aimed at “disruption and suppression of criminal organizations” became law in April. Concerns were raised that this law could be used to criminalize whole communities by association.

In February a Commission of Enquiry was finally established into the state of emergency of May 2010, when 76 civilians were killed during an operation by the security forces. The three-person Commission began its work on 1 December. In April the Office of the Public Defender handed over all files pertaining to its investigations into the state of emergency to INDECOM. The files include the cases of 44 people alleged to have been unlawfully killed by the security forces.

Eleven police officers from Clarendon suspected of being part of a “death squad” were arrested and charged in April by INDECOM. They were alleged to have been involved in the murder of nine civilians since 2009. Investigations were ongoing at the end of the year.

Justice system

Overburdened courts led to continued delays in the justice system. In February, the National Security Minister stated there was a backlog of approximately 40,000 cases. In June, the Chief Justice said that the unavailability of forensic evidence, outstanding statements and ballistic reports, as well as an absence of adequate court infrastructure, human and financial resources, were seriously hampering the justice system.

Violence against women and girls

Sexual violence against women and girls remained a concern. Police statistics from the 2013 Economic and Social Survey published in April 2014 by the Planning Institute of Jamaica showed that 814 cases of rape were recorded in 2013, and that 128 women were murdered in 2013.

A review of the draft National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence, announced in September 2013, was still ongoing at the end of 2014.

Following a Senate motion in October 2013 calling for greater legislative protection for women and girls, a joint select committee of Parliament was finally established in July 2014 to review the Sexual Offences Act, Offences against the Person Act, Domestic Violence Act, and the Child Care and Protection Act, with the objective of improving protection for women, children, persons living with disabilities and the elderly from violence and abuse.

Children’s rights

Children continued to be kept in police cells alongside adults, in some cases for several days, in contravention of the Child Care and Protection Act and international law.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

Consensual sex between men remained criminalized. LGBTI organizations continued to report attacks, harassment and threats against individuals based on their real or perceived sexual orientation, which were not fully and promptly investigated.

On 14 June a mob attacked a young man at a shopping mall in the town of May Pen because he was allegedly seen putting on lipstick. There was no police investigation into the incident.

In August, Javed Jaghai, a member of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, discontinued the constitutional challenge he had filed in February 2013 against laws criminalizing sex between men, following the receipt of threats against him and his family.

A “conscience vote” by MPs on legislation criminalizing consensual same-sex relations, which the government announced would be held before April, did not take place.

JAPAN

Japan
Head of government: Shinzo Abe

Japan continued to move away from international human rights standards. The government failed to effectively address discrimination against foreign nationals and their descendants living in Japan, such as ethnic Koreans. It also failed to refute and combat attempts to deny Japan’s military sexual slavery system during World War II. The number of recognized refugees remained very small. It was feared that the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets which came into force in December could negatively impact transparency.

Discrimination

The government failed to speak out against discriminatory rhetoric, or curb the use of racially pejorative terms and harassments against ethnic Koreans and their descendants, who are commonly referred to as Zainichi (literally “residing in Japan”). Public demonstrations were held in towns with a high proportion of Korean residents. In December, the Supreme Court ruled to ban the high-profile group “ Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai” from using discriminatory and intimidating language while demonstrating near an ethnic Korean elementary school located in Kyoto. This decision marked the first time that the issue was treated as one of racial discrimination, based on the definition in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, rather than coming under other criminal offences such as defamation or damage of property. However, by the end of the year the government had still not passed legislation prohibiting advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, in line with international standards.1

Justice system

The daiyo kangoku system, which allows police to detain suspects for up to 23 days prior to charge, continued to facilitate torture and other ill-treatment to extract confessions during interrogation. Despite recommendations from international bodies, no steps were taken to abolish or reform the system in line with international standards.

Violence against women and girls

The government attempted to back away from the landmark apology – known as the Kono Statement – it had made two decades earlier to the survivors of the military sexual slavery system, in which it had acknowledged responsibility and apologized to the survivors. In June the results were made public of a government-appointed study group which re-examined the drafting process of the Kono Statement. Although previous discussions and decisions were respected, the review itself increased tensions with neighbouring countries such as the Republic of Korea, as it was seen as an attempt to deny governmental responsibility. Several high-profile public figures made statements to deny or justify the system. The government continued to refuse to officially use the term “sexual slavery”, and to deny full and effective reparation to survivors.

Death penalty

Executions continued to be carried out. In March a district court ordered a retrial and the immediate release of Hakamada Iwao. Hakamada had been sentenced to death in 1968 after an unfair trial on the basis of a forced confession, and was the longest-serving death row inmate in the world. He suffers from mental illness due to more than four decades of detention mainly in solitary confinement. The Prosecutor’s appeal against a retrial was being examined at the Tokyo High Court.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

An estimated 4,500 individuals applied for asylum in Japan but the numbers of refugees recognized under the UN Refugee Convention remained very small. A steady increase in the number of applications has occurred since 2006. Applicants from Myanmar decreased and there was an increase in applicants from countries such as Ghana and Cameroon.

Freedom of expression

The Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets came into force in December 2014. This would allow the government to classify information as “Specially Designated Secrets (SDS)” when a “leak can cause a serious obstacle to national security” in the categories of defence, diplomacy and so-called “harmful activities” and “terrorism”. The law could restrict transparency by limiting access to information held by public authorities, as the definition of SDS was vague and the monitoring body lacked binding powers.

  1. Japan: Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee: 111th session of the Human Rights Committee (7-25th July 2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA22/002/2014/en

Jordan

Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Head of state: King Abdullah II bin al-Hussein
Head of government: Abdullah Ensour

The authorities maintained strict controls on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Government critics faced arbitrary arrest and detention; some were prosecuted and jailed. The government amended the 2006 Anti-Terrorism law to encompass acts deemed disruptive to Jordan’s foreign relations and the dissemination of ideas deemed supportive of terrorism. The State Security Court (SSC) continued to try people accused under anti-terrorism legislation; some of the accused alleged torture or other ill-treatment. Jordan continued to receive and host thousands of refugees from Syria and, increasingly, Iraq, but barred entry to Palestinians from Syria. Women faced discrimination in law and in practice; at least 14 people were victims of so-called “honour killings”. Eleven prisoners were executed in December, the first executions since 2006.

Background

Jordan felt the impact of events beyond its borders, notably the armed conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and Israel’s military offensive in Gaza. The Syrian conflict generated further refugee flows into Jordan. Jordan hosted over 600,000 refugees from Syria, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and 30,000 refugees from Iraq. Demonstrations in March over the killing of a Jordanian judge by Israeli forces at the Allenby Bridge crossing between Jordan and the West Bank were followed by mass protests in July and August against Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza.

Conditions were tense along the border with Syria and the government tightened controls there and along the border with Iraq. In April, the government said Jordanian warplanes had fired on members of Syrian armed groups seeking to cross into Jordan. In June, the USA agreed to send missiles and military aircraft to Jordan, and in September, Jordan joined the US-led international alliance against the Islamic State armed group.

The government made little progress in implementing promised political reforms but the King gained sole authority to appoint the heads of the armed forces and the General Intelligence Department (GID) under a constitutional amendment.

Freedoms of expression, association and assembly

The government maintained strict controls on freedom of expression, using provisions criminalizing defamation of the monarchy and other institutions and religion, the Press and Publications Law, and the 2010 Law on Information System Crimes, which gave the authorities wide powers to censor print, broadcast and online media. The authorities blocked some news websites.

In early 2014, the jurisdiction of the State Security Court (SSC) was restricted to five crimes: treason, espionage, terrorism, drugs offences, and money counterfeiting. However, amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Law enacted in May imposed new curbs on freedom of expression by equating acts deemed to disrupt Jordan’s foreign relations, including criticism of foreign leaders, and the dissemination of certain ideas, with terrorism.

The authorities continued to detain and prosecute political opposition activists, online critics and journalists, including members of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir party, at least 18 of whom faced trial before the SSC, despite its poor record of upholding international fair trial standards. In March, Nayef Lafi and Ibrahim al-Kharabsheh were arrested as they lobbied parliament against amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Law, and faced up to seven years’ imprisonment on charges of “illegal actions” threatening the government, and membership of a banned organization. Wassim Abu Ayesh was tried by the SSC on terrorism charges. He was accused of posting an Islamic State group video on Facebook, which he claimed was in fact a film about the abuse of detainees in Iraq, and said that his interrogators made him sign a statement without allowing him to read it.

In July, security forces attacked and assaulted journalists at an anti-Israel protest in Amman. In August, they arrested Abdulhadi Raji Majali, an Al Ra’i newspaper journalist, by order of Amman prosecutors for an online post to which the authorities took offence. He was released on bail one week later awaiting trial.

Also in July, the SSC imposed three-month prison terms on three peaceful pro-reform activists, Mahdi al-Saafin, Ayham Mohamed Alseem and Fadi Masamra, on charges of “undermining” the state and “insulting” the King.

Mohamed Said Bakr and Adel Awad, senior Muslim Brotherhood members, were brought to trial before the SSC following their arrest in September, accused of threatening state security in public statements that criticized Jordan’s leaders and links with the USA. In December, the case against Adel Awad was thrown out due to lack of evidence.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment remained a significant concern. Among those alleging such abuses were detainees arrested on suspicion of supporting or fighting for armed groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, in Syria.

In June, the SSC acquitted Abu Qatada of terrorism charges. UK authorities had deported him to Jordan in 2013 after negotiating diplomatic assurances allegedly to ensure that “confessions” gained from others through torture would be inadmissible in a new criminal trial. In reaching its verdict the SSC did not disregard the “confession” evidence, considering it a matter of record, but concluded that it was not supported by other evidence. In September, the SCC acquitted Abu Qatada on separate charges and ordered his release.

Administrative detention

Provincial authorities held hundreds, possibly thousands, of criminal suspects in administrative detention without charge or trial using the Law on Crime Prevention, in force since 1954. The law empowers provincial governors to authorize the arrests and indefinite detention of those they deem a “danger to society” and affords those detained no means of appeal or legal remedy.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Jordan hosted over 600,000 refugees from Syria, about one third of whom were accommodated in six camps, the largest of which had a population of over 100,000. The majority of refugees lived in towns and cities throughout Jordan. While in principle maintaining an open-border policy to refugees from Syria, the authorities closed the border to Syrian refugees on a number of occasions and prevented the entry into Jordan of Palestinians and Iraqis fleeing the Syrian conflict. The presence of so many refugees was a huge economic strain and placed a burden on Jordan’s resources, including water, education and health care. Insecurity increased due to the potential for the conflict to spread into Jordan.

Women’s rights

Women remained subject to discrimination in law and practice, and were inadequately protected from sexual and other violence, including so-called honour crimes. Tens of thousands of women married to foreigners continued to be denied the right to pass on their nationality to their spouses and children. In November, the government afforded them greater access to education and medical care, but failed to end discrimination. The Ministry of Justice was also reportedly considering Penal Code changes to protect women against sexual harassment.

At least 12 women and two children, a girl and a boy, were victims of so-called honour killings. In at least two cases courts immediately commuted the death sentences imposed on perpetrators of such killings to 10-year prison terms, apparently under a provision allowing courts to commute or reduce sentences if the victim’s family requests leniency.

In July, UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, reported an increase in early marriage among Syrian refugees, noting the associated risks this posed to girls. The legal age of marriage for women in Jordan was 18 unless special dispensation for an earlier marriage was obtained from a judge. Jordanian NGO Sisterhood is Global reported that 13.2% of registered marriages in 2013 took place before the bride’s 18th birthday.

Death penalty

Eleven men were executed on 21 December, the first executions in Jordan since 2006. This followed the establishment in November of a special committee of the cabinet to look into the resumption of executions.

