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DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994

                          THE BAHAMAS

The Bahamas is a constitutional, parliamentary democracy and a 
member of the Commonwealth of Nations.  Queen Elizabeth II is 
the nominal Head of State and is represented in The Bahamas by 
an appointed Governor General.  The Government is headed by an 
elected Prime Minister and Parliament.  Since 1992 the 
Government has been controlled by the Free National Movement 
(FNM) of Prime Minister Hubert A. Ingraham.  The opposition 
Progressive Liberal Party is led by Sir Lynden 0. Pindling, who 
was Prime Minister from independence in 1973 until 1992.

The police and a small defense force are answerable to civilian 
authority and generally respect laws protecting human rights.  
However, there were continuing credible reports that police 
occasionally abuse suspects during interrogations.  Many of the 
allegations involved members of the Criminal Investigations 
Department (CID), which is also the body charged with 
investigating such cases.  CID issued no public reports of such 
investigations during 1993.

The economy depends primarily on tourism, which accounts for 
more than half of the gross domestic product.  Financial 
services, particularly offshore banking and trust management, 
are also important foreign currency earners.  While some 
Bahamians enjoy relatively high average income levels, overall 
unemployment is estimated to exceed 20 percent, and there is 
considerable underemployment and some poverty.

Bahamians enjoy a wide range of democratic freedoms and human 
rights.  As in past years, the principal human rights problems 
were police abuse of detainees, harsh and overcrowded 
conditions at the only prison, abuses against Haitians caused 
by local antagonism toward the Haitian migrant community, 
violence against women, and the slow pace of justice.  The 
Government established a coroner's court in 1993 to conduct 
independent investigations in cases where criminal suspects die 
while in police custody and for other deaths in unusual 
circumstances.  Only one prosecution on the basis of alleged 
police abuse commenced during 1993, that of three police 
officers charged with a beating death in 1989.


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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of killings for political motives by the 
Government or domestic political groups.  Three police officers 
from the island of Eleuthera were placed on trial on charges of 
manslaughter arising from the 1989 beating death of a criminal 
suspect at the time of arrest.  At year's end, this trial had 
not been completed.  The Government established a coroner's 
court in 1993 to investigate deaths of suspects in police 
custody and accidental deaths involving unusual circumstances.  
There were no such deaths reported in 1993.  Most Bahamian 
police still do not carry firearms, although several were shot 
during attempted arrests in 1993.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of abductions, secret arrests, or 
clandestine detention by police or other official security 

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

The Constitution prohibits torture and other cruel and 
degrading treatment or punishment, but Bahamian human rights 
monitors expressed concern over a pattern of police abuse 
against criminal suspects.  The police Criminal Investigation 
Department is charged with investigating allegations of abuse 
and disciplining those officers determined to be guilty.  Many 
of the charges of abuse, however, involved CID officers 
themselves who allegedly beat criminal suspects, occasionally 
with instruments such as baseball bats, during interrogations 
in an effort to extract confessions.  In one incident being 
investigated by the Grand Bahama Human Rights Organization, a 
criminal suspect in Freeport claimed to have been cut with 
garden shears during an interrogation.  Charges by a Jamaican 
attorney that he had been beaten by Bahamian immigration 
officers at Nassau International Airport in December led to an 
official protest by the Jamaican Government.  

Although Bahamian police claimed to be investigating many of 
these incidents, no reports of such investigations were 
published during 1993, nor were any police officers tried or 
disciplined for such abuse.  In at least one incident, an 
alleged victim of such abuse reported being harassed after 
release from custody by the officer he accused.

