Country Reports

The following reports have been written and compiled by a panel of Civil Rights Defenders experts. Their aim is to give an holistic overview of crucial human rights issues in the countries and regions where we work.

Human Rights in Somalia

In Somalia, the human rights situation is dismal by all standards. This is to a great extent attributed to the long-running internal conflict. The relative stability that has been visible over the last few years has created somewhat of a breathing space, but rampant violations and abuses still characterise the state of human rights in the country. Unlawful recruitment, abduction, torture, and killing of civilians remain widespread issues. Impunity and the lack of accountability continues to be deep-rooted obstacles, not least since state institutions lack the capacity to meet their human rights obligations at the same time as non-state actors remain active perpetrators of human rights violations in this vicious circle.

Human Rights in Uganda

While Museveni’s 30-year reign has brought relative stability and economic growth to the country, the track record of his administration’s respect for basic human rights and freedoms is dismal. The development of human rights in Uganda remains fragile. Where an overlap between the ruling party and the State is pervasive, the government institutions have very little space to provide any impartial service to all citizens.

Human Rights in Moldova

In recent years there has been some positive developments regarding the human rights situation in Moldova. New legislation and policies have strengthened protection against discrimination and facilitated the promotion of freedom of expression. However, significant human rights issues still persist; lack of fair trials, inadequate conditions in prisons, hate speech, violence against women, people trafficking, the marginalisation of the Roma community and harassment of LGBT people. In the breakaway territory of Transnistria, human rights abuses are grave.

Human rights in Ukraine

Following the arrival of ununiformed Russian troops and an internationally unrecognised referendum held on 16 March 2014, the Crimean Peninsula declared independence and requested to join Russia. Civil Rights Defenders has been monitoring the situation in Ukraine ever since the outbreak of the conflict. Both sides of the conflict have repeatedly violated international humanitarian law and caused extreme hardship for the civilian population. Independent observers estimate that over 9,000 have died, an additional 2,5 million people have been displaced in and outside of Ukraine.

Human Rights in Cuba

Cuba is a country under authoritarian rule, where civil and political rights are severely restricted by law and by practice and often violated. The Constitution itself subordinates the exercise and enjoyment of rights to the protection of the revolution and political power is concentrated in the ruling Communist Party, headed since more than fifty years by the Castro family. A very restrictive Association Law further prevents the development of a healthy civil society in the country. All this together means that human rights and democracy work is actually illegal in Cuba; human rights organizations cannot be registered and therefore officially do not exist and are not entitled to receive funding; and human rights defenders can be and actually are legally persecuted.

Human Rights in Vietnam

Against the backdrop of a growing and diversifying civil society movement, the Government of Vietnam continues to repress dissidents and human rights defenders and has taken steps in recent years to amend or introduce laws and regulations that impact on civil and political rights. A host of laws, regulations and decrees grant broad discretionary powers to officials to impose restrictions of basic rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and under international human rights law. The public consultation period before the adoption of a revised Constitution in 2013 saw significant public demand for rule of law reforms. The legislature has amended a number of laws in 2015, including the Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, and Civil Code. Laws on public assembly and on association are pending.

Human Rights in Serbia

Serbia is currently a candidate country for a European Union (EU) membership. The negotiations for Serbia’s EU accession officially opened in January 2014. The negotiating framework requires progress in normalising their relations with Kosovo, while the implementation of the Agreement will be closely monitored. The opening of the negotiations has not improved the situation in regards to human rights; the situation has even deteriorated in comparison to 2014, particularly in the areas of freedom of expression, independent regulatory bodies, judicial reform and national minorities.

Human Rights in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is an authoritarian country, where civil and political rights are severely restricted and violated. Political power is concentrated in the hands of the President, Ilham Aliyev, and the ruling party directly affiliated to him. The flawed presidential elections held in 2013 saw Aliyev appointed for a third term. Most notable human rights abuses in Azerbaijan revolve around violations of freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

Human Rights in Venezuela

Over the last decade Venezuelan government has launched widespread attacks on basically all aspects of civil and political rights . The government passed laws, decrees and constitutional amendments to limit the independence of the judiciary, the National Assembly, civil society and the media. It has continuously accused human rights defenders, opposition leaders and journalists of conspiracy, and has sent elected politicians to prison either with and without trial.