KAZAKHSTAN

Republic of Kazakhstan
Head of state: Nursultan Nazarbayev
Head of government: Karim Massimov (replaced Serik Akhmetov in April)

There was no improvement in investigating reports of human rights violations by law enforcement and security services and holding alleged perpetrators to account. Bureaucratic obstacles and opaque internal ministerial regulations prevented victims of torture and their relatives from obtaining justice. Similar obstacles continued to hinder effective independent monitoring of places of detention. The right to freedom of assembly continued to be restricted. Civil society activists feared that new legislative proposals would restrict their freedoms of expression and association.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The authorities repeatedly asserted their commitment to eliminating torture and other ill-treatment. In September 2013, the Prosecutor General instructed national prosecutors to “open a criminal investigation into every incident of torture”. However, in practice investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment fell far short of international standards and failed to deliver justice.

In November the UN Committee against Torture expressed concern at “the gap between legislation and protection from torture”, noting that the use of torture and other ill-treatment to obtain confessions “went beyond isolated incidents”, and that less than 2% of complaints of torture led to prosecution. In October, at Kazakhstan’s second round Universal Periodic Review, the UN Human Rights Council recommended that Kazakhstan establish an independent investigations mechanism.

The Criminal Procedural Code provides that an official body should not investigate complaints against its own officials. However, complaints of torture and other ill-treatment made against law enforcement and national security officials were routinely referred to the internal investigations departments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Financial Police or the Committee for National Security (KNB). These internal investigation departments are governed by internal regulations, which have not been made public. In practice this meant that instead of an impartial investigation by a separate authority, torture complaints were put through an internal screening process, which usually failed to check them objectively. In most cases, screening procedures concluded that complaints were unfounded or that the perpetrators could not be identified.

Independent NGOs registered between 350 and 400 complaints of torture and other ill-treatment in Kazakhstan annually in 2013 and 2014. However, they estimated that since 2010 the authorities had succeeded in bringing only some 50 officials to justice. According to the website of the Office of the Prosecutor General, only 43 crimes of torture were registered from January to September, with 47 individuals identified as alleged victims, including 11 prisoners, three minors and one elderly person. During the same period, 17 torture-related cases went on trial and 30 cases were closed because of the “ absence of elements of a crime”, official language typically used after inadequate internal investigations. The website also stated that in 2013 and the first half of 2014, 31 police officers were convicted of torture-related crimes, but did not specify the nature of the crimes committed, nor the number of incidents these related to.

In November 2013, Kostanai Regional Court awarded 2 million Kazakhstani Tenge (US$13,000) in compensation to Aleksandr Gerasimov following a decision by the UN Committee against Torture in May 2012, which found Kazakhstan responsible for his torture. However, the authorities had yet to carry out a full and independent investigation into Aleksandr Gerasimov’s torture complaint.

In November, Roza Tuletaeva, a labour rights activist, was released from prison on parole. She had been serving a five-year sentence for “inciting social discord” during the 2011 oil workers’ strike in Zhanaozen. At her trial in 2012 she told the court that she had been tortured during interrogations. There was no information of any impartial investigations into her allegations of torture.

Counter-terror and security

The authorities continued to invoke countering terrorism and other threats to national security as crucial to securing national and regional stability. There were frequent reports of KNB officers violating human rights, including using torture and other ill-treatment to obtain confessions.

Among those particularly targeted by the KNB were members or presumed members of banned or unregistered Islamic groups and Islamist parties; members of religious minorities; and asylum-seekers from neighbouring countries, particularly China and Uzbekistan.

Relatives of some of those convicted of terrorism-related offences claimed that prisoners in Shymkent and Arkalyk high security prisons were serving their sentences in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions. Only limited independent monitoring access was allowed at these facilities.

In January 2013, legislation was introduced which provided for broader measures in countering terrorism and extremism, and the newly adopted Criminal Code, signed by President Nazarbayev on 3 July 2014 and expected to come into force in January 2015, lowered the age of criminal liability for terrorism-related offences to 14 years. The crime of “terrorism with loss of life”, in Article 49.1 of the Criminal Code, was the only crime still punishable by death although Kazakhstan remained abolitionist in practice.

Prison conditions

In 2013 Kazakhstan adopted legislation to set up a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). Its civil society members were elected on 19 February 2014 at the first session of the NPM Coordination Council, after which they began monitoring detention facilities across Kazakhstan. However, the NPM mandate did not extend to all places of deprivation of liberty. For example, the monitoring group was not permitted to inspect offices of police departments and had no access to other closed state institutions such as orphanages, nursing homes and military barracks. The NPM also faced bureaucratic obstacles: in order to undertake an urgent and unplanned visit, NPM members had to obtain written permission from the Ombudsman, which could only be obtained during working hours, thus restricting the NPM’s ability to respond rapidly to reports of torture. The NPM was also not allowed to publish the results of its findings until the Ombudsman had approved its annual report.

Freedom of assembly

Freedom of assembly was restricted and peaceful protesters continued to be detained and fined. Activists were required to obtain prior permission from the local authorities for any public gathering or single-person picket. Distributing leaflets, joining spontaneous protests or wearing clothing displaying political slogans without prior permission were often regarded as violations of legislation on public protests. In several incidents law enforcement officials used force to break up unauthorized peaceful meetings. In dozens of cases, organizers and participants were fined or sentenced to administrative detention for up to 15 days.

Freedom of association

NGO registration was compulsory. Authorities enjoyed wide discretion to deny such status and to close down groups for alleged, often minor, violations of the law. The new Criminal Code and other related laws contained provisions that human rights groups believed could be used to harass NGOs and their members, and to restrict their legitimate activities.

The new Criminal Code classified “leading, participating in or financing unregistered or banned associations” as criminal offences. It also criminalized “unlawful interference” in the activities of state agencies by members of public associations and defined leaders of public associations as a separate category of offenders, providing for stiffer penalties for them for a number of crimes.

A working group set up by the Ministry of Culture was drafting a law regulating NGO activities that would establish legal grounds for channelling all state and non-state funding for NGOs through a special NGO set up by the government. NGOs were concerned this might limit their opportunities for independent fundraising.

Freedom of expression – media

Freedom of expression significantly deteriorated for independent media. In February, Pravdivaya Gazeta newspaper was closed down under a court ruling for minor transgressions. Social media and blogs were often restricted and internet-based resources were blocked by court decisions taken in closed proceedings, due to their supposedly extremist or otherwise illegal content.

KENYA

Republic of Kenya
Head of state and government: Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta

Attacks attributed to the Somali-based armed group, Al-Shabaab, increased. Police counter-terror operations resulted in several deaths and the arrest of hundreds of people. The authorities intensified measures to restrict and control the activities of civil society organizations. There were incidents of unlawful killing, rape, torture or other ill-treatment by the police. Violence against women and girls persisted.

Background

Kenya’s economy and security were affected by a number of violent attacks in north-eastern Kenya, in the capital, Nairobi, and the coastal towns of Mombasa and Lamu, which triggered the adoption of new security laws with wide- reaching human rights implications. Implementation of the devolved system of government continued although challenges remained including inconsistent policy, legal and institutional frameworks. County authorities demanded constitutional amendments to increase their share of national treasury resources. The trial of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang continued at the International Criminal Court while the Prosecutor withdrew charges against President Kenyatta.

COUNTER-TERROR AND SECURITY

Violent attacks increased, mostly attributed to Al-Shabaab, an armed group operating in Somalia. Al-Shabaab claimed the attacks were in retaliation for the continued presence of Kenya’s armed forces in Somalia, as part of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). Grenade and bomb attacks resulting in fatalities and serious injuries occurred in various places including in a restaurant, a densely populated market and on commuter buses. The majority of the attacks took place in northeastern Kenya, Nairobi, Mombasa and Lamu.

On 23 March, gunmen opened fire in a Mombasa church during a service, killing six and injuring at least 15 people.

On 15 June, gunmen attacked the town of Mpeketoni in Lamu County, killing at least 48 people. The gunmen also burned 44 vehicles and about 26 buildings. At least 14 other people were killed in two separate attacks in nearby villages on 16 and 24 June. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks but the authorities blamed local politicians. The Governor of Lamu County was arrested and released on bail on suspicion of being involved in the killings, but investigations failed to gather sufficient evidence against him. An investigation by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) into police action around the attacks found that the police response was slow and disjointed. A dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed in Lamu town in the aftermath of the killings was lifted on 24 December.

On 22 November, gunmen attacked a bus in Mandera, northeastern Kenya, killing 28 passengers. The gunmen reportedly separated Muslims from non-Muslims before killing the latter. On 2 December, 36 miners were killed in another attack at a quarry in Koromei, Mandera County. Following the attacks, the Inspector General of Police resigned; the Cabinet Secretary of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government was sacked. Also in December, the government hastily and without meaningful public participation enacted a new security law, amending numerous provisions in 22 existing laws with far-reaching human rights implications. Among other things, it creates new criminal offences with harsh penalties, limits the rights of arrested and accused people, expands the powers of intelligence officers to arrest suspects and monitor communications, and caps the number of refugees in Kenya at 150,000. The law was enacted despite a chaotic and disorderly parliamentary sitting.

The police conducted a number of counter-terror operations during the year including in mosques believed to be recruiting and training young attendees to become jihadists. In February, seven people were reportedly shot dead while 129 were arrested when the police conducted an operation in a mosque in Mombasa. Most of those arrested were later released without charge. One man who was arrested during the operation has not been seen since.

In April, thousands of Somali refugees and asylum-seekers were arbitrarily arrested, harassed, extorted and ill-treated as part of a counter-terror operation known as “Usalama Watch” (see Somalia entry). Over five thousand individuals were forcibly relocated to refugee camps in northern Kenya and at least 359 others were expelled back to Somalia. In June, the High Court ruled that the forced relocation of refugees to camps was constitutional, contradicting a previous decision on the same matter. In July, the IPOA issued a report which concluded that, in addition to violating human rights, the operation was counter-productive as it engendered perceptions of ethnic profiling and discrimination among Somalis.

In November, the police conducted operations in four mosques in Mombasa. One person was shot dead during the operations while more than 300 were arrested. The police reported that they recovered grenades and other crude weapons from the mosques. The operations provoked violent clashes in Mombasa.

The Anti-Terror Police Unit continued to be accused by both local and international civil society organizations of human rights violations including extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. A number of Mombasa-based Muslim clerics were shot dead by unidentified assailants during the year; both radical and moderate clerics were targeted. On 1 April, a Muslim cleric accused by the police of recruiting youths into Al-Shabaab was gunned down in a Mombasa street. In June, an anti-jihad cleric and chairperson of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya was shot dead at a mosque. In November a Muslim cleric supportive of government efforts against radicalization was shot dead.

INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE

The International Criminal Court (ICC) trial of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang for alleged crimes against humanity committed during the 2007/2008 post-election violence continued throughout the year. The trial was undermined by alleged witness intimidation and bribery, and the withdrawal of other witnesses. The Trial Chamber issued summonses to nine prosecution witnesses who no longer wished to appear voluntarily. By the end of the year, three of the nine witnesses had testified via video-link from an undisclosed location in Nairobi.

On 5 December, the ICC Prosecutor withdrew charges against President Kenyatta. He had been charged with crimes against humanity committed during the post-election violence. The Prosecutor explained that the evidence at her disposal was insufficient to prove President Kenyatta’s alleged criminal responsibility beyond reasonable doubt. She stated that efforts by her office to gather relevant evidence had been hampered by the death of several key witnesses, intimidation of prosecution witnesses leading to the withdrawal of at least seven testimonies, and non-co-operation by the Kenyan government. On 3 December, while rejecting the Prosecutor’s request for a further adjournment of the case, the ICC Trial Chamber ruled that the Kenyan government’s conduct in the case fell short of the standard of good faith co-operation but declined to refer a formal finding of non-co-operation to the Assembly of States Parties.

The ICC arrest warrant issued for Walter Osapiri Barasa had not been executed at the end of the year.

The government continued its efforts to discredit and weaken the ICC. In March, Kenya submitted to the UN Secretary-General five proposed amendments to the Rome Statute of the ICC, including that Article 27 be amended to preclude the ICC from prosecuting heads of state and government while in office. In November, the Kenyan government requested the inclusion of a supplementary agenda item titled “Special session to discuss the conduct of the Court and the Office of the Prosecutor”, to the provisional agenda of the 13th session of the Assembly of State Parties in December. The request was denied.

