Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
United States Department of State
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011
[ProfRandall's note: This report was generated using a tool provided by the State Department. Interestingly, the state department did not exercise its responsibility to assess the human rights status of the United States. It also did not include North Africa as a part of Africa; rather including it in the Near East. Furthermore, it identified the Americas as the Western Hemisphere rather than North, Central and South America. ]
Ethnic tensions between Pashtun and non-Pashtun groups resulted in conflict and occasional killings. The NGO Minority Rights Group's Peoples under Threat index identified Afghanistan as a country where communities were most at risk of mass killing, especially because of targeting of persons based on ethnicity and religion.
Societal discrimination against Shia Hazaras continued along class, race, and religious lines in the form of extortion of money through illegal taxation,
forced recruitment and forced labor, physical abuse, and detention. Ethnic Hazaras reported occasionally being asked to pay bribes at border crossings where Pashtuns were allowed to pass freely; in Ghazni province in April, nomads reportedly attacked and burned 27 Hazara villages. Sikhs and Hindus reportedly continued to face discrimination, including unequal access to government jobs and harassment in their schools, as well as verbal and physical abuse in public places. The UNHCR reported that Hindus, Sikhs, and Shia Muslims--particularly those from the Hazara ethnic group--faced official obstacles and discrimination by the Sunni Muslim majority.
Ismailis (a minority Shia Muslim group whose members follow the Aga Khan) generally were not targeted or seriously discriminated against, according to NGOs.
No information in the subsection on National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities
Organizations representing exiled Nepali-speaking Bhutanese claimed that Nepali-speaking Bhutanese were subjected to discrimination and prejudice in employment, but the government stated they were proportionally represented in civil service and government jobs.
English and Dzongkha languages are the mediums of instruction taught in all schools. The Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the rights of minority children, specifically the Nepali-speaking minority, to take part in their culture, practice their religion, or use their language.
The national census does not recognize racial or ethnic groups; population is categorized by language spoken. Society has traditionally been divided into castes or clans. Caste is a complex Hindu social hierarchy traditionally based on ritual purity and occupation. While caste was outlawed in 1949, the
registration of castes and tribes remains for the purpose of affirmative action programs. Article 15 of the constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste, and the government continued to implement various programs to empower members of the low castes. The law gives the president authority to identify historically disadvantaged castes and tribes (who are outside of the caste system) for special quotas and benefits; these are the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Discrimination based on caste remained prevalent, particularly in rural areas.
The term Dalit, derived from the Sanskrit for "oppressed" or "crushed," refers to members of what are traditionally regarded as the lowest Hindu castes, which are the Scheduled Castes (SC). Many SC members continued to face impediments to social advancement. According to the 2001 census, SC members constituted 16 percent (168.6 million persons) of the population. The MHA 2010-11 annual report noted 33,594 cases of registered crimes against SC members in 2009, compared with 33,615 cases in 2008. On March 1, the MHA informed parliament that 4,410 Dalits were hurt in various incidents and 1,683 persons were convicted of crimes against Dalits, according to NCRB records.
Although the law protects Dalits, in practice they faced violence and significant discrimination in access to services such as health care and education, attending temples, and marriage. Reports from the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination described systematic abuse of Dalits, including extrajudicial killings and sexual violence against Dalit women. For example, on February 7, a 16-year-old Dalit girl was mutilated when she resisted a rape attempt in Bindaki, Uttar Pradesh. The attackers cut off her nose, ear, and part of her hand and inflicted deep wounds on her legs and back. Authorities arrested the three accused youths and put them in prison. At year's end the case had not gone to trial.
Many Dalits were malnourished. Most bonded laborers were Dalits. Dalits who asserted their rights often were attacked, especially in rural areas. As agricultural laborers for higher-caste landowners, Dalits often worked without remuneration. Crimes committed by upper-caste Hindus against Dalits often went unpunished, either because the authorities failed to prosecute or because victims did not report the crimes due to fear of retaliation.
On January 14, Purushottam Dwivedi, a member of the Uttar Pradesh state assembly from the Bahujan Samaj Party, was imprisoned for raping a minor Dalit girl in December 2010 at his home in Banda District. The girl escaped when Dwivedi allegedly attempted rape for the third time, and she was subsequently arrested on theft charges. On January 20, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati ordered the suspension of four police officers and a jailer for their laxity and complicity in the case. On September21, the CBI registered a case against Dwivedi and four others for the alleged rape. At year's end the case had not gone to trial.
NGOs reported that students were denied admission to certain schools because of their caste or were required to present caste certification prior to receiving admission. According to the executive director for the South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring, caste discrimination continued in Karnataka, particularly in rural areas. Dalits in rural Karnataka frequently were denied access to temples, clean water sources, and passage through village streets.