Conditions at Fox Hill, The Bahamas' only prison, remain harsh 
and overcrowded.  The men's facility, originally built in 1953 
to house about 500 inmates, holds over 1,800 prisoners.  Up to 
four male prisoners may be housed in 6- by 8-foot cells 
designed to hold no more than two.  Most prisoners lack beds 
and many sleep on concrete floors.  The cells have no running 
water, and drinking water is often not supplied unless the 
prisoner has paid a trusty.  Sanitation facilities usually 
consist of a plastic bucket in each cell.  A public 
investigation in June into the 1988 death of a Fox Hill 
prisoner highlighted the problem of poorly controlled violence 
among prison inmates.  Prisoners allege that requests for 
medical attention are sometimes denied.  Prison authorities 
often decline to forward prisoners' letters, including letters 
to the courts by prisoners defending themselves.

The Grand Bahama Human Rights Association conducted a limited 
inspection of conditions at Fox Hill in May.  On two separate 
occasions, diplomats and Bahamian journalists were allowed to 
make comprehensive, unsupervised visits.  The journalists' 
subsequent articles, accompanied by photographs of prison 
conditions, received wide coverage in the local press, and the 
Ingraham administration appointed a new superintendent and 
senior deputy superintendent at Fox Hill.  In September the 
Government transferred oversight of the prison from the 
Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Public Safety and 
Transport.  Improvements in prison conditions, however, still 
await the availability of adequate government funding.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention.  
Authorities conduct arrests openly and, when required, obtain 
judicially issued warrants.  Felony cases, including those of 
suspected narcotics or firearms possession, however, do not 
require warrants where probable cause exists.  Suspects under 
arrest appear before a magistrate within 48 hours (or by the 
next business day for cases arising on weekends and holidays) 
to hear the charges against them.  At this point they generally 
gain access to an attorney of their choice.  The Government 
respects the right to a judicial determination of the legality 
of arrests, but Bahamian law allows no compensation for false 
arrest.  It is possible to sue police authorities for malicious 
arrest but the standard of proof is high and there are no 
recent reports of successful suits on this ground.

A system of bail exists, albeit mostly for Bahamian suspects, 
as foreign offenders are generally considered to be likely to 
flee if granted bail.  Judges sometimes authorize cash bail for 
foreigners arrested on minor charges, but generally prefer to 
levy fines in exchange for guilty pleas.  The Government is 
obligated to provide legal representation only to destitute 
suspects in cases involving capital crimes.  Illegal migrants, 
mostly Haitians, have the right to retain legal representation, 
although not at government expense, but are generally held at 
Fox Hill prison pending deportation unless they can arrange 
private means for their repatriation.  As a result, illegal 
migrants may be held at Fox Hill for weeks or months while 
awaiting repatriation.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The justice system in The Bahamas derives from English common 
law.  The judiciary is independent, appointed by the executive 
branch on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Services 
Commission, and conducts fair and public trials.  Defendants 
enjoy the presumption of innocence and the right to appeal.  
However, the overburdened judicial system must handle a rapidly 
increasing caseload, most of it related to narcotics, which 
often results in excessive pretrial detention and prison 
overcrowding; it can often take as long as 2 years from time of 
arrest to eventual conviction or acquittal.

In 1993 the Government constructed new magistrates' courts on 
New Providence Island and announced plans to appoint additional 
magistrates to help reduce the case backlog.  The Government 
and the Grand Bahama Port Authority also constructed a building 
to house four magistrates courts and a Supreme Court in 
Freeport, the latter to be the first court at that level to be 
located outside Nassau.  Public and private sector attorneys 
participated in a study of the judicial system, which developed 
recommendations for improving court efficiency.  The Ministry 
of Justice and the College of The Bahamas began planning for a 
1994 course to train additional court reporters, the short 
supply of whom has contributed to the case backlog.

There are no political prisoners in The Bahamas.