IMPUNITY – POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE

Perpetrators of crimes committed during the post-election violence remained unpunished at the national level. In February, the Director of Public Prosecutions announced that a review of more than 4,000 post-election investigation files had failed to identify any prosecutable cases due to lack of evidence. In March a group of internally displaced people protested outside State House against the government’s failure to provide them with assistance. No concrete steps were taken to establish the International Crimes Division of the High Court or to implement the recommendations of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.

Three civil cases filed by victims and civil society organizations challenging the failure of the government to address various violations committed during the post-election violence were still pending at the end of the year.

In October, an opposition political party submitted to Parliament a draft bill titled “The Post Election Violence Tribunal Bill – 2014”. The draft bill proposed the establishment of a tribunal to try perpetrators of crimes against humanity committed during the post-election violence. Provisions in the draft bill included trials in the absence of the accused, the death penalty and posthumous convictions. The draft bill was pending at the end of the year.

POLICE AND SECURITY FORCES

Police reforms

In April, the National Police Service Commission Act was amended, subjecting the human resources functions of the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) to the authority of the Inspector General of Police. In June, the National Police Service Act was amended to make the Inspector General of Police responsible for all matters relating to the command and discipline of the police. The police operated without adequate resources and equipment. On 31 October, at least 19 police officers were ambushed and killed by armed bandits in Kapedo, Baringo County.

The vetting of police officers continued. At the end of November, the NPSC had vetted 198 police officers, 16 of whom were deemed unfit to serve in the force mainly for reasons related to corruption. The process was hampered by lack of finances, limited public participation, and the resignation of four key members of the vetting board. Local NGOs and the IPOA expressed concern that the process had failed to clean up the force and that it had not seriously taken into account the human rights record of police officers.

Human rights violations by police

There were incidents of unlawful killing, rape and torture or other ill-treatment by police.

In August, a 14-year-old girl was shot dead when eight police officers stormed her family’s home ostensibly to arrest her uncle. Two police officers were subsequently charged with her murder.

In October, a woman who had gone to a police post to report an assault was reportedly raped by a police officer. The IPOA launched investigations into the incident.

During the year, at least two separate police county commanders issued public statements instructing police officers under their command to use lethal force against suspected terrorists. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the IPOA condemned the instructions as unlawful.

CRACKDOWN ON CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS

The authorities intensified measures to restrict and control the activities of civil society organizations. In May, Parliament published a bill proposing amendments to the Public Benefits Organizations (PBO) Act. In October, an earlier proposal to limit foreign funding of NGOs to 15% was retabled in Parliament. In December, the government deregistered and froze the financial accounts of 510 NGOs that it said had not complied with the NGO law. Among these were 15 unnamed NGOs accused of financing terrorism. The government also issued a 21 days’ notice to 10 international NGOs and two other local NGOs to submit audited financial accounts.

HOUSING RIGHTS – FORCED EVICTIONS

In February, a taskforce established in 2012 to develop an evictions and resettlement law presented a proposed bill to the Cabinet Secretary for Land, Housing and Urban Development. In March, the Cabinet Secretary issued a public statement pledging to expedite the enactment of an evictions law. By the end of the year, the draft bill had not been submitted to Parliament for debate.

In October, the High Court ordered the government to pay compensation of 33.6 million shillings (US$390,000) to residents of City Carton informal settlement in Nairobi, who were forcefully evicted from their homes in May 2013. The High Court ruled that the government was under an obligation to protect slum dwellers from forced eviction by third parties. By the end of the year, the government had not complied with a number of orders emanating from previous court decisions on the right to housing.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS

Violence against women and girls, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, persisted. Despite a 2011 law prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM), the practice continued in several parts of the country including in northern Kenya and among the Maasai, Kisii and Kuria ethnic communities. In June, hundreds of women and men from the Maasai community held two separate demonstrations protesting against the prohibition of FGM. The police took action against government local administrators who were alleged accomplices in acts of FGM. In April, a chief was charged in court after his two daughters underwent FGM, while another was charged with failing to report acts of FGM carried out within his administrative area.

In November in Nairobi, there were at least five incidents of public stripping and groping of women deemed by mobs of men to be indecently dressed. In one incident a police officer was part of a group of men on a commuter bus who groped and threatened a woman with rape. The perpetrators of the incident were charged in court with a number of offences. Following a public demonstration on 17 November calling on the authorities to take swift action to prevent and punish acts of violence against women, the police formed an Anti-stripping Squad to monitor and investigate incidents of public stripping of women.

KOREA (Democratic People’s Republic of)

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Head of state: Kim Jong-un
Head of government: Pak Pong-ju

The UN released a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea, DPRK), which gave details on the systematic violation of almost the entire range of human rights. Hundreds of thousands of people continued to be detained in prison camps and other detention facilities, many of them without being charged or tried for any internationally recognizable crime. Freedoms of expression, religion and movement, both within and outside the country, remained severely restricted. The fate of people forcibly disappeared was still unknown, despite the government admitting the involvement of state agents in the abduction of some individuals.

Background

The third year of Kim Jong-un’s rule started in December 2013 with the high-profile trial and execution of Jang Song-taek, vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission and uncle of Kim Jong-un. This was believed to be the beginning of a series of political purges in order to further consolidate Kim Jong-un’s power, although there were no other confirmed executions of political opponents linked with Jang during 2014.

An officially illegal, but government-tolerated, private economy continued to expand, including privately operated food and clothing stalls. It was feared by observers that the apparent economic opening could create greater income disparities. It was not accompanied by an improvement in the general human rights situation.

The government attempted to bring in foreign exchange currency, including through tourism. Despite such efforts, the state remained highly sensitive to any actions by foreign visitors that were perceived to be spreading political or religious ideas not compatible with those promoted by the state. Freedom of information was limited and the internet was not publicly accessible. A national “intranet” was set up instead.

A rare display of accountability from the government was seen in May, when state media reported promptly the collapse of an apartment building in the capital, Pyongyang, that killed more than 300 people. Foreign media in Pyongyang reported that citizens had expressed their anger over the incident and the government issued an apology over faulty construction methods.

International scrutiny

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea released its report in February.1 The 372-page document presented a comprehensive review of “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” and concluded that many of these amounted to crimes against humanity.

The report was presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March, where a strong resolution was passed welcoming the report, which garnered support from a majority of Council member states.2

The DPRK underwent a second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in May. The government was more engaged than during its first UPR in 2010, and this time gave responses on which recommendations it supported, including those relating to the effective operation of humanitarian aid. However, the government refused to accept more than half of the recommendations, in particular those directed at co-operation with the Commission of Inquiry and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK. It also rejected outright recommendations to close its political prison camps, or to allow foreign victims of enforced disappearance to return freely to their countries of origin.3

In December, the UN General Assembly passed a strong resolution recommending the referral of the human rights situation in the DPRK to the International Criminal Court.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

Hundreds of thousands of people remained detained in political prison camps and other detention facilities, where they were subject to systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions and torture and other ill-treatment, including beatings, long periods of forced hard labour without rest and deprivation of food.

Many of those held in political prison camps had not been convicted of any internationally recognizable crime, but were relatives of those deemed threatening to the administration. They were detained without a fair trial, through “guilt-by-association”.

The government continued to deny the existence of political prison camps, even though satellite images showed not only their presence, but also ongoing expansion at some of the camps as of the end of 2013.

North Koreans as well as foreign citizens were subject to arbitrary detention after unfair trials. Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller, both US nationals, were convicted of “hostile acts” against the regime in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Before their release in November, they had begun serving terms of forced hard labour of 15 and six years respectively. In an interview with foreign media in August, Kenneth Bae spoke about the unfair trial he received as well as his deteriorating health while working in a labour camp.

Freedom of religion

The practice of any religion continued to be severely restricted. Both DPRK and foreign nationals reportedly received heavy punishments for exercising their freedom of religion, including detention in prison camps.4

John Short, an Australian missionary, was arrested for promoting his religious beliefs and was deported in March only after apologizing publicly. Kim Jung-wook, a missionary from South Korea, was detained for more than six months without access to a lawyer, before being convicted of setting up an underground church and spying. He was sentenced to forced hard labour for life.

Jeffrey Fowle, a tourist from the USA, was arrested in May for leaving a bible at a club in Chongjin. He was detained for more than five months without trial before being released in October.

Freedom of expression

Authorities continued to impose severe restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedoms of expression, opinion and peaceful assembly. There appeared to be no independent civil society organizations, newspapers or political parties. North Koreans were liable to be searched by authorities for the possession of foreign media materials, and could be punished for listening to, watching or reading such materials.

Freedom of movement

Border controls remained tight. The number of people arriving in South Korea after fleeing from the north remained low in 2012 and 2013 compared with previous years.

The difficulty of crossing the border was increased through enhanced surveillance technology according to media in South Korea, including the use of jamming equipment designed to stop citizens using Chinese cellular phones along the border. The use of mobile phones for citizens remained confined to a closed local network within North Korea.

A group of approximately 29 people, including a one-year-old baby, were forcibly returned to North Korea in early August after being detained in China. While it was not known whether they were charged for crossing the border illegally, they would face possible imprisonment and torture and other ill-treatment, including forced labour, if such charges were brought against them.5

Enforced disappearances

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances asked the DPRK in August for confirmation regarding the fate of 47 people who were known to have been abducted on foreign soil by North Korean security agents and who subsequently disappeared. A majority of these were citizens of South Korea.

The government engaged in meetings with Japan in May to address the issue of abductions, and launched a special committee to reinvestigate cases of Japanese nationals abducted during the 1970s and 1980s. The initial report of the reinvestigation was, however, rejected by Japan as it contained no new information about the 12 Japanese nationals already officially admitted by North Korea as having been abducted from Japan by North Korean security agents.

Right to food

The World Food Programme reported in September that the situation of food availability in North Korea was “severe”. Despite improved harvests in the two previous years, a dry spell in 2014 brought food ration levels down from 410 to only 250 grams per person per day in August, which was widely seen as an indication of imminent shortage in food availability. Latest statistics revealed that rates of chronic malnutrition remained relatively high in 2013, affecting one in four children aged under five.

While North Korea received humanitarian assistance from the World Food Programme and other relief agencies, the government did not allow the agencies to extend assistance to some of the most vulnerable communities. Restrictions remained in place for those attempting to monitor delivery of food aid to targeted groups.

  1. North Korea: UN Security Council must act on crimes against humanity (Press Release) www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/02/north-korea-un-security-council-must-act-crimes-against-humanity/
  2. North Korea: UN vote a positive step to end crimes against humanity (Press Release) https://www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/03/north-korea-human-rights-council/
  3. Urgent need for accountability and cooperation with the international community by North Korea (ASA 24/006/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA24/006/2014/en
  4. North Korea: End persecution of Christians after reports US tourist detained (Press Release) www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/06/north-korea-end-persecution-christians-after-reports-us-tourist-detained/
  5. China: Further information: Families forcibly returned to North Korea (ASA 17/048/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA17/048/2014/en

Korea (Republic of)

Republic of Korea
Head of state: Park Geun-hye
Head of government: Chung Hong-won

The rights of workers were violated through the denial of freedom of association, the curtailment of legitimate collective action and, for migrant workers, exploitation under the Employment Permit System. The government increasingly restricted freedom of expression by using the National Security Law to intimidate and imprison people. Police blocked peaceful protests. At least 635 conscientious objectors remained in prison.

Background

The second year of Park Geun-hye’s term as president showed a regressive trend in the realization of human rights. Numerous concerns surfaced including barriers to freedoms of assembly and expression. Following the deaths of more than 300 people, many of them students, in the accidental sinking of the Sewol ferry in April, further concerns were raised on issues such as disaster response effectiveness and impartiality of investigations. Further concerns about government abuse of power were raised in two espionage cases when the National Intelligence Service was criticized for allegedly fabricating evidence.

Migrant workers’ rights

Migrant agricultural workers under the Employment Permit System (EPS) endured excessive working hours, underpayment, denial of their weekly paid rest day and annual leave, illegal subcontracting and poor living conditions. Many were also discriminated against at work due to their nationality. The exclusion of agricultural workers from the Labour Standards Act provisions on working hours, daily breaks and weekly paid rest days was discriminatory in effect as it disproportionately affected migrant workers. Many were unable to escape exploitative working conditions due to severe government restrictions on migrants’ ability to change jobs as well as the exclusion by the Labour Standards Act of agricultural workers from legal protection.