The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) continued to highlight continuing caste-based discrimination in the state. According to the TNUEF, many Dalits were not permitted to walk on public pathways, wear footwear, access water from public taps in upper caste neighborhoods, participate in some temple festivals, bathe in public pools, or use some cremation grounds. For example, Dalits in Perali village, Perambalur District, reported that they could not ride bicycles on streets where upper caste families reside. There were also separate temples on upper caste and Dalit streets so that the two communities could worship separately.
On June 17, the NHRC asked the Tamil Nadu government to submit a report on the alleged beating of a Dalit boy who took water from a public tap in Karikkilipalayam village, Coimbatore District. The NHRC also asked the government to report on specific steps taken to prevent future acts of discrimination against Dalits.
During the year there were reports that school officials barred Dalit children from morning prayers, asked Dalit children to sit at the back of the class, or forced Dalit children to clean school toilets while denying them access to the same facilities. There were also reports that teachers refused to correct the homework of Dalit children, refused to provide midday meals to Dalit children, and asked Dalit children to sit separately from children of upper caste families.
The federal and state governments continued to implement various programs for scheduled caste members, ostensibly to provide better quality housing, reserved seats in schools, government jobs, and access to subsidized foods, but critics claimed that many programs suffered from poor implementation and corruption.
In April2010 members of the dominant Jat community burned 10 Dalit homes in Mirchpur, Haryana, killing 70-year-old Tara Chand and his disabled
daughter Suman and injuring more than a dozen other individuals. On September 24, newspapers reported that of the 97 persons accused, 82 of them were acquitted by a Delhi court. Fifteen persons were convicted but none were found guilty of murder; three were convicted of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, with a maximum 10-year jail term. After the verdict was announced, calm prevailed, with both sides agreeing that the arrest of 97 persons was unjustified.
The issue of manual scavenging continued, and the National Advisory Council set March 2012 as the new deadline for abolishing the practice, despite the practice having been outlawed under the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prevention) Act of 1993. On September 21, Chennai's National Commission for Scavenger's Welfare reported that men were being forced to get into sewage pits without safety measures despite orders against the practice, and requested state intervention. Violators may face up to one year's imprisonment and a fine of 2,000 rupees ($38), but the law was not enforced. In June six persons died in the Kolar Gold Fields, near Bangalore, as a result of illnesses contracted from manual scavenging.
The government continued to discriminate in favor of ethnic Kazakhs in senior government employment. Minorities experienced ethnic prejudice and hostility; encountered incidents of insult, humiliation, or other offenses; and were discriminated against in employment or job retention.
Ethnic Kazakh migrants (oralmans) who returned to the country from abroad experienced domestic discrimination including problems with housing, employment, and access to social services.
Kazakh is the official state language, although organizations and bodies of local self-administration officially may use Russian on an equal basis with Kazakh. The language law was intended to strengthen the use of Kazakh without infringing on the rights of citizens to use other languages. By law the ability to speak Kazakh is not required for entry into the civil service, but most government agencies officially have switched to conducting business in Kazakh. Non-Kazakh speakers have protested that this is language discrimination. The Election Law requires presidential candidates to be fluent in Kazakh.
Among other forms of discrimination, critics have noted a scarcity of representatives of non-Kazakh ethnicities in the government and a reduction in the number of Russian-language schools.
The interethnic situation between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the south remained tense, characterized by arbitrary arrests, detention, torture, and extortion of ethnic Uzbeks by members of security services. Since June 2010 little progress was made in terms of reconciliation. Ethnic Uzbek citizens in Osh and Jalalabad reported discrimination in finding jobs, particularly with the government. There were multiple reports of seizure of ethnic Uzbek businesses and property.
In September Osh Mayor Melis Myrzakmatov proposed changing the teaching language at the city's Uzbek language schools to Kyrgyz. Although he
claimed the purpose was to benefit students by increasing their ability to find jobs in the country and study at higher learning institutions, many criticized the proposals as ethnic discrimination. At year's end the proposal had not been enacted.
International observers criticized the government for failing to implement a national ethnic plan, a key recommendation of the KIC report, and other recommendations for national reconciliation. Two such plans were proposed during the year. The Office of the President introduced its Draft Concept for Ethnic Policy and Consolidation of Society in Kyrgyzstan in late March. The political party Ata-Jurt introduced its State Ethnic Policy in the Kyrgyz Republic on April 27. Observers criticized the Ata-Jurt draft. They contended that it directly contradicted the constitution and laws and that it violated internationally accepted human rights principles because it promoted the notion of Kyrgyz ethnicity as the central element of nationhood. They further alleged that the plan's purpose was to promote the nationalist Ata-Jurt party prior to the impending presidential elections. Neither plan had been implemented by the end of the year, but the Ata Jurt plan had passed one of the required three readings in parliament, which established a working group to develop it further.
