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TITLE:  MAURITIUS HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                           
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                      MAURITIUS


Mauritius is a parliamentary democracy governed by a Prime 
Minister, a Council of Ministers, and a National Assembly.  
Mauritius declared itself a Republic on March 12, 1993.  The 
Head of State is the President, who is nominated by the Prime 
Minister and confirmed by the Assembly, and whose powers are 
largely ceremonial.  Fair and orderly national and local 
elections, supervised by an independent commission, take place 
at regular intervals.  There are four major political parties 
and several smaller parties.  Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth's 
current coalition received a broad mandate in general elections 
in September 1991.

A paramilitary Special Mobile Force of some 1,200 men and a 
240-man Special Support Unit are responsible for internal 
security.  These forces, under the command of the Commissioner 
of Police, are backed by a general duty police force numbering 
over 6,000.  They are largely apolitical and generally well 
trained, but police abuse of suspects apparently increased 
during the year.

The economy is based on export-oriented manufacturing (mainly 
textiles), sugar, and tourism.  The rapid economic growth of 
the mid-1980's has slowed as a result of labor shortages and 
the global economic slowdown.  The Government, with the help of 
international donors, is attempting to diversify the industrial 
base to favor high-technology, capital-intensive production, 
and new sectors, such as financial services.

Political and civil rights are protected under the Constitution 
and respected in practice.  The work of the Garrioch Committee, 
established by the Prime Minister in 1990 to conduct an 
independent review of several controversial laws, led to 
significant reforms.  These included expansion of the freedom 
of assembly and abolition of the repressive Public Order Act, 
which permitted detention without charge or trial.  The 
Government continued to delay the release of the Garrioch 
Committee's recommendations on amendments to the Industrial 
Relations Act, which effectively disallows the right to 
strike.  The Government determines wages and benefits; 
collective bargaining is not practiced.  Societal 
discrimination and violence against women continued.


RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killings.  

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearance.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Torture and inhuman punishment are prohibited by law and 
generally are not practiced.  However, there were increased 
press allegations, confirmed by attorneys handling civil rights 
cases, of police mistreatment of suspects.  The abuse ranged 
from use of excessive force during arrests to beatings of 
suspects in custody.  In September, in a well-publicized case, 
two police officers were charged with having caused the death 
of a person in their custody.  Some victims of police 
mistreatment have sued and been financially compensated for 
their personal injuries.  No police officers accused of abuse 
were brought to trial in 1993.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Under the Constitution, detained persons have the right to a 
judicial determination of the legality of their detention.  
Although the time limit for making this determination is not 
specified in law, in practice it is usually made within 24 
hours.  Bail is commonly granted.  The Public Gathering Act, 
which replaced the Public Order Act on the basis of 
recommendations from the Garrioch Committee, no longer allows 
for indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Exile is legally prohibited and not practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Mauritius' judicial system, modeled on that of Great Britain, 
consists of the Supreme Court, which has appellate powers, and 
a series of lower courts.  Final appeal may be made to the 
Judicial Committee in the United Kingdom, and this is routine 
in the cases of death sentences.  There are no political or 
military courts.

The President, in consultation with the Prime Minister, 
nominates the Chief Justice and, in consultation with the 
latter, nominates the senior puisne (associate) judges.  The 
President nominates other judges on the advice of the Judicial 
and Legal Service Commissions.  The legal system has 
consistently provided fair, public trials for those charged 
with crimes.  Defendants have the right to private or 
court-appointed counsel.  The judiciary is also charged under 
the Constitution with ensuring that new laws are consistent 
with democratic practice.

While a number of recent legal decisions went against the 
Government, the most significant being the Supreme Court's 
rejection of an attempt by the Prime Minister to strip the 
leader of the opposition of his seat in the National Assembly, 
legal specialists and opposition politicians have warned 
against undue influence by the executive over the judiciary.  
These concerns were highlighted by the resignation in August of 
a Supreme Court justice.  The justice resigned after his stay 
of deportation of a woman who was 8 months pregnant was 
overruled on the direct order of the Prime Minister.