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

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary entry, search, or 
seizure.  A court order is usually required for the entry into 
or search of a private residence, but a police inspector or 
more senior police official may authorize the search of a 
residence without a court order where probable cause of a 
weapons violation exists.  Such an official may also authorize 
the search of a person (which extends to the vehicle in which 
the person is traveling) without a court order should probable 
cause exist for drug possession.  Aside from restrictions on 
prison mail, the Government neither censors mail nor restricts 
receipt of foreign correspondence or publications.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for the right of free expression and 
that right is respected in practice.  The political opposition 
freely and frequently criticizes the Government.  Three daily 
and three weekly newspapers, all privately owned, express a 
variety of views on issues of public interest, including 
varying degrees of criticism of the Government and its policies.
Foreign newspapers and magazines are readily available.

Reporters occasionally self-censor stories about government 
fraud, corruption, and moral turpitude due to the threat of 
libel suits under laws unchanged since the nineteenth century.  
In March an election court consisting of two Supreme Court 
justices issued a "contempt of court" verdict against the 
publishers of two newspapers for printing a letter to the 
editor highly critical of the election court's reversal of the 
result of a close House of Assembly race in the 1992 general 
elections.  The justices assessed $1,000 fines against both 

In August the Government issued radio broadcasting licenses to 
two private companies, one associated with the afternoon daily 
The Tribune and the other with the weekly Bahama Journal and a 
trucking company, thereby ending the state monopoly on radio 
broadcasting since independence.  Opposition politicians 
claimed that the companies receiving broadcasting licenses were 
sympathetic to the ruling FNM; the Government, while indicating 
it might issue additional licenses for local broadcasting, 
claimed it needed to limit the number of private nationwide 
radio stations in order to maintain the economic viability of 
the state-run network.  Florida radio stations are easily 
received in most of The Bahamas, but a Bahamian law forbids the 
use of foreign radio or television to broadcast Bahamian 
election advertisements.

The sole television broadcaster in The Bahamas, the state-owned 
station ZNS, presents a variety of views, although opposition 
politicians claim with some justification that their views do 
not receive as extensive coverage as those of the Government.  
Prior to the 1992 election, however, the then-ruling PLP also 
received far more television coverage than did its critics.  
The Government announced that by August 1994 it would issue a 
permit for a private company to provide cable television 
service in Nassau; such service is already available in 

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the rights to free assembly and 
association.  These rights are respected in practice.  Private 
associations are permitted, but groups must obtain permits to 
hold public demonstrations.  Such permits are freely granted.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution and 
respected in practice; no restrictions are placed on any 
religious denomination.

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

Bahamians and residents of The Bahamas enjoy free movement 
within the country, and Bahamians face no impediments to 
foreign travel or emigration.  The Government liberally grants 
passports to its citizens.

Although Cuban asylum seekers are officially regarded as 
illegal immigrants and are occasionally held in prison or at 
other official facilities until a third country arranges to 
admit them, the Government in most instances works with private 
groups to arrange temporary housing.  Opposition politicians 
charged that the Government's willingness to make such 
arrangements for Cubans whose intended third-country 
destination was the United States constituted discrimination 
against Haitian migrants.  The Bahamas is reluctant to accept 
Cuban migrants for long periods of time, however.  On several 
occasions, Bahamian authorities have initially declared their 
inability, due to shortage of operational craft, to assist 
Cuban rafters stranded on isolated small islands in The Bahamas.

The presence of an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Haitian migrants 
in The Bahamas remained a volatile social, economic, and 
political issue.  According to United Nations High Commissioner 
for Refugees (UNHCR) officials, who interview the refugees to 
determine their status, relatively few qualified as legitimate 
refugees.  In January the Government repatriated 339 Haitians 
under the auspices of the UNHCR.  In May authorities conducted 
raids on Abaco and Eleuthera Islands, rounding up over 400 
Haitians.  Church and human rights officials criticized the 
Government for conducting some of the raids at night, for 
refusing to allow some Haitians to collect their belongings, 
and for causing the separation of many Haitian children from 
their parents.  These officials further criticized the 
Government for conducting the raids without having prepared 
adequate housing for the captured illegal immigrants.  Several 
hundred detainees were housed on an emergency basis by the 
Roman Catholic Church in an abandoned convent in Nassau after 
they were originally sent to a government building with no 
sleeping or sanitary facilities.

