The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal


TITLE:  SIERRA LEONE HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                          
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994

                     SIERRA LEONE

The National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), which was 
formed in 1992 after a military coup led by Captain Valentine 
E.M. Strasser and a small cadre of soldiers from the Sierra 
Leone-Liberia war front, continued to rule Sierra Leone.  The 
coup ended the government of President Joseph Momoh and his All 
Peoples' Congress (APC) party, which had held power since 
1978.  Captain Strasser is Chairman of the NPRC and Head of 
State.  The Deputy Chairman of the NPRC, Julius Maada Bio, is 
Chairman of the Supreme Council of State (SCS), which includes 
NPRC members and other military officers, plus one civilian.  
The NPRC and the SCS formulate government policy; day-to-day 
government operations are overseen by the department 
secretaries, who comprise the Cabinet.

Following the coup, the NPRC dissolved Parliament and political 
parties and, ruling by decree, controlled all aspects of 
government.  The 1991 Constitution technically remains in force 
under the NPRC, but its status has been diminished by a series 
of decrees and public notices.  On November 26, Captain 
Strasser announced several important policy moves:  a 
unilateral cease-fire in the fighting with the rebel forces, 
known as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF); an amnesty for 
surrendering rebels and RUF sympathizers; and a timetable for a 
transition to democracy, culminating in general elections in 
late 1995.  In December the NPRC released a "Working Document 
on the Constitution" to serve as the basis for public debate 
leading to a referendum on a new constitution in May 1995.

The Sierra Leone military forces (RSLMF), supported by Special 
Army and Police Units (SAPPS) and the regular police force, are 
responsible for both external and internal security.  The RSLMF 
continued active operations against the RUF forces, which are 
supported by the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).  
The 1992 coup was in part motivated by dissatisfaction among 
frontline troops (including Strasser), and the NPRC set as its 
primary objective bringing the war to an end.  Significant 
progress was made toward achieving that goal in 1993, with the 
recapture of large areas that had been subject to rebel 
control.  There continued to be reports of human rights abuses 
on all sides in the internal conflict, including summary 
executions and torture, as well as abuses by the police and 
military against criminal suspects outside the war zone.

More than 70 percent of the 4.3 million population is involved 
in some aspect of agriculture, mainly subsistence farming.  
Although the country is rich in minerals, including 
titanium-bearing rutile, gold, and diamonds, official receipts 
from legal exports of gold and diamonds have decreased over 
recent years; significant portions of these resources leave the 
country outside legal, authorized channels.  The major 
diamond-producing area was under rebel control from late 1992 
until late 1993, which further disrupted diamond earnings.  
Despite the difficult security situation, the Government 
adhered to an International Monetary Fund structural adjustment 
program which has produced major improvements in the stability 
of exchange rates and reduced inflation.

There were many human rights abuses, notably, but not only, in 
the areas of fighting along the Liberian border, where the 
RSLMF and rebel units committed extrajudicial killings and 
torture.  In August RUF rebels ambushed an aid convoy of the 
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), killing two of 
the relief workers and wounding a third before burning the 
vehicles.  Additionally, both the police and army summarily 
executed criminal suspects and beat and otherwise abused 
suspects during arrest and interrogation.

The NPRC continued to maintain firm control over government and 
society with tight restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, 
assembly, and association.  Discrimination and violence against 
women remained widespread.


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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were numerous reports of extrajudicial killings and 
summary executions by military and the SAPPS, often in 
connection with criminal arrests.  Many reports suggest that 
undisciplined military personnel inflicted civilian deaths 
while engaging in looting, robbery, and extortion (see Section 

     b.  Disappearance

There were continuing reports of the disappearance of suspected 
NPFL rebels, captured in the conflict.  The NPRC denied these 
reports and took the offensive by announcing an amnesty program 
for civilians and rebels returning from disputed territories.

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

Although the 1991 Constitution prohibits torture, there were 
reports of police and military mistreatment of detainees during 
interrogation and arrest.  The practice of mutilating prisoners 
continued.  In one well-publicized case, security forces cut 
off the ears of two criminal suspects.  Military personnel 
sometimes physically abused civilians (see Section 1.g.).  In 
December the press reported an incident in which soldiers beat 
and kicked a child in order to ascertain where the child had 
obtained the military boots he was wearing.  Officials 
responsible for such abuses were sometimes punished.

