HUMAN RIGHTS IN MONGOLIA

HUMAN RIGHTS IN MONGOLIA

Mongolia gets good marks in the Freedom House ranking on respect for human rights. Freedom of speech and the right to hold demonstrations are recognized. Newspapers cover the demonstrations. Many rallies have been held by people who want to return to the old Soviet ways.

According to the U.S. Department of State: The most significant human rights problems were corruption and widespread domestic violence. Vague laws and a lack of transparency in legislative, executive, and judicial processes undermined government efficiency and public confidence and invited corruption. Judicial and administrative tribunals lacked the financial and human resources as well as the institutional professionalism and status to function as independent and neutral adjudicators of criminal prosecutions and civil disputes. Domestic violence was pervasive, but the government lacked the capacity to address the problem effectively. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Mongolia,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor,U.S. Department of State /*/]

Other human rights problems observed included police abuse of prisoners and detainees; poor conditions in detention centers; arbitrary arrests; government interference with the media; religious discrimination; exit bans; trafficking in persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities; and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. Government steps to punish officials who committed abuses or to rectify discrimination were inconsistent. \*\

The law states that no person shall be discriminated against on the basis of ethnic origin, language, race, age, sex, social origin, or status and that men and women shall be equal politically, economically, socially, culturally, and within the family. The government generally enforced these provisions. The law also protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in all social relations and in employment. These rights were not always enforced. The law does not address sexual orientation or gender identity.\*\

In recent years there have been no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, nor have there been reports of politically motivated disappearances. There were no recent official reports of political prisoners or detainees. Several corruption cases involving politicians, however, drew allegations of political motivations. \*\

Torture in Mongolia

According to the U.S. Department of State: The law prohibits such practices. Nevertheless, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported that police abused some prisoners and detainees. Human rights groups reported that the use of unnecessary force and torture, particularly to obtain confessions, was a serious problem. Prisoner complaints reported by officials and NGOs concerned coercion and threats, including threats to investigate family members if a confession was not forthcoming. The NHRC, NGOs, and defense attorneys reported that, in an attempt to coerce or intimidate detainees, authorities sometimes transferred detainees repeatedly or placed them in detention centers remote from their homes and families, making access to legal counsel and visits by family members difficult. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Mongolia,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State /*/]

The General Executive Agency of Court Decisions (GEACD), a body that reports to the Ministry of Justice and administers prisons among other duties, reported an additional seven complaints of torture and coercion against correctional facility guards through September 10, 2014. One case involving possible torture was referred to the local police for further investigation, two cases were dropped as groundless, and four cases led to internal GEACD disciplinary measures against correctional staff for misuse of power and illegal pressure short of torture. According to a survey on human rights in prisons published by Caritas Czech Republic during the year, approximately half the prisoners surveyed indicated they had experienced or (more frequently) observed the use of prohibited forms of punishment--including beating and denial of contact with family or relatives. Prisoner complaints reported by officials and NGOs also included coercion and threats, including threats from police to investigate family members if a confession was not forthcoming. The NHRC, NGOs, and defense attorneys reported that, in an attempt to coerce or intimidate detainees, authorities sometimes transferred detainees repeatedly or placed suspects in detention centers remote from their homes and families, making access to legal counsel and visits by family members difficult. Detainees reported six such cases to the NHRC in 2013. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Rights Practices for 2014: Mongolia” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \+\]

Legal professionals and NGOs cited numerous barriers to holding alleged abusers accountable. For example, only police detectives and investigators can be tried under the criminal code’s principal article for prosecuting official abuse or torture. This article, moreover, covers only physical abuse and does not include psychological abuse or threats against suspects or their families. The National Police Agency (NPA), the central authority that oversees national and local police operations, reported four cases under this article in the first nine months of the year. According to the NHRC, authorities sometimes dropped complaints alleging psychological torture, either for lack of evidence or because the degree of injury could not be determined. /*/

