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

                        MARSHALL ISLANDS


The Republic of the Marshall Islands, a self-governing nation 
under the Compact of Free Association with the United States, 
is composed of 29 small, coral atolls and 5 islands scattered 
over a large area of the central Pacific, comprising a total 
land area of about 70 square miles.  The population, of 
Micronesian origin, is approximately 50,000 and concentrated 
primarily on Majuro and Kwajalein atolls.

Political legitimacy in the Marshall Islands rests on the 
popular will expressed by majority vote in accordance with a 
constitution blending British and American precepts, including 
a strong, American-style bill of rights.  The legislature 
consists of the Parliament, known as the Nitijela, with 33 
members and a Council of Chiefs (Iroij), the latter serving a 
largely consultative function on matters dealing with custom 
and traditional practice.

The executive branch of the Government consists of the 
President and his appointed Cabinet, all of whom are elected 
members of the Nitijela.  The President is elected by majority 
vote from among the membership of the Nitijela.  The 
Constitution calls for an independent judiciary.

Under the Compact of Free Association, the United States is 
responsible for defense and national security.  Consequently, 
the Marshall Islands has no security forces of its own, aside 
from national and local police forces, that are firmly under 
the control of the civil authorities.

The economy depends mainly on transfer payments from the United 
States.  Coconut oil and copra exports, a small amount of 
tourism, and the fishing industry generate limited revenues.

Human rights abuses are rare, but there was one incident of 
attempted press intimidation in 1993.

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 such killings.


     b.  Disappearance

No politically motivated disappearances or abductions were 
reported.

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

The Constitution expressly forbids torture and other cruel, 
inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; the prohibition 
is observed in practice.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution contains safeguards against arbitrary arrest 
and detention, and no such incidents were reported.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The right to a fair public trial is expressly provided for in 
the Constitution and observed in practice.  There were no 
reported denials of fair public trial.

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

The privacy of the home is protected by law and respected by 
the Government.  There was no known instance of arbitrary 
intrusion by the State into the private life of the individual.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, and 
it has generally been accorded in practice.  There are four 
operating radio stations, one government owned and three 
privately owned, including one owned by a prominent member of 
the opposition.  There is one television station, operated by 
the National Museum, and a cable television company which shows 
U.S. programming only.

A U.S. citizen long resident in the Marshall Islands operates 
the country's sole privately owned newspaper.  The editor and 
two reporters are U.S. citizens as well.  In March the Minister 
of Justice informed one of the reporters in writing that an 
article he had published about the prevalence of sexually 
transmitted diseases in the Marshall Islands was "alarming and 
unbalanced."  The Minister wrote that, if the reporter 
continued to write similar articles, he would be asked to leave 
the country.

The Government publishes a monthly gazette with official news 
and notices only.


     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of peaceful assembly and association is provided for in 
the Constitution and observed in practice.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Free exercise of religion is provided for in the Constitution 
and observed in practice.  There is no state religion.  
Missionaries are free to seek converts.

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

Citizens are free to travel within the country and abroad.  
There are no restrictions on emigration or repatriation.

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

The Government is chosen by secret ballot in free and open 
elections every 4 years.  Suffrage is universal for men and 
women 18 years of age and older.  There are no restrictions on 
the formation of political parties, although political activity 
by aliens is prohibited.

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

While there are no official restrictions, no local 
nongovernmental organizations that concern themselves with 
human rights have been formed.


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

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, 
race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, 
national or social origin, place of birth, family status, or 
descent.

     Women

Inheritance of property and of traditional rank is matrilineal, 
with women occupying positions of importance within the 
traditional system.  No instances of unequal pay for equal work 
or sex-related job discrimination were reported.

Public allegations of violence against women are rare and 
relate mainly to domestic abuse.  No reliable information about 
the extent of this problem is available.  Assault is a criminal 
offense, but women are reluctant to prosecute their spouses.  
Women's groups have held infrequent meetings to publicize 
women's issues and to create a greater awareness of the rights 
of women.

     Children

Much of the Government's expenditures on children's welfare is 
in areas of health and education, which make up the largest 
percentage of its budget.  However, this has not been adequate 
to meet the needs of its sharply increasing population.  The 
current birthrate is over 4 per cent.  The Nitijela passed the 
Domestic Relations Amendment of 1993, which defines child abuse 
and neglect, and makes the two criminal offenses.  Earlier 
legislation requires teachers, care givers, and other persons 
to report instances of child abuse and exempts them from civil 
or criminal liability.  Cultural preferences for large families 
and the lack of educational facilities and teachers pose 
special challenges for parents.

     People with Disabilities

There is no legislation specifically prohibiting discrimination 
based on disability.  There are no building codes, and, 
therefore, no legislation requiring access for the disabled.  
There have been no reported instances of discrimination against 
the disabled.



Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right of free association in 
general, and the Attorney General interprets this right as 
allowing the existence of labor unions, although to date there 
have been no initiatives to form any.  The Constitution is 
silent on the right to strike, and thus far the Government has 
not addressed this issue.

     b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

There is no legislation concerning collective bargaining or 
trade union organization.  However, there are no bars to the 
organization of trade unions or to collective bargaining.  
There are no export processing zones.  Wages in the cash 
economy are determined by market factors in accordance with the 
minimum wage and other laws.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution specifically prohibits involuntary servitude, 
and there is no evidence of its practice.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Marshallese law contains no prohibition on the employment of 
children.  Children are not typically employed in the wage 
economy, but some assist their families with agriculture, 
fishing, and other small-scale family enterprises.  Public Law 
1991-125 instituted compulsory education for children aged 6 to 
14; however, the lack of classrooms and teachers makes 
enforcement impossible.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is a government-specified minimum wage established by 
law, and it is adequate to maintain a decent standard of living 
in this subsistence economy, where extended families are 
expected to help less fortunate family members.  The minimum 
wage for all government and private sector employees is $1.50.  
(The U.S. dollar is the local currency.)  The Ministry of 
Resources and Development oversees minimum wage regulations.  
Foreign employees and Marshallese trainees of private employers 
who have invested in or established a business in the country 
are exempt from minimum wage requirements.  Since the majority 
of foreign workers are in white-collar positions, this 
exemption does not affect a significant segment of the work 
force.

There is no legislation concerning maximum hours of work or 
occupational safety and health, although Sunday is widely 
considered church and family day, and most people do not work 
on Sundays.

Legislation provided for the establishment of a Labor Board to 
make recommendations to the Nitijela on minimum working 
conditions, i.e., minimum wage, legal working hours and 
overtime payments, and occupational health and safety standards 
in accordance with International Labor Organization 
conventions.  The Board's meetings are public; however, there 
appears to be no record of any meeting held in recent years.  
There is no legislation specifically giving workers the right 
to remove themselves from situations which endanger their 
health or  safety without jeopardy to their continued 
employment, and no legislation protecting workers who file 
complaints about such conditions.  There were no reports of 
industrial accidents in 1993.


[end of document]

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