Prison conditions remained life threatening; deaths in prison 
due to malnutrition and inadequate medical attention are 
common.  Detainee cells often lack beds or toilet facilities.  
Overcrowding is the norm at Freetown's Pademba Road prison.  
These prison conditions are of particular concern because 
shortcomings in the legal system often result in prolonged 
detention.  Men and women are segregated in the prisons, but 
separate facilities for incarceration of juveniles do not 
exist.  Homosexual rape is not uncommon.

Throughout the year, the Government granted the International 
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to prisoners, 
including some alleged rebel prisoners.  Amnesty International 
(AI) requested access to prisoners one time, and access was 
granted.  In May AI reported that some prisoners were being 
held in secret and that boys as young as 7 years of age were 
being incarcerated.  The Government denied these charges.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

There are inadequate safeguards against arbitrary or unjust 
detentions and no provisions for their formal review in either 
criminal or political security cases.  The laws provide that, 
after an initial 24-hour detention, detainees must have access 
to legal counsel, families, and medical care, but authorities 
rarely respect these provisions unless detainees can afford 
legal counsel to demand compliance.

In political and security cases, police and security agencies 
have additional detention authority.  Under NPRC decrees, any 
police officer or member of the armed forces, with approval of 
the SCS or NPRC, may arrest without warrant and detain 
indefinitely any person suspected of posing a threat to public 
safety.  In practice, soldiers commonly arrest or detain 
civilians without charge.  Relatives are not formally notified, 
but the authorities generally respond to inquiries.  Arrested 
foreigners are often released but may not depart the country.

The Government provides legal representation for the indigent 
only in cases of capital offenses.  Lack of counsel in other 
cases frequently leads to abuse.  Many indigent detainees are 
ignorant of their rights and assume, sometimes correctly, that 
law enforcement or judicial authorities will be paid by the 
accuser to rule against them.  The Society for the Protection 
of Human Rights provides free legal counsel to some indigent 

During the year, the NPRC reviewed the cases of individual 
prisoners, resulting in the release of over 300 prisoners.

The first anniversary of the April 1992 coup saw the release to 
house arrest of the more than 20 members of the former 
government who had been detained at the time of the coup.  In 
December the Government announced that all suspected rebels had 
been released from detention, and one political detainee was 
released under the year-end amnesty.

No one was exiled by the Government, but some persons chose to 
leave or, as in the case of some officials of the previous 
regime, remain outside the country rather than face possible 

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The NPRC has not fundamentally altered the previously existing 
judiciary, but it has circumvented some of the authority of 
judicial institutions by the use of special commissions of 

There are three judicial systems:  regular courts, local or 
traditional courts, and courts-martial which try only military 
cases.  The judiciary is subject to political manipulation.  
There is strong evidence that favoritism plays a role in court 

The regular court system is based on the British model and 
consists of a Supreme Court, an intermediate Court of Appeals, 
a High Court of Magistrates, and magistrates' courts.  There 
are criminal and civil courts.  Decisions by lower courts may 
be appealed.  The courts frequently grant attorneys' requests 
for adjournment or postponement; there are delays of up to 
5 years in bringing cases to trial.

Indigenous elected ethnic leaders preside over local courts and 
administer tribal law in civil cases, e.g., dealing with family 
and property matters.  These local courts are often the only 
legal institutions in rural areas.

The court-martial system, based on British military codes and 
the common law, provides for commander adjudication of minor 
offenses.  More serious offenses are deferred from field units 
to force headquarters.  There are allegations that enlisted 
personnel subjected to punishment by field commanders have in 
some cases appealed to friends in the NPRC and had sentences 
overturned.  During 1992, in an effort to curb military 
excesses, a standing court-martial was established to try 
military personnel for serious crimes (e.g., murder, 
manslaughter or aggravated robbery).  Death sentences 
pronounced by this court must be reviewed and approved by the 
Head of State.  None of the death sentences given by the 
standing court-martial in 1993 had been carried out by year's 

Under a December 1992 decree, the Government has the authority 
to create a Special Military Tribunal to try "any person, 
whether or not a member of the Armed Forces" who, in connection 
with or in furtherance of any act of rebellion against the 
NPRC, commits treason, murder, manslaughter, aggravated robbery 
or any other serious offense under Sierra Leonean law.  In 1993 
the decree was amended to permit appeal of the Tribunal's 
decisions to the courts.