There were no political prisoners in Mauritius in 1993.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The sanctity of the home is guaranteed by law and generally 
respected in practice, but credible reports hold that the 
Government's intelligence apparatus occasionally opens mail and 
carries out surveillance of local opposition leaders and other 
major figures.  In September 1992, after a staff member of the 
Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) alleged that a letter 
addressed to him had been opened, the Supreme Court ruled that 
the MBC and other government organizations could not open the 
personal mail of their employees.  The search of personal 
property or premises is allowed only under clearly specified 
conditions by court order or by police decision if an illegal 
act has been committed.


Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and press is protected by the Constitution 
and local tradition and is largely respected in practice.  
Debate in the National Assembly is lively and open.  While 
there are occasional complaints of government influence in 
editorial policies, over a dozen privately owned daily, weekly, 
and monthly newspapers present varying political viewpoints and 
freely express partisan views.  However, newspapers are subject 
to the constraints of strict libel laws, which, under the 1984 
Newspaper and Periodicals (Amendment) Act, inhibit the ability 
of the press to criticize the Government.  In 1991 two 
journalists were charged with giving out false information 
concerning a sea captain accused of fishing in Mauritian 
waters.  The charges against the journalists were dropped in 
February 1992, but in March of the same year an appeal was 
filed by the Director of Public Prosecutions.  This appeal was 
still pending at the end of 1993.  

The Government owns the 2 television and 3 radio stations, 
which broadcast in 12 languages and dialects.  Television and 
radio, which in the past tended to reflect government editorial 
and programming policies, have developed more independent, 
professional news reporting.  Opposition politicians are given 
more air time than previously and new current events programs 
featuring interviews with politicians from across the political 
spectrum have been well received.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Mauritians enjoy the right to form associations, including 
political parties, trade unions, and religious organizations, 
although in practice all such organizations need government 
approval in order to operate officially.  Mauritius has a 
multitude of such private organizations.

Political, cultural, and religious assemblies are commonplace.  
Under the 1991 Public Gathering Act, police permission is 
required for holding demonstrations and mass meetings.  Such 
permission is rarely refused.  Although groups have sucessfully 
challenged police denials of permits, in 1993 no appeals were 
made.  Groups complained that the time involved in the appeals 
process often makes the final outcome moot.


     c.  Freedom of Religion

There is no state religion.  Hindus are a majority, but 
Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and others openly practice, 
teach, and proselytize.  All religious institutions receive 
state subsidies in proportion to their memberships.  There is 
no state-sponsored discrimination against any ethnic or 
religious community.  The Government facilitates the travel of 
Mauritians who make the hajj.  Foreign missionaries are not 
allowed to enter the country without a prior request from a 
local religious organization.  Missionaries have faced the same 
difficulties as other foreigners in obtaining residence permits.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There are no restrictions on freedom of movement within the 
country.  Foreign travel and emigration are also unrestricted.  
However, there is no blanket guarantee of repatriation, and 
there are no general criteria for processing repatriation 
applications.  Applications from Mauritians abroad who lost 
their citizenship after acquiring a second nationality 
(estimated to be several thousand) are handled on a 
case-by-case and sometimes arbitrary basis.  This remains an 
issue of political debate as more Mauritians abroad seek to 
reclaim their Mauritian citizenship.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens have the right and ability to change their government 
through democratic means.  Mauritius is governed by a freely 
elected, unicameral National Assembly, with executive direction 
coming from the Council of Ministers, currently headed by Prime 
Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth, whose Alliance coalitions won 
elections in 1983, 1987, and 1991.  The President, in 
accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, has the right 
to designate the person charged with forming a new government 
following parliamentary elections or in a parliamentary 
crisis.  Parliamentary, municipal, and village council 
elections are held at regular intervals.  All citizens 18 years 
of age and over have the right to vote and run for office.

In the National Assembly, up to eight members are appointed 
through a complex "best loser" system designed in part to 
ensure that all ethnic groups are adequately represented.  The 
governing (three-party) Alliance coalition controls 49 of the 
66 seats.  The political parties often match the ethnicity or 
religion of their candidates to the composition of particular 
electoral constituencies.