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

The Bahamas is a constitutional, parliamentary democracy with a 
multiparty political system, governed by an elected Prime 
Minister and Parliament.  The political process is open to all 
elements of society, and citizens 18 years of age and older are 
eligible to register and vote.  In the 1992 elections, slightly 
over 92 percent of registered voters cast valid ballots.  
Registration is on a nonparty basis.  The two principal 
political parties are the ruling Free National Movement (FNM) 
and the opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).  The PLP 
led the country for 6 years of internal self-government from 
1967 to 1973, and held power under Prime Minister Sir Lynden 0. 
Pindling from independence in 1973 to 1992.

Since the 1992 general elections, the FNM under Prime Minister 
Hubert A. Ingraham has held 32 of 49 seats in the House of 
Assembly, while the PLP holds 17.  In May The Bahamas Court of 
Appeals overturned an earlier Supreme Court ruling that would 
have permitted a parliamentarian defeated for reelection in 
1992 to appeal his loss via the election court.  The decision 
left the composition of Parliament unchanged.  The Cabinet has 
3 female members, and 4 women were elected in 1992 to the 
49-member House of Assembly.  One of the four was a 
parliamentarian later elected Deputy Speaker of the House.  
Under the Constitution, the next general elections must be held 
before August 1997.

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

Four local human rights groups operate in The Bahamas:  the 
Grand Bahama Human Rights Organization, the New Providence 
Human Rights Organization, the Abaco Human Rights Organization, 
and the National Association for the Protection of Human Rights.

These organizations operate freely and report without 
government restriction on alleged human rights violations.  No 
international human rights organization sought to visit The 
Bahamas to investigate human rights conditions during 1993.

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

The Constitution provides for individual rights and freedoms 
regardless of race, place of origin, political opinion, creed, 
or sex, and this policy is generally respected in practice.


The Constitution differentiates between the sexes in that it 
does not provide Bahamian women the ability to bestow 
citizenship upon their foreign-born spouses.  Additionally, 
nationality laws confer citizenship more easily on the children 
of Bahamian men than on those of Bahamian women in marriages 
involving two nationalities.  The FNM pledged in its party 
platform to "accord non-Bahamian spouses of Bahamian women the 
same privileges as those afforded the spouses of Bahamian men," 
but as of year's end had not introduced legislation to carry 
this out.

Women participate fully in Bahamian society and are well 
represented in the business and professional sectors, as well 
as in the judiciary and in government.  Women's rights 
activists, however, claim that the scarcity of public and 
private child care facilities, particularly important in a 
society with a high proportion of single mothers, discourages 
many women from entering the work force, 

Domestic violence against women continued to be a problem, with 
independent women's support groups reporting that many women 
sought shelter at the private, but government-supported, 
Women's Crisis Center in Nassau.  Women may have their cases 
heard in a closed domestic court and may seek a restraining 
order against an abusive spouse.  In the case of an abusive 
male companion, however, women can only obtain a magistrate's 
order for their protection, which carries less legal force than 
a restraining order.  Women's rights groups speak freely on 
ways to improve the condition of women and children, including 
safeguarding their physical safety.  In September the Ministry 
of Justice cosponsored with private women's groups a conference 
aimed at devising a national policy statement on women's 
rights.  The conference concluded that an important first step 
would be the development of better statistics documenting the 
status of women in Bahamian society.