In a separate set of quasi-judicial proceedings, NPRC-appointed 
commissions of inquiry, investigating corruption under the 
previous Momoh regime, held public hearings during 1993.  At 
year's end, the commissions continued to submit findings to the 
NPRC.  After reviewing the findings, the NPRC issues a "white 
paper" containing decisions on sanctions against officials of 
the previous regime found to have engaged in malfeasance.  The 
NPRC has taken such actions as confiscating or ordering 
restitution of property and banning some persons from future 
public office.

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

While the 1991 Constitution prohibits arbitrary invasion of the 
home, NPRC Decree 25 had given broad authority to military and 
police personnel to enter and search any premise without 
warrant.  During April the NPRC published amendments to the 
Decree, curtailing that authority.  However, officials still 
have wide authority under other NPRC decrees to monitor actions 
or conversation within homes, to prevent a person from acting 
in a manner prejudicial to public safety, to impose 
restrictions on employment or business, to control association 
or communication with other persons, and to interfere with 

In practice, there were numerous occasions of abusive treatment 
of ordinary citizens by ill-disciplined soldiers and police, 
both within and outside of the war zone.  These abuses included 
forced entry into homes, robberies, and assaults, some of them 
fatal.  Offending soldiers have frequently been punished when 
caught; several remained under death sentences for the most 
serious crimes (see Section 1.e.).

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

There were serious violations of human rights in the conflict 
centered in the eastern and southern provinces along the 
Liberian border.  There, RSLMF forces fought the Revolutionary 
United Front forces, which are supported in part by Charles 
Taylor's NPFL forces from Liberia.  The RSLMF was also involved 
in fighting bandits and groups of military deserters.  This 
conflict involves different ethnic groups and has resulted in 
an unknown number of deaths.  Some estimates indicated that 
more than 8,000 civilians have been killed since 1991 and that 
hundreds of thousands of people within Sierra Leone and 
adjacent countries have been displaced.

Government forces took severe action against suspected rebels 
and their supporters.  There were credible reports of summary 
executions of prisoners by RSLMF troops.  Troops also engaged 
in public humiliation and torture of captives, including by 
disfigurement, beatings, and parading captives naked.  Some 
RSLMF troops displayed human skulls on military vehicles.

Many reports indicated that RUF rebels took similarly severe 
action against civilians and RSLMF soldiers.  In August the RUF 
attacked an ICRC aid convoy, killing two ICRC workers and 
wounding a third.  Also, there were reports that the RUF 
leaders in Kailahun District executed 16 of their own troops 
and 5 noncombatants for allegedly plotting to overthrow RUF 
leader Foday Sankoh.  In December RUF forces reportedly killed 
about 20 civilians in two villages near Pujehun.  They also 
pressed youths aged 12 to 15 into combat service.

At times, the RUF controlled parts of the eastern areas along 
the Liberian border, but by the end of the year government 
forces had regained the initiative, and RUF did not control any 
specific areas.  In early December, the NPRC declared a 4-week 
cease-fire, but, due to numerous new RUF attacks on government 
forces during the month, the cease-fire was not extended when 
it expired.

The RUF does not appear to promote a coherent political 
philosophy.  Most of its members are of the Mende and Kissy 
ethnic groups, but other members of those groups have not been 
immune from RUF aggression.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Although the Constitution provides unequivocally for freedom of 
speech, NPRC decrees permit the Government to abridge freedom 
of expression if it deems national security to be endangered.  
Criticizing government leaders or offending the dignity of the 
State are criminal offenses.  In practice, freedoms of speech 
and press were severely circumscribed.

In May the NPRC repealed the section of its 1992 decree that 
had empowered the Government to prohibit attempts to influence 
public opinion in a manner likely to be prejudicial to public 
safety, public tranquility, or public order.  However, a 
restrictive set of conditions for registration of newspapers 
instituted in February reduced the number of newspapers by more 
than 50 percent and silenced some of those most openly critical 
of the Government.

At the end of 1993, there were 10 active newspapers, 2 of which 
were controlled directly by the Government.  The Government 
warned and castigated editors who published articles 
displeasing to the NPRC.  It detained several editors for 1 to 
3 days and suspended one newspaper for several weeks.  The 
then-deputy Chairman of the NPRC kicked one journalist because 
of an offending article.  In these circumstances, editors 
continued to exercise self-censorship.