Human Rights in Myanmar

Significant changes have taken place in Myanmar after the quasi-civilian government was installed in 2010, ending a fifty-year military rule. However, the military still has great influence in politics. Corruption and impunity persist and reinforce each other. With current peace negotiations and wide discussions on constitutional reforms as well upcoming elections in 2015, Myanmar is at a crossroads for democratisation or a possible reversal.

Human Rights in Cambodia

The Cambodian constitution provides for separation of power and judicial independence, but the political dominance and influence of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CCP) over all branches of government poses a serious challenge to democratisation and human rights protection and promotion. Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power since 1985. Human rights violations in Cambodia include excessive use of force against and arrests of protesters; threats, intimidation, and judicial actions targeting human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists,

Human Rights in Albania

Human rights continue to be breached in Albania. There is a large gap between human rights protection that citizens should have in theory and how individuals or groups experience protection of their rights in reality. The treatment of vulnerable groups is highly problematic in Albania. Discriminatory attitudes and practices prevail against the Roma/Egyptians and LGBT communities. Independent institutions, such as the Office of Ombudsman, despite active engagement have had only limited impact when it comes to improving human rights. In 2014 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Albania had violated human rights in four instances:

Human Rights in Belarus

Working with civil and political rights in Belarus is associated with very high risks. Human rights defenders and journalists face persecution from authorities, imprisonment, arrests, interrogation, tax inspections, and are sometimes denied from leaving the country. The Belarusian government continues to severely curtail freedoms of association, assembly, and expression, and the right to a fair trial. Harassment of human rights defenders, independent media, and defense lawyers by the authorities continues, including arbitrary bans on foreign travel. Read more about the current situation for human rights in Belarus in our latest country report.

Human Rights in Macedonia

Macedonia is a member of the Council of Europe and has been a candidate country for membership of the European Union since 2005. However the country falls short when it comes to implementing reforms and human rights standards and as of writing has not yet started negotiations with the EU. Ever since the 2001 armed conflict between ethnic Albanian rebel forces and the Macedonian Army and the Police, inter-ethnic tensions between the two groups has been constant, with numerous reported cases of ethnically motivated violence.

Human Rights in Kenya

On 27 August 2010, a new Constitution was adopted in Kenya. The Constitution, considered to be progressive, is seen as the primary instrument required to make social and political reforms in the country, so badly needed, after the violent events of the 2007 elections. Kenya adheres to the monist legal system and as such ratified international treaties are automatically incorporated into national law. Kenya is party to the majority of the core international human rights treaties as well as regional instruments such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina

It has been more than twenty years since the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country has been described as the state that has made the least progress when it comes to EU integration of all of the Western Balkans countries. In spite of widespread workers protests in February 2014, political deadlock is continuing to hamper human rights organisations in their capacities as watchdog. Inter-ethnic violence, hate speech, and poor implementation of human rights standards is still part of everyday life in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Government has failed to initiate reforms of the judiciary, whilst media independence and self-censorship remain key impediments to the implementation of freedom of expression standards. New laws that are seriously damaging human rights and freedoms are being introduced on a daily basis.

Human Rights in Montenegro

Since independence in 2006, Montenegro has adopted all relevant international human rights conventions, and has been a member-state of the Council of Europe since 2007. National legislation concerning human rights is considered to be within European standards, but better implementation is still required, especially when it comes to freedom of expression, anti-discrimination and the judiciary. Amendments to the Laws regarding the role of the Ombudsman were adopted in August 2014, which foresees a greater level of independence so as to strengthen the institutions role in combating discrimination. This will represent a significant step forward in combating discrimination and monitoring of institutions.

Human Rights in Kosovo

Kosovo has a sound statutory framework in place for the protection of human rights: the Kosovo Constitution lists a number of directly applicable international human rights instruments. Kosovo has shown great progress when it comes to the adoption of key human rights laws over the past 10 years. However, there remain challenges and issues with regards to the practical implementation of human rights legislation and relevant documents, such as byelaws and National Strategies. Moreover, a functional and effective Ombudsperson and judiciary are yet to emerge. As a consequence, a number of human rights issues including the marginalisation of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities and LGBT persons, hate speech, hate crimes, violence against women, pressure and intimidation to journalists have not been addressed effectively