Many migrants interviewed by Amnesty International had been coerced by their employers into working under harsh conditions amounting to forced labour, most commonly through threats and violence. Many had been recruited using deception for the purpose of exploitation, a situation that amounted to trafficking.

Migrant workers lodging complaints often had to continue working for their employers during investigations, thereby putting them at risk of further abuse. Those who left their workplace risked being reported to immigration authorities as “runaways” by their employers, and subjected to arrest and deportation.

The EPS discouraged migrant workers from making complaints and changing jobs for fear of losing the ability to extend their contract, and some officials actively dissuaded migrants from making formal complaints. Consequently, employers abusing migrant workers rarely faced legal sanctions.1

Freedom of association – trade unions

Trade unions faced increasing restrictions. Several trade union leaders were criminally charged or even imprisoned for engaging in collective action and other legitimate trade union activities.

Kim Jung-woo, a former leader of the Ssangyong Motor branch of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union, had been sentenced in 2013 to 10 months in prison for preventing municipal government officials from dismantling a protest site in the capital Seoul. He was released on bail in April 2014 after completing his original sentence, but faced an appeal by the prosecution seeking a heavier sentence.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment sought to deregister the Korean Teachers’ and Education Workers’ Union (KTU) in 2013, and this was affirmed through a ruling by the Seoul Administrative Court in June 2014. However, the Seoul High Court suspended execution of this ruling in September, pending an appeal.

Freedom of expression

The government continued its use of the National Security Law (NSL) to curtail freedom of expression. At least 32 people were charged for violations of the NSL in the first eight months of the year. This was less than in 2013, when 129 people were investigated or charged under the NSL, the highest number in a decade, but remained a matter of great concern.

Lee Seok-ki, a National Assembly member from the Unified Progressive Party (UPP), was imprisoned along with six other party members for “conspiracy to revolt”, “inciting an insurrection”, and activities deemed to violate the NSL. On appeal in August, the Seoul High Court dismissed the charges of “conspiracy to revolt”, but upheld the other charges, and reduced the prison sentences to terms ranging from two to nine years.

The government also sought to disband the UPP before the Constitutional Court, which ruled in December that the party had violated the basic democratic order and disbanded the party. This was the first such request from the government since democratization in 1987 and the first time a party was disbanded since 1958.

Freedom of assembly

Since the ferry accident in April, more than 300 people were arrested in attempts by police to quell peaceful demonstrations expressing discontent over the government’s response to the ferry sinking. Police blockades of street rallies continued for months following the accident.

In June, the police cracked down on a peaceful protest in the city of Miryang, injuring 14 protesters. Some 300 protesters, many of whom were elderly, were protesting against the construction of high-voltage electricity transmission towers, and demanding genuine consultation.

Conscientious objectors

At least 635 conscientious objectors remained in prison at the end of the year.

Members of the public voiced concerns about the system of compulsory military service following the deaths of two male conscripts, which revealed evidence of ongoing ill-treatment in the military.

Amnesty International, along with several other NGOs, submitted arguments in August in a case before the Constitutional Court addressing the right to conscientious objection to military service as derived from the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.2

Arms trade

South Korea exported substantial amounts of tear gas shells to countries where tear gas was used indiscriminately in riot control.3 Following pressure from Amnesty International and other human rights groups, the government announced a halt to shipments of tear gas to Bahrain in January.4

South Korea signed the Arms Trade Treaty in 2013, but had yet to ratify the treaty and incorporate it into domestic legislation by the end of 2014.

  1. Bitter Harvest: Exploitation and forced labour of migrant agricultural workers in South Korea (ASA 25/004/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA25/004/2014/en
  2. Korea: The right to conscientious objection to military service: amicus curiae opinion (POL 31/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/POL31/001/2014/en
  3. South Korea: Open letter to the President on first anniversary of inauguration (ASA 25/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA25/001/2014/en
  4. South Korea suspends tear gas supplies to Bahrain (NWS 11/003/2014) www.amnesty.org/press-releases/2014/01/south-korea-suspends-tear-gas-supplies-bahrain/

Kuwait

State of Kuwait
Head of state: al-Shaikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah
Head of government: al-Shaikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah

Peaceful criticism of the Amir, other state authorities or Islam remained criminalized. Those targeted for arrest, detention and prosecution included human rights and political reform activists. Authorities used a telecommunications law to prosecute and imprison critics who expressed dissent using social media, and curtailed the right to public assembly. The government continued to withhold nationality and citizenship rights from tens of thousands of Bidun people, and arbitrarily stripped several critics and members of their families of their Kuwaiti citizenship. Women faced discrimination in law and practice. Foreign migrant workers, who comprised over half of the population, lacked adequate protection under the law and were subject to discrimination, exploitation and abuse. The death penalty remained in force for a range of crimes; no executions were reported.

Freedom of expression

In April, the Public Prosecutor banned media discussion about a publicly available video recording that reportedly showed two former senior political figures discussing a plot to replace the Amir and take control of the government. The authorities stripped a media owner of his Kuwaiti nationality after his TV and radio station allegedly breached the media ban.

At least eight people were sentenced for comments they had made on social media, following prosecutions under Penal Code provisions that criminalized “insult” to the Amir and other state authorities and religion, and provisions of a 2001 law prohibiting the use of telecommunications facilities to disseminate criticism. Up to 10 others faced a cycle of prosecution, trial, conviction and appeal in connection with the expression of their views, mainly via the website Twitter. They included human rights activist and blogger Abdullah Fairouz, arrested in November 2013, who was sentenced in January to five years in prison for messages he posted on Twitter.1 In July, an appeal court upheld a 10-year prison sentence imposed on blogger Hamad al-Naqi in 2012 for allegedly defaming religion and foreign leaders.

In July, the authorities arrested former parliamentarian Musallam al-Barrak, a vocal government critic, after he reportedly accused senior officials of bribery and corruption in a speech to a large crowd in June. He was detained for 10 days and then released to stand trial on charges of “insulting” the judiciary. His arrest prompted widespread protests and accusations that the police had used excessive force against protesters, which the government denied. He continued to face a number of expression-related prosecutions at the end of the year.

Deprivation of nationality

The government resorted to the new tactic of arbitrarily stripping some of its critics and their dependents of their Kuwaiti citizenship rights under provisions of the 1959 nationality law.2 In July, the authorities stripped the nationality of Ahmed Jabr al-Shammari, owner of the Al-Yawm newspaper and TV channel, and four others, along with their dependents, rendering over 30 people stateless. The authorities revoked the citizenship of at least 10 others in August and a further 15 in September.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The authorities failed to independently investigate allegations of torture of detainees by security officials. In a letter to Amnesty International in September, the government denied that arbitrary arrests took place during demonstrations or that officials committed torture or ill-treatment.

Bidun human rights activist ‘ Abdulhakim al-Fadhli complained to an investigating prosecutor in February that police had beaten him in detention to force him to sign a “confession”. The prosecutor failed to order a medical examination requested by ‘Abdulhakim al-Fadhli or to take any other steps to investigate the alleged torture.

Discrimination – Bidun

The government continued to deny Kuwaiti nationality – and the rights and benefits associated with it, including free education, free health care and the right to vote – to tens of thousands of Bidun, although a small number were officially recognized as Kuwaiti citizens.

In October 2012, the Prime Minister had assured Amnesty International that the government would resolve the issue of citizenship for Kuwait’s Bidun residents within five years; at the end of 2014 that appeared unlikely.

Members of the Bidun community demonstrated to demand an end to discrimination, despite the ban on public gatherings by “non-citizens”. Some demonstrations were dispersed by police, but the government denied using excessive force. Scores of Bidun continued to face trial on charges of illegal gathering or public order offences. Many trials were repeatedly postponed, but in September 67 were acquitted. The authorities also detained at least 15 Bidun activists, mostly on charges relating to public order offences or “illegal gathering”.

Women’s rights

Kuwaiti women enjoyed greater rights than women in most other Gulf region states, including rights to stand as candidates and vote in elections, but they were not accorded equality under the law with men. The law required that women have a male “guardian” in family matters, such as divorce, child custody and inheritance, and when receiving medical treatment.

Migrant workers’ rights

Migrant workers, who made up the majority of Kuwait’s workforce, continued to face exploitation and abuse linked partly to the official kafala sponsorship system. Migrant domestic workers, mostly women from Asian countries, were especially vulnerable as they were excluded from forms of protection afforded to other workers by Kuwait’s labour laws.

Death penalty

The death penalty remained in force for murder and other crimes. At least five people were sentenced to death; no executions were reported.

  1. Urgent Action: Mother of activist at risk of deportation (MDE 17/007/2014) ua.amnesty.ch/urgent-actions/2014/09/224-14?ua_language=en
  2. Kuwait: Halt the deplorable revocation of nationality of naturalized citizens (MDE 17/004/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/documents/MDE17/004/2014/en/

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz Republic
Head of state: Almaz Atambaev
Head of government: Dzhoomart Otorbaev (replaced Zhantoro Satibaldiev in April)

The authorities failed to take effective measures to address allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and bring perpetrators to justice. No impartial and effective investigation took place into human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, committed during the June 2010 violence and its aftermath. MPs initiated draft laws that if adopted would have a negative impact on civil society. Prisoner of conscience Azimjan Askarov remained in detention.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment persisted despite a programme of independent monitoring of places of detention and the establishment of the National Centre for the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.

On 20 December 2013, the UN Committee against Torture issued its concluding observations on the second periodic report on Kyrgyzstan. The Committee expressed grave concern “about the ongoing and widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty, in particular while in police custody to extract confessions”. On 23 April 2014, the UN Human Rights Committee considered the second periodic report of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Both Committees highlighted the failure of the authorities to promptly, impartially and fully investigate allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and to prosecute perpetrators. They expressed concern about the lack of a full and effective investigation into the June 2010 violence.1 The Committees also urged Kyrgyzstan to address these concerns by taking immediate and effective measures to prevent acts of torture and ill-treatment, by tackling impunity, prosecuting perpetrators and conducting investigations into all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, including in cases related to the June 2010 violence.

On 16 June 2014, the Jalal-Abad regional human rights organization Spravedlivost (Justice) recorded two incidents of torture during a monitoring visit to the Jalal-Abad temporary detention centre. A medical practitioner, who was part of the monitoring group, documented the signs of torture. One detainee alleged that police officers had beaten him with hands and fists and a book, and put a plastic bag over his head. He was handcuffed to a radiator until the next day. He suffered concussion as a result of the ill-treatment. Another detainee alleged that police officers hit him in the larynx, kicked him in the stomach and beat his head with a book. Spravedlivost submitted complaints to the Jalal-Abad city prosecutor. After conducting an initial check and ordering two forensic medical examinations, the city prosecutor nevertheless refused to open criminal investigations into these allegations.

In 2014 the European Court of Human Rights issued three judgments against Russia, in which it stated that if ethnic Uzbek applicants were to be extradited to Kyrgyzstan, they would be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

Impunity

Criminal investigations into allegations of torture were rare. In the first half of 2014, the Prosecutor General’s Office registered 109 complaints, but only in nine cases were criminal investigations initiated; of these only three went to trial. Trials were ongoing at the end of the year.

The media reported that on 26 November 2013, the Sverdlovsk District Court of Bishkek handed down the first ever conviction for torture under Article 305-1 of the Criminal Code. Police officer Adilet Motuev was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. The Court found that he had illegally brought a man to a police station after accusing him of stealing a mobile phone. Adilet Motuev threatened the man and forced him to confess to the theft by squeezing the handcuffs and putting a plastic bag on his head and suffocating him. However, in 2014 the Court of Second Instance acquitted Adilet Motuev of all torture charges and changed the sentence to two years’ imprisonment for unauthorized conduct of an investigation.