Since independence, both major political parties have been 
committed to defending the rights of Bahamian children and 
improving child welfare and education.  In 1993, at a time of 
fiscal austerity, the Government placed priority on maintaining 
adequate expenditures in these areas.  One of the few areas to 
receive a modest increase in government expenditure was youth 
and education, with particular emphasis on efforts to improve 
physical conditions in the nation's schools.  According to the 
Women's Crisis Center, however, child abuse and neglect 
continued to be serious problems.  In 1992 the Center reported 
206 cases of sexual abuse of minors, and the frequency of such 
reports increased during 1993.  Women's and children's rights 
monitors said that far more cases of abuse were not being 
reported, although a public education campaign mounted in 
1992-93 by the Women's Crisis Center resulted in increased 
calls to the Center's telephone "hot line."

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Approximately 85 percent of the Bahamian population is 
primarily of African descent, with the rest mostly of either 
European or mixed descent.  Since independence, both black and 
white Bahamians have been well represented in Government, the 
civil service, and private business.  Although opposition 
politicians occasionally charge that the business community 
continues to be dominated by white Bahamians, the number and 
size of black Bahamian-owned businesses continue to grow 
steadily and they probably constitute a majority of business 
activity.  Black and white Bahamian business leaders no longer 
appear to regard themselves as representing separate interest 
groups.  On several occasions in November and December, former 
Prime Minister and opposition leader Pindling called on 
Bahamians to boycott white-owned businesses, claiming that 
black businessmen were still at a competitive disadvantage.  
Pindling's comments drew wide criticism, and no boycott or 
change in business patterns developed.  

Many Haitians in the Bahamas are illegal immigrants and face 
economic and social deprivation.  Although they provide a ready 
supply of cheap labor and fill jobs which most Bahamians shun, 
illegal immigrants are subject to detention and deportation at 
any time.  Children born in The Bahamas to illegal immigrants, 
if not registered by the country of their parents, are 
considered stateless until they become eligible to apply for 
citizenship at the age of 18.  Although they are eligible 
nevertheless for free public education, there were reports of 
some children of Haitian illegal immigrants being denied entry 
to public schools in islands other than New Providence because 
of limited school facilities.  There is no instruction in 
Creole or in English as a second language in the Bahamian 
school system.  Many Bahamians, including some government 
officials, view the growing Haitian population as unwelcome 
guests who are a drain on the economy and who deserve no 
constitutional rights.

To work legally, foreigners, including Haitians and a growing 
number of Jamaicans, must obtain work permits through their 
employers.  Even longtime residents of the Bahamas must renew 
these permits annually, at a cost of at least several hundred 
dollars per year, and can have renewal applications arbitrarily 
denied.  If employment is terminated for any reason, the work 
permit becomes invalid and the foreigner loses his or her legal 
status.  Work permits granted to Haitians and Jamaicans do not 
normally include permission for a spouse to remain legally in 
The Bahamas.  Some Bahamians have expressed concern that this 
system tends to lead to economic exploitation of foreign labor 
by unscrupulous employers.

     People with Disabilities

The Ministry of National Insurance and Social Development began 
work in June to formulate for the first time a national policy 
regarding the disabled, with a target of mid-1994 for the 
announcement of the new policy.  Although the 1973 National 
Building Code mandates certain accommodations for the 
physically disabled in new public buildings, this part of the 
code is rarely enforced.  Assistance for the disabled is 
provided by several government ministries and private 
organizations.  Approximately 150 children are enrolled in the 
public Stapledon School for the Mentally Retarded.  The Special 
Services Division of the Ministry of Education provides speech 
therapy classes and the recently constructed Thelma Gibson 
primary school includes facilities which can accommodate 
physically disabled children while keeping them in a mainstream 
educational institution.  The State Home for Orphaned and 
Abandoned Children includes a residence for physically disabled 

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution specifically grants labor unions the rights of 
free assembly and association.  Workers may form or join unions 
without prior authorization, except for members of the police 
force, defense force, fire brigade, and prison guards, all of 
whom are forbidden to organize by statutes authorized by the 
Constitution.  This right is exercised extensively, particularly
in the hotel industry, where approximately 80 percent of the 
employees are unionized.

