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TITLE: ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993 DATE: JANUARY 31, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA Antigua and Barbuda, a small two-island state, is a parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is governed by a Prime Minister, a Cabinet, and a bicameral Legislative Assembly. The Governor General, with largely ceremonial duties, is the titular Head of State and serves as the representative of the British monarch. The Constitution requires general elections at least every 5 years. Prime Minister V.C. Bird, Sr., and his Antigua Labour Party hold 15 of the 17 seats in the House of Representatives. The Governor General appoints the 17-member Senate with the advice of the Prime Minister and opposition leader. Security forces consist of a police force and the Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force, a 90-person infantry unit. The police are organized, trained, and supervised according to British law enforcement practices. The security forces have a reputation for respecting individual rights in the performance of their duties. Antigua and Barbuda has a mixed economy with a strong private sector. A slowdown in the important tourism industry was blamed for a decline in economic growth during 1993. The large and growing external debt, combined with the financial pressures of meeting payroll demands of an oversized public sector work force, also contributed to the economic slowdown. The Constitution provides for political and civil rights, which are generally respected in practice. However, despite government promises in 1992 that opposition political leaders would have access to the government-controlled electronic media, news censorship continued. As a result, opposition parties or persons presenting opinions opposed to government policies were denied media access. Scattered incidents of violence marred campaign activities for general elections set for early 1994. 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 other extrajudicial killings. b. Disappearance There were no reports of disappearance or politically motivated abductions. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment The Constitution prohibits torture and other cruel or inhuman treatment of prisoners or detainees, and these prohibitions are generally respected in practice. In 1990 Parliament amended the law to permit flogging as a penalty for rape. While there were no reported floggings of convicted rapists, several people were flogged for conviction on child molestation charges. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, which do not occur in practice. Criminal defendants have the right of judicial determination of the legality of their detention. Detainees must be brought before a court within 48 hours of arrest or detention. There were no reports of involuntary exile. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The judicial system is modeled on that of the United Kingdom and is part of the Eastern Caribbean legal system. Final appeal may be made to the Queen's Privy Council in the United Kingdom, which is invariably done in the case of death sentences. There are no military or political courts. Criminal defendants are assured a fair, open, and public trial. In capital cases only, the Government provides legal assistance at public expense to persons without the means to retain a private attorney. There are no political prisoners in Antigua and Barbuda. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence There were no reports of arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence in 1993. The police must obtain a warrant from an officer of the court before searching private premises. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution provides for freedom of speech, the press, and other forms of communication. These provisions are generally respected. However, the Government dominates the electronic media, the only daily source of news, and effectively denies access to opposition parties. The Government owns one of the two radio stations and the single television station. A son of the Prime Minister owns the second radio station, while another son is the principal owner of the sole cable television company. The government-controlled media reported regularly on the Government's activities but rarely on those of the opposition political parties. The political opposition publishes one weekly newspaper. Several private sector organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, publish newsletters with a variety of opinions. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association The Constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly. Required permits for public meetings are issued by the police and are normally granted. On a few occasions, police permits for political rallies and marches have been delayed in an effort to defuse confrontational situations. On these occasions, the opposition parties accused the police of interference. c. Freedom of Religion There is unrestricted exercise of religious freedom. The population is overwhelmingly Protestant, but adherents of other religious denominations practice their religion and proselytize openly without government interference. All groups are free to maintain links with coreligionists in other countries. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation Neither law nor practice restricts the right of citizens to move about within the country, to travel abroad, or to emigrate. