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

                        DOMINICA


Independent since 1978, Dominica is a parliamentary democracy 
and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.  Prime Minister 
Eugenia Charles' Dominica Freedom Party, in office since 1980, 
was reelected in 1985 and 1990 in free and fair elections.

The Defense Force was disbanded in 1981 following two violent 
coup attempts.  Since then the Commonwealth of Dominica police 
have been the only security force.  The police force, supervised
by the Commissioner of Police, includes a Coast Guard unit and 
a Special Services Unit (SSU)--a small, paramilitary unit 
established in 1983 by the Regional Security System of the 
Eastern Caribbean states.  There are no instances on record of 
human rights violations by the SSU.  The police are controlled 
by and responsive to the democratically elected Government.

Dominica's mountainous terrain and periodic devastation by 
hurricanes make it one of the least developed nations in the 
Eastern Caribbean.  The primarily agrarian economy depends upon 
earnings from banana exports to the United Kingdom.  Several 
small industrial plants operate, but unemployment and 
underemployment are high.  Per capita gross domestic product at 
current prices was estimated at $2,233 in 1992.  The Government 
is attempting to develop its tourist industry, to diversify 
agricultural production, and to promote exports of raw fruits, 
vegetables, and coconut products both within and outside the 
region.

Human rights were generally well respected in Dominica, 
although overcrowding and unsanitary conditions continued in 
the prison, and there were charges of searches without cause of 
young men in drug-related inspections.

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 disappearances or politically 
motivated abductions.

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

The Constitution prohibits torture or other forms of cruel, 
inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and there were 
no reports of such practices.  Prominent nongovernmental 
organizations, trade unions, and the press reported that 
allegations of harsh treatment by law enforcement officials 
made in previous years have diminished.  Overcrowding and 
unsanitary conditions continue to be problems in Dominica's 
only prison facility.  An addition to the prison is under 
construction, and during the past 2 years, the prison 
instituted work therapy, sports programs, educational 
opportunities, and counseling to offset the poor conditions.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law requires that persons arrested or detained be charged 
with a crime within 24 hours or be released from custody.  This 
is honored in practice except in rare cases in which, for 
example, persons cannot afford legal counsel.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Dominican law provides for public trial before an independent, 
impartial court.  Criminal defendants are presumed innocent 
until proven guilty, are allowed legal counsel, and have the 
right to appeal.  Indigents are provided free legal counsel 
only in capital cases.

There are no political prisoners.

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

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary entry, search, and 
seizure.  Search warrants are required by law.  While there 
were no official reports of arbitrary government intrusions 
into the private lives of individuals, most human rights groups 
allege that young men are often searched with little or no 
probable cause in drug-related inspections.


Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The right of free expression is provided in the Constitution 
and adhered to in practice.  The political opposition openly 
criticizes the Government.  Dominica's main radio station is 
state owned but offers ample access for citizens to express 
their views.  There is also an independent radio station owned 
by the Catholic Church which broadcasts, although it has not 
yet been granted an official operating license.

Dominicans also enjoy good access to independent news sources 
through cable television and radio reception from neighboring 
islands.  The principal newspaper was founded by the Catholic 
Church, but the Church divested its interest in it in 1990.  
The editorial stance of the newspaper remains progovernment, 
but opposition viewpoints are prominently reported.  During the 
intraparty leadership campaign of 1993, a second weekly 
newspaper, the Tropical Star, was inaugurated.  It published 
its political views without interference.

Political parties publish their own journals, and the 
opposition United Workers' Party prints a weekly newsletter.  
The Dominica Labour Party complained that a ban on live 
broadcasts of parliamentary sessions, which continued in 1993, 
is a form of censorship.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Government respects the constitutionally mandated freedoms 
of association and assembly and does not hinder opposition 
groups from holding political meetings or public 
demonstrations.  Such meetings and gatherings were held 
frequently throughout the year.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Roman Catholicism is the predominant faith, and there are 
various Protestant denominations.  There are also small Muslim 
and Rastafarian communities.  While Rastafarians are not banned 
from entering Dominica, they are not always looked upon kindly 
by Dominican immigration officials.  A "dread law" forbidding 
dreadlocks (braided hair) was repealed over 10 years ago, but 
harassment of Rastafarians still occurs occasionally.  Outside 
religious groups are not restricted in their activities.


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

These rights are provided for by law and respected in 
practice.  The Government may revoke passports if subversion is 
suspected but has not done so in recent times.

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

Dominica, independent since 1978, had a prior long historical 
tradition of democracy and home rule.  Power is exercised by a 
Cabinet appointed by the Prime Minister.  Elections are by 
secret ballot and held every 5 years or earlier, at the 
discretion of the Prime Minister.  Elections in 1980, 1985, and 
1990 were free and fair, and voter participation was high.  The 
1990 elections were contested by the incumbent Dominica Freedom 
Party (DFP), the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), and the United 
Workers Party (UWP).  The DFP won 11 of the 21 parliamentary 
seats, the UWP 6, and the DLP 4.  As a result of a December 20 
by-election, the UWP holds seven seats and the DLP three.  
Prime Minister Charles plans to remain in office until the next 
general election (due before 1995), but the DFP has already 
chosen Foreign Minister Brian Alleyne to be Charles' eventual 
successor as party leader.

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

There are no government restrictions on the formation of local 
human rights organizations, although no such groups exist at 
present.  Several advocacy groups such as the Association of 
Disabled People and a women and children self-help organization 
operate freely and without government interference.  There were 
no requests for investigations of human rights abuses from 
international or regional human rights groups during 1993.

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

The Constitution includes provisions against racial and sexual 
discrimination, which are adhered to in practice.