Only 2 of Mauritius' 66 members of Parliament and 1 of its 25 
ministers are women.  There are no legal impediments to women 
assuming leadership roles.  The Government is not actively 
trying to address this imbalance.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Local human rights groups monitor developments without 
governmental restriction.  There have been no known requests by 
international organizations to investigate human rights 
violations in Mauritius.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

     Women

Traditionally, women have occupied a subordinate role in 
society, but the Government has tried to promote equality by 
eliminating various legal restrictions, e.g., in laws dealing 
with emigration and inheritance and, in 1990, by removing a 
legal bar to women serving on juries.  Also, in 1989 the 
Government appointed "Equal Employment Opportunity Officers" in 
the major ministries to ensure the promotion of women's 
interests.  However, the lack of a body of law mandating equal 
treatment for women limits these officers' effectiveness.  
Despite the growing number of women in the work force, there is 
no legislation requiring equal pay for equal work, nor are 
there any specific provisions against sexual harassment in the 
workplace.  Additionally, women still cannot transmit 
citizenship to their foreign-born children, and foreign 
husbands of Mauritian women cannot automatically obtain 
residence and work permits (as can foreign wives of Mauritian 
men).

According to the Ministry of Women's Rights and Family Welfare, 
physicians, attorneys, and religious and charitable 
organizations, violence against women is widespread.  There are 
no special provisions in Mauritian law concerning family 
violence.  Police are generally reluctant to become involved in 
cases of wife beating.  The Government in 1989 established a 
family counseling service, managed by the National Council of 
Women, one of whose principal tasks is to provide counseling 
and legal advice in cases of spousal abuse.  S.O.S. Women, a 
nongovernmental organization which provides assistance to 
abused women and works to sensitize the Mauritian population on 
women's rights issues, estimates that it is contacted by more 
than 150 abused women each month.  Rape and Incest Aid, a 
Mauritian nongovernmental organization, has made progress in 
sensitizing Mauritians to these issues.  Victims are frequently 
informally referred to this group by the Mauritian police.  

     Children

The Government's programs in the area of children's rights and 
welfare are limited.  Most are handled by the National 
Children's Council, a parastatal organization attached to the 
Ministry of Women's Rights.  Most of the Government's resources 
in this area are concentrated on family counseling and 
sensitization on child abuse.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although Mauritius has a Hindu majority, the country's active 
press and strongly egalitarian traditions mitigate against 
discrimination in all forms.  Discrimination on the basis of 
race, ethnicity, or caste is also prohibited by law.  
Nonetheless, underlying social tensions based on ethnicity and 
caste continued in 1993.

     People with Disabilities

Mauritian law requires organizations that employ more than 10 
persons to set aside at least 3% of their positions for people 
with disabilities.  The law does not, however, mandate that 
worksites be accessible to the disabled.  Several 
nongovernmental organizations have expressed concern about this 
lack of accessibility, which makes it impossible for people 
with disabilities to fill many jobs.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Mauritius has an active trade union movement.  Almost 300 
unions represent about 110,000 workers, just under 30 percent 
of the work force.  Of these, 110 have less than 50 members.  
Workers are theoretically free to form and join unions and to 
organize in all sectors, including in the export processing 
zone (EPZ) which employs about 90,000 workers.  However, in 
practice there are a variety of constraints under the 1973 
Industrial Relations Act (IRA), such as the need to obtain 
government approval to register new unions.  In addition, five 
unions in the EPZ were deregistered in 1993 because they became 
inactive, or because their membership dropped below seven.  
Less than 10 percent of EPZ workers are believed to be 
unionized.  Unions can and do press wage demands, establish 
ties to domestic political parties and international 
organizations, and address political issues.

In theory unions have the right to strike.  However, in labor 
disputes the IRA requires a prestrike 21-day cooling-off period 
followed by binding arbitration, which has the effect of making 
most strikes illegal.  Participation in a strike not approved 
by a court is sufficient grounds for dismissal.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

While the right of association is guaranteed by law, excessive 
government intervention has distorted the collective bargaining 
process.  The IRA's provisions for establishing wages bear 
little resemblance to the traditional collective bargaining 
process, and the Government's restraints on that process render 
it ineffective.