The authorities failed to take any steps to fairly and effectively investigate the June 2010 violence and its aftermath in the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad. Lawyers defending ethnic Uzbeks detained in the context of the violence continued to be targeted for their work, threatened and physically attacked, even in the courtroom, with no accountability for the perpetrators.

Prisoners of conscience

On 3 September 2014, the Supreme Court once again turned down an appeal lodged by Azimjan Askarov’s lawyer to re-investigate the case against him. Earlier in the year, Bishkek City Court had annulled the ruling by Bishkek District Court that the case must be reviewed on the basis that the defence had presented new evidence.

Freedom of expression and association

Civil society activists dealing with human rights issues reported pressure from the authorities because of their work, resulting in a heightened sense of insecurity among them.

In May 2014, the Ministry of Justice proposed amendments to NGO legislation that would abolish the right to establish NGOs without legal status. If passed, the amendments would criminalize the activities of all unregistered NGOs. Some deputies called for Parliament to push through the adoption of a law similar to that passed in Russia requiring NGOs to adopt the stigmatizing label of “foreign agents” if they receive foreign funds and engage in “political” activities. In November, the parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, Constitutional Law and State Structure recommended that the proposed amendments be withdrawn.

Discrimination

The UN Human Rights Committee expressed concerns about the lack of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation prohibiting discrimination on grounds such as race, language, disability and ethnic origin.

On 15 October, Parliament passed in its first reading a draft law prohibiting the promotion of so-called non-traditional sexual relations, thus increasing the vulnerability of groups defending the rights of sexual minorities. The proposed amendments would criminalize any action aimed at creating a positive attitude to non-traditional sexual relationships and would restrict freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly.

Ethnic Uzbeks in the south of Kyrgyzstan continued to be vulnerable to physical attacks based on their ethnic origin. However, the authorities qualified these attacks as “petty hooliganism”, and did not fully and impartially investigate them as alleged hate crimes.

On 4 August 2014, ethnic Uzbek Kabulzhan Osmonov needed emergency medical treatment for injuries inflicted by a group of men, described by eyewitnesses as ethnic Kyrgyz, who assaulted and beat him unconscious in an unprovoked attack at his place of work in Osh. They had addressed him as “sart”, a derogatory term indicating Uzbek ethnicity. Kabulzhan Osmonov reported the attack to his local police station but it was not until the case attracted media coverage that a criminal investigation was opened. Following this, local prosecutors and police pressured Kabulzhan Osmonov to withdraw his complaint.

  1. Will there ever be justice? Kyrgyzstan’s failure to investigate June 2010 violence and its aftermath (EUR 58/001/2013) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR58/001/2013/en.

LAOS

Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Head of state: Choummaly Sayasone
Head of government: Thongsing Thammavong

State control over the media, judiciary and political and social institutions continued to severely restrict freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Lack of openness and a scarcity of information made independent monitoring of the human rights situation difficult. The enforced disappearance of a prominent member of civil society was unresolved at the end of the year. At least two prisoners of conscience remained imprisoned. Although Laos is abolitionist in practice, the death penalty was retained as a mandatory punishment for some drug offences.

BACKGROUND

The controversy over the building of large hydropower dams continued. Dissatisfaction within the country by those forced to relocate was reported, with some communities challenging loss of land and inadequate or unpaid compensation. In August Laos announced a temporary suspension of construction and a six-month consultation on its second major dam on the River Mekong following concerns raised by neighbouring countries; the consultation process was reportedly flawed and work on the dam continued. Environmental groups claimed that the Xayaburi and Don Sahong hydropower dams would impact the food security of around 60 million people downstream. A further nine dams were planned.

In November Laos submitted its national report ahead of its review under the UN Universal Periodic Review in January/February 2015. The report failed to adequately address key human rights concerns raised during the first review in May 2010.

New proposed guidelines for the operation and activities of international NGOs working on development projects were widely criticized for their heavy approval and reporting procedures. Similarly, there was concern that proposed amendments to the 2009 law regulating local associations would place further restrictions on civil society groups.

Freedom of expression

Tight restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly were maintained. Draft laws and a decree to control the use of the internet and social media were completed by the end of the year. They included the Cybercrime Law and a Prime Ministerial Decree on management of information through the internet. The Decree enacted aimed to prevent circulation of criticism of the government and its policies. Users of Facebook were warned not to post information that might “disrupt social order and undermine security”.

Two prisoners of conscience held since October 1999 for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly by attempting to hold a peaceful protest continued to serve 20-year prison terms. The authorities stated that two ethnic Hmong imprisoned in 2003 after a grossly unfair trial for helping two foreign journalists gather information were released early: Thao Moua in 2013 and Pa Fue Khang in May 2014. This could not be independently confirmed.

Enforced disappearances

A prominent member of civil society, Sombath Somphone,1 remained disappeared since he was abducted outside a police post in the capital, Vientiane, in December 2012. During the year, only one vague public statement was made by the police about their investigation and no information was provided to the family. This compounded fears that the failure to properly investigate Sombath Somphone’s abduction or to attempt to locate him indicated state complicity in his disappearance, which undermined the development of an active and confident civil society.2

  1. Laos: Caught on camera – the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone (ASA 26/002/2013) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA26/002/2013/en
  2. Laos: Seeking justice for “disappearance” victim, Sombath Somphone (ASA 26/001/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA26/001/2014/en

LATVIA

Republic of Latvia
Head of state: Andris Berzins
Head of government: Laimdota Straujuma

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people were inadequately protected against hate crimes. While some positive legislative steps were taken in 2013, the number of stateless people living in the country and being excluded from political rights remained high.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

In September, the Parliament adopted amendments to legislation on hate crime. However, sexual orientation and gender identity were not included among the explicitly protected grounds in the revised hate crime provisions in the Criminal Code. Criminal law punished incitement to hatred and violence based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, age and sex. Only racist motives were regarded as aggravating circumstances.

In 2013, the police recorded 22 cases of violence and incitement to hatred that were motivated by racism or xenophobia. The Latvian NGO MOZAIKA reported four cases of physical attacks against LGBTI people and one case of assault against a gay man with a disability.

On 18 September, the Parliament voted to pass an amendment to the Children’s Rights Protection law requiring sexuality education in schools to be based on “traditional family values” and the concept of “marriage” defined as being between a man and a woman only. At the end of the year, the final adoption of the amendment was pending.

Discrimination – stateless persons

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, 267,789 people remained stateless within the country as of January 2014.

On 1 October 2013, amendments to the Citizenship Law – aimed at simplifying the procedure for granting citizenship to a child born after 21 August 1991 to a non-citizen or stateless person – were adopted. In April, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concerns over the high number of stateless people who continued to live in the country without access to political rights, while acknowledging progress in this area.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In December 2013, the UN Committee against Torture highlighted that the definition of torture included in Article 24 did not contain all the elements set out in the Convention against Torture and created loopholes for impunity. The Committee expressed concern that torture was not defined as a specific criminal offence in the Criminal Code and that some acts of torture or complicity in perpetrating acts of torture were subject to a 10-year statute of limitations.

The Committee also pointed to allegations of violence and ill-treatment perpetrated by law enforcement agents and highlighted the absence of an independent mechanism to investigate such allegations.

Women’s rights

Domestic violence was not defined as a specific crime. In December, the UN Committee against Torture expressed concern over the absence of protection measures and the inadequate provision of shelters for victims of domestic violence.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In April, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern that the detention of asylum-seekers, including those as young as 14, was not just used as a measure of last resort. The Committee noted that the non-suspensive effect of appeals of negative decisions under the accelerated asylum procedure increased the risk of individuals being returned to countries where they were at risk of serious human rights violations or abuses.

Lebanon

Lebanese Republic
Head of state: vacant since May, when Michel Suleiman’s term ended
Head of government: Tammam Salam

Pressures generated by the armed conflict in neighbouring Syria continued. There were new reports of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees. Lebanon hosted more than 1.2 million refugees from Syria but took steps to restrict the entry of refugees from Syria including Palestinians. Palestinian refugees long resident in Lebanon continued to face discrimination. Women remained subject to discrimination in law and in practice, and were inadequately protected against sexual and other violence. Foreign migrant workers, particularly women domestic workers, faced exploitation and other abuse. More than two dozen men faced prosecution for alleged consensual same-sex conduct. Some progress was made in clarifying cases of enforced disappearance dating back decades. The death penalty remained in force; there were no executions. The trial in their absence of five people in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri opened before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Syrian government forces and armed groups based in Syria carried out indiscriminate attacks along the border.

Background

Political infighting resulted in failure to agree a new President to replace Michel Suleiman, whose term of office ended in May. In February, however, the rival alliances agreed to form a national unity government with Tammam Salam as Prime Minister.

Lebanon avoided being drawn fully into the armed conflict in Syria, despite political, religious and social divisions, the continuing influx of refugees from Syria, and the participation of some Lebanese persons, notably members of Hezbollah, in the Syrian conflict. However, the conflict remained an ever-present threat.

Political tension remained high throughout the year, exacerbated by the Syrian conflict. By the end of the year, Lebanon hosted more than 1.15 million Syrian refugees and around 50,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria, swelling the population by a quarter and straining the country’s resources. Tensions related to the conflict sparked repeated bouts of violence, especially in Tripoli, causing scores of deaths. The Syrian army periodically shelled the Bekaa valley and other areas inside Lebanon’s border, and armed groups fired rockets from Syria into Lebanon’s eastern border region, where abductions were also rife. In August, members of the Islamic State (IS) armed group posted videos on the internet showing them beheading two Lebanese soldiers whom they had taken hostage in fighting around Arsal, a Lebanese border town briefly seized by IS and other armed groups including Jabhat al-Nusra, who reportedly executed two other hostages in September and December respectively. A series of bomb attacks in Beirut and elsewhere also appeared to be connected to the Syrian conflict.

Torture and other ill-treatment

There were reports of torture and other ill-treatment of detained suspects. One detainee held by General Security in May reported after his release that interrogators had beaten him on his hands and legs with electric cable, trodden on and verbally insulted him. The authorities failed to undertake credible investigations into allegations of torture, including those made by a boy aged 15 and other people detained after clashes between the Lebanese army and armed groups in June 2013 in the Sidon area.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Refugees faced restrictions on their right to seek asylum and other rights. Lebanon was not a party to the UN Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol.

At the end of the year, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and UNWRA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Lebanon was hosting more than 1.2 million refugees from Syria. In May, the government effectively closed the border to most Palestinians entering from Syria, and announced in June that it would only allow the entry of Syrian refugees from areas bordering Lebanon. In October, the authorities brought in further restrictions and asked UNHCR to stop registering refugees except for humanitarian cases. New regulations announced on 31 December required Syrians to apply for one of six types of entry visa in order to enter Lebanon. Instances of Syrian refugees and Palestinian refugees from Syria being sent back to Syria, in violation of international law, were documented.

The high cost of renewing annual residency permits, combined with opaque policies for the renewal of permits for refugees from Syria, led many refugees to become irregular in status, placing them at risk of arrest, detention and deportation. Some municipalities subjected refugees to curfews that limited their freedom of movement, prevented refugees from establishing informal tented settlements, or imposed additional taxes on local landlords who rented property to them. The Lebanese army and the Internal Security Forces also dismantled some informal tented settlements, ostensibly on security grounds.

The presence of so many refugees put Lebanon’s health, education and other resources under enormous strain. This was exacerbated by inadequate international funding, and left many refugees unable to access adequate health care, shelter, education and other services.

Thousands of Palestinian long-term refugees continued to live in camps and informal gatherings in Lebanon, often in deprived conditions. They faced discriminatory laws and regulations, for example denying them the right to inherit property, the right to work in around 20 professions, and other basic rights.

Women’s rights

Women faced discrimination in law and in practice. Personal status laws regulating issues such as marriage prevented Lebanese women with foreign spouses passing their nationality to their children. In April, a new law specifically criminalized domestic violence for the first time. Among other deficiencies, it failed to criminalize marital rape, although it provided for the establishment of temporary shelters and measures to strengthen police and prosecutors’ effectiveness in addressing domestic violence.