     Women

Beyond the general protection of the Constitution, women do not 
benefit from any specific civil rights legislation.  There is 
little open discrimination, yet sexual harassment is common.  
Both the police and the courts prosecute cases of rape and 
sexual assault.  Under the law, victims may report sexual and 
other violent abuse to the Welfare Department or to the police, 
but there is no specific recourse for women who are abused by 
their husbands.  There is no shelter for battered women, but a 
hotline manned by volunteers is available.  The Welfare 
Department often provides assistance to victims of abuse by 
finding them temporary shelter, providing counseling to both 
parties, or recommending police action.  The Welfare Department 
reports all cases of abuse to the police, although the police 
are often reluctant to interfere in domestic quarrels.

Women's rights organizations advocate adoption of eight gender-
neutral draft laws developed by the Caribbean Community 
Secretariat for Women's Rights.  These proposals cover domestic 
violence, sexual harassment, sexual offenses, inheritance, and 
other matters but have not been introduced in Parliament.  
Property ownership is deeded to "heads of households," who are 
usually males.  When the husband head of household dies without 
a will, the wife cannot inherit the property or sell it, 
although she can live on it and pass it to her children.

In the workplace, young women often are able to obtain jobs 
because they are considered more reliable than their male 
counterparts, who are often unemployed.  The law permits 
unequal pay for men and women in daily paid employment.  In the 
civil service, pay is attached to a specific job and is fixed, 
whatever the gender of the incumbent.  In the private sector, 
there is no law requiring equal pay for equal work by salaried 
workers.

     Children

Legislation covering children's rights in Dominica includes the 
Children and Young Person's Act, the Legitimation Act, the 
Infants' Protection Act, and the Adoption of Infants Act.  
Enforcement of these laws falls under the Welfare Department, 
police, court system, and prison director.  However, there is 
no enforcement arm for the Children and Young Person's Act, and 
the training school it mandated has not been established.  The 
Government lacks the resources, organizations, and skills 
needed to effect much positive change in the area of children's 
rights.  There were 210 reported cases of child abuse during 
1992, compared to 174 in 1991 and 127 in 1990.  It is likely 
that this represents an increase in reporting cases rather than 
an actual increase in child abuse.


Women's advocacy groups have also called for programs to support
pregnant school children and those with babies.  During 1992 
the age of consent to sexual relations was raised from 14 to 16.

     Indigenous People

There is a significant Carib Indian population in Dominica, 
estimated at 3,000 out of a total population of 72,000.  Most 
live on a 3,700-acre reservation created in 1903.  School, 
water, and health facilities available on the Carib reservation 
are similar to those available to other rural Dominicans.  
Caribs participate in national political life and enjoy the 
same civil rights accorded other Dominican nationals.  Worrell 
Sanford, a Labour member of Parliament who resigned December 20,
is a Carib, and Carib Chief O'Gustie is a nationally respected 
leader.

     People with Disabilities

Beyond the general protection of the Constitution, the disabled 
do not benefit from any specific legislation.  There is no 
requirement mandating access for those with disabilities.  
Fiscal considerations limited action to adopt legislation 
covering the disabled.  Dominica lacks trained specialists, 
roads inhibit mobility of shut-ins, and wheelchairs are 
unaffordable.  There is no rehabilitation center.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers have the legal right to organize, to choose their 
representatives, and to strike.  Less than 10 percent of the 
work force is organized; two unions disbanded in 1992, and 
there was only one significant strike, which lasted 1 day.  The 
Civil Service Association, which had instigated demonstrations 
against the Public Service Act of 1991, continues to press for 
changes in areas of concern to civil servants.  Among other 
provisions, the law sets a limit on the period for wage 
negotiations.  (In the past, civil servants traditionally 
received large back-pay awards after marathon negotiations.)  
This Act also bars civil servants from speaking in public on 
controversial national political issues, except when it is in 
line with their duties.  There is no restriction on forming a 
national labor federation.  All the unions are independent of 
the Government and political parties and are affiliated with 
various international labor organizations.


     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Unions have legally defined rights to organize workers and to 
bargain with employers.  Collective bargaining is widespread in 
the nonagricultural sectors of the economy, including the 
government service, and there is also recourse to mediation and 
arbitration by the Government.  Antiunion discrimination by 
employers is prohibited by law, and union rights are enforced 
by judicial and police authority.  In addition, workers fired 
for union activities must be reinstated.  Enforcement mechanisms
are the responsibility of Department of Labour inspectors under 
the supervision of the Labour Commissioner.  However, the small 
Labour Inspection Office lacks qualified personnel to carry out 
its duties under existing labor legislation.  Labor regulations 
and practice governing Dominica's industrial areas and other 
export firms do not differ from that prevailing in the rest of 
the economy.  It is legally compulsory for employers to 
recognize unions as bargaining agents once both parties have 
followed appropriate procedures.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited and does not exist.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum legal age for employment is 15 years.  Employers 
generally observe this law without government enforcement.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Minimum wages for various categories of workers are set by 
statute and were last revised in November 1989.  The minimum 
wage rate for most categories of workers is $0.56 (EC$1.50) per 
hour and is not sufficient to provide a decent standard of 
living for a household.  However, most workers earn more than 
the legislated minimum wage.  The standard legal workweek is 40 
hours in 5 days.  The law provides for a minimum of 2 weeks' 
paid vacation.  The Employment Safety Act, an occupational 
health and safety law, is considered by a major union and by 
local nongovernmental organizations to be consistent with 
international standards.  The Advisory Committee on Safety and 
Health is an established body but has never met.  The 
enforcement mechanism consists of inspections by the Department 
of Labour, which can and does prescribe specific compliance 
measures, impose fines, and prosecute offenders.  In practice, 
however, inspections are rarely made.


[end of document]

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