Law enforcement officials can be held liable for intentional infliction of severe bodily injury, although prosecutions for this crime were rare. The law states that prohibited acts do not constitute a crime when committed in accordance with an order by a superior in the course of duty. The law provides that the person who gave an illegal order or decree is criminally liable for the harm caused, but prosecutions were rare. According to Amnesty International (AI), prosecutors, and judges, the law effectively provides immunity to law enforcement officials allegedly engaged in coercing confessions at the behest of investigators or prosecutors. /*/

Local police are responsible for investigating allegations of torture. Since police officers represented a considerable portion of alleged perpetrators, the NHRC and NGOs expressed concerns about possible conflicts of interest and stated that perceived conflicts of interest could undermine public confidence in investigations. Torture investigations generally took a back seat to the “main” investigation, and police and prosecutors reportedly were reluctant to assist in torture investigations. Human rights NGOs also reported obstacles to gathering evidence of torture or abuse. Witnesses were generally themselves detainees or prisoners and were under great pressure not to testify. Such witnesses were vulnerable to coercion, threats against family, and additional charges with longer potential sentences. While many prisons and detention facilities had cameras for monitoring questioning, equipment was often reported broken at the time of reported abuses. /*/

See Police Brutality Under Crime, Police and Prisons.

Arbitrary Arrest and Harassment in Mongolia

According to the U.S. Department of State: The law provides that no person shall be arrested, detained, or deprived of liberty, except by specified procedures, and most government agencies generally observed these prohibitions. The General Intelligence Agency (GIA) on occasion detained suspects for questioning without charge. D. Bulgan, the widow of slain democracy leader S. Zorig, was arrested by GIA agents on November 13 and held incommunicado at an undisclosed location before being transferred to a pretrial detention center. As of December, she remained detained without the announcement of official charges. Two unnamed suspects in the Zorig case were also detained by GIA agents in October and placed in pretrial detention without the announcement of official charges. GIA Director Bat Khurts continues to face outstanding charges in Germany for the alleged kidnapping of a suspect in the same case in 2004. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Mongolia,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State /*/]

The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. However, land that is not fenced off or in active use may lawfully be seized by squatters, even if that land is under lease. Under this system property disputes occurred frequently, and it remained unclear what percentage of evicted persons held a valid lease or title to their property. Business leaders voiced concern about weak property rights, contract sanctity and enforcement, and arbitrary government processes that interfered with private business, particularly in the areas of licensing and permits. \*\

Freedom of Speech and Assembly in Mongolia

The law provides for freedom of speech, and the government generally respected these rights. Nevertheless, the government placed restrictions on the ability of users to comment on internet sites. There were also several cases of apparently politically motivated interference with freedom of expression online during the year. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Rights Practices for 2014: Mongolia” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \+\]

Defamation laws carrying civil and criminal penalties severely impeded criticism of government officials, particularly by reporters. By law “spreading libel to the public by means of mass media” is punishable by a fine equal to 51 to 150 times the per month government-set minimum wage (9.79 million to 28.9 million tugrugs) ($5,220 to $15,420) or incarceration for three to six months. According to the Judicial General Council, four persons were convicted during the first nine months of the year. Two received nonprison sentences, one was sentenced to a year in prison, and one received a prison sentence of between two and four years. According to NGO sources, politicians implicated in or accused of crimes or malfeasance used the defamation law to shield themselves from public criticism by suing journalists under the criminal defamation ordinance. NGOs asserted that such cases encouraged self-censorship among other journalists, who feared being prosecuted for criminal defamation if they reported stories that reflected negatively on public officials. \+\

The law provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Nevertheless, there were some exceptions, such as the denial of access to public venues for an LGBTI organization. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Mongolia,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State /*/]

Freedom of Religion, See Religion

Freedom of the Press in Mongolia

According to the U.S. Department of State: The law provides for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights. Nevertheless, government interference with licensing and intimidation of the press, particularly broadcast media, was common, and the government placed restrictions on the ability of users to comment on internet sites. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Rights Practices for 2014: Mongolia” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \+\]