In October the authorities arrested five employees of a 
Freetown newspaper and six others, who have played roles in 
Sierra Leone politics in the past, after the newspaper 
published an article from a Swedish newspaper alleging 
corruption in the NPRC Government.  The newspaper's office was 
ransacked.  The Government released seven of the detainees a 
short time later, but four journalists remained in jail for 
more than 2 weeks.  They were then released on bail equivalent 
to $200,000 each, an extremely high sum by Sierra Leone 
standards.  The newspaper has not published since the incident.

One of the capital's two radio stations is government 
controlled and reflects only the views of the Government.  The 
other is operated by Christian missionaries and broadcasts 
religious programming and Voice of America news.  A third radio 
station operates in one of the provincial cities.  The 
Government owns and operates the only television station, which 
resumed broadcasting after a hiatus of several years.

Academic freedom does not appear to have been impaired by the 
NPRC.  There were no reports of educators being detained or 
threatened for their teaching activities, and university 
students who staged protests over campus issues were not 
subjected to government retribution.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Although the 1991 Constitution provides for freedom of assembly 
and the right of citizens to form economic, social, and 
professional organizations, freedoms of assembly and 
association were not respected.  All political parties remained 

Under antidisturbance decrees, the NPRC may grant broad powers 
of arrest to public, military, or other authorized persons in 
any area or situation in which, in its opinion, there is likely 
to be difficulty in preserving "public safety" and "order."  In 
practice, the NPRC permitted peaceful demonstrations.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is provided for by the 1991 Constitution, 
and historically the ruling government has displayed religious 
tolerance.  Muslims, the largest religious group (comprising 
about 60 percent of the population), Christians, animists, and 
adherents of other faiths practice their beliefs freely; they 
may publish and distribute religious materials and conduct 
religious education without government interference.  

Although most clergy are indigenous, foreign Christian 
missionaries are active and there is a small number of Muslim 
clerics from other countries.

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

There are currently no legal restrictions on travel within the 
country; however, for a substantial portion of 1993 three of 
the eastern districts were closed to civilian travel due to the 
rebel incursion.  Military and paramilitary checkpoints also 
delayed travel, with soldiers frequently demanding money, 
transport, or goods.  NPRC decrees permit senior police and 
military officers to stop and question any person.

The Government requires all citizens to carry a national 
identification card which must be presented on demand to 
security personnel at checkpoints.  However, as the Government 
was unable to provide cards for everyone, the requirement was 
only selectively enforced.

Exit visas are required for anyone, except diplomats, seeking 
to travel outside the country.  There are no restrictions on 
emigration or repatriation.

Continuing conflict in the primarily agricultural eastern and 
southern provinces at times internally displaced as many as 
400,000 Sierra Leoneans during 1993, reducing food production 
and placing a severe strain on the local economy.  In addition 
to the internally displaced, an estimated 300,000 Sierra 
Leonean refugees sought refuge in Guinea and Liberia.  There 
was considerable movement among the internally displaced Sierra 
Leone populations and the Liberian refugees in response to the 
ebb and flow of the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Sierra Leone continued to be host to thousands of Liberian 
refugees, although the number declined from 14,000 at the end 
of 1992 to an estimated 10,000 at the end of 1993.  The United 
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided relief 
aid to 6,000 refugees at the Waterloo refugee camp near 
Freetown.  The Government did not force refugees to repatriate 
to countries in which they fear persecution.

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

Citizens do not have this right.  Captain Strasser and a small 
group of military officers control all institutions of 
government, and the NPRC appoints all senior government 
officials.  The NPRC appointed an advisory Commission for the 
Return to Democracy, and the Commission submitted the draft of 
a new constitution to the NPRC for review.  In December a 
"Working Document on the Constitution" was released to serve as 
the basis for public debate leading to a referendum on a new 
constitution in May 1995.  The NPRC timetable announced in 
December also calls for nonpartisan district council elections 
in November 1994; the formation of political parties in June 
1995; and general elections late in 1995.

Meanwhile, the ban on political parties remained in effect, and 
the Government qualified implementation of these steps by 
stating that the border fighting must end before elections 
could be held.

Women are poorly represented in government.  In December the 
NPRC appointed a woman as undersecretary in the Department of 
Education, the highest position held by a woman in the 
Government.  A few senior civil service and judicial positions 
are held by women.