The two major labor organizations in The Bahamas, the 
8,000-member Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union 
and the 12,000-member Trade Union Congress (TUC), function 
independently of government or political party control.  All 
Bahamian labor unions are guaranteed the right to maintain 
affiliations with international trade union organizations.  The 
TUC, which groups 10 of the country's 44 registered unions, is 
a member of the International Confederation of Free Trade 
Unions and the Caribbean Congress of Labor.

The right to strike is limited under the Industrial Relations 
Act, which requires that union members must vote to strike and 
that the motion must be passed by a simple majority before a 
strike can commence.  The Ministry of Labor oversees the vote.  
The Ministry may also refer a dispute involving employees of an 
"essential service" to the Industrial Relations Board for 
settlement if the Ministry determines public interest requires 
such action.  The Industrial Relations Act also states that a 
strike which has an object "other than or in addition to the 
furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry in 
which the strikers are engaged" or "is designed or calculated 
to coerce the Government either directly or by inflicting 
hardship upon the community" is illegal.

The Public Service Workers Union and the Taxi Union held 
peaceful leadership elections during 1993.  Internal bickering 
among leaders of the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers 
Union lessened the union's effectiveness as a collective 
bargaining agent for hotel workers in a sector already beset by 
high unemployment and underemployment.  Doctors at the public 
Princess Margaret Hospital occasionally threatened to strike 
over salaries and working conditions.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers are free to organize, and collective bargaining is 
extensive for the 30,000 workers (25 percent of the work force) 
who are unionized.  Collective bargaining is protected by law 
and freely practiced, and the Ministry of Labor is responsible 
for mediating disputes.  Wages are set in negotiations between 
unions and employers without government involvement.

Both the Constitution and the Industrial Relations Act prohibit 
antiunion discrimination by employers.  The Industrial 
Relations Act requires employers to recognize trade unions.  
The Industrial Relations Board within the Ministry of Labor 
mediates and conciliates disputes between individual employees 
or unions and their employers.  Mechanisms exist to resolve 
complaints:  filing a trade union dispute with the Ministry of 
Labor, or bringing a civil suit against the employer in a court 
of law.  The Industrial Relations Act requires the 
reinstatement of workers fired for union activities.  Employers 
may dismiss workers in accordance with applicable contracts, 
which generally require some severance pay.  The Government 
seeks to enforce labor laws and regulations uniformly throughout
the country; however, inspections occur infrequently.

Two small, but not particularly active, free trade zones exist 
in The Bahamas.  Labor law and practice in these zones do not 
differ from those in the rest of the country.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and such 
labor does not exist in practice.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Bahamian laws prohibit the employment of children under the age 
of 14 for industrial work, work during school hours, or work at 
night.  There is no legal minimum age for employment in other 
concerns, however, and some children are employed part-time in 
grocery stores and gasoline stations.  

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Fair Labor Standards Act limits the regular workweek to 
48 hours and provides for at least one 24-hour rest period.  
The Act requires overtime payment (time and a half) for hours 
in excess of the standard.  The Act permits the creation of a 
Wages Council to recommend the establishment of a minimum wage; 
to date, no such council has been established.  The Ministry of 
Labor, which is responsible for enforcing labor laws, has a 
team of several inspectors who make on-site visits to enforce 
occupational health and safety standards and investigate 
employee concerns and complaints.  The Ministry normally 
announces these inspection visits ahead of time.  Employers 
generally cooperate with inspections in implementing safety 
standards.  The Bahamian economy is service oriented, 
especially in tourism and offshore banking, and therefore does 
not have significant industrial and occupational health 
hazards.  The national insurance program provides for 
compensation for work-related injuries.  The Fair Labor 
Standards Act requires an employer to find suitable alternative 
employment for an employee who is injured on the job but is 
still able to work.  While there is no legislated right for 
workers to remove themselves from dangerous workplace 
situations without jeopardy to their continued employment, 
there have no recently reported instances of such retribution. 

[end of document]


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