A National Remuneration Board (NRB), whose chairman is 
appointed by the Minister of Labor, sets minimum wages by 
sector but also establish a wage structure based on length of 
service and job classification.  The NRB thus sets wages for 
skilled and experienced workers whose earnings are well above 
the minimum wage.  Wages and benefits for civil servants are 
established by the Pay Research Bureau (PRB) which prepares a 
wage scale for the civil service on the basis of the 
Sedgwick/Chesworth Report recommendations.  After a 6-year 
hiatus, this report was published in May.  While it gave wage 
increases which averaged 17 percent, labor groups criticized it 
for its inflexibility and opaqueness.

In 1993 the salary increases granted in the PRB also served as 
cost-of-living adjustments, which previously had been 
determined in tripartite negotiations.  Ordinarily, the 
government-established tripartite committee, chaired by the 
Minister of Finance and including employer and trade union 
representatives, meets once a year.  Its recommendations are 
not always unanimous, however, and the Government makes the 
final decision.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) noted again in 1991 
that the IRA does not give workers' organizations sufficient 
protection against acts of interference as provided for by ILO 
Convention 98 on the right to organize and bargain 
collectively.  The Garrioch Committee submitted its review of 
the IRA to the Government in May 1992.  Despite government 
pledges to release the Committee's report and introduce 
amendments to the IRA by July 1993, at the end of the year 
neither had been done.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law and not 
practiced.  However, under the IRA the Minister of Labor can 
refer industrial disputes to compulsory arbitration, 
enforceable by penalties involving compulsory labor 
provisions.  The ILO continues to criticize this as being in 
conflict with ILO Convention 105 on forced labor.  There were 
no such cases in 1993.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum work age for employment of children is 15.  The 
Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor 
laws, but enforcement is minimal.  While there are cases of 
children under the age of 15 working illegally in the EPZ, the 
large, established EPZ factories do not hire children under 
15.  In fact, it is unusual to see employees much younger than 
18.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The NRB establishes minimum wages for 26 categories of private 
sector workers (sugar, tea, transport, etc.) which apply 
equally to workers in the EPZ.  Although originally established 
to set minimum wages for nonunion workers, the NRB has 
broadened its powers and issues remuneration orders that 
establish minimum wages, bonuses, housing, and transportation 
allowances, and other benefits for almost all private sector 
workers.  About 85 percent of all private sector workers 
(including unionized workers) are covered by NRB orders.  
Employers and unions are free to negotiate wages and benefits 
above the minimums established by the NRB, but this is rare.


Minimum wages are differ along employment sector and gender 
lines.  Women are paid less in the agricultural sector on the 
stated assumption that their productivity is lower in this 
labor-intensive work.  In the EPZ, the minimum wage is equal 
for men and women.  The statutory minimum wage for an unskilled 
worker in the EPZ is $45 (approximately 800 Rupees) a month.  
The minimum wage for non-EPZ workers is about $54 (about 1000 
Rupees) a month.  However, given Mauritius' present labor 
shortage, the market rate is much higher, and most jobs include 
various benefits.  The overall compensation package generally 
is sufficient to afford an acceptable standard of living.  The 
Government mandates minimum wage increases each year based on 
inflation.

The standard workweek in the industrial sector is 45 hours, but 
excessive overtime continues to be a problem in the EPZ.  An 
employee may be required by an employer to perform up to 10 
hours per week of mandatory overtime (at a higher hourly 
wage).  With the employee's consent, he or she may work up to 
20 hours of overtime per week (i.e., 65 hours).

The Government sets health and safety standards, and working 
conditions are inspected by Ministry of Labor officials.  While 
the total number of industrial accidents has declined in recent 
years, the number of fatal accidents has risen.  Enforcement is 
minimal and ineffective due to the small number of inspectors.


[end of document]

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