Mongolia: Efforts in addressing discrimination, media censorship and the criminalisation of torture according to international standards

Domestic violence against women and children remains a serious issue in Mongolia. Photo credit: Optional Protocol to CEDAW website.

The sixth periodic report of Mongolia was reviewed by the Human Rights Committee on 6th and 7th July 2017. Members of the Committee commended the State’s efforts towards a more effective implementation of the Covenant. For instance, several important legislative measures have been adopted in the past few years such as the revised law against domestic violence and the new Criminal Code, which entered into force in February 2017 and July 2017, respectively. Notwithstanding, the Human Rights Committee expressed concern about a number of issues such as the incidence of human trafficking as well as the absence of a specialised criminal system for juveniles. The Committee also raised several questions on discrimination against women, children and LGBTI, as well as the matters related to the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment and freedom of expression. The webcast of the review is available here: part 1 and part 2.

"Knowledge and education of police personnel on [issues of violence against women are] not sufficient and they have not familiarised themselves with regulation on this regard"

- Member of the Human Rights Committee

Violence against women and children

The Committee members welcomed the revised law on domestic violence, which entered into force in 2017. Nonetheless, the Committee remains concerned about the protection of women in practice, for instance, through the training of authorities and the availability of remedies. In addition, one of the Committee members pointed out there is still no punishment or sanction in place for violence and abuse against children, despite the adoption of the new legislation and the fact that corporal punishment against children in the domestic environment is an issue in the country.

Discrimination against LGBTI

With regards to discrimination against LGBTI, the Mongolian delegation stated that the Criminal Code as amended in December 2015 foresees discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Nonetheless, the Committee raised allegations of discrimination in practice. The Human Rights Committee also raised several questions about the lack of legal recognition for same sex couples in Mongolia, and inquired about measures to change this scenario. In response during the review, the Head of the Mongolian delegation stated that marriage shall be a “willful union of men and women under the Constitution of Mongolia, and therefore it does not address the question same sex marriage”. In addition, the Deputy Commissioner of the National Police Agency stated that there has been no registration of complaints by LGBTI individuals or their relatives to the police during the reporting period, and that LGBTI individuals “tend to hide [their gender identity] when filling their complaints”. Committee members, however, contested such information in light of a report by the National Human Rights Commission. The Committee stated that the existence of hotlines is not a sufficient measure to ensure protection from discrimination and violence against LGBTI.

Torture and ill-treatment

The Committee members welcomed the ratification by Mongolia of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2014 and the oversight of police activities by the National Human Rights Commission. However, they pointed out that despite the existence of provisions prohibiting torture in Mongolia’s Constitution, Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, such definitions are not completely in line with international law. Article 215 of the Criminal Code, for instance, only covers acts of torture committed by justice system officials, despite the international standards that also include agents acting outside of their official capacity as well as acts of private individuals.

The Committee also expressed particular concern in relation to figures presented in the State replies to the List of Issues, in the sense that only five out of the 45 complaints of torture and ill-treatment led to the initiation of criminal proceedings, which in any case were transmitted to the prosecutor with the information to dismiss the case. Furthermore, the 2016 Concluding Observations from the Committee Against Torture demonstrate that the penalties established for torture and related crimes range from a fine to maximum of five years imprisonment. The Human Rights Committee has expressed concern in this regard, and inquired the State on whether these penalties have been revised to be proportional to the gravity of such crimes.

Freedom of expression and freedom of the media

During the review, the Human Rights Committee has raised questions related to freedom of expression and freedom of the media in Mongolia, especially in light of information received from civil society, including journalists. The Head of the delegation has stated that freedom of expression is guaranteed in Mongolia and that “representatives of the media carry their functions without restrictions”. However, the Committee remains concerned with regards to certain matters such as the records of censorship, harassment and attacks against journalists and human rights defenders. Furthermore, the Committee members inquired the State party on the Draft Law on Media Freedom and the limitations it proposes on the right to seek and obtain information in cases of ‘state secrecy’. The Mongolian delegation then sought to clarify that previous legislation allowed for much discretion on the officials’ interpretation of what constituted ‘state secrecy’, and that this will no longer be an issue under the new law which contains a clear list of 18 items that are considered as such. Furthermore, the delegation stated during the review that the death of a journalist in 2015 was properly investigated and that authorities determined that it had no relation with the activity of State agents.

Recommendations of the Committee

Within one year, the State party should provide information on the following recommendations from the Committee’s Concluding Observations:

Discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity

  • Intensify efforts to combat stereotypes and prejudices against LGBTI persons;
  • Investigate all cases of acts of discrimination and violence directed against LGBTI persons, prosecute and punish perpetrators involved in case of conviction, and provide reparation for victims;
  • Promote and guarantee freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly for LGBTI persons;
  • Abstain from unjustified interference with the exercise of these rights and ensure that any restrictions imposed comply with the Covenant;
  • Consider legal recognition and protection of same-sex couples.

 

Violence against women and children, including domestic violence

  • Prevent and eradicate domestic violence against women, including through implementation of the revised Law on Domestic Violence;
  • Ensure that all allegations of domestic violence are reported and investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished in case of conviction, and that victims have access to effective remedies, reparation and protection;
  • Train State officials to ensure that they are able to respond to cases of domestic violence;
  • Prohibit corporal punishment of children in all settings, including through public education and awareness-raising.

 

Right to life, prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

  • Amend legislation to include a definition of torture that complies with international standards, and include penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime.
  • Ensure that torture and ill-treatment are investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished in case of conviction, and that victims have access to redress;
  • Provide law enforcement officials with training on detection and investigation of torture;
  • Ensure independent functioning of investigation mechanisms;

The next (seventh) periodic report of Mongolia should be submitted by 28 July 2022. 

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