Minorities alleged discrimination in hiring, promotion, and housing, but no official reports were registered with local authorities.
The law designates Kyrgyz as the state language and Russian as an official language, and it provides for the preservation and equal and free development
of minority languages. Non-Kyrgyz-speaking citizens alleged that a ceiling precluded promotion beyond a certain level in government service. They also alleged that unfair language examinations disqualified some candidates for office. A government initiative to increase official use of Kyrgyz further raised concerns among non-Kyrgyz ethnic groups about possible discrimination.
No information in the subsection on National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities
The law provides that each community shall have the right to preserve and promote its language, script, and culture and to operate schools at the primary level in its native language. In practice the government generally upheld these provisions.
There were more than 75 ethnic groups which spoke 50 different languages. Discrimination against lower castes and some ethnic groups was especially common in the Tarai region and in rural areas in the West, even though the government outlawed the public shunning of Dalits and made an effort to protect the rights of disadvantaged castes. Better education and higher levels of prosperity, especially in the Kathmandu valley, were slowly reducing caste distinctions and increasing opportunities for lower socioeconomic groups. Better educated, urban-oriented castes continued to dominate politics and senior administrative and military positions and control a disproportionate share of natural resources.
Caste-based discrimination is illegal. However, Dalits occasionally were barred from entering temples and sharing water sources. Progress in reducing discrimination was more successful in urban areas.
Resistance to intercaste marriage remained high and in some cases resulted in forced expulsion from the community. While Dalits who participated in wedding activities traditionally reserved for non-Dalits, such as riding a horse, were sometimes assaulted, the courts showed a willingness to prosecute such cases of discrimination.
No information in the subsection on National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities
Both local and Indian-origin Tamils maintained that they suffered long-standing, systematic discrimination in university education, government employment, and other matters controlled by the government. On February 22, TNA parliamentarians filed a fundamental rights violation petition complaining of purported forced registration of residents in the predominantly Tamil Jaffna and Kilinochchi districts. On March 3, the Supreme Court terminated the proceedings after the attorney general informed the court that the army would stop the registrations. Nevertheless, reports continued throughout the year of army registrations in the north. Tamils throughout the country, but especially in the north and east, reported frequent harassment of young and middle-age Tamil men by security forces and paramilitary groups.
Generally discrimination was not a significant problem. There were reports that some law enforcement officials harassed ethnic Afghans and Uzbeks, but such reports were not common.
The law provides for equal rights and freedoms for all citizens. Minority groups, including the Kazakh cultural center Elimay Turkmenistan, tried to register as NGOs to have legal status to conduct cultural events, but no minority groups succeeded in registering during the year.
The law designates Turkmen as the official language, although it also provides for the rights of speakers of minority languages. Russian remained prevalent in commerce and everyday life in the capital, even as the government continued its campaign to conduct official business solely in Turkmen. The government required ministry employees to pass tests demonstrating knowledge of professional subjects in Turkmen; employees who failed the exam were dismissed. The government dedicated resources to provide Turkmen language instruction for non-Turkmen speakers only in primary and secondary schools.
Non-Turkmen speakers noted that some avenues for promotion and job advancement were closed to them, and only a handful of non-Turkmen occupied high-level jobs in government ministries. In some cases applicants for government jobs had to provide information about ethnicity going back three generations. The government often targeted non-Turkmen first for dismissal when government layoffs occurred.
The constitution states that all citizens are equal, regardless of ethnic background, and provides equal protection by the courts to all residents irrespective of national, racial, or ethnic origin. The country has significant Tajik (5 percent) and Russian (5.5 percent) minorities and smaller Kazakh and Kyrgyz minorities. There also was a small Romani population in Tashkent, estimated at less than 50,000 individuals. Complaints of societal violence or discrimination against members of these groups were rare.
The constitution also provides for the right of all citizens to work and to choose their occupations. Although the law prohibits employment discrimination on the bases of ethnicity or national origin, ethnic Russians and other minorities occasionally expressed concern about limited job opportunities. Officials reportedly reserved senior positions in the government bureaucracy and business for ethnic Uzbeks, although there were numerous exceptions.
The law does not require Uzbek language ability to obtain citizenship, but language often was a sensitive issue. Uzbek is the state language, and the constitution requires that the president speak it. The law also provides that Russian is "the language of interethnic communication."