Migrant workers’ rights

Migrant workers faced exploitation and abuse, particularly women domestic workers whose rights at work – including to fixed days off, rest periods, wages and humane conditions – were not protected by law, leaving them vulnerable to physical, sexual and other abuse by employers. Domestic workers were employed under contracts tying them to employers acting as their “sponsors”, under conditions that facilitated abuse.

Employers frequently retained possession of workers’ passports to prevent them from leaving abusive working conditions. In June, for the first time, a judge ordered an employer to return a domestic worker’s passport, ruling that its retention by the employer violated the worker’s freedom of movement.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

Article 534 of the Penal Code, which prohibited sexual intercourse “contrary to the order of nature” was used to prosecute various consensual sexual activities, including sex between men. In January a judge ruled that Article 534 was not applicable in the case of a transgender woman having sexual relations with men. In August, the authorities arrested 27 men at a Beirut bath house and charged them with offences under Article 534 and provisions relating to “public decency” and prostitution.

In January, five men arrested on suspicion of consensual same-sex sexual activity were reported to have been subjected to anal examinations by a doctor, despite the Lebanese Order of Physicians declaring in 2012 that it was impermissible for doctors to carry out such examinations, which violate the international prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, and a circular from the Minister of Justice in the same year, that called on public prosecutors to cease this practice.

International justice

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

The trial of four defendants accused in connection with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005 opened in January before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) in the Netherlands. The four defendants, and a fifth whose trial was joined to theirs by the STL in February, all remained at large and were tried in their absence. In April, the STL brought contempt charges against two Lebanese journalists and their respective media outlets for disclosing confidential information about witnesses in the trial of the five accused.

Impunity – enforced disappearances and abductions

The fate of thousands who were forcibly disappeared, abducted or otherwise unlawfully deprived of their liberty during and after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, mostly remained undisclosed. In March, however, the Shura Council ruled that the full, as yet unpublished, report of the 2000 Official Committee of Inquiry to Investigate the Fate of Kidnapped and Missing Persons in Lebanon should be made available to the families of those missing. After the dismissal of appeals against this decision, the full report was provided to a lawyer representing the families in September.

Lebanon signed the International Convention against enforced disappearance in 2007 but had yet to ratify it.

Death penalty

Courts continued to impose death sentences for murder and terrorism-related crimes, including some in the absence of the defendants. No executions had been carried out since 2004.

Libya

State of Libya
Head of state: Disputed (Agila Saleh Essa Gweider, President of the House of Representatives, replaced Nuri Abu Sahmain, President of the General National Congress in August)
Head of government: Disputed (Abdallah al-Thinni replaced Ali Zeidan in March; Ahmad Matiq briefly replaced Abdallah al-Thinni in May in a disputed vote ruled unconstitutional; Abdallah al-Thinni replaced Ahmad Matiq in June)

Militias and other armed forces committed possible war crimes, other serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses. They killed or injured hundreds of civilians and destroyed and damaged civilian infrastructure and objects in indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in Benghazi, Tripoli, Warshafana, Zawiya, the Nafusa Mountains and elsewhere. Libya Dawn forces, Zintan Brigades and Warshafana militias abducted civilians based on their origin or political affiliation, tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees, and in some cases summarily killed captured fighters. Islamist forces affiliated with the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries also abducted civilians and summarily killed scores of captured soldiers. Operation Dignity forces, which gained support of the interim government based in Tobruk, carried out air strikes in residential areas causing damage to civilian objects and resulting in civilian casualties, tortured or otherwise ill-treated some detained civilians and fighters, and were responsible for several summary killings. Political killings were common and carried out with impunity; hundreds of security officials, state employees, religious leaders, activists, judges, journalists and rights activists were assassinated. The trial of 37 officials from the rule of Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi began amid serious due process concerns; torture remained rampant; journalists were targeted for their reporting, and assaults against foreign nationals increased. Impunity, including for past human rights violations and abuses, remained entrenched.

Background

Following months of deepening political polarization and crisis over the legitimacy and mandate of the General National Congress (GNC), Libya’s first elected parliament, the country descended into chaos as Benghazi, Derna, Tripoli, Warshafana, the Nafusa Mountains and other areas became engulfed in armed conflicts along political, ideological, regional and tribal lines.

Tensions were high at the time of February elections for a Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA), tasked with devising a new Constitution. The CDA elections were marred by violence, a boycott by some ethnic minorities, and a low allocation of seats for women. By the end of the year, the CDA had released its preliminary recommendations and opened them for public consultation.

In May, retired army General Khalifa Haftar launched Operation Dignity, a military offensive with the stated aim of fighting terrorism, in Benghazi, against a coalition formed of Ansar al-Sharia and other Islamist armed groups (later named the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries). Initially denounced by the authorities, Operation Dignity, which subsequently spread to Derna, gained support from the new government that took office following elections in June for a House of Representatives (HOR) that replaced the GNC. These elections, also marred by violence and a low turnout, resulted in a defeat for Islamist parties.

In July, a coalition of predominantly Misratah, Zawiya and Tripoli-based militias launched a military offensive, Libya Dawn, in the name of protecting the “17 February Revolution” against rival militias from Zintan and Warshafana, affiliated to the liberal and federalist parties dominating the HOR, which they accused of carrying out a counter-revolution alongside Operation Dignity. In August, the HOR relocated due to insecurity in Tripoli, establishing its base at Tobruk, amid a boycott by 30 of its members. It recognized Operation Dignity as a legitimate military operation led by the Libyan army, declared Libya Dawn forces and Ansar al-Sharia terrorist groups, and called for foreign intervention to protect civilians and state institutions. Aircraft from the United Arab Emirates flying from Egyptian airbases reportedly carried out air strikes on Libya Dawn forces as they fought to win control of Tripoli International Airport, which they achieved on 23 August, forced the Zintan Brigades from the capital, and seized control of state institutions there. The fighting and associated insecurity, including attacks on foreign diplomats and staff of international organizations, led the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), whose mandate the UN Security Council renewed in March, foreign embassies and international organizations to suspend their operations in Tripoli and evacuate staff. Bombings and other attacks targeted government buildings and public places throughout the year.

After capturing Tripoli, Libya Dawn forces reconvened the GNC, which appointed a new Prime Minister and National Salvation Government (NSG). The NSG claimed that it had taken charge of most state institutions in the west, in opposition to the HOR government in Tobruk.

On 6 November, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that invalidated the elections for the HOR. The Tobruk-based government, recognized by the UN and backed by most of the international community, rejected the ruling, alleging that judges had been threatened by Libya Dawn. Armed clashes between rival tribes continued in Sabha and Obari in southwest Libya leading to a worsening of the humanitarian situation. Derna, an eastern city, was controlled by Islamist armed groups which enforced a strict interpretation of Shari’a law (Islamic law) and committed serious human rights abuses. In October, one armed group based in Derna, the Shura Council of Islamic Youth, declared allegiance to the Islamic State armed group fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Internal armed conflict

Warring parties in the east and west of Libya carried out indiscriminate attacks resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties and damage to civilian buildings and infrastructure including hospitals, homes, mosques, businesses, farms, power stations, airports, roads and a large fuel storage facility. They fired artillery, mortars, GRAD rockets and anti-aircraft weapons from and into residential areas. Operation Dignity forces carried out air strikes in Benghazi, Derna, Tripoli, Zuara, Bir al-Ghanem and Misratah, at times in residential areas, reportedly killing and injuring civilians and damaging civilian buildings. Zintan Brigades allegedly used antipersonnel mines around Tripoli International Airport.

The Libya Dawn attack on Zintan Brigades protecting Tripoli International Airport damaged several buildings and aircraft, according to officials. In December, a rocket hit a large oil tank at al-Sider port resulting in a fire and destroying up to 1.8 million barrels of crude oil.

With some exceptions, militias, army units and armed groups showed disregard for civilian life, objects and infrastructure and failed to take the necessary precautions to avoid or minimize civilian casualties and damage. Heavy fighting in residential areas caused disruption to health care, notably in Warshafana and Benghazi, where patients had to be evacuated from hospitals. Shortages of fuel, electricity, food and medicine were reported across Libya.

In Warshafana and Tripoli, Libya Dawn forces looted and burned civilian homes and other property on the basis of the owner’s origin or political affiliation. Armed groups denied access for humanitarian relief in Obari and obstructed the evacuation of the wounded in Kikla.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, estimated that almost 395,000 people were internally displaced by the conflict between mid-May and mid-November. The Tawargha community, displaced since 2011, suffered further displacement and militia attacks; many sought shelter in municipal parks and car parks.

Armed forces on all sides carried out reprisal abductions, holding civilians solely on account of their origin or perceived political affiliation, often as hostages to secure prisoner exchanges. Both Libya Dawn forces and armed groups affiliated with the Zintan-Warshafana coalition tortured and otherwise ill-treated captured fighters and civilians they abducted, using electric shocks, stress positions, and denial of food, water and adequate washing facilities. Captured fighters were subjected to summary killings by all warring parties. In Benghazi, forces affiliated with the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries abducted civilians and carried out summary killings, including beheadings of captured soldiers and purported supporters of Operation Dignity. Groups aligned with Operation Dignity forces burned and destroyed scores of homes and other property of perceived Islamists; detained civilians on account of their political affiliation; and carried out several acts of torture and other ill-treatment and several summary killings.

Unlawful killings

Hundreds of individuals, including security officials, state employees, religious leaders, activists, journalists, judges and prosecutors were killed in politically motivated assassinations in Benghazi, Derna and Sirte allegedly by Islamist armed groups. None of those responsible were held to account. In May, gunmen shot dead an International Red Cross delegate in Sirte.

In June, human rights lawyer and activist Salwa Bughaighis was shot dead in her home after she gave a media interview in which she accused armed groups of undermining parliamentary elections. In July unidentified assailants killed former GNC member Fariha Barkawi in Derna. On 19 September, known as Black Friday, at least 10 individuals, including two youth activists, were killed by unidentified assailants.

Two public execution-style killings, as well as public floggings, were carried out by the Shura Council of Islamic Youth, an armed group controlling Derna which established an Islamic Court there. In August, an Egyptian man accused of theft and murder was shot dead at a stadium in Derna. In November, three activists were beheaded in Derna following their abduction, allegedly by an Islamist armed group. In December, the Islamic Court issued a warning to current and former employees of the Ministries of the Interior, Justice and Defence.

Freedoms of expression, association and assembly

The GNC tightened restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Decree 5/2014, adopted by the GNC in January, banned satellite television stations from broadcasting views deemed “hostile to the 17 February Revolution”, while decree 13/2014 empowered authorities to suspend the scholarships of students and salaries of state employees abroad who engaged in “activities hostile to the 17 February Revolution”. Law 5/2014 amended Article 195 of the Penal Code to criminalize insults to officials, the state’s emblem and flag, and any act perceived as “an attack against the 17 February Revolution”.

In January, a court sentenced an engineer to a three-year prison term for participating in a June 2011 protest in London, UK, against NATO’s involvement in the Libyan conflict and allegedly publishing false information about Libya.

In November, newspaper editor Amara al-Khattabi was sentenced to five years in prison for insulting public officials, barred from practising journalism and stripped of his civil rights for the duration of the sentence and ordered to pay heavy fines.1

Militias increased their attacks on the media, abducting scores of journalists and subjecting others to physical assaults or other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, threats and assassination attempts. At least four journalists were unlawfully killed, including newspaper editor Muftah Abu Zeid, who was shot dead by unidentified armed men in Benghazi in May. In August, Libya Dawn forces in Tripoli destroyed and burned the premises of two TV stations, Al-Assema and Libya International.

Scores of journalists, human rights defenders and activists fled abroad because of the threat posed to them by militias. In September, Libya Dawn forces reportedly raided the offices of the National Commission for Human Rights and removed its archive of individual complaints, raising concerns of reprisals against victims of abuses.

In November, the National Council for Human Rights and Civil Liberties was closed, reportedly by Libya Dawn forces, amid intimidation of its members.

Justice system

The justice system remained paralyzed by violence and lawlessness, hampering investigations into abuses. In March, courts suspended work in Derna, Benghazi and Sirte amid threats and attacks against judges and prosecutors. The Ministry of Justice exercised only nominal control over many detention facilities holding perceived Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi loyalists.