The law bans censorship of public information (information not classified by law) and any government action that would limit the freedom to publish and broadcast. Political influence in the media was widespread. It was widely believed that interested parties paid journalists to influence reporting, that underpaid reporters demanded payment to cover or even to fabricate a story, and that individuals paid to have unwanted content removed from websites, although such allegations were difficult to prove. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Mongolia,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State /*/]

Many newspapers and broadcast media were either affiliated with political parties or owned (fully or partly) by individuals affiliated with political parties, and that affiliation strongly influenced their reports. It was also widely believed that interested parties paid journalists to influence reporting, that underpaid reporters demanded payment to cover or fabricate a story, and that individuals paid to have unwanted content removed from websites, although such allegations were difficult to prove. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Rights Practices for 2014: Mongolia” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \+\]

Members of the Communications Regulatory Commission (CRC), which grants television and radio broadcast licenses, were appointed by the government without public consultation. This, along with a lack of transparency during the tendering process, inhibited fair competition for broadcast frequency licenses and benefited those with political connections. In its report on the conduct of the 2013 presidential election, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported that the Presidential Election Law and resolutions from the General Elections Commission and the CRC inhibited media coverage of the presidential election campaigns by mandating that television stations provide equal amounts of paid airtime to candidates, but leaving it unclear whether campaigns could be covered in general reporting. Lack of clarity about the equal airtime rule made some editors afraid that covering one candidate and not covering the others in equal measure would violate the law. Oversight of media compliance with the law was conducted by the Agency for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection, a government agency that reports directly to the deputy prime minister. The OSCE concluded that this situation prevented the media from playing a significant role in providing information to voters ahead of the 2013 election. The government did not take steps to address these problems. \+\

Violence and Harassment: Credible sources reported that officials sometimes harassed and intimidated journalists for reporting stories that reflected poorly on the government. A local NGO reported that in February, as a journalist filmed police clearing Ulaanbaatar’s Chinggis Square of protesters on a hunger strike against gold mining on Noyon Mountain, a sacred site, police grabbed the journalist’s camera and forced him to stop recording. The local press freedom NGO Globe International reported that incidents of violence and harassment of journalists were most common during election years. /*/

Censorship and Libel Laws in Mongolia

According to the U.S. Department of State: Censorship or Content Restrictions: CRC regulations of digital content and television and radio service impose content restrictions in broad terms with limited definition of restricted content. Press representatives alleged indirect censorship resulting from government and political party harassment. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Mongolia,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State /*/]

NGOs and some local press reported that media outlets signed cooperation agreements with government agencies and private companies that contained so-called blocking provisions, under which media outlets that receive funding from a government agency or private company are prohibited from criticizing that agency or company. /*/

According to a September 2014 story in the Open Door newspaper (generally considered an independent and reputable newspaper), between February 24 and April 30, the government signed agreements with 27 press organizations, including both print and broadcast media, amounting to 390 million tugrugs ($208,110). These agreements were reportedly approved by the chief of the Cabinet Secretariat (later named prime minister) and the chief of the government press office. Other sources maintained that the agreements were simply meant to facilitate cooperation between government and media and to promote government activities. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Rights Practices for 2014: Mongolia” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \+\]

Libel/Slander Laws: Press representatives often faced libel complaints by government authorities and private persons or organizations. The law places the burden of proof on the defendant in libel and slander cases, and both defamation and insult are criminal charges. By law “spreading libel to the public by means of mass media” is punishable by a fine of up to 150 times the minimum wage or six months’ imprisonment. The Judicial General Counsel reported five convictions for defamation during the first half of the year. NGOs stated that such cases encouraged self-censorship among journalists.