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

Local human rights groups are allowed to operate.  The League 
for Human Rights and Democracy, a local organization, studies 
all human rights issues but concentrates on issues related to 
freedom of the press and conditions of prisoners.  Its 
effectiveness is hampered by government intimidation and a lack 
of resources.  In at least one instance in 1993, the League's 
director was summoned by police for questioning regarding his 

The Government allows visits by international human rights 
organizations.  The ICRC visited prisoners in Pademba Road 
prison and in various military barracks where suspected rebels 
are sometimes detained.  Amnesty International had access to 
prisoners in 1993 (see Section 1.c.).

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


Although women have equal rights under the Constitution, in 
practice they face both legal and societal discrimination.  The 
rights and status of women under traditional law vary 
significantly, depending upon the ethnic group.  The Temne and 
Limba tribes, for example, accord more rights to a woman to 
inherit her husband's property than do the Mende, who give 
preference to male heirs and unmarried daughters (in that 

In the broader society, women do not have equal access to 
education, economic opportunities, health facilities, or social 
freedoms.  In rural areas they perform much of the subsistence 
farming and all of the child-rearing and have little 
opportunity for education.  The average schooling level for 
women is markedly below that of males.  A 1991 U.N. study 
showed that females receive one-fourth the schooling of males; 
only 6 percent of women are literate.  At the university level, 
men predominate.  There is at least one recently formed rights 
group which has as its purpose improving economic opportunities 
and access to health services for women.

Violence against women, especially wife beating, is common.  
The police are unlikely to intervene in domestic disputes 
except in cases of severe injury or death.  Few cases of such 
violence go to court.  The issue is not recognized as a 
societal problem and receives no high-level attention by the 
Government.  Rape is a problem in Sierra Leone.


The Government recently signed the U.N. Convention on the 
Rights of the Child and in 1993 began addressing, with the help 
of nongovernmental organizations, the integration of "boy 
soldiers" back into society.  Many underage boys had been 
allowed to join military operations early in the war.

There are reported instances of ritual murders of boys and 
girls, as well as of adults, associated with animist religious 
groups in the provinces.  These murders have been widely 
reported in the press and openly discussed in public.  The 
Government arrests and prosecutes suspects in ritual murder 

Female genital mutilation (circumcision), which has been 
condemned by international health experts as damaging to both 
physical and psychological health, is not addressed in Sierra 
Leonean law and is widely practiced on girls at a young age, 
especially in traditional tribal groups and among the less 
educated.  According to an independent expert in the field, the 
percentage of females who have undergone this procedure may be 
as high as 80 percent.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Discrimination between people of different tribal groups is not 
officially sanctioned, but tribal loyalties remain important 
factors in government, military, and business transactions.  
The Momoh government was accused of discriminating in favor of 
persons of Limba descent (Momoh's ethnic group).  The NPRC is 
heavily Mende in composition, and many high-level appointees 
are from that ethnic group.  Complaints are common of 
corruption and ethnic discrimination in government 
appointments, contracts, military commissions, and promotions.

Residents of non-African descent face institutionalized 
political restrictions.  Current law restricts citizenship to 
people of Negro-African descent following a patrilineal 
pattern, effectively denying citizenship to many persons, 
notably in the Lebanese community, the largest affected 
minority.  Residents of non-African descent are often victims 
of harassment.

     People with Disabilities

Questions of public facility access or discrimination against 
the disabled have not become public policy issues.  There are 
no laws that mandate accessibility to buildings or provide for 
other assistance for the handicapped.  There does not appear to 
be discrimination against the handicapped in housing or 
education, but, with the high rate of unemployment, few 
handicapped people are found working in offices or factories.  
The difficulty the handicapped face in finding employment 
places many facilities and services beyond their financial 

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Unions have continued their activities under the NPRC.  The 
1991 Constitution provides for the right of association, and 
all workers, including civil servants, have the right to join 
trade unions of their choice.  Unions are independent of the 
Government.  Individual labor unions have by custom joined the 
Sierra Leone Labor Congress (SLLC), and all unions are members 
of the SLLC.  Membership is, however, voluntary.  There is no 
legal prohibition against the SLLC leadership holding political 
office, and leaders have held both elected and appointed 
government positions.