A deadline set by the Law on Transitional Justice and extended by the GNC, to charge or release all detainees held in relation to the 2011 conflict by 2 April, was not met. As of March, only 10% of the 6,200 detainees held in prisons under the Ministry of Justice had been tried, while hundreds continued to be held without charge or trial in poor conditions. Release orders remained unimplemented due to militia pressure.

Delays in the processing of cases of perceived al-Gaddafi loyalists held since 2011 were exacerbated by the renewed conflicts as shelling prevented the transfer of detainees for trial. Family visits to prisons were suspended in several cities, prompting concern for the detainees’ safety.

The trial of 37 former officials from Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s rule began in March amid serious due process concerns. Defence lawyers were denied access to some evidence, given insufficient time to prepare, and were intimidated. Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, one of Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s sons and the main defendant, appeared in court only by video link as he remained in militia custody in Zintan, casting doubt on the court’s authority over him. Authorities controlling al-Hadba Prison complex, which hosts the courtroom, denied access to some independent trial observers including Amnesty International.

A video of the “confessions” of another of Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s sons, Saadi al-Gaddafi, was broadcast on Libyan television following his extradition from Niger and imprisonment at al-Hadba. Prison authorities interrogated him without access to a lawyer, and denied access to him by UNSMIL, Amnesty International and others, despite the prosecution authorizing these visits.

In Zawiya, west of Tripoli, scores of al-Gaddafi loyalists were detained for periods of up to 18 months beyond the date they should have been released, as sentencing did not take into account the period of arbitrary detention by militias. Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread in both state and militia prisons, and deaths in custody caused by torture continued to be reported.

Impunity

The authorities failed to carry out meaningful investigations into alleged war crimes and serious human rights abuses committed during the 2011 armed conflict or to address the legacy of past violations under Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s rule, including the 1996 mass killing of over 1,200 detainees in Abu Salim Prison.

The authorities failed to surrender Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face prosecution on charges of crimes against humanity. In May, the ICC Appeals Chamber confirmed Libya’s legal obligation to transfer him to ICC custody.

In July, the ICC Appeals Chamber upheld a decision that Abdallah al-Senussi, a former military intelligence chief accused of crimes against humanity, could be tried domestically. Serious concerns remained, however, about violations of his due process rights, including restricted access to a lawyer of his choice.

The ICC Prosecutor initiated a second case and began compiling evidence against suspects residing abroad in accordance with a 2013 agreement with the Libyan government on prosecutions of former al-Gaddafi officials. Despite expressing concern in November that “crimes within the ICC jurisdiction are being committed”, the ICC Prosecutor failed to begin investigations into crimes committed by militias.

In August, UN Security Council Resolution 2174 extended the scope for international sanctions to include those responsible for “planning, directing, or committing” violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law, or human rights abuses, in Libya.

Women’s rights

Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice, and were inadequately protected against gender-based violence; reports of sexual harassment increased. A decree providing for reparations to victims of sexual violence by state agents under Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s rule and during the 2011 conflict was adopted but remained largely unimplemented.

Women candidates to the CDA faced difficulties in campaigning and registering to vote.

Women’s rights activists faced intimidation and in some cases assault by militias. Unveiled women were increasingly stopped, harassed and threatened at checkpoints. Several women were reported to have been killed by male relatives in so-called “honour killings” in the Sabha area.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Thousands of undocumented migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees were detained indefinitely for migration-related offences following their interception at sea or identity checks. They faced torture and other ill-treatment in detention centres run by the Ministry of the Interior and militias, including on account of their religion, and were subjected to forced labour. Women faced intrusive strip-searches by male guards.

Foreign nationals, in particular Egyptian Copts, were abducted, abused and unlawfully killed on account of their religious beliefs. In February, seven Egyptian Coptic migrant workers were abducted and shot dead in Benghazi, allegedly by members of Ansar al-Sharia.

The authorities continued to subject foreign nationals to compulsory medical tests as a prerequisite for issuing residency and work permits, and detained anyone diagnosed with infections such as hepatitis B or C and HIV in preparation for deportation.

Foreign nationals faced abductions and abuse for ransom. Many were victims of human trafficking by smugglers upon irregular entry into Libya.

The escalation of violence impelled some 130,000 refugees and migrants, including refugees from Syria, to travel to Italy via unseaworthy and overcrowded fishing boats. Many spent weeks locked in houses by smugglers prior to departure and were exploited, coerced and abused. Smugglers forced sub-Saharan Africans to travel below deck in overheated engine rooms without water or ventilation; some died of suffocation or intoxication with fumes.

UNHCR reported in mid-November that 14,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers were trapped in conflict zones in Libya.

Discrimination – religious and ethnic minorities

Attacks on Sufi religious sites continued while the authorities failed to provide adequate protection or conduct investigations. Sufi tombs were destroyed in Tripoli, Brak al-Shatti, Derna and Awjila. In July, unidentified assailants In Tripoli abducted Tarek Abbas, a Sufi imam; he was released in December.

Libyan atheists and agnostics faced threats and intimidation from militias in relation to their writings on social networking websites.

Tabu and Tuareg ethnic minorities continued to face obstacles in acquiring family identity booklets, hindering their access to health care, education and political participation.

Death penalty

The death penalty remained in force for a wide range of crimes. No judicial executions were reported.

  1. Libya: Jail sentence of Libyan editor a blow to free expression (MDE 19/010/2014)  www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde19/0010/2014/en/

LITHUANIA

Republic of Lithuania
Head of state: Dalia Grybauskaitė
Head of government: Algirdas Butkevičius

In February, the Prosecutor General opened an investigation into allegations that a Saudi Arabian national had been subjected to illegal rendition to Lithuania by the US CIA with the help of Lithuanian intelligence officials. A law, which aimed at “protecting minors” against detrimental public information, resulted in violations of the right to freedom of expression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

Counter-terror and security


In January, the Vilnius Regional Court ruled that the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s refusal to launch a pre-trial investigation into allegations that Saudi Arabian national Mustafa al-Hawsawi had been illegally transferred to and detained in a CIA detention centre at Antaviliai, near Vilnius, had been “groundless”. Legal representatives for Mustafa al-Hawsawi had complained that he was tortured and subjected to enforced disappearance in Lithuania between 2004 and September 2006. In February, the Prosecutor General opened a pre-trial investigation focusing on Mustafa al-Hawsawi’s alleged illegal transfer to Lithuania.

The Prosecutor General had previously refused to investigate similar allegations by lawyers for Palestinian Zayn al- Abidin Muhammad Husayn ( known as Abu Zubaydah ) . Abu Zubaydah’s case against Lithuania was pending before the European Court of Human Rights at the end of the year . Both Mustafa al- Hawsawi and Abu Zubaydah remained held at Guantánamo Bay.

In May, the UN Committee against Torture urged the government to complete the investigation into Mustafa al-Hawsawi’s alleged rendition in a timely and transparent manner. In the aftermath of the release in December of a US Senate report on CIA secret detention that contained references to “detention site violet”, widely believed to have been located in Lithuania, it was reported that the Lithuanian authorities were seeking additional information from the USA to determine whether detainees had been held and tortured in Lithuania. Information in the Senate report regarding “detention site violet” conformed with a 2009 Lithuanian parliamentary inquiry that had concluded that the CIA had established two secret sites in Lithuania.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

In May, the Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics concluded a book of fairy tales, which included stories of same-sex relationships, opposed “traditional family values”, as protected by the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effects of Public Information. The book’s distribution was stopped.

In September, the Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics found a video promoting tolerance towards LGBTI people and portraying same-sex families violated the Law on the Protection of Minors.

Transgender people continued to be denied access to legal gender recognition because of legislative gaps. Two proposals were pending before the parliament: one aimed at banning legal gender recognition, the other at allowing transgender people to seek legal recognition of their gender under certain compulsory conditions, including reassignment surgery.

Macedonia

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Head of state: Gjorge Ivanov
Head of government: Nikola Gruevski

Human rights were increasingly curtailed. Relations between the Macedonian and ethnic Albanian populations were marred by violent protests. New details emerged about the rendition of a CIA detainee with the complicity of Macedonia.

Background

The ruling party, Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity, remained in power following parliamentary elections in May, which were not recognized by the main opposition party. Freedom of expression was increasingly curtailed. The authorities exercised excessive influence over the police and judiciary. While the European Commission again recommended that talks on EU accession should start, in December the EU Council of Ministers for the sixth time deferred the decision.

Relations between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians remained precarious. In May, the arrest of an ethnic Albanian student, suspected of killing a Macedonian student, triggered two days of inter-ethnic rioting in the Gorce Petrov municipality of Skopje, the capital.

On 30 June, six ethnic Albanians were convicted – two in their absence – of murder defined as “terrorism” for the killing of five ethnic Macedonians near Lake Smilkovci in April 2012, and sentenced to life imprisonment; one defendant was acquitted.

On 4 July, thousands of Albanians marched into the centre of Skopje, saying “We are not terrorists”. The peaceful demonstration escalated outside the High Court with riot police using excessive force against protesters, including rubber bullets, tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons. On 6 July, further protests took place. In the predominantly Albanian cities of Tetovo and Gostivar, police used tear gas and stun grenades. Six men were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for “participation in a crowd to commit a crime”.

Crimes under international law

Impunity continued for war crimes and crimes against humanity which occurred during the 2001 internal armed conflict. No measures were taken to locate the bodies of 13 persons still missing after the armed conflict.

Counter-terror and security

The December release of a US Senate report on CIA secret detention operations included confirmation that former detainee Khaled el-Masri’s 2003 apprehension by the Macedonian authorities was a case of mistaken identity and the CIA took measures to cover up the incident. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in a 2013 landmark judgment that Macedonia was liable for Khaled el-Masri’s incommunicado detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, for his transfer out of Macedonia to locations where the German national suffered other serious violations of his human rights, and for the failure to carry out an effective investigation.

At the end of the year, the authorities had failed to submit to the Committee of Ministers an action plan, overdue since October 2013, to implement the Court’s judgment.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Allegations against police officials continued, including disproportionately against Roma. In May, two Roma minors, wrongly suspected of stealing a purse, were beaten by members of the Alfi Special Police unit. The older child was interrogated in a police station for two hours in the absence of a lawyer or his parents, and suffered bruising to his head, neck and chest.

Freedom of expression

In April, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression criticized the deterioration of freedom of expression, pluralism and media independence. The government reportedly spent 1% of its budget on placing advertisements in, or otherwise favouring, pro-government media. International organizations reported that state media election coverage was biased towards the ruling party.

During the May riots, police seized equipment from three media outlets and erased their video footage. Politicians continued to file defamation cases against journalists. International and domestic organizations called for the Nova Makedonija journalist Tomislav Kezharovski to be released from house arrest. He was originally imprisoned in 2013 for revealing the identity of an alleged protected witness, in what was considered to be a politically motivated prosecution. After international protests, he was released into house arrest.

Discrimination – Roma

The authorities failed to prevent, and protect Roma from, multiple forms of discrimination. Action plans for the Decade of Roma Inclusion and recommendations on the rights of Roma women made in 2013 by the UN CEDAW Committee were not implemented.

In June, the Constitutional Court ruled that articles of the Law on Travel Documents, enabling the authorities to revoke the passports of Macedonian citizens who had been returned or deported from another country, were incompatible with the right to freedom of movement. This followed a complaint by the NGO European Roma Rights Centre on behalf of Roma who experienced disproportionate discrimination by border officials.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

Anti-discrimination legislation was not amended to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. LGBTI human rights defenders were subject to regular threats. In October, 30 young men attacked a celebration of the second anniversary of the LGBTI Centre in Skopje, seriously injuring two people; no one has yet been brought to justice. In July the government proposed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants

Around 850 Kosovo Roma and Ashkali refugees remained in Macedonia, without a durable solution. By the end of September, 7,105 Macedonian citizens had applied for asylum in the EU.

Around 440 of the 1,260 registered asylum-seekers applied for asylum in Macedonia, but only 10 Syrians were granted refugee status and one person was granted subsidiary protection. Migrants, including women and unaccompanied minors, and Syrian refugees were detained in appalling conditions. Border guards were complicit in push-backs from Serbia.