Internet Freedom in Mongolia

According to the U.S. Department of State: The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet, but it restricted internet content in some regards. The CRC’s “Regulation on a Unified System of Website Comments,” passed in 2013, provides for the establishment of a national database to monitor website comments (with information supplied by the General Authority for State Registration and General Intelligence Agency). The information to be gathered was intended for use in identifying and charging individuals who defame, threaten, or seduce others to licentious and promiscuous sexual conduct. As of late November, NGOs and government officials indicated that no implementation actions to establish the database had yet been taken. A 2011 CRC regulation places broad content restrictions on obscenities and inappropriate content without defining objectionable content explicitly, simply referencing prohibitions in other laws. The regulation requires websites with heavy traffic to use filtering software that makes the user internet protocol addresses of those commenting or sharing content publicly visible. In addition, the CRC blocked websites that participated in violations of intellectual property or exhibited pornography. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Rights Practices for 2014: Mongolia” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \+\]

By law individuals and groups may engage in the peaceful expression of views on the internet. The government, however, restricted internet content in some cases. It maintained a public list of blocked websites and added sites to the list for alleged violations of relevant laws and regulations, including those relating to intellectual property. As of October the CRC reported 228 blocked websites. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Mongolia,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State /*/]

A CRC regulation provides for the establishment of a national database to monitor website comments (with information supplied by the General Authority for State Registration and the GIA) in order to identify and charge individuals who defame or threaten others or who try to seduce others to engage in licentious and promiscuous sexual conduct. As of September, NGOs and government officials indicated that no action to establish the database had been taken. Another CRC regulation places broad content restrictions on obscenities and inappropriate content without defining objectionable content explicitly. The regulation requires websites with heavy traffic to use filtering software that makes the internet protocol addresses of those commenting or sharing content publicly visible. Beyond the circumstances regulated by the CRC, there were also cases of apparent government interference with online expression on websites or by internet users who had posted stories or opinions that criticized or reflected negatively on government officials. /*/

Closure of Websites in Mongolia

According to the U.S. Department of State: In July 2014, “the CRC closed the website www.amjilt.com after the site published an article reporting that a tourist camp partially owned by the prime minister was dumping its waste into a nearby river. On July 4, www.amjilt.com was added to the government’s public list of websites blocked for violations of content rules. According to local press and the local press freedom NGO Globe International, the CRC closed the website without any written notification. The website closure received strong criticism from the OSCE and press freedom NGOs. As of September www.amjilt.com continued to be on the list. The Supreme Court upheld amjilt’s appeal to remain open, but as of October 2015 it remained on the government’s list of blocked websites. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Rights Practices for 2014: Mongolia” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \+\]

In August a court of first instance sentenced Ts. Bat, brother of Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism Ts. Oyungerel, to 100 days’ imprisonment on defamation charges for allegedly sending 5,700 tweets defaming Minister of Roads and Transportation A. Gansukh. Bat reportedly received imprisonment because he was unable to pay the 19.2-million-tugrug ($10,250) fine. According to the OSCE, which called the conviction “unacceptable,” Bat was the first to be convicted of defamation on social media. He appealed the conviction and was released on bail on September 9 pending a decision by the appeals court. The 1998 Law on Press Freedom does not address online expression. \+\

Human Rights Groups in Mongolia

According to the U.S. Department of State: “A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their concerns. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Mongolia,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State /*/]

Government Human Rights Bodies: The NHRC is responsible for monitoring human rights abuses, initiating and reviewing policy changes, and coordinating with human rights NGOs. It reports directly to parliament. The NHRC consists of three senior civil servants nominated by the president, the Supreme Court, and parliament for six-year terms. Officials reported that the government budget covered wages and administrative expenses but did not provide sufficient funding for inspection, training, and public awareness activities, prompting the NHRC to seek external funding sources. The NHRC consistently supported politically contentious human rights problems, such as LGBTI rights. /*/

There was considerable collaboration between the government and civil society in discussing human rights issues. NGOs and international organizations noted that government officials had become much more open to including NGOs in the legal drafting process and in the preparation of official reports and social and human rights issues. Observers continued to allege, however, that insufficient government resources were being devoted to solving persistent, systemic human rights problems, and that the government was failing to implement existing laws intended to protect citizens. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Rights Practices for 2014: Mongolia” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State ]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2016


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