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government Antigua and Barbuda has a multiparty political system accommodating a wide spectrum of political viewpoints. All citizens 18 years of age and older may register and vote by secret ballot. The Constitution requires general elections at least every 5 years. The Government is obligated by law to hold voter registration during a fixed period each year, and parties conduct their own registration drives free of government interference. The last general elections were held in March 1989 and were won by the Antigua Labour Party (ALP). With 15 of the 17 seats in the House of Representatives, the ALP retains the power that it has held since 1951, except for a period of opposition from 1971 to 1976. One seat is held by United Progressive Party (UPP) leader Baldwin Spencer. The remaining seat represents the Barbuda constituency and is held by a political independent who leads the Barbuda faction advocating secession from Antigua. The opposition has charged that the ALP's longstanding monopoly on patronage and its influence over access to economic opportunities make it extremely difficult for opposition parties to attract membership and financial support. In 1992, however, public concern over corruption in government spawned the merger of three political opposition parties into the UPP. This led to massive new UPP voter registrants in 1993, but opposition leaders complained that the electoral rolls were inaccurate. The ALP responded by electing the Prime Minister's son, Lester B. Bird, as its new political leader to run as the ALP standard-bearer in the general elections scheduled for early 1994. Scattered incidents of violence marred the campaign by year's end. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights While there are no governmental restrictions, no local human rights groups have formed to date. There were no requests for human rights investigations or inquiries during 1993. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status The law prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, creed, language, or social status, and it is generally observed. Women While the role of women in society is not legally restricted, tradition tends to limit women to home and family, particularly in rural areas, and to restrict their career options. To change these traditional roles, the Government began programs to provide enhanced educational opportunities for both sexes, as well as family planning services. The Directorate of Women's Affairs (previously the Women's Desk) worked energetically, with some success, to help women advance in government and the professions, but progress was slower in the private sector. In 1993 the Directorate continued educational programs for women in such areas as health, crafts, and improving business skills. Most violence against women probably goes unreported; however, knowledgeable sources believe that over 1,600 cases of physical and mental violence occur each year. Gauging the extent of the problem is difficult due to the reluctance of women in many cases to testify against their abusers. Police may be reluctant to interfere in cases of domestic violence, and some women have credibly charged that the courts are lenient in such cases. Children The Government is a signatory of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and adheres to its principles. Approximately 17 percent of the national budget is allotted to children's human rights and welfare, including education. People with Disabilities There are no specific laws mandating accessibility for the disabled, but there are constitutional provisions that prohibit discrimination against the physically disabled in employment and education. There is no evidence of widespread discrimination against physically disabled individuals. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association Workers have the right to associate freely and to form labor unions, and those rights are respected in practice. Although fewer than 50 percent of workers belong to unions, the important hotel industry is heavily unionized. Unions are free to affiliate with international labor organizations and do so in practice. Antigua and Barbuda has two major trade unions: the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (ATLU) and the Antigua Workers' Union (AWU). The ATLU is associated with the ruling ALP, while the larger and more active AWU is rather loosely allied with the opposition. The right to strike is recognized by the Labour Code. This right may be limited in a given dispute by the Court of Industrial Relations. Once either party to the dispute requests the court to mediate, there can be no strike. Because of the delays associated with this process, in practice labor disputes are often resolved before a strike is called. There were no strikes in 1993. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively Labor organizations are free to organize and bargain collectively. Antiunion discrimination is prohibited by law, and there have been no reports of its practice. Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination are not required to rehire employees fired for union activities but must pay full severance pay and full wages lost by the employee from the time of firing until the determination of employer fault. There are no areas of the country where union organization or collective bargaining is discouraged or impeded. There are no export processing zones. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The Constitution forbids slavery or forced labor, and they do not exist in practice. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The law provides a minimum working age of 13, which is respected in practice. Responsibility for enforcement rests with the Ministry of Labour, which is required by law to conduct periodic inspections of workplaces. While there have been no reports of minimum age employment violations, the political strength of the two major unions and the powerful influence that the Government has on the private sector, combine to make the Ministry of Labour very effective in enforcement in this area. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work The law permits a maximum 48-hour, 6-day workweek, but in practice the standard workweek is 40 hours in 5 days. Workers are guaranteed a minimum of 3 weeks of annual leave and up to 13 weeks of maternity leave. Different minimum wages for different work categories were established by law in 1981. The lowest minimum wage category, domestic workers, is $0.46 (EC$1.25) per hour; the highest minimum wage category, for skilled labor, is $1.30 (EC$3.50) per hour. Most minimum wages would not provide a decent standard of living for workers and their families, but in practice the great majority of workers earn substantially more than the minimum wage. Increases in the minimum wage were recommended in 1989, but there was no action to implement the recommendation in 1993. There are no occupational health and safety laws or regulations. The Labour Code provides for inspection and safety standards approval by the Labour Commissioner. (###)
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