Under the Trade Union Act, any five persons may form a trade 
union by applying to the Registrar of Trade Unions, who has 
statutory powers under the Act to approve the creation of trade 
unions.  Applications may be rejected for several reasons, 
including an insufficient number of members, proposed 
representation in an industry already served by an existing 
union, or incomplete documentation.  If the Registrar rejects 
an application, his decision may be appealed in the ordinary 
courts, but such action is seldom taken.

Approximately 60 percent of workers in urban areas, including 
government employees, are unionized, but unions have had little 
success in organizing workers in the large agricultural and 
mining sectors.

Unions have the right to call a strike without exception, but 
the Government may require 21 days' notice.  In September 
teachers staged a strike demanding salary increases.  The NPRC 
did not interfere, but NPRC decrees, which prohibit disruption 
of public tranquility or of supplies, could be employed to 
prevent a prolonged strike.  The Sierra Leone Labor Congress is 
reviewing the labor law and hopes to have legislation approved 
in 1994 that would prohibit firing of a union member for 
participation in a legal strike.

Unions are free to form federations and confederations and 
affiliate internationally.  The SLLC is a member of the 
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and there are 
no restrictions on the international travel or contacts of 
trade unionists.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The legal framework for collective bargaining is the Regulation 
of Wages and Industrial Relations Act.  Collective bargaining 
must take place in trade group negotiating councils, each of 
which has an equal number of employer and worker 
representatives.  Most enterprises are covered by collective 
bargaining agreements on wages and working conditions.  The 
SLLC provides assistance to unions in preparing for 
negotiations.  In case of a deadlock, the Government may 

There is no law that prohibits retribution against strikers;  
however, if an employee is fired for union activities, he may 
file a complaint with a labor tribunal and seek reinstatement.  
Complaints of discrimination against unions are made to the 
Industrial Court for arbitration.  Individual trade unions 
investigate alleged violations of work conditions and ensure 
that employers take the necessary steps to correct abuses.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Under the Chiefdom's Council Act, compulsory labor may be 
imposed by individual chiefs, requiring members of their 
villages to contribute to the improvement of common areas.  
This practice exists only in rural areas.  There is no penalty 
for noncompliance.  The International Labor Organization's 
(ILO) Committee of Experts repeated its earlier request to the 
Government that it amend provisions of this act that violate 
ILO Convention 29 on forced labor.

Although the NPRC does not require compulsory labor, a decree 
requires that homeowners, businessmen, and vendors clean and 
maintain their premises.  Failure to comply is punishable by 
fine or imprisonment.  Determinations of such cleaning and 
maintenance may be made by any health officer, police officer, 
or member of the armed forces.  The last Saturday of every 
month is declared a national cleaning day, and there were 
instances of security forces beating citizens to ensure 

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment is officially 18 years, but in 
practice there is no enforcement because there is no Government 
entity specifically charged with this task.  Children routinely 
assist in small family businesses, especially those of vendors 
and petty traders.  In rural areas young children work 
seasonally on family subsistence farms.

Because the adult unemployment rate is high (60 percent in some 
areas), few children are involved in the industrial sector.  
There have been reports that young children have been hired by 
foreign employers to work as domestics overseas at extremely 
low wages and in appalling conditions.  Following an 
investigation, the Government announced that the Department of 
Foreign Affairs would review overseas work applications to 
ensure that no one under 14 was being employed for this purpose 
and to enforce certain wage standards.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no legislated minimum wage.  Purchasing power 
continued to decline, and most workers have to pool incomes 
with their extended families and engage in subsistence food 
production in order to maintain a minimum standard of living.  
The Government's suggested standard workweek is 38 hours, but 
this is not mandated and most workweeks exceed 38 hours.

The Government sets health and safety standards, but the 
standards are outmoded and often not enforced.  The Health and 
Safety Division of the Department of Labor has inspection and 
enforcement responsibility, but inadequate funding and 
transportation limit its effectiveness.  The SLLC is currently 
negotiating with the Government to update these standards.

Health and safety regulations are included in collective 
bargaining agreements, but there is no evidence of systematic 
enforcement of those safety standards.  Trade unions provide 
the only protection for workers who file complaints about 
working conditions.  Initially, the unions make a formal 
complaint about a hazardous work condition.  If this is 
rejected, the unions may issue a 21-day strike notice.  If 
workers remove themselves from dangerous work situations 
without making a formal complaint, they risk being fired.

[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.