MALAWI

Republic of Malawi
Head of state and government: Arthur Peter Mutharika (replaced Joyce Banda in May)

Those responsible for the deaths of two students in 2011 and 2012 were not brought to justice. Homosexuality continued to be criminalized under the penal code, although commitments were made to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. Death sentences continued to be imposed; no executions were carried out.

Background

Controversy surrounded the general elections held on 20 May, with the then President Joyce Banda attempting to have the elections nullified, alleging fraud. However, opposition candidate Arthur Peter Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party was declared the winning party following a High Court ruling. The new government faced perennial problems of deepening poverty, poor service delivery, mass unemployment, limited access to justice, gender-based violence and child marriages.

During the “hunger season” prior to the 2014 harvest, more than 1.4 million people in rural areas were at risk of malnutrition.

International scrutiny

In July, Malawi appeared before the UN Human Rights Committee for consideration of the country’s first periodic report under the ICCPR. Among other things, the Committee recommended the amendment of Malawi’s Human Rights Commission Act to give the Commission full independence in line with the UN Paris Principles. The Committee also recommended that Malawi adopt the Prison Act in conformity with international standards; strengthen the capacity and independence of the Inspectorate of Prisons and establish mechanisms to consistently consider its recommendations and make them public; and facilitate complaints from detainees.

Impunity

Three police officers facing charges of manslaughter following the death in custody of Edson Msiska on 29 January 2012 in Mzuzu were discharged in July after state prosecutors failed to appear in court; no reason was given for their failure to appear. The charges were reinstated in August. Edson Msiska, a college student, died in suspicious circumstances four days after his arrest for alleged possession of stolen property.

The case of Robert Chasowa, a student activist who was found dead in suspicious circumstances in September 2011, remained unresolved, despite the 2012 recommendations of the Chasowa Commission Report which named some suspects.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

Despite commitments by the previous and current governments that arrests of adults engaged in consensual same-sex sexual activity would be suspended, two men faced charges under the country’s anti-homosexuality laws. The two men, who were arrested in May, were on remand at the end of the year. If convicted, they would face up to 14 years’ imprisonment with hard labour.

In July, Solicitor General and Secretary for Justice Dr Janet Banda told the Human Rights Committee that while homosexual acts remained criminalized, such acts were not prosecuted by law enforcement agencies. She also reported that a process for the Malawi Law Commission to review the penal laws criminalizing same-sex acts had stalled largely due to financial constraints. Specifically, the Law Commission had been asked to give an opinion on the constitutionality of Articles 137A, 153 and 156 of the Penal Code, criminalizing homosexuality.

Death penalty

Death sentences continued to be imposed; no executions had been carried out since 1994.

MALAYSIA

Malaysia
Head of state: King Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah
Head of government: Najib Tun Razak

Freedom of expression came under attack as the government increasingly used the Sedition Act to arrest and charge human rights defenders and opposition politicians. Reports of human rights violations by the police persisted, including deaths in custody, torture and other ill-treatment, and unnecessary and excessive use of force and firearms. Religious minorities and LGBTI people faced harassment and intimidation. The death penalty continued to be imposed, with executions reportedly carried out in secret.

Background

In September Malaysia was elected to serve a two-year term on the UN Security Council. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim faced five years in prison and a ban from political office after his acquittal on politically motivated criminal “sodomy” charges was overturned by the Court of Appeal in March.1 Also in March, Malaysia rejected key recommendations aimed at strengthening respect for and protection of human rights at the adoption of its Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.2

Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression was subject to severe restrictions under a range of repressive laws. In August, the authorities began a crackdown on freedom of expression, using the Sedition Act to investigate, charge and imprison human rights defenders, opposition politicians, a journalist, academics and students.3 At least two people were convicted of sedition during the year and sentenced to 10 and 12 months’ imprisonment respectively, while at least 16 others faced charges by the end of the year. Many more were investigated under the Act, creating a chilling effect on free speech. In November, the Prime Minister reneged on his 2012 promise to repeal the Sedition Act, and instead announced plans to expand its scope.4

Human rights defenders faced intimidation and harassment because of their work, while the government persisted in its attempts to undermine civil society. Lena Hendry, a human rights defender with the NGO Pusat KOMAS, continued to face politically motivated criminal charges under the 2002 Film Censorship Act for screening the film No fire zone: The killing fields of Sri Lanka in July 2013.

Media outlets and publishing houses faced sweeping restrictions under the Printing Presses and Publications Act. The Act required that licences be obtained for print publications, which could be arbitrarily revoked by the Home Minister. Independent media outlets in particular faced difficulty in obtaining licences under the Act. Civil defamation suits were used by government officials and politicians in attempts to suppress criticism by media.5

Police and security forces

Police faced persistent allegations of human rights violations, including deaths in custody, torture and other ill-treatment,6 and unnecessary and excessive use of force and firearms. In August the Court of Appeal found the Inspector General of Police and two police officers responsible under civil law for the death of A. Kugan, who died in police custody in 2009.7 At least 13 people were known to have died in police custody during 2014.

Investigations into human rights violations by the police were rare, and suspected perpetrators were seldom held to account. The government continued to reject calls to establish an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission as recommended in the 2005 report of the Royal Commission.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

The authorities continued to use the Prevention of Crime Act (PCA) and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act to arbitrarily arrest and detain scores of individuals suspected of criminal activities. The PCA, which was amended in 2013, allows for indefinite, preventive detention without charge or trial and undermines key fair trial rights.

Discrimination

Instances of religious intolerance, as well as restrictions on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, increased during the year. The authorities increasingly used religion as a justification for discrimination against minority religious groups. In June the Federal Court rejected an appeal seeking to overturn a ban preventing a Christian newspaper from using the world “Allah” in its publications. The authorities had claimed that the use of the word in non-Muslim literature was confusing and could cause Muslims to convert. The ban led to intimidation and harassment of Christians, including raids on places of worship by government authorities, and the seizure of books, videos and other materials. Other religious minority groups, including the Shi’a, faced intimidation and threats of criminalization, while civil society groups and human rights organizations also faced harassment and intimidation from both authorities and certain religious groups.

In a landmark decision, in November the Court of Appeal ruled that a Negeri Sembilan Shari’a law making cross-dressing illegal was inconsistent with the Constitution. However, reports were received during the year about the arrest and imprisonment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people purely on the basis of their sexuality, and they continued to face discrimination, both in law and practice.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Malaysia violated the international prohibition against refoulement by forcibly returning refugees and asylum-seekers to countries where they faced serious human rights violations. In May, the authorities forcibly returned two refugees and one asylum-seeker – all of them under the protection of UNHCR, the UN refugee agency – to Sri Lanka where they faced possible torture and other-ill-treatment.

Death penalty

In February and March respectively, following national and international criticism, the executions of Chandran Paskaran and Osariakhi Ernest Obayangbon were postponed. They had not been executed by the end of the year.8 However, death sentences continued to be imposed and reports indicated that executions were carried out in a secretive manner, without prior or posthumous announcements.

  1. Malaysia: Anwar Ibrahim decision a “bleak day for justice” (7 March 2014) www.amnesty.org/en/news/malaysia-anwar-ibrahim-decision-bleak-day-justice-2014-03-07
  2. Malaysia again reneges on human rights commitments (ASA 28/003/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA28/003/2014/en
  3. Malaysia: Increasing use of the Sedition Act fosters a climate of repression (ASA 28/008/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA28/008/2014/en
  4. Malaysia: Open Letter: Use of the Sedition Act to restrict freedom of expression in Malaysia (ASA 28/011/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA28/011/2014/en
  5. Malaysia: Drop defamation lawsuit against news website (ASA 28/004/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA28/004/2014/en
  6. Malaysia: Detained student activist at risk of torture: Ali Abdul Jalil (ASA 28/010/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA28/010/2014/en
  7. Malaysia: Amnesty International welcomes Court of Appeal ruling, calls for investigations into custodial deaths (ASA 28/007/2014) www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA28/007/2014/en
  8. Malaysia: Stayed execution positive but hundreds of others still at risk (7 February 2014) www.amnesty.org/en/news/malaysia-stayed-execution-positive-hundreds-others-still-risk-2014-02-07

MALDIVES

Republic of Maldives
Head of state and government: Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom

Preparations to resume executions put at risk the lives of at least 20 people on death row. Judicial flogging continued and the majority of those flogged were women. The government failed to bring to justice vigilantes who used violence against people promoting religious tolerance. Impunity continued for police and army officers responsible for unnecessary or excessive use of force.

Background

Parliamentary elections took place in March and parties allied to the President won a majority. In April, the parliament adopted a new Penal Code, due to come into force in 2015.

Death penalty

The country was preparing to resume executions after more than 60 years. In April, the government introduced “procedural regulations on investigating and penalizing the crime of murder” under the Police Act and Clemency Act, clearing the way for executions to be carried out. The regulations also contained new procedures relating to the execution of individuals who were below 18 years old when the crime was committed, allowing for them to be executed once they turned 18. Two people were sentenced to death by the Juvenile Court for crimes committed when the offenders were under 18.

Cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment

People continued to be sentenced to flogging following convictions for having had sex outside marriage. Media reports and human rights defenders said that in the majority of cases, only women were convicted and flogged. The Office of the Prosecutor General told Amnesty International that convictions were primarily based on confessions. If the accused denied the allegations, the charge of “fornication” was dropped. They said men usually denied the allegations and were not charged. This was also true for some women, unless they had become pregnant or were under pressure from their communities to admit to the allegations.

Amnesty International spoke with a woman in 2013 who had been convicted of “fornication”. She had been sentenced to 20 lashes and four months in prison in June 2012, when she was 17 years old. She said someone witnessed her having sex with her boyfriend and reported it to the police, after which she was arrested and taken to the Juvenile Court where she confessed. The woman said that this was the second time she had been flogged – the first time she was just 14 years old. She said that flogging was always carried out by a man and she described her experience: “It was very painful when they flogged me. I was bruised and had marks on my body for some time.” Following the flogging she was sent to prison.

Freedoms of religion and expression

No one was brought to justice for the stabbing and serious wounding of religious freedom advocate Ismail “Hilath” Rasheed in 2012. He had also been attacked in 2011.

In June, an Islamist vigilante group abducted several young men, held them for hours, ill-treated them and warned them not to promote “atheism”. None of the perpetrators were brought to justice.

In August, Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, a well-known journalist with Minivan News, disappeared, possibly by force. He was last seen in the early hours of 8 August on the Malé-Hulhumalé ferry. There were national and international calls on the authorities to do more to uncover his whereabouts. He had been investigating, among other things, the activities of vigilante Islamist groups. His possible enforced disappearance was believed to be linked to his work as a journalist.

Excessive use of force

The government did not confirm whether it was investigating police officers who had used unnecessary force against youths peacefully attending a private music festival in April. Police ransacked their belongings, held 79 youths in handcuffs overnight and ill-treated some of them. One participant said she was kicked hard in the back by a policeman and another was sprayed with pepper spray without any provocation.

Impunity

No police or army officers were brought to justice for beating and injuring dozens of members and leaders of the Maldivian Democratic Party in February 2012.

MALI

Republic of Mali
Head of state: Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta
Head of government: Moussa Mara (replaced Oumar Tatam Ly in April)

Internal armed conflict continued to create a climate of persistent insecurity, particularly in the north of the country. Armed groups committed abuses including abductions and killings. The authorities were slow to take action against those who committed human rights violations during the 2012 conflict.

Background

Although a peace agreement was signed between the Malian government and several armed groups in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in June 2013, the north of the country remained unstable, with parts of it beyond the control of the Malian authorities.

Violent clashes continued to erupt between armed groups and the Malian army in Kidal in May, in which at least 41 people, including eight civilians, were killed. Peace discussions continued in Algeria between the Malian government and armed groups, but outbreaks of violence persisted. There were repeated incidents of rocket attacks, mines and explosive devices in the north injuring and killing Malian and international military personnel. Between May and September, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was repeatedly attacked by armed groups. In October, nine